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Author Study: Charles Dickens Curated by Naomi LaDine '17

A page dedicated to Charles Dickens, the great Victorian writer, including Dickens' personal life, historical context, works, criticisms, and literary style

Early Life

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England in 1812 to the lower-middle class family of John and Elizabeth Dickens. Because his father was employed by the Navy Pay Office, the family moved rather frequently, and the happiest time of Dickens’ childhood was spent at Chatham, where young Charles discovered is passion for reading and love of the theater.

However, John Dickens struggled to manage his finances, and soon after the family had returned to London, was incarcerated at the Marshalsea debtor’s prison. The family moved in with him, except Charles. At age twelve he dwelt alone in rented rooms and worked to support the family at Warren’s Blacking Factory. His dark sense of abandonment, as well as his experience as a poor laborer in the dark city, had a deep psychological impact, despite his experience in the factory lasting for months only.

After his family had been restored, Dickens attended Wellington Academy and read avidly at the British Museum in order to further his education. During this time and the following years spent working as an assistant for a solicitor’s firm, he developed his skills at shorthand, eventually becoming a freelance reporter.

When he was 24, Dickens embarked on the creation of what would be his major breakthrough. Published in monthly installments, Pickwick Papers brought Dickens fame not just in England, but in America and Russia also. From that time on, Dickens published success after success, (many of which were also in regular installments and consolidated into novels later) until his death in 1870.