Charles John Huffman Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Landport, Portsmouth, England. He is regarded by many as being the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. He had little formal education, working in a factory at a young age, but developing a yearning to succeed.
In 1836, he wrote "The Pickwick Papers" and became a successful writer, writing a total of fifteen novels, as well as hundreds of short stories and articles. His novels were published in weekly serial format, a chapter at a time, thereby allowing him to alter story points to suit the readers as he went along.
In 1836, he married Catherine Thomson Hogarth with whom he would have a total of ten children. However, they separated in 1858, when Dickens began a thirteen year affair with actress Ellen Ternan, a woman 27 years his junior.
Dickens became a philanthropist, founding a home for more than 100 "fallen women.," crusading for children's rights and education reforms. In 1865, he was on board a train that plunged off a bridge. His was the only one of the eight cars that remained on the track, and he immediately aided the survivors in the wreckage.
On June 8, 1870, he was working on the sixth chapter of twelve, for his new novel "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" when he suffered a stroke, dying the next day at the age of 58, in Gad's Hill Place, Higham, Kent, England.
Born on February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was the second of eight children in a family burdened with financial troubles. Despite difficult early years, he became the most successful British writer of the Victorian age.
In 1824, young Charles was withdrawn from school and forced to work at a boot-blacking factory when his improvident father, accompanied by his mother and siblings, was sentenced to three months in a debtor's prison. Once they were released, Charles attended a private school for three years. The young man then became a solicitor's clerk, mastered shorthand, and before long was employed as a Parliamentary reporter. When he was in his early twenties, Dickens began to publish stories and sketches of London life in a variety of periodicals.
It was the publication of Pickwick Papers (1836-1837) that catapulted the twenty-five-year-old author to national renown. Dickens wrote with unequaled speed and often worked on several novels at a time, publishing them first in monthly installments and then as books. His early novels Oliver Twist (1837-1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1841), and A Christmas Carol (1843) solidified his enormous, ongoing popularity. As Dickens matured, his social criticism became increasingly biting, his humor dark, and his view of poverty darker still. David Copperfield (1849-1850), Bleak House (1852-1853), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-1861), and Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865) are the great works of his masterful and prolific period.
In 1858 Dickens's twenty-three-year marriage to Catherine Hogarth dissolved when he fell in love with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. The last years of his life were filled with intense activity: writing, managing amateur theatricals, and undertaking several reading tours that reinforced the public's favorable view of his work but took an enormous toll on his health. Working feverishly to the last, Dickens collapsed and died on June 8, 1870, leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood uncompleted.
Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of David Copperfield.