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The Author and the Context

Un primo piano di Charles Dickens. ©

Charles Dickens was born in England on February 7, 1812. He was the second of eight children, and his father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. As a child, Dickens’ health was frail and his education was random. His mother taught him his letters and Dickens read a great deal from his father’s library of the classics of fiction. The boy was also interested in theatre and his first written work was a tragedy. At the age of nine, he was schooled with a neighbour’s child, and when his father was transferred to London, Dickens stayed behind for a while in Chatham for his schooling. But when he rejoined his family in London, dark days awaited him.
His father was in debt, and so the Dickens family resided with him in Marshalsea Prison. Charles found work as a household servant and took a room for himself on one of the poor streets of London at the age of twelve. He worked for a while labelling bottles until his father inherited a legacy that brought the family out of debt again. Dickens was sent to school for a few more years before he became a clerk. He moved up from there to become a stenographer at several newspapers.
In 1833 his first published piece appeared in the Monthly Magazine signed with his brother's nickname. He later published a few pieces in the Evening Chronicle before the Pickwick Papers made him famous. For the next thirty years Dickens produced a great deal of novels until he died. His other works include: Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839), The Personal History of David Copperfield (1850), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861).
Dickens had a large family with his wife, Catherine Hogarth, and became a wealthy man through his writing. He wrote actively while acting in private theatricals as well as touring and performing readings of his works.
In 1865, Dickens had a slight stroke, but this break in his health did not deter him from his active lifestyle of travel and work. He died of apoplexy in 1870, while still working on a novel which he left unfinished, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Based on:
“Dickens, Charles” in Biographical Dictionary, New York, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd., 1997.

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A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

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