English Lamp Posts Top Victorian Blog Award Winner 2011

Brought to you by English Lamp Posts

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Maria (Beadnell) Winter and Little Dorrit Part 1

Dickens met the beautiful Maria Beadnell in 1829 and immediately fell in love with her.  A young, shorthand court reporter, Dickens was two years younger than Maria, whose parents were suspicious of the poor boy from a family without rank.  Maria's father also found out that Dickens' father had been a prisoner in the Marshalsea, making Charles an even more unattractive mate for the Beadnell daughter.  The love affair last four years, but Maria begins to tired of Dickens about two years in and begins to discourage his attentions.  Ultimately, Dickens ends his unproductive pursuits, vowing never to recover, though he met his future wife two years later.

Dickens based the character Dora Spenlow in David Copperfield on Maria Beadnell.  In the novel, Dora is the love interest of the youthful titular character and eventually marries him, though she dies after a miscarriage soon after marriage.  Dickens never forgot Maria, who later married a poor sawmill manager, likely regretting her rejection of the man who would become England's most famous writer of his day.  In what was a shock to Dickens, Maria wrote him a letter out of nowhere in February 1855, after more than 20 years of silence.  Dickens is immediately captivated and the olden feelings began to be rekindled.  Dickens wants to arrange a quiet dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Winter and his own wife, though it becomes obvious, reading his correspondence with Maria, that he still has feelings for her.

There are things that I have locked up in my own breast and that I never thought to bring out any more.  But when I find myself writing to you again "all to yourself," how can I forbear to let as much light in upon them as will shew you that they are there still!

Dickens kept the correspondence a secret from his wife, writing to Maria,

No one but myself has the slightest knowledge of my correspondence, I may add in this place.  I could be nowhere addressed with stricter privacy or in more absolute confidence than at my own house.

After Maria suggests a clandestine meeting, Dickens explains how fame has erased his anonymity:

I am a dangerous man to be seen with, for so many people know me.  At St. Paul's the Dean and the whole chapter know me.  In Paternoster Row of all places, the very tiles and chimney pots know me.

Though Maria warned Dickens that she was no longer the beauty she once was but was now "toothless, fat, old, and ugly," Dickens refused to believe it but was shocked by her appearance upon meeting her 25 February 1855.  In addition to being fat and old, Maria had developed (or retained) a silly giggle and a discursive habit that repulsed Dickens.  The Maria of his youth was gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails