Over two decades of marriage, author Charles Dickens grew more popular and powerful, while his wife Catherine bore ten children. Charles apparently grew tired of Catherine, and blamed her for having ten children and also accused her of not taking good care of them. The couple separated after Dickens’ affair with 18-year-old actress Ellen Ternan was revealed. Catherine was compelled to leave the family home with only one of her children. More details of the breakup were revealed when a caches of letters was discovered at Harvard University. The stories she told her neighbors portray Dickens as cruel as one of his literary villains.
But it now seems that he even tried to place his wife and the mother of those children in a lunatic asylum, despite her evident sanity.
The accusation comes in a letter from Edward Dutton Cook, Catherine’s next-door neighbour in Camden, north London, where she lived after her separation from Dickens. Dutton Cook was already a friend of Dickens’s eldest son Charley, and he and his wife Lynda made a close friendship with Catherine. As Catherine was dying, she told them more and more about how Dickens had behaved twenty years earlier, after he met the young actress Ellen Ternan and decided to break up their long, hitherto happy marriage.