The New Student's Reference Work/Dickens, Charles

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Charles Dickens

Dick′ens, Charles, a great English novelist, was born at Landport, near Portsmouth, Feb. 7, 1812; and died at Gadshill, near Rochester, England, June 9, 1870.  When he was nine years old, the family fell into poor circumstances and moved to one of the poorer quarters of London, where the father was soon after arrested for debt, and Charles was placed in a blacking-factory.  Not long after, his father was released and Charles was sent to school once more, where he stayed for three or four years.  He then prepared himself to be a journalist, and became reporter on a London paper when he was 22.  He then began writing for magazines and journals, and in 1836 his success was assured by the appearance of Pickwick Papers.  Others of his works soon followed, and the remainder of his life was a record of one literary success after another.  In 1842 Dickens visited America.  His American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit are satirical accounts of American manners and life.  In 1850 he founded Household Words, a weekly periodical, in which several of his works appeared as serials.  In 1859 this periodical ceased to be published, but Dickens issued another, called All the Year Round, for which were written several other of his novels.  Dickens always had a strong liking for the drama, and often acted in private theatricals.  His real ability as an actor was shown in his public readings of selections from his works.  He gave many of these readings both in England and America, and it is said that his receipts in money from them were more than from all his novels.  Perhaps more than any other English writer, Dickens put his own boyhood into his novels.  Mr. and Mrs. Micawber are drawn from his own father and mother.  David Copperfield, probably his greatest work, is said to be largely a story of his own life; while many others of his characters he had met when a boy, in his work at the blacking-factory, when visiting his father at the debtor’s prison, at the Portsmouth dock where his father was a navy-clerk, or while he was at school.  Few novelists are so universally read; probably no one is so universally liked.  His characters are taken from actual life, and call out the best sympathies of the reader.  Among his works, besides those already noticed, may be mentioned Old Curiosity Shop, Dombey and Son, Little Dorrit, Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend, A Christmas Carol and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished).  See his Letters and the Life by Forster.

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