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									Name: ______________________________ Date: __________ Period: _________                          English 9- Page 1

       The Life and Times of Charles Dickens
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A Brief History of Dickens’ Life:
    Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in
     Portsmouth near London, England. He was the oldest
     of six (6) children.

    His mother was Elizabeth Barrow, a well-educated
     woman for her time. She loved to dance and was somewhat self-centered.

    His father was John Dickens, a clerk in the pay office of the British Navy. He
     was generous and cheerful, but irresponsible with money and family finances.

    At age five (5), Dickens’ family moved because his father transferred from one
     navy job post to another.

    Dickens first learned to read from his mother. Reading became one of his
     favorite hobbies.

    In 1822, at age ten (10), Dickens’ family moved to London. Dickens’ father was
     in so much debt that the family could not afford to put Dickens in school.

    Dickens was forced to grow up quickly. He roamed the streets of London
     intensely interested in observing the people in the city. He was fascinated with
     the different classes of people, how they acted, and the lives
     they led.
Name: ______________________________ Date: __________ Period: _________    English 9- Page 2
    Also at age twelve (12), he went to work in a blacking or packaging
     factory to help support his family. The factory working conditions were
     horrible: extremely long hours, few breaks, and unsanitary / unsafe buildings.

    Soon after, his father was sent to debtor’s prison for unpaid bills. As a child,
     Charles became a major financial supporter of his family.

    Charles was ashamed of his work because he felt he was a gentleman, not a

    Not long after his father was imprisoned, Charles’ grandmother died and left
     the family a sizeable inheritance. It was enough to get his family out of debt
     (for a short time only).

    Dickens’ family moved out of London and his father resumed work at his
     previous job post as a navy pay clerk.

    For only a short time, Dickens was allowed to enroll in the Wellington House
     Academy. (From age 13-15).

    He had to drop out because his family ran out of money again. He took a job as
     a law clerk registering wills and processing legal documents.

    When he was seventeen (17), he fell in love with Maria Beadnell. She toyed
     with his feelings and eventually refused to marry him.

    In 1834, Dickens’ father was imprisoned again for failing to pay debts. Charles
     decided it was time to start his own adult life.

    He began writing for a British political magazine called the “Mirror.” Here he
     published the beginnings of “Sketches by Boz,” a collection of stories based on
     his observations of people in London.
Name: ______________________________ Date: __________ Period: _________    English 9- Page 3
    In 1835, Charles Dickens met and fell in love with Catherine
     Hogarth, the daughter of a magazine editor. He was experiencing success as an
     author and decided to marry Catherine.

    Catherine’s sister, Mary Hogarth, lived with the new Dickens family. Mary may
     have been Charles’ true love. For the rest of his life he was profoundly affected
     by her sudden and early death (at age 17).

    Charles and Catherine had ten (10) children, nine (9) of which lived to maturity.

    As Dickens’ popularity grew as an author, he began to be very involved in his
     community, in clubs, in the theatre, and with his friends. He was a lively person
     who was always on the go.

    He traveled to the United States twice during his life. He was not impressed
     with his visits. He struggled with the lack of Copyright laws in the U.S.
     Thousands of people read and sold his books but Dickens was not able to
     collect a profit.

    In the late 1850’s, Dickens’ marriage to Catherine fell apart. Although the
     couple never divorced, they did separate and Charles began an affair with the
     young actress, Ellen Ternan.

    From 1859-1860, Dickens wrote and published two of his greatest known
     novels: “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations.”

    Dickens began to give frequent live readings of his stories. He did this so often
     and so expressively it began to affect his health. He was advised by his doctors
     to stop. He did not, and even went on to give private performances to Queen
     Victoria (The Queen of England) at Buckingham Palace.

    He died on June 7, 1870 of a paralytic stroke. He was 58 years old.

Themes of Dickens’ Stories:
Name: ______________________________ Date: __________ Period: _________     English 9- Page 4
    Dickens’ own life experiences are reflected in his stories. He
     focuses on his childhood and early jump into adulthood. Characters in his
     stories often have to grow up quickly or reflect on their difficult childhood
     times. The character, Pip, in Great Expectations is an example.

    Dickens was bothered by the great divide between the upper class or the
     “Gentry” and the poor. He lived at a time (Victorian England) when the middle
     class was just beginning to exist. He lived both a poor and middle class life so
     he experienced the injustices of a social structure made up of different classes
     of people.

            Victorian Classes: The Gentry- aristocrats, extremely wealthy
                              The Middle Class- the merchants, well to do but not rich
                              The Laborers- uneducated, hard workers, self-sufficient
                           The Poor- destitute, uneducated, horrible working
                                   conditions, little opportunity or chance of rising
                                   above poverty
    Because books were not readily available and expensive to purchase, many of
     Dickens’ novels were published serially in literary magazines. “Published
     serially” means that the stories were published in small installments, usually
     chapters, in monthly magazines. Readers had to wait from month to month to
     receive the next chapters of Dickens’ works. Great Expectations was published
     this way.

    Other books by Dickens-

            1836-1837- The Pickwick Papers: Dickens’ first major success
            1843- A Christmas Carol: Single-handedly revised many of the dwindling
                                   Christmas traditions in England during this time.
            1870- The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Dickens’ last novel (unfinished)

Life in Victorian England (1837-1901):
Name: ______________________________ Date: __________ Period: _________                          English 9- Page 5
    The Victorian Age describes England during the time of Queen
     Victoria (1819-1901).

    Three years after becoming Queen, Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert.
     She was very strict and moralistic. Her views and beliefs set the tone for the
     country during this time.

    Ladies and gentlemen were very well-mannered. There was a proper etiquette
     for conducting oneself in public, for example: unmarried women never walked
     alone or wore pearls in the morning, a gentleman always went up a set of stairs
     first and a lady was always first to come down, divorce was unacceptable, and
     family was the center of the culture.

    Queen Victoria’s ideas also affected England’s fashions, women were ornately
     dressed and the Tuxedo was invented for men’s evening wear.

    The Industrial Revolution was beginning in the United States and Europe.
     Rapid urbanization made cities, like London, overcrowded with poor factory
     working conditions.

    Since there were no TV’s or movies, reading aloud was an extremely popular
     activity for families. Families would gather together around a fire place and
     pass stories along or read from the latest serial literary magazine.

          The middle class was emerging as a new social class of merchants,
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    homeowners, and businessmen with modest, yet sufficient lifestyles.

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