Dickens The Speechmaker

All of Dickens's known speeches are gathered together by Dickens Search for the very first time, as part of our new collection, launched June 2024. There is also an interactive map of the places he spoke.

This exhibition aims to draw links between Dickens’s literary works, his personal beliefs, and his public efforts to turn these beliefs into reality. It focuses primarily on introducing audiences to his speeches, as this is a massively underrepresented part of Dickens's life work.

Some of Dickens's speeches have been perceived as more literary, and have had a larger impact than others; here, actor Dominic Gerrard recreates Dickens's 1858 speech on behalf of the Hospital for Sick Children.

We will look at Dickens's work as a speechmaker by exploring some key topics related to his life, as well as recurring themes he often spoke or wrote about, including:

We will be discussing a selection of his most poignant speeches, uncovering the various techniques and sentiments running through them.

These sentiments are naturally present in his literary works as well, only perhaps better hidden beneath a veil of fiction! We will primarily discuss the speeches in relation to A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, providing a new layer of context to these novels in light of speeches. Through this, we aim to display how the values Dickens held so dear translated from his books into real-world advocacy for social change.


Special thanks to Dominic Gerrard for bringing the Hospital for Sick Children speech to life. For further interest, you can click here to listen to Dominic's podcast, Charles Dickens: A Brain on Fire.

Research for this exhibition involved conducting interviews with two prominent scholars in the field of Dickens Studies. These were Professor Michael Slater, of Birkbeck, University of London; and Dr. Peter Orford, from the University of Buckingham. Their expertise helped to shape this exhibition and you can find quotes from these interviews throughout. We thank them for their valuable contributions.


Monty Glyn, Maisie Howard, Xav Straw, Adam Woods