Charles John Huffham Dickens was born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England.
Shortly before his 12th birthday, Dickens was sent to work at Warren’s Blacking Warehouse, where he worked 10-hour days, six days a week.
As a young reporter, Dickens covered parliamentary debates: “Night after night, I record predictions that never come to pass . . . explanations that are only meant to mystify.”
Dickens briefly contemplated becoming an actor. The theater was not considered very respectable, however, so Dickens decided to focus on writing instead.
In 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of his Scottish newspaper editor, and the couple went on to have 10 children.
Dickens’s literary success was immediate and overwhelming. Before the age of 30, he had published The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickelby, making him the most popular novelist of his era.
Dickens published all 15 of his novels in serial installments, and then in book form. It’s estimated he created over 13,000 characters.
When Charles Dickens arrived in Boston in 1842 for his first visit to North America, he was greeted like a rock star. Crowds lined Boston harbor and followed him through the streets.
Dickens cut a dashing figure during his 1842 visit to America, according to one observer: “His dress was that a genteel rowdy in this country and no one, who did not know him, could have supposed him to be ‘the immortal Boz.’ ”
In 1857, Dickens met and fell in love with a young actress, Ellen Ternan. The following year, he separated from his wife after 22 years of marriage.
In 1865, while returning from France, Dickens was nearly killed in a disastrous railway accident in Staplehurst, England. The accident would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Despite ill health, Dickens returned to America in 1867 for a wildly successful reading tour. In Boston, a crowd a half-mile long waited overnight to buy tickets.
On June 9, 1870, exactly five years after the Staplehurst railway accident, Dickens died of a stroke at his home. He was just 58 years old.
More Dickens Trivia