Georgiana Morson

Georgiana Collin was born in Merton. In 1838 she married James Morson, a young doctor at St. George's Hospital. Soon after their marriage he obtained the post as Chief Medical Officer for the Brazilian National Mining Association. James Morson died in 1848 leaving his wife with three young children.

On her return to London in 1849, Georgiana Morson was appointed as matron of Urania Cottage. It was not long before Charles Dickens was writing to Angela Burdett-Coutts that she looked "very promising" and "I have a strong hope that she is exactly the person we have always wanted." Morson provided them with good food, an orderly life, training in reading, writing, sewing, domestic work, cooking and laundering. It has been claimed that she looked after them so well that they wept when they parted from her.

Jenny Hartley, the author of Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women (2008) has pointed out: "Over the next five years Georgiana Morson proved herself the best matron Urania ever had.... At Urania she taught the girls to read and write, as well as all the household skills a servant needed. She presided over the dining table, and made mealtimes a social occasion the girls had not known before. They ate the good food she had taught them to cook and chattered about their future prospects. Senior girls about to emigrate sat at her end of the table, listening with amazement to her traveller's tales. They were both excited and reassured. If she could cope on her own, perhaps they could too."

Georgiana Morson resigned in 1854 to marry George Wade Harrison, a successful printer and bookseller, and set up home in Sevenoaks. She was replaced by Lucy Marchmont, a widow in her early forties.

Primary Sources

(1) David Millward, The Daily Telegraph (9th July, 2001)

A collection of 14 letters demonstrating Charles Dickens's fascination with fallen women goes on sale today.

The correspondence, addressed to Georgina Morson, the proprietress of a refuge for women in distress, was found in the Devon home of one of her descendants.

In one letter the author requests Mrs Morson to ensure one girl is "perfumed" before he sees her. In another he asks: "Will you send underclothing to Eliza Wilkin, with money for her to get a warm bath or two so that she may be perfectly clean and wholesome and make her an appointment to call."

As with Gladstone, Dickens's interest in fallen women has been the subject of debate. Some have argued it was sexual in nature, although his biographer, Peter Ackroyd, maintains the fascination was innocent.

The letters going on sale were written between 1849 and 1854 and were sent to the refuge in Shepherds Bush, west London, which was a red light district at the time.