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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Charles Dickens



Charles Dickens was driven to achieve success from the days of his boyhood. With little formal education, he taught himself, worked furiously at everything he undertook and rocketed to fame as a writer in his mid-twenties. He continued to work assiduously to the end of his life. Besides making a prodigious contribution to English Literature as a writer of fiction, he edited a weekly journal for twenty years and became an accomplished performer of his own works.

Dickens is much loved for his great contribution to classic English literature. He was the quintessential Victorian author. His epic stories, vivid characters and exhaustive depiction of contemporary life are unforgettable.

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, the son of John and Elizabeth Dickens. John Dickens was a clerk in the Naval Pay Office. He had a poor head for finances, and in 1824 found himself imprisoned for debt. His wife and children, with the exception of Charles, who was put to work at Warren's Blacking Factory, joined him in the Marshalsea Prison. When the family finances were put at least partly to rights and his father was released, the twelve-year-old Dickens, already scarred psychologically by the experience, was further wounded by his mother's insistence that he continue to work at the factory. His father, however, rescued him from that fate, and between 1824 and 1827 Dickens was a day pupil at a school in London.

Birth Place of Charles Dickens
At fifteen, he found employment as an office boy at an attorney's, while he studied shorthand at night. His brief stint at the Blacking Factory haunted him all of his life — he spoke of it only to his wife and to his closest friend, John Forster — but the dark secret became a source both of creative energy and of the preoccupation with the themes of alienation and betrayal which would emerge, most notably, in David Copperfield and in Great Expectations.

In 1832, at age 20, Dickens was energetic, full of good humour, enjoyed mimicry and popular entertainment, lacked a clear sense of what he wanted to become, yet knew he wanted to be famous.

In November 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. In 1836 as he finished the last instalments of The Pickwick Papers he began writing the beginning instalments of Oliver Twist—writing as many as 90 pages a month—while continuing work on Bentley's, writing four plays, the production of which he oversaw.

Oliver Twist, published in 1838, became one of Dickens's better known stories, with dialogue that transferred well to the stage and more importantly, it was the first Victorian novel with a child protagonist.

Charles Dickens Wife, Catherine.
On 2 April 1836, after a one year engagement during which he wrote The Pickwick Papers, he married Catherine Thomson Hogarth. During the same year he became editor of Bentley's Miscellany, published (in December) the second series of Sketches by Boz, and met John Forster, who would become his closest friend and confidant as well as his first biographer.

After the success of Pickwick, Dickens embarked on a full-time career as a novelist, producing work of increasing complexity at an incredible rate, although he continued, as well, his journalistic and editorial activities. Oliver Twist was begun in 1837, and continued in monthly parts until April 1839. It was in 1837, too, that Catherine's younger sister Mary, whom Dickens idolized, died. She too would appear, in various guises, in Dickens's later fiction. A son, Charles, the first of ten children, was born in the same year.

Nicholas Nickleby got underway in 1838, and continued through October 1839, in which year Dickens resigned as editor of Bentley's Miscellany. The first number of Master Humphrey's Clock appeared in 1840, and The Old Curiosity Shop, begun in Master Humphrey, continued through February 1841, when Dickens commenced Barnaby Rudge, which continued through November of that year.

In 1842 he embarked on a visit to Canada and the United States in which he advocated international copyright and the abolition of slavery. His American Notes, which created a furor in America.

A Christmas Carol, the first of Dickens's enormously successful Christmas books — each, though they grew progressively darker, intended as "a whimsical sort of masque intended to awaken loving and forbearing thoughts" — appeared in December 1844.

In that same year, Dickens and his family toured Italy, and were much abroad, in Italy, Switzerland, and France, until 1847. Dickens returned to London in December 1844, when The Chimes was published, and then went back to Italy, not to return to England until July of 1845.

Home of Charles Dikens, Gad's hill Palace.
1845 also brought the debut of Dickens's amateur theatrical company, which would occupy a great deal of his time from then on. The Cricket and the Hearth, a third Christmas book, was published in December, and his Pictures From Italy appeared in 1846 in the "Daily News," a paper which Dickens founded and of which, for a short time, he was the editor.

In May 1846 Angela Burdett Coutts, heir to the Coutts banking fortune, approached Dickens about setting up a home for the redemption of fallen women from the working class. Coutts envisioned a home that would replace the punitive regimes of existing institutions with a reformative environment conducive to education and proficiency in domestic household chores. After initially resisting, Dickens eventually founded the home, named "Urania Cottage", in the Lime Grove section of Shepherds Bush, which he was to manage for ten years.

In late November 1851, Dickens moved into Tavistock House where he wrote Bleak House (1852–53), Hard Times (1854) and Little Dorrit (1856). It was here he indulged in the amateur theatricals which are described in Forster's "Life".

In 1859 his London readings continued, and he began a new weekly, All the Year Round. The first installment of A Tale of Two Cities appeared in the opening number, and the novel continued through November.
Statue of Charles Dickens 
1861 found Dickens embarking upon another series of public readings in London, readings which would continue through the next year. In 1863, he did public readings both in Paris and London, and reconciled with Thackeray just before the latter's death.

In 1865, an incident occurred which disturbed Dickens greatly, both psychologically and physically: Dickens and Ellen Ternan, returning from a Paris holiday, were badly shaken up in a railway accident in which a number of people were injured.

1866 brought another series of public readings but Dickens was now really unwell but carried on, compulsively, against his doctor's advice. Late in the year he embarked on an American reading tour, which continued into 1868. Dickens's health was worsening, but he took over still another physically and mentally exhausting task, editorial duties at All the Year Round.

During 1869 at last he collapsed, showing symptoms of mild stroke. Further provincial readings were cancelled, but he began upon The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Resting Place of Charles Dickens
On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home after a full day's work on Edwin Drood. He never regained consciousness, and the next day, on 9 June, five years to the day after the Staplehurst rail crash, he died at Gad's Hill Place. Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner" he was laid to rest in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Major Works.

Sketches by Boz (1836)
Pickwick Papers (serialized monthly 1836-37)
Oliver Twist (serialized monthly 1837-39)
Nicholas Nickleby (serialized monthly 1838-39)
The Old Curiosity Shop (serialized weekly 1840-41)
Barnaby Rudge (serialized weekly 1841)
Martin Chuzzlewit (serialized monthly 1843-44)
Dombey and Son (serialized monthly 1846-48)
David Copperfield (serialized monthly 1849-50)
Bleak House (serialized monthly 1852-53)
Hard Times (serialized weekly 1854)
Little Dorrit (serialized monthly 1855-57)
A Tale of Two Cities (serialized weekly 1859)
Great Expectations (serialized weekly 1860-61)
Our Mutual Friend (serialized monthly 1864-65)
The Mystery of Edwin Drood - unfinished (serialized monthly 1870)


Minor Works.

American Notes (1843)
Pictures from Italy (1846)
The Life of Our Lord (1846)
A Child's History of England (serialized weekly 1851-53)
Reprinted Pieces (1858)
The Uncommercial Traveller (1861)

Christmas Books.

A Christmas Carol (1843)
The Chimes (1844)
The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
The Battle of Life (1846)
The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)

Weekly Magazines.

Master Humphrey's Clock (1840-41)
Household Words (1850-59)
All the Year Round (1859-70)

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