London: Author Charles Dickens was a heavy drinker with a violent temper, and he cheated constantly behind his wife’s back, a new book has revealed.
As an impoverished youngster living in London, he walked the city``s seedy streets which overflowed with crooks and drunken floozies rolling in the gutter.
And the high-flying author loved nothing more than getting down and dirty with the capital’s low-life.
The darker side of the gifted novelist was revealed by biographer Claire Tomalin his in new book, Charles Dickens: A Life.
Londoner Claire has spent the past 15 years studying the literary figure famed for novels such as A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and A Tale Of Two Cities.
She said Dickens had more than one personality — capable of extraordinary kindness towards strangers but shocking cruelty to those closest to him.
“He was a really good man but at the same time he could be very cruel — a tyrant,” the Sun quoted Claire as saying.
In 1836, at the age of 24, he married 20-year-old Catherine Hogarth who, over the next 15 years, gave birth to ten children.
In return, Dickens complained she was fat and that he found her unattractive. He was developing a violent temper, which he increasingly took out on his wife and children.
“The obsessive nature of his work had a terrible effect on his home life. He spread darkness all around him,” Claire said.
“Catherine was desperately unhappy but she accepted it because she loved him and because he was successful.
“He almost certainly used prostitutes. Many men did in the 19th Century. They thought they needed regular sex to maintain ``sexual hygiene,” she revealed.
He even turned his attentions to her 15-year-old sister, Georgina, inviting her to live with the family in 1842. She stayed even after the breakdown of the marriage.
During a trip to Manchester, the 45-year-old Dickens met 18-year-old Ellen “Nelly” Ternan.
The affair caused a public outcry. His wife was humiliated but Dickens began to live a double life.
He built a wall across the middle of their bedroom, cutting Catherine off completely. It was very ironic because at that point Nelly wouldn``t sleep with him."
He installed her in a secret love nest, Windsor Lodge in Peckham, where the two of them lived under assumed names.
Claire reveals the author was also addicted to cigars and alcohol.