Born Catherine Dickens and nicknamed Kate or Katey, she was Charles Dickens' youngest surviving daughter, and according to her siblings her father's favourite child; he named her after his friend William Charles Macready. As a girl, she also bore the nickname "Lucifer Box" for her hot temper.
She travelled widely with her family as a child, and performed in her father's elaborate amateur theatrical productions — including the 1857 performance of Wilkie Collins's The Frozen Deep before Queen Victoria. Kate Dickens studied at Bedford College, the first institution of higher learning for women in Britain.
Her first husband was the artist and author Charles Allston Collins, younger brother of Wilkie Collins; they married in 1860. After his death from cancer in 1873, Kate married another artist, Charles Edward Perugini. She became a successful painter of portraits and genre paintings, sometimes collaborating with Perugini. She started exhibiting her works at the Royal Academy shows in 1877. The Peruginis were active in artistic society, and maintained friendships with J. M. Barrie and George Bernard Shaw among other celebrities of their era. Like her first husband, she pursued literary endeavors along with her painting.
She and Perugini had one child, Leonard Ralph Dickens Perugini; he died on 24 July 1876, at the age of seven months. Kate was the primary source of biographer Gladys Storey for her book Dickens and Daughter, in the process revealing Dickens's affair with the actress Ellen Ternan.
- Brian Stewart & Mervyn Cutten (1997). The Dictionary of Portrait Painters in Britain up to 1920. Antique Collectors' Club. ISBN 1 85149 173 2.
- Hilary Margo Schor (1999). Dickens and the Daughter of the House. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Lucinda Hawksley, Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens's Artist Daughter, New York, Doubleday, 2006.
- Kate Dickens Perugini, "Dickens as a Lover of Art and Artists," The Magazine of Art, Vol. 27 (January and February 1903).
- Kate Perugini, The Comedy of Charles Dickens: A Book of Chapters and Extracts Taken from the Writer's Novels, London, Chapman and Hall Ltd., 1906.
- Kate Dickens Perugini, "Edwin Drood and the Last Days of Charles Dickens," Pall Mall Magazine, Vol. 37 (1906).
- Christopher Wood, Victorian Painting, Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1999; pp. 227, 274-5.
- Gladys Storey, Dickens and Daughter, London, Frederick Muller Ltd., 1939; reprinted New York, Haskell House, 1971.
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