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Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens


Charles Dickens was born in Landsport, a small town near the sea, in a middle-class family. In 1814 the family moved to London. His father was a clerk in a navy office; he got a small salary there and usually spent more than he earned. As a result of this he was thrown into the debtors' prison when Charles was only ten. At that age the boy went to work at a factory which was like a dark, damp cellar. There he stuck labels on bottles of shoeblacking all day long, for a few pennies.

Later he went to school which he attended for only three years and at the age of 15 he started his work in a law­yer's office. He continued to educate himself, mainly by reading books. At 18 he became a reporter in Parliament. There he got acquainted with politics and never had a high opinion of his country's policy afterwards.

In 1833 he began to write his first short stories about London life. In 1836 those stories were published as a book, under the title of Sketches by Boz; Boz was the penname with which he signed his first work.

In 1837 Dickens became well-known to the English readers. His first big work appeared, written in instalments for a magazine at first, and later published in book form. It was The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. From then on Dickens was one of the best known and loved writers of his day.

In 1842 he made his first trip to America. He said that he wanted to see for himself what "real" democracy was like. He was rather disappointed with it. He wrote about his trip and his impressions in his American Notes.

Dickens travelled a lot. He visited France and Italy and later went to America again. At the same time he conti­nued to write. In 1858 he began to tour England, reading passages from his works to the public. These readings were a great success, for Dickens was a wonderful actor, but the hard work and travelling were bad for his health. On March 15, 1870, he made his last reading and said to the public "From these garish lights I vanish now for evermore". He suffered a stroke on June, 8, and died the following day at his writing desk penning a sentence for Edwin Drude. The novel was left unfinished.

Dickens literary heritage is of world importance. He developed the English social novel, writing about the most burning social problems of his time. He created a wide gallery of pictures of bourgeois society and its represent­ative types which still exist in England; he wrote of the workhouses of England and the tragedy of the children who lived in them (Oliver Twist); he wrote about the problem of education and showed how it handicapped children (Nicho­las Nickleby).

After his trip to America Dickens wrote Martin Chuzzlewit. A part of this work had an American setting. He criticized American customs and democracy very se­verely. Later Dickens wrote about money and its terrible, destructive power over men (Dombey and Son). David Copperfield, one of the most lyrical of his works, was to some extent autobiographical; it reflected a young man's life in bourgeois society. Dickens criticized some negative aspects of that society, especially child labour and the sy­stem of education. Such problems as marriage and love in the bourgeois world were also treated in this novel.

Dickens' later novels were Bleak House and Little Dorrit. In Bleak House he took up the problem of law and justice; in Little Dorrit the reader got acquainted with the debtors' prison of London. Those novels showed more clearly than before the great social gap between the bour­geoisie and the common people. In Hard Times he wrote of the class struggle between the capitalists and the proleta­riat. Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend reflected an entirely new feeling, that of disillusionment. That tragic feeling became stronger than Dickens' usual optimism.

Among his works there are two historical novels

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