Writer focuses on Charles Dickens' own bleak house

Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:37am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Belinda Goldsmith

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Writer Charles Dickens is lauded for chronicling the way of life in Victorian England in his novels but his treatment of his own wife was also indicative of society in those days, according to a new novel.

British social worker and writer Gaynor Arnold said she is one of many people worldwide with a keen interest in the life and works of the renowned author who lived from 1812 to 1870, but she was also always intrigued by the psychology of Dickens and his relationship with his wife.

A penniless Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 and she bore him 10 children before he threw her out in 1858, banishing her from her children, as he took up with another woman.

A celebrity of that era, he even put an announcement in the newspaper to address rumors, asking people to respect "the sacredly private nature" of his arrangement.

For Arnold, the fascination only grew greater when she found out that Dickens' wife, on her deathbed, asked her daughter to give the love letters from her husband to the British Museum so "that the world may know he loved me once."

Arnold, who had previously written short stories, said she is not a biographer, so she explored Dickens' wife through fiction, writing "Girl in a Blue Dress: A novel inspired by the life and marriage of Charles Dickens."

"There was a huge amount written about Dickens, and he wrote about his own situation, too, but in a partisan fashion and what seemed to me to be missing was what his wife thought about the situation," Arnold told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Her correspondence to him was missing because he burned his papers so I thought this was a nice, blank canvas and gave me an opportunity to put myself into her position and how she might feel during their marriage and its sour, brutal end."   Continued...