In Charles Dickens’ Worst Plot, He Wanted to Declare Wife Insane

I think that this just deserves one long…hmmmmmm….the man did write some pretty miserable novels… regrets if he’s one of your favorites.

Charles Dickens: The Complete Novels

Source: In Charles Dickens’ Worst Plot, He Wanted to Declare Wife Insane

10 thoughts on “In Charles Dickens’ Worst Plot, He Wanted to Declare Wife Insane

  1. Hard times is good & the Christmas Carol very good. Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, a few others 😕 weren’t my cup of tea 🍵.Perhaps, language has changed so much from that era that his novels drag a bit for us now. Maybe b/c many of them were released in weekly installments so they were easier to read in pieces as opposed to facing some giant novels?
    What he did do well was show the horrible treatment of immigrants, children, and factory life in Industrial England. How classicism was such an issue and how terribly the poor were treated. Even how those who broke social barriers, saw that life wasn’t always greener on the other side. I think he was genuinely reflecting life in his time in his novels, even if today they drag. Reflecting that the enlightenment and progressivism had many many downsides and a seedy underside.
    Good on you if you go through this. 🙂

  2. It would not surprise me; infact, I think that my Victorian novels teacher (Dickens was her speciality) said that he behaved terribly towards his wife. And if you know anything about how horrible psychiatry/psychology was at this time, that was a mean and horrible thing after 10 kids. Especially since she couldn’t refuse to have sex with him pretty much. It is hypocritical after what he writes in many of his books. But, we know for many writers and so called geniuses their work is not a reflection of how they lived. It doesn’t make his writing bad, or what he tried to illustrate. It does make him a selfish b*stard. I wonde4 how this young woman felt. Wonder if she was in it for the money. He wasn’t recognized greatly until he was older. So, it’s a comforting thought after what he did to his wife.

    1. I confess to not knowing much about Charles Dickens. Maybe because the novels I read of his, I found extremely tedious and therefore I just didn’t want to know anything about him. But you’re right. The novels did increase awareness within the society. I did like A Christmas Carol.

      Unfortunately some men still viewed women as nonentities, possessions to do with what they wanted or discard when they were done. I guess despite any awareness in his novels, he was one of these.

      1. Yeah, it’s a matter of what was accepted then & how men and others in society viewed women. This would have been during the Victorian era, and women were seen as the “angel in the house” or the moral and religious compass of the family. She was sweet, compliant, and had a ton of kids. Sex was for procreation for many, & women couldn’t say no. Having 10 kids was their duty & what made them successful in society — a long w/ that plump child bearing figure after kids. Men were not held to the same ethical standards of course. Many Victorian men had mistresses. This was very common and almost accepted in the era. Not publucally, but let’s just say many people would ignore if a man was cheating while a woman would be cast out of society or made to penance and all kind of things toward that at best. Men were still treated like they couldn’t control their sexual urges, so mistresses were okay for that. Their kids would be bastards, but a good Victorian man did support both his wife and mistress’s family’s. Dickens was not one of these men. Also, Asylums were awful places, not for healing. Many women were locked in here b/c they would not fulfill their societal role to marry who their dad wanted, have kids, be the perfect wife etc. Often, asylums were used as testing places for new medical technology. Think lobotomies and initial ECT. “From Hell” The Johnny Depp movie portrays these horrors well.

        So, In this respect, although Dickens had a mistress, how he was treating his wife, & where he wanted her to go was truly cruel to her and his kids. Like the reform he preaches in his books applies to society or “Scrooge” but not to him where his wife is concerned. But, many Victorian men were extremely self-entitled as they were the head of their family and also the only person w/ legal rights really. Thank goodness Dicken’s wife had a good lawyer.

  3. Speak of the devil! Anyone watching “Victoria” on PBS Masterpiece Theatre? This just happened to one of the supporting characters. Husband got rid of wife by casting her into an insane asylum. Can’t wait to see if Victoria gets her out! BTW, this happened in the US when women marched to get the vote. Many of these courageous women ended up in the “hospital” to try to get them “under control.” We may have come a long way Baby, but that wasn’t that long ago.

  4. I love Dickens as a writer. He could be dry and boring at times, but he wrote for the destitute and downtrodden. He was the voice of the oppressed. He was Upton Sinclair. He was Marvin Gaye. He was Bob Dylan. He was Bob Marley. He was 2Pac.

    Sure, it’s messed up that he cheated on his wife and tried to have her committed when she left him. I’m pretty sure that was the product of emotion and bruised ego. Does that make him a bad person? Maybe. Maybe it just makes him a person. Does it make him a bad writer? No. He was imperfect, but who isn’t?

    Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott’s wife, died in a mental hospital. History is rife with sexism. The Bible, a book many people consider the greatest book ever written and literally live by, basically says women are chattel to be seen and not heard. “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” – Timothy 2:12

    Maybe Dickens wasn’t so bad.

    1. You do realize I am a woman, right? We are still every day fighting the fight of discrimination. I presume you are also being ironic regarding these voices who are all male but none speak out for women? Women who have been and many of whom still are oppressed?

      I presume that if Dickens had tried to have his son committed because he was a better writer, then Dickens would have been cast in a bad light? Tsk.

      1. I can’t understand or relate to the struggles of women. I’ve lived a life devoid of sexism. I think of everyone as equal. I don’t think like that. All the most important people in my life are female. I’ve never thought of women as inferior to men. I looked at this as a emotionally driven mistake. Not as an act oppression. My thought was that, as a society, we’re too quick to jump on people for their mistakes and allow that to discount everything else they’ve ever done.

        The Bible reference was an example of something that’s extremely fucked up that’s studied and cherished and taught to children and is engrained in our society as opposed to what I view as one man’s mistake. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he thought of her as property that he could discard. I don’t want to think of someone I admire like that.

        I think if he tried to have his son committed for being a better writer, it would have been funny as hell. I would love that story.

      2. I seem to know too many Bible thumpers who use it as a strict doctrine of how to live one’s life that I was 3/4-afraid that’s why you referenced it. (I did not hear your sarcasm that time.)

        I understand about being quick to jump on historical people because of slip-ups. But trying to get a woman committed is not just behaving as everyone else during your time. It’s kind of an atrocity. Imagine having no control or being unable to get out of a horrid institution because your spouse was tired of you and had fallen in love with someone else. Maybe he literally thought she was insane because she had birthed him ten children?

        I believe you’re right in the ignorance of a society judging its predecessors based on their current societal norms rather than the norms that existed then. Somehow we have all of the answers and yet still none at all.

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