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The Great Charles Dickens Scandal Hardcover – Oct 8 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (Nov. 13 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030011219X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300112191
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #563,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A sexy story resting on a bed of comprehensive scholarship and pursued with Sherlock-ian imagination.”—Kirkus (starred review)


“Slater’s work is a fascinating investigation into the nature of scandal itself as much as it is a look at the particular episode.”—Daily Beast 
(The Daily Beast)

"Wise, witty and highly entertaining."—Simon Callow, The Guardian
(Simon Callow The Guardian)

“Strangely riveting, even haunting . . . a scholarly detective story.”—The Boston Globe
(The Boston Globe)

"Impeccably sourced and dashingly narrated . . . Slater sinks his teeth into the dirty subject of reputation making—and breaking—with a relish that almost made me forget (I mean this as a compliment) that author's status as an eminent academic."—Miranda Seymour, Sunday Telegraph
(Miranda Seymour Sunday Telegraph 2012-09-23)

“[Slater] examines decades of rumor and journalism to provide a history of the scandal as it has develpped since the author’s death.”—New Yorker Page-Turner blog
(New Yorker Page-Turner blog)

“A fascinating picture of not only Charles Dickens, but of the people who were (and still are) fascinated by him.”—PopMatters


“[Slater] happily tracks down and assesses the tiny accumulating pips and squeaks of the ‘scandal.’”—San Francisco Chronicle 
(San Francisco Chronicle)

“You don’t need to know [Dickens’s] fiction to enjoy Slater’s zesty account of the life.”—The New Republic 
(The New Republic)

“An invaluable work for Dickens scholars, and an enjoyable read for anyone.”—Choice


"Michael Slater revisits the layers of deception, gossip, commercial speculation, and academic work that grew around Dickens’s extramarital relationship with Ellen Ternan in order to track the unfolding of "the great Dickens scandal" from Dickens’s own lifetime to ours."—Sambudha Sen, Victorian Studies
(Sambudha Sen Victorian Studies 2015-06-03)

About the Author

Michael Slater is emeritus professor of Victorian literature at Birkbeck College, University of London; past president of the International Dickens Fellowship and of the Dickens Society of America; and author of Charles Dickens. He lives in London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Great Charles Dickens Scandal is a short book about Dickens long relationship with Ellen Ternan his mistress Jan. 28 2013
By C. M Mills - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A few years ago this reviewer read Michael Slater's biography of Charles Dickens (1812-1870). Slater is one of the greatest Dickens scholars in the world. Slater is the Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck University of London. He is lectured on Dickens and written many books on the great Boz.
In "The Great Dickens Scandal" Slater presents a careful study of the affair Dickens engaged in with Ellen Ternan. Dickens was the father of 10 children married to Catherine Hogarth Dickens. Mrs. Dickens was fat and over 40 when the dashing Dickens acted in a Manchester 1857 theatrical production of "The Frozen Deep" penned by Wilkie Collins the author's close friend. Ellen was blond, bright, witty and had a lovely figure. She was in the acting profession along with her actress mother Florence. She had two siblings Fanny (who married Tom Trollope, novelist Anthony's brother) and Mamie. Dickens may have fathered a child by Ellen but whether the baby died at birth is up for speculation. Ellen may have given birth in France. Dickens kept up his relationship with her until his death in 1870. She may have been the thirteenth person preent at his internment at Westminster Abbey. She and Dickens were passengers on the wrecked Staplehurst train wreck on June 9, 1865 five years to the day prior to the author's death on June 9, 1870.
This book is a dry examination of the evidence on Dickens and Ellen's life culled from memoirs of the author's children, friends and literary scholars. Slater is to be commended for his outstanding research. However, the book would most appeal to Dickens scholars or someone very familiar with the life and works of Charles Dickens.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Another well-written and well-balanced study of Charles Dickens and Nellie Ternan Feb. 19 2013
By Margarette Maranto - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As always, Michael Slater maintains a non-judgmental stance, meticulously including all available and pertinent data on the question of Dickens's relationship to the actress, Ellen Ternan, in his finaly fifteen years of life. Slater's famous sense of humor is not always on display, but he accomplishes his goat of laying out the facts and letting the reader decide for himself. A must for those curious to know all there is to know about Nellie and Charles.
A Study of What We May Never Know about Dickens Nov. 13 2015
By Glynn Young - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
In 1858, during the production of a play written by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, Dckens met the veteran actress Frances Ternan and her two daughters, Maria and Ellen. That same year, he announced that he and his wife Catherine were separating, which was something of a sensation in Victorian Britain, involving as it did the most popular writer in the English language and a man associated with family values.

For the next 12 years, until his death in 1870, Dickens maintained a relationship with young Ellen Ternan. Exactly what that relationship was has never been truly determined, but it spawned a minor research industry that continues through today.

That research industry is the subject of Michael Slater’s “The Great Charles Dickens Scandal,” and it may tell us more about the generations that followed Dickens than it does about the man himself.

It’s a fascinating book.

Slater, Professor Emeritus of Victorian Literature and Fellow of Birkbeck College at the University of London, is well positioned to tackle the subject. His doctorate at Oxford was on Dickens’ The Chimes. He’s written an acclaimed biography of Dickens. He’s written several books on aspects of Dickens’ life and times, including Dickens on America and Americans (1970), “Dickens and Women” (1983), “The Genius of Dickens” (2011), and “Douglas Jerrold 1803-1857” (2002). He’s a past president of the International Dickens Fellowship and editor of its journal, The Dickensian. And he’s served as trustee and president of the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

The man knows his Dickens. What he explores in “The Great Charles Dickens Scandal” is what can never ultimately be known about Dickens and Ellen Ternan.

For decades after his death, Dickens’ children maintained something of an iron lock on what was written and known about their father. What began to break the story open was a novel published in 1929, entitled This Side Idolatry. It was written by a journalist for the Daily Express, Carl Eric Bechhofer Roberts, and what he tripped over in his research was the possibility, or likelihood, that Ellen Ternan caused the breakdown in Dickens’ marriage.

Slater moves decade by decade, describing additional investigatory work by biographers, journalists, defenders and prosecutors, involving significant names in Britain’s literary establishment (including G.K. Chesterton, who was a Dickens defender). By the 1970s, Ellen Ternan starting receiving her due, particularly as a result of the growing popularity of feminist studies. Peter Ackroyd, author of a mammoth biography of Dickens, argued that the relationship was platonic, given Dickens’ own attitudes toward young women (and there’s precious little proof to the contrary).

Slater looks at all of the decades of work and research, and concludes that “the smoking gun” to prove Dickens and Ternan were physical lovers will likely never be found.

But, oh, what lengths people have gone to in the attempt to prove one thing or another.
the definitive analysis May 17 2014
By Shasta - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book reviews both the public knowledge and the academic speculation and research about the relationship between Charles Dickens and Ellen Ternan. Slater is cautious in drawing conclusions and the evidence that he presents from writings in every decade since 1858 is very interesting. It complements and sometimes criticises the Tomalin book on the relationship and adds a better timeline to the film The Invisible Woman.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Take Jan. 5 2013
By Theresa J. Elders - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admire the author's staunch defense of the novelist...even though I think Claire Tomalin's meticulous research weighs heavily in favor the Dickens' maintaining Nelly Ternan as his secret mistress for a decade. This was no platonic friendship...even Dickens daughter, Katey, knew what was going on.