Charles Dickens

Early Life

Charles John Huffam Dickens, known as Charles Dicken in the literary world, was born on the 7th of February in 1812 in Landport, England. He was the intelligent son of John Dickens, a clerk in the navy pay office, and Elizabeth Dickens, who married John in 1809.  Soon after his birth, the family moved to London, where Charles spent the formative years of his life. During his early years, he read voraciously including, Henry Fielding, Gil Blas, Robinson Crusoe, and Tobias Smollett. The sad memories of childhood, along with his encounter with different people, played a significant role in his early development.

Education

Charles started education at a local school at the age of nine. However, the good fortune was short-lived, as he had to leave his school when his father became a victim of bad debt. To support his family, he was sent to work in Warren’s Blacking Factory, where he endured emotional trauma as well as isolation and mental torture. After some time, when his father was released, he was sent to Wellington House Academy. Still, the horrible work experience kept on haunting him, which he later fictionalized in his pieces, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield. He spent two years at school when in 1827, once again, he was forced to leave school and work as an office boy to support his family.

Marriage and Tragedy

While working as a journalist in 1834, Charles met Catherine Hogarth. They got engaged in 1835 and tied the knot the following year. The early years of their union were full of merriment. They traveled to Scotland and America together. They had ten children. Unfortunately, in 1858, they separated due to misunderstandings and resentment. After two years, he remarried Ellen Ternan, a young actress who remained his companion until his death.

Death

Charles Dickens, a great Victorian figure, had enjoyed unprecedented fame during his lifetime. He was categorized as a literary genius of the 20th century.  Unfortunately, in 1865, while returning from Paris, he was involved in a fatal rail crash, which left him with bad health for several years. Despite this tragedy, he did not give up writing and kept on producing literary pieces until 1870 when he suffered a severe stroke and never regained consciousness. He died on the 9th of June in 1870, leaving the book The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.

Some Important Facts of His Life

  1. He led a tough and painful childhood, which he chronicled in one of his masterpieces, David Copperfield.
  2. He had a great interest in paranormal and was an active member of the Ghost Club.
  3. The Oxford English Dictionary credits him for the first use of words, crossfire, dustbin, fairy story, whoosh, and slow-coach.

His Career

Charles Dickens tried his luck in various careers. At first, he worked at a boot-blackening factory when his father was imprisoned. Later, he became an office boy. However, in 1828, he became a stenographer and a freelance reporter in London. He began his literary career in 1833 when he started contributing a series of sketches and impressions to other magazines and newspapers using “Boz” as his pen-name. His serial publications, Oliver Twist and The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club brought him into the center of the literary world.

From 1836 to 1870, he made the reader’s jaws drop with his Christmas books, historical fiction novels, a travel guide, essays, and his observations about America. He spent time in Italy and America and reflected these cross-culture ramblings along with their impacts on people in his literary pieces, including Pictures from Italy. After his return from abroad, he published installments of Dombey and Son, which continued until 1948. Later, he produced many masterpieces, which are still read and admired, such as A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Hard Times.

His Style

Charles Dickens, a great Victorian poet, opted for a very distant writing style and inspired the generation with his intellectual ideas. Since he started his literary career writing papers and essays for the magazines and newspapers, he successfully tried the same style in most of his stories. Using the cliff hanger technique, he was able to create suspense in his pieces. Marked with ideal characterization and satirical tone, Oliver Twist presents the mastery of his creative mind. In Christmas Carol, mysterious ghosts and music play a central role in blowing the triumph of Christmas. He has also involved realism, religion, and class in most of his novels to show the apparent truths about society. To exhibit the character traits, he has used literary devices such as personifications, imagery, similes, and metaphors. The recurring themes in most of his writings are fate and free will, religion, poverty, criminality, and identity.

Major Works

  • Best Novels: He was an outstanding writer, some of his best novels include Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend, David Copperfield, Bleak House, and Oliver Twist.
  • Other Works: Besides novels, he tried his hands on shorter fiction. Some of them include “A Christmas Tree”, “The Chimes: A Goblin Story”, “Going into Society” and “The Holly-Tree.”

Charles Dickens’s Impact on Future Literature

Two centuries have passed since Charles Dicken’s gave the world evergreen stories. Yet his stories, novels, and other pieces are taken various incarnations and have mesmerized generations after generations. His writings and literary ideas left a significant influence on many poets and writers, including John Irving, Jane Austen, Ann Rice, and Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky. To Fyodor, the Dickensian style reflects a mature understanding of morality, social resurrection, and spirituality.

Interestingly, the University of California founded the Dickens project as a part of the consortium of universities in the United States. They intended to study the literature and life of Charles Dickens. He successfully documented his ideas and feelings in his writings that even today, writers try to imitate his unique style, considering him a beacon for writing novels and shorter fiction.

Famous Quotes

  1. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known. (A Tale of Two Cities)
  2. Throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people we most despise. (Great Expectations)
  3. Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine. (Oliver Twist)

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