A walk to discover Higham, Charles Dickens' adoptive town
Continuing along Forge Lane Street, we reach the Higham Library, which holds a beautiful map dating from 1864, thus ‘coeval’ to the author.
In 1850, he and Lord Bulwer Lytton designed and staged a play with an 18th-century setting, “Not so bad as we seem”. Unfortunately, his wife fell ill, and his daughter suddenly died. From 1855-56 he lived in Paris during the winter, moving to Boulogne in the summer. Meanwhile, relations with his family deteriorated irreparably.
In 1858 he separated from his wife for good, placing an advertisement in the newspapers and accusing her of never being able to look after the children and the family. Nevertheless, Dickens supported her and put a house at her disposal where she could live. Catherine’s sister Georgina came to her aid, and rumours arose that Charles was romantically linked to his sister-in-law.
The unhappiness in Dickens’ marital relationship also becomes apparent when, in 1855, he meets Maria Beadnell, his first love who, although married, seems to fall foul of Charles’ romantic memory of her.
At the end of the 1950s, he performed actual theatrical readings of some of his writings, despite encountering the initial scepticism of his official biographer, John Forster. Thus began the stage performances where Dickens, through monologues, demonstrated his skills as an actor and playwright. The readings are a real success, so much so that the British author will start touring throughout the country, in Europe, and later in America, always meeting with considerable success.