(1812 – 1870)
From a very early age Charles Dickens knew he wanted to be gentleman. Unfortunately the odds weren't in his favour.
His family was on the edge of financial and social disaster. However they did have some limited funds put aside to send one of their children to a university or academy. Mr. and Mrs. John Dickens studied the talents and qualifications of all their children. They wanted to use the money earmarked for education where it would do the most good. It was as if they were placing all their bets on one child.
Charles was not that child.
His parents chose to send their daughter, Fanny, to school. She had a talent for music and was sent to an academy. Not long after that Charles was sent to work at the blacking factory.
It seemed as if everything was against him. However he had talent, and more importantly he had desire, drive and a strong belief in himself. He worked hard to make his dream life into a reality.
Charles Dickens wasn't perfect. He was hardness and sometimes quick tempered. He often blamed others for the problems that he himself caused. The force of will that enabled him to succeed prevented him from taking an honest look at his own life.
While he was unable to learn from the lessons of his own life perhaps we, his readers, can be more fortunate. A study of his life reveals that perfection is not a qualification for success and that no one really defines us but ourselves.
1815 - 1879
Eldest daughter of George and Georgina Hogarth. She was born in Scotland and came to England with her family in 1834. Through her father´s journalistic connections she was introduced to Dickens, who was then writing sketches for the Morning Chronicle, of which her father was music critic. In April 1836 they were married. Dickens found Catherine an incompatible partner, blamed her, somewhat unreasonably, for the birth of their ten children, and turned over the housekeeping to her sister Georgina. In 1858 their widely-publicized separation took place. From that time until Dickens´s death they remained estranged, Catherine living with her eldest son, Charley, but she remained attached and loyal to her husband and to his memory until her own death from cancer.
Dickens to George Dolby, 25 September 1868
Charles Culliford Boz” Charley, Flaster Floby” 1837 -1896 buried in Mortlake Cemetery, Richmond, Surrey
Mary Angela Mamie, Mild Glo ´ster” 1838- 1896 buried in Sevenoaks, Kent
Kate Macready Katey, Lucifer Box” 1839 - 1929 buried in Sevenoaks, Kent
Walter Landor ”Young Skull” 1841 - 1863 died in India
Francis Jeffrey ”Frank, Chicken Stalker 1844 -1886 died in Moline, Illinois
Alfred D`Orsay Tennyson ”Skittles, Sampson Brass” 1845 - 1912 buried in Trinity Parish Cem
Sydney Smith Haldimand ”Ocean Spectre, The Admiral” 1847 - 1872 died at sea
Henry Fielding, Harry 1849 1933
Dora Annie 1850 - 1851 buried in Highgate Cemetery, London
Edward Bulwer Lytton ”Plornishmaroontigoonter,Plorn 1852 - 1902 died in Australia
Law Clerk to Journalist
The start of 1827 found Charles Dickens enrolled as a student at Wellington House Academy. In May, through connections made by his mother, he obtained a position at the law firm of Ellis and Blackmore.
Dickens was a law clerk. His duties included keeping the petty cash fund, delivering documents, running errands and other sundry tasks.
In November of 1828 Dickens took a similar position for the law firm of Charles Molley. However Dickens remained with the firm for only a few months.
The law didn't appeal to him as a career. He found the work of a law clerk tedious. Actually becoming a lawyer didn't appeal to him either. So he left to find another way to make a living.
His next job was as a court stenographer. To qualify for that position Dickens had to learn the Gurney system of shorthand writing. It took most people about three years to master the system. Dickens, no doubt aided by his excellent memory, learned it in about three months. Consequently in 1829 he began work as a freelance court stenographer.
In 1831 he became a shorthand reporter with the Mirror of Parliament. The publication gave accounts of the activity in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Dickens became known for his quick and accurate courtroom reporting.
During this time he also considered becoming an actor. He was so serious about the matter that he arranged for an audition at the Lyceum Theater. However he was ill on the day of his audition and could not go. He did have acting skills as proven later by his readings and performances in benefit productions. His life might have been dramatically different if it weren't for his illness on that day.
In 1833 he began writing "sketches" or essays. His sketches continued to grow in popularity. They eventually led to the publication of the The Pickwick Papers in 1836
Charles Dickens: A Chronology of his Life
1812 Born on Friday, 7 February at Landport, a suburb of Portsmouth to John, a clerk in the navy pay-office attached to the dockyard, and Elizabeth Dickens.
1814 - 1822 John Dickens transferred to London 1814, to Chatham (near Rochester) 1817, back to London late 1822. CD at school in Chatham 1821-22. Family settles winter 1822-23 at Camden Town, northern suburb of London.
1824 Increasing financial difficulty; CD put to work at shoe-blacking warehouse February-June. John Dickens imprisoned for debt during spring; family (except CD) joins him in Marshalsea Prison lodgings.
1827 Taken from school. Decides to become a journalist.
1829 - 1831 Free-lance reporter at Doctors Commons courts. Regular reader at British Museum from eighteenth birthday for several years. Meets Maria Beadnell (1830). Studies acting.
1831 - 1832 Shorthand reporter of Parliamentary proceedings for Mirror of Parliament (from 1831 or early 1832). Reporter for evening newspaper True Sun March-July 1832. Bad cold prevents theater audition. Beadnells send Maria to finishing school in Paris 1832.
1833 Break with Maria Beadnell in May. First published story, "A Dinner at Poplar Walk," December (eight more publ. in Monthly Magazine January 1834-February 1835.)
1834 Reporter for Morning Chronicle from August; publishes there and elsewhere. Moves to Furnival's Inn, Holborn.
1535 Engaged to Catherine Hogarth, daughter of George Hogarth, editor of Evening Chronicle.
1836 His first series of Sketches by Boz published; receives 150 pounds for the copyright. First number of Pickwick Papers appears on 30 March. Marries Catherine Hogarth on 2 April. Becomes editor of Bentley's Miscellany. Publishes in December the second series of Sketches by Boz. Meets John Forster, who will become a close friend and his first biographer.
1837 Begins Oliver Twist, continues in monthly parts in Bentley's Miscellany. Catherine's younger sister Mary, whom he idolizes, dies. Catherine bears a son Charles, the first of seven sons and three daughters. Pickwick Papers finishes.
1838 Begins Nicholas Nickleby.
1839 Resigns as editor of Bentley's Miscellany. Last part of Oliver Twist appears in April. Nicholas Nickleby finishes in October.
1840 First number of Master Humphrey's Clock, which becomes his next two stories.
1841 Finishes The Old Curiosity Shop in February. Begins Barnaby Rudge, which continues through November.
1842 Travels through Canada and the United States. American Notes appears in October, creating a furor in America.
1843 Begins Martin Chuzzlewit. A Christmas Carol, the first of his Christmas books, appears in December.
1844 Tours Italy with family. Returns to London in December, when The Chimes is published. Leaves London for Genoa.
1845 Debut of his amateur theatrical company. The Cricket and the Hearth published. Returns to England in July.
1846 Begins Dombey and Son, which runs until April 1848. With family travels to Lausanne, then Paris. The Battle of Life appears in December.
1847 CD family returns to London February. Sydney Smith born 18 April.
1848 Writes autobiographi. Directs and acts in amateur theatricals.
Publishes final Christmas book, The Haunted Man, in December.
1849 Henry Fielding born 15 January. David Copperfield begins running. The Life of Our Lord written for CD's children.
1850 Dora Annie born 16 August. David Copperfield finishes in November. Founds and edits the weekly Household Words.
1851 Begins writing Bleak House November.
1852 Bleak House begins in monthly parts March.Edward Bulwer Lytton (Plorn) born 13 March.
1853 Bleak House ends in September. Tours Italy with Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins. Returns to England. Gives the first of many public readings from his own works. Summers in Boulogne.
1854 Hard Times appears weekly in Household Words until August. With family spends summer and fall in Boulogne.
1856 With family travels to Paris in October. Little Dorrit begins to appear monthly.
1857 Little Dorrit ends in June. With family spends summer at renovated Gad's Hill. Hans Christian Anderson, whose fairy tales Dickens admires greatly, visits. His theatrical company performs The Frozen Deep for the Queen. Falls in love with Ellen Ternan, a young actress.
1858 In London, undertakes his first public readings for pay. Quarrels with Thackeray. Separates from Catherine.
1859 His London readings continue. Begins new weekly, All the Year Round. A Tale of Two Cities appears, continues through November.
1860 His family takes up residence at Gad's Hill. Burns many personal letters. Great Expectations begins to appear weekly.
1861 Embarks on yet another series of public readings in London. Great Expectations finishes in August.
1862 - 1863 Continues public readings in Paris and London. Reconciles with Thackeray just before the latter's death.
1864 Our Mutual Friend begins to appear monthly. Health begins to fail, much because of over work.
1865 Our Mutual Friend ends in November.
1866 - 1867 Continues public readings in Stotland, England and Ireland. Unwell but carries on, against doctor's advice. Embarks on an American reading tour.
1868 Finishes his American reading tour. His health worsens, but takes additional duties at All the Year Round.
1869 Continues readings in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Shows symptoms of mild stroke; provincial readings canceled. Begins The Mystery of Edwin Drood
1870 His final public readings take place in London. Suffers a stroke on June 8 at Gad's Hill, after a full day's work. Dies on June 9, and is buried at Westminster Abbey on June 14. Last of his unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood appears in September.