It was impossible that the two could have remained together, when in intellect and sympathy they were so far apart. There is nothing strange about their separation, except the exceedingly bad taste with which Dickens made it a public affair. It is safe to assume that he felt the need of a different mate; and that he found one is evident enough from the hints and bits of innuendo that are found in the writings of his contemporaries.
He became a pleasure-lover; but more than that, he needed one who could understand his moods and match them, one who could please his tastes, and one who could give him that admiration which he felt to be his due; for he was always anxious to be praised, and his letters are full of anecdotes relating to his love of praise.
One does not wish to follow out these clues too closely. It is certain that neither Miss Beadnell as a girl nor Mrs. Winter as a matron made any serious appeal to him. The actresses who have been often mentioned in connection with his name were, for the most part, mere passing favorites. The woman who in life was Dora made him feel the same incompleteness that he has described in his best-known book. The companion to whom he clung in his later years was neither a light-minded creature like Miss Beadnell, nor an undeveloped, high-tempered woman like the one he married, nor a mere domestic, friendly creature like Georgina Hogarth.
Ought we to venture upon a quest which shall solve this mystery in the life of Charles Dickens! In his last will and testament, drawn up and signed by him about a year before his death, the first paragraph reads as follows:
I, Charles Dickens, of Gadshill Place, Higham, in the county of Kent, hereby revoke all my former wills and codicils and declare this to be my last will and testament. I give the sum of one thousand pounds, free of legacy duty, to Miss Ellen Lawless Ternan, late of Houghton Place, Ampthill Square, in the county of Middlesex.
In connection with this, read Mr. John Bigelow’s careless jottings made some fifteen years before. Remember the Miss “Teman,” about whose name he was not quite certain; the Hogarth sisters’ dislike of her; and the mysterious figure in the background of the novelist’s later life. Then consider the first bequest in his will, which leaves a substantial sum to one who was neither a relative nor a subordinate, but—may we assume—more than an ordinary friend?
I remember once, when editing an elaborate work on literature, that the publisher called me into his private office. After the door was closed, he spoke in tones of suppressed emotion.
“Why is it,” said he, “that you have such a lack of proportion? In the selection you have made I find that only two pages are given to George P. Morris, while you haven’t given E. P. Roe any space at all! Yet, look here—you’ve blocked out fifty pages for Balzac, who was nothing but an immoral Frenchman!”