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Mrs Dickens' Family Christmas

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Charles Dickens depicted such an idealised family celebration in the climax to A Christmas Carol – all feasting and jollity and good will to mankind – that the image has been fixed in our minds ever since. Yet the writer’s own family Christmasses were very different to the heart-warming versions he peddled. The so-called Father Christmas to the nation turns out to be an egotistical, fickle character who saw women as either virgins or frumps but couldn’t cope with anything in between the two.

Right from the start of his marriage to Catherine Hogarth he installed her younger sister Mary in the home, telling everyone, including his wife, that Mary was his “ideal”. She was the first of a stream of young women he openly adored, much to the humiliation of his good-hearted, much-wronged wife who bore him ten children.

Sue Perkins reads from Dickens’s work, cooks from Mrs Dickens’s recipe book and has plenty of laughs setting the record straight.


Sue Perkins explores Charles Dickens' marriage through the eyes of his wife, Catherine - and exposes the reality of their festive family holiday, which was much different to the heart-warming versions he wrote about in A Christmas Carol. Focusing on the woman behind the man, Sue reveals parallels between the female characters he created and in his changing affections for his other half, explores the realities of Victorian marriage and follows Catherine's recipe for a Twelfth Night cake.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Sue Perkins


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