Review: Charles Dickens in Love by Robert Garnett

Today I am pleased to present my review of Charles Dickens in Love by Robert Garnett.  I’ve always enjoyed reading collections of correspondence from authors, and I’ve read many from Twain and Whitman to Emerson and Nabokov.   Enjoy!


Charles Dickens in Love
Robert Garnett
Pegasus Books
4 December, 2012
Hardcover and eBook
Purchase:  Amazon  §  Barnes & Noble  §  Google  §  Apple § Kobo

About the Book:   When Charles Dickens died in 1870 he was the best-known man in the English-speaking world the pre-eminent Victorian celebrity, universally mourned as both a noble spirit and the greatest of novelists. Yet when the first person named in his will turned out to be an unknown woman named Ellen Ternan, only a handful of people had any idea who she was, and her conspicuous presence in his will was a mystery. Of his romance with Ellen, Dickens had written, it belongs to my life and probably will only die out of the same with the proprietor, and so it was until his death she remained the most important person in his life.

She was not the first woman who had fired his imagination. As a young man he had fallen deeply in love with a woman who pervaded every chink and crevice of his mind for three years, Maria Beadnell, and when she eventually jilted him he vowed that I never can love any human creature breathing but yourself. A few years later he was stunned by the sudden death of his young sister-in-law, Mary Scott Hogarth, and worshiped her memory for the rest of his life. I solemnly believe that so perfect a creature never breathed, he declared, and when he died over thirty years later he was still wearing her ring.

Charles Dickens has no rival as the most fertile creative imagination since William Shakespeare, and no one influenced his imagination more powerfully than these three women, his muses and teachers in the school of love. Using hundreds of primary sources, Charles Dickens in Love narrates the story of the most intense romances of Dickens ‘s life, and shows how his novels both testify to his own strongest affections and serve as memorials to the young women he loved all too well, if not always wisely.

My Review: 

I have long been in love with the work of Charles Dickens and the informal glimpses into his thoughts through correspondence framed in context with this impeccably researched and presented book, have rekindled that flame anew.   This is truly a must-read for Dickens fans.

In the chosen letters you find the voice of the author, which may differ greatly from the work you have read. Whether demanding or morose, with flights of fancy and fits of pique:  all moments in his life, however fleeting and momentary.

This book does all of that and more, making my feet itch to travel to Niagara Falls and see it as he did, or find a vantage point in the mountains, to commune with memories and thoughts.  What emerges in this book is the great dichotomy that was Dickens.  A man obsessed with neatness and order, a proponent of orderliness in his home and person, with a cutthroat business sense fueled by great ambition.  Every conversation, every event was fodder for his imagination, facile enough to see three sides of a single coin and represent each viewpoint fully and succinctly.

I was provided an eBook copy through NetGalley from Open Road Integrated Media for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review and all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Robert Garnett has been researching Dickens for over a dozen years, has presented papers on him at many academic conferences, and has published articles on his life and novels in scholarly journals such as Dickens Quarterly and Dickens Studies Annual.


3 thoughts on “Review: Charles Dickens in Love by Robert Garnett

    • There are several out there – Twain has several volumes, Whitman, Longfellow, Voltaire, there are even compilations of letters from Elizabeth I. Earlier this year, I read a book that was spurred by letters from Thomas Jefferson. If the one who creates the compilation is careful and considered with the inclusions as well as includes information to put the letters into context of the time and history – it’s really informative and interesting. This book has all of those bits, and was really a smooth and interesting read

  1. I just finished this wonderful book, and I agree it was an excellent read, and opened me up to a lot of information I did not have. I am not a Dickens scholar, but have read nearly everything he wrote, and 3 or 4 biographies which make his writings come to life. Reading this book has made me want to tackle his published book of letters. thanks for a good review

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