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Household Words

An Intimate Life of Charles Dickens


In 1858, Charles Dickens, in the throes of a passionate affair with a 19-year-old actress, banishes his wife from his house. As his family and a besotted public quickly acquiesce, only his daughter Kate stands against him. Certain Kate will ultimately submit to his will, Dickens cannot imagine the lengths she will go to avenge her mother and free herself from the corrupting power of his staggering fame.

Household Words had its first reading at The National Arts Club in 2007 and then at The English Speaking Union in 2009.

Household Words had another staged reading on May 16, 2016 at the launch of nonprofit theatre company, Parity Productions, at National Arts Club.

A copy of the latest draft of Household Words is available upon request.

About Charles Dickens and the history behind Household Words

Charles Dickens, the most popular novelist of the Victorian era, recalled his early childhood as idyllic. This happy time came to an abrupt end when his father and mother were confined to the Marshals prison for debt. Dickens, then aged 12, lived by himself in a rented back attic near the prison and worked days at a blacking factory. The demeaning work ta the factory scarred the sensitive young boy, but he was traumatized when his mother, after his family was freed from prison, demanded that he continue to work at the factory. His father forbid it and the boy was returned to school. Dickens never forgave his mother this betrayal and many believe his rage against her marred his relationships with women and his ability to create fully-realized female characters in his fiction.



In 1857, Dickens, married and the father of ten children, hired the 18 year-old actress Ellen Ternan for the play The Frozen Deep, which he and his protégé Wilkie Collins had written. The following year, Dickens separated from his 42 year-old wife Catherine amidst rumors that Ellen Ternan had become his mistress. Further inflaming the siutation, Catherine Dickens’s 32 year old sister Georgina Hogarth remained behind at Dickens’s house after Catherine had left, prompting intense speculation that his sister-in-law was also his mistress. London finally erupted with the scandal when a letter written by Dickens was leaked to the press accusing his wife of a “mental disorder.”


There was outrage against Charles Dickens and his two daughters for having stayed with their father after their mother had been driven from his house. What the world did not know was the conflict raging within the Dickens household on Tavistock Square, between father and daughter and sister and sister, a battle that ended only when Kate Dickens, Charles Dickens’s beautiful young daughter — his favorite, his “lucifer box” — found a way to avenge her mother, redeem herself and leave her father’s house forever. Charles Dickens died twelve years later in 1870 with Georgina Hogarth and Ellen Ternan by his side. Georgina Hogarth reconciled with her sister Catherine Dickens after Charles Dickens’s death. When Catherine died nine years later, she left Georgina a ring in her will — the ring was in the shape of a serpent. 

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