"Boz" Charles John Huffam Dickens was not only a great writer, but "the most popular novelist in the [19th] century, and one of the greatest humanists that England has produced." (Murray, Brian. Charles Dickens, p. 15) Charles Dickens' greatness was expressed throughout his life in his works and in the reputation he gained while writing.
Charles Dickens was born on Friday February 7, 1812 in a small area known as New Town or Mile End, just on the outskirts of Portsmouth, England. His father, John Dickens, worked in the Naval Pay Office. It was not until 1821 when Charles received his first formal education. He was able to do so because they moved next to a church in which the minister's son kept a school not far away. After only a year in school, Charles was moved back to London after his father had accumulated a large debt. Charles was not sent back to school.
John Dickens was then arrested and sent to the Marshalsea Prison. Having no where to stay, the Dickens family moved into the Prison with John. Charles did not move into the prison because he had just started a job in a blackening warehouse with his relative James Lambert. After John Dickens was released, the family moved in with Mrs. Roylance, the person whom Charles had been staying with while his family was away. After much quarreling between John and James, the Dickens' moved out and Charles began to attend school again. He became an independent reporter at Doctor's Commons Courts in 1829. By 1832 he had become a very successful shorthand reporter of Parliamentary deputies in the House of Commons, and began work as a reporter for a newspaper. It was in the new house on Norfolk St. that Charles met his first love, Maria Beadwell. Maria was 15 months older than he, short, had dark hair, dark eyes and was a flirt. Her nick name at one time, because of her looks, was "the Pocket Venus". (Ackroyd, Peter. Dickens p. 130) Their relationship lasted only until 1833 when it ended most likely because her parents did not think him a good match. "Boz" became his pseudonym, in 1834. His father was again arrested for debt and Charles was forced to come to his aid. Catherine Hogarth became his Fiancee after meeting him in 1835. They were wed on April 2, 1836, and he became editor of Bentley's Miscellany later that year. John Foster became his closest friend and confidant that same year. In 1942 he took a trip to Canada and the United states in which he advocated intentional copyright. In 1844 the family toured Italy, and became frequent visitors of France, Italy, and Switzerland until 1847. The only time he returned to England was in December 1844 to see the publishing of The Chimes, and then returned to Italy. In 1845 he returned to England which brought the debut of his amateur theatrical company. Dickens time was occupied a great deal by it from then on. In 1850 Charles founded and became editor of the Weekly Household Words. In 1853 he toured Italy with Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins, and, upon his return, gave the first of many public readings from his own works. In 1856 he bought Gad's Hill, the house he had admired since childhood. Charles then fell in love with Ellen Ternan, a young actress who was performing in his play for the Queen. The next year he separated from his wife after a long period of difficulties. In the same year he performed his first public reading for pay, and they continued though the next year. By 1836 he was in poor health due to consistent overwork. In 1866 he did another year of public readings in various locations of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Dickens was, at this point, was very unwell but carried on against his doctor's advice. In late 1867 he began a reading tour in America which continued until 1868. In 1869, while reading in England, Ireland, and Scotland he at last collapsed showing symptoms of a mild stroke. His final public reading took place in London in 1870. He suffered another stoke on June 8 at Gad's Hill, and died the next day. Charles Dickens was buried at the West Minster Abbey on June 14 1870.
The stories of Charles Dickens are so great that many of them show up in the studies in High School. Charles first piece of prose was written in the house in which the Dickens family moved into when he was five. The title, Misnar, Sultan of India-a Tragedy, is the only piece of information that is known. Dickens' first story,"A Dinner at Popular Walk", was published in the monthly magazine. Although he never received any pay from it, the publication started his writing carrier. His short story was the beginning of many which make up his first published writings, Sketches by Boz in 1838. The collection portrays life in London. Works that show this include: "The Streets-Night", "Shops and their Tenants", "London Recreations", and "Greenwich Fair". It was not until 1837 when he finished his first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The novel originally was published in monthly installments beginning march 1836, and completing in October 1837. Dickens second, and one of his most famous novels, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, began to appear in the February issue of Bentley's Miscellany. The novel was not completed until march of 1839. Charles' next major work began in October 1843 and was finished before the end of November. A Christmas Carol was published in one volume in December. The next piece, The Cricket on Hearth, was published in December 1845. Dombey and Son, the next of Dickens installments, began in October 1846 and ran until April 1848. Battle of Life appeared in December of 1848. The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, another Christmas book, was released in December. February 1849 saw the birth of David Copperfield, and would run until November 1850. It was not until one year later that Charles began work on Bleak House in which he would not complete until September 1853. Household Words began to publish Dickens next work, Hard Times, in January 1854 and continued until August. Little Dorrit began in October in 1856 and ran in monthly installments until June 1857. Charles' next big novel, A Tale of Two Cities, began to be published in April 1859 and the last installment was issued on November 26, 1859. Dickens thirteenth novel, Great Expectations, was begun writing in October of 1860 and the first installment appeared in December. The novel was published in weekly installments until August 3, 1861. Dickens began work on his fourteenth novel, Our Mutual Friend, in November 1863, but it was not until may of 1864 that the first installment was published. The last number was published in November 1865. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens final novel was left unfinished because of his death. Writing of the work began in October 1869 and the first piece was published in April 1870. The last words, which were written on June 8, 1870, were published in September.
Like many people, the reputation that Charles Dickens gained did not come easily. At the beginning of the Twentieth century, Charles was viewed by many young writers at the time of being a "'superficial' novelist who 'has created nothing but figure', and so 'added nothing to our understanding of character.'" (Murray, Brian. Charles Dickens p. 16) Although he was regarded as such by some, there are people who believe him, next to Shakespeare, "the greatest name in English Literature." (Watts, Alan. Charles Dickens p. 138) Watts goes on to say that "...it is probable that Dickens is much better known to the general public today than Shakespeare is." (Watts, Alan. Charles Dickens p. 138) Dickens was able to gain the reputation he did with his "ability to make readers laugh and cry..." (Watts Alan. Charles Dickens p. 140) Dickens was able to really achieve fame with his great ability to "capture the wonder, caprice, and tragedy..." which "few novelists have been able to repeat." (Murray, Brian. Charles Dickens p. 21) Throughout his life, Charles John Huffam Dickens was able to achieve many great things. expressed by him in his works and in the wonderful reputation he now has as a writer. Some may ask "Why did Dickens spend his entire life writing stories?" (Nelson, Harland. Charles Dickens p. 25) , and some may try to give responses to the almost unanswerable question, but the best answer comes from Charles Dickens himself; "I write because I can't help it." (Nelson, Harland. Charles Dickens p. 25) Works Cited Ackroyd, Peter. (1990). Dickens. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Frank, Lawrence. (1984). Charles Dickens. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Hardwick, Michael and Hardwick, Mollie. eds. (1992). The Charles Dickens Encyclopedia.
Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.
Murray, Brian. (1994). Charles Dickens. New York: The Continuom Publishing Company Nelson, Harland S. (1981). Charles Dickens. New York: Twayned Publishers Watts, Alan S. (1991). Charles Dickens. New York: Crescent Books.