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Charles Dickens Timeline

Charles Dickens Timeline

Charles Dickens: Timeline
Charles Dickens, the son of John Dickens and Elizabeth Dickens, was born in Landport (7th June).1812
The Dickens family move to Southsea.1813
John Dickens transferred to London and establishes a home in St Pancras.1814
The Dickens family move to Chatham.1821
John Dickens transferred back to London and establishes a home in Camden Town.1822
John Dickens arrested for debt and imprisoned at Marshalsea Prison in Southwark (February).1824
Charles Dickens employed at the Warren Blacking Factory (9th February).
John Dickens's mother dies and he inherits the sum of £450 (April).1825
John Dickens leaves Marshalsea Prison (May).
John Dickens leaves the Navy Office with a pension of £145.16s.8d. a year.
Charles Dickens is sent to Wellington House Academy.
Dickens family evicted for non-payment of rates and Charles Dickens removed from Wellington House Academy (February)1827
Elizabeth Dickens arranges for her son to work as an office boy at the Ellis & Blackmore law firm in Gray's Inn.1828
Dickens went to work for another solicitor, Charles Molloy, in Chancery Lane (November).
Dickens learns shorthand and becomes a freelance reporter.1829
Dickens falls in love with Maria Beadnell (May).1830
Charles Dickens meets John Forster for the first time.1831
Charles Dickens Dickens begins working for the Mirror of Parliament.
Maria Beadnell breaks off relationship with Dickens.1832
Dickens's first story, A Dinner at Popular Walk, is published in The Monthly Magazine.1833
Dickens meets Catherine Hogarth (February).
Dickens becomes a reporter on the Morning Chronicle (August).
George Hogarth commissions Sketches of London for his newspaper, Evening Chronicle.
Sketches of London begins in the Evening Chronicle (January).
Dickens becomes engaged to Catherine Hogarth (May).
Dickens Sketches by Boz published (8th February).
First episode of The Pickwick Papers published (31st March).
Charles Dickens marries Catherine Hogarth (2nd April).
Mary Hogarth goes to live at Furnival's Inn with Charles and Catherine Dickens.
Dickens’s agrees to edit Bentley's Miscellany (4th November).
John Forster introduces Charles Dickens to William Harrison Ainsworth (25th December).
First number of Bentley's Miscellany published (1st January).
Birth of Charles Culliford Dickens (6th January).
Dickens elected member of the Garrick Club (21st January).
First instalment of Oliver Twist is published in Bentley's Miscellany (31st January)
Mary Hogarth dies suddenly after a visit to the theatre (7th May).
Dickens and family holiday at Broadstairs (August - September).
John Forster introduces Dickens to William Charles Macready (16th June).
Last instalment of The Pickwick Papers published (30th October).
Birth of Mary (Maime) Dickens (6th March).
First instalment of Nicholas Nickleby published (31st March).
Charles Dickens and family holiday on the Isle of Wight (September).
The Pickwick Papers is published in three volumes (9th November).
Dickens begins writing Barnaby Rudge (January).
Dickens relinquishes editorship of Bentley's Miscellany (31st January).
Last instalment of Oliver Twist published (March).
Nicholas Nickleby published in one volume (23rd October).Dickens and family move to 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate (December).
Birth of Kate Macready Dickens (6th December).
First number of Master Humphrey's Clock (4th April).
First instalment of The Old Curiosity Shop published (25th April).
Charles Dickens and family holiday at Broadstairs (June).
Dickens, John Forster and Daniel Maclise visit Rochester (29th June).
Dickens visits his parents in Devon (July).
Dickens family stay at Lawn House, Broadstairs (August-September).
Last instalment of The Old Curiosity Shop (January).
Birth of Walter Landor Dickens (13th February).
Dickens declines invitation by Thomas Talfourd to become the Liberal Party parliamentary candidate for Reading (29th March).
Charles and Catherine Dickens have holiday in Edinburgh (June-July).
Dickens family stay at Lawn House, Broadstairs (August-September).
Dickens undergoes an operation for anal fistula (8th October).
Last instalment of Barnaby Rudge (27th November).
The Old Curiosity Shop published in one volume (15th December).
Charles and Catherine Dickens sail from Liverpool to Boston (4th January).
Dickens speaks on international copyright at Hartford (February).
Dickens criticises slavery in Richmond (March).
Charles and Catherine visit Niagara Falls (May).
Charles and Catherine arrive back in London (1st July).
Georgina Hogarth joins the household (July).
Dickens family stay in Broadstairs (August).
Dickens, John Forster and Daniel Maclise go on holiday to Cornwall (October-November).
First instalment of Martin Chuzzlewit (31st December).
Dickens family stay in Broadstairs (August).
A Christmas Carol is published (19th December).
Birth of Francis (Frank) Dickens (15th January).
Dickens leaves Chapman and Hall for Bradbury & Evans (June).
Martin Chuzzlewit published in one volume (July).
Charles and Catherine Dickens arrive in Rome (30th January)
Georgina Hogarth joins them in Naples (February)
The Dickens’s party are joined in Brussels by Daniel Maclise, Douglas Jerrold and John Forster (June).
Birth of Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens (28th October).
The Cricket on the Hearth published (December).
Dickens publishes the first issue of The Daily News (11th January).
Dickens resigns editorship of The Daily News (9th February).
First instalment of Dombey and Son published (September).
Dickens family arrive in Paris for a three month stay (20th November).
Charley Dickens catches scarlet fever while at King’s College School and his parents return from France to be at his bedside (February).
Birth of Sydney Smith Dickens (18th April).
Charles, Catherine, Charley and Georgina Hogarth holiday in Brighton (May).
The Dickens family holiday at the Royal Albion Hotel, Broadstairs (June-September).
Last instalment of Dombey and Son published (March).
The Haunted Man short story published (19th December).
Charles Dickens, John Forster, Mark Lemon and John Leech visit Norwich (31st December).
Birth of Henry Fielding Dickens (15th January).
First instalment of David Copperfield published (30th April).
Dickens family at Fort House, Broadstairs (July)
Dickens family and friends at Bonchurch, Isle of Wight (August-September).
Dickens outlines his plans to John Forster about his proposed journal Household Words. (7th October).
First issue of Household Words published (30th March).
Charles Dickens and Daniel Maclise have holiday in France (July).
Birth of Dora Dickens (16th August).
David Copperfield published in one volume (December).
Serialization of A Child's History of England begins in Household Words (January).
Catherine Dickens suffers a nervous collapse (March).
John Dickens dies in London (31st March).
Dora Dickens dies at Devonshire Terrace (14th April).
Dickens family at Fort House, Broadstairs (May).
Dickens family move into Tavistock House, Bloomsbury (November).
First instalment of Bleak House (March).
Birth of Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens (13th March).
First volume of A Child's History of England published (December).
Charley Dickens leaves Eton (January).
Last instalment of Bleak House published (September).
Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Augustus Egg, holiday in Italy (October-December).
Second volume of A Child's History of England published (December).
Dickens gives first reading of A Christmas Carol in Birmingham Town Hall (29th December).
Dickens visits the industrial town of Preston (January).
First instalment of Hard Times in Household Words (1st April).
Dickens holidays in Boulogne at the Villa Camp de Droite (June-October).
Last instalment of Hard Times in Household Words (12th August).
Third volume of A Child's History of England published (December).
Dickens spends a fortnight in Paris with Wilkie Collins (February).
Dickens receives a letter from first love, Maria Winter, the former Maria Beadnell (May).
Dickens disappointed by meeting with Maria (May).
Dickens holidays in Folkestone (July).
First instalment of Little Dorrit published (1st December).
Dickens purchases Gad's Hill Place (14th March).
Dickens and family holiday at Boulogne (June-August).
Dickens helps Wilkie Collins write The Frozen Deep (November).
The Frozen Deep performed at Tavistock House for the first time (6th January).
The Dickens family move to Gad's Hill Place (February).
Last instalment of Little Dorrit published (June).
Death of Dickens’s close friend, Douglas Jerrold (4th July).
Walter Landor Dickens leaves for India (20th July).
Dickens meets and falls in love with Ellen Ternan (August).
Charles Dickens separates from Catherine Dickens (May).
Dickens makes a public statement about his relationship with his wife (12th June).
Dickens makes first provincial reading tour that includes 44 stops and 87 readings (2nd August).
Dickens decides to start a new journal, All the Year Round (28th January).
Dickens leases new offices at 11 Wellington Street, Strand (February).
First issue of All the Year Round appears containing the opening instalment of A Tale of Two Cities (30th April).
Last issue of Household Words published (28th May).
Dickens begins second provincial reading tour (10th October).
Last instalment of A Tale of Two Cities published (26th November).
Kate Dickens marries Charles Allston Collins (17th July).
Dickens leaves Tavistock House (July).
Dickens and Georgina Hogarth move into Gad's Hill Place (September).
First instalment of Great Expectations appears in All the Year Round (1st December).
Uncommercial Traveller published in book form (December).
Charles Dickens takes 3 Hanover Terrace, Regent’s Park, as his London base (March).
Last instalment of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round (3rd August).
Dickens begins a long series of provincial readings in Norwich (28th October).
Charley Dickens marries Bessie Evans, daughter of Frederick Evans, his former publisher (19th November).
Dickens takes lease on 16 Hyde Park Gate for three months (February-April).
Georgina Hogarth is seriously ill (March).
Dickens visits Paris with Georgina Hogarth and Mamie Dickens (January).
Death of his mother, Elizabeth Dickens (12th September).
Death of his former friend, William Makepeace Thackeray (24th December).
Death of Walter Landor Dickens (31st December).
Francis Dickens leaves for India (January).
First instalment of Our Mutual Friend published (1st May).
Death of his friend, John Leech (29th October).
Charles Fechter presents Dickens with a Swiss chalet to be erected at Gad's Hill Place (December).
Dickens attacked by pain and lameness in left foot (February).
Dickens takes short holiday in Paris (June).
Dickens and Ellen Ternan in serious railway accident in Staplehurst (9th June).
Last instalment of Our Mutual Friend published (November).
Dickens takes furnished house at 6 Southwick Place, Hyde Park (March).
Death of his friend, Jane Carlyle (21st April)
Dickens begins new series of 50 provincial readings at Liverpool (January)
Dickens ends his tour after suffering from pain and swelling in left foot (14th May).
After receiving a positive report from George Dolby, Dickens telegraphs acceptance of American tour to James Thomas Fields (30th September).
Dickens and Dolby arrive in Boston (19th November).
Dickens writes to John Forster claiming he is making a clear profit of £1,300 a week in his tour of America (2nd December).
Dickens gives first reading in New York City (9th December).
Doctor is called to treat Dickens for his health problems (27th December).
Dickens leaves New York City and sails for England (22nd April).
Edward Bulwer Dickens sails for Australia (September).
Dickens starts a farewell reading tour (5th October).
First reading of the Murder of Nancy (5th January).
Dickens is ordered to abandon his readings by his doctor as he is in danger of suffering from “paralysis” (22nd April).
Dickens begins writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood (July).
Dickens visits Ellen Ternan regularly at Windsor Lodge, Peckham (January).
Dickens begins a series of 12 readings at St. James’s Hall (11th January).
Queen Victoria receives Dickens at Buckingham Palace (9th March).
Dickens gives final reading at St. James’s Hall (15th March).
First instalment of The Mystery of Edwin Drood is published (1st April).
Dickens drives from Gad's Hill Place to Cobham Park with Georgina Hogarth (7th June).
Dickens dies of cerebral haemorrhage (9th June).
Dickens is buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey (14th June).
Last instalment of The Mystery of Edwin Drood published (September).

Charles Dickens Book List – The Novels, Novellas and Short Stories of Charles Dickens

Last Updated on February 8, 2021

Wondering what books Dickens wrote? He was the author of 15 novels. (However, one of those is incomplete.) He also wrote short stories, essays, articles and novellas.

Note that A Christmas Carol isn’t included in the list of novels. Because of its length, it’s classified as a novella.

Here’s a list of all Dickens’s novels and a partial listing of his other work.

The Real Reason Charles Dickens Wrote A Christmas Carol

A fter a particularly bleak year, millions in the English-speaking world and beyond will seek some comfort by watching a converted miser in a nightshirt, skipping about as light as a feather. &ldquoWhoop! Hallo! &hellipWhat’s to-day my fine fellow?&rdquo

Published 173 years ago this month, Charles Dickens&rsquo A Christmas Carol was an instant bestseller, followed by countless print, stage and screen productions. Victorians called it &ldquoa new gospel,&rdquo and reading or watching it became a sacred ritual for many, without which the Christmas season cannot materialize.

But A Christmas Carol&rsquos seemingly timeless transcendence hides the fact that it was very much the product of a particular moment in history, its author meaning to weigh in on specific issues of the day. Dickens first conceived of his project as a pamphlet, which he planned on calling, &ldquoAn Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man&rsquos Child.&rdquo But in less than a week of thinking about it, he decided instead to embody his arguments in a story, with a main character of pitiable depth. So what might have been a polemic to harangue, instead became a story for which audiences hungered.

Dickens set out to write his pamphlet-turned-book in spring 1843, having just read government report on child labor in the United Kingdom. The report took the form of a compilation of interviews with children&mdashcompiled by a journalist friend of Dickens&mdashthat detailed their crushing labors.

Dickens read the testimony of girls who sewed dresses for the expanding market of middle class consumers they regularly worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, rooming&mdashlike Martha Cratchit&mdashabove the factory floor. He read of 8-year-old children who dragged coal carts through tiny subterranean passages over a standard 11-hour workday. These were not exceptional stories, but ordinary. Dickens wrote to one of the government investigators that the descriptions left him &ldquostricken.&rdquo

This new, brutal reality of child labor was the result of revolutionary changes in British society. The population of England had grown 64% between Dickens&rsquo birth in 1812 and the year of the child labor report. Workers were leaving the countryside to crowd into new manufacturing centers and cities. Meanwhile, there was a revolution in the way goods were manufactured: cottage industry was upended by a trend towards workers serving as unskilled cogs laboring in the pre-cursor of the assembly line, hammering the same nail or gluing the same piece&mdashas an 11-year-old Dickens had to do&mdashhour after hour, day after day.

More and more, employers thought of their workers as tools as interchangeable as any nail or gluepot. Workers were becoming like commodities: not individual humans, but mere resources, their value measured to the ha-penny by how many nails they could hammer in an hour. But in a time of dearth&mdashthe 1840s earned the nickname &ldquoThe Hungry &lsquo40s&rdquo&mdashthe poor took what work they could arrange. And who worked for the lowest wages? Children.

Popular theories about how&mdashor whether&mdashto help the poor often made things worse. The first was the widespread sense that poor people tended to be so because they were lazy and immoral, and that helping them would only encourage their malingering. If they were to be helped, it should be under conditions so awful as to discouraged people from seeking that help. The new workhouses were seen as the perfect solution&mdashwhere families were split up, food was minimal and work painful. “Those who are badly off,&rdquo says the unreformed Scrooge, &ldquomust go there.&rdquo

Associated with this concept were the ideas of Rev. Thomas Malthus, who cautioned against intervening when people were hungry because it would only lead to an untenable population size. Better that the poor should starve and thus &ldquodecrease the surplus population.&rdquo

If Dickens found these solutions cruel, what did he offer? Friedrich Engels read the same report on child labor that Dickens did and, with his collaborator Karl Marx, envisioned an eventual revolution. Dickens was very much an anti-revolutionary. In fact, he implied that revolutionary was the fearsome consequence of not solving the problem some other way.

&ldquoThis boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.&rdquo

Thomas Paine, in the foregoing generation, had argued in Rights of Man for a kind of system of welfare, including tax credits for help raising children, old age pensions and national disability insurance. But Dickens wasn&rsquot a &ldquosystems&rdquo thinker, nor was he proto-socialist.

Yet what Dickens did propose in A Christmas Carol, which he scribbled out in less than two months in the fall of 1843&mdashintending it, in his words, as a &ldquosledge hammer&rdquo blow&mdashwas still radical, in that it rejected the &ldquomodern&rdquo ideas about work and the economy.

What he wrote was that employers are responsible for the well-being of their employees. Their workers are not of value only to the extent to which they contribute to a product for the cheapest possible labor cost. They are of value as &ldquofellow-passengers to the grave,&rdquo in the words of Scrooge&rsquos nephew, &ldquoand not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.&rdquo Employers owe their employees as human beings&mdashno better, but no worse, than themselves.

And, yes, that might mean &ldquoa prize Turkey&rdquo at Christmas. (Dickens could not resist a description of food in sensuous detail.) But the real salvation that Scrooge gives to the Cratchit family is a raise.

As Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past watch Tim, his father holding his lame hand, the miser pleads, &ldquosay he will be spared.&rdquo The ghost reminds readers of Scrooge&rsquos Malthusian quote. &ldquoIf he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.&rdquo

&ldquoOh God!&rdquo the ghost growls, &ldquoto hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!&rdquo In other words, Dickens reminded his 19th-century readers&mdashand today&rsquos&mdashnot to mistake their good fortune of landing in a high place for their worth.

Historians explain how the past informs the present

John Broich is an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University where he teaches British Empire history.

Novels from The Pickwick Papers to Martin Chuzzlewit

His writing during these prolific years was remarkably various and, except for his plays, resourceful. Pickwick began as high-spirited farce and contained many conventional comic butts and traditional jokes like other early works, it was manifestly indebted to the contemporary theatre, the 18th-century English novelists, and a few foreign classics, notably Don Quixote. But, besides giving new life to old stereotypes, Pickwick displayed, if sometimes in embryo, many of the features that were to be blended in varying proportions throughout his fiction: attacks, satirical or denunciatory, on social evils and inadequate institutions topical references an encyclopaedic knowledge of London (always his predominant fictional locale) pathos a vein of the macabre a delight in the demotic joys of Christmas a pervasive spirit of benevolence and geniality inexhaustible powers of character creation a wonderful ear for characteristic speech, often imaginatively heightened a strong narrative impulse and a prose style that, if here overdependent on a few comic mannerisms, was highly individual and inventive. Rapidly improvised and written only weeks or days ahead of its serial publication, Pickwick contains weak and jejune passages and is an unsatisfactory whole—partly because Dickens was rapidly developing his craft as a novelist while writing and publishing it. What is remarkable is that a first novel, written in such circumstances, not only established him overnight and created a new tradition of popular literature but also survived, despite its crudities, as one of the best-known novels in the world.

His self-assurance and artistic ambitiousness appeared in Oliver Twist, where he rejected the temptation to repeat the successful Pickwick formula. Though containing much comedy still, Oliver Twist is more centrally concerned with social and moral evil (the workhouse and the criminal world) it culminates in Bill Sikes’s murdering Nancy and Fagin’s last night in the condemned cell at Newgate. The latter episode was memorably depicted in an engraving by George Cruikshank the imaginative potency of Dickens’s characters and settings owes much, indeed, to his original illustrators (Cruikshank for Sketches by “Boz” and Oliver Twist, “Phiz” [Hablot K. Browne] for most of the other novels until the 1860s). The currency of his fiction owed much, too, to its being so easy to adapt into effective stage versions. Sometimes 20 London theatres simultaneously were producing adaptations of his latest story, so even nonreaders became acquainted with simplified versions of his works. The theatre was often a subject of his fiction, too, as in the Crummles troupe in Nicholas Nickleby. This novel reverted to the Pickwick shape and atmosphere, though the indictment of the brutal Yorkshire schools (Dotheboys Hall) continued the important innovation in English fiction seen in Oliver Twist—the spectacle of the lost or oppressed child as an occasion for pathos and social criticism. This was amplified in The Old Curiosity Shop, where the death of Little Nell was found overwhelmingly powerful at the time, though a few decades later it became a byword for what would be referred to, broadly, as “Victorian sentimentality.” In Barnaby Rudge he attempted another genre, the historical novel. Like his later attempt in this kind, A Tale of Two Cities, it was set in the late 18th century and presented with great vigour and understanding (and some ambivalence of attitude) the spectacle of large-scale mob violence.

To create an artistic unity out of the wide range of moods and materials included in every novel, with often several complicated plots involving scores of characters, was made even more difficult by Dickens’s writing and publishing them serially. In Martin Chuzzlewit he tried “to resist the temptation of the current Monthly Number, and to keep a steadier eye upon the general purpose and design” (1844 Preface). Its American episodes had, however, been unpremeditated (he suddenly decided to boost the disappointing sales by some America-baiting and to revenge himself against insults and injuries from the American press). A concentration on “the general purpose and design” was more effective in the next novel, Dombey and Son (1846–48), though the experience of writing the shorter, and unserialized, Christmas books had helped him obtain greater coherence.

After receiving a copy of Mayall's daguerreotype (c1849), the novelist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) wrote in 1871: " We have just got a photograph of Dickens, taken when he was writing, or had just written, 'David Copperfield' - a satisfactory refutation of that keepsakey, impossible face which Maclise gave him, and which has been engraved for the 'Life' (A biography of Charles Dickens by John Forster).

The author William Makepeace Thackery (1811-1863), writing in 1840 under the pseudonym of Michael Angelo Titmarsh made these comments about the Maclise portrait of Dickens:

" Look, at the portrait of Mr. Dickens, well arranged as a picture, good in colour, and light and shadow, and as a likeness perfectly amazing a looking-glass could not render a better facsimile. Here we have the real identical man Dickens : the artist must have understood the inward Boz as well as the outward before he made this admirable representation of him. What cheerful intelligence there is about the man's eyes and large forehead ! The mouth is too large and full, too eager and active, perhaps the smile is very sweet and generous ."

George Washington Putnam (1812-1896) who served as Charles Dickens' secretary during his stay in America, provided an eye-witness account of how the sculptor Henry Dexter modelled Dickens' head:

"Alexander's picture and Dexter's bust of Dickens should be exhibited at this time, that those who never saw him in his young days may know exactly how he looked. The bust by Dexter has the rare merit of action, and in every respect faithfully represents the features, attitude, and look of Charles Dickens." G. W. Putnam George Washington Putnam (1812-1896)

"He is a gay, free and easy character-a fine bright face blue eyes, long dark hair, and withal a slight dash of the Dick Swiveller in him." Henry Wadsorth Longfellow on meeting Charles Dickens in Boston in 1842. Dick Swiveller is an amiable character in Dickens' novel "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1840-1841)

"He is young and handsome, has a mellow, beautiful eye, fine brow, and abundant hair. His mouth is large, and his smile so bright it seemed to shed light and happiness all about him. His manner is easy negligent but not elegant. His dress was foppish in fact, he was overdressed, yet his garments were worn so easily they appeared to be a necessary part of him. He had a dark coat, with lighter pantaloons a black waistcoat, embroidered with coloured flowers and about his neck, covering his white shirt-front, was a black neck-cloth, also embroidered in colours, in which were placed two large diamond pins connected by a chain a gold watch-chain, and a large red rose in his button-hole, completed his toilet."

[ABOVE] Charles Dickens represented as 'Titania' comforting 'Bottom' in a parody of a scene from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. The figure of 'Bottom' represents The Daily News, a newspaper founded in 1846 by Dickens, who also served as the paper's editor in the early months of 1846. This cartoon accompanied a satirical verse published on 14th February 1846.

[ABOVE] Charles Dickens as depicted in a portrait by the Newcastle artist Stephen Humble (1812-1858) . Although clean shaven for most of the 1840s, Charles Dickens did occasionally experiment with growing facial hair. In a letter from Italy in 1844, Dickens He wrote to his friend Daniel Maclise: "The moustaches are glorious, glorious. I have cut them shorter, and trimmed them a little at the ends to improve their shape. They are charming, charming. Without them, life would be a blank".

[ABOVE] Another caricature of Charles Dickens sketched in the mid or late 1840s by the humorous artist Richard Doyle (1824-1883). The novelist is still clean-shaven, but his receding hair has been cut shorter so it no longer completely covers his ears. Doyle's caricatures are an antidote to the flattering portraits produced by Dickens' close friend Daniel Maclise.

"I am happy to say that the 'little piece of business between the Sun and myself' came off with great success. I took Mr Stone * with me . ".

Charles Dickens in a letter to Angela Burdett-Coutts, dated 23rd December 1852

"I cannot resist the temptation I feel to send you the result of the interview between myself and the Sun. I am so anxious that you should like it if you can. It came home last night, and Mr. Stone * has been prowling about it and hovering round it this morning with such intense satisfaction, that I suppose it must have something good in it. I don't pretend to such a knowledge of my own face, as I claim to have of other people's faces"

Charles Dickens in a letter to Angela Burdett-Coutts, dated 25th December 1852

* Mr Stone was Frank Stone (1800-1859), an artist who had known Charles Dickens since 1838. When Charles Dickens visited the photographic studio in December 1852, Dickens was renting part of Tavistock House, Frank Stone's family home. After Frank Stone died suddenly in 1859, at the age of fifty-nine, Dickens supported his late friend's family, recommending Frank's son Marcus Stone (1840-1921) to his publishers so that the young artist could find work as an illustrator. Marcus Stone later illustrated later editions of two of Dickens' novels - "Great Expectations" and "Our Mutual Friend"

An artist named William Boxall (1800-1879) began a portrait of Charles Dickens at the end of the 1850, but, apparently, the painting was abandoned. (Charles Dickens mentions posing for William Boxall in letters written in December 1850). About 8 years later, Dickens explained to the artist William Powell Frith, who was about to paint his own portrait of the novelist, the reason why he had stopped posing for Boxall:

" Well, I sat a great deal and the picture seemed to me to get worse - sometimes it was like Ben Caunt (a hulking, bare-knuckle boxing champion) , - then a resemblance to Greenacre (James Greenacre, a notorious murderer who had been executed in 1837 for killing and dismembering his wife) . At last, by Jove, I found I was growing like it! - I thought it time to retire, and that picture will never will never be finished if it depends upon any more sittings from me" . Frith believed that Boxall's portrait remained unfinished and was later destroyed.

[ABOVE] A "mock-up" incorporating a duplicate photograph of Charles Dickens to give an idea of how John Mayall's daguerreotype portrait of Dickens was later used as a a stereoscopic slide. A stereoscopic portrait of Charles Dickens was apparently exhibited by John Mayall at the Photographic Society's exhibition in London in January 1855.


On 4th October 1856, in a letter to John E. Mayall, Charles Dickens turned down the photographer's invitation to sit for a photographic portrait: "I fear it will not be in my power to sit - I have so much to do and such a disinclination to multiply my 'counterfeit presentments' - but I am not the less sensible of your valuable offer."

[LEFT] Charles Dickens , sporting a goatee beard, pictured in 1857 stretched out on the grass in front of an assembled group of friends, colleagues and relatives.

In December 1856, Charles Dickens confided to William Charles Kent that he had tentatively agreed to sit for three professional photographers, yet went on to write: "But I assure you, I consider myself almost as unlikely to go through these three conditional achievements as I am to go to China".

Below, is a letter written in December 1856 by Charles Dickens to the critic and poet William Charles Kent (1823-1902 ) declining the invitation to be photographed by a professional photographer. It appears that William Kent had suggested that the famous novelist should have his likeness taken by the photographer Mr Watkins (probably George Herbert Watkins). Kent's request might have been connected with Herbert Fry's attempt to collect together a "National Gallery of Photographic Portraits" in 1856. (See entry on the right)

" I cannot leave your letter unanswered, because I am really anxious that you should understand why I cannot comply with your request.

Scarcely a week passes without my receiving requests from various quarters to sit for likenesses, to be taken by all the processes ever invented. Apart from my having an invincible objection to the multiplication of my countenance in the shop-windows, I have not, between my avocations and my needful recreation, the time to comply with these proposals. At this moment there are three cases out of a vast number, in which I have said: "If I sit at all, it shall be to you first, to you second, and to you third". But I assure you, I consider myself almost as unlikely to go through these three conditional achievements as I am to go to China. Judge when I am likely to get to Mr. Watkins! "

Letter to William Charles Kent (Christmas Eve, 1856)

A number of the celebrities whom Herbert Fry approached declined his invitation to take part in his photographic project. (Charles Dickens appears to be one of many who refused to be photographed - see Dickens' letter to William Charles Kent written on 24th December 1856, shown left).

A number of photographic portraits were taken of some of the leading personalities of the day by (George) Herbert Watkins of 179 Regent Street, London. From March or April, 1857, Herbert Fry issued 16 prints under the title of "Herbert Fry's National Gallery of Photographic Portraits". (Number 1 was a photographic portrait of Lord Palmerston which, together with a biography written by Herbert Fry, was priced at 4 shillings). Other photographic portraits by Herbert Watkins which were published by Herbert Fry between 1857 and 1858 included the writer and poet Walter Savage Landor, the veteran soldier Sir Colin Campbell and the Reverend Connop Thirlwall, Bishop of St David's.

A selection of the prints in Herbert Fry's series National Gallery of Photographic Portraits were reviewed The Athenaeum journal on 29th May 1858.

When Herbert Fry's project of creating a "National Gallery of Photographic Portraits" collapsed, the photographer Herbert Watkins continued to issue his portraits of famous men as albumen prints and later as "celebrity cartes-de-visite".

[ABOVE] An advertisement for an engraved print of "Charles Dickens, Esq., the Popular Author, from a photograph by MAYALL, engraved on Steel by D. J. Pound", which appeared in The Athenaeum journal on 9th October 1858. Presented with an issue of the Illustrated News of the World and featured as No. 36 in John Mayall's "National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Personages". According to Mayall's advertisement, the Charles Dickens portrait alone was worth 2s 6d, but could be bought for 6d, together with a "Memoir" of Dickens.

On 4th October 1856, Dickens had turned down John Mayall's invitation to sit for a photographic portrait, but in the same letter suggested that the photographer might like to take some pictures of his dramatic group performing scenes from a play.

Victorian Era Timeline

It was the time of the world’s first Industrial Revolution, political reform and social change, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, a railway boom and the first telephone and telegraph. But the Victorian Era—the 63-year period from 1837-1901 that marked the reign of England’s Queen Victoria𠅊lso saw a demise of rural life as cities rapidly grew and expanded, long and regimented factory hours, the start of the Crimean War and Jack the Ripper.

Victoria, who ascended the throne at age 18 following the death of her uncle, William IV, is Britain’s second-longest reigning monarch (surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II). At just 4-feet-11-inches tall, her rule during one of Britain’s greatest eras saw the country serving as the world’s biggest empire, with one-fourth of the global population owing allegiance to the queen.

Here is a timeline of innovations and events that helped define the Victorian Era.

One of the first photographs for which Queen Victoria ever posed, circa 1854.

Aug. 1, 1834: The British empire abolishes slavery, and more than 800,000 slaves in the British Caribbean are freed. The government provides damages to slave owners, but nothing to formerly enslaved people.

June 20, 1837: Queen Victoria takes the crown at the age of 18. The granddaughter of King George III, her father died when she was just 8 months old, and her three uncles also died, putting her first in line as heir to the throne.

July 25, 1837: The first electric telegraph is sent between English inventor William Fothergill Cooke and scientist Charles Wheatstone, who went on to found The Electric Telegraph Company.

May 8, 1838: The People’s Charter, the result of a political and social reform protest movement, calls for a more democratic system including six points: the right to vote for men age 21 and older no property qualification to run for Parliament annual elections equal representation payment for members of Parliament and vote by secret ballot.

Entrance to the locomotive engine house during the construction of the London & Birmingham Railway. 

Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Sept. 17, 1838: The first modern railroad line, the London-Birmingham Railway, opens, starting the steam-powered railway boom and revolutionizing travel.

Feb. 10, 1840: Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, her first cousin. As queen, she was the one to propose. During their 21 years of marriage (until Albert died of typhoid in 1861) the couple had nine children.

May 1, 1840: The Penny Black, the world’s first postage stamp sold for one penny, is released in Britain, featuring a profile portrait of Queen Victoria. More than 70 millions letters are sent within the next year, a number tripled in two years. It’s soon copied in other countries, and the stamp is used for 40 years.

English novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/Getty Images

Dec. 19, 1843: Charles Dickens, one of the era’s greatest writers, publishes A Christmas Carol. Other works from the author during this period: Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby, among others.

September 1845: Ireland’s potato crop begins to rot, causing the four-year Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, that lead to 1 million deaths and caused 1 million people to emigrate from the country, landing in various cities throughout North America and Great Britain.

May 1, 1851: The brainchild of Prince Albert, the Great Exhibition opens in London’s Crystal Palace, with 10,000-plus exhibitors displaying the world’s technological wonders𠅏rom false teeth to farm machinery to telescopes. Six million visitors attend what would become the first World’s Fair, before it closes in October.

Dec. 24, 1853: The Vaccination Act makes it mandatory for children born after Aug. 1, 1853, to be vaccinated against smallpox. Parents failing to comply are fined or imprisoned.

March 28, 1854: France and Britain declare war on Russia, launching the Crimean War, which largely surrounds the protection of the rights of minority Christians in the Ottoman Empire. History’s most famous nurse, Florence Nightingale, helps reduce the death count by two-thirds by improving unsanitary conditions.

A first edition of Charles Darwin&aposs &aposOn The Origin Of The Species&apos in the Rare Books Room at the Natural History Museum in London. 

David Parry/PA Images/Getty Images

Nov. 24, 1859: The controversial On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin is published, presenting his theory of natural selection and questioning the theory of creation.

Dec. 9, 1868: Liberal William Gladstone defeats Conservative Benjamin Disraeli to become prime minister, a position he held for four terms. His legacy includes reform for Ireland, establishing an elementary education program and instituting secret ballot voting.

March 7, 1876: Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell is awarded a patent on his invention of the telephone, and, three days later, famously makes the first phone call to Thomas Watson, his assistant.

May 1, 1876: India, which has been under British rule since 1858, declares Queen Victoria empress, under direction of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Aug.-Nov. 1888: An unknown killer, named Jack the Ripper, murders and mutilates five prostitutes in London.

Jan. 22, 1901: Queen Victoria dies on the Isle of Wight at age 81, ending the Victorian Era. She is succeeded by Edward VII, her eldest son, who reigned until his death in 1910.

Charles Dickens and Cast of The Frozen Deep (1857)

Frederic Ouvry’s invitation to July garden party at his home in Fulham Green, London is he insinuates that guests would gather with two celebrities: Albert Smith, the popular lecturer of “The Glaciers of Mont Blanc” and Charles Dickens who was producing and acting in The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins. Though neither of their names appears, the joke was obvious.

However, in the obligatory party photograph, Dickens is the gathering star, and Smith is relegated to the second row. The playwright Wilkie Collins is standing in the second row (right). The rest of the crowd are either Dickens’s friends or The Frozen Deep’s cast members, including two of Dickens’s children Charles and Mary and a sister-in-law Helen Hogarth.

Among those cast members missing are the professional actors Mrs. Francis Ternan and her daughters Maria and Ellen, engaged for the August performances in Manchester. If no one else missed them, perhaps Dickens did, for he was soon to be enthralled with Ellen. Perhaps the Ternans’s absence was a necessary caution.

The Frozen Deep playbill for the August 1857 production at Free Trade Hall, Manchester.

* Frederic Ouvry was Dickens’ solicitor. Albert Richard Smith was a celebrity famous for his travel lecture series about Mont Blanc. He had no association with The Frozen Deep, but his brother Arthur was engaged as road manager for Dickens’s lecture tour scheduled for spring 1858. Ouvry might have hosted the party so that Dickens might get some advice from Smith when he was anxious about the forthcoming tour.

Featured Image: Francisco Berger’s souvenir photograph is the only record of the party that survives. (He’s in the second row third from right.) He remembered wrongly that the party was at Albert Smith’s home. The photographer is unknown. London: National Portrait Gallery.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens grew up near the Foundling Hospital and was a supporter of Thomas Coram’s Hospital for abandoned and destitute children.

He was so moved by the stories of the children helped by Coram that he raised funds and wrote about the Foundling Hospital in some of his most famous works.

Dickens wrote of the Hospital:

“Nineteen years after good Captain Coram’s heart has been so touched by the exposure of children, living, dying, and dead, in his daily walks, one wing of the existing building was completed and admission given to the first score of little blanks (foundling children).”

Dickens raised awareness of the Foundling Hospital through his work. In 1837 he moved to Doughty Street, near to the Foundling Hospital, where he would go for regular walks through the grounds. There he wrote Oliver Twist about an orphan boy.

The book also contains the character John Brownlow, probably named after the Hospital Secretary at the time, who had himself grown up in its care. Dickens rented a pew in the Hospital Chapel, a vital source of income for the school, and this may have been how he met Brownlow, who collected the pew rents.

In Little Dorrit, the character Tattycoram grows up in the Foundling Hospital. And in his play No Thoroughfare, written in 1867 with Wilkie Collins, the character Walter Wilding grows up in the Hospital’s care before being reclaimed.


Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on 7 February 1812 at 1 Mile End Terrace (now 393 Commercial Road), Landport in Portsea Island (Portsmouth), Hampshire, the second of eight children of Elizabeth Dickens (née Barrow 1789–1863) and John Dickens (1785–1851). His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office and was temporarily stationed in the district. He asked Christopher Huffam, [14] rigger to His Majesty's Navy, gentleman, and head of an established firm, to act as godfather to Charles. Huffam is thought to be the inspiration for Paul Dombey, the owner of a shipping company in Dickens's novel Dombey and Son (1848). [14]

In January 1815, John Dickens was called back to London and the family moved to Norfolk Street, Fitzrovia. [15] When Charles was four, they relocated to Sheerness and thence to Chatham, Kent, where he spent his formative years until the age of 11. His early life seems to have been idyllic, though he thought himself a "very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy". [16]

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. [17] He retained poignant memories of childhood, helped by an excellent memory of people and events, which he used in his writing. [18] 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. [19]

This period came to an end in June 1822, when John Dickens was recalled to Navy Pay Office headquarters at Somerset House and the family (except for Charles, who stayed behind to finish his final term at school) moved to Camden Town in London. [21] The family had left Kent amidst rapidly mounting debts and, living beyond his means, [22] 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. Charles, then 12 years old, boarded with Elizabeth Roylance, a family friend, at 112 College Place, Camden Town. [23] Mrs Roylance was "a reduced [impoverished] old lady, long known to our family", whom Dickens later immortalised, "with a few alterations and embellishments", as "Mrs Pipchin" in Dombey and Son. Later, he lived in a back-attic in the house of an agent for the Insolvent Court, Archibald Russell, "a fat, good-natured, kind old gentleman . with a quiet old wife" and lame son, in Lant Street in Southwark. [24] They provided the inspiration for the Garlands in The Old Curiosity Shop. [25]

On Sundays – with his sister Frances, free from her studies at the Royal Academy of Music – he spent the day at the Marshalsea. [26] Dickens later used the prison as a setting in Little Dorrit. To pay for his board and to help his family, Dickens was forced to leave school and work ten-hour days at Warren's Blacking Warehouse, on Hungerford Stairs, near the present Charing Cross railway station, where he earned six shillings a week pasting labels on pots of boot blacking. The strenuous and often harsh working conditions made a lasting impression on Dickens and later influenced his fiction and essays, becoming the foundation of his interest in the reform of socio-economic and labour conditions, the rigours of which he believed were unfairly borne by the poor. He later wrote that he wondered "how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age". [27] As he recalled to John Forster (from Life of Charles Dickens):

The blacking-warehouse was the last house on the left-hand side of the way, at old Hungerford Stairs. It was a crazy, tumble-down old house, abutting of course on the river, and literally overrun with rats. Its wainscoted rooms, and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rise up visibly before me, as if I were there again. The counting-house was on the first floor, looking over the coal-barges and the river. There was a recess in it, in which I was to sit and work. My work was to cover the pots of paste-blacking first with a piece of oil-paper, and then with a piece of blue paper to tie them round with a string and then to clip the paper close and neat, all round, until it looked as smart as a pot of ointment from an apothecary's shop. When a certain number of grosses of pots had attained this pitch of perfection, I was to paste on each a printed label, and then go on again with more pots. Two or three other boys were kept at similar duty down-stairs on similar wages. One of them came up, in a ragged apron and a paper cap, on the first Monday morning, to show me the trick of using the string and tying the knot. His name was Bob Fagin and I took the liberty of using his name, long afterwards, in Oliver Twist. [27]

When the warehouse was moved to Chandos Street in the smart, busy district of Covent Garden, the boys worked in a room in which the window gave onto the street. Small audiences gathered and watched them at work – in Dickens's biographer Simon Callow's estimation, the public display was "a new refinement added to his misery". [28]

A few months after his imprisonment, John Dickens's mother, Elizabeth Dickens, died and bequeathed him £450. On the expectation of this legacy, Dickens was released from prison. Under the Insolvent Debtors Act, Dickens arranged for payment of his creditors and he and his family left the Marshalsea, [29] for the home of Mrs Roylance.

Charles's mother, Elizabeth Dickens, did not immediately support his removal from the boot-blacking warehouse. This influenced Dickens's view that a father should rule the family and a mother find her proper sphere inside the home: "I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back." His mother's failure to request his return was a factor in his dissatisfied attitude towards women. [30]

Righteous indignation stemming from his own situation and the conditions under which working-class people lived became major themes of his works, and it was this unhappy period in his youth to which he alluded in his favourite, and most autobiographical, novel, David Copperfield: [31] "I had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind, as I hope to go to heaven!" [32]

Dickens was eventually sent to the Wellington House Academy in Camden Town, where he remained until March 1827, having spent about two years there. He did not consider it to be a good school: "Much of the haphazard, desultory teaching, poor discipline punctuated by the headmaster's sadistic brutality, the seedy ushers and general run-down atmosphere, are embodied in Mr Creakle's Establishment in David Copperfield." [32]

Dickens worked at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore, attorneys, of Holborn Court, Gray's Inn, as a junior clerk from May 1827 to November 1828. He was a gifted mimic and impersonated those around him: clients, lawyers and clerks. He went to theatres obsessively: he claimed that for at least three years he went to the theatre every day. His favourite actor was Charles Mathews and Dickens learnt his "monopolylogues" (farces in which Mathews played every character) by heart. [33] Then, having learned Gurney's system of shorthand in his spare time, he left to become a freelance reporter. A distant relative, Thomas Charlton, was a freelance reporter at Doctors' Commons and Dickens was able to share his box there to report the legal proceedings for nearly four years. [34] [35] This education was to inform works such as Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son and especially Bleak House, whose vivid portrayal of the machinations and bureaucracy of the legal system did much to enlighten the general public and served as a vehicle for dissemination of Dickens's own views regarding, particularly, the heavy burden on the poor who were forced by circumstances to "go to law".

In 1830, Dickens met his first love, Maria Beadnell, thought to have been the model for the character Dora in David Copperfield. Maria's parents disapproved of the courtship and ended the relationship by sending her to school in Paris. [36]

In 1832, at the age of 20, Dickens was energetic and increasingly self-confident. [37] He enjoyed mimicry and popular entertainment, lacked a clear, specific sense of what he wanted to become, and yet knew he wanted fame. Drawn to the theatre – he became an early member of the Garrick Club [38] – he landed an acting audition at Covent Garden, where the manager George Bartley and the actor Charles Kemble were to see him. Dickens prepared meticulously and decided to imitate the comedian Charles Mathews, but ultimately he missed the audition because of a cold. Before another opportunity arose, he had set out on his career as a writer. [39] In 1833, he submitted his first story, "A Dinner at Poplar Walk", to the London periodical Monthly Magazine. [40] William Barrow, Dickens's uncle on his mother's side, offered him a job on The Mirror of Parliament and he worked in the House of Commons for the first time early in 1832. He rented rooms at Furnival's Inn and worked as a political journalist, reporting on Parliamentary debates, and he travelled across Britain to cover election campaigns for the Morning Chronicle. His journalism, in the form of sketches in periodicals, formed his first collection of pieces, published in 1836: Sketches by Boz – Boz being a family nickname he employed as a pseudonym for some years. [41] [42] Dickens apparently adopted it from the nickname 'Moses', which he had given to his youngest brother Augustus Dickens, after a character in Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield. When pronounced by anyone with a head cold, "Moses" became "Boses" – later shortened to Boz. [42] [43] Dickens's own name was considered "queer" by a contemporary critic, who wrote in 1849: "Mr Dickens, as if in revenge for his own queer name, does bestow still queerer ones upon his fictitious creations." Dickens contributed to and edited journals throughout his literary career. [40] In January 1835, the Morning Chronicle launched an evening edition, under the editorship of the Chronicle ' s music critic, George Hogarth. Hogarth invited him to contribute Street Sketches and Dickens became a regular visitor to his Fulham house – excited by Hogarth's friendship with Walter Scott (whom Dickens greatly admired) and enjoying the company of Hogarth's three daughters: Georgina, Mary and 19-year-old Catherine. [44]

Dickens made rapid progress both professionally and socially. He began a friendship with William Harrison Ainsworth, the author of the highwayman novel Rookwood (1834), whose bachelor salon in Harrow Road had become the meeting place for a set that included Daniel Maclise, Benjamin Disraeli, Edward Bulwer-Lytton and George Cruikshank. All these became his friends and collaborators, with the exception of Disraeli, and he met his first publisher, John Macrone, at the house. [46] The success of Sketches by Boz led to a proposal from publishers Chapman and Hall for Dickens to supply text to match Robert Seymour's engraved illustrations in a monthly letterpress. Seymour committed suicide after the second instalment and Dickens, who wanted to write a connected series of sketches, hired "Phiz" to provide the engravings (which were reduced from four to two per instalment) for the story. The resulting story became The Pickwick Papers and, although the first few episodes were not successful, the introduction of the Cockney character Sam Weller in the fourth episode (the first to be illustrated by Phiz) marked a sharp climb in its popularity. [47] The final instalment sold 40,000 copies. [40] On the impact of the character, The Paris Review stated, "arguably the most historic bump in English publishing is the Sam Weller Bump." [45] A publishing phenomenon, John Sutherland called The Pickwick Papers "[t]he most important single novel of the Victorian era". [48] The unprecedented success led to numerous spin-offs and merchandise ranging from Pickwick cigars, playing cards, china figurines, Sam Weller puzzles, Weller boot polish and joke books. [45]

The Sam Weller Bump testifies not merely to Dickens’s comic genius but to his acumen as an "authorpreneur," a portmanteau he inhabited long before The Economist took it up. For a writer who made his reputation crusading against the squalor of the Industrial Revolution, Dickens was a creature of capitalism he used everything from the powerful new printing presses to the enhanced advertising revenues to the expansion of railroads to sell more books. Dickens ensured that his books were available in cheap bindings for the lower orders as well as in morocco-and-gilt for people of quality his ideal readership included everyone from the pickpockets who read Oliver Twist to Queen Victoria, who found it "exceedingly interesting."

On the creation of modern mass culture, Nicholas Dames in The Atlantic writes, “Literature” is not a big enough category for Pickwick. It defined its own, a new one that we have learned to call “entertainment.” [49] In November 1836, Dickens accepted the position of editor of Bentley's Miscellany, a position he held for three years, until he fell out with the owner. [50] In 1836, as he finished the last instalments of The Pickwick Papers, he began writing the beginning instalments of Oliver Twist – writing as many as 90 pages a month – while continuing work on Bentley's and also writing four plays, the production of which he oversaw. Oliver Twist, published in 1838, became one of Dickens's better known stories and was the first Victorian novel with a child protagonist. [51]

On 2 April 1836, after a one-year engagement, and between episodes two and three of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens married Catherine Thomson Hogarth (1815–1879), the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle. [52] They were married in St Luke's Church, [53] Chelsea, London. After a brief honeymoon in Chalk in Kent, the couple returned to lodgings at Furnival's Inn. [54] The first of their ten children, Charles, was born in January 1837 and a few months later the family set up home in Bloomsbury at 48 Doughty Street, London (on which Charles had a three-year lease at £80 a year) from 25 March 1837 until December 1839. [52] [55] Dickens's younger brother Frederick and Catherine's 17-year-old sister Mary Hogarth moved in with them. Dickens became very attached to Mary, and she died in his arms after a brief illness in 1837. Unusually for Dickens, as a consequence of his shock, he stopped working, and he and Catherine stayed at a little farm on Hampstead Heath for a fortnight. Dickens idealised Mary the character he fashioned after her, Rose Maylie, he found he could not now kill, as he had planned, in his fiction, [56] and, according to Ackroyd, he drew on memories of her for his later descriptions of Little Nell and Florence Dombey. [57] His grief was so great that he was unable to meet the deadline for the June instalment of The Pickwick Papers and had to cancel the Oliver Twist instalment that month as well. [51] The time in Hampstead was the occasion for a growing bond between Dickens and John Forster to develop Forster soon became his unofficial business manager and the first to read his work. [58]

His success as a novelist continued. The young Queen Victoria read both Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers, staying up until midnight to discuss them. [60] Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–41) and, finally, his first historical novel, Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty, as part of the Master Humphrey's Clock series (1840–41), were all published in monthly instalments before being made into books. [61]

In the midst of all his activity during this period, there was discontent with his publishers and John Macrone was bought off, while Richard Bentley signed over all his rights in Oliver Twist. Other signs of a certain restlessness and discontent emerged in Broadstairs he flirted with Eleanor Picken, the young fiancée of his solicitor's best friend and one night grabbed her and ran with her down to the sea. He declared they were both to drown there in the "sad sea waves". She finally got free, and afterwards kept her distance. In June 1841, he precipitously set out on a two-month tour of Scotland and then, in September 1841, telegraphed Forster that he had decided to go to America. [62] Master Humphrey's Clock was shut down, though Dickens was still keen on the idea of the weekly magazine, a form he liked, an appreciation that had begun with his childhood reading of the 18th-century magazines Tatler and The Spectator.

Dickens was perturbed by the return to power of the Tories, whom he described as "people whom, politically, I despise and abhor." [63] He had been tempted to stand for the Liberals in Reading, but decided against it due to financial straits. [63] He wrote three anti-Tory verse satires ("The Fine Old English Gentleman", "The Quack Doctor's Proclamation", and "Subjects for Painters") which were published in The Examiner. [64]

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. [65] At this time Georgina Hogarth, another sister of Catherine, joined the Dickens household, now living at Devonshire Terrace, Marylebone to care for the young family they had left behind. [66] She remained with them as housekeeper, organiser, adviser and friend until Dickens's death in 1870. [67] Dickens modelled the character of Agnes Wickfield after Georgina and Mary. [68]

He described his impressions in a travelogue, American Notes for General Circulation. In Notes, Dickens includes a powerful condemnation of slavery which he had attacked as early as The Pickwick Papers, correlating the emancipation of the poor in England with the abolition of slavery abroad [69] citing newspaper accounts of runaway slaves disfigured by their masters. In spite of the abolitionist sentiments gleaned from his trip to America, some modern commentators have pointed out inconsistencies in Dickens's views on racial inequality. For instance, he has been criticized for his subsequent acquiescence in Governor Eyre's harsh crackdown during the 1860s Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica and his failure to join other British progressives in condemning it. [70] From Richmond, Virginia, Dickens returned to Washington, D.C., and started a trek westward to St Louis, Missouri. While there, he expressed a desire to see an American prairie before returning east. A group of 13 men then set out with Dickens to visit Looking Glass Prairie, a trip 30 miles into Illinois.

During his American visit, Dickens spent a month in New York City, giving lectures, raising the question of international copyright laws and the pirating of his work in America. [71] [72] He persuaded a group of 25 writers, headed by Washington Irving, to sign a petition for him to take to Congress, but the press were generally hostile to this, saying that he should be grateful for his popularity and that it was mercenary to complain about his work being pirated. [73]

The popularity he gained caused a shift in his self-perception according to critic Kate Flint, who writes that he "found himself a cultural commodity, and its circulation had passed out his control", causing him to become interested in and delve into themes of public and personal personas in the next novels. [74] She writes that he assumed a role of "influential commentator", publicly and in his fiction, evident in his next few books. [74] His trip to the U.S. ended with a trip to Canada – Niagara Falls, Toronto, Kingston and Montreal – where he appeared on stage in light comedies. [75]

Soon after his return to England, Dickens began work on the first of his Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, written in 1843, which was followed by The Chimes in 1844 and The Cricket on the Hearth in 1845. Of these, A Christmas Carol was most popular and, tapping into an old tradition, did much to promote a renewed enthusiasm for the joys of Christmas in Britain and America. [77] The seeds for the story became planted in Dickens's mind during a trip to Manchester to witness the conditions of the manufacturing workers there. This, along with scenes he had recently witnessed at the Field Lane Ragged School, caused Dickens to resolve to "strike a sledge hammer blow" for the poor. As the idea for the story took shape and the writing began in earnest, Dickens became engrossed in the book. He later wrote that as the tale unfolded he "wept and laughed, and wept again" as he "walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed". [78]

After living briefly in Italy (1844), Dickens travelled to Switzerland (1846), where he began work on Dombey and Son (1846–48). This and David Copperfield (1849–50) mark a significant artistic break in Dickens's career as his novels became more serious in theme and more carefully planned than his early works.

At about this time, he was made aware of a large embezzlement at the firm where his brother, Augustus, worked (John Chapman & Co). It had been carried out by Thomas Powell, a clerk, who was on friendly terms with Dickens and who had acted as mentor to Augustus when he started work. Powell was also an author and poet and knew many of the famous writers of the day. After further fraudulent activities, Powell fled to New York and published a book called The Living Authors of England with a chapter on Charles Dickens, who was not amused by what Powell had written. One item that seemed to have annoyed him was the assertion that he had based the character of Paul Dombey (Dombey and Son) on Thomas Chapman, one of the principal partners at John Chapman & Co. Dickens immediately sent a letter to Lewis Gaylord Clark, editor of the New York literary magazine The Knickerbocker, saying that Powell was a forger and thief. Clark published the letter in the New-York Tribune and several other papers picked up on the story. Powell began proceedings to sue these publications and Clark was arrested. Dickens, realising that he had acted in haste, contacted John Chapman & Co to seek written confirmation of Powell's guilt. Dickens did receive a reply confirming Powell's embezzlement, but once the directors realised this information might have to be produced in court, they refused to make further disclosures. Owing to the difficulties of providing evidence in America to support his accusations, Dickens eventually made a private settlement with Powell out of court. [79]

Angela Burdett Coutts, heir to the Coutts banking fortune, approached Dickens in May 1846 about setting up a home for the redemption of fallen women of the working class. Coutts envisioned a home that would replace the punitive regimes of existing institutions with a reformative environment conducive to education and proficiency in domestic household chores. After initially resisting, Dickens eventually founded the home, named Urania Cottage, in the Lime Grove area of Shepherds Bush, which he managed for ten years, [80] setting the house rules, reviewing the accounts and interviewing prospective residents. [81] Emigration and marriage were central to Dickens's agenda for the women on leaving Urania Cottage, from which it is estimated that about 100 women graduated between 1847 and 1859. [82]

As a young man, Dickens expressed a distaste for certain aspects of organised religion. In 1836, in a pamphlet titled Sunday Under Three Heads, he defended the people's right to pleasure, opposing a plan to prohibit games on Sundays. "Look into your churches – diminished congregations and scanty attendance. People have grown sullen and obstinate, and are becoming disgusted with the faith which condemns them to such a day as this, once in every seven. They display their feeling by staying away [from church]. Turn into the streets [on a Sunday] and mark the rigid gloom that reigns over everything around." [83] [84]

Dickens honoured the figure of Christ . [85] He is regarded as a professing Christian. [86] His son, Henry Fielding Dickens, described him as someone who "possessed deep religious convictions". In the early 1840s, he had shown an interest in Unitarian Christianity and Robert Browning remarked that "Mr Dickens is an enlightened Unitarian." [87] Professor Gary Colledge has written that he "never strayed from his attachment to popular lay Anglicanism". [88] Dickens authored a work called The Life of Our Lord (1846), which is a book about the life of Jesus Christ, written with the purpose of sharing his faith with his children and family. [89] [90]

Dickens disapproved of Roman Catholicism and 19th-century evangelicalism, seeing both as extremes of Christianity and likely to limit personal expression, and was critical of what he saw as the hypocrisy of religious institutions and philosophies like spiritualism, all of which he considered deviations from the true spirit of Christianity, as shown in the book he wrote for his family in 1846. [91] [92] While Dickens advocated equal rights for Catholics in England, he strongly disliked how individual civil liberties were often threatened in countries where Catholicism predominated and referred to the Catholic Church as "that curse upon the world." [91] Dickens also rejected the Evangelical conviction that the Bible was the infallible word of God. His ideas on Biblical interpretation were similar to the Liberal Anglican Arthur Penrhyn Stanley's doctrine of "progressive revelation." [91] Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky referred to Dickens as "that great Christian writer". [93] [94]

In December 1845, Dickens took up the editorship of the London-based Daily News, a liberal paper through which Dickens hoped to advocate, in his own words, "the Principles of Progress and Improvement, of Education and Civil and Religious Liberty and Equal Legislation." [95] Among the other contributors Dickens chose to write for the paper were the radical economist Thomas Hodgskin and the social reformer Douglas William Jerrold, who frequently attacked the Corn Laws. [95] [96] Dickens lasted only ten weeks on the job before resigning due to a combination of exhaustion and frustration with one of the paper's co-owners. [95]

The Francophile Dickens often holidayed in France and, in a speech delivered in Paris in 1846 in French, called the French "the first people in the universe". [97] During his visit to Paris, Dickens met the French literati Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Eugène Scribe, Théophile Gautier, François-René de Chateaubriand and Eugène Sue. [97] In early 1849, Dickens started to write David Copperfield. It was published between 1849 and 1850. In Dickens's biography, Life of Charles Dickens (1872), John Forster wrote of David Copperfield, "underneath the fiction lay something of the author's life". [98] It was Dickens's personal favourite among his own novels, as he wrote in the author's preface to the 1867 edition of the novel. [99]

In late November 1851, Dickens moved into Tavistock House where he wrote Bleak House (1852–53), Hard Times (1854) and Little Dorrit (1856). [100] It was here that he indulged in the amateur theatricals described in Forster's Life of Charles Dickens. [101] During this period, he worked closely with the novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins. In 1856, his income from writing allowed him to buy Gads Hill Place in Higham, Kent. As a child, Dickens had walked past the house and dreamed of living in it. The area was also the scene of some of the events of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 and this literary connection pleased him. [102]

During this time Dickens was also the publisher, editor and a major contributor to the journals Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1858–1870). [103] In 1855, when Dickens's good friend and Liberal MP Austen Henry Layard formed an Administrative Reform Association to demand significant reforms of Parliament, Dickens joined and volunteered his resources in support of Layard's cause. [104] With the exception of Lord John Russell, who was the only leading politician in whom Dickens had any faith and to whom he later dedicated A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens believed that the political aristocracy and their incompetence were the death of England. [105] [104] When he and Layard were accused of fomenting class conflict, Dickens replied that the classes were already in opposition and the fault was with the aristocratic class. Dickens used his pulpit in Household Words to champion the Reform Association. [105] He also commented on foreign affairs, declaring his support for Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini, helping raise funds for their campaigns and stating that "a united Italy would be of vast importance to the peace of the world, and would be a rock in Louis Napoleon's way," and that "I feel for Italy almost as if I were an Italian born." [106] [107] [108]

Following the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Dickens joined in the widespread criticism of the East India Company for its role in the event, but reserved his fury for the rebels themselves, wishing that he was the commander-in-chief in India so that he would be able to, "do my utmost to exterminate the Race upon whom the stain of the late cruelties rested." [109]

In 1857, Dickens hired professional actresses for the play The Frozen Deep, written by him and his protégé, Wilkie Collins. Dickens fell in love with one of the actresses, Ellen Ternan, and this passion was to last the rest of his life. [110] Dickens was 45 and Ternan 18 when he made the decision, which went strongly against Victorian convention, to separate from his wife, Catherine, in 1858 divorce was still unthinkable for someone as famous as he was. When Catherine left, never to see her husband again, she took with her one child, leaving the other children to be raised by her sister Georgina who chose to stay at Gads Hill. [67]

During this period, whilst pondering a project to give public readings for his own profit, Dickens was approached through a charitable appeal by Great Ormond Street Hospital to help it survive its first major financial crisis. His "Drooping Buds" essay in Household Words earlier on 3 April 1852 was considered by the hospital's founders to have been the catalyst for the hospital's success. [111] Dickens, whose philanthropy was well-known, was asked by his friend, the hospital's founder Charles West, to preside over the appeal, and he threw himself into the task, heart and soul. [112] Dickens's public readings secured sufficient funds for an endowment to put the hospital on a sound financial footing one reading on 9 February 1858 alone raised £3,000. [113] [114] [115]

After separating from Catherine, [116] Dickens undertook a series of hugely popular and remunerative reading tours which, together with his journalism, were to absorb most of his creative energies for the next decade, in which he was to write only two more novels. [117] His first reading tour, lasting from April 1858 to February 1859, consisted of 129 appearances in 49 towns throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. [118] Dickens's continued fascination with the theatrical world was written into the theatre scenes in Nicholas Nickleby, but more importantly he found an outlet in public readings. In 1866, he undertook a series of public readings in England and Scotland, with more the following year in England and Ireland. [119]

Other works soon followed, including A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1861), which were resounding successes. Set in London and Paris, A Tale of Two Cities is his best-known work of historical fiction and includes the famous opening sentence which begins with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." It is regularly cited as one of the best-selling novels of all time. [120] [121] Themes in Great Expectations include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. [122]

In early September 1860, in a field behind Gads Hill, Dickens made a bonfire of most of his correspondence only those letters on business matters were spared. Since Ellen Ternan also destroyed all of his letters to her, [123] the extent of the affair between the two remains speculative. [124] In the 1930s, Thomas Wright recounted that Ternan had unburdened herself to a Canon Benham and gave currency to rumours they had been lovers. [125] That the two had a son who died in infancy was alleged by Dickens's daughter, Kate Perugini, whom Gladys Storey had interviewed before her death in 1929. Storey published her account in Dickens and Daughter, [126] [127] but no contemporary evidence exists. On his death, Dickens settled an annuity on Ternan which made her financially independent. Claire Tomalin's book, The Invisible Woman, argues that Ternan lived with Dickens secretly for the last 13 years of his life. The book was subsequently turned into a play, Little Nell, by Simon Gray, and a 2013 film. In the same period, Dickens furthered his interest in the paranormal, becoming one of the early members of The Ghost Club. [128]

In June 1862, he was offered £10,000 for a reading tour of Australia. [129] He was enthusiastic, and even planned a travel book, The Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down, but ultimately decided against the tour. [130] Two of his sons, Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens and Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, migrated to Australia, Edward becoming a member of the Parliament of New South Wales as Member for Wilcannia between 1889 and 1894. [131] [132]

On 9 June 1865, while returning from Paris with Ellen Ternan, Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash. The train's first seven carriages plunged off a cast iron bridge that was under repair. The only first-class carriage to remain on the track was the one in which Dickens was travelling. Before rescuers arrived, Dickens tended and comforted the wounded and the dying with a flask of brandy and a hat refreshed with water, and saved some lives. Before leaving, he remembered the unfinished manuscript for Our Mutual Friend, and he returned to his carriage to retrieve it. [133]

Dickens later used the experience of the crash as material for his short ghost story, "The Signal-Man", in which the central character has a premonition of his own death in a rail crash. He also based the story on several previous rail accidents, such as the Clayton Tunnel rail crash of 1861. Dickens managed to avoid an appearance at the inquest to avoid disclosing that he had been travelling with Ternan and her mother, which would have caused a scandal. [134] After the crash, Dickens was nervous when travelling by train and would use alternative means when available. [135] In 1868 he wrote, "I have sudden vague rushes of terror, even when riding in a hansom cab, which are perfectly unreasonable but quite insurmountable." Dickens's son, Henry, recalled, "I have seen him sometimes in a railway carriage when there was a slight jolt. When this happened he was almost in a state of panic and gripped the seat with both hands." [135]

While he contemplated a second visit to the United States, the outbreak of the Civil War in America in 1861 delayed his plans. On 9 November 1867, over two years after the war, Dickens set sail from Liverpool for his second American reading tour. Landing in Boston, he devoted the rest of the month to a round of dinners with such notables as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his American publisher, James T. Fields. In early December, the readings began. He performed 76 readings, netting £19,000, from December 1867 to April 1868. [136] Dickens shuttled between Boston and New York, where he gave 22 readings at Steinway Hall. Although he had started to suffer from what he called the "true American catarrh", he kept to a schedule that would have challenged a much younger man, even managing to squeeze in some sleighing in Central Park. [137]

During his travels, he saw a change in the people and the circumstances of America. His final appearance was at a banquet the American Press held in his honour at Delmonico's on 18 April, when he promised never to denounce America again. By the end of the tour Dickens could hardly manage solid food, subsisting on champagne and eggs beaten in sherry. On 23 April he boarded the Cunard liner Russia to return to Britain, [138] barely escaping a federal tax lien against the proceeds of his lecture tour. [139]

Between 1868 and 1869, Dickens gave a series of "farewell readings" in England, Scotland and Ireland, beginning on 6 October. He managed, of a contracted 100 readings, to deliver 75 in the provinces, with a further 12 in London. [136] As he pressed on he was affected by giddiness and fits of paralysis. He suffered a stroke on 18 April 1869 in Chester. [140] He collapsed on 22 April 1869, at Preston in Lancashire and, on doctor's advice, the tour was cancelled. [141] After further provincial readings were cancelled, he began work on his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was fashionable in the 1860s to 'do the slums' and, in company, Dickens visited opium dens in Shadwell, where he witnessed an elderly addict known as "Laskar Sal", who formed the model for the "Opium Sal" subsequently featured in Edwin Drood. [142]

After Dickens had regained sufficient strength, he arranged, with medical approval, for a final series of readings to partially make up to his sponsors what they had lost due to his illness. There were 12 performances, running between 11 January and 15 March 1870, the last at 8:00 pm at St. James's Hall in London. Although in grave health by this time, he read A Christmas Carol and The Trial from Pickwick. On 2 May, he made his last public appearance at a Royal Academy Banquet in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, paying a special tribute on the death of his friend, the illustrator Daniel Maclise. [143]

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, he died at Gads Hill Place. Biographer Claire Tomalin has suggested Dickens was actually in Peckham when he suffered the stroke and his mistress Ellen Ternan and her maids had him taken back to Gads Hill so that the public would not know the truth about their relationship. [145] Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner", [146] he was laid to rest in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads:

To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England's most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world. [147]

His last words were "On the ground", in response to his sister-in-law Georgina's request that he lie down. [148] [nb 1] On Sunday, 19 June 1870, five days after Dickens was buried in the Abbey, Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley delivered a memorial elegy, lauding "the genial and loving humorist whom we now mourn", for showing by his own example "that even in dealing with the darkest scenes and the most degraded characters, genius could still be clean, and mirth could be innocent". Pointing to the fresh flowers that adorned the novelist's grave, Stanley assured those present that "the spot would thenceforth be a sacred one with both the New World and the Old, as that of the representative of literature, not of this island only, but of all who speak our English tongue." [149]

In his will, drafted more than a year before his death, Dickens left the care of his £80,000 estate (£7,711,000 in 2019) [150] to his long-time colleague John Forster and his "best and truest friend" Georgina Hogarth who, along with Dickens's two sons, also received a tax-free sum of £8,000 (equivalent to £771,000 in 2019). [150] Although Dickens and his wife had been separated for several years at the time of his death, he provided her with an annual income of £600 (£57,800 in 2019) [150] and made her similar allowances in his will. He also bequeathed £19 19s (£1,900 in 2019) [150] to each servant in his employment at the time of his death. [151]

Dickens's approach to the novel is influenced by various things, including the picaresque novel tradition, [152] melodrama [153] and the novel of sensibility. [154] According to Ackroyd, other than these, perhaps the most important literary influence on him was derived from the fables of The Arabian Nights. [155] Satire and irony are central to the picaresque novel. [156] Comedy is also an aspect of the British picaresque novel tradition of Laurence Sterne, Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett. Fielding's Tom Jones was a major influence on the 19th-century novelist including Dickens, who read it in his youth [157] and named a son Henry Fielding Dickens in his honour. [158] [159]

No other writer had such a profound influence on Dickens as William Shakespeare. On Dickens's veneration of Shakespeare, Alfred Harbage wrote "No one is better qualified to recognise literary genius than a literary genius"— A Kind of Power: The Shakespeare-Dickens Analogy (1975). [160] Regarding Shakespeare as "the great master" whose plays "were an unspeakable source of delight", Dickens’ lifelong affinity with the playwright included seeing theatrical productions of his plays in London and putting on amateur dramatics with friends in his early years. [160] In 1838 Dickens travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon and visited the house in which Shakespeare was born, leaving his autograph in the visitors' book. Dickens would draw on this experience in his next work, Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), expressing the strength of feeling experienced by visitors to Shakespeare's birthplace: the character Mrs Wititterly states, "I don't know how it is, but after you've seen the place and written your name in the little book, somehow or other you seem to be inspired it kindles up quite a fire within one." [161]

Dickens's writing style is marked by a profuse linguistic creativity. [162] Satire, flourishing in his gift for caricature, is his forte. An early reviewer compared him to Hogarth for his keen practical sense of the ludicrous side of life, though his acclaimed mastery of varieties of class idiom may in fact mirror the conventions of contemporary popular theatre. [163] Dickens worked intensively on developing arresting names for his characters that would reverberate with associations for his readers and assist the development of motifs in the storyline, giving what one critic calls an "allegorical impetus" to the novels' meanings. [162] To cite one of numerous examples, the name Mr Murdstone in David Copperfield conjures up twin allusions to murder and stony coldness. [164] His literary style is also a mixture of fantasy and realism. His satires of British aristocratic snobbery – he calls one character the "Noble Refrigerator" – are often popular. Comparing orphans to stocks and shares, people to tug boats or dinner-party guests to furniture are just some of Dickens's acclaimed flights of fancy.

The author worked closely with his illustrators, supplying them with a summary of the work at the outset and thus ensuring that his characters and settings were exactly how he envisioned them. He briefed the illustrator on plans for each month's instalment so that work could begin before he wrote them. Marcus Stone, illustrator of Our Mutual Friend, recalled that the author was always "ready to describe down to the minutest details the personal characteristics, and . life-history of the creations of his fancy". [165] Dickens employs Cockney English in many of his works, denoting working-class Londoners. Cockney grammar appears in terms such as ain't, and consonants in words are frequently omitted, as in 'ere (here) and wot (what). [166] An example of this usage is in Oliver Twist. The Artful Dodger uses cockney slang which is juxtaposed with Oliver's 'proper' English, when the Dodger repeats Oliver saying "seven" with "sivin". [167]


Dickens's biographer Claire Tomalin regards him as the greatest creator of character in English fiction after Shakespeare. [168] Dickensian characters are amongst the most memorable in English literature, especially so because of their typically whimsical names. The likes of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol) Oliver Twist, The Artful Dodger, Fagin and Bill Sikes (Oliver Twist) Pip, Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch (Great Expectations) Sydney Carton, Charles Darnay and Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities) David Copperfield, Uriah Heep and Mr Micawber (David Copperfield) Daniel Quilp and Nell Trent (The Old Curiosity Shop), Samuel Pickwick and Sam Weller (The Pickwick Papers) and Wackford Squeers (Nicholas Nickleby) are so well known as to be part and parcel of popular culture, and in some cases have passed into ordinary language: a scrooge, for example, is a miser or someone who dislikes Christmas festivity. [169]

His characters were often so memorable that they took on a life of their own outside his books. "Gamp" became a slang expression for an umbrella from the character Mrs Gamp, and "Pickwickian", "Pecksniffian" and "Gradgrind" all entered dictionaries due to Dickens's original portraits of such characters who were, respectively, quixotic, hypocritical and vapidly factual. The character that made Dickens famous, Sam Weller became known for his Wellerisms—one-liners that turned proverbs on their heads. [45] Many were drawn from real life: Mrs Nickleby is based on his mother, although she didn't recognise herself in the portrait, [170] just as Mr Micawber is constructed from aspects of his father's 'rhetorical exuberance' [171] Harold Skimpole in Bleak House is based on James Henry Leigh Hunt his wife's dwarfish chiropodist recognised herself in Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield. [172] [173] Perhaps Dickens's impressions on his meeting with Hans Christian Andersen informed the delineation of Uriah Heep (a term synonymous with sycophant). [174]

Virginia Woolf maintained that "we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens" as he produces "characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks". [175] T. S. Eliot wrote that Dickens "excelled in character in the creation of characters of greater intensity than human beings". [176] One "character" vividly drawn throughout his novels is London itself. [177] Dickens described London as a magic lantern, inspiring the places and people in many of his novels. [178] From the coaching inns on the outskirts of the city to the lower reaches of the Thames, all aspects of the capital – Dickens's London – are described over the course of his body of work. [178]

Autobiographical elements

Authors frequently draw their portraits of characters from people they have known in real life. David Copperfield is regarded by many as a veiled autobiography of Dickens. The scenes of interminable court cases and legal arguments in Bleak House reflect Dickens's experiences as a law clerk and court reporter, and in particular his direct experience of the law's procedural delay during 1844 when he sued publishers in Chancery for breach of copyright. [179] Dickens's father was sent to prison for debt and this became a common theme in many of his books, with the detailed depiction of life in the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit resulting from Dickens's own experiences of the institution. [180] Lucy Stroughill, a childhood sweetheart, may have affected several of Dickens's portraits of girls such as Little Em'ly in David Copperfield and Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities. [181] [nb 2]

Dickens may have drawn on his childhood experiences, but he was also ashamed of them and would not reveal that this was where he gathered his realistic accounts of squalor. Very few knew the details of his early life until six years after his death, when John Forster published a biography on which Dickens had collaborated. Though Skimpole brutally sends up Leigh Hunt, some critics have detected in his portrait features of Dickens's own character, which he sought to exorcise by self-parody. [182]

Episodic writing

A pioneer of the serial publication of narrative fiction, Dickens wrote most of his major novels in monthly or weekly instalments in journals such as Master Humphrey's Clock and Household Words, later reprinted in book form. [4] [5] These instalments made the stories affordable and accessible, with the audience more evenly distributed across income levels than previous. [183] His instalment format inspired a narrative that he would explore and develop throughout his career, and the regular cliffhangers made each new episode widely anticipated. [6] [183] When The Old Curiosity Shop was being serialised, American fans waited at the docks in New York harbour, shouting out to the crew of an incoming British ship, "Is little Nell dead?" [184] Dickens's talent was to incorporate this episodic writing style but still end up with a coherent novel at the end.

Another important impact of Dickens's episodic writing style resulted from his exposure to the opinions of his readers and friends. His friend Forster had a significant hand in reviewing his drafts, an influence that went beyond matters of punctuation. He toned down melodramatic and sensationalist exaggerations, cut long passages (such as the episode of Quilp's drowning in The Old Curiosity Shop), and made suggestions about plot and character. It was he who suggested that Charley Bates should be redeemed in Oliver Twist. Dickens had not thought of killing Little Nell and it was Forster who advised him to entertain this possibility as necessary to his conception of the heroine. [185]

Dickens's serialisation of his novels was criticised by other authors. In Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Wrecker, there is a comment by Captain Nares, investigating an abandoned ship: "See! They were writing up the log," said Nares, pointing to the ink-bottle. "Caught napping, as usual. I wonder if there ever was a captain yet that lost a ship with his log-book up to date? He generally has about a month to fill up on a clean break, like Charles Dickens and his serial novels." [186]

Social commentary

Dickens's novels were, among other things, works of social commentary. He was a fierce critic of the poverty and social stratification of Victorian society. In a New York address, he expressed his belief that "Virtue shows quite as well in rags and patches as she does in purple and fine linen". [187] Dickens's second novel, Oliver Twist (1839), shocked readers with its images of poverty and crime: it challenged middle class polemics about criminals, making impossible any pretence to ignorance about what poverty entailed. [188] [189]

At a time when Britain was the major economic and political power of the world, Dickens highlighted the life of the forgotten poor and disadvantaged within society. Through his journalism he campaigned on specific issues – such as sanitation and the workhouse – but his fiction probably demonstrated its greatest prowess in changing public opinion in regard to class inequalities. He often depicted the exploitation and oppression of the poor and condemned the public officials and institutions that not only allowed such abuses to exist, but flourished as a result. His most strident indictment of this condition is in Hard Times (1854), Dickens's only novel-length treatment of the industrial working class. In this work, he uses vitriol and satire to illustrate how this marginalised social stratum was termed "Hands" by the factory owners that is, not really "people" but rather only appendages of the machines they operated. His writings inspired others, in particular journalists and political figures, to address such problems of class oppression. For example, the prison scenes in The Pickwick Papers are claimed to have been influential in having the Fleet Prison shut down. Karl Marx asserted that Dickens "issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together". [190] George Bernard Shaw even remarked that Great Expectations was more seditious than Marx's Das Kapital. [190] The exceptional popularity of Dickens's novels, even those with socially oppositional themes (Bleak House, 1853 Little Dorrit, 1857 Our Mutual Friend, 1865), not only underscored his ability to create compelling storylines and unforgettable characters, but also ensured that the Victorian public confronted issues of social justice that had commonly been ignored. It has been argued that his technique of flooding his narratives with an 'unruly superfluity of material' that, in the gradual dénouement, yields up an unsuspected order, influenced the organisation of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. [191]

Literary techniques

Dickens is often described as using idealised characters and highly sentimental scenes to contrast with his caricatures and the ugly social truths he reveals. The story of Nell Trent in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) was received as extraordinarily moving by contemporary readers but viewed as ludicrously sentimental by Oscar Wilde. "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell", he said in a famous remark, "without dissolving into tears . of laughter." [192] [193] G. K. Chesterton stated, "It is not the death of little Nell, but the life of little Nell, that I object to", arguing that the maudlin effect of his description of her life owed much to the gregarious nature of Dickens's grief, his "despotic" use of people's feelings to move them to tears in works like this. [194]

The question as to whether Dickens belongs to the tradition of the sentimental novel is debatable. Valerie Purton, in her book Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition, sees him continuing aspects of this tradition, and argues that his "sentimental scenes and characters [are] as crucial to the overall power of the novels as his darker or comic figures and scenes", and that "Dombey and Son is [ . ] Dickens's greatest triumph in the sentimentalist tradition". [195] The Encyclopædia Britannica online comments that, despite "patches of emotional excess", such as the reported death of Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol (1843), "Dickens cannot really be termed a sentimental novelist". [196]

In Oliver Twist Dickens provides readers with an idealised portrait of a boy so inherently and unrealistically good that his values are never subverted by either brutal orphanages or coerced involvement in a gang of young pickpockets. While later novels also centre on idealised characters (Esther Summerson in Bleak House and Amy Dorrit in Little Dorrit), this idealism serves only to highlight Dickens's goal of poignant social commentary. Dickens's fiction, reflecting what he believed to be true of his own life, makes frequent use of coincidence, either for comic effect or to emphasise the idea of providence. [197] For example, Oliver Twist turns out to be the lost nephew of the upper-class family that rescues him from the dangers of the pickpocket group. Such coincidences are a staple of 18th-century picaresque novels, such as Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, which Dickens enjoyed reading as a youth. [198]

Dickens was the most popular novelist of his time, [199] and remains one of the best-known and most-read of English authors. His works have never gone out of print, [200] and have been adapted continually for the screen since the invention of cinema, [201] with at least 200 motion pictures and TV adaptations based on Dickens's works documented. [202] Many of his works were adapted for the stage during his own lifetime and, as early as 1913, a silent film of The Pickwick Papers was made. [203] Contemporaries such as publisher Edward Lloyd cashed in on Dickens's popularity with cheap imitations of his novels, resulting in his own popular ‘penny dreadfuls'. [204]

From the beginning of his career in the 1830s, Dickens's achievements in English literature were compared to those of Shakespeare. [160] Dickens created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest British novelist of the Victorian era. [1] His literary reputation, however began to decline with the publication of Bleak House in 1852–53. Philip Collins calls Bleak House ‘a crucial item in the history of Dickens's reputation. Reviewers and literary figures during the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s, saw a "drear decline" in Dickens, from a writer of "bright sunny comedy . to dark and serious social" commentary. [205] The Spectator called Bleak House "a heavy book to read through at once . dull and wearisome as a serial" Richard Simpson, in The Rambler, characterised Hard Times as "this dreary framework" Fraser's Magazine thought Little Dorrit "decidedly the worst of his novels". [206] All the same, despite these "increasing reservations amongst reviewers and the chattering classes, 'the public never deserted its favourite'". Dickens's popular reputation remained unchanged, sales continued to rise, and Household Words and later All the Year Round were highly successful. [206]

Later in his career, Dickens's fame and the demand for his public readings were unparalleled. In 1868 The Times wrote, "Amid all the variety of 'readings', those of Mr Charles Dickens stand alone.” [10] A Dickens biographer, Edgar Johnson, wrote in the 1950s: "It was [always] more than a reading it was an extraordinary exhibition of acting that seized upon its auditors with a mesmeric possession." [10] Comparing his reception at public readings to those of a contemporary pop star, The Guardian states, "People sometimes fainted at his shows. His performances even saw the rise of that modern phenomenon, the 'speculator' or ticket tout (scalpers) – the ones in New York City escaped detection by borrowing respectable-looking hats from the waiters in nearby restaurants." [207]

—Peter Garratt in The Guardian on Dickens's fame and the demand for his public readings [10]

Among fellow writers, there was a range of opinions on Dickens. Poet laureate, William Wordsworth (1770–1850), thought him a "very talkative, vulgar young person", adding he had not read a line of his work, while novelist George Meredith (1828–1909), found Dickens "intellectually lacking". [208] In 1888 Leslie Stephen commented in the Dictionary of National Biography that "if literary fame could be safely measured by popularity with the half-educated, Dickens must claim the highest position among English novelists". [209] Anthony Trollope's Autobiography famously declared Thackeray, not Dickens, to be the greatest novelist of the age. However, both Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were admirers. Dostoyevsky commented: "We understand Dickens in Russia, I am convinced, almost as well as the English, perhaps even with all the nuances. It may well be that we love him no less than his compatriots do. And yet how original is Dickens, and how very English!" [210] Tolstoy referred to David Copperfield as his favourite book, and he later adopted the novel as "a model for his own autobiographical reflections". [211] French writer Jules Verne called Dickens his favourite writer, writing his novels "stand alone, dwarfing all others by their amazing power and felicity of expression". [212] Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh was inspired by Dickens's novels in several of his paintings like Vincent's Chair and in an 1889 letter to his sister stated that reading Dickens, especially A Christmas Carol, was one of the things that was keeping him from committing suicide. [213] Oscar Wilde generally disparaged his depiction of character, while admiring his gift for caricature. [214] Henry James denied him a premier position, calling him "the greatest of superficial novelists": Dickens failed to endow his characters with psychological depth, and the novels, "loose baggy monsters", [215] betrayed a "cavalier organisation". [216] Joseph Conrad described his own childhood in bleak Dickensian terms, and noted he had "an intense and unreasoning affection" for Bleak House, dating back to his boyhood. The novel influenced his own gloomy portrait of London in The Secret Agent (1907). [211] Virginia Woolf had a love-hate relationship with his works, finding his novels "mesmerizing" while reproving him for his sentimentalism and a commonplace style. [217]

Around 1940–41, the attitude of the literary critics began to warm towards Dickens – led by George Orwell in Inside the Whale and Other Essays (March 1940), Edmund Wilson in The Wound and the Bow (1941) and Humphry House in Dickens and his World. [218] However, even in 1948, F. R. Leavis, in The Great Tradition, asserted that "the adult mind doesn't as a rule find in Dickens a challenge to an unusual and sustained seriousness" Dickens was indeed a great genius, "but the genius was that of a great entertainer", [219] though he later changed his opinion with Dickens the Novelist (1970, with Q. D. (Queenie) Leavis): "Our purpose", they wrote, "is to enforce as unanswerably as possible the conviction that Dickens was one of the greatest of creative writers". [220] In 1944, Soviet film director and film theorist Sergei Eisenstein wrote an essay on Dickens's influence on cinema, such as cross-cutting – where two stories run alongside each other, as seen in novels such as Oliver Twist. [221]

In the 1950s, "a substantial reassessment and re-editing of the works began, and critics found his finest artistry and greatest depth to be in the later novels: Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Great Expectations – and (less unanimously) in Hard Times and Our Mutual Friend". [222] Dickens was a favourite author of Roald Dahl the best-selling children's author would include three of Dickens's novels among those read by the title character in his 1988 novel Matilda. [223] An avid reader of Dickens, in 2005, Paul McCartney named Nicholas Nickleby his favourite novel. On Dickens he states, "I like the world that he takes me to. I like his words I like the language", adding, "A lot of my stuff – it's kind of Dickensian." [224] Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan's screenplay for The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was inspired by A Tale of Two Cities, with Nolan calling the depiction of Paris in the novel "one of the most harrowing portraits of a relatable, recognisable civilisation that completely folded to pieces". [225] On 7 February 2012, the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth, Philip Womack wrote in The Telegraph: "Today there is no escaping Charles Dickens. Not that there has ever been much chance of that before. He has a deep, peculiar hold upon us". [226]

Museums and festivals celebrating Dickens's life and works exist in many places with which Dickens was associated. These include the Charles Dickens Museum in London, the historic home where he wrote Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby and the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth, the house in which he was born. The original manuscripts of many of his novels, as well as printers' proofs, first editions, and illustrations from the collection of Dickens's friend John Forster are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. [227] Dickens's will stipulated that no memorial be erected in his honour nonetheless, a life-size bronze statue of Dickens entitled Dickens and Little Nell, cast in 1891 by Francis Edwin Elwell, stands in Clark Park in the Spruce Hill neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Another life-size statue of Dickens is located at Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia. [228] In 1960 a bass relief sculpture of Dickens, notably featuring characters from his books, was commissioned from sculptor Estcourt J Clack to adorn the office building built on the site of his former home at 1 Devonshire Terrace, London. [229] [230] In 2014, a life-size statue was unveiled near his birthplace in Portsmouth on the 202nd anniversary of his birth this was supported by the author's great-great grandsons, Ian and Gerald Dickens. [231] [232]

A Christmas Carol is most probably his best-known story, with frequent new adaptations. It is also the most-filmed of Dickens's stories, with many versions dating from the early years of cinema. [233] According to the historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of the observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by A Christmas Carol. Dickens catalysed the emerging Christmas as a family-centred festival of generosity, in contrast to the dwindling community-based and church-centred observations, as new middle-class expectations arose. [234] Its archetypal figures (Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Christmas ghosts) entered into Western cultural consciousness. "Merry Christmas", a prominent phrase from the tale, was popularised following the appearance of the story. [235] The term Scrooge became a synonym for miser, and his dismissive exclamation "Bah! Humbug!'" likewise gained currency as an idiom. [236] Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray called the book "a national benefit, and to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness". [233]

Dickens was commemorated on the Series E £10 note issued by the Bank of England that circulated between 1992 and 2003. His portrait appeared on the reverse of the note accompanied by a scene from The Pickwick Papers. The Charles Dickens School is a high school in Broadstairs, Kent. A theme park, Dickens World, standing in part on the site of the former naval dockyard where Dickens's father once worked in the Navy Pay Office, opened in Chatham in 2007. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens in 2012, the Museum of London held the UK's first major exhibition on the author in 40 years. [237] In 2002, Dickens was number 41 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. [238] American literary critic Harold Bloom placed Dickens among the greatest Western writers of all time. [239] In the 2003 UK survey The Big Read carried out by the BBC, five of Dickens's books were named in the Top 100. [240]

Actors who have portrayed Dickens on screen include Anthony Hopkins, Derek Jacobi, Simon Callow and Ralph Fiennes, the latter playing the author in The Invisible Woman (2013) which depicts Dickens’ secret love affair with Ellen Ternan which lasted for thirteen years until his death in 1870. [241]

Dickens and his publications have appeared on a number of postage stamps including: UK (1970, 1993, 2011 and 2012), Soviet Union (1962), Antigua, Barbuda, Botswana, Cameroon, Dubai, Fujairah, St Christopher, Nevis and Anguilla, St Helena, St Lucia and Turks and Caicos Islands (1970), St Vincent (1987), Nevis (2007), Alderney, Gibraltar, Jersey and Pitcairn Islands (2012), Austria (2013), Mozambique (2014). [242]

In November 2018 it was reported that a previously lost portrait of a 31-year-old Dickens, by Margaret Gillies, had been found in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Gillies was an early supporter of women's suffrage and had painted the portrait in late 1843 when Dickens, aged 31, wrote A Christmas Carol. It was exhibited, to acclaim, at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1844. [76]

Dickens published well over a dozen major novels and novellas, a large number of short stories, including a number of Christmas-themed stories, a handful of plays, and several non-fiction books. Dickens's novels were initially serialised in weekly and monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats.

Watch the video: Charles Dickens Part 1 of 3 (December 2021).