Charles Dickens is the most famous of all British novelists and best known for all-time booksellers Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations – all of them also made into film.
Dickens is remembered for his lively inventions of comic, good and bad characters in London’s 19th century tales set. He was a prolific writer.
Early Life of Charles Dickens
Charles (John Huffam) Dickens (1812-1870), was born at Portsmouth during the new industrial age that made businessmen rich but brought great hardships to millions of low-paid workers. His father, John, was a badly paid clerk in the Navy Office, later sent to a debtors’ prison of the kind Dickens later described in Little Dorrit.
Cause-and-Effect of Financial Hardships
Dickens had an unsettled childhood. At Chatham where he studied, a schoolmaster recognized his talent and gave him a particular attention. He loved to read and particularly, liked the works of Cervantes, Smollett and Fielding. Due to financial difficulties, his father was imprisoned for bad debts, and two days after his 12th birthday he was put to work in Warren’s blacking factory, a humiliating experience which he nursed in memory to the end of his life.
The Writer and the Man
He left school at fourteen, and soon became a newspaper reporter in London. A sharp ear for conversation helped him reveal characters through their own words. Ten years later, he became famous for The Pickwick Papers. These stories about a group of rather odd individuals and their amusing adventures came out in monthly parts, as did most of his later novels.
During the 1830s, he wrote sketches for a variety of journals, one was edited by his friend George Hogarth. Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, his eldest daughter. They had 10 children but parted in later years. Besides writing novels, he also edited weekly magazines and travelled in Britain and America, giving public readings of his works.
Outside literature, among others, Dickens indulged his love for the theatre and his interest in social problems. He died aged 58.
Dickens’ Best Known Books
Among his best known books is A Christmas Carol, about a cruel miser who becomes kind and generous. His finest novel, arguably considered his masterpiece, is Bleak House, which attacks long, drawn-out lawsuits and other injustices. The books reveal great humour and warmth, and by pointing out social evil they helped bring about laws that improved poor people’s working and living conditions.