rochdickensOn Friday 7th February – Charles Dickens’ 202nd birthday – members of the Rochester & Chatham Dickens Fellowship attended the first local evening screening of the film “The Invisible Woman”. The film is currently being shown at the Odeon Cinema in Dickens World Leisure Complex, Chatham. The film is based on the book by Claire Tomalin telling the life story of Ellen (Nelly) Turnan. The controversy from a Dickensian scholar’s point of view is a tantalising question: did Charles Dickens have a platonic relationship with the young actress or a love affair? There is also controversy over his separation from his wife, the mother of his ten children – and indeed whether Ellen Turnan had a child by Charles Dickens (or even more than one!). I am sure that Dickens scholars will continue arguing over this for years to come.

Whatever the truth about Ellen Turnan and Charles Dickens, members enjoyed the film and found it well acted and produced. There is local interest in the film: Chatham and Rochester get a mention and part of the story relates to Gad’s Hill Place in Higham. A lesser-known fact is that Ellen (Nelly) Turnan was born on March 3rd 1839 in Maidstone Road, Rochester and baptised later that month in St Nicholas’ Church.

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