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The Lovers VI Catherine Hogarth & Charles Dickens

Roman à Clef:

Catherine Dickens née Hogarth;

Charles Dickens; Georgina Hogarth the elder.


Mr. Crummles as Friar Laurence;

Juliet; Romeo; Lady Capulet.


Nicholas Nickleby

         Catherine Hogarth was the eldest daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle. Charles Dickens was a journalist at the paper and, though a generation apart in age, the two men struck up a fast friendship. At Dickens' subsequent visits to the Hogarths, the initial attraction hadn't been Catherine but her father, whose gentlemanly manner and appreciation of culture the young author much admired. Indeed, Dickens was nursing a broken heart and attendant romantic humiliation brought about by a 3-year one-sided love affair only recently ended with Maria Beadnell. Maria had been petty, high-spirited, and coquettish, with little to no genuine interest in the smitten Dickens. Maria's father judged Dickens not good enough for his daughter. George Hogarth, on the other hand, was warm and inviting, and his 19-year-old daughter Catherine seemed the opposite of Maria: quiet, docile, perhaps even melancholic. She and Charles started courting - Dickens resolute he would not make the same mistakes he made with Maria.


 Whether he knew it or not, Dickens was on the rebound, and many of the resolutions he made would simply be mistakes in the opposite direction. The wounds which Maria had inflicted on his heart were actually the reopening of wounds suffered in boyhood, when his mother sacrificed his education and happiness for 6 shillings a week at Warren's Blacking Factory. Having revealed to Maria all of his heart and then some, he was resolved to never be so emotionally defenceless again. So with Catherine, then, he appeared mature in his expression – tender and compassionate without the previous high-flown excesses – but, seeing the same thing in a different way, he was self-protective, not entirely invested, and in the end unyielding.


 During their engagement, it became evident to Dickens that Catherine was not just heavy-lidded and sullen but prone to bouts of mistrust and passive self-pity, with a marked tendency to pout, sulk, and feel cross. She couldn't understand or accept the amount of time the struggling writer devoted to his craft, just sitting at his desk imagining things. Dickens for his part imagined the power of his love and the force of his will could and would convince and remedy Catherine's moods - he was flush with his first successes as the author Boz and his own confidence in the possibilities of will-power seamed limitless. Look how far he'd come from the sickly little heart-broken boy of half a lifetime ago. That Catherine might not change or may even get worse went as unexamined as the thought he might grow less patient and kind to where any hope of love between them would be irrevocably lost. In short, the inimitable Dickens, over-estimating how far he'd come from that heart-broken boy of 12, understood Catherine's nature – its well-springs and probably trajectories – as little as he understood his own.


 The image on The Lovers card is of Charles Dickens and Catherine Hogarth as Romeo and Juliet. The image of Dickens' face here is from the 1839 Daniel Maclise painting known as the Nickleby Portrait, so named as it was used as the frontispiece for Nicholas Nickleby. Said to be the most accurate likeness of Dickens ever captured, it also draws the character likeness between the novel's Nicholas Nickleby and the novelist Charles Dickens. Nickleby, it will be remembered, joins Vincent Crummles' travelling theatrical troupe of actors. There, he not only garners great fame and adoration in his portrayal of Romeo, but experiences a powerful sense of emotional growth and spiritual accomplishment. It may also be remembered that Dickens, while in real-life unrequited rapture with Maria Beadnell, was preparing to audition for his true love, the theatre. Sickness, however - and perhaps Mr. Beadnell's disdain for the profession - thwarted his desires. Catherine, for her part, partook of her husband's amateur theatrics throughout their married life, later joined by their growing brood of children. Here, as Juliet, Catherine too is painted by Maclise, whose work was often composed of figure paintings derived from history or, as here, the works of Shakespeare. Maclise was a close friend of the Dickens family who, by minding the children while the couple were away, helped facilitate Catherine's accompaniment of her husband on his first tour of America. Fittingly, Maclise was godfather to Catherine's namesake, Kate Dickens, who married the artist Charles Perugini and was herself a painter.


 Essentially a Bildungsroman, Nicholas Nickleby is concerned with a young man finding his place in the world – a world of changing social class distinctions and conflicting family interests. The theme the newlywed Dickens is most interested in exploring is the contemporary state of marriage – by which slender route it may succeed and by what many missteps it might become no more than a “a system of annoyance”. The novel is an exposition of failed marriages, forced wedlock, unwanted proposals, and even - in the Cheerybles – the union of two partners who so exactly mirror one another they parody just such a schema of ideal matrimony. Marriage degraded is little more than mutual abuse, sanctioned by church and state – what Dickens has Ralph Nickleby both coin and himself betoken as “a system of annoyance”. Nicholas and Kate, meantime, navigate their way through this minefield with the magic seeds of hopeful purity and sincerity of heart. In this – the hero and heroine's well-lit exit, compliments of the management - we may glimpse some of the clichés and plot holes in Dickens' own marriage script.


 Completing the dramatis personae is Vincent Crummles, stage right, as Friar Laurence. He may represent an aged aspect of male love, somewhat sentimental or inexperienced. It will be remembered he marries the young couple and manipulates nature in an attempt to resurrect the newlyweds from their tomb – a well-meaning scheme which, when it backfires, sees the monk flee from the crypt and abandon Juliet, reappearing as epilogue to recount the tale of “star-crossed lovers”. Stage left sees represented Lady Capulet, as played by Catherine's mother, Mrs. Georgina Hogarth. While relations between Dickens and his mother-in-law began warmly enough, as his frustrations and displeasure with Catherine grew, so too his relationship with Mrs. Hogarth began to cool. She, in turn, resented his open dislike of her, and when his relations with Ellen Ternan became known, it was Mrs. Hogarth who brought matters to a climax by insisting Catherine leave the Dickens home at once. When Catherine did leave, her sister and mother's namesake, Georgina Hogarth, remained with Dickens. So too did Dickens' children – all except the eldest, Dickens' own namesake, Charles Junior. When Dickens suggested Catherine was an unfit mother who even her own children couldn't love, Mrs. Hogarth and her daughter Helen spread the rumour that Dickens was engaged in an affair with the young actress Ellen Ternan – a quasi-truth incensing him into ferocious tirades of indignation. When his mother-in-law accused him of also making a mistress of her daughter Georgina, Dickens hit the roof. It led to Dickens' infamous public disavowal, which alludes to Helen and Mrs. Hogarth as “Two wicked persons”.


 Although unhappy for years, having recognized fairly early on that he and his wife were in no way compatible, Dickens nevertheless fathered 10 children with Catherine. When the split, growing progressively inevitable for years, finally came, it caused great division not only in Dickens' large family but among his large circle of friends. He openly quarrelled with Thackeray, Mrs. Gaskell, and Phiz. Dickens' association with Angela Burdett-Coutts became strained, and his involvement with Urania Cottage ended. Many openly accused the author of being unmanly, selfish, and unkind. Dickens had been the foremost public spokesperson of domestic harmony and benison - and in true Dickensian style, he insisted on and managed through sheer force of will to remain so. And while Mrs. Hogarth disagreed, even Catherine's lawyers considered Dickens' financial settlement with his estranged wife generous. Catherine, for her part, remained loyal to Charles until her own death, a decade after her husband's. During the final stages of her long and painful illness, she was nursed by her daughter Kate. As she lay dying, Catherine gave Kate her collection of love letters from the girl's father, saying "Give these to the British Museum - that the world may know he loved me once."


Notes for General Circulation : 


  • Represents choice and decision. Suggests the movement from childhood to maturity, where the paradigms of parents are assumed by the child. The old anima and animus – seen in The Empress and Emperor - must burgeon anew in the young bud. What the choice actually is operates on numerous levels – between passivity and action, happiness and sorrow, self-gratification and familial support, reality and illusion.

  • The image links with Romeo & Juliet, a play about past mistakes a young couple attempt to break free from but only end up recasting. There may be implied a clash of good and bad in the surrender either to basic instincts or societal demands, where which is good and which is bad remains unclear. It may be noted the last card, Public Mores, as endorsed by the church and state, lies in the direction of the past. That the characters of Romeo and Juliet are but players, who strut and fret their hour upon the stage, suggest the people behind their roles are merely acting a part, reciting an author's dialogue. What appears Right may only be stage-right - or what's left. This may suggest the true understanding needed to make a wise decision must come from within a person rather than some imposed persona. Or perhaps a person must actually develop a part within their psyche which acts as an audience to their condition. In this way, another allows for another which allows one to see oneself. This is where human desires come in – we know Juliet will choose Romeo and Romeo Juliet, as surely as biology or fate. By not choosing sorrow, for example, represented by Lady Capulet, Romeo chooses the solar rather than the lunar influence, which is to say he adhere to his nature and it all ends in tears.

  • That said, many children are born of this union – both literal and literary. A therefore perhaps necessary cleaving of oneself to found and fecundate an inner unity.

  • In a formal pattern, The Lovers indicates the need for responsible action, well-meaning feelings, and a benign sense of doing right by another. On a deeper level, the card indicates the inner struggle to find the centre of gravity between the sacred and profane, to honestly fathom one's own nature, and to reach an accord between society's expectations and our own core needs.




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