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Charles Dickens
Born Charles John Huffam Dickens
7 February 1812(1812-02-07)
Landport, Portsmouth
Died 9 June 1870 (aged 58)
Gad's Hill Place, Higham, Kent
Cause of death Stroke
Resting place Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey
Other names Boz
Occupation Writer
Years active 1833 until his death
Notable works Sketches by Boz, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, A Christmas Carol, Martin Chuzzlewit, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Hard Times, Our Mutual Friend, The Pickwick Papers
Spouse(s) Catherine Thomson Hogarth
Children Charles, Mary, Kate, Walter, Francis, Alfred, Sydney, Henry, Dora, and Edward
Parents John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow

Charles John Huffam Dickens (pronounced /ˈtʃɑrlz ˈdɪkɪnz/; 7 February 1812–9 June 1870), pen-name "Boz," was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, and one of the most popular of all time, responsible for some of English literature's most iconic characters.[1]

Many of his novels, with their recurrent theme of social reform, first appeared in periodicals and magazines in serialised form, a popular format for fiction at the time. Unlike other authors who completed entire novels before serial production began, Dickens often wrote them while they were being serialized, creating them in the order in which they were meant to appear. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by one "cliffhanger" after another to keep the public looking forward to the next installment.[2] The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print.[3]

His work has been praised for its mastery of prose and unique personalities by writers such as George Gissing and G. K. Chesterton, though the same characteristics prompted others, such as Henry James and Virginia Woolf, to criticize him for sentimentality and implausibility.[4]




Early years

2 Ordnance Terrace, Chatham, Dickens's home 1817–1821

His early years seem to have been an idyllic time, although he thought himself then a "very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy".[5] He spent time outdoors, but also read voraciously, with a particular fondness for the picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding. He spoke, later in life, of his poignant memories of childhood, and of his near photographic memory of the people and events, which he used to bring his fiction to life. John Dickens's tenuous prosperity as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office afforded a few years of private education of the young Charles at William Giles's School, in Chatham.[6]

This period came to an abrupt end after John Dickens had spent beyond his means in entertaining and otherwise maintaining his social position, and was imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor's prison in Southwark, London, on the south bank of the River Thames. Shortly afterwards, the rest of his family joined him in residence there, except for Charles, who boarded in Camden Town at the house of family friend Elizabeth Roylance.[7] Mrs. Roylance, Dickens later wrote, was "a reduced old lady, long known to our family", and whom he eventually immortalized, "with a few alterations and embellishments", as "Mrs. Pipchin", in Dombey & Son. Later, lodgings were found for him in a " the house of an insolvent-court agent, who lived in Lant Street in The Borough...he was a fat, good-natured, kind old gentleman, with a quiet old wife; and he had a very innocent grown-up son; these three were the inspiration for the Garland family in The Old Curiosity Shop.[8]

The Marshalsea around 1897, after it had closed

Sundays became a treat, when with his sister Fanny, allowed out from the Royal Academy of Music, he spent the day at the Marshalsea.[9] (Dickens later used the prison as a setting in Little Doritt.) To pay for his board and to help his family, Dickens began working ten-hour days at Warren's Blacking Warehouse, on Hungerford Stairs, near the present Charing Cross railway station. He earned six shillings a week pasting labels on jars of shoe polish. The mostly unregulated, strenuous—and often cruel—work conditions of the factory employees (especially children) made a deep impression on Dickens. His experiences served to influence later fiction and essays, and were the foundation of his interest in the reform of socio-economic and labour conditions, the rigours of which he believed were unfairly borne by the poor. As told to John Forster (from The Life of Charles Dickens):

A 1904 artist's impression of Dickens in the shoe-polish factory

The blacking-warehouse was the last house on the left-hand side of the way, at old Hungerford Stairs. It was a crazy, tumble-down old house, abutting of course on the river, and literally overrun with rats. Its wainscoted rooms, and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rise up visibly before me, as if I were there again. The counting-house was on the first floor, looking over the coal-barges and the river. There was a recess in it, in which I was to sit and work. My work was to cover the pots of paste-blacking; first with a piece of oil-paper, and then with a piece of blue paper; to tie them round with a string; and then to clip the paper close and neat, all round, until it looked as smart as a pot of ointment from an apothecary's shop. When a certain number of grosses of pots had attained this pitch of perfection, I was to paste on each a printed label, and then go on again with more pots. Two or three other boys were kept at similar duty down-stairs on similar wages. One of them came up, in a ragged apron and a paper cap, on the first Monday morning, to show me the trick of using the string and tying the knot. His name was Bob Fagin; and I took the liberty of using his name, long afterwards, in Oliver Twist.[8]

After only a few months in Marshalsea, John Dickens was informed of the death of his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Dickens, who had left him in her will the sum of £450. On the expectation of this legacy, Dickens petitioned for, and was granted, release from prison. Under the Insolvent Debtors Act, Dickens arranged for payment of his creditors, and he and his family left Marshalsea for the home of Mrs. Roylance.

Although Dickens eventually attended the Wellington House Academy in North London, his mother 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. "I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back." His mother's failure (in his eyes), in requesting that Charles return to the blacking factory, was no doubt a factor in the grown man's demanding and dissatisfied attitude towards women.'[10] Resentment stemming from his situation and the conditions under which working-class people lived became major themes of his works, and it was this unhappy period in his youth to which he alluded in his favourite, and most autobiographical, novel, David Copperfield:[11] "I had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind, as I hope to go to heaven!" The Wellington House Academy, as it turned out, was not a good school. 'Much of the haphazard, desultory teaching, poor discipline punctuated by the headmaster's sadistic brutality, the seedy ushers and general run-down atmosphere, are embodied in Mr. Creakle's Establishment in David Copperfield.'[12]

In May 1827, Dickens began work in the law office of Ellis and Blackmore, attorneys, of Holborn Court, Gray's Inn, as a junior clerk. He remained there until November 1828. Then, having worked energetically in his spare time to acquire Gurneys system of shorthand, he left to become a freelance reporter. A distant relative, Thomas Charlton, was a freelance reporter at Doctors' Commons, and Dickens was able to share his box there in order to report the legal proceedings.[13] Here in a court near St. Paul's he was to listen for nearly four years to rambling, involved cases. This education informed works such as Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son, and especially Bleak House—whose vivid portrayal of the tangled machinations, laborious manoeuvrings, and strangling bureaucracy of the legal system of mid-19th-century Britain did much to enlighten the general public, and was a vehicle for dissemination of Dickens's own views regarding, particularly, the heavy burden on the poor who were forced by circumstances to "go to law".

In 1830, Dickens met his first love, Maria Beadnell. She is thought to have been the model for the character Dora in David Copperfield. Maria's parents disapproved of the courtship and effectively ended the relationship by sending her to school in Paris.

Journalism and early novels

In 1833, Dickens was able to get his very first story, A Dinner at Poplar Walk, 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 by stagecoach to cover election campaigns for the Morning Chronicle. His journalism, in the form of sketches which appeared in periodicals, formed his first collection of pieces Sketches by Boz which was published in 1836 and led to the serialization of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, in March 1836. He continued to contribute to and edit journals throughout much of his subsequent literary career. Dickens's keen perceptiveness, intimate knowledge and understanding of the people, and tale-spinning genius were quickly to gain him world renown and wealth.

An 1839 portrait of a young Charles Dickens by Daniel Maclise

In 1836, Dickens accepted the job of editor of Bentley's Miscellany, a position that he would hold for three years, when he fell out with the owner. At the same time, his success as a novelist continued, producing Oliver Twist (1837–39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), The Old Curiosity Shop and, finally, Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty as part of the Master Humphrey's Clock series (1840–41)—all published in monthly instalments before being made into books. Dickens had a pet raven named Grip which, when it died in 1841, Dickens had it stuffed (it is now at the Free Library of Philadelphia).[14]

On 2 April 1836, he married Catherine Thomson Hogarth (1816 – 1879), the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle. After a brief honeymoon in Chalk, Kent, they set up home in Bloomsbury. They had ten children:[15]

On 25 March 1837, Dickens moved with his family into 48 Doughty Street, London, (on which he had a three year lease at £80 a year) where he would remain until December 1839. A new addition to the household was Dickens's younger brother Frederick. Also, Catherine's 17 year old sister Mary moved with them from Furnival's Inn to offer support to her newly married sister and brother-in-law. It was not unusual for a woman's unwed sister to live with and help a newly married couple. Dickens became very attached to Mary, and she died in his arms after a brief illness in 1837. She became a character in many of his books, and her death is fictionalized as the death of Little Nell.[16]

First visit to America

In 1842, Dickens made his first trip to America travelling with his wife to the United States and Canada, a journey which was successful in spite of his support for the abolition of slavery. The trip is described in the short travelogue American Notes for General Circulation and is also the basis of some of the episodes in Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens includes in Notes a powerful condemnation of slavery,[17] with "ample proof" of the "atrocities" he found.[18] He called upon President John Tyler at the White House.[19]

Photograph of the author, c. 1849

During this visit, Dickens spent time in New York City, where he gave lectures, raised support for copyright laws, and recorded many of his impressions of America. He toured the City for a month, and met such luminaries as Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant. On 14 February 1842, a Boz Ball (named after his pseudonym) was held in his honour at the Park Theater, with 3,000 of New York's elite present. Among the neighbourhoods he visited were Five Points, Wall Street, The Bowery, and the prison known as The Tombs.[20] At this time Georgina Hogarth, another sister of Catherine, joined the Dickens household, now living at Devonshire Terrace, Marylebone, to care for the young family they had left behind.[21] She remained with them as housekeeper, organiser, adviser and friend until her brother-in-law's death in 1870.

Shortly thereafter, he began to show interest in Unitarian Christianity, although he remained an Anglican, at least nominally, for the rest of his life.[22] Dickens's work continued to be popular, especially A Christmas Carol written in 1843, the first of his Christmas books, which was reputedly a potboiler written in a matter of weeks to meet the expenses of his wife's fifth pregnancy. After living briefly abroad in Italy (1844) and Switzerland (1846), Dickens continued his success with Dombey and Son (1848) and David Copperfield (1849–50).


In May 1846, Angela Burdett Coutts, the wealthy heir to the Coutts banking fortune, approached Dickens about setting up a home for the redemption of "fallen" women. Coutts envisioned a home that would offer a different approach to other organizations that offered a harsh and punishing regimen for these women, and instead provide a disciplined but supportive environment where they could learn to read and write and become proficient in domestic household chores so as to re-integrate them into society. After initially resisting, Dickens eventually founded the home, named Urania Cottage, in the Lime Grove section of Shepherds Bush. He would end up becoming involved in many aspects of its day-to-day running, setting the house rules, reviewing the accounts and also interviewing prospective residents, some of whom became characters in his books. He would scour prisons and workhouses for potentially suitable candidates and relied on friends, such as the Magistrate John Hardwick to bring them to his attention. Once found, each potential candidate was given an anonymous printed invitation written by Dickens called ‘An Appeal to Fallen Women’, which he signed only as ‘Your friend’. If the woman accepted the invitation, Dickens would personally interview her and decide if she could be admitted to the home.[23][24] All of the women were required to emigrate following their time at Urania Cottage. In research published in 2009, the families of two of these women were identified, one in Canada and one in Australia. It is estimated that about 100 women were graduated between 1847 and 1859.[25].

In late November 1851, Dickens moved into Tavistock House[26] where he would write Bleak House (1852–53), Hard Times (1854) and Little Dorrit (1857). It was here he got up the amateur theatricals which are described in Forster's Life.

Middle years

In 1856, his income from his writing had allowed him to buy Gad's Hill Place. This large house in Higham, Kent, had a particular meaning to Dickens as he had walked past it as a child and had dreamed of living in it. The area was also the scene of some of the events of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 and this literary connection pleased him.

At his desk in 1858

In 1857, in preparation for public performances of The Frozen Deep, a play on which he and his protégé Wilkie Collins had collaborated, Dickens hired professional actresses to play the female parts. With one of these, Ellen Ternan, Dickens formed a bond which was to last the rest of his life. When he separated from his wife, Catherine, in 1858, divorce was almost unthinkable, particularly for someone as famous as he was, and he financially supported her long afterwards. Although they appeared to be initially happy together, Catherine did not seem to share quite the same boundless energy for life which Dickens had. Nevertheless, her job of looking after their ten children, the pressure of living with a world-famous novelist, and keeping house for him, certainly did not help. An indication of his marital dissatisfaction may be seen when, in 1855, he went to meet his first love, Maria Beadnell. Maria was by this time married as well, but seemed to have fallen short of Dickens's romantic memory of her.

During this period, whilst pondering about giving public readings for his own profit, Dickens was approached by Great Ormond Street Hospital to help it survive its first major financial crisis through a charitable appeal. Dickens, whose philanthropy was well-known, was asked to preside by the hospital's founder Charles West, who happened to be a friend of the author's. He threw himself into the task, heart and soul[27] (a little known fact is that Dickens reported anonymously in the weekly The Examiner in 1849 to help mishandled children and wrote another article to help publicise the hospital's opening in 1852).[28] On 9 February 1858, Dickens spoke at the hospital's first annual festival dinner at Freemasons' Hall and later gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church hall. The events raised enough money to enable the hospital to purchase the neighbouring house, No. 48 Great Ormond Street, increasing the bed capacity from 20 to 75.[29]

That summer of 1858, after separating from his wife,[30] Dickens would undertake his first series of public readings in London for pay which ended on 22 July. After a mere 10 days rest, however, he began a gruelling and ambitious tour, which would take him through the English provinces, Scotland and Ireland, beginning with a performance in Clifton on 2 August and closing in Brighton, more than three months later, on 13 November. Altogether he was scheduled to read eighty-seven times, on some days giving both a matinée and an evening performance.[31]

Major works, A Tale of Two Cities (1859); and Great Expectations (1861) soon followed and would prove resounding successes with both his critics and his fans. During this time he was also the publisher and editor of, and a major contributor to, the journals Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1858–1870). A recurring theme in Dickens's writing, both as reportage for these publications and as an inspiration for his fiction, reflected the public's interest in Arctic exploration: the heroic friendship between explorers John Franklin and John Richardson gave the idea for A Tale of Two Cities, The Wreck of the Golden Mary and the play The Frozen Deep.[32] In early September 1860, in a field behind Gad's Hill, Dickens made a great bonfire of nearly his entire correspondence. Only those letters on business matters were spared. Since Ellen Ternan burned all of his letters as well, the dimensions of the affair between the two were unknown until the publication of Dickens and Daughter, a book about Dickens's relationship with his daughter Kate, in 1939. Kate Dickens worked with author Gladys Storey on the book prior to her death in 1929, and alleged that Dickens and Ternan had a son who died in infancy, though no contemporary evidence exists.[33] On his death, Dickens settled an annuity on Ternan which made her a financially independent woman. Claire Tomalin's book, The Invisible Woman, set out to prove that Ternan lived with Dickens secretly for the last 13 years of his life, and was subsequently turned into a play, Little Nell, by Simon Gray.

In the same period, Dickens furthered his interest in the paranormal, so much that he was one of the early members of The Ghost Club.[34]

The Franklin incident

After Franklin died in unexplained circumstances on an expedition to find the North West Passage it was natural for Dickens to write a piece in Household Words defending his hero against the discovery in 1854, some four years after the search began, of evidence that Franklin's men had, in their desperation, resorted to cannibalism.[35] Without adducing any supporting evidence he speculates that, far from resorting to cannibalism amongst themselves, the members of the expedition may have been "set upon and slain by the Esquimaux...We believe every savage to be in his heart covetous, treacherous, and cruel."[35] Although publishing in a subsequent issue of Household Words a defence of the Esquimaux, written by John Rae, one of Franklin's rescue parties, who had actually visited the scene of the supposed cannibalism, Dickens refused to alter his view.[36]

Last years

Crash scene after the Staplehurst rail crash

On 9 June 1865,[37] while returning from Paris with Ternan, Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash in which the first seven carriages of the train plunged off a cast iron bridge that was being repaired. The only first-class carriage to remain on the track was the one in which Dickens was travelling. Dickens spent some time trying to help the wounded and the dying before rescuers arrived. Before leaving, he remembered the unfinished manuscript for Our Mutual Friend, and he returned to his carriage to retrieve it. Typically, Dickens later used this experience as material for his short ghost story The Signal-Man in which the central character has a premonition of his own death in a rail crash. He based the story around several previous rail accidents, such as the Clayton Tunnel rail crash of 1861.

Dickens managed to avoid an appearance at the inquest into the crash, as it would have become known that he was travelling that day with Ternan and her mother, which could have caused a scandal. Although physically unharmed, Dickens never really recovered from the trauma of the Staplehurst crash, and his normally prolific writing shrank to completing Our Mutual Friend and starting the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood after a long interval. Much of his time was taken up with public readings from his best-loved novels. Dickens was fascinated by the theatre as an escape from the world, and theatres and theatrical people appear in Nicholas Nickleby. The travelling shows were extremely popular. In 1866, a series of public readings were undertaken in England and Scotland. The following year saw more readings in England and Ireland.

Photograph of Dickens taken by Jeremiah Gurney & Son, New York, 1867

Second visit to America

On 9 November 1867, Dickens sailed from Liverpool embarking on his second American reading tour, which continued into 1868. Landing at Boston on 19 November, he devoted the rest of the month to a round of dinners there with such notables as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his American publisher James Thomas Fields. In early December, the readings began and Dickens spent the month shuttling between Boston and New York. Although he had started to suffer from what he called the "true American catarrh", he kept to a schedule that would have challenged a much younger man, even managing to squeeze in some sleighing in Central Park. In New York, he gave 22 readings at Steinway Hall between 9 December 1867 and 18 April 1868, and four at Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims between 16 January and 21 January 1868. During his travels, he saw a significant change in the people and the circumstances of America. His final appearance was at a banquet the American Press held in his honour at Delmonico's on 18 April, when he promised to never denounce America again. By the end of the tour, the author could hardly manage solid food, subsisting on champagne and eggs beaten in sherry. On 23 April, he boarded his ship to return to Britain, barely escaping a Federal Tax Lien against the proceeds of his lecture tour.[20]

Farewell readings

Between 1868 and 1869, Dickens gave a series of "farewell readings" in England, Scotland, and Ireland, until he collapsed on 22 April 1869, at Preston in Lancashire showing symptoms of a mild stroke.[38] After further provincial readings were cancelled, he began work on his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In an opium den in Shadwell, he witnessed an elderly pusher known as "Opium Sal", who subsequently featured in his mystery novel.

Poster promoting a reading by Dickens in Nottingham dated Feb. 4, 1869; two months before he suffered a mild stroke

When he had regained sufficient strength, Dickens arranged, with medical approval, for a final series of readings at least partially to make up to his sponsors what they had lost due of his illness. There were to be twelve performances, running between 11 January and 15 March 1870, the last taking place at 8:00 pm at St. James's Hall in London. Although in grave health by this time, he read A Christmas Carol and The Trial from Pickwick. On 2 May, he made his last public appearance at a Royal Academy Banquet in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, paying a special tribute to the passing of his friend, illustrator Daniel Maclise.[39]


On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home, after a full day's work on Edwin Drood. The next day, on 9 June, and five years to the day after the Staplehurst crash, he died at Gad's Hill Place never having regained consciousness. 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. The inscription on his tomb reads: "CHARLES DICKENS Born 7 February 1812 Died 9 June 1870."[40] 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."[41] Dickens's last words, as reported in his obituary in The Times were alleged to have been:

Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fullfilled all the rules of art.[42]

On Sunday, 19 June 1870, five days after Dickens's interment in the Abbey, Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley delivered a memorial elegy, lauding "the genial and loving humorist whom we now mourn", for showing by his own example "that even in dealing with the darkest scenes and the most degraded characters, genius could still be clean, and mirth could be innocent." Pointing to the fresh flowers that adorned the novelist's grave, Stanley assured those present that "the spot would thenceforth be a sacred one with both the New World and the Old, as that of the representative of literature, not of this island only, but of all who speak our English tongue."[43]

Dickens's will stipulated that no memorial be erected to honour him. The only life-size bronze statue of Dickens, cast in 1891 by Francis Edwin Elwell, is located in Clark Park in the Spruce Hill neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States.

Literary style

Dickens loved the style of 18th century Gothic romance,[citation needed] although it had already become a target for parody.[citation needed] One "character" vividly drawn throughout his novels is London itself. From the coaching inns on the outskirts of the city to the lower reaches of the Thames, all aspects of the capital are described over the course of his body of work.

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's 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 Mr. 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.


'Dickens' Dream' by R.W. Buss, portraying Dickens at his desk at 48 Doughty Street, London, surrounded by many of his characters

Dickens is famed for many things—his depiction of the hardships of the working class, his intricate plots, his sense of humour. But he is perhaps most famed for the characters he created. His novels were heralded early in his career for their ability to capture the everyday man on paper and thus create a memorable character to whom readers could relate, and envision as a real person. Beginning with 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."[44]

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.[citation needed]

The author worked closely with his illustrators supplying them with an overall summary of the work at the outset and thus ensuring that his vision of his characters and settings were exactly how he envisioned them to be.[45] He would brief the illustrator on plans for each month's instalment so that work on the two illustrations could begin before he wrote them. Marcus Stone, illustrator of Our Mutual Friend, recalled that the author was always "ready to describe down to the minutest details the personal characteristics, and ... life-history of the creations of his fancy."[31] This close working relationship with his illustrators is important to readers of Dickens today. The illustrations give us a glimpse of the characters as Dickens described them to the illustrator and approved when the drawing was finished. Film makers still use the illustrations as a basis for characterization, costume, and set design in the dramatization of Dickens's works.

Often these characters were based on people that he knew. In a few instances Dickens based the character too closely on the original and got into trouble, as in the case of Harold Skimpole in Bleak House, based on Leigh Hunt, and Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield, based on his wife's dwarf chiropodist. These are not over-dramatized caricatures, but believable people we might see walking down the street. Indeed, the acquaintances made when reading a Dickens novel are not easily forgotten. The author, Virginia Woolf, maintained that "we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens" as he produces "characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks."[46]

Autobiographical elements

A color engraving from Oliver Twist, by George Cruikshank

All authors might be said to incorporate autobiographical elements in their fiction, but with Dickens this is very noticeable, even though he took pains to mask what he considered his shameful, lowly past. David Copperfield is one of the most clearly autobiographical but the scenes from Bleak House of interminable court cases and legal arguments are drawn from the author's brief career as a court reporter. Dickens's own father was sent to prison (where he was joined by his wife and younger children) for debt, and this became a common theme in many of his books, with the detailed depiction of life in the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit resulting from Dickens's own experiences of the institution. Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop is thought to represent Dickens's sister-in-law,[citation needed] William Dorrit, Nicholas Nickleby's father and Wilkins Micawber are certainly Dickens's own father, just as Mrs. Nickleby and Mrs. Micawber are similar to his mother.[citation needed] The snobbish nature of Pip from Great Expectations also has some affinity to the author himself. Childhood sweethearts in many of his books (such as Little Eml’y in David Copperfield) may have been based on Dickens’ own childhood infatuation with Lucy Stroughill.[47] Dickens may have drawn on his childhood experiences, but he was also ashamed of them and would not reveal that this was where he gathered his realistic accounts of squalor. Very few knew the details of his early life until six years after his death when John Forster published a biography on which Dickens had collaborated. A shameful past in Victorian times could taint reputations, just as it did for some of his characters, and this may have been Dickens's own fear.

Episodic writing

As noted above, most of Dickens's major novels were first written in monthly or weekly instalments in journals such as Master Humphrey's Clock and Household Words, later reprinted in book form. These instalments made the stories cheap, accessible and the series of regular cliff-hangers made each new episode widely anticipated. American fans even waited at the docks in New York, shouting out to the crew of an incoming ship, "Is Little Nell dead?"[48][49][50] Part of Dickens's great talent was to incorporate this episodic writing style but still end up with a coherent novel at the end. The monthly numbers were illustrated by, amongst others, "Phiz" (a pseudonym for Hablot Browne). Among his best-known works are Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, The Pickwick Papers, and A Christmas Carol.

"Charles Dickens as he appears when reading." Wood engraving from Harper's Weekly, 7 December 1867

Dickens's technique of writing in monthly or weekly instalments (depending on the work) can be understood by analysing his relationship with his illustrators. The several artists who filled this role were privy to the contents and intentions of Dickens's instalments before the general public. Thus, by reading these correspondences between author and illustrator, the intentions behind Dickens's work can be better understood. What was hidden in his art is made plain in these letters. These also reveal how the interests of the reader and author do not coincide. A great example of that appears in the monthly novel Oliver Twist. At one point in this work, Dickens had Oliver become embroiled in a robbery. That particular monthly instalment concludes with young Oliver being shot. Readers expected that they would be forced to wait only a month to find out the outcome of that gunshot. In fact, Dickens did not reveal what became of young Oliver in the succeeding number. Rather, the reading public was forced to wait two months to discover if the boy lived.

Another important impact of Dickens's episodic writing style resulted from his exposure to the opinions of his readers. Since Dickens did not write the chapters very far ahead of their publication, he was allowed to witness the public reaction and alter the story depending on those public reactions. A fine example of this process can be seen in his weekly serial The Old Curiosity Shop, which is a chase story. In this novel, Nell and her grandfather are fleeing the villain Quilp. The progress of the novel follows the gradual success of that pursuit. As Dickens wrote and published the weekly instalments, his friend John Forster pointed out: "You know you're going to have to kill her, don't you?" Why this end was necessary can be explained by a brief analysis of the difference between the structure of a comedy versus a tragedy. In a comedy, the action covers a sequence "You think they're going to lose, you think they're going to lose, they win". In tragedy, it is: "You think they're going to win, you think they're going to win, they lose". The dramatic conclusion of the story is implicit throughout the novel. So, as Dickens wrote the novel in the form of a tragedy, the sad outcome of the novel was a foregone conclusion. If he had not caused his heroine to lose, he would not have completed his dramatic structure. Dickens admitted that his friend Forster was right and, in the end, Nell died.[51]

Social commentary

Dickens's novels were, among other things, works of social commentary. He was a fierce critic of the poverty and social stratification of Victorian society. Dickens's second novel, Oliver Twist (1839), shocked readers with its images of poverty and crime and was responsible for the clearing of the actual London slum, Jacob's Island, that was the basis of the story. In addition, with the character of the tragic prostitute, Nancy, Dickens "humanised" such women for the reading public; women who were regarded as "unfortunates", inherently immoral casualties of the Victorian class/economic system. Bleak House and Little Dorrit elaborated expansive critiques of the Victorian institutional apparatus: the interminable lawsuits of the Court of Chancery that destroyed people's lives in Bleak House and a dual attack in Little Dorrit on inefficient, corrupt patent offices and unregulated market speculation.

Literary techniques

Stamp in "The Centenary Edition of The Works of Charles Dickens in 36 Volumes."

Dickens is often described as using 'idealised' characters and highly sentimental scenes to contrast with his caricatures and the ugly social truths he reveals. The story of Nell Trent in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) was received as incredibly moving by contemporary readers but viewed as ludicrously sentimental by Oscar Wilde. "You would need to have a heart of stone", he declared in one of his famous witticisms, "not to laugh at the death of Little Nell."[52] (although her death actually takes place off-stage). In 1903 G. K. Chesterton said, "It is not the death of Little Nell, but the life of Little Nell, that I object to."[53]

In Oliver Twist Dickens provides readers with an idealised portrait of a boy so inherently and unrealistically 'good' that his values are never subverted by either brutal orphanages or coerced involvement in a gang of young pickpockets. While later novels also centre on idealised characters (Esther Summerson in Bleak House and Amy Dorrit in Little Dorrit), this idealism serves only to highlight Dickens's goal of poignant social commentary. Many of his novels are concerned with social realism, focusing on mechanisms of social control that direct people's lives (for instance, factory networks in Hard Times and hypocritical exclusionary class codes in Our Mutual Friend).[citation needed]Dickens also employs incredible coincidences (e.g., Oliver Twist turns out to be the lost nephew of the upper class family that randomly rescues him from the dangers of the pickpocket group). Such coincidences are a staple of eighteenth century picaresque novels such as Henry Fielding's Tom Jones that Dickens enjoyed so much. But, to Dickens, these were not just plot devices but an index of the humanism that led him to believe that good wins out in the end and often in unexpected ways.[citation needed]


Statue of Dickens in Philadelphia

A well-known personality, his novels proved immensely popular during his lifetime. His first full novel, The Pickwick Papers (1837), brought him immediate fame, and this success continued throughout his career. Although rarely departing greatly from his typical "Dickensian" method of always attempting to write a great "story" in a somewhat conventional manner (the dual narrators of Bleak House constitute a notable exception), he experimented with varied themes, characterisations, and genres. Some of these experiments achieved more popularity than others, and the public's taste and appreciation of his many works have varied over time. Usually keen to give his readers what they wanted, the monthly or weekly publication of his works in episodes meant that the books could change as the story proceeded at the whim of the public. Good examples of this are the American episodes in Martin Chuzzlewit which Dickens included in response to lower-than-normal sales of the earlier chapters.

Although his popularity has waned a little since his death, he continues to be one of the best known and most read of English authors. At least 180 motion pictures and TV adaptations based on Dickens's works help confirm his success.[54] Many of his works were adapted for the stage during his own lifetime and as early as 1913 a silent film of The Pickwick Papers was made. His characters were often so memorable that they took on a life of their own outside his books. Gamp became a slang expression for an umbrella from the character Mrs. Gamp and Pickwickian, Pecksniffian, and Gradgrind all entered dictionaries due to Dickens's original portraits of such characters who were quixotic, hypocritical, or emotionlessly logical. Sam Weller, the carefree and irreverent valet of The Pickwick Papers, was an early superstar, perhaps better known than his author at first. It is likely that A Christmas Carol stands as his best-known story, with new adaptations almost every year. It is also the most-filmed of Dickens's stories, with many versions dating from the early years of cinema. This simple morality tale with both pathos and its theme of redemption, sums up (for many) the true meaning of Christmas. Indeed, it eclipses all other Yuletide stories in not only popularity, but in adding archetypal figures (Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Christmas ghosts) to the Western cultural consciousness. A prominent phrase from the tale, 'Merry Christmas', was popularized following the appearance of the story.[55] The term Scrooge became a synonym for miser, with 'Bah! Humbug!' dismissive of the festive spirit.[56] Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, called the book; "a national benefit, and to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness".[57] Some historians claim the book significantly redefined the "spirit" and importance of Christmas,[58][59] and initiated a rebirth of seasonal merriment after Puritan authorities in 17th century England and America suppressed pagan rituals associated with the holiday.[60] According to historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of the observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by A Christmas Carol. Hutton argues, Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, in contrast to the community-based and church-centered observations, the observance of which had dwindled during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.[61] Superimposing his secular vision of the holiday, Dickens influenced many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today among Western nations, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive generosity of spirit.[62] A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens in an attempt to avoid financial disaster as a result of flagging sales of Martin Chuzzlewit. Years later, Dickens shared that he was "deeply affected" in writing A Christmas Carol. The novel rejuvenated his career as a renowned author.

At a time when Britain was the major economic and political power of the world, Dickens highlighted the life of the forgotten poor and disadvantaged at the heart of empire. Through his journalism he campaigned on specific issues—such as sanitation and the workhouse—but his fiction probably demonstrated its greatest prowess in changing public opinion in regard to class inequalities. He often depicted the exploitation and repression of the poor and condemned the public officials and institutions that not only allowed such abuses to exist, but flourished as a result. His most strident indictment of this condition is in Hard Times (1854), Dickens's only novel-length treatment of the industrial working class. In this work, he uses both vitriol and satire to illustrate how this marginalised social stratum was termed "Hands" by the factory owners; that is, not really "people" but rather only appendages of the machines that they operated. His writings inspired others, in particular journalists and political figures, to address such problems of class oppression. For example, the prison scenes in The Pickwick Papers are claimed to have been influential in having the Fleet Prison shut down. As Karl Marx said, Dickens, and the other novelists of Victorian England, "...issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together...".[63] The exceptional popularity of his novels, even those with socially oppositional themes (Bleak House, 1853; Little Dorrit, 1857; Our Mutual Friend, 1865) underscored not only his almost preternatural ability to create compelling storylines and unforgettable characters, but also ensured that the Victorian public confronted issues of social justice that had commonly been ignored.

His fiction, with often vivid descriptions of life in nineteenth century England, has inaccurately and anachronistically come to symbolise on a global level Victorian society (1837 – 1901) as uniformly "Dickensian", when in fact, his novels' time span spanned from the 1770s to the 1860s. In the decade following his death in 1870, a more intense degree of socially and philosophically pessimistic perspectives invested British fiction; such themes stood in marked contrast to the religious faith that ultimately held together even the bleakest of Dickens's novels. Dickens clearly influenced later Victorian novelists such as Thomas Hardy and George Gissing; however, their works display a greater willingness to confront and challenge the Victorian institution of religion. They also portray characters caught up by social forces (primarily via lower-class conditions), but they usually steered them to tragic ends beyond their control.

Novelists continue to be influenced by his books; for instance, such disparate current writers as Anne Rice, Tom Wolfe, and John Irving evidence direct Dickensian connections. Humorist James Finn Garner even wrote a tongue-in-cheek "politically correct" version of A Christmas Carol, and other affectionate parodies include the Radio 4 comedy Bleak Expectations. Matthew Pearl's novel The Last Dickens is a thriller about how Charles Dickens would have ended Edwin Drood.

Although Dickens's life has been the subject of at least two TV miniseries and two famous one-man shows, he has never been the subject of a Hollywood "big screen" biography.

Allegations of anti-semitism and racism

Fagin waits to be hanged.

Paul Vallely writes in The Independent that Dickens's Fagin in Oliver Twist —the Jew who runs a school in London for child pickpockets—is widely seen as one of the most grotesque Jews in English literature, and the most vivid of Dickens's 989 characters.[64]

The mud lay thick upon the stones, and a black mist hung over the streets; the rain fell sluggishly down, and everything felt cold and clammy to the touch. It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad. As he glided stealthily along, creeing beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved, crawling forth by night in search of some rich offal for a meal.[65]

The character is thought to have been based on Ikey Solomon, a 19th century Jewish criminal in London, who was interviewed by Dickens during the latter's time as a journalist.[66] Nadia Valdman, who writes about the portrayal of Jews in literature, argues that Fagin's representation was drawn from the image of the Jew as inherently evil, that the imagery associated him with the Devil, and with beasts.[67]

The novel refers to Fagin 257 times in the first 38 chapters as "the Jew", while the ethnicity or religion of the other characters is not mentioned.[64] In 1854, the Jewish Chronicle asked why "Jews alone should be excluded from the 'sympathizing heart' of this great author and powerful friend of the oppressed." Eliza Davis, whose husband had purchased Dickens's home in 1860 when he had put it up for sale, wrote to Dickens in protest at his portrayal of Fagin, arguing that he had "encouraged a vile prejudice against the despised Hebrew", and that he had done a great wrong to the Jewish people. Dickens had described her husband at the time of the sale as a "Jewish moneylender", though also someone he came to know as an honest gentleman.

Dickens took her complaint seriously. He halted the printing of Oliver Twist, and changed the text for the parts of the book that had not been set, which is why Fagin is called "the Jew" 257 times in the first 38 chapters, but barely at all in the next 179 references to him. In his next novel, Our Mutual Friend, he created the character of Riah (meaning "friend" in Hebrew), whose goodness, Vallely writes, is almost as complete as Fagin's evil. Riah says in the novel: "Men say, 'This is a bad Greek, but there are good Greeks. This is a bad Turk, but there are good Turks.' Not so with the Jews ... they take the worst of us as samples of the best ..." Davis sent Dickens a copy of the Hebrew bible in gratitude.[64]

His views on the Inuit are detailed in the Franklin Incident above.

In The Perils of Certain English Prisoners Dickens offers an allegory of the Indian Mutiny, where the "native Sambo", a perverted paradigm of the Indian mutineers[68] is a "double-dyed traitor, and a most infernal villain" who takes part in a massacre of women and children, in an allusion to the Cawnpore Massacre.[69] Perils greatly influenced the cultural reaction from English writers to the mutiny, by attributing guilt so as to portray the British as victims, and the Indians as villains.[68] Wilkie Collins, who co-wrote Perils, deviates from Dickens's extremism, writing the second chapter from a less biased point of view who, quoting poet Jaya Mehta, was "parodying British racism, instead of promoting it".[70] Contemporary literary critic Arthur Quiller-Couch praised Dickens for eschewing any real-life depiction of the incident, for fear of inflaming his "raging mad" readership further, in favour of a romantic story "empty of racial or propagandist hatred".[71] A modern inference is that it was his son's position in India, there on military service, at the mercy of inept imperial leaders who misunderstood conquered people, that may have influenced his reluctance to set Perils in India, for fear that his criticism may antagonise the son's superiors.[72]

Reacting to reports of incidents of atrocities committed by Indians, including one involving over a hundred prisoners, most of them women and children, killed,[73]

Dickens wrote in a private letter to Baronness Burdett-Coutts on 4 October 1857:

I wish I were the Commander in Chief in India. ... I should do my utmost to exterminate the Race upon whom the stain of the late cruelties rested... to blot it out of mankind and raze it off the face of the earth."[74]

Names: 'Dickens' and 'Boz'

Charles Dickens had, as a contemporary critic put it, a "queer name".[75] The name Dickens was used in interjective exclamations like "What the Dickens!" as a substitute for "devil". It was recorded in the OED as originating from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was also used as a substitute for "deuce" as in the phrase "to play the Dickens" in the meaning "to play havoc/mischief".[76]

'Boz' was Dickens' occasional pen-name, but was a familiar name in the Dickens household long before Charles became a famous author. It was actually taken from his youngest brother Augustus Dickens' family nickname 'Moses', given to him in honor of one of the brothers in The Vicar of Wakefield (one of the most widely read novels during the early 19th century). When playfully pronounced through the nose 'Moses' became 'Boses', and was later shortened to 'Boz' – pronounced through the nose with a long vowel 'o'.[77]

Siblings of Charles Dickens

Adaptations of readings

There have been several performances of Dickens readings by Emlyn Williams, Bransby Williams, Clive Francis performing the John Mortimer adaptation of A Christmas Carol and also Simon Callow in the Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd.

Museums and festivals

Bleak House in Broadstairs, Kent, where Dickens wrote some of his novels
The Cashier's Office, Chatham Dockyard
A child, dressed in appropriate attire, at the Dickensian Festival in Ulverston, Cumbria.

There are museums and festivals celebrating Dickens's life and works in many of the towns with which he was associated.

  • The Charles Dickens Museum, in Doughty Street, Holborn is the only one of Dickens's London homes to survive. He lived there only two years but in that time wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. It contains a major collection of manuscripts, original furniture and memorabilia.
  • Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth is the house in which Dickens was born. It has been re-furnished in the likely style of 1812 and contains Dickens memorabilia.
  • The Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs, Kent is the house of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, the basis for Miss Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. It is visible across the bay from the original Bleak House (also a museum until 2005) where David Copperfield was written. The museum contains memorabilia, general Victoriana and some of Dickens's letters. Broadstairs has held a Dickens Festival annually since 1937.
  • The Charles Dickens Centre in Eastgate House, Rochester, closed in 2004, but the garden containing the author's Swiss chalet is still open. The 16th century house, which appeared as Westgate House in The Pickwick Papers and the Nun's House in Edwin Drood, is now used as a wedding venue.[78] The city's annual Dickens Festival (summer) and Dickensian Christmas celebrations continue unaffected.
  • Dickens World themed attraction, covering 71,500 square feet (6,643 m2), and including a cinema and restaurants, opened in Chatham on 25 May 2007.[79] It stands on a small part of the site of the former naval dockyard where Dickens's father had once worked in the Navy Pay Office.
  • Dickens Festival in Rochester, Kent. Summer Dickens is held at the end of May or in the first few days of June, it commences with an invitation only ball on the Thursday and then continues with street entertainment, and many costumed characters, on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Christmas Dickens is the first weekend in December- Saturday and Sunday only.

Dickens festivals are also held across the world. Four notable ones in the United States are:

  • The Riverside Dickens Festival in Riverside, California, includes literary studies as well as entertainments.
  • The Great Dickens Christmas Fair <> has been held in San Francisco, California, since the 1970s. During the four or five weekends before Christmas, over 500 costumed performers mingle with and entertain thousands of visitors amidst the recreated full-scale blocks of Dickensian London in over 90,000 square feet (8,000 m2) of public area. This is the oldest, largest, and most successful of the modern Dickens festivals outside England. Many (including the Martin Harris who acts in the Rochester festival and flies out from London to play Scrooge every year in SF) say it is the most impressive in the world.
  • Dickens on The Strand in Galveston, Texas, is a holiday festival held on the first weekend in December since 1974, where bobbies, Beefeaters and the "Queen" herself are on hand to recreate the Victorian London of Charles Dickens. Many festival volunteers and attendees dress in Victorian attire and bring the world of Dickens to life.
  • The Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council <> holds a Dickens Festival in the Village of Port Jefferson, New York each year. In 2009, the Dickens Festival is 4 December, 5 December and 6 December. It includes many events, along with a troupe of street performers who bring an authentic Dickensian atmosphere to the town.

Other memorials

Charles Dickens was commemorated on the Series E £10 note issued by the Bank of England which was in circulation in the UK between 1992 and 2003. Dickens appeared on the reverse of the note accompanied by a scene from The Pickwick Papers.[80]

Notable works by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens published over a dozen major novels, a large number of short stories (including a number of Christmas-themed stories), a handful of plays, and several non-fiction books. Dickens's novels were initially serialised in weekly and monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats.


Short story collections

Christmas numbers of Household Words magazine:

  • What Christmas Is, as We Grow Older (1851)
  • A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire (1852)
  • Another Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire (1853)
  • The Seven Poor Travellers (1854)
  • The Holly-Tree Inn (1855)
  • The Wreck of the "Golden Mary" (1856)
  • The Perils of Certain English Prisoners (1857)
  • A House to Let (1858)

Christmas numbers of All the Year Round magazine:

  • The Haunted House (1859)
  • A Message From the Sea (1860)
  • Tom Tiddler's Ground (1861)
  • Somebody's Luggage (1862)
  • Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings (1863)
  • Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy (1864)
  • Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions (1865)
  • Mugby Junction (1866)
  • No Thoroughfare (1867)

Selected non-fiction, poetry, and plays


  1. ^ "Victorian squalor and hi-tech gadgetry: Dickens World to open in England", The New York Times, 23 May 2007.
  2. ^ Stone, Harry. Dickens' Working Notes for His Novels. Chicago, 1987.
  3. ^ Swift, Simon. "What the Dickens?", The Guardian, 18 April 2007.
  4. ^ Henry James, "Our Mutual Friend", The Nation, 21 December 1865.
  5. ^ "John Forster, ''The Life of Charles Dickens'', Book 1, Chapter 1" (in (Japanese)). Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  6. ^ Jordan, John (2001). "Chronology". The Cambridge companion to Charles Dickens. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. xvi. ISBN 0-521-66964-2. 
  7. ^ Pope-Hennessy, Una (1945). "The Family Background". Charles Dickens 1812–1870. London: Chatto and Windus. p. 11. 
  8. ^ a b Project Gutenberg's Life of Charles Dickens (James R. Osgood & Company, 1875), by John Forster, Volume I, Chapter II, accessed 2 August 2008
  9. ^ Angus Wilson, The World of Charles Dickens p.53
  10. ^ Angus Wilson The World of Charles Dickens ISBN 0140034889
  11. ^ ""Charles Dickens", accessed 15 November 2007". Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  12. ^ Angus Wilson The World of Charles Dickens ISBN 0-14-003488-9
  13. ^ Pope-Hennessy (1945: 18)
  14. ^ RE: Cremains / Ravens
  15. ^ Dickens Family Tree website
  16. ^ – Mary Scott Hogarth, 1820–1837: Dickens's Beloved Sister-in-Law and Inspiration
  17. ^ Bowen, John (2004). "Dickens's Black Atlantic". Dickens and empire: discourses of class, race and colonialism in the works of Charles Dickens. Farnham, England: Ashgate. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7546-3412-6. 
  18. ^ Dickens, Charles (1842). "Slavery". American Notes for General Circulation. London: Chapman and Hall. pp. 94–100. OCLC 41667089. 
  19. ^ Dickens (1842: 53–55)
  20. ^ a b Kenneth T. Jackson: The Encyclopedia of New York City: The New York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. P. 333.
  21. ^ Jones, Richard (2004). Walking Dickensian London. London: New Holland. p. 7. ISBN 9781843304838. 
  22. ^ "Charles Dickens". Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  23. ^ Adams Hamilton Literary and Historical Maunscripts, 2009
  24. ^ 'The Letters of Charles Dickens', Pilgrim Edition, Vol. VII, p.527.
  25. ^ Jenny Hartley, Charles Dickens and The House of Fallen Women, (Methuen, 2009).
  26. ^ "Tavistock House | British History Online". 2003-06-22. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  27. ^ Charles Dickens: Family History edited by Norman Page, University of Nottingham
  28. ^ "Charles Dickens' Work to Help Establish Great Ormond Street Hospital, London." by Sir Howard Markel, The Lancet, 21 Aug, p 673.
  29. ^
  30. ^ Household Words 12 June 1858
  31. ^ a b The New York Public Library, Berg Collection of English and American Literature
  32. ^ Glancy, Ruth F (2006). "The Frozen Deep and other Biographical Influences". Charles Dickens's A Tale Of Two Cities: A Sourcebook. Abingdon, England: Routledge. pp. 14. ISBN 0415287596. 
  33. ^ Tomalin (1995). "The Invisible Woman: The Story of Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan". Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  34. ^ "History of the Ghost Club". Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  35. ^ a b Dickens, Charles (1854-12-02). "The Lost Arctic Voyagers". Household Words: A Weekly Journal (London: Charles Dickens) 10 (245): 361 et sec.,M1. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  36. ^ Rae, John (1854-12-30). "Dr Rae's report". Household Words: A Weekly Journal (London: Charles Dickens) 10 (249): 457–458.,M1. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  37. ^ Slater (2004)
  38. ^ "New York Public Library / The Great Magician Vanishes". Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  39. ^ The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens: Volume 12: 1868–1870
  40. ^ Staff writers (2007). "Charles Dickens". History. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 2009-07-12. "A small stone with a simple inscription marks the grave of this famous English novelist in Poets' Corner: 'Charles Dickens Born 7 February 1812 Died 9 June 1870' " 
  41. ^ "Printed at J. H. Woodley's Funeral Tablet Office, 30 Fore Street, City, London." and reproduced on page 4, A Christmas Carol Study Guide by Patti Kirkpatrick, Education Department, Dallas Theater Center.
  42. ^ Green, J. (1979), Famous Last Words, Enderby, Leicester, Silverdale Books, ISBN 1 85626 577 9.
  43. ^ New York Public Library, Berg Collection
  44. ^ The Life of Charles Dickens (first published 1872–1874) by John Forster
  45. ^ Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators by Jane R. Cohen. Ohio State University Press
  46. ^ The Essays of Virginia Woolf ed. by Andrew McNellie. Hogarth Press 1986
  47. ^ Everybody in Dickens by George Newlin
  48. ^;Christopher Porterfield (1970-12-28). "Boz Will Be Boz – TIME". TIME<!.,9171,944281,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  49. ^ "A Dickens of a fuss –". 2003-06-29. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  50. ^ And They All Died Happily Ever After – New York Times
  51. ^ Dickens, Charles. Harry Stone. Dickens' working notes for his novels. University of Chicago Press ISBN 0226145905
  52. ^ In conversation with Ada Leverson. Quoted in Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), p. 469.
  53. ^ G. K. Chesterton, Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, Chapter 6: Curiosity Shop
  54. ^ Charles Dickens as writer at the Internet Movie Database accessdate 2009-06-02
  55. ^ Robertson Cochrane. Wordplay: origins, meanings, and usage of the English language. p.126 University of Toronto Press, 1996 ISBN 0802077528
  56. ^ Joe L. Wheeler. Christmas in my heart, Volume 10. p.97. Review and Herald Pub Assoc, 2001. ISBN 0828016224
  57. ^ excerpt read by William Makepeace Thackeray, New York City (1852)
  58. ^ Michael Patrick Hearn. The Annotated Christmas Carol. W.W. Norton and Co. ISBN 0-393-05158-7
  59. ^ Les Standiford. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, Crown, 2008. ISBN 978-0307405784
  60. ^ Richard Michael Kelly. A Christmas Carol. Broadview Press, 2003.
  61. ^ Stations of the Sun: The Ritual Year in England. Oxford: Oxford Press. ISBN 0-19-285448-8.
  62. ^ Richard Michael Kelly (ed.) (2003), A Christmas Carol.pp.9,12 Broadview Literary Texts, New York: Broadview Press ISBN 1551114763
  63. ^ Marx, Karl (1 August 1954). "The English Middle Classes". New York Tribune. Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  64. ^ a b c Vallely, Paul. Dickens' greatest villain: The faces of Fagin, 7 October 2005.
  65. ^ Oliver Twist, Hurd and Houghton, 1867, chapter 19, pp. 221–222.
  66. ^ Rutland, Suzanne D. The Jews in Australia. Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 19. ISBN 9780521612852; Newey, Vincent. The Scriptures of Charles Dickens.
  67. ^ Valdman, Nadia. Antisemitism, A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution. ISBN 1-85109-439-3
  68. ^ a b Stewart, Nicholas; Litvak, Dr. Leon. ""The Perils of Certain English Prisoners": Dickens' Defensive Fantasy of Imperial Stability". School of English, Queens University of Belfast.. Retrieved 2009, 22 September. 
  69. ^ Pionke, Albert D. (2004). Plots of opportunity: Representing conspiracy in Victorian England. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press. pp. 91. 
  70. ^ Harrison, Kimberly; Fantina Richard (2006). Victorian sensations: essays on a scandalous genre By Kimberly Harrison, Richard Fantina. pp. 227. 
  71. ^ Quiller-Couch, Arthur (1925). Charles Dickens and Other Victorians. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 10–11. OCLC 215059500. 
  72. ^ Allingham, Philip V.; Landow, George P. (2005-12-12). "The Imperial Context of "The Perils of Certain English Prisoners" (1857) by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins". The Victoria Web. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  73. ^ Letters of Charles Dickens volume 8 1856–58 Clarendon Press
  74. ^ Schenker, Peter (1989). An Anthology of Chartist poetry: poetry of the British working class, 1830s – 1850s. pp. 353. 
  75. ^ Unnamed writer (January 1849). "The Haunted Man review". Macphail's Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Journal (Edinburgh) vi: 423. "Mr Dickens, as if in revenge for his own queer name, does bestow still queerer ones upon his fictitious creations.". 
  76. ^ John Bowen (2000) Other Dickens: Pickwick to Chuzzlewit, ISBN 0199261407, p. 36
  77. ^ "Augustus Dickens" in The Chicago Herald, 19 February 1895
  78. ^ "Medway Council – Eastgate House". Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  79. ^ Hart, Christopher (20 May 2007). "What, the Dickens World?". The Sunday Times. London: Times Online. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  80. ^ "Withdrawn banknotes reference guide". Bank of England. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  81. ^ Serial publication dates from Chronology of Novels by E. D. H. Johnson, Holmes Professor of Belles Lettres, Princeton University. Retrieved 11 June 2007.


  • Ackroyd, Peter, Dickens, (2002), Vintage, ISBN 0099437090
  • Drabble, Margaret (ed.), The Oxford Companion to English Literature, (1997), Oxford University Press
  • Glavin, John. (ed.) Dickens on Screen,(2003), New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography William Morros, 1988
  • Lewis, Peter R. Disaster on the Dee: Robert Stephenson's Nemesis of 1847, Tempus (2007) for a discussion of the Staplehurst accident, and its influence on Dickens.
  • Meckier, Jerome. Innocent Abroad: Charles Dickens' American Engagements University Press of Kentucky, 1990
  • Moss, Sidney P. Charles Dickens' Quarrel with America (New York: Whitson, 1984).
  • Patten, Robert L. (ed.) The Pickwick Papers (Introduction), (1978), Penguin Books.
  • Slater, Michael. "Dickens, Charles John Huffam (1812 – 1870)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004
  • Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing, 2009 New Haven/London: Yale University Press ISBN 978-0-300-11207-8 [1],

External links

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New position
Editor of the Daily News
Succeeded by
John Forster


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.

Charles John Huffam Dickens, FRSA (1812-02-071870-06-09) was the foremost English novelist of the Victorian era, as well as a vigorous social campaigner.


See also


  • If any one were to ask me what in my opinion was the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the Earth, I should decidedly say Chelmsford.
    • Letter to Thomas Beard (January 11, 1835), in Madeline House, et al., The Letters of Charles Dickens (1965), p. 53.
  • 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.
  • The bright old day now dawns again; the cry runs through the the land,
    In England there shall be dear bread—in Ireland, sword and brand;
    And poverty, and ignorance, shall swell the rich and grand,
    So, rally round the rulers with the gentle iron hand,
    Of the fine old English Tory days;
    Hail to the coming time!
    • The Fine Old English Gentleman (1841)
  • Wherever religion is resorted to as a strong drink, and as an escape from the dull, monotonous round of home, those of its ministers who pepper the highest will be the surest to please. They who strew the Eternal Path with the greatest amount of brimstone, and who most ruthlessly tread down the flowers and leaves that grow by the wayside, will be voted the most righteous; and they who enlarge with the greatest pertinacity on the difficulty of getting into heaven will be considered, by all true believers, certain of going there: though it would be hard to say by what process of reasoning this conclusion is arrived at.
    • American Notes (1842), ch. 3
  • I am quite serious when I say that I do not believe there are, on the whole earth besides, so many intensified bores as in these United States. No man can form an adequate idea of the real meaning of the word, without coming here.
    • Comment, March 1842, while on an American tour. Quoted in Hesketh Pearson's Dickens, ch. 8 (1949)
  • O let us love our occupations,
    Bless the squire and his relations,
    Live upon our daily rations,
    And always know our proper stations.
  • La difficulté d'écrire l'anglais m'est extrêmement ennuyeuse. Ah, mon Dieu ! si l'on pouvait toujours écrire cette belle langue de France!
    • Translation: The difficulty of writing English is most tiresome to me. My God! If only we could write this beautiful language of France at all times!
    • Letter to John Foster (1850-07-07)
  • It was a good thing to have a couple of thousand people all rigid and frozen together, in the palm of one's hand.
    • About having a book
    • Letter to Mrs. Richard Watson (1857-12-07)
  • 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.
  • Resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine.

Sketches by Boz (1836-1837)

  • The dignity of his office is never impaired by the absence of efforts on his part to maintain it.
    • Our Parish, ch. 1
  • He is not, as he forcibly remarks, ‘one of those fortunate men who, if they were to dive under one side of a barge stark–naked, would come up on the other with a new suit of clothes on, and a ticket for soup in the waistcoat–pocket:’ neither is he one of those, whose spirit has been broken beyond redemption by misfortune and want. He is just one of the careless, good–for–nothing, happy fellows, who float, cork–like, on the surface, for the world to play at hockey with: knocked here, and there, and everywhere: now to the right, then to the left, again up in the air, and anon to the bottom, but always reappearing and bounding with the stream buoyantly and merrily along.
    • Our Parish, ch. 5
  • The civility which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none.
    • Our Parish, ch. 5
  • I used to sit, think, think, thinking, till I felt as lonesome as a kitten in a wash–house copper with the lid on.
    • Our Parish, ch. 5
  • Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
    • Characters, ch. 2
  • Minerva House ... was "a finishing establishment for young ladies," where some twenty girls of the ages from thirteen to nineteen inclusive, acquired a smattering of everything and a knowledge of nothing.
    • Tales, ch. 3

The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)

  • What is the odds so long as the fire of soul is kindled at the taper of conwiviality, and the wing of friendship never moults a feather! What is the odds so long as the spirit is expanded by means of rosy wine, and the present moment is the least happiest of our existence!
    • Ch. 2
  • She's the ornament of her sex.
    • Ch. 5
  • Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine.
    • Ch. 7
  • 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.
    • Ch. 12
  • The very dogs were all asleep, and the flies, drunk with moist sugar in the grocer’s shop, forgot their wings and briskness, and baked to death in dusty corners of the window.
    • Ch. 27
  • In mind, she was of a strong and vigorous turn, having from her earliest youth devoted herself with uncommon ardour to the study of the law; not wasting her speculations upon its eagle flights, which are rare, but tracing it attentively through all the slippery and eel-like crawlings in which it commonly pursues its way.
    • Ch. 33
  • Under an accumulation of staggerers, no man can be considered a free agent. No man knocks himself down; if his destiny knocks him down, his destiny must pick him up again.
    • Ch. 34
  • It was a maxim with Mr. Brass that the habit of paying compliments kept a man’s tongue oiled without any expense; and that, as that useful member ought never to grow rusty or creak in turning on its hinges in the case of a practitioner of the law, in whom it should be always glib and easy, he lost few opportunities of improving himself by the utterance of handsome speeches and eulogistic expressions.
    • Ch. 35
  • In love of home, the love of country has its rise.
    • Ch. 38
  • That vague kind of penitence which holidays awaken next morning.
    • Ch. 40
  • If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.
    • Ch. 56
  • "Did you ever taste beer?" "I had a sip of it once," said the small servant. "Here's a state of things!" cried Mr Swiveller, raising his eyes to the ceiling. "She never tasted it — it can't be tasted in a sip!"
    • Ch. 57
  • You will not have forgotten that it was a maxim with Foxey — our revered father, gentlemen — "Always suspect everybody." That's the maxim to go through life with!
    • Ch. 66

Barnaby Rudge (1841)

  • And you'd find your father rather a tough customer in argeyment, Joe, if anybody was to try and tackle him.
    • Ch. 1
  • Mrs Varden was a lady of what is commonly called an uncertain temper — a phrase which being interpreted signifies a temper tolerably certain to make everybody more or less uncomfortable.
    • Ch. 7
  • Whether they were right or wrong in this conjecture, certain it is that minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort, and like them, are often successfully cured by remedies in themselves very nauseous and unpalatable.
    • Ch. 7
  • To be shelterless and alone in the open country, hearing the wind moan and watching for day through the whole long weary night; to listen to the falling rain, and crouch for warmth beneath the lee of some old barn or rick, or in the hollow of a tree; are dismal things—but not so dismal as the wandering up and down where shelter is, and beds and sleepers are by thousands; a houseless rejected creature.
    • Ch. 18
  • "There are strings," said Mr Tappertit, flourishing his bread-and- cheese knife in the air, "in the human heart that had better not be wibrated. That's what's the matter."
    • Ch. 22
  • The serjeant was describing a military life. It was all drinking, he said, except that there were frequent intervals of eating and love-making.
    • Ch. 31
  • Oh gracious, why wasn't I born old and ugly?
    • Ch. 70
  • The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world brother.
    • Ch. 79

Dombey and Son (1846-1848)

  • He’s tough, ma’am,—tough is J. B.; tough and devilish sly.
    • Ch. 7
  • "I want to know what it says," he answered, looking steadily in her face. "The sea Floy, what is it that it keeps on saying?"
    • Ch. 8
  • "Wal'r, my boy," replied the Captain, "in the Proverbs of Solomon you will find the following words, 'May we never want a friend in need, nor a bottle to give him!' When found, make a note of."
    • Ch. 15
  • Cows are my passion.
    • Ch. 21
  • The bearings of this observation lays in the application on it.
    • Ch. 23
  • If you could see my legs when I take my boots off, you'd form some idea of what unrequited affection is.
    • Ch. 48
  • …vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!
    • Ch. 48

Bleak House (1852-1853)

  • Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit, has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes, without coming to total disagreement as to all the premises.
    • Ch. 1
  • This is the Court of Chancery, which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire, which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse and its dead in every churchyard, which has its ruined suitor with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress borrowing and begging through the round of every man's acquaintance, which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right, which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give--who does not often give--the warning, "Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!"
    • Ch. 1
  • He is a gentleman of strict conscience, disdainful of all littleness and meanness and ready on the shortest notice to die any death you may please to mention rather than give occasion for the least impeachment of his integrity. He is an honourable, obstinate, truthful, high-spirited, intensely prejudiced, perfectly unreasonable man.
    • Ch. 2
  • "Oh, dear no, miss," he said. "This is a London particular." I had never heard of such a thing. "A fog, miss," said the young gentleman. "Oh, indeed!" said I.
    • Ch. 3
  • I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!
    • Ch. 6
  • Not to put too fine a point on it.
    • Ch. 11
  • He had a cane, he had an eye-glass, he had a snuff-box, he had rings, he had wristbands, he had everything but any touch of nature; he was not like youth, he was not like age, he was not like anything in the world but a model of deportment.
    • Ch. 14
  • Mr. Chadband is a large yellow man, with a fat smile, and a general appearance of having a good deal of train oil in his system.
    • Ch. 19
  • It’s my old girl that advises. She has the head. But I never own to it before her. Discipline must be maintained.
    • Ch. 22
  • 'Don't you be afraid of hurting the boy,' he says.
    • Ch. 27
  • It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations.
    • Ch. 28
  • Not to put too fine a point upon it.
    • Chapter 32.
  • Take care, while you are young, that you can think in those days, 'I never whitened a hair of her dear head, I never marked a sorrowful line in her face!' For of all the many things that you can think when you are a man, you had better have that by you, Woolwich!
    • Ch.34
  • Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day.
    • Ch. 47

Hard Times (1854)

  • Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!
    • Bk. I, Ch. 1
  • Oh my friends, the down-trodden operatives of Coketown! Oh my friends and fellow-countrymen, the slaves of an ironhanded and a grinding despotism! Oh my friends and fellow-sufferers, and fellow-workmen, and fellow-men! I tell you that the hour is come, when we must rally round one another as One united power, and crumble into dust the oppressors that too long have battened upon the plunder of our families, upon the sweat of our brows, upon the labour of our hands, upon the strength of our sinews, upon the God-created glorious rights of Humanity, and upon the holy and eternal privileges of Brotherhood!
    • Bk. II, Ch. 4
  • There is a wisdom of the Head, and ... there is a wisdom of the Heart.
    • Bk. III, Ch. 1

Little Dorrit (1855-1857)

  • A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men, were all deteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and haggard, so the iron was rusty, the stone was slimy, the wood was rotten, the air was faint, the light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a tomb, the prison had no knowledge of the brightness outside; and would have kept its polluted atmosphere intact, in one of the spice islands of the Indian Ocean.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 1
  • I am the only child of parents who weighed, measured, and priced everything; for whom what could not be weighed, measured, and priced, had no existence.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 2
  • The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 10
  • Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 10
  • The Barnacles were a very high family, and a very large family. They were dispersed all over the public offices, and held all sorts of public places. Either the nation was under a load of obligation to the Barnacles, or the Barnacles were under a load of obligation to the nation. It was not quite unanimously settled which; the Barnacles having their opinion, the nation theirs.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 10
  • 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.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 23
  • I revere the memory of Mr. F. as an estimable man and most indulgent husband, only necessary to mention Asparagus and it appeared or to hint at any little delicate thing to drink and it came like magic in a pint bottle; it was not ecstasy but it was comfort.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 24
  • "Papa is a preferable mode of address," observed Mrs General. "Father is rather vulgar, my dear. The word Papa, besides, gives a pretty form to the lips. Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism are all very good words for the lips: especially prunes and prism. You will find it serviceable, in the formation of a demeanour, if you sometimes say to yourself in company — on entering a room, for instance — Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, prunes and prism.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 5
  • Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving HOW NOT TO DO IT.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 10
  • Once a gentleman, and always a gentleman.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 28

Great Expectations (1860-1861)

  • Now, I ain't alone, as you may think I am. There's a young man hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am a angel. That young man hears the words I speak. That young man has a secret way pecooliar to himself of getting at a boy, and at his heart, and at his liver. It is in wain for a boy to attempt to hide himself from that young man. A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may tuck himself up, may draw the clothes over his head, may think himself comfortable and safe, but that young man will softly creep and creep his way to him and tear him open.
    • Ch. 1
  • Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than the dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by religion.
    • Ch. 4
  • I had been to see Macbeth at the theatre a night or two before and she reminded me of the faces rising out of the witches' cauldron.
    • Ch. 5; Pip describes Molly, Mr. Jaggers' housekeeper
  • 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. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter.
    • Ch. 9
  • That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different it's course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for the moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.
    • Ch. 9
  • My guiding star always is, Get hold of portable property.
    • Ch. 24
  • Throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people we most despise.
    • Ch. 27
  • Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together...
    • Ch. 27
  • All the truth of my position came flashing on me; and its disappointments, dangers, disgraces, consequences of all kinds, rushed in in such a multitude that I was borne down by them and had to struggle for every breath I drew.
    • Ch. 39
  • Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule.
    • Ch. 40
  • Compeyson's business was the swindling, hand writing forging, stolen bank-note passing, and such-like. All sorts of traps as Compeyson could set with his head, and keep his own legs out of and get the profits from and let another man in for, was Compeyson's business. He'd no more heart than a iron file he was as cold as death, and he had the head of the Devil afore mentioned.
    • Ch. 42

Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865)

  • Money and goods are certainly the best of references.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 4
  • Professionally he declines and falls, and as a friend he drops into poetry.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 5
  • I want to be something so much worthier than the doll in the doll's house.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 55
  • I don't care whether I am a Minx or a Sphinx.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 8
  • "And if it's proud to have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts," Miss Jenny struck in, flushed, "she is proud."
    • Bk. III, Ch. 2
  • That's the state to live and die in!...R-r-rich!
    • Bk. III, Ch. 5
  • We must scrunch or be scrunched.
    • Bk. III, Ch. 5
  • 'No one is useless in this world,' retorted the Secretary, 'who lightens the burden of it for any one else.'
    • Bk. III, Ch. 9


  • "Well, every one for himself, and Providence for us all--as the elephant said when he danced among the chickens."

About Charles Dickens

  • The soul of Hogarth has migrated into the body of Dickens.
  • There is no contemporary English writer whose works are read so generally through the whole house, who can give pleasure to the servants as well as to the mistress, to the children as well as to the master.
  • He describes London like a special correspondent for posterity.
  • The greatest of superficial novelists... It were, in our opinion, an offense against humanity to place Mr Dickens among the greatest novelists.
  • He had a large loving mind and the strongest sympathy with the poorer classes. He felt sure a better feeling, and much greater union of classes, would take place in time. And I pray earnestly it may.
  • Dickens was a pure modernist — a leader of the steam-whistle party par excellence — and he had no understanding of any power of antiquity except a sort of jackdaw sentiment for cathedral towers. He knew nothing of the nobler power of superstition — was essentially a stage manager, and used everything for effect on the pit. His Christmas meant mistletoe and pudding — neither resurrection from dead, nor rising of new stars, nor teaching of wise men, nor shepherds. His hero is essentially the ironmaster.
  • The art of Dickens was the most exquisite of arts: it was the art of enjoying everybody. Dickens, being a very human writer, had to be a very human being; he had his faults and sensibilities in a strong degree; and I do not for a moment maintain that he enjoyed everybody in his daily life. But he enjoyed everybody in his books: and everybody has enjoyed everybody in his books even till to-day. His books are full of baffled villains stalking out or cowardly bullies kicked downstairs. But the villains and cowards are such delightful people that the reader always hopes the villain will put his head through a side window and make a last remark; or that the bully will say one more thing, even from the bottom of the stairs. The reader really hopes this; and he cannot get rid of the fancy that the author hopes so too.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913) [University of Notre Dame Press, 1963], Ch. II: The Great Victorian Novelists (p. 60)
  • Dickens did not merely believe in the brotherhood of man in the weak modern way; he was the brotherhood of man, and knew it was a brotherhood in sin as well as in aspiration.
    • G.K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913), Ch. II: The Great Victorian Novelists (p. 62)
  • There is a heartlessness behind his sentimentally overflowing style.
  • When people say Dickens exaggerates, it seems to me they can have no eyes and no ears. They probably have only notions of what things and people are: they accept them conventionally at their diplomatic value. Their minds run on in the region of discourse, where there are masks only, and no faces; ideas and no facts; they have little sense for those living grimaces that play from moment to moment on the countenance of the world.
    • George Santayana, "Dickens," Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (1922)
  • His eye brings in almost too rich a harvest for him to deal with, and gives him an aloofness and a hardness which freeze his sentimentalism and make it seem a concession to the public, a veil thrown over the penetrating glance which left to itself pierced to the bone. With such a power at his command Dickens made his books blaze up, not by tightening the plot or sharpening the wit, but by throwing another handful of people on the fire.
    • Virginia Woolf, "David Copperfield" (1925), The Moment and Other Essays (1947)
  • It does not matter that Dicken's world is not lifelike; it is alive.
  • Dickens attacked English institutions with a ferocity that has never since been approached. Yet he managed to do it without making himself hated, and, more than this, the very people he attacked have swallowed him so completely that he has become a national institution himself.
  • Of all the Victorian novelists, he was probably the most antagonistic to the Victorian age itself.
  • My own experience in reading to be bounced between violent admiration and violent distaste almost every couple of paragraphs, and this is too uncomfortable a condition to be much alleviated by an inward recital of one's duty not to be fastidious, to gulp the stuff down in gobbets like a man.

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Charles Dickens
This is a disambiguation page, which lists works which share the same title. If an article link referred you here, please consider editing it to point directly to the intended page.

Charles Dickens may refer to:

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Charles Dickens
File:Dickens Gurney
Born Charles John Huffam Dickens
7 February 1812(1812-02-07)
Landport, Portsmouth, England
Died 9 June 1870 (aged 58)
Gad's Hill Place, Higham, Kent, England
Resting place Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey
Occupation Novelist
Notable work(s) Sketches by Boz, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, A Christmas Carol, Martin Chuzzlewit, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Hard Times, Our Mutual Friend, The Pickwick Papers
Signature File:Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (February 7 1812—June 9 1870)[1] was one of the great English writers of the 19th century.


Early life

He was born in Portsmouth, England.[1] His parents were John Dickens (1785-1851)[2], a naval pay clerk, and Elizabeth Barrow (1789–1863)[3].

At age five, Charles moved to Chatham. When Charles was ten years old, his family moved to Camden, London. He worked in a blacking factory there while his father went to prison for debt. Dickens's hard times in this blackening factory served as the base of ideas for many of his novels. Many like Oliver Twist soon became famous. When his uncle died and he inherited money, Charles's father paid off his debts and was released from prison. Charles did not like working and wished to stop working after his father was released. However, his mother said that the family needed the money so Charles was forced to continue working. Charles then finished his schooling, and got a job as an office boy for an attorney. After finding that job dull, he taught himself shorthand and became a journalist that reported on the government.


His first book was Sketches by Boz in 1836, a collection of the short pieces he had been writing for the Monthly Magazine and the Evening Chronicle.[4] This was followed by the The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club in 1837.[1] Both these books became popular as soon as they were printed.[1]

Charles Dickens died on June 9, 1870 and was buried in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.


Charles Dickens' books include:

  • Sketches by Boz (1836)
  • The Pickwick Papers (1837)
  • Oliver Twist (1838)
  • Nicholas Nickelby (1838)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (1840)
  • Barnaby Rudge (1841)
  • Martin Chuzzlewit (1843)
  • Dombey and Son (1846—1848)
  • David Copperfield(1849—1850)
  • Bleak House (1851—1853)
  • Hard Times (1854)
  • Little Dorritt (1855—1857)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
  • Great Expectations (1861)
  • Our Mutual Friend (1865)
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1869—1870), not finished.

He also wrote a number of Christmas books including:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Lansbury, Coral. "Dickens, Charles (1812-1870)" (in English). Australian Dictionary of Biography On Line Edition. Australian National University. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 
  2. [1] Dickens Family Tree website
  3. [2] Dickens Family Tree website
  4. Cousin, John W. (1910). "Charles Dickens (1812-1870)" (in English). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. University of Adelaide. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 

Other websites

rue:Чарлз Діккенс


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