Love Life here is reviewing Charles Dickens’ love story with women other than his wife (Catherine), while the Marriage will tell you all about his marriage with Catherine.
Dickens's first love occurred when he was 17 years old with a girl named Maria Beadnell. Maria is the daughter of a wealthy banker. She was two years older than Dickens. Their romance was not sanctioned by her parents because at the time Dickens was "nobody", and did not have any connections with wealthy families. Dickens secretly showered her with flowery love letters, though she never quite returned Dickens’ feeling.
In 1832 her parents sent her to Paris, and after returning a few months later, Dickens broke their relationship after realizing that the effort to make her love him was fruitless. The unrequited love is apparently incised a very deep wound in Dickens’ heart, that when he wrote David Copperfield, Dickens put Maria into the character of Dora.
In 1855 when Dickens and his wife Catherine realized that their marriage was cooling down, suddenly came a letter from Maria who had now become Mrs. Winter. Dickens then told her to read a specific section in David Copperfield. Young David is said to be in love with the character of Dora which had been widely criticized as "unrealistic", but is ridiculed by Dickens because he obviously knew the truth ...
After exchanging several letters, the two decided to meet. But Maria has been now totally changed; she was no longer the beautiful slim Maria who had made Dickens crazy in love. Dickens’ impression towards Mary was revealed in a quote in Little Dorrit. Maria used to be "better" in everything than Dickens. She was richer, higher in social class, and her life was more sparkling. Then in 1855, the situation was reversed. The young man who had been insulted and rejected by her father, and who had been seduced and then rejected by Maria has become much richer and more famous than the father and Maria’s husband. And now it’s Dickens’ turn to reject Maria, and Maria was the one who suffered the harassment.
Surprisingly, for many years later Dickens kept insisting to be buried in the same grave with Mary when he died. Besides, Dickens always wore Mary’s ring on his little finger all his life. Those were two strange things which were assumed as a sign of "love affair" between Dickens and Mary. Mary's death greatly affected Dickens, he grieved deeply for her. Later in his novels, Dickens wrote quite often of young women of around 17-year of ages. It is most likely that this is a manifestation of Dickens’ memories towards Mary.
One of those 17-year-old characters was Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. When it comes to Dickens to "kill" Little Nell, the wound at his heart from the death of Mary Hogarth bleed again. Dickens wrote to his illustrator: "I am breaking my heart over this story." and "I am.....nearly dead with work - and grief for the lost of my child."
Several years after Mary’s death, Georgina Hogarth—Catherine’s sister who was 12 years younger—filled Mary’s place at the Dickens’ residence. Georgina closely befriended Dickens, and many believed that they were lovers. The issue of "love affair" continued to resonate until today. It was clearly that Georgina loved Dickens. Dickens himself admired Georgina’s ability to manage household affairs and took care of Dickens’ children, not like Catherine who was kept busying herself with pregnancy, childbirth and post-birth trauma. This fact only worsened the Hogarth sisters’ relationship.
Later, when Dickens had separated from Catherine, Georgina stayed with Dickens and helped him raising the children. When the Hogarth family accused Georgina as Dickens’ mistress, Dickens was so angry that he arranged for Georgina to undergo a virginity test, in which she was eventually declared a virgin. This had been a humiliating experience for Georgina that she could never forgive her family. Georgina may have lost their parents and siblings, but she got the love and respect from Dickens and his children. In Dickens eyes, Georgina was "the best and truest friend [a] man ever had".