1. Charles Dickens was a famous English writer. His full name was Charles John Huffam Dickens. He was born in Portsmouth, England on February 7th, 1812. His father was a clerk in the navy. His early childhood was stable, and he spent his happiest years Chatham, Kent. Charles had to leave school when his father went to prison for not re-paying his debts.
2. At the age of 12, Charles had to work in a London factory, sticking labels on bottles. He later described his working conditions as miserable, as the place was unbearably damp and overrun with rats. He felt uncared for, and abandoned by adults, and this attitude was reflected in many of his stories.
3. When he was 15, his father inherited some money, repaid his debts and was released from prison. Charles’ mother wanted him to keep working, but his father did not agree. It is thought that this incident influenced him negatively towards women.
4. He resumed his education at 15, but soon left school. He was passionately fond of reading, and enjoyed going to the theatre. He even acted in some productions.
5. Towards the late 1820s, Charles Dickens became a reporter. He started contributing articles to the Monthly Magazine and the Evening Chronicle. These were later compiled as his first book, Sketches by Boz, published in 1836. He became popular when he published The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, ( commonly called The Pickwick Papers ) in monthly instalments.
6. He courted Maria Beadnell, but her family did not accept him. He later married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and had ten children, but they separated in1858.
7. He became the publisher of a magazine called Bentley’s Miscellany, in which he published monthly instalments of Oliver Twist. The story was highly appreciated, and he followed it up with instalments of Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. Dickens was now a very popular author. His appeal ranged from common folk to aristocrats. Though he was a stern critic of Victorian society, his humour, compassion and imaginative story lines won the hearts of many readers. Many of the characters in his books were based on people in his life, including his parents, relatives and friends. The settings also were from his life experiences.
8. When Dickens went to America, he received celebrity treatment. He was, however, scornful of their ways, which was evident in American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit. He was severely criticised by the American public and undertook a second tour in order to make amends.
9. In 1845, he spent a year in Italy, and on his return, published Pictures from Italy.
10. From the 1840s, Dickens’ style of writing became more serious and grim. Dombey and Sons, Bleak House, Hard Times and Little Dorrit all reflect depressing and pessimistic themes based on human greed, hypocrisy and loss of moral values. The increasing industrialisation and urbanisation of England caused hardship to many, and Dickens was keenly aware of this. Also, in the 1850s, he lost his father and his daughter. His marriage broke down and he entered into a relationship with an actress named Ellen Ternan. The exception, in this dark period, is David Copperfield,(1849-50) which is considered semi-autobiographical.
11. In 1859, Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities, a historical novel set in the time of the French Revolution. Then, in 1860-61, he wrote Great Expectations, which marked a return to the earlier themes of the discovery of life and moral development.
12. By 1865, Dickens’ health started to deteriorate, but he kept touring and conducting readings. On June 9th, 1870, he died of a stroke, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
13. Charles Dickens was considered the most influential writer of the Victorian era. His books are widely read and studied, even today. His prolific output includes novels, Christmas stories and plays. He has given the world of literature many memorable characters, who continue to provide inspiration to authors, scriptwriters and screenwriters in many languages the world over.