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Charles Dickens - Author

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Two small children in Victorian work clothes

Charles Dickens was born in 1812, at 387 Mile End Terrace in Portsmouth, which is now maintained as the Dickens Birthplace Museum. His father was a clerk in the Naval Office, and in 1816 his work took him to London where the family lived for two years, until he was transferred again to Chatham in Kent.

In 1822, when Dickens was ten, he and his family moved to London again, to a house in Camden Town. This was the inspiration for Micawber's house in David Copperfield, and for the home of Bob Cratchit's family in A Christmas Carol. As his novels show, Dickens was greatly concerned with social issues and his life in London provided him with a great amount of material for his work. In Dombey and Son, for example, the adverse effects of the expansion of London are vividly illustrated, while Oliver Twist depicts the criminality which was a major part of city life.

When his father fell into financial difficulties in 1824, Dickens had to work pasting labels at a dirty, rat-infested factory near the Thames. It was during this period that his father, mother and younger brothers and sisters were put into the Marshalsea Debtors' Prison. Some of these events formed the basis for sections of his novel David Copperfield. The experiences of this time were so humiliating for Dickens that his family was unaware of them until the publication of his biography, written by John Forster, after his death.

Dickens received some education at Wellington House Academy once his father was released from prison, and then found work as a lawyer's clerk in Gray's Inn. He became a report writer for the law courts and the House of Commons, while also writing for magazines and the theatre. In the 1830s, his fame as a writer grew with the publication of The Pickwick Papers which, like many of his novels, was first published in a magazine in monthly parts. In 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of The Monthly Magazine for which Dickens had sometimes written. In 1842 he arrived in Boston to begin his tour of America, and was enthusiastically received. However, the American sections of Martin Chuzzlewit and his American Notes caused a certain amount of resentment from his American readership.

Dickens died aged 58 on the 9 June, 1870, at his house near Rochester in Kent. Although he had hoped to be buried locally, his funeral was nationally recognised and he was buried in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.

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