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Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
A prolific novelist, Dickens was born in Portsmouth to John and Elizabeth Dickens. Young Charles had an unsettled childhood due to the financial irresponsibilities of his parents. He had to go to work in Warren's Blacking Factory, just two days after his twelfth birthday, as a result of his father being thrown into debtor's prison.

He attended a series of schools, where he was a voracious reader, after which he became an office boy in a law firm. He became a reporter and worked for his uncle's publication, "The Mirror of Parliament". In 1833 he became Parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronicle, and wrote freelance sketches for many different publications.

From his time as a reporter, Dickens acquired an intimate knowledge of the streets, parks, alleys, mews, gardens, markets and lanes of London, which would provide him with much useful background material for his later work. His experiences as a journalist and selections from his outside writings were published as his first book, "Sketches by Boz" (1836). The pseudonym, Boz, was derived from his own childhood mispronunciation of the name Moses.

In April, 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, in London, and in the same month, published the first number in the serial, "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club", better known as "The Pickwick Papers". Its fourth installment elevated Dickens to literary and financial success.

His life, after this, was filled with furious activity and productivity, highlighted by: "Oliver Twist" (1837-9), "Nicholas Nickleby" (1838-9), "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1840-1), "American Notes" (1842), "Martin Chuzzlewit" (1843-4), "A Christmas Carol" (1843), "Dombey and Son" (1846-8), "David Copperfield" (1849-50), "Bleak House" (1852-3), "Hard Times" (1854), "Little Dorrit" (1855-7), "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), "Great Expectations" (1860-1), "Our Mutual Friend" (1864-5), and the "Mystery of Edwin Drood" whose serialization was terminated by Dickens death in 1870.

Sprinkled among his other works, he managed to write "Pictures From Italy", "The Chimes", "The Cricket on the Hearth", "The Battle of Life", The Haunted Man" and "A Child's History of England." In addition to all this, Dickens managed to find the time to edit publications (Bentley's Miscellany, The Daily News), publish his own magazines (Household Words, All The Year Round), write a play (The Frozen Deep), act in a play (The Frozen Deep), get involved with all manner of social causes, make speeches, write letters, and make extended visits to Italy and America.

His marriage, which had been deteriorating for some years, ended in a permanent separation soon after his announcement of his marital difficulties in his magazine, Household Words, in June of 1858. Dickens lived in London for most of his career, at ever-escalating levels of luxury, and in 1857 moved his residence to Gad's Hill Place, in the nearby city of Rochester, where he lived and worked until his death.

"A Christmas Carol", "Great Expectations" and "The Chimes"
The Dickens Project - Conferences, publications, resources for reading, teaching and study. Electronic archive.

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