Synopses & Reviews
When Charles Dickens died in 1870 he was the best-known man in the English-speaking world—the pre-eminent Victorian celebrity, universally mourned as both a noble spirit and the greatest of novelists. Yet when the first person named in his will turned out to be an unknown woman named Ellen Ternan, only a handful of people had any idea who she was, and her conspicuous presence in his will was a mystery. Of his romance with Ellen, Dickens had written, “it belongs to my life and probably will only die out of the same with the proprietor,” and so it was—until his death she remained the most important person in his life.
She was not the first woman who had fired his imagination. As a young man he had fallen deeply in love with a woman who “pervaded every chink and crevice” of his mind for three years, Maria Beadnell, and when she eventually jilted him he vowed that “I never can love any human creature breathing but yourself.” A few years later he was stunned by the sudden death of his young sister-in-law, Mary Scott Hogarth, and worshiped her memory for the rest of his life. “I solemnly believe that so perfect a creature never breathed,” he declared, and when he died over thirty years later he was still wearing her ring.
Charles Dickens has no rival as the most fertile creative imagination since William Shakespeare, and no one influenced his imagination more powerfully than these three women, his muses and teachers in the school of love. Using hundreds of primary sources, Charles Dickens in Love narrates the story of the most intense romances of Dickens’s life, and shows how his novels both testify to his own strongest affections and serve as memorials to the young women he loved all too well, if not always wisely.
"In this well-researched biography, Gettysburg College English professor Garnett analyzes Dickens's love life and its effect on his masterful novels and legendary career. Though it is well known that his greatest passion was for Mary Hogarth, the younger sister of his former wife, Garnett begins with the story of the writer's earliest sweetheart, Maria Beadnell. While most biographers claim that Beadnell had little impact on Dickens's career, Garnett argues that Beadnell 'Ã¢Â€Â˜had pervaded every chink and crevice'' of the young man's mind and asserts that, when Dickens's hopes were dashed, 'writing replaced wooing.' From there, Garnett addresses Hogarth in greater detail and reveals the origins of that romance. Garnett suggests that both relationships inspired aspects of David Copperfield, ensuring that both women are forever part of his legacy. Deftly intertwining details of Dickens's personal history with a discussion of his writing, this is both an intriguing and romantic account. Illus. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In celebration of the bicentennial, here is Charles Dickens as you have never seen him before: An intimate and engaging portrait of the great author and the women he loved
About the Author
Robert Garnett is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia (Ph.D.), and currently Professor of English at Gettysburg College. He has been researching Dickens for over a dozen years, has presented papers on him at many academic conferences, and has published articles on his life and novels in scholarly journals such as Dickens Quarterly and Dickens Studies Annual.