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Charles, A Dickens of an Author

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Hampshire. In 1814, his family moved to London and then to Chatham, where Charles attended school. He was a good student and progressed quickly.

In 1824, Charles’ father was sent to debtor’s prison. Young Charles went to work in a boot blacking factory at Hungerford Market, London. He earned six shillings a week attaching labels to bottles of boot blacking. He considered this the worst time of his life.

From 1824 to 1827, Charles attended Wellington House Academy in London. In 1827, he also attended Mr. Dawson’s school, then worked as a law clerk and shorthand reporter at Doctor’s Common. He wrote, “True Son” and “Mirror of Parliament,” in the early 1830’s. From 1834 to 1836, he reported for the “Morning Chronicle.”

Throughout the 1830’s, Charles contributed to such publications as “Monthly Magazine,” and “The Evening Chronicle.” He also edited “Bentley’s Miscellany.” For the rest of his life, Charles had great affection for journalism.

In 1833, Charles began writing fiction. His essays and short stories were immediately accepted by periodicals of the day. In December, 1833, “A Dinner at Poplar Walk,” appeared in “Monthly Magazine.”

In 1836, Charles married Catherine Hogart, the daughter of George Hogart, editor of the “Evening Chronicle.” The couple were blessed with ten children. His sister-in-law, Mary, of whom he was very fond, died in his arms at the age of seventeen. It has often been insinuated that Charles was in love with Mary. Charles used her as the model of his character, Dora Copperfield.

Charles’ alert mind enabled him to create the most colorful characters for his novels – characters that were, and are, dearly loved. However, he was very ritualistic in his habits. He rose every morning, took his meals, worked and went to bed at the precise same time every day. He wrote every morning. Nothing interfered with his schedule. He created strict rules for himself and followed them religiously.

The Pickwick Papers,” was published in 1836. It sold for one shilling per installment. Many of Charles’ writings were first published in installments, including “Oliver Twist,” which was published between 1837 and 1839. Other works published in installments were, “Nicholas Nickleby,” and “The Old Curiosity Shop.

Charles began traveling in the 1840’s to campaign against social evils of the day. He lectured, wrote plays, letters and pamphlets. In 1849, he wrote, “David Copperfield.” The book gave an accounting of his personal experience working in a factory. This was followed by, “Bleak House,” in 1852, “A Tale of Two Cities,” in 1859, and “Great Expectations,” in 1860.

Charles’ most popular work, “A Christmas Carol,” was written in 1843. It has been adapted to the silver screen many times over the years. In 1938, MGM Studios, released the first movie, starring Reginald Owen. In 1951, Alistair Sim played Ebenezer Scrooge. Both versions have become well-loved classics.

In 1844 and 1845, Charles lived in Italy, Switzerland and Paris. In 1860, he returned to England and took up residence at Gadshill Place, near Rochester, Kent. He lived there with his sister-in-law and his daughters. Wife Catherine remained at the London residence.

From 1858 to 1868, Charles toured Britain and the United States lecturing on the evils of society. By the time he arrived home from his last American tour, he was very ill. He couldn’t tolerate solid food and lived on a diet of eggs and champagne beaten with sherry. He died of a stroke on June 8, 1870. He was one of the greatest English novelists of the Victorian era. His works will long be remembered as powerful and touching classics. He is buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

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