Charles Dickens


Charles John Huffam Dickens was born February 7, 1812, in Ports Mouth,
Hampshire. In his infancy his family moved to Chatham, where he spent his
happiest years and often refers to this time in his novels (1817-1822).
From 1822 to 1860 he lived in London, after which he permanently moved to a
quiet country cottage in Glads Hill, on the outskirts of Chatham. He grew
up in a middle class family. His father was a clerk in the navy pay office
and was well paid, but his extravagant living style often brought the
family to financial disaster. The family reached financial "rock bottom"
in 1824. Charles was taken out of school and sent to work in a factory
doing manual labour, while his father went to prison for his debt. These
internal disasters shocked Charles greatly. He refers to his working
experiences in his writings. Although he hated doing labour, he gained a
sympathetic knowledge into the life of the labour class. He also brings
forth the images of prison and of the lost and oppressed child in many
novels. His schooling ended at 15, and he became a clerk in a solicitor's
office, then a short hand reporter in the lawcourts (where he gained much
knowledge of legalities which he used in his novels), and finally like
other members of his family, a newspaper reporter. Here, he got his first
taste of journalism and fell in love with it immediately.

Drawn to the theatre, Charles Dickens almost pursued the career of an
actor In 1833, he began sending short stories and descriptive essays to
small magazines and newspapers. These writings attracted attention and
were published in 1836 under the name, Sketches by "Boz". At the same
time, he was offered a small job of writing the text for a small comic
strip, where he worked with a well know artist. Seven weeks later, the
first instalment of The Pickwick Papers appeared. Within a few months
Pickwick was the rage and Dickens was the most popular author of the day.
During 1836, he also wrote two plays and a pamphlet, he then resigned from
his newspaper job, and undertook the editing job of a monthly magazine,
Bentley's Miscellany, in which he serialized Oliver Twist (1837-1839). By
this time, the first of his nine surviving children had been born, He had
married Catherine, eldest daughter of a respected journalist George
Hogorth (April 1836).

Novels

His first major success was with The Pickwick Papers. They were high
spirited and contained many conventional comic butts and jokes. Pickwick
displayed, many of the features that were to be blended in to his future
fiction works; attacks on social evils and the delight in the joys of
Christmas. Rapidly thought up and written in mere weeks or even days before
its publication date, Pickwick contained weak style and was unsatisfactory
in all, partly because Dickens was rapidly developing his craft as a
novelist while doing it. This style of writing in a first novel, made his
name know literally overnight, but created a new tradition of literature
and was made one of the best know novel's of the world.

After The Pickwick Papers were published in 1837, he put together
another novel, Oliver Twist. Though his artistic talent is very much
evident, he refrained from using the successful formula used in The
Pickwick Papers. Instead, Oliver Twist is more concerned with social and
more evil, though it did still contain much comedy. The long last of his
fiction is partly due to its being so easy to adapt into effective stage
plays. Sometimes 20 London theatres simultaneously were producing
adaptations of his latest story; so even non- readers became acquainted
with simplified versions of his works. In the novel Barnaby Grudge he
attempted another type of writing, a historical novel. It was set in the
late 18th century and graphically explored the spectacle of large scale mob
violence. The task of keeping unity throughout his novels (which often
included a wide range of moods and materials and several complicated plots
involving scores of characters) was made even more difficult because he was
forced to write and publish them, while also doing on going serials.

His next major work, and probably his most famous was published in
1843, and was called A Christmas Carol. Suddenly conceived and written in
mere weeks, while he was preoccupied in writing another serial, it was an
unmatched achievement. His view of life was described as "Christmas
Philosophy," and he spoke of "Carol philosophy" as the basis of his work.
He was extremely attached to the christmas season, and this