Happy Birthday Dickens!

Di Beatrice Folini

February 7 marks the 209th anniversary of the birth of one of Britain’s greatest personalities: Charles Dickens. Known mainly as a novelist for his masterpieces of Victorian literature such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol, he was also a journalist and reporter. Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 and had a difficult childhood: his family moved to London in 1823 and at the young age of 12 he began working in a factory after his father was arrested. The years in the factory were very hard for him and the harsh conditions and misery of industrialized London during this terrible experience are elements that are present in his works. At the age of fifteen he worked as an apprentice in a solicitor’s office and learned shorthand at night. In 1830 he became a court stenographer and then a newspaper reporter.

A few years later he began writing short stories for newspapers in London under the pseudonym Boz. His first published story was A dinner at Popular Walk (1833) and his first book was a collection of stories entitled Sketches by Boz (1836). In the same year he began his success with The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, which was published in monthly parts. It soon became very popular with the public, and after this great success he devoted himself to writing novels, some of which were published in periodicals. During his career he published 15 novels, distinguished by their humor and unique descriptions of
his times and the condemnation of his society. In 1842 he visited the United States and Canada with his wife: he was shocked by the vulgar manners of Americans and recorded his negative impression of the country in the magazine American Notes. In particular, he condemned slavery. He once wrote to a friend that America was not the republic he had seen and not the republic of his imagination. Because of his popularity, he was able to lead a better lifestyle and in 1856 bought Gad’s Hill Place, an estate in Higham, Kent, that he had always liked. In 1858 Dickens began to perform his works in public, first for charity, then for pay. This made him even more popular and closer to the public. He performed over 400 times. That same year, he and his wife separated.
He died on June 9, 1870, after suffering a stroke.