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Charles Dickens in Love
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2012
_Charles Dickens in Love_ examines the ways in which the Dickens's affections for the women in his life--Mary Hogarth, Maria Beadnell, and Ellen Ternan-- shaped his depiction of female characters. Although some of this information will be familiar to those who have read previous biographies of Dickens or Claire Tomalin's _The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens_, the connections between literary characters and the themes of Dickens's books with the events of his life make interesting reading. Garnett also presents some new interpretations and information: using a reinterpretation of letters and travel records, he pinpoints the possible birth of a child of Dickens and Ellen Ternan as occurring in January 1863, and the additional interpretations he provides about Georgina Hogarth's excisions from Dickens's letters also shed light on the situation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2013
"Charles Dickens in Love" is a fine book by Dr. Robert Garnett. Garnett is a Professor of English at Gettysburg College. The book examines the life and times of England's greatest novelist. Dickens (1812-70) arose from poverty to achieving international fame as the greatest author of his age. His 15 classic novels are Barnaby Rudge: Pickwick Papers; Oliver Twist; Dombey and Son;
David Coppefield; The Old Curiosity Shop: Nicholas Nickleby; Hard Times: A Tale of Two Cities: Great Expectations; Bleak House; Little Dorrit; David Copperfield: Our Mutual Friend; Martin Chuzzlewit; Edwin Drood (left unfinished at his untimely death in June, 1870.
Garnett is adept at exploring Dickens sexual history as well as recounting his literary achievements. Dickens often drew pictures of his real life lovers into his leading fictional heroines. The major women in the authro's life:
Maria Beadnell-The spoiled daughter of a London banker she was Dickens first love., Maria is portrayed as Dora Spenlow the brainless and flighty first wife of David Copperfield. Maria would also appear as Arthur Clenham's old lover the foolish, fat and forty Flora Finchin. Dickens had just had an unpleasant reunion with the middle aged Maria.
Mary Hogarth was the younger sister of Dicken's fat and fertile wife Catherine (she had ten children by the virile author). She died young and was used by Dickens to craft such heroines as Rose Maylie in Olver Twist and Agnes Wickfield in David Copperfield.
Ellen Ternan-Dickens fell in love with the much younger Ellen (1839-1922) while staging his play "The Frozen Deep" in Manchester. She was a professional actress who lived in a close knit family of her sister Fanny (married to Thomas Trollope and living in a Florentine villa) her sister Marie and her actiing mother. She probably gave birth to Dickens child in France in 1862. The baby boy is thought to have died soon after his birth. Dickens loved Ellen until his death. They were involved in a horrific train accident which happened in June, 1865 at Staplehurst, Kent in which ten persons died and forty were injured.
Dickens provided homes for Ellen, bought her expensive jewels. He knew divorce was impossible and kept his mistress in style.
Ellen later married and had two children. Ellen was not allowed to accompany Dickens on his 1867 tour of the United States. it was feared that if she did so their relationship would be revealed and a major scandal ensue.
Dickens was an orderly man who was also very passionate in his workaholism, imagination and sexual life. He was an adulterer but comes across as a kind gentleman who was deepl flawed.
The book is rich in quotable lines:
"His energy was a steam engine, his imagination the winged horse Pegasus."-p. 7
"He wrote for money, enjoyed money and spent liberally."-p. 17
"Mundane circumstances helped to nudge him into writing"-p. 64
"Mary Hogarth, in fact, became his religion. His Christianity, by contrast, was pallid."p. 77
"Mary Hogarth became his muse, his Beatrice, a glimpse of Heaven, the divine clothed in a pure and lovely female form."-p. 85
"Agnes remains physically indistinct. We never learn the color of her eyes or the shade of her hair..."-p. 106
"...he was engrossed by Ellen alone and determined at all costs to pursue her. Flirtation had turned into fixation."-p. 175
"...his novels are memorials too, to the three women he loved well...No one taught him more; no one stirred his feelings more powerfully, or enriched his imagination more generously."-p. 390.
This fine book is a love story; a biography of Dickens and a detective tale as the illicit affair between the old author and the young actress is uncovered by Garnett. The book is well illustrated, includes a bibligraphy and extensive footnotes.
Anyone interested in Dickens, Victorian life and a great story will find this book of interest. Highly recommended!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
4.5 stars

Prior to having read Charles Dickens in Love, I'd had minimal knowledge of Dickens. I knew next to nothing about the person he was, and of the writer I knew only that he was prolific and a staple of literary talent and productivity (I have only ever read Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol). I am very happy that despite my seeming lack of interest in and a glaring lack of knowledge about Charles Dickens, I decided to read Mr. Garnett's book. Charles Dickens in Love became to me a perfect invitation to enter the author's life through his novels. Dickens was a fascinating and complex person. A person for whom to live meant to love and love he did.

Now, I usually do not read biographies. But if they are written in a way Robert Garnett wrote his book, I may have made a mistake by avoiding this non-fiction genre. Garnett's writing is crisp, approachable and very friendly for a person new to Charles Dickens especially, but for all readers in general as well. I appreciated that I was allowed to draw my own conclusions as to Dickens's life, conduct and personality. Yes, it is clear that Mr. Garnett cares deeply about Charles Dickens and has a detailed and extensive knowledge about that author's body of work as well as his personal life. Garnett's hope that we, as readers, would also come to care is also present between the pages of Charles Dickens in Love. But never once did I get an impression that there was some scheme contrived by the author to portray Dickens in as becoming light as possible and leave all infamous deeds of his in the background. No. As a matter of fact, I felt only indignation and deep dislike towards Charles Dickens for his treatment of his wife, for his egocentric attitude and clear love of himself. However, as the story progressed, so did my feelings thaw and in the end, I hope I can think about Charles Dickens in a more objective light, always keeping in mind that life is never, ever black and white.

I am so impressed with Charles Dickens in Love, that I have designated 2013 to be my year of reading some of his novels. Robert Garnett weaved books such as David Copperfield, Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Oliver Twist into the narrative of Dickens's life and his loves so neatly that I simply cannot put them out of my mind. One small piece of waning to some: if spoilers of any kind ruin books for you, be prepared that you will encounter them when reading Mr. Garnett's book. I didn't mind them at all. I feel that what I read about in Charles Dickens in Love will instead enrich my reading experience when approaching Dickens's masterpieces.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I have long been in love with the work of Charles Dickens and the informal glimpses into his thoughts through correspondence framed in context with this impeccably researched and presented book, have rekindled that flame anew. This is truly a must-read book for Dickens fans.

In the chosen letters you find the voice of the author, which may differ greatly from the work you have read. Whether demanding or morose, with flights of fancy and fits of pique: all moments in his life, however fleeting and momentary.

This book does all of that and more, making my feet itch to travel to Niagara Falls and see it as he did, or find a vantage point in the mountains, to commune with memories and thoughts. What emerges in this book is the great dichotomy that was Dickens. A man obsessed with neatness and order, a proponent of orderliness in his home and person, with a cutthroat business sense fueled by great ambition. Every conversation, every event was fodder for his imagination, facile enough to see three sides of a single coin and represent each viewpoint fully and succinctly.

I was provided an eBook copy through NetGalley from Open Road Integrated Media for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review and all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2013
Interesting book that looks at the way love influenced almost all of Dickens's books and writing. The loss of a very young female relative, quite suddenly and without warning devastated him for the rest of his life. Her idealized image appears again and again throughout his books in the depiction of the young, perfect woman and wife. Fascinating look at how life events can influence a person throughout their life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2014
This book had me from the very beginning. I found myself wondering how someone so obviously intelligent and talented could be such a failure in his personal life. Mr. Garnett gleaned very interesting facts from what had to be countless years of research. He is to be commended for a job well done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2013
This is such a wonderful book on Charles Dickens! I had been searching for a book on this master, and this examines the loves of his life. It is an exquisite and informative book, and a must have for anyone who loves Dickens!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
Dr. Garnett really knows his Dickens! I'm going to re-read some of Dickens' novels and try one that I haven't read yet. Hopefully I will better understand the women who populate his stories.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2013
This books starts promisingly with a shrewd analysis of the virtues that made Dickens to most popular Victorian novelist and the faults-- hidden from his adoring public-- that made one of his daughters describe him as a "very wicked man." Then it unfortunately goes into soft focus with its notion that women (actually two women, his teenage sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth and much later his twenty-something mistress, Ellen Ternan) were Dickens' "religion." That he idolized the two young women is certainly true. That the situation with the mistress was as pious as the author makes it seem is debatable. The author portrays the mistress, Ternan, as more or less an innocent, but that is not how Edmund Wilson portrays her in his seminal essay, "Dickens: The Two Scrooges." Wilson describes Ternan as "neither so fascinating nor so gifted as Dickens thought her," in fact, something of a gold-digger, a model for the cold-hearted, mercenary Estella in Great Expectations. Wilson adds that after Dickens' death, Ternan confided to a "Canon Benham" that "she had loathed her relationship with Dickens and deeply regretted the whole affair."
If Dickens made a religion of his mistress, then what did he make of the wife, Catherine, whom he callously discarded after decades of marriage and nine children? Dickens must have thought he loved her at SOME point. But the reader gets little notion of that since this book largely ignores Catherine, which is perhaps the greatest problem with it. A lot of what the author writes about Ellen Ternan is conjecture since little is known about her. He could have been on firmer historical ground with Catherine Dickens, and thus provided the the book with more substance.
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