The Victorian era was a period of progress that saw the world’s first industrial revolution, social change, and the birth of the most popular novelist of his century, Charles Dickens. Often coined as the “Quintessential Victorian Author”, Dickens made it a point to write about the best and the worst times in Victorian England. Without further ado, let’s go on a journey to learn 25 facts about Charles Dickens.
Fact 1: Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.
- He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
Fact 2: He left to work in a factory when he was just 12 years old.
- This came after his father was sent prison.
Fact 3: His lack of formal education didn’t stop him from becoming a famous novelist.
- Dickens went on to edit a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories, and non-fiction articles. He also became a staunch advocate for children’s rights, education and other social reforms.
Fact 4: In 1836, Dickens published his first novel, “The Pickwick Papers”.
- This marked the beginning of his literary success. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for voicing his opinions about society in a humorous manner.
Fact 5: He published one of the most iconic Christmas stories of all time, “A Christmas Carol” in 1843.
- He also wrote several classic novels like “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations”.
Fact 6: His best-known historical fiction novel “A Tale of Two Cities” was published in 1859.
- Dickens became a famous celebrity of his era and public reading tours soon became a permanent fixture in his career.
Fact 7: Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836.
- They had 10 children, all of whom had strange nicknames like “Chickenstalker”, “Skittles” and “Lucifer Box”.
Fact 8: He used to send sketches to newspapers and magazines under the pseudonym “Boz”.
- His sketches became a huge hit that he published a compilation of all his illustrations in 1839 entitled “Sketches by Boz”.
Fact 9: Dickens wasn’t a fan of America.
- In fact, after touring the country, he heavily criticized America in his travelogue, “American Notes” that was published in 1842.
Fact 10: His parents were Elizabeth and John Dickens.
- Charles was the second of eight children.
Fact 11: Dickens met his first love, Maria Beadnell in 1830.
- Their relationship, however, was short-lived since Beadnell’s parents disapproved of their relationship and sent their daughter to study in Paris. Dora in “David Copperfield” was allegedly based on Beadnell.
Fact 12: Dickens worked as a junior clerk at a law firm from 1827-1828.
- It’s when he voraciously studied the shorthand method of writing developed by Thomas Gurney.
Fact 13: The phrase “What the dickens,” is one way of saying ‘What the heck?!’.
- The phrase, although you’d think it was about Dickens, doesn’t really have anything to do with him at all. The phrase was used a long time before he was born in Shakespeare’s work.
Fact 14: Dickens allegedly was an epileptic.
- Dickens’s occasionally wrote about epilepsy in his novels and journalism. Characters such as Guster from “Bleak House”, Monks from “Oliver Twist”, and Bradley Headstone from “Our Mutual Friend” all suffered from epilepsy.
Fact 15: He used his influence to help search for missing Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in the Arctic in 1845.
- Franklin, along with 128 crew on the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage.
Fact 16: Charles Dickens was a master of cliffhangers.
- Most of his novels were written in infrequent instalments. Meaning that readers would need to buy a subscription to find out what happened from one chapter to another chapter.
Fact 17: He had a pet raven named “Grip”.
- When the raven died, Dickens had the bird stuffed, and got another raven to replace him.
Fact 18: Dickens was working on “Mystery of Edwin Drood” when he died.
- He never got to finish the novel, forever making Edwin Drood a mystery since no one knew how the novel was supposed to end.
Fact 19: He was never a fan of Roman Catholicism and other religious institutions, and he deemed them hypocrites.
- According to Dickens, practices in Roman Catholicism were deviations from the true spirit of Christianity.
Fact 20: Between 1868 and 1869, Dickens gave a series of “farewell readings” in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
- He delivered reading to 75 regions, with a further 12 readings in London alone.
Fact 21: On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke at his home while working on Edwin Drood.
- Dickens never regained consciousness and died the next day at Gads Hill Place.
Fact 22: The Charles Dickens Museum was erected in London to commemorate the Victorian author.
- Other museums in honour of Dickens include, the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth, which is the house he was born in.
Fact 23: The original manuscripts of many of his novels are housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
- The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects.
Fact 24: Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is one of his most popular works, and several film versions have been released based on this story.
- The novel recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly, miserable gentleman who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.
Fact 25: To honour the late Charles Dickens, the author was featured on a series of £10 notes in the UK between 1992 and 2003.
- The notes were issued by the Bank of England. Dickens’ portrait appeared on the reverse of the note accompanied by a scene from “The Pickwick Papers”.