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Daughter of Earth - Florence Dombey


Walter Gay; Florence Gay née Dombey;

Captain Edward Cuttle.

Roman à Clef:

Kate Perugini née Dickens


Dombey & Son

      Florence or “Floy” Dombey is Mr. Paul Dombey's first-born child. As he desired a boy to carry on the family business and name, he rejects and dismisses his daughter Florence. She, nonetheless, continues to love him and tries repeatedly in vain to get close to him. When Florence is about 6, Mr. Dombey is granted his wish and given a son, little Paul Dombey, but his wife suffers complications and dies shortly after giving birth. Florence is loving and caring of the boy, but continues to go ignored by her father.


 The connection Florence has with her mother, and later with her brother, is so natural and intimate that it stands in stark contrast to Mr. Dombey's relations to them all. When his wife dies, he feels in part responsible, and Florence's affection to Mr. Dombey only serves to implicate and isolate him further from his children and himself. When her father remarries, for practical reasons rather than love, Florence also bonds with his new wife, which only further alienates her father. When this 2nd wife, Edith Dombey, leaves her husband, Mr. Dombey blames his daughter and strikes her on the breast in anger. Florence flees her father, taking refuge with Captain Ned Cuttle, a hook-handed ex-sailor. Cuttle runs The Wooden Midshipman, a naval instruments shop, for his friend Solomon Gills and his nephew, Walter Gay.


 Eventually, Florence marries Walter Gay. Together, they help Mr. Dombey with his guilt, neurosis, and his estrangement from humanity. Walter and Florence have two children together, a girl named Florence and a boy named Paul. The relationship between father and daughter in Dombey & Son is essentially a reworking of Shakespeare's King Lear, with Dombey the imperious king who is brought low and taught humility by his faithful, loving daughter. Dickens' good friend, the actor William Macready, freed Lear from the risible happy ending rewritten for it in the 18th Century, and Dickens restored it in novel form, complete with Cordelia marrying Edgar – Walter Gay.


 The portrait here of Florence Dombey is taken from a painting by John Everett Millais of Kate Macready Dickens, the author's third – and by all accounts favourite – child. Of Dickens' children, Kate was the most like her father – strong-willed, independent, and artistic. When her parents separated and Dickens forbid the children contact with their mother, Kate refused to comply. She married Wilkie Collins' younger brother Charles against the protestations of her father. When Collins died of cancer, Kate – named after her mother - remarried the artist Charles Perugini – oddly, another man with her father's name. She became a successful portrait and genre painter in her own right, and maintained with her husband an active life in artistic high society. She was the most outspoken and revealing of Dickens' children about her father after his death, being the primary source of Gladys Storey's biography Dickens and Daughter which revealed details of the author's 13-year affair with Ellen Ternan, including the fact he fathered by her a son which died in infancy.



Shorthand : conscientious - responsible - diligent - dutiful - perhaps lacking humour - sound business sense - overlooked treasure - value misplaced - earnest to a fault - resourceful - honourable - good head on her shoulders - noble by nature - hard done by - proves her worth - father issues - self-sacrificing - wilful - will, with the slightest attention, flourish.

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