Charles Dickens Biography
DICKENS, Charles, celebrated novelist, born at Landport, England, Feb. 7, 1812; died June 9, 1870. He was the son of John Dickens, who was employed in the navy pay department. When Charles was nine years old, his father became reduced to straitened circumstances and required to live in one of the poorer districts of London, where he was troubled by his creditors. Charles received a somewhat scanty education, was placed in a blacking warehouse, where he did drudgery, and later became clerk in an attorney's office. After a time his father's circumstances became improved and he returned to school, perfecting himself in shorthand for the position of a newspaper reporter. His early engagements were with the "Mirror of Parliament" and the "True Sun," and in 1835 on the "Morning Chronicle,' in which the first series of the "Sketches by Boz" brought him to public notice. The following year his success was assured by the appearance of the "Pickwick Papers," in which the humor and oddities of life are finely represented. Other works soon followed, among them "Oliver Twist," in which the conduct of workhouses was exposed; then followed a denouncement of the cheap boarding schools in "Nicholas Nickleby," and later the weakness of home instruction in "Dombey and Son." After visiting America in 1842, his satirical accounts of American manners and life appeared in "Martin Chuzzlewit," and in "American Notes." Soon after his "Christmas Tales" delighted and attracted the interest of large circles of readers.
Dickens visited Italy in 1845, and on his return secured educational management of the "Daily News," which he soon after gave up to publish his "Pictures from Italy." He became editor of the "Household Words" in 1850, in which several of his works appeared as serials, among them "A Child's History of England." He ceased its publication in 1859 and started "All the Year Round," a similar periodical, in which a number of productions appeared, among them "A Tale of Two Cities;" "Great Expectations;" "Uncommercial Traveler," and "Our Mutual Friend." The last of his works was issued in 1870, entitled the "Mystery of Edwin Drood," but only three numbers appeared before his death at his residence near Rochester. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Dickens' works have been read almost universally. His writings deal with life as found among the lower and middle classes of society in his time. They were characterized by a constant flow of spirit, drollery, and pathos. He notices trifles that are unheeded by the ordinary observer and describes his characters so exquisitely that their names have become common phrases and household words. His readers are not only confined to English-speaking people, but are met with among other peoples into whose language his works have been translated. The popularity of Dickens in America was shown by an enthusiastic reception when he visited the United States a second time in 1867. His works not mentioned above include "Old Curiosity Shop;" "Bleak House;" "A Christmas Carol" "Cricket on the Hearth;" "Battle of Life;" "Barnaby Rudge," and "Little Dorrit."
The Teachers' and Pupils' Cyclopædia, Vol. II. (Kansas City: Bufton Book Co., 1909) 498-499.