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The delightfully fluttery Dolly Varden is a character in Charles Dickens' novel 'Barnaby Rudge', published in 1841. Its action is set in the London of the 1780s. Dickens describes Dolly, daughter of a worthy locksmith, as 'the very pink and pattern of good looks, in a smart little cherry coloured mantle'.
This work, apart from drawing on a well-known novel of the day, also owes much to a strong nineteenth-century tradition of 'fancy portraits' - where likenesses of pretty and anonymous young women would be graced by the names of characters from literature.

September 2004