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Senate House Library

Longley Collection

The Collection 

Subject: English literature (Charles Dickens) 

The Longley Collection comprises 51 volumes (29 titles), related to the actress Ellen Lawless Ternan (1839-1914; see ODNB), described as the most celebrated and most mysterious of Charles Dickens’s love affairs. Most of the books, published between 1799 and 1965, are works of fiction, notably early books for children and several novels by Ellen’s sister Frances Eleanor Trollope (1835-1913). At least two of the earlier books definitely belonged to Ellen Ternan, bearing her initials and the date on the title page; the others can be assumed to have done so. Several of Frances Trollope’s works are inscribed by the author to various relatives, including Ternan’s other sister, Maria. The collection also contains books about Dickens which refer to Ellen Ternan, and an autobiography of the actress Ellen Terry. 

The books were acquired by the archivist and Dickens scholar Katharine Longley (1920-2009), who over many years researched Ellen Ternan and her family in a desire to prove that the relationship between Dickens and Ternan as platonic. Longley presented the books with her papers to Senate House Library some time after 1982. The books are an appendix to Longley’s papers, which are a major biographical source for work on Dickens.


For an overview of the library, do a mixed classmark search on [Longley]. The collection is held off-site and material requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.  

Related material 

Further reading 

Michael Slater, ‘Obituaries: Katharine Mary Longley’, The Dickensian, 105 (Dec. 2009), 285 

The Ternan Family Papers and Katharine Longley Papers at Senate House Library.
Watch the video: The Ternan Family Papers and Katharine Longley Papers at Senate House Library: An introduction by Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London.