Charles Dickens

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The Life and Times of...

Charles Dickens

ByMrs. A. Frech

It was the best of times;it was the worst of times

~Excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens~

The Early Years

Born 1812 Died 1870 (at the age of 58).

Born in Portsmouth, England February 7, 1812 to John (a clerk in an office) and Elizabeth Dickens. Soon after, the family moved to London.

They were an average lower to middle class family.

Unlike many children of the times, Charles Dickens had some formal schooling .

Charless father loses his job and most of his income.

1824 Charless father is arrested for debt and is imprisoned (supposedly along with Charless mother and 5 of the siblings).

At the age of 12, Charles is separated from his family and forced to go to work at Warrens Blacking Factory to help pay off familys debt. (A blacking warehouse was an establishment manufacturing, packaging, and distributing blacking, which was used for cleaning boots and shoes.

The experience of working in the Blacking Factory haunted Dickens for the rest of his life, and he spoke of it only to his wife and closest friend, but the topic emerged in his writings.

A Blacking Factory

Charless father was released from Marshalsea Debtors Prison (supposedly after 1-1 years), but Charles was further psychologically scarred by the blacking factory experience because his mother insisted he continue to work there to help the family a bit longer.

Charles father rescues him from this fate however, and Charles Dickens was able to return to school where he remained until the age of 15.

At 15, he finds employment as an office boy/law clerk at an attorneys office, but this experience leads him to conclude

that he does not desire to go into law.

He soon began working as a free-lance newspaper reporter.

Charles Dickens - at age 18

Charles Dickens - in his late 20's

Charles Dickens - at age 46

Charles Dickens - at age 52

Charles Dickens - at age 58

Charles Dickens - at his last public reading

Dickens Becomes a Writer

As stated, Dickens began to work as a free-lance newspaper reporter and writer.

His first published work is Sketches by Boz, which appeared in 1833 (Boz was the pseudonym that he wrote under).

Over time, Dickens wrote a wide array of works that made him one of the most prolific writers of all time.

Books to know (many written in serial/installment form): The Pickwick Papers (1836), Oliver Twist (1837), A Christmas Carol (1843), David Copperfield (1849 which was considered semi-autobiographical), Bleak House (1852), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860) and more (14 novels writtenplus one half finished at time of his death).

Dickenss writings often contained negative social commentaries about the times (particularly comments on social status), but they also contained a positive message. Dickens was concerned with the plight of the common man.

Dickenss characters were often said to be like people we know in the world. Yet some critics has accused Dickens of engaging in writing caricatures (stock images) of people rather than solid, believable characters.

Keep in mind how many of Dickenss characters are so memorable that they passed into common language such as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dickens desired to reflect truth about life and people (the good and the bad).

Popular Novels of...Charles Dickens

(which have also been adapted into movies)

Dickens's Personal Life

During time that Dickens was a free-lance write (age 18), he falls in love, but the relationship ends because her parents do not find him to be a good enough match.

At 23, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of his journalist friend.

Together, they had 10 children (7 boys and 3 girls).

There is a bit of scandal in the Dickens household. Catherines younger sister, Mary, moves in to help with the children, and it is said that Charles idolized her. She died very young, and this greatly distressed him and often surfaced in his writing as well.

Catherine Hogarth(Dickens's wife)

Catherine Hogarth(her later years)

Mary Hogarth(Catherine's sister)

After 22 years of marriage and much financial success, Charles separated from his wife Catherine due to marital difficulties and being temperamentally unsuited for each other. He begins seeing an actress.

It is said that Dickens was charming and brilliant, but had many emotional insecurities that most likely caused him to be extraordinarily difficult to live with.

It is stated that he emotionally (and financially) blackmailed his own children to favor him and ignore their mother in his final years by threatening to cut the children out of his will (some of the children obey but others do not).

Dickens - A Political Advocate

In his books, Dickens continually spoke out about the conditions in Victorian England.

His books stressed the themes that he considered to be the two greatest problems of the times: ignorance and poverty.

He believed that education was the key to ending poverty.

In part due to his vigilance to these causes, there was an eventual change to the welfare system in England.

Dickens's Later Years

Charles Dickens was well loved for not only his works, but for his public readings. In his later years, he went on tour, vowing to do 100 last readings before he died. He completed 86 of them before his death in 1870.

Charles Dickens insisted on continuing to work and perform public reading even when his health deteriorated and the doctors warned against it. His work was his life. He was

very popular with his fans.

Dickenss final public readings took place in London in 1870. He suffered from his 2nd stroke (after a full days work) and died the next day. He died on June 9, 1870, at the peak of the Victorian Age.

He wished for a quiet burial, but that request went unheeded. Instead, he is buried at Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey, a place reserved for only the most respected writers in England.

Summing up his careerDickens wrote many books and was a

celebrity of his time as well as quite wealthy for the times (but children, a separation, charitable contributions, etc. took away much of that wealth).

Queen Victoria

Born 1819 Died 1901

(82 years)

The Victorian Age lasted from 1837-1901, starting with the coronation of Queen Victoria (at age 18) until her death in 1901 (at the age of 82).

Queen Victoria remains a remarkable figure in history not only for having been the longest reigning British monarch, but also as the leader of a vast empire, and as the inspiration for a culture.

She was often advised not to read Dickenss works because they contained unpleasant subjects that would upset her.

In 1840, Queen Victoria had married her first cousin Albert. For the next 20 years they lived in close harmony and had nine children. Albert died from typhoid in 1861. Victoria never fully recovered from his loss (she was only 41 when he died), and she remained in mourning the rest of her life.

Queen Victoria made many reforms to the monarchy during her time. She also brought about great expansion of the British empire. Conflict was not a feature of the Victorian overseas policy, but she had to face many uprisings, and even had seven attempts on her life. Her stoic attitudes toward these attacks greatly strengthened her popularity.

She tended to remain out of the public eye after her husbands death except when necessary. Victoria died on January 22, 1901 (at the age of 82).

Young Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria & Prince AlbertThe Royal "Pair"

Middle-Aged Queen Victoria

Victoria & Albert

Queen Victoria - the later years

Queen Victoria - the later years

Queen Victoria's funeral procession

Victorian England & Times

Victorians invented the modern idea of invention the notion that one can create solutions to problems, and that man can create new means of bettering himself and his environment.

Art was beginning to enjoy a revival. The upper classes tried to re-culture themselves in the rise of the new monarchy. The availability of inexpensive reading materials, especially illustrated newspapers and periodicals, created a large reading public. People were anxious for nonfiction and fiction. (Thusone reason Dickens was so popular).

Queen Victorias country was the worlds leading industrial power (producing more than half its iron, coal, and cotton cloth).

It was a high point for England industrially and economically (the industrial revolution caused a boom in employment in cities, but problems still existed because the pay was not good).

Englands territories were at their greatest size under Queen Victoria, and London was by far the most powerful city in the world.

Londons population went from 1 million to 4.5 million by Queen Victorias death. The west end enjoyed great wealth, but the more industrial east end suffered great financial hardships.

Many people fell to financial hardships and were imprisoned for debt, as was the law. Most people were unable to earn enough money to pay off their debt and support their families, thus causing a cycle of poverty.

During the Industrial Revolution, the shameful practice of child labor was most common. The displaced working classes were not able to support thems