Charles Dickens was bom on February 7,1812, in Port sea, England. His parents were middle-class, but they suffered
financially as a result of living beyond their means. When Dickens was twelve years old, his family's dire straits forced
him to quit school and work in a blacking factoiy (where shoe polish was manufactured). Within weeks, his father was put
in debtor's prison, where Dickens's mother and siblings eventually joined him. At this point, Dickens lived on his own and
continued to work at the factory for several months. The horrific conditions in the factory haunted him for the rest of his
life, as did the experience of temporary orphanhood.
Apparently, Dickens never forgot the day when a more senior boy in the warehouse took it upon himself to instruct
Dickens in how to do his work more efficiently. For Dickens, that instruction may have represented the first step toward
his full integration into the misery and tedium of working-class life. The more senior boy's name was Bob Fagin.
Dickens's residual resentment of him reached a fevered pitch in the characterization of the villain Fagin in Oliver Twist.
After inheriting some money, Dickens's father got out of prison and Charles returned to school. As a young adult, he
worked as a law clerk and later as a journalist. His experience as a journalist kept him in close contact with the darker
social conditions of the Industrial Revolution, and he grew disillusioned with the attempts of lawmakers to alleviate those
conditions. A collection of semi-fictional sketches entitled Sketches by Boz earned him recognition as a writer. Dickens
began to make money from his writing when he published his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, which was serialized
beginning in 1836 and published in book form the following year. The Pickwick Papers, published when Dickens was only
twenty-five, was hugely popular, and Dickens became a literary celebrity after its publication.
In 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, but after twenty years of marriage and ten children, he fell in love with Ellen
Tertian, an actress many years his junior. Soon after, Dickens and his wife separated, ending a long series of marital
difficulties. Dickens remained a prolific writer to the end of his life, and his novels-among them Great Expectations, A
Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield (Dickens' most autobiographical novel), and Bleak House-
continued to earn critical and popular acclaim. He died of a stroke in 1870, at the age of 58, leaving The Mystery of
Edwin Drood unfinished.