Charles Dickens: His Life and Work
Charles Dickens is one of my favorite Victorian authors. His stories and writings reflect the prevalent injustices and the divide between rich and poor of that times. I had written this essay a few years back. Today I found it just by chance in one of the folders and thought to post it on my blog.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born to John and Elizabeth Dickens on February the 17th 1812 in Landport, Hampshire. Charles Dickens is considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. He gained a worldwide popularity for writing novels and short stories on the social evils, injustice and hypocrisy.
Charles Dickens spent his early years mostly in Catham, Kent. Unlike the other boys of his age Charles was a frail and sick boy. While his friends would be busy playing he would voraciously read books. Charles Dickens always believed that his sickness inclined him to reading. He received his basic education from his mother who taught him the rudiments of English and Latin. In his own words his first desire for knowledge was awakened by his mother. He received some education at the William Giles’s private school in Catham. Charles Dickens was blessed with a fabulous memory, vividly remembering the events that took place when he was only two. Because of his love for reading he took to writing and wrote his first story at the age of seven called “Misnar, the Sultan of India”. This unpublished story became so popular in his friends’ circle.
Charles’ blissful life at Catham came to an abrupt end when his father, John Dickens ran into financial trouble. His father was a clerk in the Navy pay office. He was well paid but his excessive spending on keeping his social position gave birth to the never ending financial woes and he landed in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison. In 1824, at the age of twelve, Charles moved to London where he took up a job in the factory. He would be paid six shillings a week for pasting labels on the jars of black polish. With that amount he paid for his lodgings and supported his family.
The tough times of his boyhood at the factory left indelible marks on his psyche and it became one of his most painful memories. He worked for a few months at the factory until his father paid off the debt of 40 pounds that he had inherited from his deceased mother. Once released from the family obligations Charles joined Wellington House Academy, London and resumed his studies.
In 1827 Charles became a law office clerk. After gaining the detailed knowledge of law he came to know about the sufferings of poor and the flawed legal system. At the age of seventeen he became the court stenographer. Charles took a step further in his life and became the political journalist. From 1832 to 1836 he wrote for “True Sun”, “Mirror of Parliament” and “Morning Chronicle”. He also wrote under the pseudonym “Boz”. His affection for journalism was everlasting as he remained in that profession all his life.
In 1836 he got married to Catherine Thompson Hogarth, who was the daughter of his editor. They had ten children. In 1858 Dickens separated from his wife but he continued to maintain her for life.
His career as a fiction writer started in 1833. “A Dinner at Poplar Walk” was his first published sketch. According to that time’s trend most of Dickens’s novels were published in the installments in journals and readers would eagerly wait for the next part. The Pickwick Papers his first full novel was about the group of odd individuals. That was followed by Oliver Twist a story about an orphan, the London underworld and slums. That became a huge success and established him as a fiction writer. Dickens started writing vigorously. At times he would work on the two or more novels simultaneously. His rapid writing never eclipsed the quality of his work and he kept producing gem after gem of literature.
A Christmas Carol (1843) is one of his most loved works. David Copperfield (1850) is said to be an autobiographical novel of Charles Dickens where he mentioned his own experiences at the factory. In 1859 came The Tale of Two Cities that was based on the French revolution. Great Expectations (1860) is yet another renowned novel of Dickens. It was one of Tolstoy’s favorite novels.
Most of the characters created by Charles Dickens became larger than life such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Fagin, Mrs. Gamp, Oliver Twist, Pip, Miss Havisham and Samuel Pickwick to name a few.
Charles Dickens remained socially active all his life. He raised his voice for the abolition of slavery during his visit to America. He despised poverty and the stratification of society and wrote extensively about these issues.
By 1869 Charles Dickens had became quite weak. He died on 8 June, 1870. His death was mourned by all the classes of people alike. He is buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.
Notes taken from: The life of Charles Dickens by John Forster