Charles Dickens was desperate to leave wife for teen actress, reveals letter

Updated: Sep 02, 2012, 12:39 PM IST

London: A new letter that has been unearthed reveals that Charles Dickens was desperately trying to leave his wife for a teenage actress.

The letter was discovered by a homeowner in the Cotswolds during a spring clean after it fell from the pages of a second hand Bible, the Daily Mail reported.

It was sent by the famous author to his lawyer Frederic Ouvry in May 1858.

Dickens’ wife Catherine and mother to his 10 children, had recently learned that he was having an affair with 18-year-old Ellen Ternan, who he had become infatuated with.

The letter reveals that the middle aged author was willing to offer a settlement of 600 pounds per year, the equivalent of 25,000 pounds today, to his wife who he was desperate to leave.

Perhaps showing the strain in their marriage, it pointedly said that the amount of money he was offering would allow Catherine to maintain her “Brougham,” a horse-drawn carriage.

According to The Daily Telegraph, he wrote how he had considered the points he and Ouvry had spoken of the previous day.

“We must come off for a payment of Six Hundred a year, including everything. This will keep her Brougham quite as well as she has ever had it kept, and will do all she wants, I am sure,” he said.

The couple legally separated within days of Dickens writing the letter.

He and Ternan stayed together until he died in 1870.

The letter, which was found in the village of Blockley, Gloucestershire, is being offered for sale by Dr Jackie Sheehan.

“This little paperback Bible was in a batch of books which my sister`s mother-in-law was given by an elderly neighbour who moved into residential care seven or eight years ago,” she said.

She said that the letter fell out of the Bible during a clear-out earlier this year.

It is being sold by Fraser’s Autographs in London on September 27 and expected to be sold for about 1,000 - 1,500 pounds.