Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
v Charles Dickens was an English writer, lecturer, and social critic, and is considered the best novelist of the Victorian era.
v He wrote fifteen novels, five novellas, seven short story collections, and four plays. Many of his works are semi-autobiographical, .
v His first big success was the novel The Pickwick Papers, which made him famous at age twenty four.
Dickens' Dream, by Robert William Buss
v He's also famous for David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Bleak House, and Great Expectations.
v As a social critic, Dickens fought for children's rights, and better education opportunities.
v While in America, Dickens signed a petition with twenty-five other writers to the government, asking for new laws to protect them from copyright piracy.
v People use the word 'Dickensian' today to mean any story about the poor, and comical villains (podliak) of the poor (like Scrooge).
Charles Dickens was born in the city of Portsmouth, on Portsea Island, in southern England. Charles was the second of eight children. His parents were not good, and embarrassed Charles his entire life. His father, John, changed jobs frequently, and his family moved several times. Charles spent much of his childhood reading.
When Charles was twelve, his father was sent to prison for three months, with his family, for a £40 debt owed to a baker. Charles, being older, went to live with a neighbour. He found a job working ten hours a day in a warehouse (sklad, veľkoobchod), to help his family, including a sister, Frances, who studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Eventually, Charles's great-grandmother died, bequeathing £450 to the family, which was then released from prison.
Charles at Work, by Fred Bernard, 1892
Charles, however, had to keep his job because his mother wanted the money. This led to a life-long mistrust and resentment (nevôľa, neľúbosť) of his mother. Dickens wrote, "I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back." He also mocked his mother's vanity (domýšľavosť, márnivosť), describing her sense of fashion as "an attempt of middle-aged mutton to dress itself lamb fashion."
Soon after, Charles entered a school, which he hated, the Wellington House Academy. He left before graduating, when his father failed to pay tuition. All this became inspiration for his story David Copperfield. Dickens then found a job as a clerk. He began attending theatre every day, memorizing his favourite plays. Then he began a new career as a journalist. He worked four years reporting legal news, learning all its faults and bureaucracy.
Charles Dickens, by Daniel Maclise, 1839
Charles was a successful journalist, and eventually made friends with publishers who agreed to print his stories. He soon became famous and rich. His father often wrote to Charles's friends and publishers, begging for money. He also stole some of Charles's manuscripts and sold them. So, Charles rented a cottage for them to live in, far enough away to keep them from stealing his things. When his mother became old and senile, Charles took care of her himself, until she died.
Charles married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of a publisher, in 1836. They had ten children together. In 1842, they went to America, then traveled around Europe. In 1857, Charles and his friend, Wilkie Collins, put together his play, The Frozen Deep. Charles fell in love with one of the actresses, Ellen Ternan, who was only eighteen. Charles and his wife separated, after she discovered a gold bracelet meant for Ellen.. Catherine took one child with her, leaving the other nine with Charles. Charles continued seeing this young woman for the rest of his life, keeping her in various houses, rented under false names.
In 1865, Dickens survived a train crash, where all but the last car of the train dropped off a bridge. After saving several people's lives, Charles realized he'd left a manuscript back on the train, and risked his life to go back and get it. It was his last published novel, Our Mutual Friend. Dickens died of a stroke in 1870, leaving his final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. When he died, Charles left both Catherine and Ellen enough money so they'd never have to work again.