Letters Reveal That Charles Dickens Tried to Have His (Sane) Wife Committed to an Insane Asylum

John & Charles Watkins, Getty Images
John & Charles Watkins, Getty Images

Some new details about the life of novelist Charles Dickens have come to light, and they aren’t exactly flattering. As Smithsonian reports, the Great Expectations author had some not-so-great expectations of his wife, Catherine (Hogarth) Dickens, whom he tried to have committed to a mental institution.

After 10 children and 22 years of marriage, the couple separated in 1858 in one of the most most public ways possible. In a letter that Dickens wrote to his agent at the time, he implied that Hogarth was the one who wanted to leave and live on her own. He also said she labored under a mental disorder and that “she felt herself unfit for the life she had to lead as my wife, and that she would be better far away.” Not long after, the letter was made public—perhaps with the author’s full consent. (It did not, however, mention teen actress Nelly Ternan, with whom the 46-year-old Dickens was allegedly having an affair.)

This was the story on record for many decades, until University of York professor John Bowen recently uncovered a trove of never-before-seen letters from the Theatre Collection at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. The letters had been sent by Edward Dutton Cook, Hogarth’s neighbor after the separation, to his friend William Moy Thomas. Hogarth had confided in Cook in 1879, the year she died.

In what is perhaps the most damning letter, Cook writes, “He [Charles] discovered at last that she had outgrown his liking. She had borne 10 children and had lost many of her good looks, was growing old, in fact. He even tried to shut her up in a lunatic asylum, poor thing! But bad as the law is in regard to proof of insanity he could not quite wrest it to his purpose.”

Bowen said some of the letters were uncomfortable to read. “Biographers and scholars have known for years how badly Dickens behaved at this time, but it now seems that he even tried to bend the law to place his wife and the mother of his children in a lunatic asylum, despite her evident sanity,” Bowen said in a statement. “What I discovered was both detailed and shocking, and to my knowledge, I was the first academic to transcribe and analyze these letters.”

Though it comes a little too late, Hogarth’s side of the story was finally heard. Bowen likened it to many of the shocking stories coming out of Hollywood today, describing it as a “story about the power of elite men to coerce women.”

[h/t Smithsonian]

CBS Is Live-Streaming Its 1969 Coverage of the Apollo 11 Launch Right Now on YouTube

The Saturn V rocket lifts off with the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969.
The Saturn V rocket lifts off with the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Today is the 50th anniversary of the July 16, 1969 launch of the Apollo 11 mission, which resulted in the first Moon landing in history. CBS News is commemorating the momentous event with a YouTube live stream of its special coverage from that day, which you can watch below.

CBS anchor Walter Cronkite brought all the thrill and wonder of the takeoff into the homes of countless Americans, and he also introduced them to three soon-to-be-famous astronauts: former Navy pilot Neil Armstrong, Air Force colonel Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and former Air Force fighter pilot (and experimental test pilot) Michael Collins.

Cronkite chronicled the astronauts’ journey from their 4:15 a.m. breakfast at the command space center to Kennedy Space Center’s launch station 39A, where they boarded the Saturn V rocket. CBS sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun reported from the Florida beach itself, interviewing spectators who were hoping to witness history happen in real time. “I just hope they make it successfully and have no problem," said a visitor from California.

In the final seconds before liftoff, Cronkite counted down, not knowing what the future of the mission would hold.

Tune into the live stream below, or check out the highlights from CBS News here.

[h/t CBS News]

Alan Turing, WWII Codebreaker Who Was Persecuted for Being Gay, Is the New Face of England's £50 Note

Bank of England
Bank of England

The Bank of England has chosen a new person to grace one of its pound sterling notes, the BBC reports. Alan Turing, the computer scientist who lent his code-breaking expertise to the Allied powers in World War II, will soon be the new face of the £50 banknote.

Alan Turing's life story has been the subject of a play, an opera, and the 2014 Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Turing's biggest claim to fame was cracking the Enigma code used by the Nazis to send secret messages. By decrypting the system and interpreting Nazi plans, Turing helped cut World War II short by up to two years, according to one estimate.

Despite his enormous contributions to the war and the field of computer science, Turing received little recognition during his lifetime because his work was classified, and because he was gay: Homosexual activity was illegal in the UK and decriminalized in 1967. He was arrested in 1952 after authorities learned he was in a relationship with another man, and he opted for chemical castration over serving jail time. He died of cyanide poisoning from an apparent suicide in 1954.

Now, decades after punishing him for his sexuality, England is celebrating Turing and his accomplishments by giving him a prominent place on its currency. The £50 note is the least commonly used bill in the country, and it will be the last to transition from paper to polymer. When the new banknote enters circulation by the end of 2021, it will feature a 1951 photograph of Alan Turing along with his quote, "This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be."

Turing beat out a handful of other British scientists for his spot on the £50 note. Other influential figures in the running included Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, and William Herschel.

[h/t BBC]

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