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Catherine 'Kate' Thomson Dickens (née Hogarth) (May 19 1815 – 22 November 1879) was the wife of English novelist Charles Dickens, with whom he fathered 10 children.

Marriage

Born in Edinburghmarker in Scotlandmarker in 1815, Catherine came to Englandmarker with her family in 1834. She was the eldest daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle where Dickens was a young journalist. They became engaged in 1835 and were married on April 2, 1836 in St. Luke's Church, Chelseamarker and honeymooned in Chalk, near Chathammarker in Kentmarker, where Dickens had spent part of his youth. They set up home in Bloomsburymarker, and went on to have ten children:

Catherine's sister Mary Hogarth entered Dickens's Doughty Streetmarker household to offer support to her newly married sister and brother-in-law. It was not unusual for the unwed sister of a new wife to live with and help a newly married couple. Dickens became very attached to Mary, and she died after a brief illness in his arms in 1837. She became a character in many of his books, and her death is fictionalized as the death of Little Nell.

Catherine's younger sister, Georgina Hogarth, joined the Dickens family household in 1842 when Dickens and Catherine sailed to Americamarker, caring for the young family they had left behind. in 1845 Charles Dickens produced the amateur theatrical Every Man in his Humour for the benefit of Leigh Hunt. In a subsequent performance, Catherine Dickens, who had a minor role, fell through a trap door injuring her ankle. In 1851, as 'Lady Maria Clutterbuck', Kate Dickens published a cookery book, 'What Shall we Have for Dinner? Satisfactorily Answered by Numerous Bills of Fare for from Two to Eighteen Persons'. It contained many suggested menus for meals of varying complexity together with a few recipes. It went through several editions until 1860. Also in 1851 she suffered a nervous collapse after the death of her daughter Dora Dickens, aged nearly 8 months.

Over the subsequent years Dickens found Catherine an increasingly incompetent mother and housekeeper and blamed her for the birth of their 10 children, which caused him financial worries. Their separation in May 1858, after Catherine Dickens accidentally received a bracelet meant for Ellen Ternan, was much publicized and rumours of Dickens' affairs were numerous, all of which he strenuously denied.

Separation



Georgina Hogarth sided with Dickens in his quarrel with her sister, Catherine. This caused the family to break apart. Georgina, Charles Dickens and all of the children except Charles Dickens, Jr, remained in their home at Tavistock House, while Catherine and Charles Jr. moved out. Georgina Hogarth ran his household. On 12 June, 1858 he published a self-justifying and cruel article in his journal, Household Words, explaining the situation.

"Some domestic trouble of mine, of long-standing, on which I will make no further remark than that it claims to be respected, as being of a sacredly private nature, has lately been brought to an arrangement, which involves no anger or ill-will of any kind, and the whole origin, progress, and surrounding circumstances of which have been, throughout, within the knowledge of my children.
It is amicably composed, and its details have now to be forgotten by those concerned in it....By some means, arising out of wickedness, or out of folly, or out of inconceivable wild chance, or out of all three, this trouble has been the occasion of misrepresentations, mostly grossly false, most monstrous, and most cruel -- involving, not only me, but innocent persons dear to my heart....
I most solemnly declare, then -- and this I do both in my own name and in my wife's name -- that all the lately whispered rumours touching the trouble, at which I have glanced, are abominably false.
And whosoever repeats one of them after this denial, will lie as wilfully and as foully as it is possible for any false witness to lie, before heaven and earth".


He sent this statement to the newspapers, including The Times, and many reprinted it. He fell out with Bradbury and Evans, his publishers, because they refused to publish his statement in Punch as they thought it unsuitable for a humorous periodical. An even more tactless public statement appeared in the New York Tribune, which later found its way into several Britishmarker newspapers. In this statement Dickens declared that it had been only Georgina Hogarth who had held the family together for some time:

"....
I will merely remark of [my wife] that some peculiarity of her character has thrown all the children on someone else.
I do not know -- I cannot by any stretch of fancy imagine -- what would have become of them but for this aunt, who has grown up with them, to whom they are devoted, and who has sacrificed the best part of her youth and life to them.
She has remonstrated, reasoned, suffered, and toiled, again and again, to prevent a separation between Mrs. Dickens and me.
Mrs. Dickens has often expressed to her sense of affectionate care and devotion in her home -- never more strongly than within the last twelve months.


Later years

Dickens and Catherine had little correspondence after their separation, but she remained attached and loyal to her husband and to his memory until her own death from cancer. On her deathbed in 1879 Catherine gave the collection of letters she had received from Dickens to her daughter Kate, telling her to "Give these to the British Museummarker, that the world may know he loved me once".

Catherine Dickens was buried in Highgate Cemeterymarker in Londonmarker with her infant daughter Dora, who had died in 1851 aged nearly 8 months.

References

  1. [1] Dickens Family Tree website
  2. Charles Dickens: An Exhibition to Commemorate the Centenary of His Death. London: Victorian and Albert Museum, 1970 Victorian Web.com
  3. Victorianweb.org - Mary Scott Hogarth, 1820-1837: Dickens's Beloved Sister-in-Law and Inspiration
  4. 'Dinner for Dickens: The Culinary History of Mrs Charles Dickens' Menu Books by Susan M Rossi-Wilcox Prospect Books (2005)
  5. 'Household Words' 12 June, 1858


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