On the bicentenary of his birth, this short account of the emotional life of Charles Dickens examines his relationships with some of the women to whom he was closest. They include the mother who failed to recognise his early promise; the young woman who spurned him before he was famous; the wife he cast aside in middle age; the benefactress for whom he managed a house for 'fallen women'; and the actress, less than half his age, with whom he spent his final years. Each woman casts light on a different aspect of Dickens's personality. But they were united by a common theme: whatever they gave him, it was rarely enough to satisfy Dickens's sense of entitlement.

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