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Charles Dickens :: A Life Documented

Updated on September 20, 2013

The Life of Charles Dickens in Documents and Photos

Charles Dickens documented his own life in his novels, which are quite autobiographical. You can also trace his actual life, family and travels through genealogy records and documents available online. Photos and proof of Dickens' life are presented in chronological order. Links to specific websites detailing his life and works are offered for more intense study. Presented here is a documented chronology of Charles Dickens' life and works all in one place.

Charles Dickens' Writing Desk

Charles Dickens' Writing Desk
Charles Dickens' Writing Desk

The World of Charles Dickens

A Perspective of a Man and His Times

Charles Dickens: the name conjures up visions of plum pudding and Christmas punch, quaint coaching inns and cozy firesides, but also of orphaned and starving children, misers, murderers, and abusive schoolmasters. Dickens was 19th century London personified, he survived its mean streets as a child and, largely self-educated, possessed the genius to become the greatest writer of his age.

~David Perdue

David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page has everything you could possibly want to know about Charles Dickens, his world, and the world around him. It even contains some of Charles Dickens' genealogy and a map of London marked with all the places featured in Charles Dickens' books and stories. But be sure and return here for a few tidbits he doesn't have.

Charles Dickens Early

Charles Dickens Early
Charles Dickens Early

Charles Dickens in his Study (notice desk and chair)

Charles Dickens in his Study (notice desk and chair)
Charles Dickens in his Study (notice desk and chair)

Timeline of Charles Dickens' Life

A Timeline of Charles Dickens' Life

1812 - Born on February 7 to John and Elizabeth Dickens.

1824 - John Dickens arrested and sent to the Marshalsea prison. Charles Dickens worked at the Warren's Blacking Factory.

1827 - Rejoins the workforce as the clerk of an attorney.

1830 - Dickens meets Maria Beadnell, his first love interest.

1833 - The relationship with Maria Beadnell ends. A Dinner at Poplar Walk is published.

1834 - Began using the pseudonym "Boz". Meets his future wife, Catherine Hogarth.

1835 - Becomes engaged to Catherine.

1836 - The first chapters of The Pickwick Papers are published. Marries Catherine Hogarth.

1837 - The first of his 10 children, Charles Culliford Boz Dickens, is born. Mary Hogarth, Catherine's sister, dies. The publication of Oliver Twist begins.

1838 - Dickens and Hablot Browne travel to Yorkshire to see the boarding schools. His daughter, Mary, is born. Publication of Nicholas Nickleby begins.

1839 - His daughter, Kate, is born.

1840 - Publication of The Old Curiosity Shop begins

1841 - Barnaby Rudge is published. Charles and Catherine tour Scotland. Their son, Walter, is born.

1842 - Charles and Catherine travel to America. Late in 1842 or early in the next year Dickens begins work on Martin Chuzzlewit.

1843 - A Christmas Carol is published.

1844 - His son Francis Jeffrey (Frank) is born. Dickens and family travel to Italy. Treated Madame de la Rue with mesmerism.

1845 - Another son, Alfred, is born.

1846 - Dickens and his family travel to Switzerland. Publication of Dombey and Son begins.

1847 - His son, Sydney, is born.

1848 - Dickens' sister, Fanny, dies. The Haunted Man, his last Christmas book is published.

1849 - His son, Henry Fielding Dickens, is born. The publication of David Copperfield begins.

1850 - His daughter, Dora Annie Dickens, is born.

1851 - Catherine Dickens suffers a nervous collapse. John Dickens, the father of Charles Dickens, dies. Dora Dickens dies when she is only eight months old. What Shall we have for Dinner?, a cookbook by Catherine Dickens is published.

1852 - The publication of Bleak House begins. His son, Edward or "Plorn", is born.

1853 - Dickens gives his first public reading of one of his works.

1854 - Hard Times is published.

1855 - Dickens has a disappointing reunion with Maria Winter (Maria Beadnell). Publication of Little Dorrit begins.

1856 - Dickens works with Wilkie Collins on The Frozen Deep. Dickens purchases Gad's Hill Place.

1857 - Hans Christian Anderson is entertained at Gad's Hill Place. Dickens meets Ellen Ternan.

1858 - Dickens separates from Catherine, his wife.

1859 - A Tale of Two Cities is published.

1860 - Publication of Great Expectations begins in All the Year Round. His daughter, Katie, marries and ten days later his brother, Alfred, dies. Dickens burns his personal papers.

1863 - Dickens' mother, Elizabeth, dies. Dickens begins work on Our Mutual Friend.

1864 - His son, Walter, dies in India. The first installment of Our Mutual Friend is printed.

1865 - Dickens is involved in the Staplehurst railway accident along with Ellen Ternan and her mother.

1867 - Dickens tours America for the second time.

1868 - He gives his first Murder of Nancy reading.

1869 - Dickens is ordered by doctors to discontinue readings. Dickens begins writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

1870 - Dickens gives his final public reading. Publication of The Mystery of Edwin Drood begins. Charles Dickens dies at Gad's Hill Place on June 9.

~From "Charles Dickens - Gad's Hill Place" website. This is the place to learn about the life and work of Charles Dickens. It's also home to the largest collection of Dickens quotations on the web as well as the Daily Dose of Dickens: Charles Dickens Gadshill Place.

Charles Dickens Early Career

Charles Dickens Early Career
Charles Dickens Early Career

Charles Dickens Genealogy Documents

Access to actual documents of author and family

In the 1841 Enland Census Charles Dickens is listed with his wife, four children and five servants, click here: Charles Dickens and family in 1841 England Census.

During the 1851 Census, apparently Charles was visiting friends and family. He is listed as a visitor in a doctor's home on Keppel Street along with other Dickens family members: Charles Dickens in 1851 England Census.

In 1861 we find Charles and part of his family at 3 Hanover Terrace. If you match his biographical information to the dates, he was separated from his wife by now and they had ten children. Apparently in public they maintained appearances. In this census he lists his occupation as, "Author, Novelist, Essayist and Editor" : Charles Dickens and family in 1861 England Census.

Here is the entry for their marriage license in 1836.

Transcription of burial record:

Middlesex: Westminister Abbey - Register for Westminster Abbey

Burials in Westminster Abbey.

County: Middlesex

Country: England

14 Jun 1870 Charles Dickens; Gad's Hill, near Rochester; aged 58.

All historical records are courtesy of To view your own family history, or to look up other famous people, click the banner below.

Charles Dickens in Gadshill with Daughters Kate and Mary

Charles Dickens in Gadshill with Daughters Kate and Mary
Charles Dickens in Gadshill with Daughters Kate and Mary

A Memory of Charles Dicken's Son

Sir Henry Fielding Dickens

LLooking back now upon the years that are gone, I find that there are one or two scenes or incidents which arise with astonishing vividness to my mind that may be worth recording...I hope it will not be thought that I tell this story vaingloriously, as it was but a small matter so far as I was concerned. Nothing is farther from my thoughts. I do so because it is typical of a strange reticence on [my father's] part, an intense dislike of 'letting himself go' in private life or of using language which might be deemed strained or over-effusive; though, as will be seen later, when he was deeply moved he was at no pains to hide the depth of his emotion. Thus it came about that, though his children knew he was devotedly attached to them, there was still a kind of reserve on his part which seemed occasionally to come as a cloud between us and which I never quite understood.

"In the year 1869, after I had been at college about a year, I was fortunate enough to gain one of the principal scholarships at Trinity Hall, Cambridge -- not a great thing, only 50 pounds a year; but I knew that this success, slight as it was, would give him intense pleasure, so I went to meet him at Higham Station upon his arrival from London to tell him of it. As he got out of the train I told him the news. He said, 'Capital! capital!' -- nothing more. Disappointed to find that he received the news apparently so lightly, I took my seat beside him in the pony carriage he was driving. Nothing more happened until we had got half-way to Gad's Hill, when he broke down completely. Turning towards me with tears in his eyes and giving me a warm grip of the hand, he said, 'God bless you, my boy; God bless you!' That pressure of the hand I can feel now as distinctly as I felt it then, and it will remain as strong and real until the day of my death."

From Memories of My Father, by Sir Henry Fielding Dickens

Charles Dickens Writing

Charles Dickens Writing
Charles Dickens Writing

Charles Dickens Houses and Museums

Take a virtual tour of the Charles Dickens Museum. You can explore the house much as you would in an actual visit, going between rooms and focusing on items that catch your interest. This tour is meant to provide to you a feeling of actually exploring the house: Charles Dickens Museum, the former home of Charles Dickens, located at 48 Doughty Street, London. .

Take a virtual tour of the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum. Charles Dickens was born in this house in 1812 and lived there for the first few months of his life. The house has been extensively restored and is decorated and furnished in the Regency style appropriate to his parents John and Elizabeth Dickens. There are three furnished rooms: the parlour; the dining room and the bedroom where Charles was born. A small exhibition room shows a range of prints illustrating the works of Charles Dickens and a number of personal items are also on display, together with the couch on which he died. When Charles Dickens was born in this modest house in Portsmouth, on 7th February 1812, Britain's Navy was still at war with Napoleonic France. Charles's father, John Dickens, a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, had brought his young bride Elizabeth down to Portsmouth in the summer of 1809, renting the house as the first home of their married life: Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, located at 393 Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. .

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens Works

Charles Dickens Reading Little Dombey at St. Martin's Hall

Charles Dickens Reading Little Dombey at St. Martin's Hall
Charles Dickens Reading Little Dombey at St. Martin's Hall

Charles Dickens Later

Charles Dickens Later
Charles Dickens Later

Presenting. . .

A Collection of Charles Dickens' Works and Collectibles

Charles Dickens Christmas Set: The Chimes, the Cricket on the Hearth , the Seven Poor Travellers and a Christmas Carol (Audio CD

Great Expectations Movie Trailer

Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London

Charles Dickens Collectible Figures

A Christmas Carol - Original Manuscript and Illustrations


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