Rare sight of Dickens and his ‘glorious’ moustache

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A very rare daguerrotype photograph of Charles Dickens wearing a moustache instead of his familiar beard has gone on display for the first time.

The image, which was made around 1852 while he was writing Bleak House, was given to the Charles Dickens Museum by private collector.

The picture was taken by John Mayall in his Regent Street studio using a technique he had unveiled at the Great Exhibition in 1851 which gave much more detail.

Dickens is thought to have first grown a moustache in 1844, when he wrote top his friend, the artist Daniel Maclise: “The moustaches are glorious, glorious. I have cut them shorter, and trimmed them a little at the ends to improve their shape. They are charming, charming. Without them, life would be a blank." 

In 1852 he wrote to his friend the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts that he had sat foir a portrait by Mayall. "I am happy to say that the little piece of business between the Sun and myself, came off with the greatest success... I am disposed to think the portrait, by far the best specimen of anything that way, I have ever seen."

In the interests of conservation the image will be on display the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, London, only until March 31.

“A moustachioed Dickens is hard to find” said the museum’s curator, Emily Smith. “While his bearded visage in instantly recognisable, Dickens’s early experiments with face furniture are far less well recorded and evidence is scarce.

“Dickens was image-conscious, definitely a dandy; his public image was carefully crafted and presented and portrait sittings, though not always enjoyed, were not taken lightly.” 

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