Sarah Gamp

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

As illustrated by Frederick Barnard

Mrs. Gamp 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 worksEdit

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.

Nobel laureate William Faulkner considered Gamp among his favourite characters in popular literature.[5]


  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): 14–8, doi:10.1111/j.1440-1800.1997.tb00132.x, PMID 9146274
  4. ^ Malcolm Morley, 'Martin Chuzzlewit in the Theatre', The Dickensian Vol. 47 (Jan 1, 1951): 98
  5. ^ Quotes of Note - Posted on August 16, 2013