CHARLES DICKENS BIOGRAPHY – English writer Charles Dickens is the most famous man of letters of the Victorian era. Author of triumphant books, he wrote the novels “Oliver Twist” and “David Copperfield”.
Short biography of Charles Dickens – Born the February 7, 1812 in Landport, a suburb of Portsmouth in England, Charles Dickens came from a modest family. The second child but the first son of a family of seven brothers and sisters, he will soon have to take up his responsibilities. After a happy early childhood in Kent, his family moved to London in 1816. Crumbling in debt, his father decided to withdraw young Charles from school, to put him to work in a shoe polish factory. Charles was 12 when his father was imprisoned for debt. This laborious work, in which he earnestly earns a living, slowly kills his carelessness and his dreams of becoming an educated man. After two years, Charles Dickens was able to resume his studies again, as his family’s financial situation had improved thanks to an unexpected inheritance. But at the age of 15, he must work again, his parents having found him a place of clerk in a law firm.
Charles Dickens chose, probably without his parents’ consent, to pursue a career in journalism. In a few years, he stood out in the industry for his talent. He writes articles, mostly political, for the biggest dailies of the time. Earning a good living, he began to study literature. He also develops his sense of observation: he imitates accents, retains facial expressions. These observations are the salt of his novels, still in gestation. In 1835, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he had ten children. In the same year, Dickens achieved success, with the serialization of several of these works in newspapers, including the short stories entitled Les Boz sketches, and his very first novel The posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club. In February 1837, Charles Dickens wrote and published his novel Oliver twist in thirty-two monthly serials in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany. The adventures of the young orphan left to himself are a triumphant success, and are exported to the United States. Little Oliver, who knows nothing but deprivation and ill-treatment, runs away and meets a bunch of young thieves. With them, he discovers the violent world of London crime, in which cunning is the only way to survive. Attracting the good graces of a wealthy man, he breaks with this life of theft thanks to the support of his benefactor.
In 1842, Charles Dickens began a trip to the United States. He is then a personality: in each city he visits, he gives lectures which are all packed and allow him to earn a lot of his living. He stands out for his highly sought-after clothing. Rich and famous, it is again on his shoulders that the fate of his family rests: he absorbs the new debts of his father, and provides for the needs of his brothers and sisters. In 1843, he published his first and most famous tale: A Christmas Carol (A Christmas Carol in English). In 1849 Charles Dickens worked at a ambitious project and innovative: he wants to write a novel that simply follows the hero’s daily life. Autobiographical inspiration, David Copperfield is a new success, describing the social rise of a man with a tormented childhood, who finds happiness again by fulfilling his dream: to become a writer.
After several family dramas (he loses his father, then his sister and one of his eight-month-old daughters), Dickens’ works become darker. This is the case with novels The hard times (Where Hard Times for These Times) published in 1854, and The great expectations (Where Great Expectations) in 1861. In 1865, the train in which he was traveling derailed at Staplehurst. Bruised but alive, Charles Dickens’ heart shows signs of failing to breathe. He who burns the boards during his public readings, where, almost in a trance, he gives everything his body is capable of to satisfy the public, tires himself irreparably. Charles Dickens finally died at the age of 58 from a heart attack, the June 9, 1870, at his home in Gad’s Hill Place. Buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner with the honors of the nation, Charles Dickens, the greatest Victorian writer of his time, leaves behind a considerable work composed of many books, as well as an unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Charles Dickens: key dates
- February 7, 1812: Birth of Charles Dickens
- British writer Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Landport, near Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. Raised in a modest family, which subsequently became relatively wealthy, he experienced hunger and misery when his father was in debt. Forced to work from the age of 12, Charles Dickens then found his salvation in writing.
- April 2, 1836: Catherine Hogarth marries Charles Dickens
- Charles Dickens marries the daughter of a co-worker, Catherine Hogarth. The first years of marriage are happy and see the birth of a host of children: Charles, Mary, then Kate. In total, 10 children will be born from this union. Georgina, Catherine’s sister, will also play an important role in the life of the writer. Present to take care of the house and the children, Georgina becomes Dickens’ confidante. Marital relations between the spouses deteriorate sharply over the years. Catherine accuses Charles of having mistress Ellen Ternan, a young actress, and the couple divorced in 1858. Georgina, despite the departure of her sister from the family home, remained with Dickens until the end of her life.
- 1837: Charles Dickens publishes Oliver twist
- Charles Dickens, then working for various newspapers, wrote and published his most famous work: Oliver Twist. From February 1837, he published his novel in 32 monthly feuilletons, for the review Bentley’s Miscellany. Success was immediate, and Dickens rose to fame. It is also a period of high productivity for the writer (and a constant challenge), because in parallel with the monthly writing of Oliver Twist, he undertook to publish another novel in serial format, Nicholas nickleby, for the publishing house Chapman & Hall.
- 1849: Beginning of the publication of David Copperfield serialized
- Like the vast majority of these books and other works, the novel David Copperfield, another great success of Charles Dickens, began serialization. Partly autobiographical, David Copperfield results from the author’s desire to try something new. The novel therefore tells the story of the hero’s daily life, in search of self-understanding. After the success ofOliver twist, this novel, the eighth by Dickens, propels the English writer to the height of his glory.
- June 9, 1865: Charles Dickens’ train crash
- In 1865, while Charles Dickens and his mistress Ellen Ternan were on a train bringing them home after a stay in France, they were victims of a railway accident. The train derailed on a bridge near Staplehurst. Dickens and Ellen get out alive but injured. The accident left 10 dead and 40 injured, so around ten people were seriously injured. In the preface to his fourteenth and last published novel, Charles Dickens ironically recounts that he almost forgot the manuscript of the last episode of the soap opera in his jacket, in the wreckage of the train. He would then have returned to retrieve his notes in the vertically suspended wagon.
- June 9, 1870: Dickens died of a stroke
- English writer Charles Dickens died at the age of 58 at his home in Gad’s Hill Place, Higham (Kent County, England). Forced to go to the factory at the age of 12 in order to repay his family’s debts, forced to visit his father in prison, his work remains haunted by this painful memory. The themes of bruised and humiliated childhood abound as well as a fierce denunciation of “starving capitalism” and the law of profit. Like his most popular novels, Oliver twist (1838-9) or David Copperfield (1848-53), where his empathy for the declassified does not escape sentimentality.