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The Great Charles Dickens Scandal (edition 2012)

by Professor Michael Slater

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Member:jasonlf
Title:The Great Charles Dickens Scandal
Authors:Professor Michael Slater
Info:Yale University Press (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 232 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:nonfiction, literary biography, literary criticism

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The Great Charles Dickens Scandal by Michael Slater

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The most thorough account one could possibly want, or even imagine, of the history of the "Great Charles Dickens Scandal"--that is his relationship with Nelly Ternan. The book doesn't tell very much about his relationship with Nelly Ternan (and contains no new information or definitive judgments about just what exactly occurred). It also has no literary criticism or attempt to understand how it affected Dickens' writing. Instead, it is a history of the various accounts of the scandal--starting with contemporary newspaper accounts (many of them in American newspapers because of the lack of libel laws), the coverup by John Forster and Dickens other friends, going through the explosion of the scandal following the death of the last of Dickens' children and the publication of the novel "This Side Idolotry," through the more careful modern accounts by scholars, papers in the Dickensian, and Claire Tomalin's popularizations.

An interesting point it makes is that for nearly a century now newspapers have been fascinated by the discovery and rediscovery of the scandal, printing sensationalist articles that attempt to take down the great British moralist and raconteur of home and hearth a peg. But that almost none of them are actually new.

Michael Slater, probably the leading Dickens scholar alive, does vast amounts of minute research, for example citing an article that appeared in 1874 in The Bangor Daily Whig and Courier and another story in 1885 in The Rocky Mountain News. Some of it is fascinating. Some of it is tedious. And sometimes it can be confusing because rather than presenting a unified account, it presents a large number of accounts--some of which have subsequently been falsified, some of which are grounded in clear evidence, and some of which are speculative and thus unproven.

If there is a hero for the book, it is a century of Dickensians--and their opponents--who have gone over layer after layer of minutia in an attempt to piece together events that will likely be permanently lost to history. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
The most thorough account one could possibly want, or even imagine, of the history of the "Great Charles Dickens Scandal"--that is his relationship with Nelly Ternan. The book doesn't tell very much about his relationship with Nelly Ternan (and contains no new information or definitive judgments about just what exactly occurred). It also has no literary criticism or attempt to understand how it affected Dickens' writing. Instead, it is a history of the various accounts of the scandal--starting with contemporary newspaper accounts (many of them in American newspapers because of the lack of libel laws), the coverup by John Forster and Dickens other friends, going through the explosion of the scandal following the death of the last of Dickens' children and the publication of the novel "This Side Idolotry," through the more careful modern accounts by scholars, papers in the Dickensian, and Claire Tomalin's popularizations.

An interesting point it makes is that for nearly a century now newspapers have been fascinated by the discovery and rediscovery of the scandal, printing sensationalist articles that attempt to take down the great British moralist and raconteur of home and hearth a peg. But that almost none of them are actually new.

Michael Slater, probably the leading Dickens scholar alive, does vast amounts of minute research, for example citing an article that appeared in 1874 in The Bangor Daily Whig and Courier and another story in 1885 in The Rocky Mountain News. Some of it is fascinating. Some of it is tedious. And sometimes it can be confusing because rather than presenting a unified account, it presents a large number of accounts--some of which have subsequently been falsified, some of which are grounded in clear evidence, and some of which are speculative and thus unproven.

If there is a hero for the book, it is a century of Dickensians--and their opponents--who have gone over layer after layer of minutia in an attempt to piece together events that will likely be permanently lost to history. ( )
1 vote jasonlf | Nov 10, 2012 |
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All this seems impossibly remote to us. In the 1980s, Kathryn Hughes remarked that if it could be proved beyond reasonable doubt that Dickens had a sexual liaison with Ternan, the effect upon the public mind would be "like finding that Father Christmas had been to a brothel". Nowadays, we are more inclined to admire him for having had a sex life than to condemn him for it; at the very least we feel that it makes him more human. But the truth of the matter is that we still know very little about his erotic life. Did he have sex when he accompanied the erotically liberated Wilkie Collins to Paris? What exactly did he get up to when he roamed the London criminal underground by night? What precisely was the nature of his relationship with Ternan? Despite the highly plausible speculations of, among others, Claire Tomalin, we still do not know. As Michael Slater, towards the end of this wise, witty and highly entertaining volume, observes, echoing Edmund Wilson: "There is … much greater recognition now … of just how odd a case he actually was and nowhere more so than in his relations with women." There are no simple answers to the mystery of Charles Dickens; he remains richly and eternally unfathomable.
added by marq | editThe Guardian, Simon Callow (Nov 23, 2012)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 030011219X, Hardcover)

Charles Dickens was regarded as the great proponent of hearth and home in Victorian Britain, but in 1858 this image was nearly shattered. With the breakup of his marriage that year, rumors of a scandalous relationship he may have conducted with the young actress Ellen "Nelly" Ternan flourished. For the remaining twelve years of his life, Dickens managed to contain the gossip. After his death, surviving family members did the same. But when the author's last living son died in 1934, there was no one to discourage rampant speculation. Dramatic revelations came from every corner—over Nelly's role as Dickens's mistress, their clandestine meetings, and even about his possibly fathering an illegitimate child by her.

This book presents the most complete account of the scandal and ensuing cover-up ever published. Drawing on the author's letters and other archival sources not previously available, Dickens scholar Michael Slater investigates what Dickens did or may have done, then traces the way the scandal was elaborated over succeeding generations. Slater shows how various writers concocted outlandish yet plausible theories while newspapers and book publishers vied for sensational revelations. With its tale of intrigue and a cast of well-known figures from Thackeray and Shaw to Orwell and Edmund Wilson, this engaging book will delight not only Dickens fans but also readers who appreciate tales of mystery, cover-up, and clever detection.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:12 -0400)

Charles Dickens was regarded as a pillar of respectability in Victorian Britain, but in 1858 this image was nearly shattered. With the break-up of his marriage that year, rumours about a scandalous relationship he may have conducted with young actress Ellen "Nelly" Ternan flourished. For the remaining twelve years of his life, Dickens struggled to quash the gossip. After his death, surviving family members did the same. But when the author's last living son died in 1934, there was no one to discourage rampant speculation. Dramatic revelations seemed to come from every corner - over Nellie's role as Dickens' mistress, the financial help he gave her, their clandestine meetings, their coded messages, and even his fathering of an illegitimate child with her. This book presents the most complete account of the scandal and ensuing coverup ever published.… (more)

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