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Nelly Ternan Biography

Although Dickens was wed, the two embarked on a 13-year long relationship, until his death in 1870. Ternan wed in 1876. Ternan expired on April 25, 1914, in Southsea, England. Ellen Lawless Ternan was born into a household of second-generation theatre performers in Rochester, England, on March 3, 1839. She embraced the nickname “Nelly” as a young kid. She also had a younger brother who died as an infant. Nelly’s dad perished at a Bethnal Green mental asylum in 1846. She was only 7 years old at that time.

Following her dad’s passing, Nelly and her sisters continued to tour as an acting troupe by using their mom, Frances Jarman Ternan. Nelly had debuted on the stage in Sheffield, England, when she was only 3 years old. A couple of years after, Nelly took her first adult playing job in a burlesque show in the Haymarket Theatre.

When Nelly was 18 years old, Charles Dickens hired her, as well as her mom and sisters, to play in his Manchester production of The Frozen Deep. Nelly took the part which was initially played by Dickens’s daughter, Kelly. The Ternan family performing troupe gave three performances of The Frozen Deep in the Free Trade Hall. Rather taken with Nelly and her family equally, Dickens became their theatrical patron. With Dickens’s financial support, Nelly Ternan could retire in the stage in 1860.

Even though the 45-year old novelist Dickens was married to Catherine Dickens when he met Ternan, their union was apparently rugged. The father of nine was instantly smitten with all the young performer. The two soon embarked upon an affair that will continue the next 13 years, and which supposedly resulted in Ternan giving birth to Dickens’s stillborn child.

On June 7, 1870, Dickens fell while having dinner together with his sister in law, Georgina Hogarth, at Gad’s Hill Place. He died 24 hours after of an “effusion on the mind,” according to his physician. It bequeathed a sum of 1,000 pounds (equivalent to about $5,590 at the time) to Nelly Ternan.

By 1876, Ternan had moved on in the loss of her lover. She married George Wharton Robinson that year, as well as the couple went on to have two kids, a son named Geoffrey and a daughter called Gladys. Collectively, Ternan and Robinson ran a boys’ school in Margate. In 1886, they needed to sell the school when fiscal difficulty driven Robinson to the idea of a mental breakdown.

In 1907, Nelly had breast cancer surgery and recovered completely, and then observe her husband pass away shortly after. Writer Claire Tomalin’s biography about Ternan and her relationship with Dickens, entitled The Invisible Woman, was released in 1990.

Nelly Ternan Biography