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A Dickens Timeline [imagemap with 9 links]

A Brief Biography

Charles Dickens
1812 - 1870

Born near Portsmouth, England, Charles Dickens was the son of a navy pay clerk. Early in his life, Dickens's father was sent to the debtors' prison and Charles was put to work in a warehouse producing blacking for boots. On his father's release, Dickens, then aged 12, was sent to a school where he suffered at the hands of a cruel headmaster.

Dickens went on to learn shorthand and became a parliamentary reporter. Later, he started writing for magazines, using the pen name "Boz." His first book was Pickwick Papers, published initially in twenty monthly parts. He was just 25 years old. It set him on the road to becoming a literary "pop star" of his day.

Dickens was to relive many of his life's experiences in David Copperfield. It was very much a story based on his own life. Serialized over twenty months during 1849 and 1850, David Copperfield was, Dickens said, the favorite of all his books.

Dickens wrote 13 other novels: Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit (followed by A Christmas Carol, one of several annual Christmas books), Dombey and Son, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend.

During his life, Dickens, an excellent actor, gave hugely popular readings of his books, toured America, campaigned for international copyright laws, supported many humanitarian issues of the day, including the abolition of slavery, and numbered Queen Victoria and Dostoevsky among his enthusiasts.

He was married to his wife Catherine for 22 years and they had a large family. A separation between him and his wife was agreed upon in 1856 and Dickens formed a relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan.

He died in 1870 with his latest book, Edwin Drood, unfinished.

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