Charles Dickens is much loved for his great contribution to English literature. He was one of the most popular Victorian authors. His epic stories, vivid characters and exhaustive depiction of contemporary life are unforgettable.
On this day in 1812, Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth. He experienced a difficult childhood as his father was sent to prison for debt, which culminated in Charles having to leave school at the age of nine. His entire family was sent to Marshalsea, an infamous prison on the south bank of the River Thames, while young Charles was put to work in a blacking factory. Once his father was released from prison he arranged for Charles to attend the Wellington House Academy as a day pupil, saving him from a life of factory work and setting him on the road to becoming a writer.
However, his childhood experience of poverty was never forgotten. Dickens would later come to fictionalise these dark times in two of his better-known novels, 'David Copperfield' and 'Great Expectations'.
Like many others, Dickens began his literary career as a journalist. He moved to London, the city which shaped most of his writing and his adult life. He became a reporter for the journals 'The Mirror of Parliament' (a nascent version of 'Hansard', today's official record of proceedings in Parliament) and 'The True Sun'. Then in 1833 he became a parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronicle. With new contacts in the press he was able to publish a series of sketches under the pseudonym 'Boz'.
In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, whose father had edited 'Sketches by Boz'. Within the same month came the publication of the highly successful 'Pickwick Papers'. Now there was no looking back for Dickens. Within a few years, he was regarded as one of the most successful authors of his time, with approximately one out of every ten people in Victorian England avidly reading and following his work.
His best-known novels include:
A Tale of Two Cities Oliver Twist David Copperfield Pickwick Papers Dombey and Son A Christmas Carol Great Expectations Barnaby Rudge Nicolas Nickleby
As well as a large list of books he also published autobiography, wrote travel books and administered charitable organisations. A keen amateur actor, he loved giving flamboyant public readings of his works, which were always packed-out events - he was, in truth, one of the first celebrity writers.
He is buried in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey in London.