Charles Dickens

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Charles "David Copperfield" Dickens (1812 - 1870) Charles John Huffam1 Dickens was born 7 February 1812, second child of John and Elizabeth Dickens. The family would eventually number seven children, plus a son who died in infancy, and since neither parent seemed able to economize, things were generally very hard financially for the family. Charles attended school for a time in Kent, where the happiest days of his childhood were spent, but when the family moved to London in 1822, Charles was simply never re-enrolled in school, and was left to wander London largely unattended2. When the oldest child, Fanny, was sent to the Royal Academy of Music for training as a pianist, Charles, then 12, was deemed old enough to work to help pay the family expenses. So, for six months, he worked in a factory pasting labels onto containers of shoe polish. While there, John Dickens was thrown into debtor's prison, and released a few months later under the Insolvency Act3. It was a feud between John Dickens and the factory owner that eventually got Charles out of the factory and back in school, though Elizabeth tried her best to make him go back, which Charles never quite forgave her for. The factory experience will show up again and again in Charles' novels, and it also left him with something of a phobia about being dirty. In 1827, Charles left school again, more voluntarily this time, and took work as a law clerk, and then a parliamentary reporter. Though he also toyed with the idea of taking the stage (he loved amateur theatricals all his life), he eventually starts writing sketches for two of the London newspapers4, publishing them under the name 'Boz'. In 1835, now quite well-established in his sketch-writing, Charles proposed to Catherine Hogarth, daughter of George Hogarth, who had been advisor to Sir Walter Scott. They married in April of 18365, and the sweet-tempered Catherine generally allowed Charles to take charge of everything, including even the eventual naming of their children. That same year, Charles's began writing The Pickwick Papers, and suddenly he was famous. Imitations of Pickwick appeared everywhere. The now firmly upper-middle-class Charles still has many family problems, however. His father is still in debt more often than not, even going so far as to try to borrow money using his son's name, and Charles ends up paying most of John's debts.

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