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Ten Facts about Legendary Author Charles Dickens

By Kristin Masters. Jun 9, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Charles Dickens

Born on February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens hardly seemed destined for greatness. Yet he rose to become one of the preeminent authors of Victorian England, and his works are now beloved by readers and rare book collectors around the world. Dickens passed away on June 9, 1870. In honor of his life and work, here are ten facts about the legendary author. 

  1. Charles_DickensWhen Dickens was twelve years old, his father was thrown into debtor's prison. His mother chose to send young Charles off to a blacking factory to help work off the debt. This experience forever changed Dickens' relationship with his family. It also resulted in an abiding interest in social justice. Dickens would remain an active advocate for the poor and disenfranchised throughout his life. 
  2. The legendary author's first work, which appeared in the December, 1833 issue of The Monthly Magazine, was published anonymously. A year later, Dickens began writing under the pseudonym "The Inimitable Boz." "Boz" came from his nickname for younger brother Augustus, whom he called "Moses" after a character in Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield. When pronounced through the nose, "Moses" sounds like "Boses," which Dickens shortened to "Boz." Once his identity was discovered, he simply went by the oh-so-humble "The Inimitable." 
  3. Dickens made his first trip to America in 1842. He was at first charmed with the country, especially Boston. But his vociferous campaign for international copyright law earned him no friends. He alienated American readers and press alike. His American Notes, which is rather bland except on matters of slavery and publishing, did little to repair his reputation, and Martin Chuzzlewit only made matters worse. It took Dickens years to rebuild his American fan base. 
  4. An avid lover of theatre, Dickens was known for staging minor productions for friends and family. After meeting Wilkie Collins, he immediately invited the young author to join him on the stage. The two would become fast friends, often collaborating on works for Dickens' periodicals Household Words and later All the Year Round.
  5. In 1847, Dickens undertook a massive project with philanthropist friend Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts. They opened up Urania Cottage, a home for prostitutes and other "fallen women." Most similar homes at the time forced women to live in harsh conditions as punishment for their behavior. But Burdett-Coutts and Dickens wanted to rehabilitate and educate their charges, and Dickens wanted to relocate program graduates to the British colonies so they could marry without prejudice from their former lives. Between 1847 to 1859, about 100 women completed the program. 
  6. When his sixth son was born on January 16, 1849, Dickens named the boy after one of his favorite authors, Henry Fielding. He'd considered naming the child after Oliver Goldsmith, also. But by this time, Dickens had already published Oliver Twist and feared that the boy would be ridiculed as "Oliver, always asking for more." 
  7. Oscar Wilde hardly loved Charles Dickens' works. He found the legendary author too sentimental and struggled to escape his shadow (no small feat in England!). Wilde famously said of The Old Curiosity Shop, "One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell and not dissolve into tears...of laughter." 
  8. When Dickens began Great Expectations in 1860, he did it under pressure. He needed to replace Charles Lever's unpopular A Day's Ride feature in All the Year Round and bolster flagging sales. He originally intended the work to be "humorous and droll," but the novel obviously didn't turn out that way. Dickens further changed the ending of Great Expectations at the advice of friend and colleague Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  9. Dickens made a second trip to the United States in 1867 because, quite frankly, he was broke. He'd sent his wife, Catherine to live in London and sent her a monthly sum. Six of his adult children still relied on his largesse. American theatre producers promised huge returns, and they were right. Dickens made over £30,000 during the tour. The proceeds comprised more than 20% of his estate when he passed away. 
  10. When Charles Dickens died, a young girl in London asked, "Mr. Dickens died? Then will Father Christmas die, too?" Thanks to his annual Christmas stories (most famously A Christmas Carol), Dickens significantly contributed to reviving the Christmas holiday in both Britain and the United States.

Browse More by Charles Dickens

Related Reading:

Ten of the Best Quotes from Charles Dickens

Did Charles Dickens Want a Different Ending for 'Great Expectations'? 

A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens' Influence on the Christmas Holiday 

Charles Dickens Saves Christmas

Wilkie Collins, "Dickensian Ampersand" 

Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.


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