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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Dickens. His father, who was a clerk in the Naval Pay Office, had a poor head for finances and was imprisoned in 1824 for debt. Dickens was twelve years old when he was sent to work at Warren's Blacking Factory, while the rest of his family joined his father in the Marshalsea Prison. During this time, he lived alone, ashamed and frightened, in a lodging house. These early experiences became a source of creative energy and a reason for his preoccupation with the Themes of alienation and betrayal. These early experiences also made him a self-reliant, hard-working and dedicated writer.
Dickens returned to school after the financial difficulties were over. When he was fifteen, he went to work as a clerk in a law firm. Later he became a free-lance reporter, first of dull law cases and then of parliamentary debates. These experiences helped shape his social consciousness. In 1830, he fell in love with Maria Beadwell, the daughter of a banker, but the relationship was short-lived, as he was not considered a good match by her parents. He then met and became engaged to Catherine Hogarth in 1835. He married Catherine on April 2, 1836.
Dickens' first published story appeared in 1835. He also started writing under the famous pseudonym "Boz", with the first sketches published in 1836. His success as a writer truly began with the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836-37), now known as The Pickwick Papers. Its popularity allowed him to embark on a full-time career as a novelist. He wrote Oliver Twist in 1837, followed by Nicholas Nickleby, The Olde Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rudge.
Dickens also had a social conscience. He visited Canada and the United States in 1842 and advocated international copyright laws and the abolition of slavery. His American Notes appeared in October and that, along with the novel Martin Chuzzlevit, did not portray America flatteringly.
Dickens' enormously successful A Christmas Carol was published in 1844. From 1844 onwards, the family spent a lot of time abroad, especially in Italy, Switzerland, and France. The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, and Pictures from Italy belong to this period. He published Donby and Son in 1846, and David Copperfield began to be serialized in 1849. He published Bleak House in 1852, Hard Times in 1854, Little Dorrit in 1855, and collaborated with W. Collins on a play The Frozen Deep in 1856. He also founded and became the editor of the weekly Household Words and opened a theatrical company. In 1859 he began to edit All the Year Round, which he continued until his death. A serialization of A Tale of Two Cities appeared in this weekly in 1859. Great Expectations began to appear in 1860 and ended in 1861.
Dickens, being a much loved author, started the public reading of his works in 1853; this activity continued until 1870, when he gave his final public reading. He suffered a stroke on June 8, 1870, at Gad's Hill, the estate he had bought. He died on June 9, 1870. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, and his unfinished work The Mystery of Edward Drood appeared in September.
Dickens, who addressed social issues and historic events with penetrating insight, is regarded as the greatest British author of all times. The power of his novels, which are rich, diverse, and intense, lies in his ability to report accurately and to transform the ordinary into something magical. His concern for modern society is evident in all his novels. He emerges as a social reformer with a deep compassion for the working class. His works, which are complex, deep, and perceptive, are also marked with melodramatic intensity and humor.
Many of his themes and images are recurrent. The image of a corrupt judicial system, especially the condition of prisons, occupies a central spot in both Bleak House and Little Dorrit. At times, Dickens exposed the humorous face of a sadly comic world with which he gradually became disillusioned. He presented the failures of both business ethics and revolutionary zeal. In A Tale of Two Cities, he depicts both the excitement and the chaos of revolution.
Charles Dickens was a prolific writer of quality works that have remained popular through the years for their intensity and social conscience. In spite of his lack of a formal education, he revealed in his novels a mastery of the English language and a sophisticated depth of thought that have endeared him to many generations of students and readers.