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Charles Dickens (1836-40)

Charles Dickens (1836-40)

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Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth on 2nd April 1836 at St Lukes Church, Chelsea. After a wedding breakfast at her parents, they went on honeymoon to the village of Chalk, near Gravesend. Dickens wanted to show Catherine the countryside of his childhood. However, he discovered that his wife did not share his passion for long, fast walks. As one biographer put it: "Writing was necessarily his primary occupation, and hers must be to please him as best she could within the limitations of her energy: writing desk and walking boots for him, sofa and domesticity for her."

The couple lived in Furnival's Inn where Dickens had rented three rooms. Mary Hogarth, Catherine’s 17-year-old sister, moved in with them when the arrived back after their honeymoon. She stayed for a month but friends said that she always seemed be with Catherine in her new home. Dickens later wrote: "From the day of our marriage, the dear girl (Mary) had been the grace and life of our home, our constant companion, and the sharer of all our little pleasures." Mary wrote to her cousin describing Catherine as "a most capital house-keeper... happy as the day is long". She added: "I think they are more devoted than ever since their marriage if that be possible - I am sure you would be delighted with him if you knew him he is such a nice creature and so clever he is courted and made up to by all literary gentlemen, and has more to do in that way than he can well manage."

On his return from honeymoon Dickens began work on the second episode of The Pickwick Papers. On the 18th April he had a meeting with Robert Seymour. According to Peter Ackroyd: "Dickens asserted his proprietor rights over their venture by suggesting that Seymour alter one of his illustrations - a task which Seymour, no doubt against his wishes, carried out... Two days later, Seymour went into the summer-house of his garden in Islington, set up his gun with a string on its trigger, and shot himself through the head. He was, like many illustrators, a melancholy and some ways thwarted man. It has been suggested that Dickens's request to change the illustration was one of the causes of his suicide, but this is most unlikely. Seymour was used to the imperatives of professional life, and it seems that it was essentially anxiety and overwork which eventually killed him."

Dickens suggested that Hablot Knight Browne should be the new illustrator. As his biographer, Robert L. Patten, has pointed out: "Dickens recommended Browne for the position. Though the author was an exacting taskmaster, Browne supplied everything Dickens needed in an illustrator. He was a skilled and rapid designer, co-operative, witty, and self-effacing." John R. Harvey, the author of Victorian Novelists and their Illustrators (1970) has argued: "Hablot Knight Browne, was younger than Dickens, little-known, and pliable; and the collaboration was harmonious and happy."

After Dickens's introduced the character of Sam Weller, in the fourth episode of The Pickwick Papers, sales increased dramatically. Weller, the main character's valet, has been described as "a compound of wit, simplicity, quaint humour, and fidelity, who may be regarded as an embodiment of London low life in its most agreeable and entertaining form." Dickens told his publisher, William Hall: "If I were to live a hundred years, and write three novels in each, I should never be so proud of any of them, as I am of Pickwick." Lucinda Hawksley has pointed out: "The ludicrously funny tales of Mr Samuel Pickwick and his companions were printed in twenty monthly installments. The stories were highly addictive and immediately had literate London laughing over the characters' antics and extolling the phenomenon of this new author. At the time the public was enjoying the first chapter of Pickwick, its author was just twenty-four years old."

The illustrations by Browne were also helping to sell Dickens work. It was the etchings which were displayed in the windows of booksellers. Henry Vizetelly, later recorded in his autobiography, Glances Back Through Seventy Years (1893): "Pickwick was then (in 1836) appearing in its green monthly numbers, and no sooner was a new number published than needy admirers flattened their noses against the bookseller's windows, eager to secure a good look at the etchings, and peruse every line of the letterpress that might be exposed to view, frequently reading it aloud to applauding bystanders."

In May 1837 The Pickwick Papers sold over 20,000 copies. William Hall was so pleased he sent Dickens a cheque for £500, as a bonus above the usual payment. It continued to do well and in September it sold 26,000, in October, 29,000 and by the end of the series it was selling over 40,000 copies a month. Dickens received £2,000 for his efforts, whereas Chapman and Hall made about £14,000 from the venture.

By 1837 Charles Dickens and John Forster were close friends. James A. Davies, the author of John Forster: a Literary Life (1983) has argued: "Forster's influence on the young Dickens was great, an important aspect being the widening of Dickens's social and literary circle through introductions to his friends... His hard-headed advice, generally concerned to prune excesses, remove impieties, and strengthen the moral force of narrative, reflected firm critical principles and an understanding of the mid-Victorian readership." Dickens greatly respected him as a literary critic and according to Forster, from October, 1837, "There was nothing written by him… which I did not see before the world did, either in manuscript or proofs."

Peter Ackroyd has pointed out in Dickens (1990): "He (Forster) was the same age as Dickens and, when they met, they would have already known or at least soon discovered how much they had in common... So the two young men impressed each other. They were alike, too, in other ways. They were both very precise and very punctual but, perhaps most importantly, Forster shared Dickens's own high spirits. He was well known for his loud laugh, and his equally boisterous energy and, like Dickens, he liked to perform impromptu comic dances. He loved the theatre, clubs, excursions, dinners and was in these days a Radical... which, if nothing else, suggests the moral rigour and direction of the politics of these young men."

Claire Tomalin has suggested: "Dickens was a rising star whom Forster believed to be a genius, and was ready to serve that genius, while Dickens realized Forster could be an invaluable adviser and supporter... This was was one of those life-changing friendships that arises when two young men - or women - meet and each suddenly realizes a perfect soulmate has been found. The world changes for both, they are amazed at their good fortune, greedy for one another's company, delighted by the wit, generosity, perception and brilliance that flashes between them. It is like falling in love - it is in fact a form of falling in love, without the overt sexual element. Dickens and Forster both liked women well enough, but it was almost impossible for women to give them the sort of good companionship they craved."

Catherine Dickens had her first child, Charles Culliford Dickens, in January, 1837. She had difficulty feeding the baby and gave up trying. A wet nurse was found but Mary believed that her sister was suffering from depression: "Every time she (Catherine) sees her baby she has a fit of crying and keeps constantly saying she is sure he (Charles Dickens) will not care for her now she is not able to nurse him."

The Pickwick Papers , grew into an unprecedented success. Dickens was approached by several publishers to handle his next book. John Macrone commissioned Dickens to write a three-volume novel, Gabriel Vardon (renamed Barnaby Rudge), for a payment of £200. Another publisher, Richard Bentley, offered Dickens £500 for his next novel. Dickens accepted this proposal and paid off Macrone with £100. Each episode was to consist of about 9,000 words. Bentley also agreed to pay twenty guineas to Dickens in return for becoming editor of his journal, Bentley's Miscellany. The first edition was published in January 1837.

Dickens later explained the reasons why he decided that his next novel would be Oliver Twist. "I wished to show in little Oliver the principle of good surviving through every adverse circumstance, and triumphing at last; and when I considered among what companions I could try him best, having regard to that kind of men into whose hands he would naturally fall... I had read of thieves by scores - seductive fellows (amiable for the most part), faultless in dress, plump in pocket, choice in horse-flesh, bold in bearing, fortunate in gallantry, great at a song, a bottle, pack of cards, or dice-box, and fit companions for the bravest; but I had never met (except in Hogarth) with the miserable reality."

The story tells of Oliver Twist, an orphan sent to one of many British workhouses. After leaving the workhouse he falls into the hands of a professional criminal, Fagin (surprisingly named after boy who helped him so much at the Warren's Blacking Factory). Fagin trains Oliver to pick pockets and is in danger of being trapped in a world of crime and is forced to take part in a robbery involving Bill Sikes. His girlfriend, Nancy, a prostitute, helps Oliver escape. Sikes finds out what she has done and kills her. Oliver is taken in by Mr Brownlow, who helps him discover the identity of his mother and father.

Dickens's novel was an attack on the Poor Law that he witnessed being discussed in the House of Commons when he was a parliamentary reporter. It highlighted the fact that under the new legislation it was no longer required that the fathers of illegitimate children should be traced. One critic has argued: "It is possible to see why the New Poor Law provoked in Dickens angry memories of his own deprivation, of his own separation from his family, and his own obsessive comparison of the need for food with the need for love."

John Waller, the author of Oliver: The Real Oliver Twist (2005) argues that Dickens took his story from the memoirs of Robert Blincoe, who had been placed in St. Pancras Workhouse when he was four years old. Robert Carlile published Blincoe's story in his radical newspaper, The Lion. The story appeared in five weekly episodes from 25th January to 22nd February 1828. Five years later, John Doherty published A Memoir of Robert Blincoe in pamphlet form.

Richard Bentley signed an agreement with George Cruikshank to become the illustrator of Oliver Twist. He was paid £50 for the use of his name as illustrator and 12 guineas for every monthly etching. The first episode appeared in Bentley's Miscellany in February 1837. The first few episodes were immediately reprinted in The Times as part of an anti-Poor Law campaign. Most critics liked the series but Richard Harris Barham disliked the "radicalish tone" of the novel. The Spectator criticised Dickens's use in fiction of the "popular clamour against the New Poor Law". However, he did praise Dickens for his remarkable skill in making use of peculiarities of expression."

One reader, Eliza Davis, wrote to Dickens in protest at his portrayal of Fagin, arguing that he had "encouraged a vile prejudice against the despised Hebrew". The Jewish Chronicle asked why "Jews alone should be excluded from the sympathizing heart of this great author and powerful friend of the oppressed." Dickens defended himself by the claim that he had made the character Jewish because "it unfortunately was true, of the time to which the story refers, that the class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew". However, because of this criticism, removed over 180 references of Fagin being Jewish from the second edition of the book.

With his increase in income from the sales of his work, Dickens now travelled around London with Mary Hogarth to find a new home. On 18th March he made an offer for 48 Doughty Street. After agreeing to a rent of £80 a year, they moved in two weeks later. Situated in a private road with a gateway and porter at each end. It had twelve rooms on four floors. Mary had one of the bedrooms on the second floor. Dickens employed a cook, a housemaid, a nurse, and later, a manservant.

On 6th May, 1837, Charles, Catherine and Mary went to the St James's Theatre to see the play, Is She His Wife? They went to bed at about one in the morning. Mary went to her room but, before she could undress, gave a cry and collapsed. A doctor was called but was unable to help. Dickens later recalled: "Mary... died in such a calm and gentle sleep, that although I had held her in my arms for some time before, when she was certainly living (for she swallowed a little brandy from my hand) I continued to support her lifeless form, long after her soul had fled to Heaven. This was about three o'clock on the Sunday afternoon." Dickens later recalled: "Thank God she died in my arms and the very last words she whispered were of me." The doctor who treated her believed that she must have had undiagnosed heart problems. Catherine was so shocked by the death of her younger sister that she suffered a miscarriage a few days later.

Peter Ackroyd has argued: "His grief was so intense, in fact, that it represented the most powerful sense of loss and pain he was ever to experience. The deaths of his own parents and children were not to affect him half so much and in his mood of obsessive pain, amounting almost to hysteria, one senses the essential strangeness of the man... It has been surmised that all along Dickens had felt a passionate attachment for her and that her death seemed to him some form of retribution for his unannounced sexual desire - that he had, in a sense, killed her."

Charles Dickens cut off a lock of Mary's hair and kept it in a special case. He also took a ring off her finger and put it on his own, and there it stayed for the rest of his life. Dickens also expressed a wish to be buried with her in the same grave. He also kept all of Mary's clothes and said a couple of years later that "they will moulder away in their secret places". Dickens wrote that he consoled himself "above all... by the thought of one day joining her again where sorrow and separation are unknown". He was so upset by Mary's death that for the first and last time in his life he missed his deadlines and the episodes of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist which were supposed to be written during that month were postponed.

Dickens told his friend, Thomas Beard: "So perfect a creature never breathed. I knew her inmost heart, and her real worth and values. She had not a fault." He told other friend that "every night she appeared in his dreams". Michael Slater, the author of Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing (2011) has suggested: "It was the third great emotional crisis of his life, following the blacking factory experience and the Beadnell affair, and one that profoundly influenced him as an artist as well as a man."

Philip V. Allingham has argued: "Critics and biographers... have written extensively on the massive influence that the memory of the dead seventeen-year-old Scottish girl exerted upon Dickens throughout his career... As numerous critics have noted, Mary probably served Dickens as the basis - the spiritual essence, as it were - of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop (the child-character's death in January 1841 brought back the pain of Dickens's parting from his sister-in-law on Sunday, 7 May 1837), of Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist, of the protagonist's seventeen-year-old sister Kate in Nicholas Nickleby, and of Agnes in David Copperfield."

In May 1837 The Pickwick Papers sold over 20,000 copies. William Hall was so pleased he sent Dickens a cheque for £500, as a bonus above the usual payment. By the end of the series it was selling over 40,000 copies a month. Dickens received £2,000 for his efforts, whereas Hall and Chapman made about £14,000 from the venture. Richard Bentley, who was also pleased with the performance of Oliver Twist, and as a way of saying thank you arranged for Dickens to join the Garrick Club.

Dickens continued to meet John Forster on a regular basis. On 26th July, 1837, Dickens wrote to Forster: "My Missis is going out today, and I want you to take some cold lamb and a bit of fish with me, alone. We can walk out both before and afterwards but I must dine at home on account of the Pickwick proofs." On another occasion Dickens wrote to Forster: "Come to me, and don't be later than 11. I think Richmond and Twickenham through the Park, out at Knightsbridge, and over Barnes Common, would make a beautiful ride."

Forster also reviewed The Pickwick Papers in The Examiner. For example, he described the scene where the hero is incarcerated in Fleet Prison in glowing terms: "The truth and power with which it is made are beyond all praise - so certain, so penetrating, and so deeply-aimed, and yet, at the same time, so obvious and familiar, are the materials employed. Every point tells, and the reality of the whole is wonderful. We place the picture by the side of those of the greatest masters of this style of fiction in our language, and it rises in the comparison... We recognize in this fine writer a maturing excellence."

Dickens wrote a letter to Forster thanking him for the article: "I feel your rich, deep appreciation of my intent and meaning more than the most glowing abstract praise that could possibility be lavished upon me. You know I have ever done so, for it was your feeling for me and mine for you that first brought us together, and I hope will keep us so, till death do us part. Your notices (reviews) make me grateful but very proud; so have a care of them, or you will turn my head."

In October 1837, a critic writing in The Quarterly Review, noted that the popularity of Charles Dickens was "one of the most remarkable literary phenomena in recent times". He went on to say that he was an outstanding comic writer but warned him that "he has risen like a rocket, and he will come down like a stick." Dickens was greatly disturbed by these comments but it drove him on to prove the critic wrong.

During this period Dickens became a great friend of Thomas Talfourd, the radical member of the House of Commons. Dickens was a regular visitor to the Talfourd home. He recalled: "If there ever was a house… where every art was honoured for its own sake, and where every visitor was received for his own claims and merits, that house was his... Rendering all legitimate deference to rank and riches, there never was a man more composedly, unaffectedly, quietly, immovable by such considerations... On the other hand, nothing would have astonished him so much as the suggestion that he was anyone's patron."

In January 1838 he began work on his third novel, Nicholas Nickleby. Like Oliver Twist it was to be a propagandist novel. Dickens later recalled that the main purpose of the work was to expose "the monstrous neglect of education in England, and the disregard of it by the State, as a means of forming good or bad citizens, and miserable or happy men." Dickens had become disillusioned with Richard Bentley and he decided that this novel would be published by Chapman and Hall.

The novel was based on newspaper reports on bad schools that had appeared over the years. One account published in 1823 concerned a court case involving the Bowes Academy a boarding school in the town of Barnard Castle in County Durham. The report stated that "supper consisted of warm milk and water and bread, which was called tea... five boys generally slept in a bed... On Sunday they had pot skimmings for tea, in which there was vermin."

On 2nd February, 1838, Dickens interviewed William Shaw, the headmaster of Bowes Academy. He later wrote: "These Yorkshire schoolmasters were the lowest and most rotten in the whole ladder. Traders in the avarice, indifference, or imbecility of parents, and the helplessness of children; ignorant, sordid, brutal men, to whom few considerate persons would have entrusted the board and lodging of a horse or a dog; they formed the worthy corner-stone of a structure, which, for absurdity and a magnificent high-handed laissez-aller neglect, has rarely been exceeded in the world."

Dickens clearly intended the headmaster Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby to be a portrayal of William Shaw and Dotheboys Hall was Bowes Academy. As Charlotte Edwardes has pointed out: "The similarities between William Shaw were immediately obvious: they shared initials, profession and both man and character wore a patch over one eye. The outcry resulting from the publication of the book was so great that the Bowes Academy, and a number of other boarding schools, were forced to close and Shaw was ostracized by society for the rest of his life."

The first episode of Nicholas Nickleby was published in April 1838. Over 50,000 copies were sold in the first few days. The story begins with the death of Nicholas Nickleby's father who has lost all of his money in a series of poor investments. Nicholas, his sister Kate, and his mother (according to Dickens, based on the personality of his own mother), travel to London to seek the help of their only relative, Ralph Nickleby. Nicholas's uncle gets him a job as an assistant to Wackford Squeers, who runs the school Dotheboys Hall in Yorkshire. Nicholas is shocked to discover that Squeers is taking in unwanted children for a high fee, and starves and mistreats his children in order to maximise his profits. As a consequence, the children died in large numbers. One critic has argued that "Dickens shows the cruelty and vileness of the school and the terror of the boys, starved, beaten, made to work and taught nothing, and at the same time he makes the appalling Squeers and his wife and monstrous son and daughter so funny that he can't help laughing at them."

Squeers's daughter, Fanny, is attracted to Nickleby but the feelings are not mutual. One of the boys, Smike, runs away, but is caught and brought back to Dotheboys Hall. Squeers is about to flog Smike when he is stopped by Nickleby and after being attacked himself, he begins to beat the headmaster. Nickleby leaves the school with Smike and travels back to London where he finds work as a teacher of French to the Kenwigs family.

Ralph Nickleby receives a letter from Fanny Squeers about Nickleby's behaviour at Dotheboys Hall. Ralph informs them that he will give the family no financial assistance as long as Nicholas stays with them. Nicholas agrees to leave London, but warns his uncle he will return. Nicholas and Smike travel towards Portsmouth with the intention of becoming sailors. However, on the way they meet Vincent Crummles, who hires Nicholas and Smike to become part of his theatre company. The two men make their debuts in Romeo and Juliet. Nicholas performance as Romeo receives great praise. Nicholas is forced to leave the group when he receives a letter from Newman Noggs saying that his mother and sister needed his help.

Nicholas finds his mother and sister and takes them to live with Miss LaCreevy. Soon afterwards Nicholas meets Charles Cheeryble, a wealthy merchant who runs a business with his twin brother Ned. Hearing Nicholas’s story, the brothers take him into their employment and provide his family with a small house in a London suburb.

Wackford Squeers arrives in London seeking revenge on Nicholas and Smike. With the help of Ralph Nickleby he kidnaps Smike but he is eventually rescued by Nicholas's friend, John Browdie. Ralph and Squeers attempt to reclaim Smike by presenting forged documents that he is the long-lost son of a man named Snawley.

While at work, Nicholas falls in love with Madeline Bray, the daughter of a debtor, Walter Bray. Nicholas helps her by commissioning her artwork. Arthur Gride offers to pay a debt Ralph Nickleby is owed by Walter Bray in exchange for his help. Gride has gained possession of the will of Madeline’s grandfather, and she will become an heiress upon the event of her marriage. The two men convince Bray to bully his daughter into accepting Gride as a husband with the promise of paying off his debts. Madeline agrees to marry Gride to help her father. On the day of the wedding, Bray dies unexpectedly and Madeline therefore has no reason to marry Gride and she refuses to go through with the ceremony.

Smike is suffering from tuberculosis and become dangerously ill. On his deathbed, Smike confesses his love for Kate and dies in Nicholas’s arms. Meanwhile, Peg Sliderskew, Gride’s aged housekeeper, has stolen Madeline’s grandfather will. Ralph Nickleby discovers that Smike was his son (his wife left him before he was aware she was pregnant). Traumatized by the knowledge that his only son died as the best friend of his greatest enemy, Ralph commits suicide. Squeers is sentenced to transportation to Australia and the boys at Dotheboys Hall escape with the assistance of John Browdie. Nicholas becomes a partner in the Cheerybles' firm and marries Madeline, whereas Kate marries Frank Cheeryble.

John Forster believes that the scenes in London was the most successful part of the novel: "We enter with him by night, through long double rows of brightly burning lamps, a noisy, bustling, crowded scene, in which he shows us the rags of the squalid ballad-singer fluttering in the same rich light that shows the goldsmith's glittering treasures, and where one thin sheet of brittle glass is the iron wall by which vast profusions of wealth and food are guarded from starved and pennyless men... At all times, and under every aspect, he gives us to feel and see the great city as it absolutely is."

Foster, like most critics, did not like the rambling unplanned plot and the feebleness of some of the characters. One critic said the "interminable and almost unreadable last quarter of the book, where forced marriages, stolen wills, lost children found and sudden deaths are all requisitioned from the crude traditions of melodrama." However, the public at the time liked this kind of writing and Nicholas Nickleby was quickly turned into a play that was performed all over the country.

After the book was published, William Shaw, threatened to take legal action against Dickens. However, he decided against this move and decided to end his career as a schoolmaster. A few years later a school commissioner wrote that: "I have wholly failed to discover an example of the typical Yorkshire school which Dickens has made us familiar." Dickens said to Catherine Dickens, "what a thing it is to have power".

Lucinda Hawksley has argued that Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby were both successful propagandist novels: "Both novels highlighted terrible social problems in modern Britain and started Victoria's subjects talking in earnest about what could be done to help the poor and the disenfranchised. Oliver Twist brought the shameful truth about workhouses and baby farms to the masses and Nicholas Nickleby caused investigative journalists to converge on Yorkshire to find out if what Mr Dickens had written about the 'Yorkshire Schools' was true. They discovered that these horrifying schools, to which unwanted children were sent, were a terrible reality. Dickens had brought the plight of these children, and the appalling way in which they had been treated by their parents, guardians and 'educators', into the public domain. The effect was tremendous. Within a few years of the publication of Nicholas Nickleby almost every one of the Yorkshire Schools had been closed down."

Dickens constantly demanded more money from Richard Bentley for his work being published in his journal. On 21st January, 1839, Dickens wrote to Bentley complaining about their business relationship: "I am conscious that my books are enriching everybody connected with them but myself, and that I, with such a popularity as I have acquired, am struggling in old toils, and wasting my energies in the very height and freshness of my fame, and the best part of my life, to fill the pockets of others, while for those who are nearest and dearest to me I can realise little more than a genteel subsistence."

Dickens then went on to say he was resigning as editor of the Bentley's Miscellany: "I do most solemnly declare that mortally, before God and man, I hold myself released from such hard bargains as these, after I have done so much for those who drove them. This net that has been wound about me, so chafes me, so exasperates and irritates my mind, that to break it at whatever cost... is my constant impulse." Bentley's son George later argued that these negotiations were a "brick in the building of Dickens's character... Dickens was a very clever, but he was not an honest man."

Bentley tried to get Dickens to change his mind but eventually accepted defeat and appointed William Harrison Ainsworth as editor of the journal. Bentley considered taking Dickens to court for breach of contract. He probably would have won his case but it was not considered a good idea for a publisher to sue an author. Dickens described Bentley in a letter to a friend as an "infernal, rich, plundering, thundering old Jew". In doing so he was quoting the comments of Bill Sikes on Fagin in Chapter 13 of Oliver Twist.

While he was writing Nicholas Nickleby his wife gave birth to two children. Mary, known as Mamie, was born on 6th March, 1838. She had been named after her dead aunt, Mary Hogarth. Catherine was unable to breast-feed her daughter and had to employ a wet-nurse. Dickens's best friend, John Forster, became her godfather. Soon afterwards he told Forster that he was falling out of love with Catherine and that the couple were incompatible. Despite this comment he wrote to Catherine on 5th March, 1839, while on holiday in Devon: "To say how much I miss you, would be ridiculous. I miss the children in the morning too and their dear little voices which I have sounds for you and me that we shall never forget."

Catherine's second daughter, Kate Macready, was born on 29th October, 1839. She had been in labour for twelve hours. Dickens' named her after his friend, the actor, William Macready. He gave a great celebration for her christening in August. "Rather a noisy and uproarious day." Dickens got drunk and ended up having an argument with Forster. Catherine was so upset by the dispute that she burst into tears and ran from the room."

Dickens met Angela Burdett-Coutts for the first time in 1839 at the home of Edward Marjoribanks, who ran Coutts Bank. Her father, Sir Francis Burdett, a radical MP, had been impressed with Dickens's early propagandist novels, The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist. Dickens was immediately taken by Miss Burdett-Coutts and later told her in a letter: "I have never begun a book or begun anything of interest to me or done anything of importance to me... (since) I first dined with you at Mr Marjoribanks." Later that year he wrote to her about their "intimate" friendship. His biographer, John Forster , has pointed out: "The marked attentions shown him by Miss Coutts which began with the very beginning of his career were invariably welcome."

Two years previously, Miss Burdett-Coutts, was left £1.8 million (£165 million in 2012 figures) by Harriot Mellon Coutts, Duchess of St Albans. It has been claimed that after Queen Victoria she was the wealthiest woman in England. The Morning Herald estimated that her fortune amounted to "the weight in gold is 13 tons, 7 cwt, 3 qtrs, 13 lbs and would require 107 men to carry it, supposing that each of them carried 289 lbs - the equivalent of a sack of flour".

Edna Healey, the author of Lady Unknown: The Life of Angela Burdett-Coutts (1978), has argued: "From the first Angela was enchanted by Dickens. In the first flow of his sudden fame he was remarkably attractive. From his luxuriant hair, lustrous eyes and fresh glowing complexion to the brilliant buckles of his shoes there was such a shine about him. There was also a frankness of expression, a look of goodness that Miss Coutts, like other ladies of the day, found irresistible. If there was a little too much of the dandy in his dress she could forgive him. She had, after all seen Disraeli in full bloom."

In November, 1839, the Dickens family moved from 48 Doughty Street to 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, close to Regent's Park. Dickens paid £800 for the eleven-year lease in addition to an annual rent of £160. Lucinda Hawksley has pointed out: "The new house was the end one of three Georgian terraced houses, built in 1776. There was a large garden, as well as stables and a coach house, with rooms above to accommodate stable staff. The house had a prepossessing grand entrance: its door and railings were painted vivid green, and above the door was a typical eighteenth-century fanlight window, which, made of stained glass, must have filled the hallway with colour on sunny days. Charles Dickens, who could not abide poor hygiene, would no doubt have been pleased that there was an indoor WC (as well as two lavatories in the garden for the lesser mortals). The house was built over five floors, including a basement and two attic floors. The family lived in the two main storeys, while the basement and part of the attics were the domain of the servants. The remaining attic rooms were the nursery and, later, Katey and Mamie's bedroom. The rooms on the main two floors were very spacious with extremely high ceilings and plenty of tall windows to allow daylight to stream through; even the attics were well supplied with windows. Charles turned the ground-floor library into his study - and apparently erected a gate between the first and ground floors, so that the children could be kept at bay while he was working. There were steps leading from his study straight into the garden and the door that led into the hallway was covered with green baize in an effort to minimize any household noise that might disturb his writing. Also on the ground floor was a spacious dining room, big enough for Charles and Catherine to be able to entertain enthusiastically; they were excellent hosts."

Mamie Dickens later recalled: "I remember that my sister and I occupied a little garret room in Devonshire Terrace, at the very top of the house. He had taken the greatest pains and care to make the room as pretty and comfortable for his two little daughters as it could be made. He was often dragged up the steep staircase to this room to see some new print or some new ornament which we children had put up, and he always gave us words of praise and approval. He encouraged us in every possible way to make ourselves useful, and to adorn and beautify our rooms with our own hands, and to be ever tidy and neat. I remember that the adornment of this garret was decidedly primitive, the unframed prints being fastened to the wall by ordinary black or white pins, whichever we could get. But, never mind, if they were put up neatly and tidily they were always excellent, or quite slap-up as he used to say. Even in those early days, he made a point of visiting every room in the house once each morning, and if a chair was out of its place, or a blind not quite straight, or a crumb left on the floor, woe betide the offender."

Nicholas Nickleby was published in one volume in October 1839. Dickens decided he would take a rest from novel writing and agreed a contract with his old friend, William Hall, to edit a weekly magazine, Master Humphrey's Clock. The publishers, Chapman and Hall, agreed to pay him £50 for each issue, plus half the profits. Dickens planned to commission work from other writers and to contribute short stories and occasional essays himself. The magazine was to be sold in America and Europe and Dickens expected to make something like £5,000 a year from the venture.

The magazine sold 70,000 copies when it was published for the first time in April. However, customers were disappointed by the fact that Dickens only contributed the occasional article and sales fell dramatically. Dickens wrote to a friend that "day and night the alarum is in my ears, warning me that I must not run down... I am more bound down by this Humphrey than I have ever been yet - Nickleby was nothing to it, nor Pickwick, nor Oliver - it demands my constant attention and obliges me to exert all the self-denial I possess."

Dickens decided he had to be the sole contributor and that he had to produce a full-length serial like The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby for the journal to be a success. He decided to develop a short-story, The Old Curiosity Shop, that appeared in an early edition, into a serial. It was not long before the whole of Master Humphrey's Clock was taken up by the story. The magazine now had a circulation of 100,000. Dickens later explained: "In writing the book I had it always in my fancy to surround the lonely figure of the child (Nell) with grotesque and wild, but not impossible companions, and to gather about her innocent face and pure intentions associates as strange and uncongenial as the grim objects that are about her bed when her history is first foreshadowed."

The story, illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne, tells of Nell Trent, a small and delicate child of "angelic purity of character and sweetness of disposition" who lives alone with her grandfather, an old man, who is the proprietor of the Old Curiosity Shop. In an attempt to provide for Little Nell he becomes a gambler. He loses heavily and borrows money from Daniel Quilp, a rich dwarf, pledging his shop and stock as security for the debt. His luck does not change and he loses his home and business.

Little Nell now takes charge and persuades her grandfather to lead him away from London and the temptation of the gaming tables. While they are wandering the country they meet Mr Marton, a kind-hearted schoolmaster. He is travelling by foot to a distant village, where he has been appointed as a teacher of the local school. After hearing their story, Marton invites Nell and her grandfather to accompany him, promising to help them find work in the village. He manages to do this and they are giving a pleasant home and employment connected to the parish church.

Dickens met Thomas Carlyle for the first time in 1840. Carlyle described Dickens as "a fine little fellow... a face of most extreme mobility, which he shuttles about - eyebrows, eyes, mouth and all - in a very singular manner while speaking... a quiet, shrewd-looking, little fellow, who seems to guess pretty well what he is and what others are." The two men became close friends. Dickens told one of his sons that Carlyle was the man "who had influenced him most" and his sister-in-law, that "there was no one for whom he had a higher reverence and admiration".

How well I recall the bleak winter evening in 1842 when I first saw the handsome, glowing face of the young man (Charles Dickens) who was even then famous over half the globe! He came bounding into the Tremont House, fresh from the steamer that had brought him to our shores, and his cheery voice rang through the hall, as he gave a quick glance at the new scenes opening upon him in a strange land on first arriving at a Transatlantic hotel. "Here we are!" he shouted, as the lights burst upon the merry party just entering the house, and several gentlemen came forward to greet him. Ah, how happy and buoyant he was then! Young, handsome, almost worshipped for his genius, belted round by such troops of friends as rarely ever man had, coming to a new country to make new conquests of fame and honor, surely it was a sight long to be remembered and never wholly to be forgotten. The splendor of his endowments and the personal interest he had won to himself called forth all the enthusiasm of old and young America, and I am glad to have been among the first to witness his arrival. You ask me what was his appearance as he ran, or rather flew, up the steps of the hotel, and sprang into the hall. He seemed all on fire with curiosity, and alive as I never saw mortal before. From top to toe every fibre of his body was unrestrained and alert. What vigor, what keenness, what freshness of spirit, possessed him! He laughed all over, and did not care who heard him! He seemed like the Emperor of Cheerfulness on a cruise of pleasure, determined to conquer a realm or two of fun every hour of his overflowing existence. That night impressed itself on my memory for all time, so far as I am concerned with things sublunary. It was Dickens, the true "Boz," in flesh and blood, who stood before us at last, and with my companions, three or four lads of my own age, I determined to sit up late that night. None of us then, of course, had the honor of an acquaintance with the delightful stranger, and I little thought that I should afterwards come to know him in the beaten way of friendship, and live with him day after day in years far distant; that I should ever be so near to him that he would reveal to me his joys and his sorrows, and thus that I should learn the story of his life from his own lips.

The principles advocated in The Daily News will be principles of progress and improvement; of education, civil and religious liberty, and equal legislation. Principles, such as its conductors believe the advancing spirit of the time requires: the condition of the country demands: and justice, reason and experience legitimately sanction.

There is nothing in the present age at once so galling and so alarming to me as the alienation of the people from their own affairs. They have had so little to do with the game through all these years of Parliamentary Reform, that they have sullenly laid down their cards, and taken to looking on. You can no more help a people who do not help themselves, than you can help a man who does not help himself. I know of nothing that can be done beyond keeping their wrongs continually before them.

When at work my father was almost always alone, so that, with rare exceptions, save as we could see the effect of the adventures of his characters upon him in his daily moods, we knew but little of his manner of work. Absolute quiet under these circumstances was essential, the slightest sound making an interruption fatal to the success of his labors, although, oddly enough, in his leisure hours the bustle and noise of a great city seemed necessary to him. He writes, after an enforced idleness of two years, spent in a quiet place; "The difficulty of going at what I call a rapid pace is prodigious; indeed, it is almost an impossibility. I suppose this is partly the effect of two years' ease, and partly the absence of streets, and numbers of figures. I cannot express how much I want these. It seems as if they supplied something to my brain which, when busy, it cannot bear to lose. For a week or fortnight I can write prodigiously in a retired place, a day in London setting and starting me up again. But the toil and labor of writing day after day without that magic lantern is immense!"

As I have said, he was usually alone when at work, though there were, of course, some occasional exceptions, and I myself constituted such an exception. During our life at Tavistock House, I had a long and serious illness, with an almost equally long convalescence. During the latter, my father suggested that I should be carried every day into his study to remain with him, and, although I was fearful of disturbing him, he assured me that he desired to have me with him. On one of these mornings, I was lying on the sofa endeavouring to keep perfectly quiet, while my father wrote busily and rapidly at his desk, when he suddenly jumped from his chair and rushed to a mirror which hung near, and in which I could see the reflection of some extraordinary facial contortions which he was making. He returned rapidly to his desk, wrote furiously for a few moments, and then went again to the mirror. The facial pantomime was resumed, and then turning toward, but evidently not seeing, me, he began talking rapidly in a low voice. Ceasing this soon, however, he returned once more to his desk, where he remained silently writing until luncheon time. It was a most curious experience for me, and one of which, I did not until later years, fully appreciate the purport. Then I knew that with his natural intensity he had thrown himself completely into the character that he was creating, and that for the time being he had not only lost sight of his surroundings, but had actually became in action, as in imagination, the creature of his pen.

The chalet had been given to him by Charles Fechter, the actor, in the beginning of 1865, and was so delightful to him that he used to love to work there in the summer time. This is how he himself described it: "My room is up among the branches of the trees, and the birds and the butterflies fly in and out, and the green branches shoot in at the open windows ; and the lights and shadows of the clouds come and go with the rest of the company. The scent of the flowers and, indeed, of everything that is growing for miles and miles is most delicious." It was indeed an ideal spot, where there was nothing to disturb him or arrest the play of his fancy or interfere with the working of his imagination.

At luncheon time he would occasionally stroll into the dining-room to take a biscuit and a glass of sherry. But at such times his mind was far away; walking about the room in deep thought he would speak but little, though he used on some such occasions in an abstracted sort of way to watch the movements of the goldfinch in his cage, who had been taught to draw his water from a small glass well by means of a very light chain and a thimble. This was a task which was far from arduous, and which, judging from the perky way in which he used to look round at us while drinking out of the thimble, was one which he thoroughly enjoyed.

I can recall with the utmost vividness the long walks in the afternoon when his desk work was done, ten miles or more, when I and the dogs were sometimes his sole companions. He rarely went out without his dogs, and I remember the villagers used to talk about Mr. Dickens with his roost of dogs, a quaint expression in that connection.

What he liked to talk about was the latest new piece at the theatres, the latest exciting trial or police case, the latest social craze or social swindle, frequently touched on political subjects - always from that which was then a strong Radical point of view.

There he could be most thoroughly enjoyed, for he never seemed so cheerfully at home anywhere else. At his own table, surrounded by his family, and a few guests, old acquaintances from town - among them sometimes Forster, Carlyle, Reade, Collins, Layard, Maclise, Stone, Macready, Talfourd - he was always the choicest and liveliest companion. He was not what is called in society a professed talker, but he was something far better and rarer...

No writer ever lived whose method was more exact, whose industry was more constant, and whose punctuality was more marked, than those of Charles Dickens. He never shirked labor, mental or bodily. He rarely declined, if the object were a good one, taking the chair at a public meeting, or accepting a charitable trust. Many widows and orphans of deceased literary men have for years been benefited by his wise trusteeship or counsel, and he spent a great portion of his time personally looking after the property of the poor whose interests were under his control. He was, as has been intimated, one of the most industrious of men, and marvellous stories are told (not by himself) of what he has accomplished in a given time in literary and social matters. His studies were all from nature and life, and his habits of observation were untiring...

His favorite mode of exercise was walking; and when in America, two years ago, scarcely a day passed, no matter what the weather, that he did not accomplish his eight or ten miles. It was on these expeditions that he liked to recount to the companion of his rambles stories and incidents of his early life; and when he was in the mood, his fun and humor knew no bounds. He would then frequently discuss the numerous characters in his delightful books, and would act out, on the road, dramatic situations, where Nickleby or Copperfield or Swivelier would play distinguished parts. It is remembered that he said, on one of these occasions, that during the composition of his first stories he could never entirely dismiss the characters about whom he happened to be writing; that while the Old Curiosity Shop was in process of composition Little Nell followed him about everywhere; that while he was writing Oliver Twist Fagin the Jew would never let him rest, even in his most retired moments; that at midnight and in the morning, on the sea and on the land, Tiny Tim and Little Bob Cratchit were ever tugging at his coat-sleeve, as if impatient for him to get back to his desk and continue the story of their lives. But he said after he had published several books, and saw what serious demands his characters were accustomed to make for the constant attention of his already overtasked brain, he resolved that the phantom individuals should no longer intrude on his hours of recreation and rest, but that when he closed the door of his study he would shut them all in, and only meet them again when he came back to resume his task. That force of will with which he was so pre-eminently endowed enabled him to ignore these manifold existences till he chose to renew their acquaintance. He said, also, that when the children of his brain had once been launched, free and clear of him, into the world, they would sometimes turn up in the most unexpected manner to look their father in the face...

There were certain books of which Dickens liked to talk during his walks. Among his especial favorites were the writings of Cobbett, DeQuincey, the Lectures on Moral Philosophy by Sydney Smith, and Carlyle's French Revolution. Of this latter Dickens said it was the book of all others which he read perpetually and of which he never tired, the book which always appeared more imaginative in proportion to the fresh imagination he brought to it, a book for inexhaustibleness to be placed before every other book. When writing the Tale of Two Cities he asked Carlyle if he might see one of the books to which he referred in his history; whereupon Carlyle packed up and sent down to Gad's Hill all his reference volumes, and Dickens read them faithfully. But the more he read the more he was astonished to find how the facts had passed through the alembic of Carlyle's brain and had come out and fitted themselves, each as a part of one great whole, making a compact result, indestructible and unrivalled; and he always found himself turning away from the books of reference, and re-reading with increased wonder this marvellous new growth. There were certain books particularly hateful to him, and of which he never spoke except in terms of most ludicrous raillery...

Dickens's habits as a speaker differed from those of most orators. He gave no thought to the composition of the speech he was to make till the day before he was to deliver it. No matter whether the effort was to be a long or a short one, he never wrote down a word of what he was going to say; but when the proper time arrived for him to consider his subject, he took a walk into the country and the thing was done. When he returned he was all ready for his task...

Twenty years ago Daniel Webster said that Dickens had already done more to ameliorate the condition of the English poor than all the statesmen Great Britain had sent into Parliament. During the unceasing demands upon his time and thought, he found opportunities of visiting personally those haunts of suffering in London which needed the keen eye and sympathetic heart to bring them before the public for relief. Whoever has accompanied him on his midnight walks into the cheap lodging-houses provided for London's lowest poor cannot have failed to learn lessons never to be forgotten. Newgate and Smithfield were lifted out of their abominations by his eloquent pen, and many a hospital is to-day all the better charity for having been visited and watched by Charles Dickens. To use his own words, through his whole life he did what he could "to lighten the lot of those rejected ones whom the world has too long forgotten and too often misused."

These inadequate, and, of necessity, hastily written, records must suffice for the present and stand for what they are worth as personal recollections of the great author who has made so many millions happy by his inestimable genius and sympathy. His life will no doubt be written out in full by some competent hand in England; but however numerous the volumes of his biography, the half can hardly be told of the good deeds he has accomplished for his fellow-men.

And who could ever tell, if those volumes were written, of the subtle qualities of insight and sympathy which rendered him capable of friendship above most men, which enabled him to reinstate its ideal, and made his presence a perpetual joy, and separation from him an ineffaceable sorrow?

Dickens seemed suddenly to be possessed with the demon of mischief; he threw his arm around me and ran me down the inclined plane to the end of the jetty till we reached a tall post. He put his other arm round this, and exclaimed in theatrical tones that he intended to hold me there till the "sad sea waves" should submerge us.

"Think of the emotion we shall create! Think of the road to celebrity which you are about to tread! No, not exactly to tread, but to flounder into!"

Here I implored him to let me go, and struggled hard to release myself.

"Let your mind dwell on the column in The Times wherein will be vividly described the pathetic fate of the lovely E.P., drowned by Dickens in a fit of dementia! Don't struggle, poor little bird; you are powerless in the claws of such a kite as."

The tide was coming up rapidly and surged over my feet. I gave a loud shriek and tried to bring him back to common sense by reminding him that "My best dress, my only silk dress, would be ruined." Even this climax did not soften him: he still went on with his serio-comic nonsense, shaking with laughter all the time, and panting with his struggles to hold me.

"Mrs Dickens!" a frantic shriek this time, for now the waves rushed up to my knees; "help me, make Mr Dickens let me go - the waves are up to my knees!"

The rest of the party had now arrived, and Mrs Dickens told him not to be so silly, and not to spoil Eleanor's dress. "Dress!" cried Dickens "talk not to me of dress! When the pall of night is enshrouding us... when we already stand on the brink of the great mystery, shall our thoughts be of fleshly vanities?"

To walk with him in the streets of London was in itself a revelation ; a royal progress; people of all degrees and classes taking off their hats and greeting him as he passed. One such occasion I can particularly recall. It was at the Zoo, and my father and I were walking down the broad walk when we saw, a little distance away from us, a lady and gentleman coming towards us with a bright and pretty girl of about fourteen or fifteen running ahead of them. Suddenly the little girl, catching sight of my father, ran back to her mother crying out delightedly, "Oh, mummy! mummy! it is Charles Dickens." My father, who had heard and seen it all, was strangely embarrassed; but, oh, so pleased, so truly delighted. It was a pretty scene; but such things were constantly happening. It was this popular adulation he courted and wooed ; but it never spoilt him. He remained to the end modest and quite untouched by any appearance of affectation or self-conceit.

Even in Death, Charles Dickens Left Behind a Riveting Tale of Deceit

When Charles Dickens died, he had spectacular fame, great wealth and an adoring public. But his personal life was complicated. Separated from his wife and living in a huge country mansion in Kent, the novelist was in the thrall of his young mistress, Ellen Ternan. This is the untold story of Charles Dickens’ final hours and the furor that followed, as the great writer’s family and friends fought over his final wishes.

My new research has uncovered the never-before-explored areas of the great author’s sudden death, and his subsequent burial. While details such as the presence of Ternan at the author’s funeral have already been discovered by Dickensian sleuths, what is new and fresh here is the degree of maneuvering and negotiations involved in establishing Dickens’ ultimate resting place.

Dickens’ death created an early predicament for his family. Where was he to be buried? Near his home (as he would have wished) or in that great public pantheon, Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey (which was clearly against his wishes)?

“The Inimitable” (as he sometimes referred to himself) was one of the most famous celebrities of his time. No other writer is as closely associated with the Victorian period. As the author of such immortal classics as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol, he was constantly in the public eye. Because of the vivid stories he told, and the causes he championed (including poverty, education, workers’ rights, and the plight of prostitutes), there was great demand for him to represent charities, and appear at public events and visit institutions up and down the country (as well as abroad—particularly in the United States). He moved in the best circles and counted among his friends the top writers, actors, artists and politicians of his day.

Dickens was proud of what he achieved as an author and valued his close association with his public. In 1858 he embarked on a career as a professional reader of his own work and thrilled audiences of thousands with his animated performances. This boost to his career occurred at a time when his marital problems came to a head: He fell in love with Ternan, an 18-year-old actress, and separated from his wife, Catherine, with whom he had ten children.

Ellen Ternan, the 18-year-old actress who became Charles Dickens' mistress (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Dickens was careful to keep his love affair private. Documentary evidence of his relationship with Ternan is very scarce indeed. He had wanted to take her with him on a reading tour to America in 1868, and even developed a telegraphic code to communicate to her whether or not she should come. She didn’t, because Dickens felt that he could not protect their privacy.

On Wednesday, June 8, 1870, the author was working on his novel Edwin Drood in the garden of his country home, Gad’s Hill Place, near Rochester, in Kent. He came inside to have dinner with his sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth and suffered a stroke. The local doctor was summoned and remedies were applied without effect. A telegram was sent to London, to summon John Russell Reynolds, one of the top neurologists in the land. By the following day the author’s condition hadn’t changed, and he died at 6:10pm on June 9.

Accepted wisdom concerning Dickens’ death and burial is drawn from an authorized biography published by John Forster: The Life of Charles Dickens. Forster was the author’s closest friend and confidant. He was privy to the most intimate areas of his life, including the time he spent in a blacking (boot polish) warehouse as a young boy (which was a secret, until disclosed by Forster in his book), as well as details of his relationship with Ternan (which were not revealed by Forster, and which remained largely hidden well into the 20th century). Forster sought to protect Dickens’ reputation with the public at all costs.

2. Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven did much of his work while on the move. After a daily breakfast of coffee—he often obsessively counted out 60 beans by hand—the composer would put in a few hours at his desk before heading out for long, meandering walks. These countryside jaunts supposedly helped spur his creativity, and as he walked, he often stopped to jot down a few measures of music in a large sketchbook. If the notes were slow to come, he might copy down another composer’s work to study their technique. Beethoven may have also composed while bathing. According to his secretary, Anton Schindler, he would often pace around his room and repeatedly pour jugs of water over his hands while humming tunes and staring off into space in �p meditation.”

Charles Dickens (1836-40) - History

Born on 7th February 1812 at a house in Mile End Terrace, Portsmouth, Hampshire. His father, John Dickens, worked as a clerk in the pay office of the Royal Dockyard. Family moved to London in 1815 when John was posted there.

Happy boyhood in Kent (1817-22)

Father posted first to Sheerness, then to Chatham Royal Dockyard, Kent. Pleasant, formative boyhood years for Charles. His experiences in Chatham and neighbouring Rochester inspired much of his adult work.

London, Prison and the Blacking Factory (1822-27)

His schooling interrupted when he followed the family to London, his father having been recalled there. Put to work in late 1823 at a blacking factory, and his father imprisoned for debt in early 1824: these humiliations provided a mainspring for his subsequent ambition.. Left factory in 1823/4, for his final two years of schooling.

Making the most of a modest beginning (1827-29)

His education over at the age of 15. Employed by a firm of solicitors. Made a great impression as a lively character, a skilled mimic, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of London. Studied shorthand and was later to achieve an exceedingly high standard.

Established in journalism (1829-33)

Started as a freelance reporter of law cases. Admitted as reader at the British Museum Library in 1830. Became a parliamentary reporter in 1831.

Success as a short story writer (1833-36)

First short story published in 1833. Continued his success as a reporter, joining the The Morning Chronicle in 1834. Married in 1836.

Fame and dynamic progress as an author (1836-40)

Became household name through the publication in instalments of Pickwick Papers, 1836-37. Left The Morning Chronicle in 1836. Editor of new magazine, Bentley's Miscellany, from 1837 to 1839. Wrote Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and shorter pieces.

Loss of touch and spectacular recovery (1840-43)

After completing The Old Curiosity Shop and the much less popular Barnaby Rudge in 1841, set off to visit the United States during the first half of 1842. On his return, wrote American Notes for General Circulation, which was received badly in the USA and lukewarmly in the UK. Martin Chuzzlewit, begun at the end of 1842, was not immediately popular. Reputation re-established with publication of first Christmas story, A Christmas Carol.

Maturing as a successful author (1843-50)

Christmas stories, minor works, visits to France and Italy, amateur dramatics and other activities assumed greater importance, but two major works completed. Dombey and Son, begun in 1846, and David Copperfield, begun in 1849, were more serious and more carefully thought out than previous novels.

Established as publisher/editor/author (1850-58)

Became joint owner and editor of a new weekly journal, Household Words, in 1850. Contributed three major works during this period: Bleak House, Hard Times and Little Dorrit. Purchased Gad's Hill Place in 1856. Separated from his wife in 1858.

A new role and a new journal (1858-67)

Gave first public professional readings of his works in 1858. Established in 1859 a new weekly journal, All The Year Round, which replaced Household Words. Serialisation of A Tale of Two Cities began with first number. Contributed two other major works during this period: Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. Readings assumed greater importance. Involved in major rail accident, 1865. Last Christmas story published in 1867.


Final bursts of energy (1867-70)

With failing health, devoted much of his energy to exhausting reading tours, visiting the USA for a second time in 1867/68. Completed nearly half of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Died at Gad's Hill on 9 June 1870. Buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

Charles Dickens (1836-40) - History

The medical journey of Charles Dickens

Lea Mendes
Lisboa, Portugal

John Leech illustration – Scrooge confronts Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At the time of the London Great Exhibition of 1851, the United Kingdom was the wealthiest and most industrialized country in the world. 1 The most popular and quintessential Victorian writer was Charles Dickens (1812-1870), who had written Oliver Twist (1838) and A Christmas Carol (1843). As for the medical aspects of his life, he was quite avant-garde. Dickens suffered from several medical conditions, also wrote about different diseases and contributed to English society not only in the literary aspect but also in the human manner. Dickens’s interests included crime, education, medicine, and the class system.

Regarding his medical conditions, Dickens had what today could be considered an obsessive compulsive disorder. He is thought to have suffered from epilepsy as a child and possibly throughout life. Several of his characters experience “fits” resembling seizures (“the falling sickness” as it was then known). In 1841 he suffered from an anal fistula and was operated without anesthetic. In 1859 he developed what appears to have been gonorrhea, very likely treated with silver nitrate. Dickens suffered from insomnia avant la lettre. He is known to have taken long walks at night. He said “walk and be happy, walk and be healthy.” 2 At the time of his death, the obvious remedy for insomnia was either alcohol (gin for the poor and whiskey or brandy for the wealthy) or the easily accessible opium in one form or another, the most popular being laudanum, a tincture of alcohol and morphine. 3

In his early thirties Dickens would become depressed at the start of each new novel, the first being The Chimes, in 1844. 4 His depression worsened with age, and he eventually separated from his wife, Catherine Hogarth, mother of his ten children. On June 9, 1865, Dickens and his mistress, actress Ellen Nelly Fernan, survived a train accident that killed ten people and wounded dozens more. Dickens burst into action, ministering to injured and dying passengers with brandy and water. Eventually his depression brought his creativity to a near halt, and his previously prolific production almost ceased. Dickens wrote, “I begin to feel it more in my head. I sleep well and eat well, but I write half a dozen notes, and turn faint and sick… I am getting right, though still low in pulse and very nervous.” After this traumatic experience, Dickens writes about being unable to travel by rail because he kept getting the feeling that the train carriage was tipping to over on one side, which was “inexpressibly distressing.” Post traumatic stress disorder was first mentioned by Herodotus, Shakespeare and then Dickens it entered our vocabulary only around 1980. 4

In 1868 Dickens also suffered mild dyslexia. 5 In 1869 he had a mild stroke. His family doctor, Frank Beard sent him for consultation to Sir Thomas Watson, who advised him to reduce his workload. 6 On June 8, 1870, at dinner, Dickens stood up and collapsed was diagnosed with apoplexy, and he died on the next day. The stroke may have been caused partially by opium use as a painkiller. He left his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.

During his visit to North America in 1842, Dickens visited two institutions in South Boston and in New York. He noted that madness is “the most dreadful visitation to which our nature is exposed.” He also visited public institutions that treated the blind, the deaf, and the mute. Dicken wrote on insanity in works such as Household Words, Sketches by Boz, and The Pickwick Papers, showing that drunkenness was a disease in the first half of the nineteenth century. 7 Dickens extolled the benefits of mesmerism (hypnosis), which he used to treat his wife´s headaches and regularly practiced in public (he himself refused to be put into a trance). He made dramatic readings, sometimes to raise funds for charity. He played a major role in the preservation of the first pediatric hospital in the British Empire (Hospital for Sick Children), which opened in 1852 on Great Ormond Street. Dickens highlights the poor quality of nurses in his book Martin Chuzzlewit (nursing began to change during the Crimean War thanks to Florence Nightingale). As an activist and reformer, Dickens facilitated the development of shelters for homeless women (the Urania Cottage was established in 1846), and the development of orthopedics. 8 As he portrays in Dombey and Son, he had learned about the benefits of removing people with diseases from London slums and bringing them to the seaside so they could benefit from fresh air and a more hygienic environment.

It has also been suggested that Dickens described a variety of other conditions— tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, restless leg syndrome, Parkinson´s disease, chorea, Tourette´s syndrome, cerebellar ataxia, torticollis, supranuclear palsy, stroke, epilepsy, and the complication of alcoholism. Dickens might have suffered from asthma. 9

He was friends with Dr. Frederick F.H. Quin (1799-1878) physician to Queen Victoria´s father-in-law, Prince Leopold and father of Prince Albert, and with the painter Landseer. Thackeray was a personal friend of Charles Dickens and godfather to one of his children. Through his actions the London Homeopathic Hospital was founded in 1850. 10

In the 1860s William Treloar attended one of Dickens´s public readings and was inspired to help crippled children (hearing about Tiny Tim, who suffered from Pott´s disease or renal tubular acidosis, in A Christmas Carol), and worked to establish the Lord Mayor Treloar Cripples´ Hospital and College in Alton, England.

Charles Dickens speaks to people from all walks of life. Having entered the working world at a young age and experiencing several physical ailments, he conveys a great deal of sensitivity. By understanding the world around him and expressing it in such a captivating manner, he remains one of the most important authors of English literature.


  1. “Charles Dickens (Parts 1 through 3).” YouTube. 2010. Accessed March 31, 2016:
    1. www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEYdX5_U0Yg
    2. www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R5APXDJ6fE
    3. www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXXm2QtBxts

    LEA MENDES was born on February 7, 1985, in Libson, Portugal, and grew up in a Portuguese-French environment with Canadian and European cultural influences, graduating from the University of Lisbon. She has sung in various choirs and continues her interests in a variety of cultural activities.

    5. Charles Dickens might have had epilepsy.

    Though any indication he might have suffered from epilepsy isn’t corroborated by contemporary medical records, he did return to the neurological disorder enough times in his work that some speculate that he might have drawn from his own experiences with seizures.

    Characters such as Guster from Bleak House, Monks from Oliver Twist, and Bradley Headstone from Our Mutual Friend all suffered from epilepsy.

    Facial Hair Friday: Charles Dickens

    As summer draws to an end and students go back to school, you may recall some of your favorite novels from English class. One name that is almost certainly familiar to students, both young and old, is Charles Dickens.

    Dickens was an English writer and social critic who is often regarded as the most important novelist to write during the Victorian era. He fabricated famous fictional characters and infused his writing with realism, suspense, and a prose style that made him popular throughout the world, both in his own time and today.

    Charles Dickens is the author of numerous novels and short stories that have stood the test of time and offer themes and lessons that remain relevant even today. A Christmas Carol , A Tale of Two Cities , Oliver Twist , David Copperfield , and Great Expectations are just a few notable mentions in the long list of his works.

    Perhaps his widespread popularity, fame, and success gave him the confidence to flaunt such flamboyant facial hair, which included a scraggly beard and an intense mustache.

    While his stories may be extensively read and analyzed in classrooms all over the world today, Dickens himself received only a sporadic and informal education. He was born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England, to John and Elizabeth Dickens. During the formative years of his youth, Charles enjoyed spending much of his time outdoors and found solace in his family’s many moves through books.

    Charles’s father had a bad habit of living beyond the family’s means, which, combined with the stress of a growing family, allowed his debts to overwhelm him and eventually led to debtors’ prison. As a result, Charles was compelled to leave school at the age of 12 and go to work at a boot-blacking factory. He was briefly permitted to return to school after his father paid off his debts with money from an inheritance, but by the age of 15, Charles was again put to work, this time as an office boy, to help sustain the family.

    Although his educational experience was irregular and at times substandard, his legacy is a testament to the power of grit, determination, and self-confidence. While Dickens himself was able to overcome the disadvantage of receiving only a limited education, he took advantage of his popularity as a writer to critique unfair educational practices. One’s access to a proper education was very inconsistent, largely dependent upon social status, gender, and location. Through his journalism and writing, Dickens actively commented on contemporary education, criticizing the elements which he found to be corrupting and promoting his own ideas for reform.

    While his stories are read today for their literary merit, at the time, Dickens used his writing to facilitate and encourage self-education. Not only did he write in an easily comprehensible prose that appealed to a wide audience, but he also often published much of his work as monthly installments, which kept readers in suspense and continuously wanting more.

    Dickens also helped found and edit two different weekly journals that contained educational articles on topics such as history, science, and politics, as well as short stories, humorous pieces, and novels.

    As another new school year begins, perhaps you will recall your favorite Dickens character or a scene from his brutally honest portrayal of society. Maybe you will be inspired to pick up one of his novels, recalling as you read that humble educational beginnings can lead to great success, and that the words of an author with some robust facial hair helped pave the way for educational reform.

    Charles Culliford (Charley) Dickens (1837-1896) - Dickens' first child, educated at Eton and studied business in Germany. Charley was the only child who lived with his mother after Dickens' separation with Catherine in 1858. In 1862 he married Bessie Evans, daughter of Dickens' former publisher, Frederick Evans, with whom Dickens had had a falling out. After a failed business venture, Dickens hired Charley as sub-editor of All the Year Round.

    Mary (Mamie) Dickens (1838-1896) - Dickens' second child, named for Mary Hogarth. She never married and remained with Dickens until his death. She helped to edit her father's letters and published two books about her father: Charles Dickens By His Eldest Daughter (1885) and My Father as I Recall Him (1896).

    Kate Macready (Katie) Dickens (1839-1929) Dickens' third child, named for Dickens' friend actor William Macready. She had a talent for art and attended Bedford college. She sided with her mother in the separation of her parents and married artist Charles Collins, brother of Dickens' friend Wilkie Collins. Dickens felt she married to get out of the home after the separation. When Collins, sickly for years, died she married artist Carlo Perugini. She later revealed her father's relationship with Ellen Ternan in Gladys Storey's book Dickens and Daughter. In 1860 Katie posed for artist John Everett Millais' painting The Black Brunswicker. Katie's grave.

    Walter Savage Landor Dickens (1841-1863) - Dickens' fourth child named for English poet Walter Savage Landor. He was nominated for a cadetship in the East India Company and went to India in 1857 where he advanced to the rank of lieutenant in the 42nd Highlanders. He inherited his grandfather's problems with money and got into debt. He died of an aortic aneurysm in Calcutta, his debts sent home to his father.

    Francis Jeffrey (Frank) Dickens (1844-1886) - Dickens' fifth child named for Dickens friend Lord Francis Jeffrey, editor of the Edinburgh Review. He went to India in 1864 where he found his brother Walter had been dead a month. He joined the Bengal Mounted Police, returned to England in 1871,the year after his father's death. He squandered his inheritance and later went to Canada where he joined the Canadian Northwest Mounted Police. He died in Moline, Illinois.

    Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens (1845-1912) - Dickens' sixth child named for French artist Count Alfred D'Orsay and English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. He emigrated to Australia in 1865 where he remained for 45 years. Later he lectured on his father's life and works in England and America, dying in New York on a lecture tour.

    Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens (1847-1872) - Dickens' seventh child embarked on a career with the navy which pleased his father very much. He got into debt, asking his father for financial aid which Dickens finally refused. He died at sea aboard the Malta.

    Henry Fielding (Harry) Dickens (1849-1933) - Dickens' eighth child named for English author Henry Fielding. Henry was the most successful of Dickens children. Educated at Cambridge, he became a lawyer, judge, and was knighted in 1922. Later he performed readings of his father's works and published books on Dickens' life.

    Dora Annie Dickens (1850-1851) - Dickens' ninth child was born during the writing of David Copperfield and was named for David's wife. A sickly child, she died at eight months old.

    Edward Bulwer Lytton (Plorn) Dickens (1852-1902) - Dickens' 10th child and named for English Novelist and Dickens' friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He joined his brother Alfred in Australia at 16 years of age. He became a Member of Parliament in New South Wales, never returning to England.

    Dickens, Charles

    Published by Bibliophilist Society N.D.

    Used - Hardcover
    Condition: Very Good-

    Hardcover. Condition: Very Good-. 1st Printing of this Edition. Black half-calf, marbled boards and endpapers, gilt top page edges and spine titles and floral design, black rule. Toning, a few pages with insect chew, heavy rubbing to the leather, moderate loss at the heel. 8vo 8" - 9" tall.

    The Magic of Charles Dickens

    Throughout the years, there have been a number of people who while famous for their different endeavours, developed a keen interest in magic. Ex-world champion boxer Muhammed Ali, movie star Orson Welles, and before his Night Court television fame, Harry Anderson were all accomplished magicians. Even his Royal Highness Prince Charles became fascinated with the art of magic that he became a member of the London Magic Circle. And then there was the literary genius, the novelist Charles Dickens. Many may not know that he is actually a part of the history of magic, but Charles Dickens was actually a conjuror.

    Charles John Huffman Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England on February 7 th 1812, the second of eight children. His family had a fairly humble lifestyle. Dickens became famous mostly for his literary works, which include Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Barnaby Rudge, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and The Old Curiosity Shop.

    Due to difficult family circumstances (his father was imprisoned), Dickens at age 12 was forced to find work in a dreary factory where he stuck labels onto cans of boot blacking. Even at an early age, he loved the theatre and even briefly considered a stage career, but due to a slight illness, he missed the audition. Throughout his life, he maintained a keen interest in theatre. He had a fascination for circuses, wax works, pantomimes, and ghosts. His father was released from prison in 1824 and Dickens enrolled at Wellington House Academy in North London to finish his education. He left school at age 16.

    Dickens began work as a law clerk then became a freelance reporter for a number of London newspapers. His writings on everyday London brought together by sketches by ‘Boz’ were published in 1836 for the Pickwick Papers. The Pickwick Papers was a specific project inspired by the adventures of gentlemen who were part of a sporting club. These were serialised from March 1836 to October 1837. Dickens also wrote a few amateur plays from 1836, but he made his real foray into acting and producing plays in the 1850s.

    In April 1836, Dickens married Catherine Dickens who bore him 10 children. However, his marriage failed later on when he met the actress Ellen Ternan who became his mistress.

    In 1842, Charles Dickens became fascinated with magic after attending a performance of the Viennese stage magician Ludwig Dobler at St. James Theatre in London. Dobler was then regarded as a leading performer. He greatly impressed Dickens so much so that soon afterwards, Dickens wrote to his American friend Cornelius Felton stating that he had purchased a conjuror’s ‘entire stock in trade’ and thought he might try his hand at becoming an amateur conjuror. Dickens gave his first magic show on his son’s birthday in January 1843. He continued to give magic performances for the next seven years and was known to have practiced assiduously.

    At about this time, Dickens had become quite the theatre buff and no doubt his stage experience would hold him in good stead as a conjuror. However before this, his real efforts were in writing novels. Upon completion of his novels, he began to give book readings in England that became hugely popular. He visited America in 1867 where he began to give more book readings to eager audiences and these stage readings were elegant in presentation.

    Perhaps his most famous magic show was in the small coastal resort of Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight in 1842. He was billed quite flamboyantly as “The Unparalleled Necromancer, Rhia Rhana Rhoos,” and he performed in an eastern style costume. His self-printed handbill even suggests that he used some literary license when describing his show. Salamanca is in Spain, while the Caves of Alum Bay probably refer to Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight. His rather bold statements could be seen to suggest that Dickens had a natural flair for showmanship. Look at one of his self-penned handbills here:

    The Unparalleled Necromancer, Rhia, Rhama Rhoos

    Educated cabalistically in the Orange Groves of

    Salamanca and the Ocean Caves of Alum Bay.

    Two cards being drawn and lent to the necromancer

    by one of the company, and placed within the pack

    in the necromancer’s box, will leap forth at the command

    of any lady of not less than eighty years of age. *This

    Wonder is the result of nine years seclusion in the mines of Russia.

    A shilling being lent to the necromancer by any gentleman

    of not less than 12 months and one hundred years of age

    and carefully marked by the said gentleman, will disappear

    from within a brazen box, at the word of command, and pass

    through the hearts of an infinity of boxes, which afterwards

    build themselves into pyramids and sink into a small mahogany

    box at the command of the necromancers bidding.

    The pyramid boxes were probably a version of the Nest of Boxes, which is still a favourite trick of many magicians.

    Another effect that appealed to his audiences of the day was his vanish of a ladies watch locked in a strong box that would “fly into a half quanten loaf of bread.” His Travelling Doll that was prettily dressed was also made to vanish, leaving only the doll’s dress behind.

    Perhaps his most featured magic trick was ‘The Pudding Wonder.’ In this trick, a gentleman’s hat became the receptacle for raw eggs and raw flour and minutes later, Dickens would produce a hot, cooked plum pudding that was then cut up and given to the audience. This trick was described by a friend who witnessed his performance (where Dickens was assisted by his good friend John Forster) this way:

    Dickens and Forster above all exerted themselves till the perspiration was pouring down and they seemed drunk with their efforts! Only think of that excellent Dickens playing the conjuror for one whole hour—the best conjuror I ever saw (and I have paid money to see several)—and Forster acting as his servant! This part of the entertainment concluded with a plum pudding made out of raw eggs, raw flour—all the usual raw ingredients—boiled in a gentleman’s hat and tumbled out reeking all in one minute before the eyes of the astonished children and astonished grown people! That trick and his others of changing ladies pocket handkerchiefs into comfits (confectionery) and a box full of bran into a box full of live guinea pigs would enable him to make a handsome subsistence lest the bookseller trade go as it please.

    Although his period of performing as a conjuror was relatively short, Dickens made a point of seeing Robert Houdin perform while visiting Paris in 1854. He was also fascinated by the French mind reader Alfred de Caston and acknowledged he lacked the real talent of these two gentlemen.

    Once while on holiday on the Isle of Wight, a close friend John Leech got into difficulties while swimming, hitting his head on the rocks that left him dazed and unable to control his movements. Dickens was able to make use of his knowledge of hypnosis to place his friend into a long sleep. Upon waking, Leech found he had all his natural faculties once again.

    It is not often a person can achieve such a list of achievements as Charles Dickens did. He became a renowned novelist, playwright, editor, actor, hypnotist, story reader, and poet. He is mostly remembered as one of England’s greatest novelists, but it is pleasing to know that at least for a short while, he was also one of us—a conjuror and a brother in the history of magic. Dickens gave his last magic performance in Rockingham Castle in 1849 and he passed away in Higham, UK on June 9 th 1870. He lies buried in the poets’ corner in Westminster Abbey.

    I am grateful to English award-winning magician and Gold Star member of the Magic Circle Ian Keable for his kind assistance in creating this article. If you would like to read more about Charles Dickens the Conjuror, go to Ian’s website www.iankeable.co.uk/books. His book is titled Charles Dickens Magician: Conjuring in Life, Letters and Literature. Ian also performs a magic show called “The Secret World of Charles Dickens.”

    Watch the video: CHARLES DICKENS THE SIGNAL - MAN - Close reading and the anxieties of the age (May 2022).