Sarah Gamp

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As illustrated by Frederick Barnard

Sarah or Sairey Gamp is a nurse in the novel Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens, first published as a serial in 1843–1844.

Mrs. Gamp, as she is usually referred to, is dissolute, sloppy and generally drunk. She became a notorious stereotype of untrained and incompetent nurses of the early Victorian era,[1] before the reforms of campaigners like Florence Nightingale.

The caricature was popular with the British public. A type of umbrella became known as a gamp because Mrs. Gamp always carries one, which she displays with "particular ostentation".

The character was based upon a real nurse described to Dickens by his friend, Angela Burdett-Coutts.[2][3]

Adaptions and other works[edit]

In an 1844 stage version of Martin Chuzzlewit authorised by Dickens at the Queen's Theatre Sarah Gamp was played by the actor and comedian Thomas Manders.[4]

Mrs. Gamp appears in Dickensian, at first nursing Little Nell at the Old Curiosity Shop and later tending to Silas Wegg (from Our Mutual Friend), played by Pauline Collins.


  1. ^ Hardy, Susan and Corones, Anthony, "The Nurse’s Uniform as Ethopoietic Fashion", Fashion Theory, Vol.21, No.5. (2015), pp. 523-552. doi=10.1080/1362704X.2016.1203090
  2. ^ Donald Hawes (2001), Who's Who in Dickens, Routledge, pp. 84–86, ISBN 978-0-415-26029-9
  3. ^ Summers, Annette (1997), "Sairey Gamp: generating fact from fiction", Nursing Inquiry, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 4 (1), doi:10.1111/j.1440-1800.1997.tb00132.x
  4. ^ Malcolm Morley, 'Martin Chuzzlewit in the Theatre', The Dickensian Vol. 47 (Jan 1, 1951): 98