Charles Dickens was a prolific novelist who made particularly effective use of urban gothic settings. Dickens knew many writers through his periodicals and was also very active in the theatre. One of his close friends was the actor, William Charles Macready; Dickens' daughter, Kate Macready Dickens, was named in his honour. Katie modelled for Millais, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and married the artist Charles Collins, Wilkie Collins's younger brother. Dickens was terribly upset about this and was found after the wedding sobbing into her abandoned wedding dress. He felt she had married just in order to leave him. Dickens' wife had already been obliged to leave, and Katie was angry with her father for forcing a meeting between her mother and his mistress, Ellen Ternan. Dickens led a double life, visiting his mistress under the assumed name Charles Tringham. Wilkie went further and maintained two mistresses in two different establishments fathering three children as William Dawson.

Collins and Dickens performed in a play called Animal Magnetism by Elizabeth Inchbald, Dickens playing Doctor Mesmer. Dickens was fascinated by hypnotism and practiced it on his wife.

Among Dickens' other writer friends were Elizabeth Gaskell, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Dickens named his tenth child Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens).

Miss Wade in Little Dorrit may have been an influence on Le Fanu's vampire in Carmilla.

For connections to Ada Lovelace, Byron's daughter, see under Byron.



Dickens not infrequently based characters in his works on his friends, for example in Bleak House, Mr. Boythorn is based on the writer Walter Savage Landor, Mr. Skimpole is based on Leigh Hunt, and the novel is centred around a lawsuit, based on that of Charlotte Smith. Trollope used Dickens in similar fashion in The Warden, as Mr. Popular Sentiment.

One of the more interesting real-life models was Maria Manning whose sensational murder trial was widely followed. Her execution was attended by approximately 30,000 people including Dickens, Thackeray, Melville and John Forster, Dickens' biographer. Forster was very impressed with her, writing to Bulwer-Lytton: You should have seen this woman ascend the drop, blindfold, and with [a] black lace veil over her face-with a step as firm as if she had been walking to a feast. She was beautifully dressed, every part of her noble figure finely and fully expressed by close fitting black satin, spotless white collar round her neck loose enough to admit the rope without its removal, and gloves on her manicured hands. She stood while the rope was adjusted as steadily as the scaffold itself, and when flung off, seemed to die at once. But there was nothing hideous in her as she swung to and fro afterwards. The wretch beside her was as a filthy shapeless scarecrow-she had lost nothing of her graceful aspect! This is heroine-worship, I think! Mrs. Maria Manning (née Marie de Roux) appears as Hortense in Bleak House and is likely to be the model for the female French criminals in Le Fanu's Uncle Silas (Mme. de Rougierre) and Collins' Woman in White (Mrs. Rubelle), both French women and both criminals. The murder is also mentioned in M.E. Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret. It is in honour of Mrs. Manning that police wagons are called Black Marias.

Dickens refers to Frankenstein in Great Expectations, which (like Frankenstein itself) shows the influence of Godwin's Caleb Williams.

The father of novelist Joseph Conrad translated Dickens into Polish.

Dickens, was an admirer of Henry Fielding, and called himself the Fielding of the 19th century.


Gothic Labyrinth
Gothic Labyrinth