Dickens used to trawl the streets looking for women to enter Urania Cottage. In April 1850, he wrote to Miss Burdett-Coutts about his "nightly wanderings into strange places". He tried to sell the idea by pointing out they would be prepared at the home for emigration to Australia. Dickens complained that in their "astonishing and horrible ignorance" the women he talks to are often confuse "emigration and transportation". In a letter to Daniel Maclise he admitted that he sometimes rejected women because they were not "interesting". In letters to Georgiana Morson it has been argued by one observer that "some passages suggest that his interest in the girls was less than healthy." Jenny Hartley, the author of Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women (2008), rejects this view: "if Dickens had wanted to have sex with prostitutes and working-class girls, I do not think he would have set up a bordello".
However, it is worth noting that a large number of the women who entered Urania Cottage were not prostitutes. They were young women who had been imprisoned for crimes such as stealing. The prison governors of Coldbath Fields Prison and Tothill Fields Prison, recommended them to Dickens as they feared that they would resort to prostitution as no other means of making money was available to them. For example, Sarah Wood was an eighteen-year-old girl who had been sent to prison for fraud. Her scam involved calling at upmarket shops, fashionably dressed. She ordered several items of clothes and asked for them to be delivered to the family home in Finsbury Square, to be paid on delivery. However, she asked to take some of the dresses with her. She managed to deceive at least three shopkeepers with her fictional family and address before she was caught and sent to prison. Dickens took a great deal of interest in Sarah until she left the home, refusing to be sent to Australia.
Another woman who entered Urania Cottage who was not a prostitute was Mary Ann Stonnell. Newspaper reports described her as "a slight girl of thirteen" who was used by a criminal gang to get into houses and shops through the fanlight over the front door. When they were eventually caught, Mary Ann was given a short prison sentence and the men were transported for seven years. Dickens tried to develop a good relationship with Mary Ann but after several months was back in prison. Angela Burdett-Coutts went to visit her but Dickens suggested she was wasting her time: "Stonnell in prison, will always, I think be tolerably good. Out of it, until - perhaps - after great suffering, I have no hope of her."
Mary Ann wrote to Miss Burdett-Coutts while in prison: "I take the liberty of writing a few lines to thank you for the kindness you have shown to such an unworthy creature as I have been to leave such a good home and I thank you taking the trouble you have to come and see me who am not worthy of such a kind benefactress I hope Madam that you will forgive me for I am very sorry for what I have done." Dickens refused to take her back and after she left prison she returned to a life of crime.
On 21st October 1850, as he neared the end of David Copperfield, Dickens wrote to John Forster: My lamp burns low, and I have written far into the night. Oh, my dear Forster, if I were to say half of what David Copperfield makes me feel tonight, how strangely, even to you, I should be turned inside-out! I seem to be sending some part of myself into the Shadowy World."
Some critics have suggested that Dora Spenlow is based on Catherine Dickens whereas Agnes Wickfield shows similarities to Angela Burdett-Coutts and Georgina Hogarth. Miss Burdett-Coutts's biographer, Edna Healey, the author of Lady Unknown: The Life of Angela Burdett-Coutts (1978), has argued: "As the plot unfolded she must have seen in Agnes Wickford more and more clearly the image of herself. It was not merely the superficial clues - their initials were the same, there were repeated echoes of her name." Dickens wrote later: "Of all my books, I like this the best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them; but, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child, and his name is David Copperfield."
Dickens'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 February 1850, Dickens decided to join forces with his publisher, Bradbury & Evans, and his friend, John Forster, to publish the journal, Household Words. Dickens became editor and William Henry Wills, a journalist he worked with on the Daily News, became his assistant. One colleague described Wills as "a very intelligent and industrious man... but rather too gentle and compliant always to enforce his own intentions effectually upon others." Dickens thought that Wills was the ideal man for the job. He commented to Edward Bulwer-Lytton: "Wills has no genius, and is, in literary matters, sufficiently commonplace to represent a very large proportion of our readers". However, he went on to praise his "boundless energy".
Jane W. Stedman has argued: "For this periodical, Wills performed the multitudinous tasks of a working editor, from proof-reading and dealing with an enormous amount of correspondence, to frequently settling both the contents and order of each number. He kept the office book, listing each contributor, his work, and payment (which he had a tendency to pare down). For all of this, Wills was paid £8 per week, his contributions included. And yet his role was pivotal - although Dickens was not an easy editor."
Dickens rented an office at 16 Wellington Street North, a small and narrow thoroughfare just off the Strand. Dickens described it as "exceedingly pretty with the bowed front, the bow reaching up for two stories, each giving a flood of light." Dickens announced that aim of the journal would be the "raising up of those that are down, and the general improvement of our social condition". He argued that it was necessary to reform a society where "infancy was made stunted, ugly, and full of pain; maturity made old, and old age imbecile; and pauperism made hopeless every day." He added that he wanted London to "set an example of humanity and justice to the whole Empire".
After lengthy negotiations it was agreed that Dickens would have half share in all profits of Household Words, whereas Bradbury & Evans to have one quarter, John Forster and William Henry Wills, one eighth each. Whereas the publisher was to manage all the commercial details, Dickens was to be in sole charge of editorial policy and content. Dickens was also paid £40 a month for his services as editor and a fee was agreed for any articles and stories published by the journal.
Charles Dickens had been impressed by Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life that was published in 1848 by Chapman and Hall. He contacted the author, Elizabeth Gaskell, and asked her to contribute to his new journal . She sent him Lizzie Leigh , a story about a Manchester prostitute, which appeared in the first issue, on 30th March 1850. It contained 24 pages and cost twopence and came out every Wednesday. On the top of each page were the words: "Conducted by Charles Dickens". All contributions were anonymous but when his friend, Douglas Jerrold, read it for the first time, he commented that it was "mononymous throughout". Gaskell described the content as "Dickensy".
Claire Tomalin wrote that with the journal: "He set out to raise standards of journalism in the crowded field of periodical publication and, by winning educated readers and speaking to their consciences, to exert some influence on public matters; and to this end he himself wrote on many social issues - housing, sanitation, education, accidents in factories, workhouses, and in defence of the right of the poor to enjoy Sundays as they chose."
Household Words was a great success and it was soon selling 39,000 copies. Peter Ackroyd has argued: "It was nothing like such serious journals as The Edinburgh Review - it was not in any sense intellectual - but rather took its place among the magazines which heralded or exploited the growth of the reading public throughout this period... Since this was not the cleverest, the most scholarly or even the most imaginative audience in Britain, Household Words had to be cheerful, bright, informative and, above all, readable." In its first year Dickens earned an extra £1,700 from the journal and in the second year of trading, £2,000.
The leading article was usually written by John Forster. Other contributors included Wilkie Collins, Eliza Lynn Linton, Henry Morley, Blanchard Jerrold, George Augustus Sala and Percy Fitzgerald. Sala later recalled meeting Dickens for the first time: "I was overcome with astonishment at the sight of the spare, wiry gentleman who, standing on the hearthrug, shook me cordially by the hand - both hands, if I remember alright... He was then, I should say, barely forty; yet to my eyes he seemed to be rapidly approaching fifty." Fitzgerald later commented on the way Dickens edited the journal: "the way he used to scatter his bright touches over the whole, the sparkling word of his own that he would insert here and there, gave a surprising point and light." The journal also included the Household Narrative of Current Events, compiled by his father-in-law, George Hogarth. Dickens was known to be a quick and generous payer, which made him popular with his contributors.
On 15th June, 1850, Dickens made a savage attack on John Everett Millais and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in his journal Household Words: "You will have the goodness to discharge from your minds all Post-Raphael ideas, all religious aspirations, all elevating thoughts, all tender, awful, sorrowful, ennobling, sacred, graceful, or beautiful associations, and to prepare yourselves, as befits such a subject Pre-Raphaelly considered for the lowest depths of what is mean, odious, repulsive, and revolting."
Dickens then went on to criticize Millais's painting, Christ in the House of His Parents that had appeared for the first time at the 1850 Royal Academy Exhibition: "You behold the interior of a carpenter’s shop. In the foreground of that carpenter’s shop is a hideous, wry-necked, blubbering, red-headed boy, in a bed-gown, who appears to have received a poke in the hand, from the stick of another boy with whom he has been playing in an adjacent gutter, and to be holding it up for the contemplation of a kneeling woman, so horrible in her ugliness, that (supposing it were possible for any human creature to exist for a moment with that dislocated throat) she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest gin-shop in England. Two almost naked carpenters, master and journeyman, worthy companions of this agreeable female, are working at their trade; a boy, with some small flavor of humanity in him, is entering with a vessel of water; and nobody is paying any attention to a snuffy old woman who seems to have mistaken that shop for the tobacconist’s next door, and to be hopelessly waiting at the counter to be served with half an ounce of her favourite mixture. Wherever it is possible to express ugliness of feature, limb, or attitude, you have it expressed. Such men as the carpenters might be undressed in any hospital where dirty drunkards, in a high state of varicose veins, are received. Their very toes have walked out of Saint Giles’s."
John Ruskin, the leading art critic in the country, was appalled by Dickens's attack. In a letter to The Times he claimed that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood “may, as they gain experience, lay in our land the foundations of a school of art nobler than has been seen for three hundred years”. In a pamphlet entitled, Pre-Raphaelitism (1851), Ruskin argued hat the advice he had given in the first volume of Modern Painters had “at last been carried out, to the very letter, by a group of young men who... have been assailed with the most scurrilous abuse... from the public press.”
Dickens's last child, Edward Bulwer Lytton, 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."
Elizabeth Gaskell continued to publish stories in Household Words including Traits and Stories of the Huguenots , Morton Hall , My French Master , The Squire's Story , Company Manners , An Accursed Race , Half a Lifetime Ago , The Poor Clare , My Lady Ludlow , The Sin of a Father and The Manchester Marriage . She also produced a series of stories that were published between 13th December 1851 and 21st May 1853, that eventually became the novel, Cranford. Her biographer, Jenny Uglow has suggested that the Cranford stories "make the dangerous safe, touching the tenderest spots of memory and bringing the single, the odd and the wanderer into the circle of family and community."
During this period Gaskell visited Dickens at his home: "We were shown into Mr. Dickens' study... where he writes all his books... There are books all around, up to the ceiling, and down to the ground... after dinner ... quantities of other people came in. We were by this time in the drawing-room, which is not nearly so pretty or so home-like as the study... We heard some beautiful music... I kept trying to learn people's faces off by heart, that I might remember them; but it was rather confusing there were so very many. There were some nice little Dickens' children in the room, who were so polite, and well-trained."
Mamie Dickens, in her book, Charles Dickens by His Eldest Daughter (1894), provided an interesting insight into the way Dickens approached his work: "He was usually alone when at work, though there were, of course, some occasional exceptions, and I myself constituted such an exception. During our life at Tavistock House, I had a long and serious illness, with an almost equally long convalescence. During the latter, my father suggested that I should be carried every day into his study to remain with him, and, although I was fearful of disturbing him, he assured me that he desired to have me with him. On one of these mornings, I was lying on the sofa endeavouring to keep perfectly quiet, while my father wrote busily and rapidly at his desk, when he suddenly jumped from his chair and rushed to a mirror which hung near, and in which I could see the reflection of some extraordinary facial contortions which he was making. He returned rapidly to his desk, wrote furiously for a few moments, and then went again to the mirror. The facial pantomime was resumed, and then turning toward, but evidently not seeing, me, he began talking rapidly in a low voice. Ceasing this soon, however, he returned once more to his desk, where he remained silently writing until luncheon time. It was a most curious experience for me, and one of which, I did not until later years, fully appreciate the purport. Then I knew that with his natural intensity he had thrown himself completely into the character that he was creating, and that for the time being he had not only lost sight of his surroundings, but had actually became in action, as in imagination, the creature of his pen."
At about this time Catherine Dickens 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."
Charles Dickens and Angela Burdett Coutts felt strongly about the poor quality of working-class homes. Together they visited model buildings already in existence in Calthorpe Street off the Gray's Inn Road. Dickens was in favour of building flats as they took up less room than houses. Appalled at the "advancing army of bricks and mortar laying waste the country fields" he believed that if "large buildings had been erected for the working people, instead of the absurd and expensive separate walnut shells in which they live, London would have been about a third of its present size, and every family would have had a country walk, miles nearer to their work and would not have had to dine at public houses." He added that in flats "they would have had gas, water, drainage, and a variety of other humanizing things which you can't give them so well in little houses."
In 1851 they began planning the rebuilding of an area in the East End. Dickens suggested Bethnal Green, the area of London where Nancy, the prostitute in Oliver Twist, lived. He also encouraged her to consult with Dr. Thomas Southwood Smith, an authority on Public Health, who knew the area well. He also brought in his brother-in-law, Henry Austin, an experienced architect and sanitary engineer to advise in the early stages. Although the novelist followed its progress with interest, he does not appear to have had much to do with its later development.
In November 1851 Dickens began writing a novel which dealt with the condition of England. He found it a difficult story to write and told Angela Burdett Coutts: "I have been so busy, leading up to the great turning idea of the Bleak House story, that I have lived this last week or ten days in a perpetual scald and boil." Dickens gave his illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne, a clear outline of the drawings he wanted for the story. Valerie Browne Lester , the author of Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens (2004): "Dickens was filled with righteous anger against the labyrinthine wranglings of the law courts, and in Bleak House he railed against a society that so thoroughly exploited its people. With Phiz (Browne) by his side, he took on the forces of chaos and darkness."
Bleak House was published in twenty parts by Bradbury and Evans. Dickens's biographer, Claire Tomalin, argues that it has the most powerful beginning of all his novels: "Dickens... rolls out the dark, dirty English earth and sky to set the theme of the book. It will take on the worse aspects of the legal system - its inhumanity, sloth, corruption and obstruction - as a basis for a larger matter, the bad governance of society as a whole; and it will show the physical sickness of London - its toxic water, rotten housing, bursting graveyards and festering sewerage - as part of the effects of that bad governance. There will be almost none of the high-spirited comedy of the early novels."
Dickens uses the story to explore attitudes towards parliamentary reform. Sir Leicester Dedlock is opposed to the 1832 Reform Act and is condemned for his view that "any move in the Wat Tyler direction" would bring the end of the old order. Dickens had written in an article published in The Examiner in December 1842: "There are not a few of this order who will not find it an unspeakable happiness to become oblivious of the Reform Bill, with its long train of ungenteel and revolutionary consequences, as exemplified in the increased and increasing audacity of the millions who demand to live." Although he had supported earlier reform, Dickens was opposed to universal suffrage and Chartism. He had written in 1848 that "Chartist fears and rumours shake us."
Esther Summerson is the narrator of a part of the story. The reviewer in Bentley's Monthly Review found her "perfectly lovable in every way" but Charlotte Bronte thought her "too often weak and twaddling". It has been argued by Andrew Sanders that "Esther stands in a line with those other admirable, family-oriented, unambitious, domestic angels, Florence Dombey, Agnes Wickford, and Amy Dorrit. Each of these women exhibits a need to give and receive love, and each finds fulfilment as a helpmate and companion to a deserving man." Sanders goes onto to suggest that Mary Hogarth "seems to have been the model on which Dickens based the line of his passive, loving, generous-minded, young heroines. These young women, who sometimes seem caught between adolescence and young womanhood, have frequently been condemned by critics as more sisterly than sexual, more idealized than real. They nonetheless sprang from something deep both in Dickens's consciousness."
In the episode published in December 1852, Dickens described Krook's death by spontaneous combustion. Michael Slater, the author of Charles Dickens (2009) has argued: "Dickens means the reader to be startled into a fearful realisation that a corrupt and unjust institution like Chancery (emblematic of contemporary British society as a whole) will, if not radically reformed, suffer the fate that Carlyle in his great history The French Revolution, read over and over again by Dickens, shows befalling the ancien régime. It will collapse or disintegrate as a result of its own inner rottenness."
Dickens was criticised by George Henry Lewis for promoting bad science. In an article in The Leader Lewis pointed out that the author was guilty of "vulgar error" in suggesting that people, especially drunkards, might die by "spontaneous combustion". Dickens insisted that this was possible and provided several recorded cases of spontaneous combustion as a natural phenomenon. Lewis replied that these were all examples that had taken place in the previous century and provided references to more recent research that had argued that it was a "medical myth".
Several critics made reference to the "dark" illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne. One observer pointed out that the drawings "perfectly convey an atmosphere in which evil institutions dominate the lives of the powerless." John R. Harvey, the author of Victorian Novelists and their Illustrators (1970) has argued: "Browne's small fugitive figures reflect.... the novel's general intimation of the pitiable helplessness and isolation of hounded human beings." Jane Rabb Cohen supports this view in her book, Dickens and His Principal Illustrators (1980): "The insignificance of the characters in the artist's plates sensitively reflects their insignificance in the author's narrative, which depicts a society whose institutions dwarf, isolate, and too often destroy members."
Most of the critics did not like Bleak House. Even his loyal friend, John Forster remarked that it was the "book in which some want of all the freshness of his genius first became apparent". George H. Ford, the author of Dickens and His Readers: Aspects of Novel-Criticism Since 1836 (1955), has argued that the reason why Dickens received poor reviews for books like Bleak House was because his "sweeping criticism of society alienated liberal and conservative alike". Richard Bentley remarked: "As a novelist he is distinguished, as a humorist he is unrivalled; but when he deals with the larger spheres of morals, with politics, and with the mechanism of state and official life, he is absurd." However, it was a commercial success with total profits on the book reaching over £14,750.
Dickens continued to produce articles for Household Words. Another project during this period was the serialisation of his school textbook, A Child's History of England. It appeared from time to time in the journal between 25th January 1851 and 10th December 1853, "the later parts were perfunctory, and the last chapter, running less than two columns, managed to cover everything from 1688 onwards".
In February 1854 Dickens went to Preston to observe a strike of cotton workers that began in June 1853. Its immediate cause was a request by the powerloom weavers to their employers for a restoration of the ten per cent in wages enforced six years earlier. The factory owners refused to meet the representatives of the workers and responded to the strike by sacking its leaders. In September, the Preston Masters's Association agreed to lock out all the workers from the mills. They then issued a statement that none of them would be re-employed unless trade union membership was renounced.
Dickens's account, On Strike , appeared in Household Words on 11th February 1854. It was fairly sympathetic to the strikers and included a passage from a statement issued by the local trade union: "This system of giving everything to the few, and nothing to the many, has lasted long enough, and we call upon the working people of this country to be determined to establish a new and improved system - a system that shall give to all who labour, a fair share of those blessings and comforts which their toil produce... The task is before you, working men; if you think the good which would result from its accomplishment is worth struggling for, set to work and cease not, until you have obtained the good time coming, not only for the Preston Operatives, but for yourselves as well."
Dickens's article also described the dignified way the workers picked up their strike pay: "On the Monday at noon, I returned to this cockpit, to see the people paid. It was then about half filled, principally with girls and women. They were all seated, waiting, with nothing to occupy their attention; and were just in that state when the unexpected appearance of a stranger differently dressed from themselves, and with his own individual peculiarities of course, might, without offence, have had something droll in it even to more polite assemblies. But I stood there, looking on, as free from remark as if I had come to be paid with the rest. In the place which the secretary had occupied yesterday, stood a dirty little common table, covered with five-penny piles of halfpence. Before the paying began, I wondered who was going to receive these very small sums; but when it did begin, the mystery was soon cleared up. Each of these piles was the change for sixpence, deducting a penny. All who were paid, in tiling round the building to prevent confusion, had to pass this table on the way out; and the greater part of the unmarried girls stopped here, to change, each a sixpence, and subscribe her weekly penny in aid of the people on strike who had families. A very large majority of these girls and women were comfortably dressed in all respects, clean, wholesome and pleasant-looking. There was a prevalent neatness and cheerfulness, and in almost ludicrous absence of anything like sullen discontent."
On his return to London he began work on his new novel, Hard Times. The first episode appeared in Household Words in April 1854. The hero of the novel is Stephen Blackpool, a power-loom weaver, in a factory owned by Josiah Bounderby in Coketown. Blackpool's wife is an alcoholic and he would like to marry a fellow factory hand, Rachel. Bounderby is married to Louisa, the daughter of Thomas Grandgrind, a retired wholesale hardware merchant. She is twenty years his junior but her father has insisted on the match because of his mathematical plan.
Gradgrind has brought up his children to respect facts and ignore feelings. He names two of his sons after his idols, Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus. This is in comparison to Dickens who were called after writers, Walter Savage Landour, Alfred Tennyson, Sydney Smith, Henry Fielding and Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Dickens admitted: "My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else - the representatives of the wickedest and most enormous vice of this time; the men who, through long years to come, will do more damage the really useful truths of political economy than I could do (if I tried) in my whole life." According to one critic "the chief message of the book concerns the bad effects of an education that confines itself to purely factual and practical matters learnt by rote, ignoring the importance of imagination, sensibility, humour, games, poetry, entertainment and fun."
In the story, workers in Josiah Bounderby's factory in Coketown attempt to form a trade union. Blackpool refuses to join them and he becomes an outcast. However, when Bounderby describes the workers as "a set of rascals and rebels" Blackpool defends them by explaining that they are acting from a sense of duty. Bounderby is angered by the response and sacks Blackpool.
Stephen Blackpool leaves Coketown in search of employment, but returns after he hears that he is being falsely accused of complicity in the robbery at Mr Bounderby's bank. On his way he falls into an abandoned coal shaft hidden by thick grass. He is rescued but he is so seriously injured that he dies soon after being brought to the surface. The last episode of Hard Times was published in Household Words in August 1854. Dickens earned £1,500 from the venture. It also doubled the circulation of the journal.
Reviewers other than John Forster were mainly unenthusiastic. However, John Ruskin thought it was in many ways Dickens's greatest novel and argued "his view was finally the right one, grossly and sharply told." However, he did criticise the tone of the book: "The essential value and truth of Dickens's writings have been unwisely lost sight of by many thoughtful persons, merely because he presents his truth with some colour of caricature. Unwisely, because Dickens's caricature, though often gross, is never mistaken. Allowing for his manner of telling them, the things he tells us are always true. I wish that he could think it right to limit his brilliant exaggeration to works written only for public amusement; and when he takes up a subject of high national importance, such as that which he handled in Hard Times, that he would use severer and more accurate analysis."
George Orwell has pointed out that Thomas Babington Macaulay refused to review Hard Times because he disapproved of its "sullen Socialism". However, Orwell rejects this argument: "There is not a line in the book that can properly be called Socialistic; indeed, its tendency if anything is pro-capitalist, because its whole moral is that capitalists ought to be kind, not that workers ought to be rebellious. And so far as social criticism goes, one can never extract much more from Dickens than this, unless one deliberately reads meanings into him. His whole message is one that at first glance looks like an enormous platitude: If men would behave decently the world would be decent." The authors of Charles Dickens: His Social Journalism (1986) agree with Orwell: "Hard Times was Dickens's one response to the problems of an industrial society, and also the one in which London played no part at all. As a response to the struggle between master and worker in a capitalist society it was muted; and the fact that the novel was set out of the great metropolis made Dickens's handling of social themes less sure than it usually was.... As always, Dickens was unwilling to take sides in economic issues."
Dickens used to spend a considerable amount of time with Britain 's other leading novelist of the time William Makepeace Thackeray. This relationship has been studied in some depth by literary critics. Peter Ackroyd has argued in Dickens (1990): "Although they were for many years on perfectly friendly terms, no two writers could in fact have been more different. Thackeray was the scion of Charterhouse and Cambridge, Dickens of Chatham dockyard and Warren's blacking factory. Thackeray was a gentleman who never quite shook off his amateur status - indeed at times seemed to revel it - while Dickens was the entire professional whose own class status was insecure enough to make him grandiloquent in his support for the dignity of literature".
Eliza Lynn Linton was close to both Thackeray and Dickens and has argued: "Both these men illustrated the truth which so few see, or acknowledge when even they do see it, of that divorcement of intellect and character which leads to what men are pleased to call inconsistencies. Thackeray, who saw the faults and frailties of human nature so clearly, was the gentlest-hearted, most generous, most loving of men. Dickens, whose whole mind went to almost morbid tenderness and sympathy, was infinitely less plastic, less self-giving, less personally sympathetic. Energetic to restlessness... he was a keen man of business and a hard bargainer, and his will was as resolute as his pride was indomitable."
Elizabeth Gaskell continued to contribute to Household Words. Her novel, North and South (1855), appeared in the journal between 2nd September 1854 and 27 January 1855. Peter Ackroyd has pointed out that the relationship between the two writers was often difficult: "Mrs Gaskell's North and South, which was proving too long and too unwieldy for serial publication. Mrs Gaskell herself was also somewhat difficult, particularly in her inability or slowness to cut her text as Dickens desired; nothing irritated him more than unprofessional behaviour, especially in novelists whom he knew to be inferior to himself, and although he kept his own communications with Mrs Gaskell relatively courteous he was far from flattering about her to his deputy." Gaskell was also often late in delivering her manuscript. Dickens commented to William Henry Wills that if he was her husband, he would feel compelled to "beat her". Dickens eventually edited the serial and she regarded the abrupt ending of the serial version as "mutilated... like a pantomime figure with a great large head and a very small trunk".
Dickens and Angela Burdett-Coutts both read accounts from Florence Nightingale about hospital conditions in Scutari during the Crimean War. Nightingale wrote about the "sodden misery in the hospital". On Dickens's advice, at the end of January 1855, Burdett-Coutts ordered from William Jeakes, an engineer working in Bloomsbury, a drying closet machine. It was built at a cost of £150. It was shipped out in parts and re-assembled in Istanbul. According to The Illustrated London News "1,000 articles of linen can be thoroughly dried in 25 minutes with the aid of Mr Jeakes centrifugal machine which took the wet out of the linen before it is placed in the drying closet." Dr Sutherland, who was working at the army hospital, wrote a letter of thanks to Jeakes: "The wet clothes give in as soon as they have seen it and dry up forthwith. The machine does great credit to Miss Coutt's philanthropy and also your engineering." Dickens commented that the machine was "the only solitary administrative thing, connected with the war that has been a success."
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."
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 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 May 1855 Dickens joined with the Liberal Party MP, Austen Layard, to form the Association for Administrative Reform. He spoke at several public meetings for the organisation and it was suggested that Dickens should stand for the House of Commons. Dickens replied that he had no intention of entering politics himself: "literature is my profession - it is at once my business and my pleasure, and I shall never pass beyond it."
Dickens image as a social reformer was very important to him. After publishing a pro-woman's rights article by Eliza Lynn Linton he told William Henry Wills: "it gets so near the sexual side of things as to be a little dangerous to us at times." He also got worried about an article by Wilkie Collins about the behaviour of the wealthy in England. He told Wills that in future he must edit his work as "not to leave anything in it that may be sweeping, and unnecessarily offensive to the middle class".
The novelist, Justin MacCarthy, pointed out: "He (Dickens) was almost worshipped by the lower-middle-classes in our provincial towns... the only author they knew." Percy Fitzgerald, commented that "no one indeed can even conceive the singular veneration, admiration and love that was felt for him" during this period. Lucinda Hawksley has argued: "It can sometimes be difficult for modern readers, so used to the cult of celebrity, to understand quite what a phenomenon Charles Dickens's celebrity was to the nineteenth-century observer. He was one of the very first 'celebrities' in the modern sense. People were fascinated by him, in a manner previously reserved for royalty or the greatest of war heroes, such as Nelson or Wellington." His son, Henry Fielding Dickens, recalls what it was like to be with his father as a young boy and the way in which people reacted when they saw Dickens: "To walk with him in the streets of London... was a revelation; a royal progress; people of all degrees and classes taking off their hats and greeting him as he passed."
In 1855 Dickens began planning his next novel. He decided to write about his experiences of visiting his father, John Dickens, in Marshalsea Prison in Southwark. His publisher, Bradbury and Evans, agreed to conduct a large publicity campaign for Little Dorrit. This included 4,000 posters and over 300,000 handbills. The first episode appeared on 1st December 1856. The first episode was very encouraging. The Athenaeum, for example, praised "this evidence of an ever-ripening genius and an ever-progressing art". When it was published, the initial printing of 32,000 was not enough and two more reprintings were required. By 8th February, the first number had sold over 40,000 copies.
The story concerns William Dorrit, who was imprisoned as a debtor many years ago. His wife and two children (Fanny and Edward) joined him and later, a third child, Amy (known as Little Dorrit) was born. When Amy is eight years old, her mother dies. She takes over her role and through her sewing, financially supports the rest of the family.
Amy finds work with Mrs Clennam, a hard, stern woman. She eventually falls in love with her son, Arthur Clennam, who has been working in China. Arthur discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune. He leaves Marshalsea a rich man, but the long period in captivity has left its mark and it is soon clear that he is suffering from a rapidly declining intellect. He takes the family on a tour of Europe but dies while living in Rome.
Arthur Clennam invests his money in the fraudulent business of Mr. Merdle. When this is discovered, Merdle commits suicide and Clennam, deeply in debt, is imprisoned in Marshalsea Prison. While there, he is taken ill and is nursed back to health by Amy Dorrit. When Arthur's business partner Daniel Doyce returns from Russia a wealthy man, Arthur is released with his fortunes revived, and Arthur and Amy are married.
Dickens, who had given Hablot Knight Browne a "somewhat freer rein in the two preceding novels, he reverted to controlling minute details of the illustrations". On 6th December, 1856 Dickens wrote to Browne: "Don't have Lord Decimus's hand put out, because that looks condescending; and I want him to be upright, stiff, unmixable with mere mortality. Mrs Plornish is too old, and Cavaletto a little bit too furious and wanting in stealthiness."
On 10th February, 1857, Dickens wrote again to his illustrator: "In the dinner scene, it is highly important that Mr. Dorrit should not be too comic. He is too comic now. He is described in the text as shedding tears and what he imperatively wants, is an expression doing less violence in the reader's mind to what is going to happen to him, and much more in accordance with that serious end which is so close before him. Pray do not neglect this change."
Jane Rabb Cohen has argued that Browne's illustrations for the novel were disappointing: "Browne's greatest problem was that by now Dickens usurped his very function. The author had always written unusually pictorial prose. In Little Dorrit his writing became so graphically suggestive yet selective that it needed little visual help."
Although Little Dorrit had sold well at the beginning, by episode 15, sales had fallen to 36,280. The critics also turned on the second-half of the novel. In January 1857, James Fitzjames Stephen, wrote in The Saturday Review, that Dickens was unable to "attract the attention of the more intelligent classes of the community" but who exercised "a very wide and very pernicious political and social influence" among the rest of the population." Blackwood Magazine disliked the book for other reasons describing it as "twaddle". These reviews and an impact on sales the closing number published in June 1857, only sold 29,000 copies. Even so, the serialisation was economically successful and Dickens earned a profit of between £542 and £600 for each number.
In the Oxford Readers's Companion to Charles Dickens (2011) Paul Schlicke has suggested that the main reason why it was unpopular with the critics was that it was the "most sombre and oppressive of Dickens's novels... organized around a pervasive central symbol of imprisonment". Michael Slater, the author of Charles Dickens (2009) has argued: "Dickens cannot have been unaware that Little Dorrit... had latterly not been getting a good press. A detailed study of the novel's reception has shown that twenty-five out of thirty-six traced reviews or notices of the complete, or nearly complete, novel were hostile, using such opprobrious terms as unartistic, unnatural and uninteresting. Peter Ackroyd has pointed out there were political reasons for these bad reviews: "It was largely treated as a failure, a bad novel, a sign of Dickens's sad decline; the reaction was partly political, partly the intellectual response to a popular author, partly the need to pull down an idol."
Dickens was extremely strict with his boys. His son, Henry Fielding Dickens, has commented: "He was particularly tidy, both in his dress and in his habits; in dress, always neat and dapper, but with a marked inclination to somewhat bright - not to say startling - colours, especially in the matter of waistcoats. In his habits his methods of tidiness were very marked, so pronounced, indeed, as to fail to meet with the entire approval of us small boys."
Dickens indulged his daughters, Mamie and Kate, but he demanded high standards from his sons. For example, Walter Landor Dickens was not a very successful student and when he was sixteen his father arranged for him to be sent to India to join the 42nd Highlanders (the Black Watch). He wept as he said goodbye to his mother, sisters and younger brothers. Dickens and his eldest son, Charles Culliford Dickens , went to Southampton to see him board the Indus . Dickens wrote to Angela Burdett Coutts that he was "cut up for a minute or so when I bade him good bye, but recovered directly, and conducted himself like a man."
Although he was a close friend of Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray considered his novels to be too sentimental. John Carey, the author of Thackeray: Prodigal Genius (1977) has pointed out: "The most prolific breeding ground for such sham sentiment was, he believed, the social-conscience novel, as developed by Dickens. For one thing, he despised the bogus philanthropy that induced comfortably off readers, who had every intention of remaining comfortably-off, to grow lachrymose over fictional accounts of workers' woes. For another, he felt that you could not have a political question fairly debated in a novel, since the author was at liberty to invent characters and motives, in order to revile or revere them. The whole structure was rigged. Moreover, none of the sentimental novelists, it seemed to him, had devised any feasible scheme for bettering the poor, or shown the political and economic acumen that might lead one to expect such a scheme was forthcoming. The happy endings, tacked onto their stories of suffering, were enough to expose the shallowness of their social concerns."
In public Thackeray praised the work of Dickens. However, in one article on 7th June, 1853, he commented "I may quarrel with Mr. Dickens's art a thousand and a thousand times, I delight and wonder at his genius". Thackeray's biographer, Peter L. Shillingsburg, has argued: "Privately he objected to Dickens's overblown writing style, and he remarked once that Dickens was cool to him because he had ‘found him out’ as a poseur."
1857 Dickens and Wilkie Collins wrote The Frozen Deep. The inspiration for the play came from the expedition led by Rear-Admiral John Franklin in 1845 to find the North-West Passage. Dickens offered to arrange its first production in his own home, Tavistock House. Dickens also wanted to play the part of the hero, Richard Wardour, who after struggling against jealousy and murderous impulses, sacrifices his life to rescue his rival in love.
Dickens, who grew a beard for the role, also gave parts to three of his children, Charles Culliford Dickens, Kate Dickens, Mamie Dickens and his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth. Dickens later recalled that taking part in the play was "like writing a book in company... a satisfaction of a most singular kind, which had no exact parallel in my life". Dickens invited the theatre critic from The Times to attend the first production on 6th January, 1857 in the converted schoolroom. He was very impressed and praised Kate for her "fascinating simplicity", Mamie for her "dramatic instinct" and Georgina for her "refined vivacity".
The star of the play was Charles Dickens, who showed he could have had a career as a professional actor. One critic, John Oxenford, said that "his appeal to the imagination of the audience, which conveyed the sense of Wardour's complex and powerful inner life, suggests the support of some strong irrational force". The Athenaeum declared that Dickens's acting "might open a new era for the stage". William Makepeace Thackeray, who also saw the production, remarked: "If that man (Dickens) would go upon the stage he would make £20,000 a year."
The temporary theatre held a maximum audience of twenty-five, four performances were given. A private command performance, with the same cast, was also given for Queen Victoria and her family on 4th July and three public benefit performances were given in London in order to raise money for the widow of Dickens's friend, Douglas Jerrold. The author of Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens's Artist Daughter (2006) has pointed out: "Queen Victoria was highly pleased with the performance and requested an audience with Charles immediately afterwards. He refused - on the grounds that he was still in the clothes he had worn for the farce and felt it would be disgraceful for him to appear before his queen dressed so inappropriately. She repeated her request after having dismissed his fears, but he refused a second time, on the same grounds. In the end, the Queen acceded to his will and left the theatre without having made the acquaintance of one of her most famous subjects and perhaps secretly pleased that someone had stood up to her. She was certainly not displeased at his behaviour, at least not for long, as Charles Dickens would later be received at court."
Dickens approached his friend, the actor and playwright, Alfred Wigan, about putting on a production of The Frozen Deep in Manchester. This time Dickens wanted the women to be played by professional actresses. Wigan suggested the names of Frances Jarman and her three daughters. The play was given three performances in the Free Trade Hall with Ellen playing the part that was originally performed by Kate Dickens. During the production Dickens fell in love with the eighteen-year-old Ellen Ternan.
The author of The Invisible Woman (1990) has argued: "A bright, penniless girl of eighteen who found herself admired by a rich older man had good reason to be excited. The role laid down by her society was suddenly reversed: having been always powerless, she now began to be in command. In Nelly's case the man she might command was also brilliant and famous, a charming and entertaining companion, and in a position to transform her life, which in any case held few counter-attractions." Dickens wrote to Wilkie Collins claiming that "there never was a man so seized and rended by one spirit".
It was not long before there was gossip in the newspapers. 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."
Dickens confessed to Wilkie Collins: "I have not known a moment's peace or contentment, since the last night of The Frozen Deep. I do not suppose that there ever was a man so seized and rendered." He also told his friend Mrs Martin about his feelings for Ellen: "I wish an ogre with seven heads ... had taken the Princess whom I adore - you have no idea how intensely I love her!... Nothing would suit me half so well this day, as climbing after her, sword in hand, and either winning her or being killed."
Anne Isba has argued in Dickens's Women: His Life and Loves (2011): "Dickens was forty-five years old to Nelly's eighteen. He was a self-made man, the greatest novelist of his age, a tireless journalist, social reformer, commentator, editor, theatrical patron, doer of good works, apparent pillar of society and father of nine. Middle-aged he might be, but he was still upright, stylish, flamboyant even - in dress and manner - with his eccentric coiffure and exotic waistcoats. He was impetuous and interested in everybody and everything. He was often charming and equally often moody and irritable, particularly when he was writing. Nelly was a shapely, blonde, blue-eyed slip of a girl, pretty and spirited, but with no great acting talent. Fatherless and penniless, she was poor but she was honest. Above all, she was young. And Dickens had a dread of growing old. In Nelly, he saw the perfect opportunity to keep himself connected to youth, to reinvent himself on a new stage."
Lucinda Hawksley , the author of Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens's Artist Daughter (2006) , has pointed out: "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."
Two months after falling in love with Ellen Ternan, Dickens 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".
Lillian Nayder, the author of The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth (2011), has argued: "To Catherine over the next few months, her husband's attraction to the young actress was painfully clear. Besides the new bedroom arrangements at Tavistock House, there were Dickens's extended absences from home, his refusal to write to her when he was away, his efforts on behalf of Ellen and the Ternans, and the arrival of some jewelry for the young woman, a gift from Dickens mistakenly delivered to his home. Catherine was unconvinced by her husband's insistence that he had often given such gifts to fellow performers, and she objected to his behaviour as she had to his intimacy with Madame de la Rue in the mid-1840s... There were tearful arguments to which Katey, and perhaps others, were privy and which ended with Catherine's doing as her husband willed - calling on the Ternans, as to sanction and make proper his relations with them."
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." Dickens put pressure on his father-in-law, George Hogarth, to write a letter his solicitor about the matter: "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".
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."
On the signing of the settlement, Catherine found temporary accommodation in Brighton, with her son. 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, 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.
On 25th May, 1858, Dickens issued a statement: "From the age of fifteen she (Georgina Hogarth) has devoted herself to our home and our children. She has been their playmate. nurse, instructress, friend, protectress, adviser and companion. In the manly consideration toward Mrs. Dickens which I owe to my wife. I will merely remark of her that the peculiarity of her character has thrown all the children on someone else. I do not know - I cannot by any stretch of fancy imagine - what would have become of them but for this aunt, who has grown up with them, to whom they are devoted, and who has sacrificed the best part of her youth and life to them."
Six days later Georgina Hogarth wrote to Maria Winter: "For my sister and Charles have lived unhappily for years - they were totally unsuited to each other in almost every respect - and as the children grew up this unsuitability developed itself more strongly and disagreements and miseries which used to be easily kept out of sight have forced themselves into notice. Unhappily, also, 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. My sister has often expressed a desire to go and live away, but Charles never agreed to it on the girls' account; but latterly he thought it must be to their advantage as well as to his own and Catherine's to consent to this and remodel their unhappy home."
Dickens wrote to Angela Burdett-Coutts about his marriage to Catherine Dickens: "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 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.
On the signing of the settlement, Catherine moved to a house in Gloucester Place, Brighton, with her son Charles Culliford Dickens. Dickens automatically got the right to take away 8 out of the 9 children from his wife (the eldest son who was over 21 stayed with his mother). Dickens now moved back to Tavistock House with Georgina and the rest of the children. She was put in command of the servants and household management. Later that year she moved to a house in Gloucester Crescent near Regent's Park.
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 Dickens: "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." Percy Fitzgerald later recalled that "people were all but bewildered and almost stunned... Everyone was for the most part in supreme ignorance of what the document could possibly refer to... the delusion that all of his readers had heard of some particular slander that had grown out of the domestic trouble, the fact being that nearly everyone who had read the dark allusion was in the completest ignorance".
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. Frederick Evans supported Lemon in this dispute. 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 Dickens 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."
In the statement 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 Dickens 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 badly I have been used." 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. Hans Christian Anderson, who met Georgina when he stayed in the Dickens household, described her as "piquante, lively and gifted" but claimed that Dickens was "not kind" who often made Catherine cry.
Burdett-Coutts broke off contact with Dickens. She later recalled: "I knew Charles Dickens well, until after his separation from his wife - she I knew after that breach." Miss Burdett-Coutts also stopped funding Urania Cottage. It eventually closed down in 1862. Jane Rogers, the author of Dickens and Urania Cottage, the Home for Fallen Women (2003), has taken a close look at the women who stayed at Urania Cottage. She quotes one source that claimed: "Of these fifty-six cases, seven went away by their own desire during their probation; ten were sent away for misconduct in the home; seven ran away; three emigrated and relapsed on the passage out; thirty (of whom seven are now married) on their arrival in Australia or elsewhere, entered into good service, acquired a good character and have done so well ever since as to establish a strong prepossession in favour of others sent out from the same quarter."
Edmund Yates was one of his friends who did support Dickens in his dispute with his wife. On 12th June 1858 Yates published an article on William Makepeace Thackeray in a weekly called Town Talk . Thackeray complained to the committee of the Garrick Club that Yates, a fellow member, must have spied on him there. Charles Dickens, interceded on Yates's behalf, but he was expelled from the club, of which he had been a member since he was seventeen. Dickens resigned from the club in protest.
Thackeray wrote to a friend: "I'm not even angry with Dickens now for being the mover in the whole affair. He can't help hating me; and he can't help not being a - you know what (gentleman)... His quarrel with his wife has driven him almost frantic." Dickens had also been hurt by this dispute. He wrote to Yates: "If you could know how much I have felt within this last month, and what a sense of wrong has been upon me, and what a strain and struggle I have lived under, you would see that my heart is so jagged and rent and out of shape, that it does not this day leave me hand enough to shape these words."
In December 1858 Charles Culliford Dickens wrote an article for Punch Magazine about the Thackeray/Yates affair. As Lucinda Hawksley has pointed out: "In his article, Charley took Thackeray's side. Charley seems to have despised Edmund Yates, no doubt partly because of Katey's heartbreak, but also because Yates had very deliberately set about creating a rift between Thackeray and Dickens. Incensed by the article, Charles took malicious revenge upon his own son for what he saw as a lack of loyalty: he removed Charley's name from the list of potential new members of the Garrick Club - just as it was about to come up for election. Charley had been waiting patiently to become a member, and membership opportunities were scarce. Charles's step effectively ruined Charley's chances of ever becoming a member; if his name were resubmitted, it would take many years to get back up to the top of the list. One cannot help speculating that Charles's vindictive act had less to do with the Edmund Yates affair than it had with Charley's decision to stand by his mother."
The journalist, Eneas Sweetland Dallas took the side of William Makepeace Thackeray in his dispute with Dickens and Edmund Yates: "The great fun I think is to see how Dickens backs up Yates, & how his jealousy of Thackeray comes out. Surely that man will one of these days blow his brains out. With the exception of a few toadies there is not a soul to take his part. They cut him at the clubs. His daughters - now under the benign wing of their aunt, Miss Hogarth - are not received into society. You would be excessively amused if you heard all the gigantic efforts the family make to keep their foot in the world - how they call upon people they never called on before & that they have treated with the most dire contempt."
Edward Bulwer-Lytton and William Macready, unlike most of his close friends, supported him in his actions. Claire Tomalin, the author of Dickens: A Life (2011) has argued: "With Bulwer, Dickens was on excellent terms, and since he had suffered his own marital disaster he was sympathetic, even inviting Dickens to bring Georgina and Mamie with him to stay at Knebworth. Macready, now living in Cheltenham, remained affectionate and uncensorious. His grand-daughter said later that he took the Nelly Ternan affair quite calmly as he knew that Dickens was not the celibate type, and that he quite approved of his separation from his wife. He was perturbed only when, as he thought, Dickens was conducting the affair with insufficient discretion, and risking a public scandal."
In August 1858, Ellen Ternan returned to London and the following month she started a season at the Haymarket Theatre. Ellen and her sister Maria found lodgings in Berners Street, just north of Oxford Street. Her mother and other sister, Fanny, with the help of Charles Dickens, were able to travel to Italy with her daughter, Frances Eleanor Ternan, who wanted to become an opera singer.
Later that year Ellen and Maria were stopped one night by a policeman and questioned about the possibility that they were prostitutes. Dickens was furious when he discovered what had happened and asked his friend, William Henry Wills, to take the matter up with Scotland Yard explaining that the two sisters were "in all things most irreproachable in themselves and most respectably connected in all ways".
Dickens provided a house at 2 Houghton Place, Ampthill Square, for the Ternan family. This was transferred to Ellen when she reached the age of twenty-one. Kate Dickens later told her friend, Gladys Storey: "She (Ellen) had brains, which she used to educate herself, to bring her mind more on a level with his own. Who could blame her... He had the world at his feet. She was a young girl of eighteen, elated and proud to be noticed by him."
In July, 1859, James T. Fields and his wife, Annie Fields, visited Dickens at Gad's Hill Place and met the famous novelist, Wilkie Collins: "Early in the month of July, 1859, I spent a day with him in his beautiful country retreat in Kent. He drove me about the leafy lanes in his basket wagon, pointing out the lovely spots belonging to his friends, and ending with a visit to the ruins of Rochester Castle. We climbed up the time-worn walls and leaned out of the ivied windows, looking into the various apartments below. I remember how vividly he reproduced a probable scene in the great old banqueting-room, and how graphically he imagined the life of ennui and everyday tediousness that went on in those lazy old times. I recall his fancy picture of the dogs stretched out before the fire, sleeping and snoring with their masters. That day he seemed to revel in the past, and I stood by, listening almost with awe to his impressive voice, as he spoke out whole chapters of a romance destined never to be written. On our way back to Gad's Hill Place, he stopped in the road, I remember, to have a crack with a gentleman who he told me was a son of Sydney Smith. The only other guest at his table that day was Wilkie Collins; and after dinner we three went out and lay down on the grass, while Dickens showed off a raven that was hopping about, and told anecdotes of the bird and of his many predecessors." Annie commented that Dickens impressed her with his the "exquisite delicacy and quickness of his perception, something as fine as the finest woman possesses".
During this period Dickens wrote to Angela Burdett Coutts, about his decision to write a novel about the French Revolution. "Sometimes of late, when I have been very much excited by the crying of two thousand people over the grave of Richard Wardour, new ideas for a story have come into my head as I lay on the ground, with surprising force and brilliancy". Wardour was the character he played in The Frozen Deep.
Dickens research involved talking to his great friend, Thomas Carlyle, the author of the book, The French Revolution (1837). Peter Ackroyd, the author of Dickens (1990), has pointed out: "He (Dickens) had always admired Carlyle's History of the French Revolution, and asked him to recommend suitable books from which he could research the period; in reply Carlyle sent him a cartload of volumes from the London Library. Apparently Dickens read, or at least looked through, them all; it was his aim during the period of composition only to read books of the period itself."
While writing the book he confided in Edmund Yates: "If you could know how much I have felt within this last month, and what a sense of wrong has been upon me, and what a strain and struggle I have lived under, you would see that my heart is so jagged and rent and out of shape, that it does not this day leave me hand enough to shape these words."
It was claimed that the heroine, Lucie Manette, was physically modelled on Ellen Ternan: "a short, slight, pretty figure, a quantity of golden hair, a pair of blue eyes that met his own with an inquiring look, and a forehead with a singular capacity, of lifting and knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity, or wonder, or alarm, or merely of a bright fixed attention, though it included all the four expressions."
It has been suggested by Edmund Wilson that Estella in Great Expectations is based on Ellen and that Fanny Jarman is Miss Havisham. Claire Tomalin disagrees, arguing: "Mrs Ternan makes an unconvincing Miss Havisham, but that's not the only reason for questioning this version. From what we know of the Ternans, of Nelly herself and the whole situation, it is at least as likely that she was nervous, confused and uncertain as that she was indifferent or frigid."
Dickens decided he would not publish A Tale of Two Cities in Household Words. Jealous of the money that Bradbury & Evans had made out of the venture, he decided to start a new journal, All the Year Round. He had 300,000 handbills and posters printed, in order to advertise the new journal. When Bradbury & Evans heard the news they issued an injunction claiming that Dickens was still contracted to work for their journal.
Dickens refused to back-down and the first edition of the journal was published on 30th April 1859. For the first time in his life he had sole control of a journal. "He owned it, he edited it, and only he could take the major decisions concerning it." This was reinforced by the masthead that said: "A weekly journal conducted by Charles Dickens." Dickens took William Henry Wills with him as partner at the increased rate of £420 a year and a quarter share.
Dickens had arranged for All the Year Round to be published simultaneously in the United States. To achieve this he had to ship stereotype plates of each number, two and a half weeks in advance of publication. This meant that there was less current affairs in the new journal. Partly because it would be out of date but also because the American public would be less interested in this subject matter. This helped to make it a commercial success. Whereas Household Words sold between 36,000 and 40,000 copies, the new journal never fell below 100,000.
The first episode of A Tale of Two Cities did not have illustrations in this format, but Hablot Knight Browne was commissioned to provide the drawings for the twelve monthly parts published by Chapman and Hall. The author of Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens (2004) has pointed out: "Phiz's design for the cover of the monthly parts of A Tale of Two Cities was fairly well received.... The rest of the illustrations for the monthly parts were denounced, the detractors criticising Phiz for not moving with the times. They also claimed that the etchings were hastily executed, that Phiz was ill at ease with period costume, and that the images did not add fire to the fury of revolution."
It was the last time Browne worked with Dickens. Apparently he disapproved of the way Dickens treated his wife and never saw him again after the work was finished. He admitted in a letter to his son that while working on A Tale of Two Cities Dickens was "out of temper, and he squabbled with me amongst others and I never drew another line for him."
William Wills reported that the journal was soon in profit. It was his second attempt at writing a historical novel. As with Barnaby Rudge, the critics preferred his novels where he concentrated on contemporary social issues. Reviewers at the time thought the plot was too long drawn out. They also complained about the characters being "like emblematic puppets representing good and evil - virtuous doctor, perfect daughter and wife, wicked marquis, vengeful woman of the people."
The climax of the action is considered by many critics as preposterous and deeply sentimental but Carton's famous last words before the guillotine: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done" shows how Dickens was able to draw the tears of his most hardened readers. Dickens told Wilkie Collins: "It has greatly moved and excited me in the doing and Heaven knows I have done my best and have believed in it."
John Forster has argued: "Though there are excellent traits and touches all through the revolutionary scenes, the only full-length that stands out prominently is the picture of the wasted life saved at last by heroic sacrifice. Dickens speaks of his design to make impressive the dignity of Carton's death, and in this he succeeded perhaps even beyond his expectation. Carton suffers himself to be mistaken for another, and gives his life that the girl he loves may be happy with that other; the secret being known only to a poor little girl in the tumbrel that takes them to the scaffold, who at the moment has discovered it, and whom it strengthens also to die."
Richard Grant White, one of the leading literary critics in New York City, suggested that A Tale of Two Cities was a masterpiece: "Its portrayal of the noble-natured castaway makes it almost a peerless book in modern literature, and gives it a place among the highest examples of literary art. The conception of this character shows in its author an ideal of magnanimity and of charity unsurpassed. There is not a grander, lovelier figure than the self-wrecked, self-devoted Sydney Carton, in literature or history; and the story itself is so noble in its spirit, so grand and graphic in its style, and filled with a pathos so profound and simple, that it deserves and will surely take a place among the great serious works of imagination."
Valerie Browne Lester has pointed out: "Dickens's personal revolution mirrored the people's revolution in A Tale of Two Cities. Like a snake sloughing off old skin, he was shedding his past and fighting for a new life. He shed decorum and fell in love; he shed his wife and angrily dismissed those friends who showed her any sympathy; ruthlessly and acrimoniously, he shed his publishers, Bradley and Evans; he shed restraint and plunged headlong into an exhausting but enormously profitable series of readings."
Dickens accused Watts Phillips, of plagiarism, when his play, The Dead Heart, was produced for the first time on 10th November 1859. This was seven months after the first episode of A Tale of Two Cities had appeared in All the Year Round. It had the same historical setting, much the same story and approximately the same climax. However, Joseph Knight, the drama critic of the The Athenaeum, discovered that Benjamin Webster had given the play to Dickens read during a visit by the novelist to Brighton early in 1857. As Knight pointed out: "If anything Dickens was indebted to Phillips's play for some crucial features of his novel, most notably a last-minute heroic substitution of one character for another at the guillotine during the French Revolution."
A Tale of Two Cities concluded on 26th November 1859. On its competition, it was published as an independent volume by Chapman and Hall, and was dedicated to Lord John Russell "in remembrance of many public services and private kindnesses". The book was not liked by the critics. Even his great friend, John Forster, later admitted: "These are interesting intimations of the care with which Dickens worked; and there is no instance in his novels, excepting this, of a deliberate and planned departure from the method of treatment which had been pre-eminently the source of his popularity as a novelist. To rely less upon character than upon incident, and to resolve that his actors should be expressed by the story more than they should express themselves by dialogue, was for him a hazardous, and can hardly be called an entirely successful, experiment."
For many years my father's public readings were an important part of his life, and into their performance and preparation he threw the best energy of his heart and soul, practising and rehearsing at all times and places. The meadow near our home was a favorite place, and people passing through the lane, not knowing who he was, or what doing, must have thought him a madman from his reciting and gesticulation. The great success of these readings led to many tempting offers from the United States, which, as time went on, and we realized how much the fatigue of the readings together with his other work were sapping his strength, we earnestly opposed his even considering.
These are interesting intimations of the care with which Dickens worked; and there is no instance in his novels, excepting this (Tale of Two Cities), of a deliberate and planned departure from the method of treatment which had been pre-eminently the source of his popularity as a novelist. To rely less upon character than upon incident, and to resolve that his actors should be expressed by the story more than they should express themselves by dialogue, was for him a hazardous, and can hardly be called an entirely successful, experiment. With singular dramatic vivacity, much constructive art, and with descriptive passages of a high order everywhere (the dawn of the terrible outbreak in the journey of the marquis from Paris to his country seat, and the London crowd at the funeral of the spy, may be instanced for their power), there was probably never a book by a great humourist, and an artist so prolific in the conception of character, with so little humour and so few rememberable figures. Its merits lie elsewhere. Though there are excellent traits and touches all through the revolutionary scenes, the only full-length that stands out prominently is the picture of the wasted life saved at last by heroic sacrifice. Dickens speaks of his design to make impressive the dignity of Carton's death, and in this he succeeded perhaps even beyond his expectation. Carton suffers himself to be mistaken for another, and gives his life that the girl he loves may be happy with that other; the secret being known only to a poor little girl in the tumbrel that takes them to the scaffold, who at the moment has discovered it, and whom it strengthens also to die.
How goes the night? St. Giles's clock is striking nine. The weather is dull and wet, and the long lines of street-lamps are blurred, as if we saw them through tears. A damp wind blows, and rakes the pieman's fire out, when he opens the door of his little furnace, carrying away an eddy of sparks.
St. Giles's clock strikes nine. We are punctual. Where is Inspector Field? Assistant Commissioner of Police is already here, enwrapped in oil-skin cloak, and standing in the shadow of St. Giles's steeple. Detective Sergeant, weary of speaking French all day to foreigners unpacking at the Great Exhibition, is already here. Where is Inspector Field?
Inspector Field is, tonight, the guardian genius of the British Museum. He is bringing his shrewd eye to bear on every corner of its solitary galleries, before he reports "all right". Suspicious of the Elgin marbles, and not to be done by cat-faced Egyptian giants, with their hands upon their knees, Inspector Field, sagacious, vigilant, lamp in hand, throwing monstrous shadows on the walls and ceiling, passes through the spacious rooms. If a mummy trembled in an atom of its dusty covering, Inspector Field would say, "Come out of that, Tom Green. I know you!" If the smallest "Gonoph" about town were crouching at the bottom of a classic bath, Inspector Field would nose him with a finer scent than the ogre's, when adventurous Jack lay trembling in his kitchen copper. But all is quiet, and Inspector Field goes warily on, making little outward show of attending to anything in particular, just recognising the Ichthyosaurus as a familiar acquaintance, and wondering, perhaps, how the detectives did it in the days before the Flood.
Will Inspector Field be long about this work? He may be half-an-hour longer. He sends his compliments by Police Constable, and proposes that we meet at St. Giles's Station House, across the road. Good. It were as well to stand by the fire, there, as in the shadow of St. Giles' steeple.
Anything doing here tonight? Not much. We are very quiet. A lost boy, extremely calm and small, sitting by the fire, whom we now confide to a constable to take home, for the child says that if you show him Newgate Street, he can show you where he lives - a raving drunken woman in the cells, who has screeched her voice away, and has hardly power enough left to declare, even with the passionate help of her feet and arms, that she is the daughter of a British officer, and strike her blind and dead, but she'll write a letter to the Queen but who is soothed with a drink of water - in another cell, a quiet woman with a child at her breast, for begging - in another, her husband in a smock-frock, with a basket of watercresses - in another, a pickpocket - in another, a meek tremulous old pauper man who has been out for a holiday "and has took but a little drop, but it has overcome him arter so many months in the house" - and that's all, as yet. Presently, a sensation at the Station House door. Mr. Field, gentlemen!
Inspector Field comes in, wiping his forehead, for he is of a burly figure, and has come fast from the ores and metals of the deep mines of the earth, and from the Parrot Gods of the South Sea Islands, and from the birds and beetles of the tropics, and from the Arts of Greece and Rome, and from the Sculptures of Nineveh, and from the traces of an elder world, when these were not. Is Rogers ready? Rogers is ready, strapped and great-coated, with a flaming eye in the middle of his waist, like a deformed Cyclops. Lead on, Rogers, to Rats' Castle!
How many people may there be in London, who, if we had brought them deviously and blindfold, to this street, fifty paces from the Station House, and within call of St. Giles's church, would know it for a not remote part of the city in which their lives are passed? How many, who amidst this compound of sickening smells, these heaps of filth, these tumbling houses, with all their vile contents, animate and inanimate, slimily overflowing into the black road, would believe that they breathe this air? How much Red Tape may there be, that could look round on the faces which now hem us in - for our appearance here has caused a rush from all points to a common centre - the lowering foreheads, the sallow cheeks, the brutal eyes, the matted hair, the infected, vermin-haunted heaps of rags...
"Close up there, my men!" says Inspector Field to two constables on duty who have followed. "Keep together gentlemen; we are going down here. Heads!"
St. Giles's church strikes half-past ten. We stoop low, and creep down a precipitous flight of steps into a dark close cellar. There is a fire. There is a long deal table. There are benches. The cellar is full of company, chiefly very young men in various conditions of dirt and raggedness. Some are eating supper. There are no girls or women present. Welcome to Rats' Castle, gentlemen, and to this company of noted thieves!
"Well, my lads! How are you my lads? What have you been doing today? Here's some company come to see you, my lads! There's a plate of beefsteak, Sir, for the supper of a fine young man! And there's a mouth for a steak, Sir! Why, I should be too proud of such a mouth as that, if I had it myself! Stand up and show it, Sir! Take Off your cap. There's a fine young man for a nice little party, Sir! Ain't he?"
Inspector Field is the bustling speaker. Inspector Field's eye is the roving eye that searches every corner of the cellar as he talks. Inspector Field's hand is the well-known hand that has collared half the people here, and motioned their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, male and female friends, inexorably, to New South Wales. Yet Inspector Field stands in the den, the Sultan of the place. Every thief here cowers before him like a schoolboy before his schoolmaster. All watch him, all answer when addressed, all laugh at his jokes, all seek to propitiate him. This cellar-company alone - to say nothing of the crowd surrounding the entrance from the street above, and making the steps shine with eyes - is strong enough to murder us all, and willing enough to do it; but, let Inspector Field have a mind to pick out one thief here, and take him; let him produce that ghostly truncheon from his pocket, and say, with his business-air, "My lad, I want you!" and all Rats' Castle shall be stricken with paralysis, and not a finger move against him, as he fits the handcuffs on!
Five years and a half ago, certain ladies, grieved to think that numbers of their own sex were wandering about the streets in degradation, passing through and through the prisons all their lives or hopelessly perishing in other ways, resolved to try the experiment on a limited scale of a Home for the reclamation and emigration of women. As it was clear to them that there could be little or no hope in this country for the greater part of those who might become the objects of their charity, they determined to receive into their Home only those who distinctly accepted this condition: that they came there to be ultimately sent abroad (whither was at the discretion of the ladies); and that they also came there to remain for such length of time as might, according to the circumstances of each individual case, be considered necessary as a term of probation, and for instruction in the means of obtaining an honest livelihood. The object of the Home was twofold. First, to replace young women, who had already lost their characters and lapsed into guilt, in a situation of hope. Secondly, to save other young women who were in danger of filling into the like condition, and give them an opportunity of flying from crime when they and it stood face to face.
The projectors of this establishment, in undertaking it, were sustained by nothing but the high object of making some unhappy women a blessing to themselves and others instead of a curse, and raising up among the solitudes of a new world some virtuous homes, much needed there, from the sorrow and ruin of the old. They had no romantic visions or extravagant expectations. They were prepared for many failures and disappointments, and to consider their enterprise rewarded, if they in time succeeded with one third or one half of the cases they received.
As the experience of this small Institution, even under the many disadvantages of a beginning, may be useful and interesting, this paper will contain an exact account of its progress and results.
It was (and is) established in a detached house with a garden. The house was never designed for any such purpose, and is only adapted to it, in being retired and not immediately overlooked. It is capable of containing thirteen inmates besides two Superintendents. Excluding from consideration ten young women now in the house, there have been received in all, since November 1847, fifty-six inmates. They have belonged to no particular class, but have been starving needlewomen of good character, poor needlewomen who have robbed their furnished lodgings, violent girls committed to prison for disturbances in ill-conducted workhouses, poor girls from Ragged Schools, destitute girls who have applied at police offices for relief, young women from the streets; young women of the same class taken from the prisons after undergoing punishment there as disorderly characters, or for shoplifting, or for thefts from the person; domestic servants who have been seduced, and two young women held to bail for attempting suicide. No class has been favoured more than another; and misfortune and distress are a sufficient introduction. It is not usual to receive women of more than five or six-and-twenty; the average age in the fifty-six cases would probably be about twenty. In some instances there have been great personal attractions; in others, the girls have been very homely and plain. The reception has been wholly irrespective of such sources of interest. Nearly all have been extremely ignorant.
Of these fifty-six cases, seven went away by their own desire during their probation; ten were sent away for misconduct in the Home; seven ran away; three emigrated and relapsed on the passage out; thirty (of whom seven are now married), on their arrival in Australia or elsewhere, entered into good service, acquired a good character, and have done so well ever since as to establish a strong prepossession in favour of others sent out from the same quarter. It will be seen from these figures that the failures are generally discovered in the Home itself, and that the amount of misconduct after the training and emigration is remarkably small. And it is to be taken into consideration that many cases arc admitted into the Home, of which there is, in the outset, very little hope, but which it is not deemed right to exclude from the experiment.
The Home is managed by two Superintendents. The second in order acts under the first, who has from day to day the supreme direction of the family. On the cheerfulness, quickness, good-temper, firmness, and vigilance of these ladies, and on their never bickering, the successful working of the establishment in a great degree depends. Their position is one of high trust and responsibility, and requires not only an always accumulating experience, but an accurate observation of every character about them. The ladies who established the Home hold little confidential communication with the inmates, thinking the system better administered when it is undisturbed by individuals. A committee, composed of a few gentlemen of experience, meets once a month to audit the accounts, receive the principal Superintendent's reports, investigate any unusual occurrence, and see all the inmates separately. None but the committee are present as they enter one by one, in order that they may be under no restraint in anything they wish to say. A complaint from any of them is exceedingly uncommon. The history of every inmate, taken down from her own mouth - usually after she has been some little time in the Home - is preserved in a book. She is shown that what she relates of herself she relates in confidence, and does not even communicate to the Superintendents. She is particularly admonished by no means to communicate her history to any of the other inmates: all of whom have in their turns received a similar admonition. And she is encouraged to tell the truth, by having it explained to her that nothing in her story but falsehood can possibly affect her position in the Home after she has been once admitted.
The work of the Home is thus divided. They rise, both in summer and winter, at six o'clock. Morning prayers and scripture reading take place at a quarter before eight. Breakfast is had... immediately afterwards. Dinner at one. Tea at six. Evening prayers are said at half-past eight. The hour of going to bed is nine. Supposing the Home to be full, ten are employed upon the household work; two in the bed-rooms, two in the general living room; two in the Superintendents' rooms; two in the kitchen (who cook); two in the scullery; three at needlework. Straw-plaiting has been occasionally taught besides. On washing-days, five are employed in the laundry, three of whom are taken from the needlework, and two are told off from the household work.
Travelling down to Preston a week from this date, I chanced to sit opposite to a very acute, very determined, very emphatic personage, with a stout railway rug so drawn over his chest that he looked as if he were sitting up in bed with his great-coat, hat, and gloves on, severely contemplating your humble servant from behind a large blue and grey checked counterpane. In calling him emphatic, I do not mean that he was warm; he was coldly and bitingly emphatic as a frosty wind is.
"You are going through to Preston, sir?" says he, as soon as we were clear of the primrose Hill tunnel.
The receipt of his question was like the receipt of a jerk of the nose; he was so short and sharp.
"This Preston strike is a nice piece of business!" said the gentleman. "A pretty piece of business!"
"It is very much to be deplored," said I, "on all accounts."
"They want to be ground. That's what they want, to bring them to their senses," said the gentleman; whom I had already began to call in my own mind Mr. Snapper, and whom I may as well call by that name here as by any other.
I deferentially enquired, who wanted to be ground?
"The hands," said Mr. Snapper. "The hands on strike, and the hands who help them."
I remarked that if that was all they wanted, they must be a very unreasonable people, for surely they had had a little grinding, one way and another, already. Mr. Snapper eyed me with sternness, and after opening and shutting his leathern-gloved hands several times outside his counterpane, asked me abruptly, "Was I a delegate?"
I set Mr. Snapper right on that point, and told him I was no delegate.
"I am glad to hear it," said Mr. Snapper. "But a friend to the Strike, I believe?"
"Not at all," said I.
"A friend to the Lock-out?" pursued Mr. Snapper.
"Not in the least," said I.
Mr. Snapper's rising opinion of me fell again, and he gave me to understand that a man must either be a friend to the Masters or a friend to the Hands.
"He may be a friend to both," said I.
Mr. Snapper didn't see that; there was no medium in the Political Economy of the subject. I retorted on Mr. Snapper, that Political Economy was a great and useful science in its own way and its own place, but that I did not transplant my definition of it from the Common Prayer Book, and make it a great king above all gods. Mr. Snapper tucked himself up as if to keep me off, folded his arms on the top of his counterpane, leaned back, and looked out of window.
"Pray what would you have, sir," enquired Mr. Snapper, suddenly withdrawing his eyes from the prospect to me, "in the relations between Capital and Labour, but Political Economy?"
I always avoid the stereotyped terms in these discussions as much as I can, for I have observed, in my little way, that they often supply the place of sense and moderation. I therefore took my gentleman up with the words employers and employed, in preference to Capital and Labour.
"I believe" said I "that into the relations between employers and employed, as into all the relations of this life, there must enter something of feeling and sentiment; something of mutual explanation, forbearance, and consideration; something which is not to be found in Mr. McCulloch's dictionary, and is not exactly stateable in figures; otherwise those relations are wrong and rotten at the core and will never bear sound fruit."
Mr. Snapper laughed at me. As I thought I had just as good reason to laugh at Mr. Snapper, I did so, and we were both contented.
"Ah!" said Mr. Snapper, patting his counterpane with a hard touch. "You know very little of the improvident and unreasoning habits of the common people, I see."
"Yet I know something of those people, too," was my reply. "In fact, Mr. -," I had so nearly called him Snapper! "in fact, sir, I doubt the existence at this present time of many faults that are merely class faults. In the main, I am disposed to think that whatever faults you may find to exist, in your own neighbourhood for instance, among the hands, you will find tolerably equal in amount among the masters also, and even among the classes above the masters. They will be modified by circumstances, and they will be the less excusable among the better-educated, but they will be pretty fairly distributed. I have a strong expectation that we shall live to see the conventional adjectives now apparently inseparable from the phrases working people and lower orders, gradually fall into complete disuse for this reason."
"Well, but we began with strikes," Mr. Snapper observed impatiently. "The masters have never had any share in strikes."
"Yet I have heard of strikes once upon a time in that same county of Lancashire," said I, "which were not disagreeable to some masters when they wanted a pretext for raising prices."
"Do you mean to say those masters had any hand in getting up those strikes?" asked Mr. Snapper.
"You will perhaps obtain better information among persons engaged in some Manchester branch trades, who have good memories," said I.
Mr Snapper had no doubt, after this, that I thought the hands had a right to combine?
"Surely," said I. "A perfect right to combine in any lawful manner. The fact of their being able to combine and accustomed to combine may, I can easily conceive, be a protection to them. The blame even of this business is not all on one side. I think the associated Lock-out was a grave error. And when you Preston masters..."
"I am not a Preston master," interrupted Mr. Snapper.
"When the respectable combined body of Preston masters, " said I, "in the beginning of this unhappy difference, laid down the principle that no man should be employed henceforth who belonged to any combination - such as their own - they attempted to carry with a high hand a partial and unfair impossibility, and were obliged to abandon it. This was an unwise proceeding, and the first defeat."
.... On the Monday at noon, I returned to this cockpit, to see the people paid. It was then about half filled, principally with girls and women. They were all seated, waiting, with nothing to occupy their attention; and were just in that state when the unexpected appearance of a stranger differently dressed from themselves, and with his own individual peculiarities of course, might, without offence, have had something droll in it even to more polite assemblies. But I stood there, looking on, as free from remark as if I had come to be paid with the rest. In the place which the secretary had occupied yesterday, stood a dirty little common table, covered with five-penny piles of halfpence. Before the paying began, I wondered who was going to receive these very small sums; but when it did begin, the mystery was soon cleared up. Each of these piles was the change for sixpence, deducting a penny. All who were paid, in tiling round the building to prevent confusion, had to pass this table on the way out; and the greater part of the unmarried girls stopped here, to change, each a sixpence, and subscribe her weekly penny in aid of the people on strike who had families. A very large majority of these girls and women were comfortably dressed in all respects, clean, wholesome and pleasant-looking. There was a prevalent neatness and cheerfulness, and in almost ludicrous absence of anything like sullen discontent.
On the fifth of last November, 1, the conductor of this journal, accompanied by a friend well-known to the public, accidentally strayed into Whitechapel. It was a miserable evening; very dark, very muddy, and raining hard.
There are many woeful sights in that part of London, and it has been well-known to me in most of its aspects for many years. We had forgotten the mud and rain in slowly walking along and looking about us, when we found ourselves, at eight o'clock, before the Workhouse.
Crouched against the wall of the Workhouse, in the dark street, on the muddy pavement-stones, with the rain raining upon them, were five bundles of rags. They were motionless, and had no resemblance to the human form. Five great beehives, covered with rags - five dead bodies taken out of graves, tied neck and heels, and covered with rags - would have looked like those five bundles upon which the rain rained down in the public street.
"What is this!" said my companion. "What is this!"
"Some miserable people shut out of the Casual Ward, I think," said I.
We had stopped before the five ragged mounds, and were quite rooted to the spot by their horrible appearance. Five awful Sphinxes by the wayside, crying to every passer-by, "Stop and guess! What is to be the end of a state of society that leaves us here! "
As we stood looking at them, a decent working-man, having the appearance of a stone-mason, touched me on the shoulder.
"This is an awful sight, sir," said he, "in a Christian country!"
"God knows it is, my friend," said I.
"I have often seen it much worse than this, as I have been going home from my work. I have counted fifteen, twenty, five-and-twenty, many a time. It's a shocking thing to see."
"A shocking thing, indeed," said I and my companion together. The man lingered near us a little while, wished us good-night, and went on.
We should have felt it brutal in us who had a better chance of being heard than the working-man, to leave the thing as it was, so we knocked at the Workhouse Gate. I undertook to be spokesman. The moment the gate was opened by an old pauper, I went in, followed close by my companion. I lost no time in passing the old porter, for I saw in his watery eye a disposition to shut us out.
"He so good as to give that card to the master of the Workhouse, and say I shall be glad to speak to him for a moment."
We were in a kind of covered gateway, and the old porter went across it with the card. Before he had got to a door on our left, a man in a cloak and hat bounced out of it very sharply, as if he were in the nightly habit of being bullied and of returning the compliment.
"Now, gentlemen," said he in a loud voice, "what do you want here?"
"First," said I, "will you do me the favour to look at that card in your hand. Perhaps you may know my name."
"Yes," says he, looking at it. "I know this name."
"Good. I only want to ask you a plain question in a civil manner, and there is not the least occasion for either of us to be angry. It would be very foolish in me to blame you, and I don't blame you. I may find fault with the system you administer, but pray understand that I know you are here to do a duty pointed out to you, and that I have no doubt you do it. Now, I hope you won't object to tell me what I want to know."
"No," said he, quite mollified, and very reasonable, "not at all. What is it?"
"Do you know that there are five wretched creatures outside?"
"I haven't seen them, but I dare say there are." "Do you doubt that there are?"
"No, not at all. There might be many more." "Are they men? Or women?".
"Women, I suppose. Very likely one or two of them were there last night, and the night before last."
"There all night, do you mean?"
My companion and I looked at one another, and the master of the Workhouse added quickly, "Why, Lord bless my soul, what am I to do? What can I do? The place is full. The place is always full - every night. I must give the preference to women with children, mustn't I? You wouldn't have me not do that?"
"Surely not," said I. "It is a very humane principle, and quite right; and I am glad to hear of it. Don't forget that I don't blame you."
Hard Times was Dickens's one response to the problems of an industrial society, and also the one in which London played no part at all. As a response to the struggle between master and worker in a capitalist society it was muted; and the fact that the novel was set out of the great metropolis made Dickens's handling of social themes less sure than it usually was. He was familiar with London streets, prisons, casual wards, slums, alleys and police courts, but when it came to Coketown - a place of "machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever" - his touch was not so deft. He seemed unable to comprehend the reality of the struggle between classes which he had seen for himself in Preston and wrote about in Hard Times.
As always, Dickens was unwilling to take sides in economic issues. He is quite specific in On Strike about being sympathetic to both parties in dispute, and uses the words "employers and employed, in preference to Capital and Labour". He took this stance partly, no doubt, because he disliked the rigid impersonality of the latter words, and partly because he saw capitalism as a joint enterprise between partners....
Among most Victorian novelists, this inability to see as real people factory workers living in the mean streets of industrial towns was very common (one exception was Mrs. Gaskell, whose novel North and South first appeared as a serial in Household Words in 1854). The differences in approach in Dickens's article and in his novel demonstrate that he experienced difficulties in coming to terms with, and portraying for his readers, the new realities of a capitalist society.
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.
From the age of fifteen she (Georgina Hogarth) has devoted herself to our home and our children. She has been their playmate. nurse, instructress, friend, protectress, adviser and companion. In the manly consideration toward Mrs. Dickens which I owe to my wife. I will merely remark of her that the peculiarity of her character has thrown all the children on someone else. I do not know - I cannot by any stretch of fancy imagine - what would have become of them but for this aunt, who has grown up with them, to whom they are devoted, and who has sacrificed the best part of her youth and life to them...
For some years past Mrs. Dickens has been in the habit of representing to me that it would be better for her to go away and live apart; that 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. I have uniformly replied that we must bear our misfortune; and fight the fight out to the end; that the children were the first consideration, and that I feared they must bind us together "in appearance".
For my sister and Charles have lived unhappily for years - they were totally unsuited to each other in almost every respect - and as the children grew up this unsuitability developed itself more strongly and disagreements and miseries which used to be easily kept out of sight have forced themselves into notice.
Unhappily, also, 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.
My sister has often expressed a desire to go and live away, but Charles never agreed to it on the girls' account; but latterly he thought it must be to their advantage as well as to his own and Catherine's to consent to this and remodel their unhappy home.
So, by mutual consent and for the reasons I have told you, and no other, they have come to this arrangement.