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Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was an English writer born in 1812 in Portsmouth, England. He was the son of John Dickens and Elizabeth nee Barrow. Dickens’ father served as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. He was always a very amiable man, extremely big-hearted in a naïve sort of way, which resulted in him undergoing major financial worries for the major part of his life. The inspiration of the character of Mr. Micawber was drawn from his father’s life. Dickens also had siblings – an older brother called Frances and 6 younger siblings.

When his father was relocated to Chatham in Kent, Dickens’ family also shifted to a large and refined home with two servants to wait on them. One of the servants was called Mary Weller who was also Charles’ nursemaid. Charles was an ardent reader – he particularly liked reading the works of Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Fielding and Daniel Defoe. He attended the school of William Giles, and was a brilliant student. However, when he wasn’t studying, his siblings and he would start making up games of their own and play them, he would recite poetry and songs, and also created his own theatrical productions, which ignited an eternal love of theatre in him. Unfortunately, in 1824, his household expenses rose alarmingly and his father was imprisoned for being in debt. The entire family went with John Dickens with the exception of Charles who at that time was 12 years old and was sent to Warren’s Shoes Blacking Factory, in order to extend support to the family by pasting labels on boxes. He resided in a boarding house in Camden House and used to walk to work everyday. He would go and meet his father every Sunday.

This was a very crucial turning point in Dicken’s education i.e. when he completed his education from the University of Hard Knocks, which he carried with him for the remainder of his life. The ideal days of his childhood were over and he was exposed to the harsh realities of the practical world, especially the working poor, where child labour was extensive and there were very scarce adults who ever had any word of kindness for the children. His future novels such as Phillip Pirrip, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist were drawn considerably from his own experiences. Squalor, meager wages and strenuous hours were typical of that time period, but the worst part was when his mother insisted that he work there, which resulted in a life-long resentment towards her. However, fortunately for him, his father was released soon after that and arranged for him to take classes at the Wellington House Academy in London, saving him from an otherwise impoverished living and setting him on the path to become a writer.

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