The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth

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Cornell University Press, Feb 15, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 376 pages

Catherine Hogarth, who came from a cultured Scots family, married Charles Dickens in 1836, the same year he began serializing his first novel. Together they traveled widely, entertained frequently, and raised ten children. In 1858, the celebrated writer pressured Catherine to leave their home, unjustly alleging that she was mentally disordered—unfit and unloved as wife and mother. Constructing a plotline nearly as powerful as his stories of Scrooge and Little Nell, Dickens created the image of his wife as a depressed and uninteresting figure, using two of her three sisters against her, by measuring her presumed weaknesses against their strengths. This self-serving fiction is still widely accepted.

In the first comprehensive biography of Catherine Dickens, Lillian Nayder debunks this tale in retelling it, wresting away from the famous novelist the power to shape his wife's story. Nayder demonstrates that the Dickenses' marriage was long a happy one; more important, she shows that the figure we know only as "Mrs. Charles Dickens" was also a daughter, sister, and friend, a loving mother and grandmother, a capable household manager, and an intelligent person whose company was valued and sought by a wide circle of women and men.

Making use of the Dickenses' banking records and legal papers as well as their correspondence with friends and family members, Nayder challenges the long-standing view of Catherine Dickens and offers unparalleled insights into the relations among the four Hogarth sisters, reclaiming those cherished by the famous novelist as Catherine's own and illuminating her special bond with her youngest sister, Helen, her staunchest ally during the marital breakdown. Drawing on little-known, unpublished material and forcing Catherine's husband from center stage, The Other Dickens revolutionizes our perception of the Dickens family dynamic, illuminates the legal and emotional ambiguities of Catherine's position as a "single" wife, and deepens our understanding of what it meant to be a woman in the Victorian age.


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User Review  - bogopea - LibraryThing

Married Dickens in 1836, traveled to US and Europe, raised 10 children. 22 years later Dickens alleges she was unloving to him and kids and also unloved by them. Dickens created the "image of his wife ... Read full review


Introduction Constructing Catherine Dickens
1 The Mind of Woman Occasionally Asserts Its Powers Catherine Hogarth among Enlightened Patriarchs 18151835
2 Becoming Galatea Courtship and Marriage 18351837
Interlude I The Girls Hogarth Catherine and Mary
Interlude II Catherine Georgina or Whats in a Name?
Interlude III Forget Me Not Catherine and Helen
Afterword Suttee Business
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About the author (2012)

Lillian Nayder is Professor and Chair of English at Bates College. She is the author of Unequal Partners: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Victorian Authorship, also from Cornell.

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