Charles Dickens was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era responsible for some of English literature's most iconic characters. Many of his novels, with their recurrent concern for social reform, first appeared in magazines in serialised form. Unlike other authors who completed entire novels before serialisation, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialized. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by cliffhangers to keep the public looking forward to the next installment. His work has been praised for its realism, mastery of prose, comic genius and unique personalities.
Charles Dickens was born in 1812. Having spent the first three years of his life in Portsmouth, Hampshire, the family moved to London in 1815. His early years seem to have been idyllic, although he thought himself as a "very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy". This period came to an end when John Dickens, his father spent beyond his means and was imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor's prison in Southwark, London. Shortly, the rest of his family joined him – except Charles, who boarded with family friend Elizabeth Roylance.
To help his family, Dickens began working ten-hour a day. He earned six shillings a week pasting labels on shoe polish. The strenuous – and often cruel – work conditions made a deep impression on Dickens, and later influenced his fiction, forming foundation of his interest in the reform of socio-economic and labour conditions.
After only a few months John Dickens' paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Dickens, died and bequeathed him the sum of £450. On the expectation of this legacy, Dickens was granted release from prison. Under the Insolvent Debtors Act, Dickens arranged for payment of his creditors, and he and his family left Marshalsea.
Although Dickens eventually attended the Wellington House Academy in London, his mother Elizabeth Dickens did not immediately remove him from the boot-blacking factory. 'The incident must have done much to confirm Dickens's determined view that a father should rule the family, a mother find her proper sphere inside the home. His mother's failure to request his return was no doubt a factor in his demanding and dissatisfied attitude towards women.'
In 1856, his income from his writing allowed him to buy Gad's Hill Place in Higham, Kent. As a child, Dickens had walked past the house and dreamed of living in it.
Journalism and early novels
In 1833, Dickens' first story, A Dinner at Poplar Walk was published in the London periodical, Monthly Magazine. The following year he rented rooms at Furnival's Inn becoming a political journalist, reporting on parliamentary debate and travelling across Britain to cover election campaigns. His journalism, in the form of sketches in periodicals, formed his first collection of pieces Sketches by Boz, published in 1836. This led to the serialisation of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, in March 1836. He continued to contribute to and edit journals throughout his literary career.
In 1836, Dickens accepted the job of editor of Bentley's Miscellany, a position he held for three years, until he fell out with the owner. At the same time, his success as a novelist continued, producingOliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol,Great Expectationsand, finally, Barnaby Rudge—all published in monthly instalments before being made into books.
On 2 April 1836, he married Catherine Thomson Hogarth, the daughter of editor of the Evening Chronicle. After a brief honeymoon in Chalk, Kent, they set up home in Bloomsbury. They had ten children.
On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke at his home. The next day, on 9 June, he died at Gad's Hill Place never having regained consciousness. A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads: "To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England's most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world."
Dickens loved the style of 18th century Gothic romance, although it had already become a target for parody. His writing style is florid and poetic, with a strong comic touch. His satires of British aristocratic snobbery—he calls one character the "Noble Refrigerator"—are often popular. Comparing orphans to stocks and shares, people to tug boats, or dinner-party guests to furniture are just some of Dickens' acclaimed flights of fancy. Many of his characters' names provide the reader with a hint as to the roles played in advancing the storyline, such as Murdstone in the novel David Copperfield, which is clearly a combination of "murder" and stony coldness. His literary style is also a mixture of fantasy and realism.
His novels were praised for their ability to capture the everyday man and thus create characters to whom readers could relate. Beginning with The Pickwick Papers in 1836, Dickens wrote numerous novels, each uniquely filled with believable personalities and vivid physical descriptions. Dickens's friend and biographer, John Forster, said that Dickens made "characters real existences, not by describing them but by letting them describe themselves."
Dickensian characters—especially their typically whimsical names—are among the most memorable in English literature. The likes of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, Oliver Twist, The Artful Dodger, Fagin, Bill Sikes, Pip, Miss Havisham, Charles Darnay, David Copperfield, Mr. Micawber, Abel Magwitch, Daniel Quilp, Samuel Pickwick, Wackford Squeers, Uriah Heep and many others are so well known and can be believed to be living a life outside the novels that their stories have been continued by other authors.
Charles Dickens Quotes
A boy's story is the best that is ever told.
A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self. - Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens Quotes
A boy's story is the best that is ever told.
A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self. - Charles Dickens
A loving heart is the truest wisdom. - Charles Dickens
A person who can't pay gets another person who can't pay to guarantee that he can pay. Like a person with two wooden legs getting another person with two wooden legs to guarantee that he has got two natural legs. It don't make either of them able to do a walking-match. - Charles Dickens
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. - Charles Dickens
Although a skillful flatterer is a most delightful companion if you have him all to yourself, his taste becomes very doubtful when he takes to complimenting other people. - Charles Dickens
An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself. - Charles Dickens
Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he's well dressed. There ain't much credit in that. - Charles Dickens
Anything for the quick life, as the man said when he took the situation at the lighthouse. - Charles Dickens
Bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew. - Charles Dickens
Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door. - Charles Dickens
Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows - and china. - Charles Dickens
Credit is a system whereby a person who can not pay gets another person who can not pay to guarantee that he can pay. - Charles Dickens
Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine. - Charles Dickens
Do you spell it with a "V" or a "W"?' inquired the judge. 'That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my Lord'. - Charles Dickens
Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true. - Charles Dickens
Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine. - Charles Dickens
Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire. - Charles Dickens
Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home! - Charles Dickens
Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts. - Charles Dickens
He had but one eye and the pocket of prejudice runs in favor of two. - Charles Dickens
He would make a lovely corpse. - Charles Dickens
Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration. - Charles Dickens
I have known a vast quantity of nonsense talked about bad men not looking you in the face. Don't trust that conventional idea. Dishonesty will stare honesty out of countenance any day in the week, if there is anything to be got by it. - Charles Dickens
I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time. - Charles Dickens
I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. - Charles Dickens
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. - Charles Dickens
If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers. - Charles Dickens
In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. - Charles Dickens
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known. - Charles Dickens
It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations. - Charles Dickens
It is a pleasant thing to reflect upon, and furnishes a complete answer to those who contend for the gradual degeneration of the human species, that every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last. - Charles Dickens
It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper; so cry away. - Charles Dickens
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. - Charles Dickens
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. - Charles Dickens
It's my old girl that advises. She has the head. But I never own to it before her. Discipline must be maintained. - Charles Dickens
Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence. - Charles Dickens
Life is made of ever so many partings welded together. - Charles Dickens
May not the complaint, that common people are above their station, often take its rise in the fact of uncommon people being below theirs? - Charles Dickens
Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions. - Charles Dickens
Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress. - Charles Dickens
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else. - Charles Dickens
Oh the nerves, the nerves; the mysteries of this machine called man! Oh the little that unhinges it, poor creatures that we are! - Charles Dickens
Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips. - Charles Dickens
Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. - Charles Dickens
Regrets are the natural property of grey hairs. - Charles Dickens
Renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne willingly. - Charles Dickens
Send forth the child and childish man together, and blush for the pride that libels our own old happy state, and gives its title to an ugly and distorted image. - Charles Dickens
Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human nature. - Charles Dickens
That sort of half sigh, which, accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head, is pity's small change in general society. - Charles Dickens
The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons. - Charles Dickens
The civility which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none. - Charles Dickens
The first rule of business is: Do other men for they would do you. - Charles Dickens
The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother. - Charles Dickens
The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself. - Charles Dickens
The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. - Charles Dickens
The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists. - Charles Dickens
There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts. - Charles Dickens
There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. - Charles Dickens
There are not a few among the disciples of charity who require, in their vocation, scarcely less excitement than the votaries of pleasure in theirs. - Charles Dickens
There are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk. - Charles Dickens
There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated. - Charles Dickens
There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart. - Charles Dickens
There is nothing so strong or safe in an emergency of life as the simple truth. - Charles Dickens
This is a world of action, and not for moping and droning in. - Charles Dickens
'Tis love that makes the world go round, my baby. - Charles Dickens
To conceal anything from those to whom I am attached, is not in my nature. I can never close my lips where I have opened my heart. - Charles Dickens
Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess! - Charles Dickens
We are so very 'umble. - Charles Dickens
We forge the chains we wear in life. - Charles Dickens
Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest. - Charles Dickens
When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people. - Charles Dickens
You don't carry in your countenance a letter of recommendation. - Charles DickensHide details
English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens's works are charactericized by attacks on social evils, unjustice, and hypocrisy. He had also experienced in his...More details
English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens's works are charactericized by attacks on social evils, unjustice, and hypocrisy. He had also experienced in his youth oppression, when he was forced to end school in early teens and work in a factory. Dickens's lively good, bad and comic characters, such as the cruel miser Scrooge, the aspiring novelist David Copperfield, or the trusting and innocent Mr. Pickwick, have fascinated generations of readers.
Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Hampshire, during the new industrial age, which created misery for the class of low-paid workers and gave birth to theories of Karl Marx. His father was a clerk in the navy pay office, who was well paid but often ended in financial troubles. In 1814 Dickens moved to London, and then to Chatham, where he received some education. He worked in a blacking factory, Hungerford Market, London, while his family was in Marshalea debtor's prison in 1824 - later this period found its way to the novel Little Dorrit (1855-57). In 1824-27 Dickens studied at Wellington House Academy, London, and at Mr. Dawson's school in 1827. From 1827 to 1828 he was a law office clerk, and then worked as a shorthand reporter at Doctor's Commons. He wrote for True Son (1830-32), Mirror of Parliament (1832-34) and the Morning Chronicle (1834-36). He was in the 1830s a contributor to Monthly Magazine, and The Evening Chronicle and edited Bentley's Miscellany. In the 1840s Dickens founded Master Humphrey's Cloak and edited the London Daily News.
These years as a journalist left Dickens with lasting affection for journalism and suspicious attitude towards unjust laws. His sharp ear for conversation helped him reveal characters through their own words. Dickens's career as a writer of fiction started in 1833 when his short stories and essays to appeared in periodical. His SKETCHES BY BOZ and THE PICKWICK PAPERS were published in 1836; he married in the same year the daughter of his friend George Hogarth, Catherine Hogart. However, some people suspected that he was more fond of her sister, Mary, who moved into their house and died in 1837. Dickens requested that he be buried next to her when he died and wore Mary's ring all his life. Another of Catherine's sisters, Georgiana, moved in with the Dickenses, and the novelist fell in love with her. Dickens had with Catherine 10 children but they were separated in 1858. Dickens also had a long liaison with the actress Ellen Ternan, whom he had met by the late 1850s.
The Pickwick Papers were stories about a group of rather odd individuals and their travels to Ipswich, Rochester, Bath and elsewhere. Dickens's novels first appeared in monthly instalments, including OLIVER TWIST (1837-39), which depicts the London underworld and hard years of the foundling Oliver Twist, NICHOLAS NICKELBY (1838-39), a tale of young Nickleby's struggles to seek his fortune, and OLD CURIOSITY SHOP (1840-41). Among his later works are DAVID COPPERFIELD (1849-50), where Dickens used his own personal experiences of work in a factory, BLEAK HOUSE (1852-53), A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859), set in the years of the French Revolution. GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1860-61), the story of Pip (Philip Pirrip), was among Tolstoy's and Dostoyevsky's favorite novels. The unfinished mystery novel THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD was published in 1870.
From the 1840s Dickens spent much time travelling and campaigning against many of the social evils of his time. In addition he gave talks and reading, wrote pamphlets, plays, and letters. In the 1850s Dickens was founding editor of Household World and its successor All the Year Round (1859-70). In 1844-45 he lived in Italy, Switzerland and Paris. He gave lecturing tours in Britain and the United States in 1858-68. From 1860 Dickens lived at Gadshill Place, near Rochester, Kent. He died at Gadshill on June 9, 1870.
Although Dickens's career as a novelist received much attention, he produced hundreds of essays and edited and rewrote hundreds of others submitted to the various periodicals he edited. Dickens distinquished himself as an essayis in 1834 under the pseudonym Boz. 'A Visit to Newgate' (1836) reflects his own memories of visiting his own family in the Marshalea Prison. In 'A Small Star in in the East' reveals the working conditions on mills and 'Mr. Barlow' (1869) draws a portrait of a unsensitive tutor.Hide details
Sketches by Boz, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, The Pickwick Papers