Biography of Famous Writers and Authors: Charles Dickens Part 1

About the famous English writer Charles Dickens, history and biography of the author.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870). At times in the 19th century, vast crowds, eagerly awaiting the arrival of a ship from England, would form on the docks of New York and Philadelphia. What they were waiting for was not an exciting celebrity or a great invention, but the latest installment of a Dickens novel. Perhaps no other novelist before or since, particularly in the English-speaking world, has been able to create and sustain such popular enthusiasm. And no other novelist has received such critical acclaim at all levels, for Dickens appeals to the average reader, the child, and the intellectual alike.

There was very little indication in Dickens' early life of the success to come. His father was a minor official in the Navy Pay Office of Great Britain, who lived beyond his means and fell deeply into debt. Eventually he was sent to debtors' prison and his son Charles was forced at age 12 to take a job washing and labeling bottles in a filthy, rat-infested warehouse. So searing was this experience to Dickens that he found it extremely difficult to speak of it in later life (except through the medium of David Copperfield, his autobiographical novel). Dickens could never overcome the shock of his parents' apparent indifference to his fate. He wrote many years later that "I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget that my mother was warm for my being sent back." And henceforth he was determined to make his life a success.

Dickens was eventually freed from the factory and sent to school by his parents. After that he served as a law clerk for a brief time. Because of his self-taught shorthand skill, he became a reporter of parliamentary debates. Everything he learned at work as well as every experience of childhood was stored up to be used in his true vocation, which was about to begin. Dickens wrote and sent a sketch to a monthly magazine, but he was so shy about it that he told no one and mailed his effort in the dead of night. So successful were his early pieces, for which he received nothing, that Dickens was asked to provide the text that was to accompany some sporting scenes. These rapidly were turned into the famous Pickwick Papers, an enormous hit with the public. Dickens never suffered the loss of popular acclaim.

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