Charles Dickens – An Extraordinary Life
1812 – Charles John Huffam Dickens, born on February 7 in Portsmouth, England. His father, John Dickens, was a clerk in the Royal Navy Pay Office.
1812-1824 — The family lives variously in Southsea, Sheerness, Chatham, as well as in a half-dozen houses in London, sometimes as John Dickens’s job requires, sometimes to dodge creditors, for Dickens’s father habitually lives beyond his means.
1824 – Early in the year Charles is put out to work in Warren’s Blacking Warehouse in London. On February 20 John Dickens is arrested for unpaid debts and confined in the Marshalsea Prison, where his family soon joins him. Charles lives in a rented room near his workplace and visits his family on weekends. Through an inheritance John Dickens is able to repay his debt and gain release in May. How long Charles continued at blacking-warehouse is unknown. Later in the year Charles leaves his job and is sent to the Wellington House Academy, where he was a student until 1827.
1827 –His formal education at an end, Charles gains employment as a clerk in a law office.
1828 – Dickens teaches himself shorthand and becomes a reporter for the law courts.
1830-1831 – Dickens’s first love affair, with Maria Beadnell, a banker’s daughter. Her father forbids marriage to this young man with no prospects and sends the girl to school in Paris.
1833 – Dickens’s first publication, a sketch entitled “A Dinner at Poplar Walk” in the Monthly Magazine and signed with the pseudonym “Boz.”
1834 – Becomes a reporter for the Morning Chronicle.
1836 – A collection of the sketches are published as a volume, entitled Sketches by Boz. Dickens is hired to write the Pickwick Papers. Soon it catches the public’s fancy, and Dickens quickly becomes the best-selling author in English. Dickens marries Catherine Hogarth.
1837 – Begins editing Bentley’s Miscellany, a monthly magazine. Charles Culliford Boz Dickens, the first of ten children, born on Jan. 6.
1842 – First trip to America
1847 – Helps set up Urania Cottage, a “home for homeless women”
1853 – Begins giving public readings to huge audiences, an activity that became a second career
1856 – Buys Gad’s Hill Place in Rochester, a home he had admired in his youth
1857 – Meets Ellen Ternan, a young actress who became an intimate friend and perhaps his mistress
1858 – Separation from his wife
1867 – Second trip to America
1868 – In spite of failing health, gives more and more public readings until near the end of his life
1870 – Dies on June 9; buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey