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Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle
by Heera Datta
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 150891964X, Paperback)Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth on 2nd April, 1836, when he was an upcoming writer and reporter. Soon after marriage, he tasted spectacular success with The Pickwick Papers and in ten years, was the foremost writer of his time. Catherine was the mother of his ten children, his hostess, she accompanied him on his American tour. Yet, twenty-one years after they wed, Charles Dickens very publicly separated from her, denouncing her as an unfit mother and wife. He removed her from his home, his life, and the lives of his children. He never saw her again, not even when their son, Walter, died at the age of twenty-three in faraway India. His allegations about his wife and his unhappy marriage were works of fiction, as successful and enduring as the rest of his works. The real cause of the separation was an eighteen-year-old actress, Ellen Ternan, who later became his mistress. On her deathbed, Catherine gave her daughter letters Charles had written to her and said, “Give these to the British Museum, that the world may know he loved me once." Outside the Magic Circle is a fictionalized account of Catherine’s life after she was plucked out of her familiar world and thrown to the wolves, as it were, by the exemplary Charles Dickens. It is told in her voice; sometimes reminiscing, at other times baffled, confused, hurt, angry. It has her tears, her love, and her quest for the meaning of her life, and marriage. Excerpt: That hour was a blessed relief. I was free of the constraint of being discarded wife and mother. I was someone faceless in whom nobody had a vestige of vulgar curiosity. The woman, who was a Mrs. Evans from the country, come to visit her married daughter, looked at me searchingly and asked, “Forgive me, my dear, have you suffered a bereavement?” I nodded. “Your husband.” When I again nodded, she said, “You poor dear, I could tell by your face. You are not bearing up well, I fear. I know it is a difficult cross to bear, I lost my dear sainted John two years ago, but I have learnt to find comfort in my children and grandchildren. You should try that dear. Do you have children?” When I did not answer, she continued, “Ah, that makes it difficult. My sister too is a widow and finds the going very difficult because her marriage was barren.” I did not correct her about me being the mother of nine living children. At that moment, the children I had carried in sickness and brought forth in pain and hardship seemed like phantom children. They had been born but had drifted away like wraiths. Only little Dora seemed real. Beautiful, delightful Dora, whom the merciful lord had taken away when she was only eight months old. I had not understood then but I realized now it was a good thing my daughter had died an infant. She would have been about twelve now. Being a girl, she would not have the escape of school and would have remained in misery in a divided household. Dear beloved Dora was happier in a better world. I said, “My marriage was not barren. I had a daughter but she died an infant.” Mrs. Evans dabbed at her eyes and recalled her two infants she had buried. That night I realized a sorry truth. From now on I would have nothing to say to women except about the death of a child. The usual conversation of husband and children and household matters was forever closed to me.
(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:47:20 -0400)
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