The Hibbert Assembly
little portland street chapel
Dickens and denominational Christianity
Although a Christian, Dickens was perhaps never fully committed to any denomination. According to his first biographer, and friend, John Forster, "he had never any sympathy so strong as with the leading doctrines of the Church of England". However, for a period in the 1840s he attended Little Portland Street Unitarian Chapel, London, where Edward Tagart was minister.
For a short time as a boy Dickens was taught by a Baptist minister whose chapel stood next door to the family home at 18 St.Mary'sPlace, Chatham.
Dickens was married in the Church of England but at that time no other denomination was authorised to conduct weddings. His marriage, to Catherine Hogarth, was on 2 April 1836 at St. Luke's, Chelsea, London.
Dickens's Unitarian sympathies seem clear in a comment he makes in American Notes that he would have liked to hear Dr.Channing in Boston. This was William Ellery Channing, long-standing minister of Federal Street Chapel. Of his visit to St.Louis, Dickens writes, "The Unitarian Church is represented in this remote place, as in most other parts of America, by a gentleman of great worth and excellence. The poor have good reason to remember and bless it, for it befriends them, and aids the cause of rational education, without any sectarian or selfish views. It is liberal in all its actions, of kind construction and of wide benevolence."
Taking great enjoyment himself in the theatre, Dickens was opposed to the evangelical bodies which condemned such entertainment. Here too the more liberal attitude of Unitarians is praised: Dickens writes," The peculiar province of the Pulpit in New England (always excepting the Unitarian ministry) would appear to be the denouncement of all innocent and rational amusements."
In Hard Times Dickens writes satirically about the proliferation of denominations, referring (with only a little exaggeration) to the chapels of eighteen denominations in Coketown and to the varying, and always pragmatic, advice they offered to the workpeople of the town.
Dickens is buried in Westminster Abbey so that his final resting place is in the leading building of the Church of England.

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