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, and came again to prevent a sepa
ration between Mrs. dickens and me. Mrs.
dickens has often expressed to her her sense
of her affectionate care and devotion in the
house—never more strongly than within the
last twelve months.
For some years past, Mrs. dickens has been
in the habit of representing to me that it would
be better for her to go away and live apart, that
her always increasing estrangement was due
to a mental disorder under which she some
times labors—more, that she felt herself unfit
for the life she had to lead as my wife, and that
she would be better far away. i have uniformly
replied that she must bear our misfortune and
fight the fight out to the end, that the children
were the first consideration, and that i feared
they must bind us together in “appearance.”
at length, within these three weeks, it was
suggested to me by Forster that, even for their
sakes, it would surely be better to reconstruct
and rearrange their unhappy home. i empow
ered him to treat with Mrs. dickens, as the
friend of both of us for one and twenty years.
Mrs. dickens wished to add, on her part, Mark
lemon, and did so. on saturday last lemon
wrote to Forster that Mrs. dickens “gratefully
and thankfully accepted” the terms i proposed
to her. of the pecuniary part of them i will only
say that i believe they are as generous as if Mrs.
dickens were a lady of distinction, and i a man
of fortune. The remaining parts of them are eas
ily described—my eldest boy to live with Mrs.
dickens and to take care of her, my eldest girl to
keep my house, both my girls and all my children
but the eldest son to live with me in the con
tinued companionship of their aunt georgina,
for whom they have all the tenderest affection
that i have ever seen among young people, and
who has a higher claim (as i have often declared,
for many years) upon my affection, respect, and
gratitude than anybody in this world.
i hope that no one who may become ac
quainted with what i write here can possibly
be so cruel and unjust as to put any miscon
struction on our separation, so far. My elder
children all understand it perfectly, and all ac
cept it as inevitable.
There is not a shadow of doubt or conceal
ment among us. My eldest son and i are one
as to it all.
Two wicked persons, who should have
spoken very differently of me, in consideration
of earnest respect and gratitude, have (as i am
told, and indeed, to my personal knowledge)
coupled with this separation the name of a
You cannot let your parents anywhere near your
real humiliations. —Alice Munro, 1994
young lady for whom i have a great attach
ment and regard. i will not repeat her name—i
honor it too much. upon my soul and honor,
there is not on this earth a more virtuous and
spotless creature than that young lady. i know
her to be innocent and pure and as good as my
own dear daughters.
Further, i am quite sure that Mrs. dick
ens, having received this assurance from me,
must now believe it in the respect i know her
to have for me, and in the perfect confidence i
know her in her better moments to repose in
on this head, again, there is not a shadow
of doubt or concealment between my children
and me. all is open and plain among us, as
though we were brothers and sisters. They are
perfectly certain that i would not deceive them,
and the confidence among us is without a fear.
Charles Dickens, from a letter. Around the time of
this letter, Mr. and Mrs. Dickens were living separately.
He had written to another friend two months earlier,
“The domestic unhappiness remains so strong upon me
that I can’t write…I have never known a moment’s
peace or content, since the last night of The Frozen
deep,” referring to the play in which he appeared
with Ellen Ternan, twenty-seven years his junior,
with whom he had developed an infatuation.