About this Famous Person

Charles DICKENS

English Charles DICKENS

born Charles John Huffam DICKENS

English writer and social critic

Source :  Tim DOWLING

Born: on February 07, 1812 in Landport, Portsmouth, England
Died: on June 09, 1870 in Gad's Hill Place, Kent, England


Biography

Charles Dickens was born at Landport in Portsea, the second of eight children to John and Elizabeth Dickens. His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office and was temporarily on duty in the district. Very soon after his birth the family moved to Norfolk Street, Bloomsbury, and then, when he was four, to Chatham, then in Kent, where he spent his formative years until the age of 11. His early years seem to have been idyllic, though he thought himself a "very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy".

Charles spent time outdoors, but also read voraciously, especially the picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding. He retained poignant memories of childhood, helped by a near-photographic memory of people and events, which he used in his writing. His father's brief period as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office gave him a few years of private education, first at a dame-school, and then at a school run by William Giles, a dissenter, in Chatham.

This period came to an abrupt end when, because of financial difficulties, the Dickens family moved from Kent to Camden Town in London in 1822. Prone to living beyond his means, John Dickens was imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtors' prison in Southwark London in 1824. Shortly afterwards, his wife and the youngest children joined him there, as was the practice at the time. Charles, then 12 years old, was boarded with Elizabeth Roylance, a family friend, in Camden Town. Roylance was "a reduced [impoverished] old lady, long known to our family", whom Dickens later immortalised, "with a few alterations and embellishments", as "Mrs. Pipchin", in Dombey and Son. Later, he lived in a back-attic in the house of an agent for the Insolvent Court, Archibald Russell, "a fat, good-natured, kind old gentleman ... with a quiet old wife" and lame son, in Lant Street in The Borough. They provided the inspiration for the Garlands in The Old Curiosity Shop.

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