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					         Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens was the first literary superstar
– his popular works reached a wider audience
than any writer before him. With classics like
Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Great
Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and David
Copperfield, Dickens dominated the literary life
of 19th Century England and the United States.
But like many remarkable people, Dickens was
a complex, multi-layered individual, full of
peculiar quirks and odd habits: the eccentric
information will be presented in green font.
         Charles Dickens
Dickens was preoccupied with looking in the
mirror and combing his hair – he did it
hundreds of times a day. He rearranged
furniture in his home – if it wasn’t in the exact
“correct” position, he couldn't concentrate.
Obsessed with magnetic fields, Dickens made
sure that every bed he slept in was aligned
north-south. He had to touch certain objects
three times for luck, and was obsessed with
tidiness, often cleaning other homes as well as
his own.
         Charles Dickens
                   The Details:
• Birth name: Charles John Huffham Dickens
• Born February 7, 1812
• Place of Birth: Portsmouth, Hampshire,
      England, UK
• Married to Catherine Hogarth
      (2 April 1836, and separated 1858 after
      having 10 children)
• Died June 9, 1870 in Gad’s Hill, England, UK
      of a stroke.
         Charles Dickens
                 The Details:
Dickens had a happy childhood until 1822
when the family moved to London where his
father John took a job as a clerk in the navy
pay office. Although the family was middle
class, Dickens’s father had difficulty with
managing money. His extravagant spending
brought the family to financial disaster until
John was imprisoned for debt in 1824.
        Charles Dickens
                  The Details:
Because Charles was the oldest child, he
was pulled out of school and sent to work
in a shoe-dye factory. He lived alone in a
lodging house in North London and he
considered the experience as the most
terrible of his life. However, it was the
experience that shaped much of his
future writing.
       Charles Dickens
Dickens suffered from epilepsy
and made some of his characters
– like Oliver Twist’s brother –
epileptics. Modern doctors are
amazed at the medical accuracy
of his descriptions of this malady.
           Charles Dickens
                      The Details:
Dickens’s father was released (after months of
Charles working in the factory) upon receiving an
inheritance. His mother wanted Charles to keep
working in the factory, resulting in bitter resentment
toward her, but his father allowed him to return to
school until his education was ended at age 15 when
he was forced to return to work.

      He held multiple jobs such as a law firm clerk, a
shorthand reporter, and finally a parliamentary and
newspaper reporter.
       Charles Dickens

Dickens often referred to himself as
“the Sparkler of Albion,” favorably
comparing himself to Shakespeare’s
nickname, “the Bard of Avon.” (Albion
is an archaic name for England.)
        Charles Dickens
            Literary Success!
In 1833, Dickens began contributing short
stories and essays to periodicals. Major
success came with the publication of the
Pickwick Papers: a comic narrative
produced in monthly volumes.
     He resigned as a reporter and
became editor of a monthly magazine.
     In 1836 he married Catherine
Hogarth, and fathered 10 children.
     Charles Dickens
    Just as some of his most
endearing characters had odd
nicknames (like Pip in great
Expectations), dickens gave
every one of his ten children
nicknames like “Skittles” and
         Charles Dickens
                Literary Success!
After his success with the Pickwick papers
Dickens spent four prolific years writing Oliver
Twist in installments, Nicholas Nickleby, The
Old Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rudge.
      After a short vacation to the U.S. in 1841,
he picked back up, writing annual Christmas
stories and fighting for social issues like
education reform, sanitation, and slum
          Charles Dickens
When The Old Curiosity Shop was published
in serial form in 1841, readers all over Britain
and the United States followed the progress of
the heroine, Little Nell, with the same fervor
that audiences today follow Harry Potter.
When the ship carrying the last installment
approached the dock in New York, 6,000
impatient fans onshore called out to the
sailors, “Does Little Nell die?” The sailors
replied “[--spoiler deleted--]”
          Charles Dickens
                   Practical Joker
Dickens’s study had a secret door designed to
look like a bookcase. The shelves were full of
fake books with witty titles, such as Noah’s
Arkitechure and a nine-volume set titiled Cat’s
      One of his favorites was a multi-volume
series called The Wisdom of Our Ancestors,
dealing with subjects like ignorance, superstition,
disease, and instruments of torture, and a
companion book titled The Virtues of Our
Ancestors, which was so narrow that the title had
to be printed vertically.
         Charles Dickens
                  Later Career
In 1850, Dickens established a weekly journal
entitled Household Words to which he
contributed many serialized works including A
Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations.
      As his career progressed, Dickens
became more and more disenchanted. His
works had always reflected the pains of the
common man, but works such as Bleak House
and Our Mutual Friend expressed his
progressing anger and disillusionment with
      Charles Dickens
Dickens was a devotee of
mesmerism, a system of healing
through hypnotism. He practiced
it on his hypochondriac wife and
his children, and claimed to have
healed several friends and
         Charles Dickens
                   Later Career
In 1858, Dickens began a series of paid
readings, which became instantly popular.
Through these readings, Dickens was able to
combine his love of the stage with an accurate
rendition of his writings. In all, Dickens
performed more than 400 times. The readings
often left him exhausted and ill, but they
allowed him to increase his income, receive
creative satisfaction, and stay in touch with his
         Charles Dickens
               Fair-Weather Friend
Hans Christian Andersen was Dickens’s close
friend and mutual influence. Andersen even
dedicated his book Poet’s Day Dream to
Dickens in 1853. But this didn’t stop Dickens
from letting Andersen know when he’d
overstayed his welcome at Dickens's home.
He printed a sign and left it on Andersen's
mirror in the guest room. It read: “Hans
Andersen slept in this room for five weeks,
which seemed to the family like AGES.”
          Charles Dickens
                        The End
After the breakup of his marriage with Catherine,
Dickens moved permanently to his country house
called Gad’s Hill. It was around this time that he
became involved in an affair with a young actress
named Ellen Ternan. The affair lasted until his
death, but it was kept secret: information about
the relationship is still scanty.
      Dickens was required to abandon his
reading tours after his health declined in 1869 and
he died suddenly at home on June 9, 1870.