Synopses & Reviews
Charles Dickens was regarded as the great proponent of hearth and home in Victorian Britain, but in 1858 this image was nearly shattered. With the breakup of his marriage that year, rumors of a scandalous relationship he may have conducted with the young actress Ellen "Nelly" Ternan flourished. For the remaining twelve years of his life, Dickens managed to contain the gossip. After his death, surviving family members did the same. But when the author's last living son died in 1934, there was no one to discourage rampant speculation. Dramatic revelations came from every cornerand#8212;over Nelly's role as Dickens's mistress, their clandestine meetings, and even about his possibly fathering an illegitimate child by her.
This book presents the most complete account of the scandal and ensuing cover-up ever published. Drawing on the author's letters and other archival sources not previously available, Dickens scholar Michael Slater investigates what Dickens did or may have done, then traces the way the scandal was elaborated over succeeding generations. Slater shows how various writers concocted outlandish yet plausible theories while newspapers and book publishers vied for sensational revelations. With its tale of intrigue and aand#160;cast of well-known figures from Thackeray and Shaw to Orwell and Edmund Wilson, this engaging book will delight not only Dickens fans but also readers who appreciate tales of mystery, cover-up, and clever detection.
"Even the reputedly spotless reputation of the much revered Charles Dickens couldn't get through his bicentennial celebration without an eminent Dickens scholar bringing the skeletons out of the novelist's closet. Biographer Slater (Charles Dickens) once again raises the old-news rumors to which a previous biographer, Claire Tomalin, devoted an entire book, Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (1991) of Dickens's scandalous relationship with a young woman after the breakup of his marriage in 1858. This terse, plodding, exhaustive effort, more suited to an academic article than a full-length book, chronicles that relationship and the life of the rumor, examining both Dickens's own efforts to contain it as well as its long afterlife. After 1934, when his last living heir died, amateur Dickens sleuths, biographers, journalists, and critics notably George Orwell and Edmund Wilson attempted to ferret out the facts behind Dickens's relationship with this mystery woman. Was this indeed the young actress Nelly Ternan, or could it have been his younger sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth, or perhaps his first crush, Maria Beadnell? After surveying the more than 150 years of speculation, Slater admits that we may never be able to solve the nature of Dickens's relationship with Nelly (did they have a child together? was this merely a platonic relationship?), though he's convinced, based on recent evidence, that Dickens and Nelly were indeed lovers." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A page-turning account of the scandal that almost ruined Dickens and howand#160;the storyand#160;disappeared from history
About the Author
Michael Slater is emeritus professor of Victorian literature at Birkbeck College, University of London; past president of the International Dickens Fellowship and of the Dickens Society of America; and author of Charles Dickens. He lives in London.