Charles Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters. Literary historian regarded him as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
Charles Dickens Early Life
- Charles Dickens born on February 7, 1812, was the son of John and Elizabeth Dickens. John Dickens was a clerk in the Naval Pay Office.
- Charles spent time outdoors, but also read voraciously, including the picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding, as well as Robinson Crusoe and Gil Blas. He read and reread The Arabian Nights and the Collected Farces of Elizabeth Inchbald.
- He retained poignant memories of childhood, helped by an excellent memory of people and events, which he used in his writing.
- His father’s brief work as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office afforded him a few years of private education, first at a dame school, and then at a school run by William Giles, a dissenter, in Chatham.
- In 1824, The family had left Kent amidst rapidly mounting debts, and living beyond his means, John Dickens was forced by his creditors into the Marshalsea debtors’ prison in Southwark, London in 1824. His wife and youngest children joined him there, as was the practice at the time
- When the family finances were put at least partly to rights and his father was released. However mother of the twelve-year-old Dickens, already scarred psychologically by the experience, further insistence that he continue to work at the factory.
- His father, however, rescued him from that fate. Between 1824 and 1827, Dickens was a day pupil at a school in London.
- Court eventually sent Dickens to the Wellington House Academy in Camden Town. Here, he remained until March 1827, having spent about two years there.
Charles Dickens Professional Career
- In 1829, he became a freelance reporter at Doctor’s Commons Courts.
- In 1830, he met and fell in love with Maria Beadnell, the daughter of a banker. Maria’s parents disapproved of the courtship and ended the relationship by sending her to school in Paris.
- By 1832, Dickens had become a very successful shorthand reporter of Parliamentary debates in the House of Commons, and began work as a reporter for a newspaper. He went to theatres obsessively—he claimed that for at least three years he went to the theatre every single day.
- In 1834, still a newspaper reporter, adopted the soon to be famous pseudonym, “Boz.”
- Boz published first series of sketches published in 1836. Same year Dickens was hired to write short texts to accompany a series of humorous sporting illustrations by Robert Seymour, a popular artist.
Charles Dickens Author & Writer
- On 2 April 1836, after a one-year engagement, and between episodes two and three of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens married Catherine Thomson Hogarth (1816–1879), the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle.
- The Pickwick Papers continued in monthly parts through November 1837, and, to everyone’s surprise, it became an enormous popular success.
- After the success of Pickwick, he embarked on a full-time career as a novelist, producing work of increasing complexity at an incredible rate, although he continued, as well, his journalistic and editorial activities.
- Oliver Twist was begun in 1837, and continued in monthly parts until April 1839. It was in 1837, too, that Catherine’s younger sister Mary, whom Dickens idolised, died. She too would appear, in various guises, in Dickens’s later fiction.
Charles Dickens Successful Writer
- On 22 January 1842, Dickens and his wife arrived in Boston, Massachusetts aboard the RMS Britannia during their first trip to the United States and Canada. Soon after his return to England, Dickens began work on the first of his Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, written in 1843.
- In 1848, Dickens also wrote an autobiographical fragment, directed and acted in a number of amateur theatricals. He published what would be his last Christmas book, The Haunted Man. In December 1849 saw the birth of David Copperfield, which would run through November 1850.
- In 1853, he toured Italy with Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins. He gave, upon his return to England, the first of many public readings from his own works.
- Hard Times began to appear weekly in Household Words in 1854, and continued until August. Dickens’s family spent the summer and the fall in Boulogne.
- In October 1855, they arrived in Paris in October. Dickens began Little Dorrit, which continued in monthly parts until June 1857.
- Dickens fell in love with one of the actresses, Ellen Ternan. His passion for her last the rest of his life.
- Dickens was 45 and Ternan 18 when he made the decision. He went strongly against Victorian convention, to separate from his wife, Catherine, in 1858.
Charles Dickens Later Life
- During this period, whilst pondering a project to give public readings for his own profit. Great Ormond Street Hospital approached Dickens with charitable appeal to help it survive its first major financial crisis. He threw himself into the task, heart and soul.
- Dickens undertook a series of hugely popular and remunerative reading tours. Along with with his journalism, this absorb most of his creative energies for the next decade
- In 1865, an incident occurred which disturbed Dickens greatly, both psychologically and physically. Dickens and Ellen Ternan, returning from a Paris holiday, were badly shaken up in a railway accident in which a number of people were injured.
Charles Dickens Death and Legacy
- On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home after a full day’s work on Edwin Drood. He never regained consciousness, and the next day, five years to the day after the Staplehurst rail crash, he died at Gads Hill Place.
- He was buried at Westminster Abbey on June 14. The last episode of the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood appeared in September.
- Dickens was the most popular novelist of his time, and remains one of the best-known and most-read of English authors.
- His works have never gone out of print. Movie producers adapted his work for the screen since the invention of cinema. At least 200 motion pictures and TV adaptations based on Dickens’s works documented.