Charles Dickens, the most popular novelist of the Victorian era, recalled his early childhood as idyllic.  This happy time came to an abrupt end when his father and mother were confined to the Marshalsea prison for debt.  Dickens, then aged 12, lived by himself in a rented back attic near the prison and worked days at a blacking factory. The demeaning work at the factory scarred the sensitive young boy, but he was traumatized when his mother, after his family was freed from prison, demanded that he continue to work at the factory.  His father forbid it and the boy was returned to school.  Dickens never forgave his mother this betrayal and many believe his rage against her marred his relationships with women and his ability to create fully-realized female characters in his fiction.

In 1857, Dickens, married and the father of ten children, hired the 18 year-old actress Ellen Ternan for the play The Frozen Deep, which he and his protégé Wilkie Collins had written.  The following year, Dickens separated from his 42 year-old wife Catherine amidst rumors that Ellen Ternan had become his mistress.  Further inflaming the situation, Catherine Dickens's 32 year old sister Georgina Hogarth remained behind at Dickens's house after Catherine had left, prompting intense speculation that his sister-in-law was also his mistress.  London finally erupted with the scandal when a letter written by Dickens was leaked to the press accusing his wife of a "mental disorder."  

There was outrage against Charles Dickens and his two daughters for having stayed with their father after their mother had been driven from his house.  What the world did not know was the conflict raging within the Dickens household on Tavistock Square, between father and daughter and sister and sister, a battle that ended only when Kate Dickens, Charles Dickens's beautiful young daughter––his favorite, his "lucifer box"––found a way to avenge her mother, redeem herself and leave her father's house forever.  Charles Dickens died twelve years later in 1870 with Georgina Hogarth and Ellen Ternan by his side.  Georgina Hogarth reconciled with her sister Catherine Dickens after Charles Dickens's death.  When Catherine died nine years later, she left Georgina a ring in her will––the ring was in the shape of a serpent.

CHARLES DICKENS

(1812 – 1870) 

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