Dickens in Lowell

To mark the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth and to commemorate his historic trip to Lowell in 1842, UMass Lowell and its partners offered a seven-month slate of performances, speakers, family programs, and a landmark exhibition exploring Dickens’s life, work, and travels in America.

Here in Lowell, we’ll give you the Dickens—the real Charles Dickens.


In His Own Words

If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.
—Sketches by Boz
“Please, sir, I want some more.”
Oliver Twist
“Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.”
Nicholas Nickleby
Anything that makes a noise is satisfactory to a crowd.
—The Old Curiosity Shop
“Bah!” said Scrooge. “Humbug!”
—A Christmas Carol
“He’d make a lovely corpse.”
—Martin Chuzzlewit
“. . . vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!”
—Dombey and Son
“Think! I’ve got enough to do, and little enough to get for it, without thinking.”
—Bleak House
The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government.
—Little Dorrit
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .
—A Tale of Two Cities

Did You Know?

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

Virtual Exhibit

Did you miss our landmark exhibition? Saw it but want to view it again? Now you can in this on-line version of our landmark Dickens and Massachusetts exhibition, including special appearance by British Actress Miriam Margoyles reading her favorite passage from Dickens.