10 things that will make you go ‘What the Dickens!’ about Dickens

From A Muppet’s Christmas Carol to the current televised series on the BBC – Dickensian, Charles Dickens’ works continue to be immortalised. On the 7th of February, Charles Dickens turned 204 years old and continues to be as famous today as he was whilst living. To celebrate and reflect on his life, here are ten bits of information about one of Britain’s most beloved authors that you just might find useful at that next pub quiz.

  1. Dickens knew what it was like to be poor and penniless. In 1824 when Dickens was 12, his father was put into the Marshalsea Prison—an institution in London for individuals with debts they couldn’t pay. Though he was only there for a short time, this event stuck with Dickens and is central in his novel Little Dorrit who is the ‘child of the Marshalsea’.
  2. Ever read Oliver Twist? While working in a shoe-polish warehouse called Warren’s Blacking Factory to help with his family’s financial issues, 12 year old Dickens met a kindly co-worker named Fagin— who later becomes an important character in his novel.
  3. Dickens’ formal education ended at age 15 because his family couldn’t afford the fees.
  4. Originally, Dickens wanted to be an actor and even had an audition scheduled with Covent Garden. Unfortunately, he became ill right before the audition and had to cancel, but his love for theatre always remained.
  5. In his early twenties he met the 19 year old Catherine Hogarth and married her. 22 years and 10 children later, he divorced her and wrote a public letter to the newspapers defending himself and humiliating Catherine.
  6. Dickens had close (if not peculiar) relationships with his sisters-in-law: the first, Mary, died at age 17 and Dickens reportedly asked to be buried in the same grave as her upon his death. The other sister, Georgina, stayed on as Dickens’ house-keeper and a mother-figure to his children when he separated from his wife.  
  7. At age 45, he met the 18 year-old Ellen Ternan, and reportedly later began a secret affair that possibly produced a short-lived child.  
  8. A philanthropist and advocate for the poor, Dickens helped found a home for ‘fallen women’ that focused on education and giving them a second chance at a better life.  
  9. When Dickens was involved in a massive train accident that killed ten people, he spent most of his time trying to help his fellow passengers even though he was badly shaken himself.
  10. Though he died at age 58, throughout his life he managed to write 15 novels, 5 novellas, countless short-stories and essays, give lectures and make two lecturing tours to the United States, perform and over-see theatrical productions, founded and edited a journal called ‘Household Words’ for 20 years, and campaigned relentlessly for child-labourers, women in prostitution, and many other political and social issues. I’d just like to survive Uni please.


Renee Goble


Image courtesy of bbcamerica.com. 

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