Literary Biography Of Charles Dickens English Literature Essay

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Charles Huffman Dickens was born on February 7th 1812 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. His birth was on a Friday twelve o'clock at night (as he has been informed and believe) at a place called Landport. The location is today the Dickens birth place museum. He was, born to Mr. John Dickens (1785-1851) a clerk in the navy pay office and Mrs. Elizabeth nee Barrow (1780-1863). A second born he had an older brother Frances who was popularly known as Fanny together with younger siblings by the names of Alfred Allen, Letitia Mary , Harriet, Frederic William(Fred), Alfred Lamert and Augustus Newnham. (Smiley 2002). Charles dickens is considered one of the greatest and popular authors of the Victorian times that have been acclaimed for his rich story telling and unforgettable characters inherent in his plays novellas, fiction and non fiction. This works are what made him to be known the world over due to the characters inherent in the works.

His prowess in the telling of their lives and the depictions of the social life i.e. the classes, morals and values of his times through the character can not pass unacknowledged. For some he has been considered the spokesman of the poor, the downtrodden and the have- nots through his depiction of their woos and plight in his many works that included his personal autobiography David Copperfield (1848-1850). This resulted in him having many critics like Henry James and Virginia Woolf but many also adored and admired him more so because if his literal skills. Charles was born at the time of the industrial revolution that saw the emergence of the radical Marxist theories that also dealt with the plight of the workers and the structure of the society and social order. These are depicted in Dickens works that are characterized by attacks on societal evils, lack of justice with pretence and double standards. At later stages of his life he developed a mental problem and in June 9th 1870 he suffered a second stroke and died after doing a full day work on Edwin Drood. (Marzials 2004)


Mr. John dickens was a well paid clerk at the navy office earning a salary of 80 pounds a month. He was a good natured and friendly man that was generous. Something that made him to be always at financial difficulties for almost his entire life. These financial tribulations have been captured in the novel David Copperfield through the character of Mr. Micawber. The family moved to London in 1814 and then to Chatham where dickens received some education. The school master William Giles paid close attention to Dickens who made rapid progress. The 1821 reforms in the navy led to John losing his job as clerk and therefore the family income this lead to the family moving to Camden town in London. Within three years John was arrested for debt together with the family except Dickens then 12. He was then forced to work for some months at a blacking factory in Hungerford Market, London, so as to clear his father's debt while his family was in the Marshalea debtor's prison in 1824.

This was a bitter period for Dickens who later recalled that his father and mother were quite satisfied and that they could hardly have been so had he been twenty years of age, distinguished in grammar school and admitted to Cambridge. This period was later captured in his article little Dorrit (1855-57). John later paid his debt of 40 pounds, money that the family had inherited from his mother who had died at the age of seventy nine while they were still in prison. (Hotten 2001) The education of Charles can be rated as impressive by the then standards bearing in mind the hard life that he had experienced during his child life. He had studied at Wellington House Academy and at a school run by Mr. Dawson School between 1824-1827. From 1827-1828 he worked as a law clerk (office boy) and subsequently as shorthand, freelance reporter at Doctor Commons. These experiences came in handy when he wrote for True Son and as a parliamentary reporter for the Mirror of Parliament during the reform bill legislation. (1832-34) He also worked as a reporter for the Morning Chronicle (1834-36) under a fictitious name of "Boz" that was derived from Moses, Boses and Boz all whom are Charles favorite characters in the "Vicar of Wakefield" by Goldsmith. The experience that he got working in these organizations led him to publish in the monthly magazine the "dinner at popular walk" (1833) and the initial "sketches by boz" that was published in 1836 the year that he got married to Elizabeth Hogarth. The literal skills of Charles were as a result of the gains that he got at the British museum reading the work of Shakespeare and his prowess is what leads him to work in the field of journalism. (Kenyon 2008)

This works were later followed by "the pick wick papers" the importance of these events was a realization to him that propelled him to found the Master Humphrey Cloak and embracing of his work as an editor in the London Daily News. This was the start of his career as a full time novelist with the first of his work being Oliver Twist. the novel was first published in installments before it was combined into a full book. It is a story of Oliver twist an orphan who's in heritance right is deprived from him by his unjust and wicked custodian Mr. Monks. It is about the underworld of London where Oliver joins in from being apprenticed as a casket maker after being in solitary confinement in a poor farm and workhouse; where he outraged the authorities by asking for a second bowl of porridge. It brings out the dark side of the London underworld and the hard early years of Oliver Twist. Oliver outrages authorities by requesting for a second bowl of porridge and this leads him to a solitary confinement where he is taught to be a coffin maker. He later makes his way to London where he becomes a member of a gang of young thieves, led by Fagin. Finally Fagin is hanged at Newgate and Mr. Barnlow adopts Oliver. Nicholas Nickelby (1838-39) is a loosely crafted tale of young Nickleby's efforts to seek his fortune. These experiences plus the imprisonment of his father for the second time due to debt and his keeping on of bailing out of them made Charles to be very suspicious of unjust laws and endowed him to the field of journalism the posthumous papers of the pick wick club was published monthly from April 1836 to November 1837 in piece meal. It involved a group of individuals and their travels to Rochester, Bath and other places. It was sold as inexpensive books at round one shilling per copy. Marriage life is a central part of human life, for Charles Dickens his marriage with Elizabeth ended in 1933. She was a banker's daughter whom he had courted for three years he subsequently went and married Catherine Hogart a daughter of his friend. She helped him in the editing of the newly established Evening Chronicle. (Gissing 2004)

The American notes were published as a result of his tour around the world with his family. The work was against the practice of slavery and the chewing of tobacco that was widely practiced in America at the time. This works did not go down well in the nation that was relatively new and was looking at slavery as a pillar of its economic south. From the 1840s he traveled widely where he advocated against many social evils that he encountered. This he did through talks, readings, pamphlet, letters and plays. The plays were featured through his theatrical company that he had founded in 1845 and was to occupy a great deal of his time till his death. The company brought him together with the likes of Wilkie Collins and Augustus Egg whom they traveled together with and they co-authored the play "the frozen Deep" Charles Dickens separated with his wife in 1858 after they had had ten children and her sister, whom Dickens was found of later moved in to stay at Dickens house where she died at his arms at the age of 17. These events are at the core of the novel. Dora Copperfield. In the 1850s he became the founding editor of Household world plus its successor All year round (1859-1870) through this he published a book Great Expectations between 1860 and 1861. The publication begun as a serialized publication in the periodical All the Year Round as from 1st December 1860. For the subsequent years he lived the rest of his life in Italy, Paris and Switzerland. He engaged in lecturers in Britain and the United States (1858-1868) that preoccupied most of his time. In 1856 he bought an estate that he had held in high regard since his child hood-the 'God's hill' where he lived and continued writing his works until his death in on June 9th 1870. (Marzials 2004)

Public readings

Before the invention of printing many Authors and poets would regularly read their works in the public sphere to an audience. This practice continued with some extension to several years after printing had become common as part of the Victorian era culture. Dickens sharp year for conversation came in handy in helping him to create wonderful characters by their words. He used a certain style of writing where by he used sentences that built the character. His first public readings started in 1858 and it was done three months before his death. They were so popular because Dickens was able to portray the character so nicely by himself mainly because he was the author. The public performance was done in many locations specifically the places that he had toured as from 1858. i.e. in England, Scotland Ireland, Paris and America. The majority of these performances were however done in London. In an opium den in Shadwell, he met an elderly drug peddler selling opium by the name of Opium Sal and this was the character that he used to write the novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was not completed as he planed to produce it in twelve monthly parts but he only managed six. All these performance were being conducted against medical advice and it was during this public tours in April 9th of 1869 that he had initially suffered a stroke where he had collapsed at Preston, after which his doctors put a stop to his performances in public. Charles Dickens most celebrated work is the "Christmas carol" (1843) and it's his most lived works that has the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens apparently didn't like historical subjects much. Barnaby Rudge that was set during the 'no popery 'riots of 1870 and "a tale of two cities" (1859) that was set during the French revolution are the two exceptions. A tale of two cities' plot circles around two look a likes Charles Darney and Sydney Carton who both love the same woman. (Gissing 2004)

In terms of his greatest criticism to social injustice the novel bleak house (1853) brings out this. The plot is built around a law suit, the classic case of Jarndyce and Jardnyce that affects any one who gets into comes across it. The plot is told in the first person narration by a young woman Esther Summerson, an illegitimate daughter of captain Hawdon and the proud Lady Dedlock. His second last piece prior to his death was the mutual friend (1865) whose first chapters start with a murder mystery where a body is found floating at river Thames. The novel has been rated as an unqualified masterpiece from the way its plot flows and the way it has generally been written.


The later works of Charles Dickens begun to be exaggerated and mixed up and this has been attributed to the detrimental of his mental state coupled with his lavish lifestyle that he had come to acquire that was different from his child hood upbringing. His career as a novelist attracted and received much attention but he also produced hundreds of essays plus rewriting and editing others. (Smiley 2002) His essays like 'a visit to new gate is about his visit to his family in prison while in a small star in the east is about reveals the working condition on the mills. Mr. Ballow on the other hand reflects on the un sensitivity of his tutor during his school days. Charles dickens will definitely be remembered as one of the great writers of all times.