Dickens, Charles

BORN 7 Feb 1812, Portsmouth, Hampshire: 1 Mile End Terrace, Landport (now: 393 Commercial Road) - DIED 9 Jun 1870, Higham, Kent: Gads-Hill
BIRTH NAME Dickens, Charles John Huffam
GRAVE LOCATION London: Westminster Abbey, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster (Poets' Corner)

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth as the son of a clerk in the Naval Pay Office. His father spent far too much money and in 1824 he was imprisoned in Marshalsea debtor's prison in Southwark. For young Charles this was a very traumatizing experience. Apart from the shame, he had to leave school to work at Warren's Blacking Factory. This terrible period in his life largely explains his social concern in his future novels, especially in "David Copperfield" and "Great Expectations".

In 1829 Dickens became a free lance reporter and in 1830 he fell in love with a banker's daughter, Maria Beadnell. In 1833 their relationship ended. In 1835 he became engaged to Catherine Hogarth and he married her on April 2, 1836. In 1834 Dickens had adopted the pseudonym "Boz" and in 1836 the first "sketches by Boz" appeared in print. These sketches accompanied the popular illustrations by Robert Seymour. Seymour, however, committed suicide and Dickens turned his work into what would become his instant success "The Pickwick Papers" (serialized in 1836-1837).

Dickens now became a professional novelist, rapidly producing the long and complex books for which he is still famous. At the same time, he was still working as a journalist and an editor. In 1850 he started his own magazine, Household Words, edited by himself. In 1851 he met Wilkie Collins and the two soon became friends, embarking on trips abroad together. They also shared an interest in theatre, and they staged several productions. Dickens was keen on acting himself, but they also collaborated with professional actors.

In 1857 Hans Christian Andersen stayed with Dickens and almost bored him to death. After Andersen left Dickens put up a placard in his house in Kent with the text "Hans Christian Andersen slept in this room for five weeks which seemed to the family AGES". Around this time Dickens's marriage was falling apart. He and his wife had ten children, which he did not like, and there had been trouble for a long time. Dickens fell in love with the young actress Ellen ('Nelly') Ternan, who performed in "The Frozen Deep", a play written by his close friend Wilkie Collins that was performed by his amateur theatre company. Dickens formally separated from his wife Catherine without divorcing her. His liaison with Nelly Ternan was known to his inner circle but it remained a secret to the public until long after his death.

Dickens profited from his enormous popularity by giving public readings of his work, first in London and later also in Paris and in the United States (1867-1868). Many people were financially dependent on him, and the readings earned far him more money than his novels. But he knew that many years of hard work, little sleep and frequent consumption of alcohol had taken their toll. He gave a series of farewell readings in 1868 and 1869 in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Dickens suffered from fits of paralysis and on 18 April 1869 he suffered a stroke in Chester. After he collapsed in Preston on 22 April 1869, the rest of the tour was cancelled.

Dickens started to write a new novel, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood". From January to March 1870, he was sufficiently recovered to give twelve more readings. On April 9, 1870 he finally met Queen Victoria. She had tried to meet to him before, bus as long ago as 1857 he had refused to see her after a dedicated performance of "The Frozen Deep", claiming he did not want to talk to her in actor's clothes. Because his daughter wanted to meet the queen badly, he gave in this time.

Dickens never finished "Drood", because a second stroke hit him on 8 June 1870 and he died the next day. The public was horrified, and the Bishop of Manchester pronounced Dickens 'a teacher sent from God'. Dickens had specified in his will that he wanted to be buried at the graveyard of Rochester Cathedral, but the nation decided otherwise, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Selection of works: "The Pickwick Papers" (1836-1837); "Oliver Twist" (1837-1839); "A Christmas Carol" (1843); "David Copperfield" (1849-1850); "Hard Times"(1854); "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859); "Great Expectations" (1860-1861); "Our Mutual Friend" (1864-1865); "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (1870, unfinished).

• Daughter: Dickens, Kate
• Son: Dickens, Charles Culliford Boz
• Daughter: Dickens, Mary
• Son: Dickens, Alfred Tennyson
• Son: Dickens, Henry Fielding
• Wife: Hogarth, Catherine (1836-1858, London: St. Luke's Church, Chelsea)

Related persons
• was a friend of Ainsworth, William Harrison
• has a connection with Beadnell, Maria
• cooperated with Bentley, Richard
• visited Blessington, Margaret Gardiner, countess of
• has a connection with Byron, Ada, Lady Lovelace
• was a friend of Chorley, Henry
• was a friend of Collins, Wilkie
• was a friend of Danson, George
• is brother/sister of Dickens, Fanny
• was a friend of Egg, Augustus Leopold
• has a connection with Gaskell, Elizabeth
• knew Hayman, Georgina
• cooperated with Hogarth, George
• employed Hogarth, Georgina
• has a connection with Hogarth, Mary Scott
• knew Hunt, Leigh
• was a friend of Jerrold, Douglas
• had work illustrated by Leech, John
• has a connection with Lover, Samuel
• was a friend of Maclise, Daniel
• was painted by Maclise, Daniel
• visited Molesworth, Andalusia
• was a friend of Norton, Caroline
• knew Roberts, David
• was the lover of Ternan, Ellen
• was written about by Thackeray Ritchie, Anne
• was a friend of Thackeray, William Makepeace

19/12/1843"A Christmas Caroll" by Charles Dickens is published. In London, by Chapman & Hall. 
2/12/1844Charles Dickens reads "The Chimes" to a group of friends. It was at the house of John Forster. Among those present were Thomas Carlyle, Douglas Jerrold, Clarkson Stanfield, Daniel Maclise and Samuel Lamann Blanchard. [Jerrold, Douglas][Maclise, Daniel]
3/1/1849First meeting of Charles Dickens and Andalusia Molesworth. The meeting took place at Devonshire Terrace during a dinner to celebrate "The Haunted Man". Later Andalusia visited Dickens at Gad's Hill and in January 1863 in Paris. He also visited her and they corresponded. [Molesworth, Andalusia]
12/3/1851First meeting between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. The meeting took place at the house of John Forster after Augustus Egg had had recruited Collins for Dickens' amateur theatrical company. [Collins, Wilkie][Egg, Augustus Leopold]
14/3/1856Charles Dickens purchases Gads Hill Place near Rochester. He paid 1,790 pounds for it. The seller was the novelist Eliza Lynn Linton. Later he wrote "I used to look at it as a wonderful Mansion (which God knows it is not) when I was a very odd little child with the first faint shadows of all my books in my head - I suppose". 
6/1/1857"The Frozen Deep" by Wilkie Collins is performed by Charles Dickens' theatre group. It was the first of four semi-public performances at Tavistock House, Dickens' home in London. About ninety people were present. [Collins, Wilkie]
9/7/1857Charles Dickens refuses a meeting with queen Victoria twice. He had privately performed the succesful play "The Frozen Deep" with his amateur company at the Gallery of Illustration. Victoria wanted to thank him, but he answered that he did not want to talk to her in his acting clothes. In a second letter she insisted but he refused again. 
21/8/1857Wilkie Collins' play "The Frozen Deep" is performed three times in Manchester at the Free Trade Hall. Dickens played the main part in the play that was written by his friend and the public was completely under his spell. The second night was attended by 3,000 people. He had hired the actress Frances Ternan together with her daughters Maria and Ellen. Ellen was so impressed by the scene in which Dickens died that her tears fell on his beard and his clothes. The performances were given August 21, 22 and 24. [Collins, Wilkie][Ternan, Ellen][Ternan, Maria Susanna]
0/0/1859A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is published. It was published in weekly installments in "All The Year Round" from 30 apr to 26 Nov 1859. It was also published as a book in 1859. 
16/5/1859Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins dine at Vereys in Regent Street, London [Collins, Wilkie]
3/9/1859Charles Dickens burns 20 years of correspondence. Three of his children, among them Kate, helped him. Kate begged her father to keep at least some some letters. Dickens burnt letters from Washington Irving, Thomas Carlyle, William Makepeace Thackeray, Alfred Tennyson and others. Henry Dickens observed later that he and his brother 'roasted onions on the ashes of the great'. [Dickens, Henry Fielding ][Dickens, Kate][Irving, Washington][Thackeray, William Makepeace]
30/12/1863William Makepeace Thackeray is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. The funeral was attended by Charles Dickens, Mark Lemon, Anthony Trollope, Theodore Martin, Robert Bell, John Millais, G.H. Lewes, Robert Browning, George Cruikshank, John Leech and Shirley Brooks. [Leech, John][Lewes, George Henry][Martin, Theodore][Millais, John][Thackeray, William Makepeace][Trollope, Anthony]
9/6/1865Charles Dickens is involved in the Staplehurst rail crash. Dickens travelled with his mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother Frances Ternan when their train derailed at Staplehurst. Ten passengers were killed and fourty injured. The carriage with Dickens and the Ternans didn't fall in the river bed like other carriages. He helped the Ternans out and tended to the victims. Some of them died in his presence. He was able to retrieve the manuscript for the episode of "Our Mutual Friend" that he was working on before he left for London in an emergency train. He was so affected that he lost his voice for two weeks. [Ternan, Ellen]
15/3/1870Charles Dickens finishes his final reading tour at St. James' Hall, London. He was suffering from very serious health problems but he completed a series of twelve 'farewell' readings that he delivered between 11 Jan and 15 Mar 1870. 
9/4/1870Queen Victoria finally meets Charles dickens. She had tried to meet him several times, but Dickens excused himself at each occasion. Because his daughter wanted to meet Queen Victoria he accepted this time. They spoke for half an hour and Dickens said that he expected that the distinction between classes would disappear gradually. Victoria asked him for a complete set of his works and she gave him a signed copy of her "Journal in the Highlands". 
2/5/1870Last public appearance of Charles Dickens. It was at a banquet of the Royal Academy where he spoke in tribute of his friend Daniel Maclise who had died. The Prince and Princess of Wales were present. [Maclise, Daniel]
8/6/1870Charles Dickens hits the floor after losing consciousness. He didn't feel good the entire morning but worked as usual. During dinner at six he looked so bad that his stepsister Georgina wanted to take him arm to help him to lie down. Het said 'On the ground' and fell on the ground with his left side. He didn't regain consciousness and died the next day. This was the version of his death as stated by Georgina. Biographer Claire Tomalin suggests that Dickens may have been at his mistress Nelly Ternan's house, broke down and was brought home. If it happened that way it was hushed up to protect their reputations. [Ternan, Ellen]
12/6/1870Charles Dickens is honoured after his death by the church. The bishop of Manchester declared that Dickens was 'a teacher sent from God'. Dean Stanley stated that Dickens' grave in Westminster Abbey was a 'sacred spot' and he read parts of his will from the pulpit. The Donchaster Chronicle wrote that he had helped to raise the standards of the entire human race. The chaplain of the House of Commons said that the purity and health of his work naturally followed from his character. Probably none of them knew about Dicken's affair until his death with the young former actress Nelly Ternan. 
13/6/1870The Times asks for a state funeral for Charles Dickens. The decision had probably been taken by then, because Dickens was buried in Westminster Abbey the next day. 
14/6/1870Charles Dickens buried at Westminster Abbey. The ceremony was simple and he was buried at the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. His own wish had been to be buried in the churchyard of Rochester Cathedral. In later years Rochester asked for relocation of the body but this was refused. 


The gravestones of Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling at the Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London.
Picture by Androom (27 Mar 1996)


The house where Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth.
Picture by Androom (20 Jun 2010)


The house where Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth.
Picture by Androom (20 Jun 2010)


Plaque for Charles Dickens whose "All the Year Round" held office here at 26 Wellington Street, London.
Picture by Androom (09 Feb 2012)


Plaque for Charles Dickens whose "All the Year Round" held office here at 26 Wellington Street, London.
Picture by Androom (09 Feb 2012)


Plaque for Charles Dickens at the former location of the Bedford Hotel, Brighton.
Picture by Androom (02 Oct 2014)


Charles Dickens relief on Marylebone. At this place he lived in a house where he wrote several of his works.
Picture by Androom (24 Mar 2016)


Plaque for Charles Dickens who lived in Tavistock House near this site.
Picture by Androom (14 Aug 2016)


Gad's Hill place in Higham, former home of Charles Dickens.
Picture by Androom (04 Aug 2019)


Plaque for Charles Dickens in Rochester Cathedral.
Picture by Androom (04 Aug 2019)


Plaque for Charles Dickens at the former blacking factory at Chandos Place, London.
Picture by Androom (17 Jun 2022)


Plaque for Charles Dickens at the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, London.
Picture by Androom (17 Apr 2024)


The coach on which Charles Dickens died is now at his birthhouse in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
Picture by Androom (20 Jun 2010)


• Graham, Paul, West Norwood Cemetery - The Dickens Connections, Friends of Norwood Cemetery, London, 1995
• Pearson, Hesketh, Dickens, Cassell, London, 1988
• Storey, Graham (ed.), The Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. IX 1859-1861, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997
• Tomalin, Claire, The Invisible Woman, The Story of Nelly Ternan And Charles Dickens, Penguin Books, London, 1991
• Tomalin, Claire, Charles Dickens, A Life, Viking, London, 2011
A Tale of Two Cities - Wikipedia
Charles Dickens - Wikipedia
The Frozen Deep - Wikipedia
The Charles Dickens Letters Project
Charles Dickens - Wikipedia
Staplehurst rail crash - Wikipedia
Paddington | British History Online

Dickens, Charles Culliford Boz

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 05 May 2024