The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens

Claire Tomalin, Author, Charles Elliott, Editor Knopf Publishing Group $25 (317p) ISBN 978-0-394-57959-7
In a remarkable feat of biographical sleuthing, Tomalin offers the fullest account to date of Charles Dickens's secret 13-year relationship with actress Ellen (``Nelly'') Ternan. She was perhaps 18 when the famous 45-year-old novelist made her a ``fallen woman,'' according to Tomalin, who presents a compelling case that Ternan was his mistress. He could offer neither steady companionship nor marriage, unwilling to jeopardize his virtuous public image with his Victorian readership, even after the affair apparently triggered his separation from his wife, Catherine. Tomalin, biographer of Mary Wollstonecraft and Katherine Mansfield, portrays a frantic Dickens slipping into self-delusion, falsely claiming that his marriage had been awful all along. After his death in 1870, Ternan, who outlived him by 44 years, married a reverend, wrote poetry, became a right-minded Victorian lady and helped maintain the secrecy surounding her association with Dickens. Besides offering a marvelous whirl through the ``disreputable'' world of the theater, Tomalin provides a new slant on Dickens as a writer uncomfortably trapped in his own conventional morality. Photos. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.