Mrs Dickens

I’m just coming to the end of Claire Tomalin’s terrific Dickens biography – she seems to get his mixture of charm and kindness and cruelty very well, though one can tell she is pained by his terrible lapses, as in his bullying towards his poor wife. I only wish one of their daughters had been able to sit down with Mrs D and a dictaphone and get her story – because she will have had a story, even if her personality was completely swamped in his for years. What is weird about that dynamic is the way Dickens had, in effect, two wives – the older sister Catherine who had endless pregnancies and babies and faded into a kind of child-bearing fog, and her younger sister Georgina who joined the Dickens menage when she was about 17 and stayed with her brother in law after the separation – undamaged by sex and procreation, she stayed the course. I guess her story, if she told it honestly, would be fascinating too – all these wordless women!

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