The Life of Charles Dickens


Photo: Telegraph

Known for novels such as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, and David Copperfield, Charles Dickens is considered one of the greatest English authors of all time.

Born on February 7th, 1812 in Hampshire, England to parents John and Elizabeth Dickens. Charles was second of eight children and the family relocated various times before Dickens was eleven years old. As a child he loved reading novels, which is no surprise. At the age of 20 Charles began showing an interest in theater, at this time he had the opportunity to audition for a part at the Covent Garden. Unfortunately for Dickens, he came down with a cold and was unable to audition for the role.

Instead of continuing on with an actors life, Dickens began to pursue a career in writing. By 1833 Dickens had submitted his first piece of writing to a periodical by the name of Monthly Magazine based out of London. Shortly after this piece was published a family friend, William Barrow, offered Charles a job working on The Mirror of Parliament in the House of Commons. His job required him to report on parliamentary debates, political journalism, and election coverage. Dickens reported these events in the form of sketches that would appear in periodicals. These sketches were eventually published in 1836 and were titled Sketches by Boz. 

With the popularity of his sketches, Dickens was later offered the job of provided text for Robert Seymour’s illustrations that would appear in a monthly letterpress. Unfortunately, after this proposal Robert Seymour committed suicide. However, this didn’t stop Dickens from working on this project. A young man that went by the pen name of Phiz was hired to create the illustrations needed. Phiz would later go on to create the illustrations for Dickens famous novel, David Copperfield. After Phiz was hired to create the illustrations the story became known as the The Pickwick Papers and were published in short installments. The episodes were not very successful until a character named Sam Weller was introduced in episode four. This skyrocketed the popularity of the series and the final episode sold around 40,000 copies.

Charles Dickens moved on to become the editor of Bentley’s Miscellany in 1836 and held this position for three years. While working at Bentley’s, Charles also began to work on his famous novel Oliver Twist. The novel was published in short installments between 1837 and 1839. Oliver Twist is considered the first Victorian novel to feature a child protagonist.

 A year before Oliver Twist began publication, Dickens had married his wife Catherine Thomson Hogarth on April 2nd, 1836. The two would eventually become parents to ten children.

In the midst of Oliver Twist’s publication, Charles began working on what would be his third novel. Nicholas Nickleby began it’s serialization on March 31st, 1838 and went until 1839. Dickens was an extremely ambitious writer, many of his stories were published as serializations. Some of these other novels include but are not limited to The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, Dombey and Son, and Bleak House. These specific novels were all published as installments between 1940 and 1952.

One of Dickens most well known novels, A Christmas Carol, was published in 1843. He began writing this famous story while working on Martin Chuzzlewit, and was published during the holiday season. As Dickens grew older, his material became more serious. Dickens had briefly lived in England during the mid 40’s where he began working on works such as Dombey and Son and David Copperfield. 

During his later years, Dickens was approached by Great Ormond Street Hospital asking for help during a financial crisis. Dickens began doing public readings to help raise money for this failing hospital. During one of his readings Charles was able to raise 3,000 dollars for the hospital.

Between April 1858 to February 1859, Dickens began an extremely popular reading tour. The tour took him throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland where he was to do 129 readings.  During this time he continued writing and in 1859 A Tale of Two Cities was published. A few short years later he published yet another extremely successful novel, Great Expectations. 

Like many famous authors, Dickens continued to work on his writing until his death. Charles Dickens passed away on June 8th, 1870 after having a stroke. Prior to his death, Charles had been working on the novel titled The Mystery of Edwin Drood which he was unable to finish.

Known for his dynamic characters, Charles Dickens has left behind a legacy that many only dream of achieving. He published many novels, some that aren’t even mentioned here, throughout his writing career. Dickens was one of the few authors that was lucky enough to see his popularity grow.