Catherine Hogarth Dickens

Catherine Hogarth Dickens

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Catherine Hogarth was born in Edinburgh on 19th May 1815. Catherine was one of ten children, including Mary Hogarth (1819), Georgina Hogarth (1827) and Helen Hogarth (1833). Her father, George Hogarth, was a talented writer and worked as a journalist for the Edinburgh Courant. In 1817, with Walter Scott and his own brother-in-law James Ballantyne, he bought the Edinburgh Weekly Journal.

In 1830 Hogarth and his family moved to London in order to develop his career as a writer. Claire Tomalin has argued: "He decided to move south, using his knowledge of music and literature to help him find work as a journalist and critic. At first he worked for Harmonicon . In 1831 Hogarth went to Exeter to edit the tory Western Luminary , and in the following year he moved to Halifax as the first editor of the Halifax Guardian. He supplemented his income by doing some teaching in the town.

In 1834 George Hogarth returned to London and was engaged by the The Morning Chronicle as a writer on political and musical subjects. The following year he was appointed as editor of The Evening Chronicle . He became friends with Charles Dickens and commissioned him to write a series of stories under the pseudonym "Boz". Hogarth invited Dickens to visit him at his home in Kensington. The author of Dickens: A Life (2011) has pointed out: "Hogarth... had a large and still growing family, and when he (Dickens) made his first visit to their house on the Fulham Road, surrounded by gardens and orchards, he met their eldest daughter, nineteen-year-old Catherine. Her unaffectedness appealed to him at once, and her being different from the young woman he had known, not only in being Scottish but in coming from an educated family background with literary connections. The Hogarths, like the Beadnells, were a cut above the Dickens family, but they welcomed Dickens warmly as an equal, and George Hogarth's enthusiasm for his work was flattering."

Catherine Hogarth was also impressed by Dickens. In February 1835 she attended a party at Dickens's home. Catherine wrote to her cousin that: "It was in honour of his birthday. It was a batchelors party at his own chambers. His mother and sisters presided. One of them a very pretty girl who sings beautifully. It was a delightful party I enjoyed it very much - Mr Dickens improves very much on acquaintance he is very gentlemanly and pleasant."

One of the daughters, Georgina Hogarth, later recalled that Dickens enjoyed "some delightful musical evenings" where her father performed upon the violoncello. According to Georgina, on one occasion, Dickens "dressed as a sailor jumped in at the window, danced a hornpipe, whistling the tune jumped out again, and a few minutes later Dickens walked gravely in at the door, as if nothing had happened, shook hands all round, and then, at the sight of their puzzled faces, burst into a roar of laughter."

A friend described Catherine as: "A pretty little woman, plump and fresh-colored, with the large, heavy-lidded blue eyes so much admired by men. The nose was slightly retrousse, the forehead good, mouth small, round and red-lipped with a genial smiling expression of countenance, notwithstanding the sleepy look of the slow-moving eyes." Andrew Sanders, the author of Authors in Context: Charles Dickens (2003), has argued: "Dickens's affection for her, and his feeling of real mutual warmth, is evident enough in the letters that survive their courtship but the surviving correspondence suggests little of the adolescent passion that he seems to have felt for Maria Beadnell."

Dickens offer to marry Catherine was immediately accepted. Claire Tomalin has commented: "He (Dickens) saw in her the affection, compliance and physical pleasure, and he believed he was in love with her. That was enough for him to ask her to be his wife.... She was not clever or accomplished like his sister Fanny and could never be his intellectual equal, which may have been part of her charm: foolish little women are more often presented as sexually desirable in his writing than clever, competent ones.... His decision to marry her was quickly made, and he never afterwards gave any account of what had led him to it, perhaps because he came to regard it as the worst mistake in his life."

In the summer of 1835 Charles Dickens took rooms close to the Hogarth house, to be near Catherine. In June he wrote to Catherine urging her to come round and make a late breakfast for him: "It's a childish wish my dear love; but I am anxious to hear and see you the moment I wake - will you indulge me by making breakfast for me... it will be excellent practice for you." On another occasion he wrote that he is "warmly and deeply attached" to her, but he would give her up if she showed him any "coldness".

Charles Dickens married Catherine on 2nd April, 1836, at Lukes Church, Chelsea. After a wedding breakfast at her parents, they went on honeymoon to the village of Chalk, near Gravesend. Dickens wanted to show Catherine the countryside of his childhood. However, he discovered that his wife did not share his passion for long, fast walks. As one biographer put it: "Writing was necessarily his primary occupation, and hers must be to please him as best she could within the limitations of her energy: writing desk and walking boots for him, sofa and domesticity for her."

The couple lived in Furnival's Inn where Dickens had rented three rooms. Mary Hogarth moved in with them when the arrived back after their honeymoon. She stayed for a month but friends said that she always seemed be with Catherine in her new home. Dickens later wrote: "From the day of our marriage, the dear girl had been the grace and life of our home, our constant companion, and the sharer of all our little pleasures."

Mary wrote to her cousin describing Catherine as "a most capital house-keeper... happy as the day is long". She added: "I think they are more devoted than ever since their marriage if that be possible - I am sure you would be delighted with him if you knew him he is such a nice creature and so clever he is courted and made up to by all literary gentlemen, and has more to do in that way than he can well manage."

Catherine Dickens had her first child, Charles Culliford Dickens, on 6th January, 1837. She had difficulty feeding the baby and gave up trying. A wet nurse was found but Mary believed that her sister was suffering from depression: "Every time she (Catherine) sees her baby she has a fit of crying and keeps constantly saying she is sure he (Charles Dickens) will not care for her now she is not able to nurse him."

Dickens now travelled around London with Mary to find a new home. On 18th March he made an offer for 48 Doughty Street. After agreeing to a rent of £80 a year, they moved in two weeks later. Situated in a private road with a gateway and porter at each end. It had twelve rooms on four floors. Mary had one of the bedrooms on the second floor. Dickens employed a cook, a housemaid, a nurse, and later, a manservant.

On 6th May, 1837, Charles, Catherine and Mary Hogarth went to the St James's Theatre to see the play, Is She His Wife ? They went to bed at about one in the morning. Mary went to her room but, before she could undress, gave a cry and collapsed. A doctor was called but was unable to help. Dickens later recalled: "Mary... died in such a calm and gentle sleep, that although I had held her in my arms for some time before, when she was certainly living (for she swallowed a little brandy from my hand) I continued to support her lifeless form, long after her soul had fled to Heaven. This was about three o'clock on the Sunday afternoon." Dickens later recalled: "Thank God she died in my arms and the very last words she whispered were of me." The doctor who treated her believed that she must have had undiagnosed heart problems. Catherine was so shocked by the death of her younger sister that she suffered a miscarriage a few days later.

Peter Ackroyd has argued: "His grief was so intense, in fact, that it represented the most powerful sense of loss and pain he was ever to experience. The deaths of his own parents and children were not to affect him half so much and in his mood of obsessive pain, amounting almost to hysteria, one senses the essential strangeness of the man... It has been surmised that all along Dickens had felt a passionate attachment for her and that her death seemed to him some form of retribution for his unannounced sexual desire - that he had, in a sense, killed her."

Charles Dickens cut off a lock of Mary's hair and kept it in a special case. He also took a ring off her finger and put it on his own, and there it stayed for the rest of his life. Dickens also expressed a wish to be buried with her in the same grave. He also kept all of Mary's clothes and said a couple of years later that "they will moulder away in their secret places". Dickens wrote that he consoled himself "above all... by the thought of one day joining her again where sorrow and separation are unknown". He was so upset by Mary's death that for the first and last time in his life he missed his deadlines and the episodes of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist which were supposed to be written during that month were postponed.

Dickens told his friend, Thomas Beard: "So perfect a creature never breathed. I knew her inmost heart, and her real worth and values. She had not a fault." He told other friend that "every night she appeared in his dreams". Michael Slater, the author of Charles Dickens: A life Defined by Writing (2011) has argued: "It was the third great emotional crisis of his life, following the blacking factory experience and the Beadnell affair, and one that profoundly influenced him as an artist as well as a man."

Catherine gave birth to Mary, known as Mamie, on 6th March, 1838. She had been named after her dead aunt, Mary Hogarth. Catherine was unable to breast-feed her daughter and had to employ a wet-nurse. Dickens's best friend, John Forster, became her godfather. Soon afterwards he told Forster that he was falling out of love with Catherine and that the couple were incompatible. Despite this comment he wrote to Catherine on 5th March, 1839, while on holiday in Devon: "To say how much I miss you, would be ridiculous. I miss the children in the morning too and their dear little voices which I have sounds for you and me that we shall never forget."

Catherine's second daughter, Kate Macready, was born on 29th October, 1839. She had been in labour for twelve hours. Dickens' named her after his friend, the actor, William Macready . He gave a great celebration for her christening in August. "Rather a noisy and uproarious day." Dickens got drunk and ended up having an argument with Forster. Catherine was so upset by the dispute that she burst into tears and ran from the room."

In December, 1839, the Dickens family moved from 48 Doughty Street to 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, close Regent's Park. Dickens paid £800 for the eleven-year lease in addition to an annual rent of £160. The house had more than a dozen rooms that included a library, dinning and drawing rooms, several bedrooms and two nurseries for Mamie and Kate. A fourth child, Walter Landor, was born on 8th February, 1841.

Charles Dickens was extremely popular in America. The New York Herald Tribune explained why he was liked: "His mind is American - his soul is republican - his heart is democratic." Despite the high sales of his novels, Dickens did not receive any payment for his work as the country did not abide by international copyright rules. He decided to travel to America in order to put his case for copyright reform.

His publishers, Chapman and Hall , offered to help fund the trip. It was agreed they would pay him £150 a month and that when he returned they would publish the book on the visit, American Notes. Dickens would then receive £200 for each monthly installment. At first, Catherine refused to go to America with her husband. Dickens told his publisher, William Hall: "I can't persuade Mrs. Dickens to go, and leave the children at home; or let me go alone." According to Lillian Nayder, the author of The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth (2011), their friend, the actor, William Macready , persuaded her "that she owed her first duty to her husband and that she could and must leave the children behind."

Dickens and Catherine left on The Britannia from Liverpool on 4th January, 1842. Their ship was a wooden paddle steamer designed for 115 passengers. The Atlantic crossing turned out to be one of the worst the ship's officers had ever known. During one storm the smokestack had to be lashed with chains to stop it being blown over and setting fire to the desks. When they approached Halifax in Nova Scotia, the ship ran aground and they had for the rising tide to release them from the rocks. Catherine wrote to her sister-in-law: "I was nearly distracted with terror and don't know what I should have done had it not been for the great kindness and composure of my dear Charles."

The ship arrived in Boston on 22nd January. While in America the couple visited Worcester, Springfield, Hartford, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, where they met President John Tyler. At the end of March they visited Niagara Falls. Charles commented: "It would be hard for a man to stand nearer to God than he does there." He was less impressed with Toronto where he disapproved of "its wild and rabid Toryism".

Dickens wrote to John Forster in April: "Catherine really has made a most admirable traveller in every respect. She has never screamed or expressed alarm under circumstances that would have fully justified her in doing so, even in my eyes; has never given way to despondency or fatigue, though we have now been travelling incessantly, through a very rough country... and have been at times... most thoroughly tired; has always accommodated herself, well and cheerfully, to everything; and has pleased me very much." They also spent time in Montreal and Quebec before travelling back to New York City where they got to the boat to Liverpool.

They arrived back in London on 29th June, 1842. Soon afterwards Catherine's fifteen-year-old, sister, Georgina Hogarth, joined them at 1 Devonshire Terrace. As Michael Slater has pointed out: "Georgina went to live with them and began making herself useful to her sister in running the household and coping with the busy social life that centred on Catherine's celebrated husband. She helped especially with the ever increasing number of children, and taught the younger boys to read before they went to school. She deputized for her sister on social occasions when Catherine was unwell and looked after the family during Catherine's pregnancies. Dickens came increasingly to value Georgina's companionship (she was one of the few people who could keep pace with him on his long daily walks). He admired her intelligence and enjoyed her gift for mimicry." Charles also recorded that he thought Georgina was "one of the most amiable and affectionate of girls."

Lucinda Hawksley has argued: "Georgina was to figure very largely in the Dickens children's lives. She assisted with their schooling, cared for them when their parents were absent and became their confidante. Her facial similarity to her dead sister was often remarked upon and, when she arrived to live in Devonshire Terrace, she was almost the same age Mary had been when she had stayed with Catherine and Charles... It is unknown how long Georgina's stay was originally intended to be, but before long she had become accepted as a permanent fixture."

Catherine also had several miscarriages before Francis Jeffrey, was born on 15th January, 1844. He was followed by Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson (28th October, 1845), named after the poet, Alfred Tennyson, and Sydney Smith Haldimand (18th April, 1847). Mamie Dickens later recalled that Dickens inspected every room in the house every morning, checking for tidiness and cleanliness.

Henry Morley met Catherine in the late 1840s: "Dickens has evidently made a comfortable choice. Mrs Dickens is stout, with a round, very round, rather pretty, very pleasant face, and ringlets on each side of it. One sees in five minutes that she loves her husband and her children, and has a warm heart for anybody who won't be satirical, but meet her on her own good natured footing. We were capital friends at once, and had abundant talk together."

Dickens was writing David Copperfield when his eighth child was born on 16th January, 1849. He named him Henry Fielding Dickens after the novelist, Henry Fielding. He told John Forster that this was in "a kind of homage to the style of the novel he was about to write." Henry was the brightest of all the children and later became a successful lawyer.

Richard Henry Dana described Catherine during this period as "natural in her manners and seems not at all elated by her new position". Henry Wadsworth Longfellow added that she was "good-natured... not beautiful but amiable". Another visitor to the house remarked that Catherine was "plain and courteous in her manner, but rather taciturn, leaving the burden of conversation to fall upon her gifted husband... her position as the lion's mate seemed embarrassing to her... amiable and sensible... modest and diffident... kind and patient".

Catherine's next child, Dora Annie Dickens, was named after Dora Spenlow, the dead heroine in the book David Copperfield. She was born on 16th August, 1850. Claire Tomalin has pointed out that Charles Dickens arrived home on 14th April, 1851: "He was in London to preside at the dinner of the General Theatrical Fund, calling at Devonshire Terrace first to see the children in the care of their nurses, and playing with Dora, now nine months old. She seemed perfectly well when he left her for the dinner, but even as he was making his speech she suffered a convulsion and died quite suddenly."

In 1851 Catherine Dickens wrote and published a cookery book, What Shall We Have for Dinner?. Margaret Lane cruelly argued in Purely for Pleasure (1967): "The emphasis on rich and starchy dishes... makes one wonder whether Dickens's growing distaste for his marriage... may not have been - at least partly - due to the fact that while still young she became mountainously fat."

Catherine's last child, Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, was born on 13th March 1852. He was named after the novelist, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Dickens told Angela Burdett-Coutts that "on the whole I could have dispensed with him". However, "Plorn" as he was called became the spoilt child of the family. He wrote to a friend that "I begin to count the children incorrectly, they are so many; and to find fresh ones coming down to dinner in a perfect procession and I thought there were no more."

Catherine became aware that Dickens was visiting prostitutes. He confessed to Wilkie Collins that he had encountered a prostitute in Paris who he intended to go out looking for the following night. He also told Collins of another prostitute he had befriended. He described Caroline Maynard as "rather small, and young-looking; but pretty and gentle, and had a very good head... There can never have been much evil in her, apart from the early circumstances that directed her steps the wrong way."

After one trip to Italy he wrote to his friend, Emile De La Rue, about Catherine's concerns and jokingly said she had "obtained positive proofs" of Dickens "being on the most confidential terms with at least 15,000 women... since we left Genoa". He told Catherine: "Whatever made you unhappy in the Genoa time had no other root, beginning, middle or end, than whatever has made you proud and honoured in your married life, and given you station better than rank, and surrounded you with many enviable things."

In 1855 Charles Dickens was contacted by his first girlfriend, Maria Beadnell. The letter was later destroyed but Dickens's letters in reply have survived. In his first letter to Maria he wrote: "Your letter is more touching to me from its good and gentle association with the state of Spring in which I was either much more wise or much more foolish than I am now".

In his second letter he told her that he had "got the heartache again" from seeing her handwriting. "Whatever of fancy, romance, energy, passion, aspiration and determination belong to me, I never have separated and never shall separate from the hard hearted little woman - you - whom it is nothing to say I would have died for.... that I began to fight my way out of poverty and obscurity, with one perpetual idea of you... I have never been so good a man since, as I was when you made me wretchedly happy."

Dickens wrote another letter to her claiming their failed relationship changed his personality. The "wasted tenderness of those hard years" made him suppress emotion, "which I know is no part of my original nature, but which makes me chary of showing my affections, even to my children, except when they are very young."

Dickens suggested they met in secret. Maria Beadnell agreed but warned him she was "toothless, fat, old, and ugly", to which he replied, "You are always the same in my remembrance". As Claire Tomalin , the author of Dickens: A Life (2011) has pointed out: "The meeting took place. He saw an overweight woman, no longer pretty, who talked foolishly and too much. The edifice he had built up in his mind tumbled, and he beat an immediate retreat. There was, however, a dinner with their two spouses, which allowed him perhaps to compare the appetites and girths of Maria and Catherine and brood on their resemblances."

In April 1856 Dickens wrote to John Forster in reference to his wife: "I find that the skeleton in my domestic closet is becoming a pretty big one." He also said that he feared that "one happiness I have missed in life, and one friend and companion I have never made." Dickens began to question Catherine's intelligence in front of friends. He wrote to a female acquaintance: "It is more clear to me than ever that Kate is as near being a Donkey, as one of that sex... can be." Dickens also disliked the way his wife had put on weight. He told Wilkie Collins how he had taken her to his favourite Paris restaurant where she ate so much that she "nearly killed herself".

In August 1857 Dickens met Ellen Ternan. Two months later he moved out of the master bedroom and now slept alone in a single bed. At the same time he wrote to Emile De La Rue in Genoa, saying that Catherine was insanely jealous of his friendships and that she was unable to get on with her children. He wrote to other friends complaining of Catherine's "weaknesses and jealousies" and that she was suffering from a "confused mind".

Dickens wrote to John Forster to explain his feelings towards Catherine: "Poor Catherine and I are not made for each other, and there is no help for it. It is not only that she makes me uneasy and unhappy, but that I make her so too - and much more so. She is exactly what you know in the way of being amiable and complying, but we are strangely ill-assorted for the bond there is between us. God knows she would have been a thousand times happier if she had married another kind of man, and that her avoidance of this destiny would have been at least equally good for us both. I am often cut to the heart by thinking what a pity it is, for her own sake, that I ever fell in her way; and if I were sick or disabled to-morrow, I know how sorry she would be, and how deeply grieved myself, to think how we had lost each other. But exactly the same incompatibility would arise, the moment I was well again; and nothing on earth could make her understand me, or suit us to each other. Her temperament will not go with mine. It mattered not so much when we had only ourselves to consider, but reasons have been growing since which make it all but hopeless that we should even try to struggle on. What is now befalling me I have seen steadily coming, ever since the days you remember when Mary was born; and I know too well that you cannot, and no one can, help me."

Rumours began to circulate at the Garrick Club that Dickens was having an affair with Georgina Hogarth. As Dickens, biographer, Peter Ackroyd, points out: "There were rumours... that he was having an affair with his own sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth. That she had given birth to his children. More astonishing still, it seems likely that these rumours about Georgina were in fact started or at least not repudiated by the Hogarths themselves." George Hogarth wrote a letter to his solicitor in which he assured him: "The report that I or my wife or daughter have at any time stated or insinuated that any impropriety of conduct had taken place between my daughter Georgina and her brother-in-law Charles Dickens is totally and entirely unfounded."

The author of The Invisible Woman (1990) argues: "The idea of a member of the Garrick Club so distinguished for his celebration of the domestic virtues being caught out in a love affair with a young sister-in-law was certainly scandalous enough to cause a stir of excitement." William Makepeace Thackeray , who was a close friend of Dickens, claimed that he was not having an affair with Georgina but "with an actress".

George Reynolds refered to both Georgina Hogarth and Ellen Ternan in an article published in The Reynold's Weekly newspaper on 13th June 1858: "The names of a female relative and of a professional young lady, have both been, of late, so intimately associated with that of Mr. Dickens, as to excite suspicion and surprise in the minds of those who had hitherto looked upon the popular novelist as a very Joseph in all that regards morality, chastity, and decorum."

Helen Hogarth became convinced that Dickens was having a sexual relationship with Georgina and that this created a terrible rift in the family. Georgina's aunt, Helen Thomson, commented: "Georgina is an enthusiast, and worships Dickens as a man of genius, and has quarrelled with all her relatives because they dared to find fault with him, saying, 'a man of genius ought not to be judged with the common herd of men'. She must bitterly repent, when she recovers from her delusion, her folly; her vanity is no doubt flattered by his praise, but she has disappointed us all."

Peter Ackroyd has argued in Dickens (1990): "Events were now slipping even further out of Dickens's control, and it was at some point in these crucial days that Mrs Hogarth seems to have threatened Dickens with action in the Divorce Court - a very serious step indeed since the Divorce Act of the previous year had decreed that wives could divorce their husbands only on the grounds of incest, bigamy or cruelty. The clear implication here was that Dickens had committed incest with Georgina, which was the legal term for sexual relations with a sister-in-law.... At this point, it seems, the Hogarths implicitly dropped the threat of court action. Yet the bare facts of the matter can hardly suggest the maelstrom of fury and bitterness into which the family, now divided against itself, had descended."

In May 1858, Catherine Dickens accidentally received a bracelet meant for Ellen Ternan. Her daughter, Kate Dickens, says her mother was distraught by the incident. Charles Dickens responded by a meeting with his solicitors. By the end of the month he negotiated a settlement where Catherine should have £400 a year and a carriage and the children would live with Dickens. Later, the children insisted they had been forced to live with their father.

Charles Culliford Dickens refused and decided that he would live with his mother. He told his father in a letter: "Don't suppose that in making my choice, I was actuated by any feeling of preference for my mother to you. God knows I love you dearly, and it will be a hard day for me when I have to part from you and the girls. But in doing as I have done, I hope I am doing my duty, and that you will understand it so."

Dickens wrote to Angela Burdett-Coutts about his marriage to Catherine: "We have been virtually separated for a long time. We must put a wider space between us now, than can be found in one house... If the children loved her, or ever had loved her, this severance would have been a far easier thing than it is. But she has never attached one of them to herself, never played with them in their infancy, never attracted their confidence as they have grown older, never presented herself before them in the aspect of a mother."

Dickens claimed that Catherine's mother and her daughter Helen Hogarth had spread rumours about his relationship with Georgina Hogarth . Dickens insisted that Mrs Hogarth sign a statement withdrawing her claim that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with Georgina. In return, he would raise Catherine's annual income to £600. On 29th May, 1858, Mrs Hogarth and Helen Hogarth reluctantly put their names to a document which said in part: "Certain statements have been circulated that such differences are occasioned by circumstances deeply affecting the moral character of Mr. Dickens and compromising the reputation and good name of others, we solemnly declare that we now disbelieve such statements." They also promised not to take any legal action against Dickens.

Lucinda Hawksley has asked some important questions about Georgina's behaviour during this period: "Georgina Hogarth's role during this tumultuous time will for ever remain a conundrum. When Charles decided to separate from Catherine, the wronged wife's family rallied round her, as could be expected - all of the Hogarths, that is, except for Georgina. It appears that from the start Catherine's closest sister (since Mary's death), who had shared her home and her life for so many years, did not take Catherine's side, nor offer her any form of support. Instead, she elected to stay living with her brother-in-law, as his housekeeper, after he had rejected and humiliated her sister. Why she chose to be shunned by her parents, grandparents and siblings in order to stay with her sister's husband has never been satisfactorily explained; nor how she could be so deliberately cruel to Catherine."

On the signing of the settlement, Catherine found temporary accommodation in Brighton, with her son Charles Culliford Dickens. Later that year she moved to a house in Gloucester Crescent near Regent's Park. Dickens automatically got the right to take away 8 out of the 9 children from his wife (the eldest son who was over 21 was free to stay with his mother). Under the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, Catherine Dickens could only keep the children she had to charge him with adultery as well as bigamy, incest, sodomy or cruelty.

Charles Dickens now moved back to Tavistock House with Mamie Dickens, Georgina Hogarth, Kate Dickens, Walter Landor Dickens, Henry Fielding Dickens, Francis Jeffrey Dickens, Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson, Sydney Smith Haldimand and Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens. Mamie and Georgina were put in command of the servants and household management.

In June, 1858, Dickens decided to issue a statement to the press about the rumours involving him and two unnamed women (Ellen Ternan and Georgina Hogarth): "By some means, arising out of wickedness, or out of folly, or out of inconceivable wild chance, or out of all three, this trouble has been the occasion of misrepresentations, mostly grossly false, most monstrous, and most cruel - involving, not only me, but innocent persons dear to my heart... I most solemnly declare, then - and this I do both in my own name and in my wife's name - that all the lately whispered rumours touching the trouble, at which I have glanced, are abominably false. And whosoever repeats one of them after this denial, will lie as wilfully and as foully as it is possible for any false witness to lie, before heaven and earth."

Dickens also made reference to his problems with Catherine: " Some domestic trouble of mine, of long-standing, on which I will make no further remark than that it claims to be respected, as being of a sacredly private nature, has lately been brought to an arrangement, which involves no anger or ill-will of any kind, and the whole origin, progress, and surrounding circumstances of which have been, throughout, within the knowledge of my children. It is amicably composed, and its details have now to be forgotten by those concerned in it."

The statement was published in The Times and Household Words. However, Punch Magazine, edited by his great friend, Mark Lemon, refused, bringing an end to their long friendship. William Makepeace Thackeray also took the side of Catherine and he was also banned from the house. Dickens was so upset that he insisted that his daughters, Mamie Dickens and Kate Dickens, brought an end to their friendship with the children of Lemon and Thackeray.

Dickens also wrote to Charles Culliford Dickens insisting that none of the children should "utter one word to their grandmother" or to Catherine's sister, Helen Hogarth, who had also been accused of talking falsely about his relationship with Ternan: "If they are ever brought into the presence of either of these two, I charge them immediately to leave their mother's house and come back to me." Kate Dickens later recalled: "My father was like a madman... This affair brought out all that was worst - all that was weakest in him. He did not care a damn what happened to any of us. Nothing could surpass the misery and unhappiness of our home."

On 16th August, The New York Tribune, published a letter from Dickens that stated that the marriage had been unhappy for many years and that Georgina Hogarth was responsible for long preventing a separation by her care for the children: "She has remonstrated, reasoned, suffered and toiled, again and again to prevent a separation between Mrs Dickens and me."

In the letter Dickens suggested that Catherine had suggested the separation: "Her always increasing estrangement made a mental disorder under which she sometimes labours - more, that she felt herself unfit for the life she had to lead as my wife and that she would be better far away." The letter goes on to boast of his financial generosity to his wife. He then went onto praise Georgina as having a higher claim on his affection, respect and gratitude than anybody in the world."

Peter Ackroyd has argued in Dickens (1990): " Yet the bare facts of the matter can hardly suggest the maelstrom of fury and bitterness into which the family, now divided against itself, had descended. And what of Dickens himself? From the beginning he had tried to keep everything as neat and as ordered as everything else in his life, but it had spiralled out of control. The case for an informal separation had degenerated into a series of formal negotiations which in turn threatened to lead to public exposure of his domestic life; he, the apostle of family harmony, had even been accused of incest with his own wife's sister. He reacted badly to stress and now, during the most anxious days of his life, he ceased to behave in a wholly rational manner."

Dickens raised the issue of Mrs Hogarth and her daughter Helen Hogarth and the comments they had supposed to have made about Ellen Ternan : "Two wicked persons who should have spoken very differently of me... have... coupled with this separation the name of a young lady for whom I have a great attachment and regard. I will not repeat her name - I honour it too much. Upon my soul and honour, there is not on this earth a more virtuous and spotless creature than this young lady. I know her to be as innocent and pure, and as good as my own dear daughters."

Elizabeth Gaskell and William Makepeace Thackeray believed that publicizing his domestic problems was as bad as the separation itself. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was appalled by his behaviour: "What a crime, for a man to use his genius as a cudgel against his near kin, even against the woman he promised to protect tenderly with life and heart - taking advantage of his hold with the public to turn public opinion against her. I call it dreadful." Kate Dickens later recalled that her father stopped speaking to her for two years when he discovered she had visited her mother. Catherine wrote to Angela Burdett-Coutts: "I have now - God help me - only one course to pursue. One day though not now I may be able to tell you how hardly I have been used."

Georgina Hogarth backed up Dickens's story. In a letter to Maria Winter, Georgina argued: "By some constitutional misfortune and incapacity, my sister always from their infancy, threw her children upon other people, consequently as they grew up, there was not the usual strong tie between them and her - in short, for many years, although we have put a good face upon it, we have been very miserable at home." Hans Christian Anderson, who met Georgina when he stayed in the Dickens household, described her as "piquante, lively and gifted, but not kind" who often made Catherine cry.

Angela Burdett-Coutts remarked: "I knew Charles Dickens well, until after his separation from his wife - she I knew after that breach." Harriet Martineau commented that "old friends, who have been intimate in the family during her whole married life, feel towards her an unaltered respect and regard." Catherine received considerable support from several of Dickens's old friends including, Frederick Evans, Mark Lemon, John Leech and Shirley Brooks.

On 17th July 1860 Kate Dickens married the artist, Charles Collins, at St. Mary's Church in Higham. This was followed by a lavish wedding breakfast at Gad's Hill Place. In the afternoon the guests visited Rochester Castle and in the evening they were entertained by a military band in Chatham. Charles Dickens insisted that Catherine was not invited to the wedding.

Catherine maintained her friendships from the early period of her marriage. This included Mark Lemon , William Makepeace Thackeray , Angela Burdett-Coutts and George Cruikshank. Her daughter, Kate Dickens , was a regular visitor. Catherine and Kate agreed never to talk about Dickens, since it caused only pain to both of them. However, on one occasion, while looking at a photograph of her husband, she asked Kate: "Do you think he is sorry for me?"

Charles Dickens died on 8th June, 1870. The traditional version of his death was given by his official biographer, John Forster. He claimed that Dickens was having dinner with Georgina Hogarth at Gad's Hill Place when he fell to the floor: "Her effort then was to get him on the sofa, but after a slight struggle he sank heavily on his left side... It was now a little over ten minutes past six o'clock. His two daughters came that night with Mr. Frank Beard, who had also been telegraphed for, and whom they met at the station. His eldest son arrived early next morning, and was joined in the evening (too late) by his youngest son from Cambridge. All possible medical aid had been summoned. The surgeon of the neighbourhood (Stephen Steele) was there from the first, and a physician from London (Russell Reynolds) was in attendance as well as Mr. Beard. But human help was unavailing. There was effusion on the brain." Shirley Brooks noted in his diary on 11th July 1870, that Catherine Dickens was "resolved not to allow Forster, or any other biographer, to allerge that she did not make Dickens a happy husband, having letters after the birth of her ninth child, in which Dickens writes like a lover."

After his death of Charles Dickens, her sister Georgina Hogarth, set up house with Mamie Dickens. Georginia told her friend, Annie Fields, "nothing will ever fill up that empty place, nor will life ever again have any real interest for me." On the tragic death of Sydney Smith Dickens in 1872, Georgina resumed contact with Catherine. She also became a regular visitor to her home in Gloucester Crescent.

Catherine Hogarth Dickens suffered from cancer and on her deathbed she gave her collection of letters from her husband to her daughter, Kate Dickens Perugini: "Give these to the British Museum, that the world may know he loved me once". She died on 22nd November 1879 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery in London.

In her will she bequeathed to her sister, Georgina Hogarth, "my snake ring". Lucinda Hawksley author of Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens's Artist Daughter (2006): "Perhaps it was an item she knew Georgina admired; on the other hand, there are grounds for believing that the snake emblem was Catherine's poignant comment on how she viewed her younger sister."

Gladys Storey, the author of Dickens and Daughter (1939), has pointed out that it was sometime before the letters from Dickens to Catherine were published: "The letters, together with the locket, were subsequently delivered to the Museum in 1899 by her doctor; with the proviso that they should not be shown for thirty years. Mrs. Perugini later approached the Trustees of the British Museum with the request that the period be extended to after her death, and finally until after the deaths of her brother, Sir Henry F. Dickens, and herself, being the last surviving children of Charles Dickens."

Poor Catherine and I are not made for each other, and there is no help for it. What is now befalling me I have seen steadily coming, ever since the days you remember when Mary was born; and I know too well that you cannot, and no one can, help me.

With Charles back again after his two-week tour, she felt the shadow of his dark moods fall once more. Though she had done her best to reconcile him to Catherine, she was now beginning to agree with him that harmony was impossible. Earlier that month he had unburdened himself to Forster, confessing that with each year the marriage became harder to bear for both Catherine and him. He assumed his share of the blame: "There is plenty of fault on my side... in the way of a thousand uncertainties, caprices, and difficulties of disposition." Again at the end of the month: "Poor Catherine and I are not made for each other, and there is no help for it". What a tragedy that he had ever met her and kept her from marrying "another kind of man"! He knew she would be sympathetic if he were ill, but with his recovery the old barriers would rise between them.... Nothing on earth could make her understand me, or suit us to each other."

As if to underscore the hopelessness of their life together, he made the wall between them tangible in October. From the country retreat he wrote Anne Brown (now Mrs. Cornelius), for many years their trusted servant, instructing her to have his dressing-room converted into a separate bedroom. The opening between it and Catherine's room was to be closed off with a plain white door, with specially built bookshelves in the recess. A small iron bedstead, already ordered for his use, would be delivered before he returned to London. He asked Anne to rive these alterations no publicity, as he preferred not to have them discussed by "comparative strangers".

Georgina Hogarth and Mamie entirely sided with Dickens. His eldest son and Mrs. Perugini (the other six children, aged from seven to seventeen, were kept in ignorance as to what was going on) acceded to their father's wishes. Perugini took her mother's part in-so-far as it was possible for her to do so. But the situation was a difficult one, since Dickens had sternly impressed upon them that "their father's name was their best possession" - which they knew to be true - and he expected them to act accordingly.

When Dickens heard that John Leech had communicated to a mutual friend that "Charley sided with his mother", he wrote to him immediately saying, "you strike me in a tender place and wound me deeply... Charley's living with his mother to take care of her is my idea - not his." Miss Ethel Dickens told the author that her father had a great sense of justice, and she had always understood that, if her grandfather had not arranged for him to reside with his mother, he would have done so of his own accord.

One afternoon, at the commencement of this affair, Mrs. Perugini happened to be passing her parents' bedroom (which stood ajar) when she heard somebody crying. Entering the room, she found her mother seated at the dressing-table in the act of putting on her bonnet, with tears rolling down her cheeks. Inquiring the cause of her distress, Mrs. Dickens-between her sobs - replied :

"Your father has asked me to go and see Ellen Ternan."

"You shall not go!" exclaimed Mrs. Perugini, angrily stamping her foot.

But she went.

In the early stages of their married life Dickens made a compact with his wife that if either of them fell in love with anybody else, they were to tell one another. Such an idea at that period of their lives appeared ludicrous, but Dickens remembered the compact, and had told his wife to call upon the girl with whom he had fallen in love.

Through the first two and half weeks of May, Forster and Lemon, with Catherine and Mrs Hogarth, tried to draw up a suitable deed of separation which would satisfy all parties without the need to enter a court of law. But Dickens's hopes of keeping the business secret were necessarily misplaced; rumours about the impending separation began to spread and, as is usually the case, rumour begat rumour. That he was having an affair with an actress... and then there were rumours, infinitely more damaging, that he was having an affair with his own sister-in-law. With Georgina Hogarth. More astonishing still, it seems likely that these rumours about Georgina were in fact started or at least not repudiated by the Hogarths themselves. The point was that Georgina had elected to stay with Dickens and his children even as Catherine was being forced to leave them and, in addition, it seems likely that she knew in advance of Dickens's plans to separate from his wife; his letters to her in the months before these events suggest that she was altogether in his confidence. As a result her mother and her younger sister, Helen, turned upon her; she was still in the confidence of the great novelist, while they were repudiated and despised. Could it be from these feelings of jealousy that so much malice spread? It can happen even in the best of families. "The question was not myself; but others," Dickens later wrote to Macready. "Foremost among them - of all people in the world - Georgina! Mrs Dickens's weakness, and her mother's and her younger sister's wickedness drifted to that, without seeing what they would strike against - though I had warned them in the strongest manner."

Events were now slipping even further out of Dickens's control, and it was at some point in these crucial days that Mrs Hogarth seems to have threatened Dickens with action in the Divorce Court - a very serious step indeed since the Divorce Act of the previous year had decreed that wives could divorce their husbands only on the grounds of incest, bigamy or cruelty. The clear implication here was that Dickens had committed "incest" with Georgina, which was the legal term for sexual relations with a sister-in-law. At Dickens's instigation Forster wrote an urgent letter to Dickens's solicitor, asking for clarification of the new Act; and at the same time, too, Georgina was examined by a doctor and found to be virgo intacta. Yet the bare facts of the matter can hardly suggest the maelstrom of fury and bitterness into which the family, now divided against itself, had descended. He reacted badly to stress and now, during the most anxious days of his life, he ceased to behave in a wholly rational manner.

To think of the poor matron after 22 years of marriage going away out of her house! O dear me its a fatal story for our trade... Last week going into the Garrick I heard that Dickens is separated from his wife on account of an intrigue with his sister in law. No says I no such thing - its with an actress - and the other story has not got to Dickens's ears but this has - and he fancies that I am going about abusing him!

You have been too near and dear a friend to me for many years, and I am bound to you by too many ties of grateful and affectionate regard, to admit of my any longer keeping silence to you on a sad domestic topic. I believe you are not quite unprepared for what I am going to say, and will, in the main, have anticipated it.

I believe my marriage has been for years and years as miserable a one as ever was made. I believe that no two people were ever created, with such an impossibility of interest, sympathy, confidence, sentiment, tender union of any kind between them, as there is between my wife and me. It is an immense misfortune to her - it is an immense misfortune to me - but Nature has put an insurmountable barrier between us, which never in this world can be thrown down.

You know me too well to suppose that I have the faintest thought of influencing you on either side. I merely mention a fact which may induce you to pity us both, when I tell you that she is the only person I have ever known with whom I could not get on somehow or other, and in communicating with whom I could not find some way to a kind of interest. You know I have many impulsive faults which often belong to my impulsive way of life and exercise of fancy; but I am very patient and considerate at heart, and would have beaten a path to a better journey's end than we have come to, if I could.

We have been virtually separated for a long time. We must put a wider space between us now, than can be found in one house.

If the children loved her, or ever had loved her, this severance would have been a far easier thing than it is. But she has never attached one of them to herself, never played with them in their infancy, never attracted their confidence as they have grown older, never presented herself before them in the aspect of a mother. I have seen them fall off from her in a natural - not an unnatural - progress of estrangement, and at this moment I believe that Mary and Katey (whose dispositions are of the gentlest and most affectionate conceivable) harden into stone figures of girls when they can be got to go near her, and have their hearts shut up in her presence as if they closed by some horrid spring.

No one can understand this, but Georgina who has seen it grow from year to year, and who is the best, the most unselfish, and the most devoted of human Creatures. Her sister Mary, who died suddenly and who lived with us before her, understood it as well though in the first months of our marriage. It is her misery to live in some fatal atmosphere which slays every one to whom she should be dearest. It is my misery that no one can understand the truth in its full force, or know what a blighted and wasted life my marriage has been.

Forster is trying what he can, to arrange matters with her mother. But I know that the mother herself could not live with her. I am perfectly sure that her younger sister and brother could not live with her. An old servant of ours is the only hope I see, as she took care of her, like a poor child, for sixteen years. But she is married now, and I doubt her being afraid that the companionship would wear her to death. Macready used to get on better with her than anyone else, and sometimes I have a fancy that she may think of him and his sister. To suggest them to her would be to inspire her with an instant determination never to go near them.

In the mean time I have come for a time to the office, to leave her Mother free to do what she can at home, towards the getting of her away to some happier mode of existence if possible. They all know that I will do anything for her comfort, and spend anything upon her.

It is a relief to me to have written this to you. Don't think the worse of me; don't think the worse of her. I am firmly persuaded that it is not within the compass of her character and faculties, to be other than she is. If she had married another sort of man, she might however have done better. I think she has always felt herself at the disadvantage of groping blindly about me and never touching me, and so has fallen into the most miserable weaknesses and jealousies. Her mind has, at times, been certainly confused besides.

Some domestic trouble of mine, of long-standing, on which I will make no further remark than that it claims to be respected, as being of a sacredly private nature, has lately been brought to an arrangement, which involves no anger or ill-will of any kind, and the whole origin, progress, and surrounding circumstances of which have been, throughout, within the knowledge of my children. It is amicably composed, and its details have now to be forgotten by those concerned in it... By some means, arising out of wickedness, or out of folly, or out of inconceivable wild chance, or out of all three, this trouble has been the occasion of misrepresentations, mostly grossly false, most monstrous, and most cruel - involving, not only me, but innocent persons dear to my heart... And whosoever repeats one of them after this denial, will lie as wilfully and as foully as it is possible for any false witness to lie, before heaven and earth.

What is this sad story about Dickens and his wife? Incompatibility of temper after twenty-three years of married life? What a plea! Worse than irregularity of the passions it seems to me. Thinking of my own peace and selfish pleasures, too, I would rather be beaten by my husband once a day than lose my child out of the house - yes, indeed... Poor woman! She must suffer bitterly - that is sure.

For Katey and Mamie, the knowledge that their father was sexually attracted to a girl their own age must have been utterly distasteful. Children are never happy to think about their parents' sex life and, in the nineteenth century, sex was a subject seldom discussed between the generations. The humiliation of their mother would also have been increasingly hard to bear for Katey. In a little over fifteen years, Catherine had given birth to ten children, as well as suffering at least two miscarriages. It is no wonder she did not have the energy of her childfree younger sister; nor that she lost the slim figure she had possessed when Charles married her. Towards the end of their marriage he had often made cruel jokes about her size and stupidity while praising Georgina to the hilt as his helpmeet and saviour. Both Katey and Mamie - by dint of being female - would undoubtedly have cringed at the way their father spoke about their mother and the way he made no secret of preferring the company of her sister, of Ellen and, for that matter, almost any other young attractive woman.

One afternoon, when Mrs. Perugini was sitting by the bedside of her mother (who knew she was dying), she requested her to go to a drawer and bring her a bundle of letters (there was also a locket containing a likeness of her husband and a lock of his hair) which her daughter placed upon the bed. Tenderly laying her hand upon the treasured missives, Mrs. Dickens said with great earnestness:

"Give these to the British Museum - that the world may know that he loved me once."

Mrs. Perugini promised her mother to do this. (The letters, together with the locket, were subsequently delivered to the Museum in 1899 by her doctor; with the proviso that they should not be shown for thirty years. Dickens, and herself, being the last surviving children of Charles Dickens.)

The end came on November 22nd, r879, in the presence of her daughter Kitty, who, whilst brushing her hair in the little dressing-room, was beckoned by the nurse to come. With the brush still in her hand she moved to the bed, when her mother looked at her and smiled.

Ajo lindi në Edinburg, Skoci në vitin 1815, Catherine u transferua në Angli me familjen e saj në vitin 1824. Ajo ishte vajza më e madhe e 10 fëmijëve të George Hogarth dhe Georgina Thomson. Babai i saj ishte një gazetar i Edinburgh Courant, dhe më vonë u bë një shkrimtar dhe kritik muzikor për gazetën The Morning Chronicle, ku Dickens ishte një gazetar i ri, dhe më vonë redaktori i Evening Chronicle. Dickens menjëherë mori një pëlqim të Catherine inteligjente dhe të bukur 19 vjeçare dhe e ftoi atë në festën e tij të 23-të të ditëlindjes. Catherine dhe Dickens më vonë u fejuan më 1835 dhe u martuan në 2 prill 1836 në Kishën e Shën Llukës, Chelsea. Ata ngritën një shtëpi në Bloomsbury dhe vazhduan të kenë dhjetë fëmijë. Gjatë asaj periudhe, Charles shkruajti se edhe nëse do të bëhej i pasur dhe i famshëm, ai kurrë nuk do të ishte aq i lumtur sa ishte në atë banesë të vogël me Catherine.

Motra e Catherine, Mary Hogarth, hyri në Doughty Street për të ofruar mbështetje për motrën dhe kunatën e sapo martuar. Nuk ishte e zakonshme që motra e pamartuar e një gruaje të re të jetonte me të dhe të ndihmonte një çift të sapo martuar. Dickens u bë shumë e lidhur me Mary dhe ajo vdiq në krahët e tij pas një sëmundjeje të shkurtër në vitin 1837. Ajo u bë një personazhe në shumë prej librave të tij dhe vdekja e saj është trilluar si vdekja e Nellit të Vogël. [1]

Motra e vogël e Catherine, Georgina Hogarth, u bashkua me shtëpinë e familjes Dickens më 1842 kur Dickens dhe Catherine lundruan në Amerikë, duke u kujdesur për familjen e re që kishin lënë pas. Gjatë udhëtimit të tyre, Dickens shkroi në një letër për një mik që Catherine kurrë nuk ndjeu guxim të zymtë ose të humbur gjatë gjithë rrugëtimit të tyre me anije, dhe "e përshtatur për çdo rrethanë pa ankesë". Në vitin 1845, Charles Dickens prodhoi teatrin amator Every Man in his Humour për të mirën e Leigh Hunt. Në një shfaqje të mëvonshme, Catherine Dickens, e cila kishte një rol të vogël, ra nëpër një derë kurth duke dëmtuar kyçin e këmbës së saj të majtë. Gjithashtu në vitin 1851, ajo pësoi një kolaps nervor pas vdekjes së vajzës së saj Dora Dickens, në moshë gati 8 muaj.

Gjatë viteve pasuese, Dickens e gjeti Catherine një nënë dhe shtëpiake gjithnjë e më të paaftë dhe e fajësoi atë për lindjen e 10 fëmijëve të tyre, gjë që i shkaktoi atij shqetësime financiare. Ai kishte shpresuar të mos kishte më pas lindjes së djalit të tyre të katërt Walter, dhe ai pretendoi se ardhja e saj nga një familje e madhe kishte bërë që të lindnin kaq shumë fëmijë. Ai madje u përpoq që ta diagnostikonte atë si të sëmurë mendor në mënyrë që ta kryente atë në një strehë të çmendur. Si dhe kjo, për të siguruar që nuk mund të lindnin më fëmijë, ai urdhëroi që shtrati i tyre të ndahej dhe të vendosi midis tyre një raft librash. [2] Ndarja e tyre në maj të vitit 1858, pasi Catherine aksidentalisht mori një byzylyk të destinuar për Ellen Ternan, u bë shumë e njohur dhe thashethemet për punët e Dickens ishin të shumta - të gjitha ato ai mohoi rreptësisht.

Në qershor 1858, Charles dhe Catherine Dickens u ndanë. Shkaku i saktë i ndarjes është i panjohur, megjithëse vëmendja në atë kohë dhe që nga ajo kohë është përqendruar në zëra për një aferë mes Dickens dhe Ellen Ternan dhe / ose motra e Catherine, Georgina Hogarth.

Një byzylyk i destinuar për Ellen Ternan gjoja ishte dorëzuar në familjen Dickens disa muaj më parë, duke çuar në akuzë dhe mohim. Miku i Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, më vonë pohoi se ndarja e Dickens nga Catherine ishte për shkak të një ndërlidhjeje me Ternan, sesa me Georgina Hogarth siç i ishte vënë atij. Kjo vërejtje që erdhi në vëmendjen e Dickens, Dickens u zemërua aq shumë sa që pothuajse i dha fund miqësisë Dickens-Thackeray. [3]

Georgina, Charles dhe të gjithë fëmijët përveç Charles Dickens, Jr., mbetën në shtëpinë e tyre në Tavistock House, ndërsa Catherine dhe Charles Jr. u shpërngulën. Georgina Hogarth drejtonte shtëpinë e Dickens. Më 12 qershor 1858, ai botoi një artikull në revistën e tij, "Household Words", duke mohuar thashethemet për ndarjen ndërsa nuk i artikulonte ato as duke sqaruar situatën.

Catherine would go through 10 full-term pregnancies and at least two miscarriages

In addition to being a mother, Catherine was an author, a very talented actress, an excellent cook and, in her husband’s words, a superb travelling companion. But as the wife of such a famous figure, all of that has been eclipsed.

With its new exhibition The Other Dickens, London’s Charles Dickens Museum has given Catherine back her identity.

Detail from Daniel Maclise’s 1847 painting of Catherine (Credit: Charles Dickens Museum)

As the great-great-great-granddaughter of Catherine and Charles, I’ve done my own share of research on the couple and their family. And I’ve come up with my own conclusions as to who Catherine really was – and what happened between her and Charles.

Much has been written about the Dickens’s marriage and the very public separation that occurred in 1858. In the early 20th Century, decades after both parties had died, the debate tended to be firmly on the side of Charles. Unpleasant rumours were started about why he ‘had’ to separate from her, with the reasons including that Catherine was an alcoholic (she was not).

Letters Reveal That Charles Dickens Tried to Have His (Sane) Wife Committed to an Insane Asylum

Some new details about the life of novelist Charles Dickens have come to light, and they aren’t exactly flattering. As Smithsonian reports, the Great Expectations author had some not-so-great expectations of his wife, Catherine (Hogarth) Dickens, whom he tried to have committed to a mental institution.

After 10 children and 22 years of marriage, the couple separated in 1858 in one of the most most public ways possible. In a letter that Dickens wrote to his agent at the time, he implied that Hogarth was the one who wanted to leave and live on her own. He also said she labored under a mental disorder and that “she felt herself unfit for the life she had to lead as my wife, and that she would be better far away.” Not long after, the letter was made public—perhaps with the author’s full consent. (It did not, however, mention teen actress Nelly Ternan, with whom the 46-year-old Dickens was allegedly having an affair.)

This was the story on record for many decades, until University of York professor John Bowen recently uncovered a trove of never-before-seen letters from the Theatre Collection at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. The letters had been sent by Edward Dutton Cook, Hogarth’s neighbor after the separation, to his friend William Moy Thomas. Hogarth had confided in Cook in 1879, the year she died.

In what is perhaps the most damning letter, Cook writes, “He [Charles] discovered at last that she had outgrown his liking. She had borne 10 children and had lost many of her good looks, was growing old, in fact. He even tried to shut her up in a lunatic asylum, poor thing! But bad as the law is in regard to proof of insanity he could not quite wrest it to his purpose.”

Bowen said some of the letters were uncomfortable to read. “Biographers and scholars have known for years how badly Dickens behaved at this time, but it now seems that he even tried to bend the law to place his wife and the mother of his children in a lunatic asylum, despite her evident sanity,” Bowen said in a statement. “What I discovered was both detailed and shocking, and to my knowledge, I was the first academic to transcribe and analyze these letters.”

Though it comes a little too late, Hogarth’s side of the story was finally heard. Bowen likened it to many of the shocking stories coming out of Hollywood today, describing it as a “story about the power of elite men to coerce women.”

A Dickens of a connection: tangents and fundamental mistakes

Many of us can often be heard complaining bitterly about the erroneous information in family trees on Ancestry and MyHeritage and elsewhere. We are all too aware that once one person gets a date wrong or has an ancestor marrying the wrong person, that information is copied across numerous trees without any further checking to determine its veracity or otherwise. These kinds of mistakes can easily be made by beginners who may lack an understanding about the evidence process.

However, you would not expect these same mistakes to be made in what one would assume to be a reputable publication, one with the title of Burkes Landed Gentry: The Kingdom in Scotland, edited by someone who has been in practice as a genealogist and research consultant since 1965. But numerous errors are exactly what I found when researching the death of my great great grandmother, Mary Anne Phillips/Paulovich, who I wrote about in a previous blog post.

Sometimes in our research, names appear which take us off on a tangent. We often take these paths because the circumstances are just so unusual or fascinating, they cannot be ignored. On the 27 September 1876, at the age of 52, Mary Anne died at Bona Vista Cottage in Grey Street, South Brisbane. She was buried in the South Brisbane Cemetery and witnesses at her burial, listed on the death certificate, were B Hogarth and E Gore Jones.

Edward Gore Jones was Mary Anne’s son-in-law, married to Lydia, her third daughter and fifth child. B Hogarth, however, was a mystery to me until I found Mary Anne’s intestacy records at the Queensland State Archives. One of the documents in the bundle attested that James William Phillips, my great grandfather and Mary Anne’s eldest son, together with Bohun Hogarth, gentleman, bound themselves for £100 to be used to pay any debts owing by Mary Anne. In a second document, Bohun Hogarth agreed to be surety for James William Phillips.

So, now I had a name and my search began to find out just who was this mysterious Bohun Hogarth. I took the easiest route and Googled his name and had numerous hits on Herbert de Bohun Hogarth. Great, I thought that was really easy! Even more exciting was that from the Google search results, I found that a Catherine Thompson Hogarth was the wife of Charles Dickens, the celebrated novelist and she was related to Herbert de Bohun Hogarth. The Hogarths were also related to William Hogarth, the English painter. Now I had a link to two famous families, albeit a tentative one (but a long bow could be drawn – couldn’t it?). Even better, one of the sources was Burke’s Landed Gentry in Great Britain: The Kingdom in Scotland. You couldn’t go wrong – could you?

Further investigation revealed that Herbert de Bohun Hogarth was the son of the Reverend David Hogarth and his wife Lucretia. Herbert’s wife was also referred to as either Hazel or Lucretia and Herbert died in 1904 in Nigeria. See the following example from one very detailed web site.

But, being the sceptic that I am (the Genealogical Proof Standard is ever-present), I knew that I would have to do my own research and verify what I had found in the Landed Gentry publication as well as in numerous trees such as those above which showed Herbert as the son of the Reverend David Hogarth.

Now this was not a search that took weeks or even days. Within a few hours, I found that Bohun Hogarth (not Herbert) was the son of the Reverend David Hogarth, Rector of Portland, and his wife Hannah Prudence Bohun. Bohun had an older brother, David Francis Hogarth, known as Frank, who was a civil engineer. Frank married Lucretia Bull in India in 1869 and the couple had three children – Herbert de Bohun born in 1871, Gerald de Bohun born in 1872 and Hazel de Bohun born in 1882.

Herbert de Bohun Hogarth was actually the nephew of Bohun Hogarth, the man who witnessed my great great grandmother’s burial in Brisbane in 1876 and provided surety for my great grandfather. Bohun left Australia in March of 1877 and travelled to India to visit his brother and it was where he died on the 7 June, 1877. Lucretia Hogarth was not Herbert’s wife but his mother and Hazel was not his child but his sister.

But what was the Dickens connection I hear you ask? Well, Bohun Hogarth and Catherine Thompson Hogarth, the wife of Charles Dickens, were second cousins once removed. Her grandfather Robert and Bohun’s great grandfather, David, were brothers and it was Catherine’s sister, Georgina, who was at Dickens’ bedside when he died having resided with him for many years following his separation from Catherine. Alfred and Edward Dickens, two of Charles and Catherine’s sons, both came to Australia, in 1865 and 1868 respectively Alfred lived in Australia for 45 years and died on tour in America in 1912, while Edward died in 1902, having been the MP for Wilcannia for five years.

Questions still remain for me – ones which may never be answered. How did my great grandfather James William Phillips meet Bohun Hogarth and why did Bohun agree to act as surety for James? At the time of Mary Anne’s death, James was living in Maryborough and was a timber getter while Bohun Hogarth was a gentleman living on his own means.

I did find a John Hogarth who had owned Dykehead Station near Gayndah in the late 1860s. My grandmother’s eldest sister was born on the station in 1869. Perhaps that was the connection? There were also Hogarths on the Darling Downs and this family and those on Dykehead Station were related to Bohun, albeit distantly. Mary Anne Phillips/Paulovich ran what is now the Ship Inn Hotel in South Brisbane as a boarding house until early 1876. Did Bohun stay there?

While I may never know the answer any of these questions, I do know that what started as a simple search to find out more about the man named on my great great grandmother’s death certificate became much more.

My investigations confirmed two things for me firstly, that going off on a tangent can lead to interesting finds. Secondly, you can never really rely on research done by others, whether it be the great aunt who was supposedly meticulous about her research nor those who are considered to be an expert in their field and the author of numerous genealogical books.

The Marriage of Charles Dickens

A man orders a bracelet for his mistress. It’s mistakenly sent to his home where his wife discovers it. Sounds like a romance novel doesn’t it? However, it really happened to Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine.

Catherine Hogarth, the eldest daughter of George and Georgina Hogarth, was born in Scotland. In 1834 she and her family moved to England where her father had taken a job as a music critic for the Morning Chronicle.

Charles Dickens, young and unattached, was also employed by the Morning Chronicle. His first romantic relationship, with Maria Beadnell, had ended badly. However he was quite recovered and was quickly taken with Catherine.

They met in 1834, became engaged in 1835 and were married in April of 1836. In January of 1837 the first of their ten children was born.

The Happy Years

The early years of their marriage were apparently quite happy. Dickens was in love with his young wife and she was very proud of her famous husband. In 1841 the couple traveled to Scotland. In 1842 they traveled to America together.

Sketch of Charles Dickens in 1842 with small image
of his sister, Fanny, in the bottom corner.

After the 1842 trip to America, Catherine’s sister Georgina came to live with the couple. Catherine was becoming overwhelmed with the duties of being the wife of a famous man and caring for their children. Georgina stepped in to fill the gaps and eventually ran the Dickens household.


Dickens grew unhappy with Catherine and his marriage. He resented the fact that he had so many children to support. (Somehow he saw this as Catherine’s fault.) He did not approve of Catherine’s lack of energy. He began to indicate that she was not nor had ever been his intellectual equal.

In 1855 his discontent led him to accept an invitation to meet with his former girlfriend, Maria Beadnell. Maria had married and had become Mrs. Henry Winter. However Mrs. Henry Winter did not live up to Dickens’ romantic memories and nothing ever came of the reunion.

Ellen Ternan

In 1857 Dickens met the woman who was to be his companion until his death, Ellen Ternan. Ellen, her mother and her sister were hired to act in a benefit presentation of The Frozen Deep. The event was sponsored by Dickens who also co-starred in the event.

Dickens’ life with Catherine seemed even more insufferable after meeting Ellen. Dickens wrote to his friend John Forster, “Poor Catherine and I are not made for each other, and there is no help for it. It is not only that she makes me uneasy and unhappy, but that I make her so too—and much more so.”

In 1857 Charles and Catherine took separate bedrooms.

In the spring of 1858 a bracelet that Dickens bought as a present for Ellen was accidentally delivered to the Dickens household. Catherine discovered the bracelet and accused Dickens of having an affair. Dickens denied the accusation and said it was his custom to give small gifts to people that acted in his plays.


In June of 1858 Catherine and Charles were legally separated. Days later Dickens published a notice in the London Times and Household Words that tried to explain the separation to the public.

In the notice he stated, “Some domestic trouble of mine, of long-standing, on which I will make no further remark than that it claims to be respected, as being of a sacredly private nature, has lately been brought to an arrangement, which involves no anger or ill-will of any kind, and the whole origin, progress, and surrounding circumstances of which have been, throughout, within the knowledge of my children. It is amicably composed, and its details have now to be forgotten by those concerned in it.”

While an announcement of this sort seems extreme Dickens was motivated to do so by some of the rumors circulating about the breakup. There was some gossip about an actress and some stories even suggested that Dickens was having an affair with his sister-in-law, Georgina. The second rumor was particularly upsetting because in those times such a relationship would have been viewed as incestuous.

Charles Dickens’s sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth in later years

Despite assurances that things were “amicably composed” Dickens and Catherine were never again on pleasant terms. Catherine was given a house. Their oldest son, Charley, moved in with her. Dickens retained custody of the rest of the children. While the children were not forbidden to visit their mother they were not encouraged to do so.

Catherine lived for another twenty years after the separation, passing away in 1879. Deprived of both the role of wife and mother, she never seemed to recover from the breakup of her marriage.

Catherine Hogarth Dickens - History

Dedicated to the memory of Andrea Gayle Holm Allingham: Wife, Mother, Teacher, and Writer (13 April 1949-11 July 2019)

I suppose that no two people, not vicious in themselves, were ever joined together, who had greater difficulty in understanding one another, or who had less in common — Charles Dickens's "Violated Letter," 16 August 1858. [qtd. in Slater, Dickens and Women , 103]

atherine Hogarth, eldest daughter of music critic, Morning Chronicle editor, and former Edinburgh lawyer George Hogarth (1783-1870), met young Charles Dickens in the early 1830s in London. Quickly, the Hogarths' regular visitor became their prospective son-in-law. The two young people got engaged in the spring of 1835. As Michael Slater remarks in The Oxford Readers's Companion to Dickens , the letters which the fledgling author of sundry London "Sketches" addressed to "My dearest Kate" during the period of courtship "show none of the passionate intensity of his feelings for Maria Beadnell, but instead reveal a relationship based on common interests and enthusiasms and mutual affection" (153). As her biographer, Lillian Nayder, makes clear, although Catherine was still a teenager when she met the rising author in her father's house, she was a well-rounded, well-read young Scot who was Dickens's equal in social standing, taste, and intellect, and certainly no mere Dickensian ampersand.

The daughter and granddaughter of cultured Scotsmen and women — intellectuals, writers, and musicians who highly valued family life — Catherine Hogarth was an animated and well-read nineteen-year-old, a devoted sister and cousin. For forty-two of her sixty-four years, she lived apart from the famous man who has come to define her, spending her first two decades as Miss Hogarth an her last two as the estranged wife and widow of "the Inimitable." [1]

Early Life: Edinburgh to London, 1816-1834

Catherine Thomson ("Kate") Dickens (née Hogarth 19 May 1815 – 22 November 1879), the eldest of the ten children of George Hogarth and Georgina Thomson, was born in Edinburgh, then a cultural and literary Mecca justly known as "The Athens of the North." George and Georgina Hogarth, like their eldest daughter, had ten children, including four daughters closely associated with Charles Dickens: Catherine Hogarth (1815), Mary Hogarth (1819), Georgina Hogarth (1827) and Helen Hogarth (1833). Although Catherine's father had studied law and had even been Sir Walter Scott's attorney, he had also studied cello and composition, and had served as joint secretary to the Edinburgh Music Festival. To pursue his second career as a journalist with a specialty in music criticism, he moved the family briefly to London, then in 1831 to Exeter to edit the Western Luminary , and then to Halifax in 1832 to edit The Halifax Guardian . Although slightly Bohemian, George was a supporter of the Tories, whom he regarded as a bulwark against a French-style revolution. Thus, he opposed the very parliamentary and electoral reforms that young Liberals such as Dickens were advocating in the early 1830s. Finally the Hogarths arrived back in London in 1834, settling into a large house with a garden on the Fulham Road so that George could take up the post of musical and dramatic critic for the Morning Chronicle before becoming editor of the Evening Chronicle in 1835. In that capacity, he solicited twenty-three-year-old Dickens to write sketches of London life and middle-class characters for the new, thrice-weekly periodical.

Copy of the couple's marriage certificate at St Luke's Church Chelsea.

Peter Ackroyd quotes a description of Catherine at this time as being "a pretty little woman, plump and fresh-coloured, with the large, heavy-lidded blue eyes so much admired by men. The nose was slightly retrouué, the forehead good, mouth small, round red-lipped with a genial smiling expression of countenance, notwithstanding the sleepy look of the slow-moving eyes" (164). Whereas Maria Beadnell, Dickens's previous romantic attachment, had been flirtatious and capricious, Catherine was uniformly cheerful and sweet-natured Hans Christian Anderson, a houseguest of the Dickenses in 1847, admired in her "a certain womanly repose." After an engagement of almost two years, she married Charles Dickens on 2 April 1836 in St. Luke's Church, Chelsea, and enjoyed a brief honeymoon at Chalk, near Chatham in Kent. They set up housekeeping where Dickens had had bachelor rooms, at Furnival's Inn, Bloomsbury, until 1837, when they moved to a commodious townhouse at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury, now The Dickens House Museum.

The Early Years of Her Marriage

Catherine's younger sister, Mary Scott Hogarth, came with Catherine to Dickens's Doughty Street home to support to her newly married sister and brother-in-law. Indeed, it was customary for the unwed younger sister of a new wife to live with and help a newly married couple, especially in the early years of the marriage when the couple were coping with infant care. Both Dickens and his wife were shocked by Mary's sudden death after an evening at St. James's Theatre, on 7 May 1837. In December 1839 the couple moved from this house redolent of memories of Mary to 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent's Park, which remained their home until 1851, except for a period of about a year (1844-45) when they lived in Genoa. With more than a dozen rooms, Devonshire Terrace was decidedly upper-middle class: it had a library, a drawing room, a dining room, several bedrooms, a day nursery and a night nursery, sufficient for their four children.

Catherine's younger sister, Georgina Hogarth, became a member of the Dickens household in 1842 when Charles and Catherine sailed to America so that she could look after the Dickens children. Meanwhile, the Dickenses were under close scrutiny through the 1842 American reading tour. Catherine was consistently a credit to her husband throughout the American tour, winning American intellectuals and political figures with her charm, intelligent conversation, and pleasant manner. Despite homesickness and yearning to see her children, she acted alongside her husband on stage with members of the garrison at the Queen's Theatre in Montreal, Quebec. While her husband starred in no less than three comic roles, she merely played the part of an ingénue Amy Templeton in John Poole's one-act farce Deaf as a Post . However, her devoted husband gushingly pronounced her having enacted her minor role "devilish well" (26 May 1842).

The Strain of the 1850s on Her Marriage

In 1851, writing under the pseudonym "Lady Maria Clutterbuck," Catherine published a culinary preparation guide, What Shall we Have for Dinner? Satisfactorily Answered by Numerous Bills of Fare for from Two to Eighteen Persons . Catherine, with considerable experience as a hostess, suggested menus for substantial meals of varying complexity together with a few recipes. By 1860 it had gone through several editions. Also in 1851, after the death of her eight-month-old daughter Dora, Catherine experienced a nervous breakdown. By the time that their tenth and final child, Edward, was born in 1852, Dickens was increasingly unsettled and dissatisfied, despite affectionate letters he wrote Catherine during his two-month tour of Italy with Wilkie Collins and Augustus Egg in the autumn of 1853. During the period of the early 1850s Catherine was becoming heavier and more matronly in appearance, and her middle-aged husband increasingly restless.

Over the next five years, Dickens critcized Catherine as an incompetent mother and housekeeper, and blamed her for the births of their ten children, an unreasonable charge probably prompted by his financial concerns. The turning=point in their marital relations seems to have occurred in January 1854. Charles had hoped to have no more children after the birth of their fourth son, Walter, so, to ensure that there would be no more children, he had their sleeping arrangement altered by having a bookshelf placed between them. By the time that Dickens had purchased Gad's Hill Place in Kent in 1856 and moved the family there, the marriage was probably doomed. Dickens, having starred as Richard Warder in Collins's Arctic melodrama The Frozen Deep at the converted theatre in their residence from 1851, Tavistock House, in January 1856, decided to take the show on the road in support of the charity "The Guild of Literature and Art." The decision meant that amateur actresses would no longer be adequate for the production. For the Manchester performance, accordingly, he contracted three professional actresses in August 1857: Ellen and Maria Ternan and their mother took the main female roles. Matters came to a head for Charles and Catherine in the spring of 1858 the marital breakup seems to have been triggered by the gift of an inscribed bracelet for the nineteen-year-old Ellen. He insisted that their relationship was purely platonic, and that Catherine should pay a social call upon the Ternans to demonstrate that his relationship with the young actress (contrary to rumours already circulating) posed no danger to the marriage. Catherine's mother and sister Helen now began spreading rumours about Dickens's infidelity with Ellen.

In May 1858, after Catherine accidentally received the bracelet meant for Ellen, Dickens' increasingly found himself having defend himself against imputations of infidelity, which he denied vociferously in person and in the popular press. Even though a divorce might have been possible, it would have far too expensive — and too public, hardly conducive to the reputation of the editor of a family magazine. He and Catherine therefore opted for a separate maintenance. In spite of Angela Burdett Coutts's attempts at a reconciliation for Katey's wedding in 1860, he adamantly refused.

The Later Years: A Virtual and then a Real Widow

Although the pair barely corresponded afterwards, Catherine did write to her estranged husband after the Staplehurst railway accident on 24 June 1865, inquiring as to his health. He replied curtly, but signed himself "Affectionately." The other occasion was on the eve of his second American reading tour in November 1867. She received the following reply, the last words she would ever read from her husband:

I am glad to receive your letter, and to accept and reciprocate your good wishes. Severely hard work lies before me but that is not a new thing in my life, and I am content to go my way and do it.

Charles Dickens [qtd. in Slater 154]

Slater believes that, despite his resentful treatment of her, Catherine never ceased to love her husband. She, of course, could not help following his public career, including his triumphant reading tours abroad and throughout the United Kingdom. She was, moreover, consoled by Georgina's continued presence in the Dickens household, as her being at Gad's Hill assured Catherine that a sympathetic aunt was watching over her children. When she was dying of cancer in 1879, nearly ten years after her husband's much publicized funeral in Westminster Abbey, Catherine gave the collection of letters from Dickens to her daughter Kate, telling her to "Give these to the British Museum — that the world may know he loved me once" (cited in Slater, p. 159). Catherine Dickens died at her home on Gloucester Crescent on the morning of 21 November 1879, and was buried in Highgate Cemetery, London, in the same grave as her infant daughter Dora, who had died eighteen years earlier.

The Will of Catherine Thomson ("Kate") Dickens (née Hogarth

Much has been made of the will. Despite her receiving an allowance of £600 a year, Catherine had no significant property to bequeath to her family, but the numerous treasured keepsakes that she left to her surviving children imply her strong emotional attachment to them all:

To my daughter Katherine Perugini my turquoise snake bracelet pearl broach and earrings The story card basket brought to me by my Charles [her eldest son] from China. The Sketch by Maclise of Charles, Mary, Katherine and Walter when children The case of various stuffed birds given me by Sydney and my Tortoise shell card case To my son Frank the gold watch and chain with locket attached which formerly belonged to Sydney The photograph of Katherine in red velvet and gilt frame . To my son Alfred my silver sugar basin with lid and spoon, the small agate vase with cupids . To my son Edward the gold locket formerly worn by his father containing portraits of Mary and Katherine, the pair of small Candlesticks given me by Sydney. [qtd. in Slater 159, from a typescript of the will at The Dickens House Museum, London]

Other items, according to Nayder, included a bronze inkstand brought from Rome by Sydney (for grandson Charles Walter Dickens), an ivory elephant figurine with houdah sent by Walter Dickens from India, and a Japanese cabinet for granddaughter Mary Angela Dickens. Granted, the value of these personal treasures was nothing compared to the copyrights that her husband bequeathed in equal shares to all his children in 1870, but unlike Charles she sought to include all the important people in her life in her 1878 will. Whereas he had named only three of his children (Charley, Mamie, and Henry), had privileged some children over others, and had left an estate valued at ninety thousand pounds, she left the bulk of her estate to her sister Helen, but strove to remember all of her relatives and close friends, as well as her servants at Gloucester Crescent, naming all four as recipients of brooches, sleeve studs, a photograph one even received Catherine's sewing machine. As Nayder concludes,

Catherine's will, unlike her husband's, acknowledges each of the children, regardless of success or failure. Aiming above all else to be loving, inclusive, and even-handed, she organizes her bequests objectively, according to birth order. Gender, marital status, merits and demerits: these play no part in her testamentary scheme. Insofar as Catherine draws moral distinctions in her will, she does so implicitly and only in regard to the Hogarths: not by what she leaves Georgina, an enamel snake ring, but by what she doesn't leave her — any mementoes or relics from the Hogarth family. [336]

Related Materials


Ackroyd, Peter. Dickens . London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work . New York: Facts On File, 1999.

Nayder, Lillian. The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth . Ithaca, New York: Cornell U. P., 2011.

Slater, Michael. "Dickens, Catherine Hogarth." The Oxford Readers's Companion to Dickens , ed. Schlicke, Paul. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1999. Pp. 153-157.

Slater, Michael. Dickens and Women . London and Melbourne: J. M. Dent, 1983.

The Marriage Of Charles And Catherine Dickens Falls Apart

At the time of their separation, the author penned a letter to his agent claiming that it was Catherine’s idea to move out and that she had “a mental disorder under which she sometimes labors.”

The letter eventually found its way to publication where it became gossip for the public. Some say the Great Expectations author even approved this exposure in order to help control the narrative around his separation and unofficially label his ex-wife as a burden who could no longer be helped.

In the early years of their marriage, the writer would address his wife as “my dearest Life,” and lovingly call her “dearest darling Pig” in letters to her, but this all quickly shifted when the author began an affair with an 18-year-old actress. After meeting the new young object of his affection, Ellen Ternan, the writer divided his marital bedroom in two before officially separating from Catherine, an unorthodox action in that time.

Catherine, meanwhile, was busy reconciling no longer living in her family home where she had raised her ten children. Catherine Dickens’ version of events has thus, until now, never been considered.

The letters were within a 2014 auction catalog which caught the eye of University of York professor John Bowen, an academic who specializes in 19th-century fiction. “As far as I know, I was the first person to analyze them,” said Bowen. “I’ve not found any other reference.”

Wikimedia Commons Charles Dickens, 1867-1868.

The letters chronicle an exchange between a family friend and neighbor of Dickens, Edward Dutton Cook, and a journalist in which the two explore the Dickens’ relationship and separation through a correspondence Cook had with Catherine the year she died in 1897. After sorting through the letters at the Harvard Theatre Collection in Cambridge, Bowen found a significant amount of evidence that would tip the historical scales in Catherine’s favor.

Public Domain Pictures A drawing of the author at his writing desk in his library.

“He (Charles) discovered at last that she had outgrown his liking…He even tried to shut her up in a lunatic asylum, poor thing!” Cook wrote.

Catherine Dickens and Edward Dutton Cook were good friends, which adds quite a bit of credence to the validity of the letters. Bowen said he believed the wife of Charles Dickens allegations against her husband, that they’re “almost certainly” true and make “a stronger and more damning account of Dickens’ behavior than any other.”

Wikimedia Commons Catherine Dickens, wife of Charles Dickens and mother to 10 of his children.

The discovery that Charles Dickens tried to institutionalize his wife is certainly shocking, but it is all the more so because there was evidence that people had known about this behavior years before. Indeed, researchers had long known that Catherine’s aunt, Helen Thompson, claimed that the author had tried to convince her into making Catherine’s doctor diagnose her as mentally unsound — but Thompson’s record was dismissed as a forgery.

Bowen is also convinced that he has found the very doctor who refused to lock Catherine up — a short-lived friend of Charles Dickens and an asylum superintendent named Thomas Harrington Tuke. Six years after Catherine’s separation in 1864, Charles referred to Tuke in retaliation as a “Medical Donkey”.

Bowen’s substantial discovery of primary evidence only serves as further support for this bizarre, imbalanced moment in the Dickens’ relationship.

Wikimedia Commons “Catherine Dickens” oil painting by Daniel Maclise, 1847.

Dickens’ idea of sending his wife to an asylum wasn’t an isolated incident, either. His friend, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, actually managed to do just that with his own wife, Rosina Bulwer-Lytton, and have her officially certified as a lunatic.

Bowen is aware that these disconcerting truths about Charles Dickens will make for “very uncomfortable reading” for his devotees.

After all, the writer was so publicly against Britain’s treatment of the impoverished that he established safe houses for homeless young women, visited insane asylums in both the U.K. and the U.S. and called for more humane treatment instead of the “chamber of horrors” these institutions were at the time.

Unfortunately, even literary geniuses are complex human beings who are themselves capable of the cruelty they denounce. Though the treatment of women as hysterical burdens back in the time of Catherine Dickens was certainly an inspiration to the writer’s strategy, the blame for actively trying to do such a thing at all lies squarely on his own shoulders.

After reading about Charles Dickens’ attempt to send Catherine Dickens to an insane asylum, learn about the shocking labor practices that were legal in Charles Dickens age. Then, read James Joyce’s filthy letters to his wife.

Catherine Hogarth Dickens - History

Charles Dickens was also working for the Morning Chronicle at the time, and he was immediately captivated by the intelligence and beauty of this young woman. Dickens invited her as a guest to his twenty third birthday party. He evidently came to adore her very much, and the sentiment seems to be reciprocated since Catherine wrote to her cousin that "Mr. Dickens improves very much upon acquaintance."

The attachment progressed, and Dickens proposed in 1835. Catherine and Charles were married April 2, 1836 in London.

Young Charles Dickens
They began their married life in a small flat in London. Both seemed incredibly happy. Dickens even remarked that if he were ever to become rich and famous, he would never be as happy as he was in that little flat with Catherine. As for Mrs. Dickens, she was incredibly proud of her husband and his successes, and she even traveled with him to America in 1842. During their journey, Dickens penned a letter to a friend stating that Catherine never felt gloomy or lost courage throughout their long journey by ship, and "adapted to any circumstances without complaint".

Charles and Catherine had 10 children during their union and enjoyed many happy years together.

For more detailed information on Catherine's life, I suggest this article from BBC written by one of the great granddaughters of the couple.

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Catherine Dickens English Spouse

According to our records, Catherine Dickens is possibly single.


Catherine Dickens was previously married to Charles Dickens (1836 - 1870) .


English Spouse Catherine Dickens was born Catherine Thomson Hogarth on 19th May, 1815 in Edinburgh, Scotland and passed away on 22nd Nov 1879 aged 64. She is most remembered for Wife of Charles Dickens. Her zodiac sign is Taurus.


Help us build our profile of Catherine Dickens! Login to add information, pictures and relationships, join in discussions and get credit for your contributions.

Relationship Statistics


First Name Catherine
Last Name Dickens
Maiden Name Hogarth
Full Name at Birth Catherine Thomson Hogarth
Alternative Name Kate Dickens
Birthday 19th May, 1815
Birthplace Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 22nd November, 1879
Buried Highgate Cemetery, London
Zodiac Sign Taurus
Sexuality Straight
Nationality English
Occupation Spouse
Claim to Fame Wife of Charles Dickens

Catherine Thomson "Kate" Dickens (née Hogarth 19 May 1815 – 22 November 1879) was the wife of English novelist Charles Dickens, and the mother of his ten children.


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