Annal: 1990 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 1990.

Book:The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens

Claire Tomalin

When Ellen Ternan met Charles Dickens, she was 18 and he was 45. She was a hard-working actress in a society that equated her profession with prostitution, or something close to it. Dickens was the most lionized writer in England, the great bard of domestic virtue. Out of their meeting came a love affair that lasted thirteen years and destroyed Dickens’ marriage while effacing Nelly Ternan from the public record. In this tour de force of scholarly reconstruction, the acclaimed biographer of Mary Wollstonecraft and Katherine Mansfield rescues Nelly from the shadows of history and creates a deeply compassionate work that encompasses all those women who were exiled from the warm, well-lighted parlors of Victorian England.

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