It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and Charles Dickens penned it all to paper. It was Charles Dickens who introduced the world to the harsh realities of the Victorian age. It was him who immortalized the wonders and miracles of Christmas. You may be familiar with his work, but let me introduce you to the man.
1. Dickens had Neurological issues
Many Historians have theorized that Charles Dickens might have OCD. Many allegations had been made to the face that Charles Dickens would often rearrange furniture wherever he stayed. He also had a habit of leaving behind notes when he was unsatisfied with the tidiness of the room. It has also been well documented that he would regularly inspect his children’s bedroom. Another OCD quark that Dickens’s displayed was that he always slept facing north.
OCD was not the only medical condition that the famed author might have suffered from. He might have also suffered from epilepsy. While there is no medical calibration for his suffering from epilepsy. Many historians have argued that Charles’s description of epilepsy may have been drawn from personal experiences with seizures.
2. Childhood experiences
Speaking of his personal experience. Charles Dickens had a troubled childhood like many of his characters. He was put to work at a relatively young age and the strands of that experience can be found in many of his works.
His father was called to the Naval Pay Office to be a clerk, and in his absence, the Dickens’s family amassed such a hefty debt that the whole family minus Charles and his older sister Fanny were sentenced to the Marshalsea debtors’ prison, with no one to look after him. Dickens’s had to drop out of the private school and work at the Warren’s Blacking Warehouse for 6 shillings a week.
3. Dickens’s early career
Life might have knocked Dickens down a peg or two but his perseverance at the end won him through. From age 12 to 15 for 3 years, the fabled writer was destined to be forever lost to the chaos of the world, but in 1827, young Dickens found a clerkship job at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore. During his time at the law office, Dickens’s not only brushed up on his legal skills, but he also spends considerable time and energy on becoming a lawyer.
The time spent at Ellis and Blackmore was fruitful for Dickens’s for another reason; he also voraciously studied the shorthand method of writing developed by Thomas Gurney. This was the start of his career as a writer. This skill would serve him well when he moved on to become a reporter at the Morning Chronicle covering the 1830s British Parliamentary elections.
4. Dickens’s first steps as a writer
It was in 1834 that Dickens’s first got a chance to swim the muddy waters of being a writer. His first story “The Boarding-House,” was published in the Monthly Magazine under the pseudonym, “Boz”.
Boz was what Dickens’s playfully called his brother “Augustus”. He would use the name for a further 5 years and in 1839 would go on to publish a compilation of his essays and short fiction called Sketches by Boz.
Even in those early writings, the brilliance of Dickens’s shone through. The world might have dealt him a harsh hand but he was going to make the best of it. Whatever lot in life he seemed destined to. He was not going to be lost to the ignominy of time.
5. A real hero
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As his fame grew so did his quality of life. More money meant a better quality of life and Dickens spent the money he earned lavishly. He traveled on first-class carriages on the train. On one such occasion while traveling with his friends, his train had an accident and was derailed over a bridge. By chance, Dickens’s carriage was the only one that didn’t fell into the river.
Dickens’s mustered up all the courage he could summon and found a key. He not only opened the door to his friend’s carriage, but also traveled the whole length of the train opening up any carriages that he could open. Even during the shock, Dickens’s wits had not deserted him; he passed water and brandy to those that needed it. He also saved a manuscript that he had just finished writing.
6. Family man
All great men and women have their idiosyncrasies. Charles Dickens was not different. In 1836 he married Catherine Hogarth and the couple went on to have 10 children! , Each child’s name was as funny as the last, ranging from “Lucifer Box” to “Skittles” and “Chickenstalker”.
7. The Ghost Club
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Another one of Dickens’s idiosyncrasies was that he believed in ghosts. He was a member of the ghost club. The ghost club is a London-based club that aims to hunt down ghosts. He was among the first members of the club. His aim to capture ghosts might not have been fruitful but “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.
8. Dickens’s and Mary
Dickens’s wife Catherine might have been the love of his life, but Dickens was also dearly attached to his sister-in-law Mary. Mary moved in with her brother-in-law and sister after the two had married. Mary and Dickens would grow very attached during the rest of Mary’s days, so much so that Dickens would be utterly devastated and heartbroken after Mary’s tragic death at the age of 17.
She would, later on, inspire Dickens to create characters of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop, Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist, the heroine in David Copperfield, and Kate Nickleby in Nicholas Nickleby.
Fanfiction may be a relatively new phenomenon but Dickens helped the phenomena. His last book was left unfinished owing to his sad demise. No one knows what end Dickens had planned for “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”, but many authors have tried their hands at it and tried to finish the work that Dickens failed to complete.
For the mystery of Edwin Drood shall forever remain a mystery.
10. Dickens’s last wishes
Dickens left the world too early. He had spent the last few years of his life involved in his work but his final wishes were that he be buried alongside Mary his sister-in-law. Contrary to his wishes he was buried in the famous Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. He also asked for no formal announcement to be made but his burial was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
Charles Dickens was a great man and one of the finest writers that have ever lived. His life has been scrutinized in great detail, nothing much about him is unknown. He is forever lost to time. He is now forever preserved in his life’s work. Enjoy his work and enjoy the facts about him.