The Life of Charles DickensCharles Dickens was a nineteenth-century novelist who was and still isvery popular. He was born in Landport, a region of Portsmouth, on February 7,1812 (Kyle 1).Charles Dickens was the son of John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow. JohnDickens was a minor government official who worked in the Navy Pay Office.Through his work there, he met Elizabeth and eventually married her.
By 1821,when Charles was four months old, John Dickens could no longer afford the renton his house. John Dickens loved to entertain his friends with drinks andconversation. Throughout his life, he was very short of money and in debt. Heoften had to borrow money to pay off the debt and borrow more money to pay offthe people he borrowed the money from. Later on, John Dickens was transferredagain to work in the naval dockyard at Chatman. It was here that CharlesDickens’ earliest and clearest memories were formed (Mankowitz 9-14).Charles’ education included being taught at home by his mother,attending a Dame School at Chatman for a short time, and Wellington Academy inLondon. He was further educated by reading widely in the British Museum(Huffam).
In late 1822, John was needed back at the London office, so they had tomove to London. This gave Charles opportunities to walk around the town with hisfather and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the area. This gave himearly inspiration that he would use later on in his life when he started towrite (Mankowitz 13-14).
James Lamert, the owner of a boot-blacking factory, saw the conditionsthat the Dickens family was going through. He offered Charles a job there andhe was paid six shillings a week which was reasonable at that time. Soon, hewas moved downstairs in the sweatshop-like room. Charles had been working atthe factory for less than two weeks when his father was arrested for debt.
Hewas sent to debtors prison where he did work to pay off his debt. John paid forCharles’ lodging, but Charles had to pay for his food and everything else withthe six shillings he earned every week. The details of London and of prisonlife were imprinting themselves into Dickens’ memory and would one day help himin the novels he wrote. After John was in prison for three months, his motherdied leaving him enough money to get out of debtors prison (Mankowitz 20-22).Late in Charles’ teens, he became a court reporter.
This introduced himto journalism, and he also became interested in politics. Some of his earlyshort stories and sketches, which were published in various London newspapersand magazines, were compiled in 1836 to form his first book, Sketches by Boz.This book sold well (Huffam).In 1837, he wrote another book called Posthumous Papers of the PickwickClub. It was written in monthly installments. Dickens had become the mostpopular author in England by the time the fourth installment was done. Thisperiod is now known as Dickens’ early period because of the interest he wasgaining for his novels.
During this period, he wrote Sketches by Boz,Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Oliver Twist (1838), The Life andAdventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839), and The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)(Huffam).In 1842, Dickens traveled to the US hoping to gain support for hisliberal political ideas. He returned to England deeply disappointed. He wrotetwo books expressing how he felt about the US. These books mainly criticizedthe US for not having a copyright law, the acceptance of slavery, and thevulgarity of the people. These books were American Notes for GeneralCirculation (1842) and The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844).Chuzzlewit was a big failure, but many critics believed it was a criticalturning point in his career because he realized that greed corrupted the humansoul. This is known as his middle period.
During this period, he became moreconcerned with human life (Huffam).The first book that would start Dickens’ middle period would be AChristmas Carol (1843). During his middle period, he wrote two more Christmasbooks.
They were The Chimes (1844) and The Cricket on the Hearth (1845).Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son (1848) was his next novel. In thisnovel, he tries to show the dehumanizing effects of wealth, pride, andcommercial values. He would write another novel during this period called ThePersonal History of David Copperfield in 1850.