Mercurial Essays

Free Essays & Assignment Examples

Charles Dickens (1966 words)

Charles DickensCharles John Huffam Dickens was born February 7, 1812, in Ports Mouth,
Hampshire. In his infancy his family moved to Chatham, where he spent his
happiest years and often refers to this time in his novels (1817-1822).

From 1822 to 1860 he lived in London, after which he permanently moved to a
quiet country cottage in Glads Hill, on the outskirts of Chatham. He grew
up in a middle class family. His father was a clerk in the navy pay office
and was well paid, but his extravagant living style often brought the
family to financial disaster. The family reached financial “rock bottom”
in 1824. Charles was taken out of school and sent to work in a factory
doing manual labour, while his father went to prison for his debt. These
internal disasters shocked Charles greatly. He refers to his working
experiences in his writings. Although he hated doing labour, he gained a
sympathetic knowledge into the life of the labour class. He also brings
forth the images of prison and of the lost and oppressed child in many
novels.His schooling ended at 15, and he became a clerk in a solicitor’s
office, then a short hand reporter in the lawcourts (where he gained much
knowledge of legalities which he used in his novels), and finally like
other members of his family, a newspaper reporter. Here, he got his first
taste of journalism and fell in love with it immediately.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Drawn to the theatre, Charles Dickens almost pursued the career of an
actor In 1833, he began sending short stories and descriptive essays to
small magazines and newspapers. These writings attracted attention and
were published in 1836 under the name, Sketches by “Boz”. At the same
time, he was offered a small job of writing the text for a small comic
strip, where he worked with a well know artist. Seven weeks later, the
first instalment of The Pickwick Papers appeared. Within a few months
Pickwick was the rage and Dickens was the most popular author of the day.

During 1836, he also wrote two plays and a pamphlet, he then resigned from
his newspaper job, and undertook the editing job of a monthly magazine,
Bentley’s Miscellany, in which he serialized Oliver Twist (1837-1839). By
this time, the first of his nine surviving children had been born, He had
married Catherine, eldest daughter of a respected journalist George
Hogorth (April 1836).

His first major success was with The Pickwick Papers. They were high
spirited and contained many conventional comic butts and jokes. Pickwick
displayed, many of the features that were to be blended in to his future
fiction works; attacks on social evils and the delight in the joys of
Christmas. Rapidly thought up and written in mere weeks or even days before
its publication date, Pickwick contained weak style and was unsatisfactory
in all, partly because Dickens was rapidly developing his craft as a
novelist while doing it. This style of writing in a first novel, made his
name know literally overnight, but created a new tradition of literature
and was made one of the best know novel’s of the world.

After The Pickwick Papers were published in 1837, he put together
another novel, Oliver Twist. Though his artistic talent is very much
evident, he refrained from using the successful formula used in The
Pickwick Papers. Instead, Oliver Twist is more concerned with social and
more evil, though it did still contain much comedy. The long last of his
fiction is partly due to its being so easy to adapt into effective stage
plays. Sometimes 20 London theatres simultaneously were producing
adaptations of his latest story; so even non- readers became acquainted
with simplified versions of his works. In the novel Barnaby Grudge he
attempted another type of writing, a historical novel. It was set in the
late 18th century and graphically explored the spectacle of large scale mob
violence. The task of keeping unity throughout his novels (which often
included a wide range of moods and materials and several complicated plots
involving scores of characters) was made even more difficult because he was
forced to write and publish them, while also doing on going serials.

His next major work, and probably his most famous was published in
1843, and was called A Christmas Carol. Suddenly conceived and written in
mere weeks, while he was preoccupied in writing another serial, it was an
unmatched achievement. His view of life was described as “Christmas
Philosophy,” and he spoke of “Carol philosophy” as the basis of his work.

He was extremely attached to the christmas season, and this contributed to
his great success and popularity. A Christmas Carol immediately entered
the general public and awareness, and Thackeray (another author), in a
review, called it a “national benefit, and to every man and woman who reads
it a personal kindness…”. He wrote many other christmas plays and novels
thereafter, but none equalled the Carol in energy. These series of books,
were known as the Christmas Books, and cumulatively they represent a
celebration of Christmas attempted by no other great author.

His activity outside his novels at this time in his literary life was
extremely active and centrally involved. He was said to be the best after
dinner speaker of the age, also, he was credited with being the best
reporter on the London press and the best amateur actor on the stage. As
for his private life, he loved his family and was a proud householder; he
once even wrote a cookbook. To his children he was a great father, until
their adolescence, where their lives proved less happy. Besides periods
in Italy (1844-1845), Switzerland and France (1846-1847) he lived in
London, and moved from house to larger house as his family grew. He became
acquainted with may popular authors and journalists and entertained them
regularly at his home. Though financially well off, he generally avoided
high society, he hated to be idolized or patronized. He was extremely
proud of his work, and strived on improving it with every new venture, yet
his work, never employed all of his energies.

He became the founder (editor) in 1846 of the Daily News, (soon to
become the leading liberal newspaper). His journalistic backgrounds, his
political knowledge and readiness to act as a leader, and his wish to
secure a steady income independent of his literary creativity made him plan
several ventures in the 1840’s. This return to journalism soon proved a
great mistake, the biggest fiasco in a career that included nearly no
misdirections or failures. He then moved onto a more limited but happier
exercise of his talents, for more than a decade he directed a reformatory
home for young female delinquents, which was financed by a wealthy friend
Angela Burrdett-Coutts. He also used compassionate speaking abilities
often in public speeches, fund-raising activities and private acts of

His next novel, was called Dombey and Son, written between the years
1846- 1848, it was crucial to his development. It was more thoroughly
planned, and used maturer thought and deals with more specific social
injustice. Shortly after the release of Dombey and Son, he wrote David
Copperfield (1849-1850). It has been described as a “holiday” from the
larger social concerns. This novel has always been among his most popular
novels and was Dickens’s own favourite.

Charles Dickens finally found a permanent form for his writing in
1850, with the novel Household Words, and its successor All the Year Round
(1859-1888). These novels incorporated a combination of weekly
miscellaneous fiction works, poetry, and essays on a wide range of topics.

These two works had circulations reaching 300, 000 for some Christmas
seasons. During this period Dickens contributed some serials, for example
Child’s History of England (1851-1853), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of two
cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1860- 1861). No English author has
devoted 20 years of his/her mature life to such editorial work. Novels
During these years he wrote many more novels. The first of which was
called Bleak House (1852-1853), then Hard Times (1854), and Little Dorrit
(1855- 1857). These novels were much more dark then his earlier novels.

Portraying a sad and dark view on contemporary society. In the novels of
the 1850’s, he is politically more depressed, emotionally more tragic. The
sadness is harsher, and the humour is less gentle, and the happy endings
are more relaxed than his early fiction. Technically the later novels are
more logical, the plots are more related to the themes, and the themes
express more grim symbols. The characterization has become more in line
with general purpose and design. In general the characters are becoming
more complex, even the children who were before loosely thrown together
are now complicated in their makeup. Dickens becomes more enthraled with
the general purpose of life, and poses questions to this in his works, and
attempt to explore the prospects of humanity, questions that are still
being asked today and being debated by society.

During the 1850’s his spirits fell. 1855 was “a year of much
unsettled discontent for him”, . He began to cease to find satisfaction in
his home, and he showed his first sign’s of marital discontent. From May
1858, his wife, Catherine Dickens lived apart from him. This separation
jarred his friendships and began to shrink his social circle, yet to his
surprise, it didn’t effect his social popularity. Catherine Dickens stayed
silent and most of Dickens family and friends were unwilling to talk about
it. He dated the unhappiness of his marriage to 1838, calling his wife
“perculliar”, and sometimes “under a mental disorder”. No one talked about
the separation until 1939, when his daughter, Katey speaking to a friend
(who was recording the conversation) offered an inside account of the true
marriage and family life during that time.

By the end of the 1850’s Charles Dickens was tired and growing more
and more ill, yet he maintained inventive in his final novels. A Tale of
Two Cities (1859) was an experiment, relying less than before on
characterization, dialogue, and humour.An exciting narrative, it lacks
too many of his strengths to count among his major works. His next, Great
Expectations, (1860-1861) resembles David Copperfield , by it being a first
person narration, it draws on Dickens personality and experience. He
continued to write novels, though none of them was truly up to par with his
early novels, they were still given rave reviews. In 1864-65, he wrote Our
Mutual Friend, and Edwin Druid in 1870. His humorous handling is sometimes
tiresome, and has grown mechanical. Between the years 1867- 1868 many of
his co-writers noticed his immense personality change and it appears in
friends remarks who met him again after many years during an international
reading tour. (“I must have known two individuals bearing the same name,
at various periods of my own life.”).

But his fiction, besides his personal developments still had the many
stylistic features as in his earlier works so he remained the “human
hurricane.” Even though he was old, and his health was deteriorating, his
close friends saw him as a hearty man, with a good deal of fun in him “,
but that very day (on a train ride in 1865), Dickens wrote, that “I am
nearly used up,”.After he had completed his reading tour, his health
remained precarious, but he insisted on continuing to do readings.

His farewell reading tour was abandoned when, in April 1869, he
collapsed. He began writing another novel in the London Hospital, and gave
a short farewell sessions of readings in London, ending with thee famous
speech, “From these garish lights I vanish now for evermore…”. Charles
dickens died suddenly at Gad’s Hill on June 9, 1870, and was buried in
Westminster Abbey. People all over the world mourned the loss of “a
friend” as well as a great entertainer and creative artist, and one of the
acknowledged influences upon the spirit of the age.

Charles Dickens is regarded as the greatest English novelist. He had a
wider popularity than any other author before him or during his life time.

His works appealed to everyone, a peasant, or the Queen of England. This,
and the quality of his work enabled his fame to spread world wide. His
popularity has never ceased, and he is as popular today, as he ever was.

His compassion and intelligence enriched his novels and made him one of the
great forces in 19th century literature, an influential conscience of his


I'm Belinda!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out