Academic journal article The Historian

The Great Charles Dickens Scandal

Academic journal article The Historian

The Great Charles Dickens Scandal

Article excerpt

The Great Charles Dickens Scandal. By Michael Slater. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 215. $30.00.)

The first thing to observe about this book is that it is not a contribution to the controversy over the scandal about Charles Dickens's sex life. It is instead a history of the treatment of that scandal. Michael Slater provides a careful account of all the evidence put forward from Dickens's time to the present concerning the scandal. Because Dickens burned much of his correspondence and John Foster, his first biographer, was reticent, not much documentary evidence survives. Thus most of such evidence consists of recorded versions of conversations by persons more or less positioned to know something more than others, though often this spoken testimony was given long after Dickens's death. Some documentary evidence is available--such as records of payments for houses, especially by one Francis Tringham, which was a supposed alias that Dickens used to hide his activities.

It might be fairer to refer to the topic as the Dickens scandals, since, even during his life, there was disapproving talk of his relationship with his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth. Only after his death did interest focus more clearly on Ellen Ternan. …

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