Inimitable Charles Dickens
Charles began the literary path by starting out in journalism, becoming, like his father before him, a reporter with two publications
Inimitable Charles Dickens
It is humbling, as a writer, to reflect that one of the greatest English authors, Charles Dickens, born 200 years ago on February 7th 1812, as a child experienced the poverty that he so effectively wrote about in later life. Born in Portsmouth to John and Elizabeth Dickens, Charles had a father who was imprisoned for bad debt.
Charles, nine at the time and only just having started in school, found himself taken from it and sent to work in Warren's blacking factory, experiencing appalling conditions. He as separated from his entire family so loneliness and despair were no strangers to him. Happily, three years later he was returned to school, but those early bad experiences were reflected in both David Copperfield and Great Expectations, written much later in life.
Charles began the literary path by starting out in journalism, becoming, like his father before him, a reporter with two publications - The Mirror of Parliament and The True Sun - until. 1833 when he joined The Morning Chronicle as parliamentary journalist. Fresh press contacts enabled him to publish, a series entitled Sketches By Boz, edited by George Hogarth, whose daughter Catherine Charles married In April 1836.
It was in that same month that Charles published the unforgettable and highly successful novel Pickwick Papers, after which his career as a novelist was assured. Not that fiction writing was all he did, by any means. He was editing weekly publications, writing travel books, writing and performing - once in 1851 in front of Queen Victoria herself - stage plays.
Charles wrote and published an autobiography, administered charitable organisations, was a theatre enthusiast, and with seemingly limitless energy spent a lot of time lecturing in the USA against slavery and with Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins, fellow writers, touring Italy. How he found time for the writing of his immortal novels is a mystery, but he was a prolific writer.
His drive, energy and insights into the intricacies of the human condition and character were all reflected in the quality of his work, which has for two centuries stood the test of time, and is as relevant and potent today as it was then, in terms of revealing the heart of human fraility and ambition.
His was the writing that has both inspired and helped to educate generations of school-children since it was published, and I clearly remember, over fifty years ago now, being utterly enthralled by A Christmas Carol and other books by this incredibly gifted writer.
Charles Dickens ended up being separated and estranged from Catherine - who had borne him ten children - in 1858, though he continued to enjoy the company of his mistress - actress Ellen Ternan - until dying of a stroke in 1870.
Buried at Westminster Abbey, which he had expressly said he did not want to happen, his last resting place will today be the scene of the largest-ever gathering of living relatives of a single author, as they and members of the royal family attend services to commemorate this tragic yet momentous anniversary. Charles Dickens will undoubtedly live on forever in his writings, and so he should.