ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Secret Life of Charles Dickens

Updated on February 5, 2020

Famous Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Born Charles John Huffman Dickens in 1812 in the U.K. Charles had a childhood that would serve him well in his most famous novels throughout his life. As a very young boy, age eleven, he was forced to go to work at the Warren Blacking Factory. Here, he worked ten-hour days for six shillings a week. He had no choice because his father, John Dickens, had been sent to Marshalsea Prison for failure to pay a debt. Debtor's prisons were very common in London at this time.

His job was to place labels on the containers for polish. The trauma during his young years left such a lasting impression he would incorporate it into his novels, often reflecting a young, lost, helpless child. He would go on in his adult life to advocate social reform, and he established safe houses for women. His lectures always carried a talk about the poor and the need for change.

His father was finally released from prison after receiving a small inheritance and discharging his debts.

Charles next worked as a journalist and started doing sketches for a book he wished to do called Sketches by Boz. And he began to publish The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. These publications were made in a book in 1837.

He worked on his next book, Oliver Twist, which became an instant success. It was during this time he married Catherine Hogarth in1836. Together they had ten children. Charles had always loved the theatre and spent a lot of time at plays with his friends.

Blacking Bottles

Blacking Bottles
Blacking Bottles

Oliver Twist

oliver Twist
oliver Twist

David Copperfield

David Copperfield
David Copperfield

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
Great Expectations

Charles Secret Door

Charles Secret Door
Charles Secret Door

Charles in his Study

Charles was always secretive and, in his study, was a secret door disguised to look like bookshelves with fake books on the shelves.

Warren's Blacking Factory

Warren's Blacking House
Warren's Blacking House

Mr. and Mrs. Catherine Dickens

Mr. and Mrs. Catherine Dickens
Mr. and Mrs. Catherine Dickens

Charles Meeting Ellen

Charles was working on a play and needed women for the leading parts. He had been at the theatre and was introduced to the Ternan women, all actors. The mother, Fanny, had even performed on a London stage, and her daughter Ellen was thrilled to be an actress in a Dickens play. He followed them to their next stage performance, chasing after Ellen. Better known as Nelly, she was eighteen years old, and Dickens was forty-five years old. Perhaps this as a mid-life crisis, but in any event, Charles went on to set Nelly up in a house and giving her an allowance so she would not have to work.

But Dickens was acutely aware of keeping everything a secret. He was known as a dedicated family man, and any scandal would affect his career. One day delivery from a jeweler was opened by Catherine with a gold bracelet inside and a card for Nelly. Catherine confronted Charles, who told Catherine it was not unusual to give an actress a gift, but Catherine would have none of it. After twenty-two years of marriage, Catherine was moving out.

It was essential to Charles that no scandal or divorce be in the news as it would destroy his career. He, therefore, set Catherine up with a stipend for the rest of her life. He had grown tired of Catherine, who seemed to have no interest in life or the theatre, and she was gaining a lot of weight.

Mistress Nelly

Mistress Nelly
Mistress Nelly

Charles and Nelly

The secret affair between Charles and Nelly would last until his death in 1870. At this time, Charles sent a letter to his agent, suggesting the separation was Catherine's idea and that she had a "mental problem." He wanted to arrange a doctor to declare her "mentally unstable" and to commit her to an asylum. Catherine's aunt, Helen Thompson, later confirmed this.

It has been suggested that Nelly might have been the inspiration of the character, Estella in Great Expectations and maybe Bella in Our Mutual Friend. When Charles was working on his latest novel, The Myth of Edwin Dodd, Charles suffered a stroke. Even though medical help was summoned, Charles died on June 9, 1870. In his will, Charles provided for Nelly with a trust for a monthly stipend. Charles is buried in the Poet's Corner in Westminister Abbey.

After Dicken's Death

A few years after Charles died, Nelly met and married George Wharton Robinson. Her husband knew nothing about her relationship with Dickens or her actual age. She told him she was twenty-three, but in fact, she was thirty-seven. Together they had a son, Geoffrey, and a daughter, Gladys. Robinson died in 1910, and Nelly died in 1914. Nelly never told her kids or Robinson of her real age. Going through her papers, he discovered she had been an actress, had a relationship with Dickens, and lied about her age. Later all this was confirmed by Dicken's only surviving son Sir Henry Dickens. Geoffrey was so upset; he burned all of his mother's correspondence.

Charles had kept his secret, Nelly, away from the public for years. Yes, his novels were beautiful and emotional and treasured to this day. He was, however, an adulterer with a mistress.

Facts about Charles Dickens

Here are some little known facts about Dickens:

He is credited with introducing some 257 new words according to the

Oxford Dictionaries, including butter-finger, fluffiness, and manslaughter

He was an amateur magician

He was terrified of bats

He believed in ghosts and was a member of the Ghost Club.

His favorite letter opener was from a claw of his beloved cat, Bob.

Recent Letters of Catherine Dickens Found

Recently, some ninety-eight letters written by Catherine have come to light. These letters were found listed on an auction and finally acquired by the Houghton Library. A new view shows the cruelty of Charles to his wife, even his attempt to confine her to an asylum. As Catherine lay dying, she said to her daughter, Kate, "give these to the British Museum so that the world may know Charles loved me once." Catherine is buried next to her daughter Dora in Highgate Cemetery in London.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)