Timeline

  • 1812 – On February 7, Charles Huffman Dickens is born in Portsmouth, the second child of John and Elizabeth Dickens.

  • 1817-21 – The Dickens family move to Chatham, outside Rochester. Charles, a sickly child, is educated by his mother and the books in his father's library. Dickens will later characterize these as the happiest years of his youth.

  • 1822 – The Dickens family move to London.

  • 1824 – John Dickens arrested and sent to the Marshalsea prison. Charles Dickens begins work at the Warren’s Blacking Factory 2 days after his 12th birthday. His memories of this time are traumatic and haunt much of his future work.

  • 1825 – Charles schooled at Wellington House Academy.

  • 1827 – Rejoins the workforce as a junior clerk at the legal firm of Ellis & Blackmore. Teaches himself shorthand and by the end of 1828, leaves the law offices to become a chronicler of the affairs of Parliament.

  • 1830 – Hired as a newspaper reporter for the Mirror of Parliament, a publication run by his uncle John Henry Burror. Dickens' father John is also employed here. Dickens meets Maria Beadnell, who becomes his first love.

  • 1833 – Dickens' unrequited relationship with Maria Beadnell ends. Perhaps spurred on by romantic failure, Dickens' first story, A Dinner at Poplar Walk, is published. He joins the prestigious Morning Chronicle. Here he writes his first sketches under the pseudonym Boz.

  • 1834 – George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle, persuades Dickens to continue his Boz sketches for his paper. Becomes a regular guest at the Hogarth house where he meets George's daughters: Georgina, Mary, and his future wife Catherine.

 

  • 1835 – Becomes engaged to Catherine, the eldest Hogarth daughter.

  • 1836 – The day after Dickens' 24th birthday, his newspaper sketches are collected and published as Sketches by Boz and meet much acclaim. Ten days later Dickens begins The Pickwick Papers. The day after April Fool's Dickens marries Catherine Hogarth. In November he becomes editor of Bentley's Miscellany. In December, Dickens meets his lifelong friend and future biographer, John Forster. The Pickwick Papers meantime catapult Dickens to instant fame.

 

  • 1837 – Victoria ascends the throne. The first of Dickens' 10 children, Charles Culliford Boz "Flaster Floby" "the Snodgering Blee" "Dickens, is born. Catherine begins to show the first signs of a lifelong neurosis. Mary Hogarth, of whom Dickens is inordinately fond, dies suddenly, aged 17. Dickens begins Oliver Twist which becomes immensely popular.

 

  • 1838 – Dickens and Hablot Browne travel to Yorkshire to examine its boarding schools. Dickens' daughter Mary "Mamie" is born.  Dickens begins Nicholas Nickleby.

 

  • 1839 – Dickens' daughter Kate Macready "Lucifer Box" is born.

  • 1840 – Dickens begins the journal Master Humphrey's Clock, the content for which he is solely responsible. It begins running The Old Curiosity Shop in monthly installments. Dickens attends his first public hanging.

  • 1841 – Dickens undertakes Barnaby Rudge, a novel he has been contemplating for some years.  Charles and Catherine tour Scotland.  Their son Walter Savage Landor "Young Skull" is born. Dickens is asked to run for MP – he declines but nevertheless continues his public tirades against Tories, the child-labour laws, and factory conditions.

  • 1842 – Charles and Catherine travel to America.  Late in the year, Dickens begins work on Martin Chuzzlewit.

 

  • 1844 – Dickens' son Francis Jeffrey "Chicken-Stalker" is born.  Dickens and family travel to Italy for 11 months.  He treats Madame de la Rue with mesmerism.

  • 1845 – Dickens' son Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson "Skittles"  is born. Directs and stars in Jonson's Every Man In His Humour.

  • 1846 – Dickens' foray into newspaper journalism, The Daily News, folds within a month. The Dickens family spend half the year in Switzerland and the other half in Paris.  Dickens begins Dombey and Son.

  • 1847 – Miss Coutt's Home For Hopeless Women opens. Dickens and his acting troupe, The Amateurs, put on The Merry Wives of Windsor for its benefit. Dickens' son Sydney Smith Haldimand "Ocean Spectre" is born.

  • 1848 – Dickens’ sister Fanny dies.  The Haunted Man, his last Christmas book, is published.

  • 1849 – Dickens' son Henry Fielding "Mr. H" is born.  Fanny's son Henry Burnett dies. Dickens begins David Copperfield.

  • 1850 – Dickens' daughter Dora Annie Dickens is born. Household Words is established with Dickens as editor and contributor.

  • 1851– Catherine Dickens suffers a nervous collapse.  John Dickens dies.  Dora Dickens dies, aged eight months.  What Shall we have for Dinner?, a cookbook by Catherine Dickens, is published. Dickens performs in Bulwer Lytton's Not As Bad As We Seem before the queen. The Amateurs go on tour, during which Dickens strikes up a friendship with Wilkie Collins.

  • 1852 – Dickens begins Bleak House. His son Edward Bulwer Lytton “Mr. Plornishmaroontigoonter” Dickens is born.

  • 1853 – Dickens gives his first public reading in Birmingham – he designs this reading for working people and prices tickets accordingly.

  • 1854 – Begins writing Hard Times.

  • 1855 – Dickens has a disappointing reunion with his first love, Maria Winter nee Beadnell.  He begins writing Little Dorrit.

  • 1857 – Hans Christian Anderson is entertained at Gad’s Hill. Dickens directs and stars in The Frozen Deep, co-authored by and co-starring Wilkie Collins. Queen Victoria sees it and is moved. The amateur cast, mostly made up of Dickens' family, is replaced by professional actors. Among them is Ellen Ternan whom Dickens falls madly in love with. His marriage strained, Dickens departs to Switzerland with Wilkie Collins and Augustus Egg for the remainder of the year.

  • 1858 – Catherine Dickens confronts her husband about a bracelet intended for Ellen Ternan which is mistakenly delivered to her. Dickens instructs her to meet with Nelly. Charles and Catherine separate, their children and Georgina Hogarth remaining with Dickens at Gad's Hill. To parry scandal, Dickens publishes a statement in the Times and Household Words denying accusations and justifying his actions. He embarks on his first major national reading tour, which numbers over 100 engagements. The response is tremendous, the results lucrative, but it ultimately contributes to his physical decline.

  • 1859 –  Begins A Tale of Two Cities. Undertakes another national reading tour. Starts a new journal entitled All The Year Round.

  • 1863 – Dickens’ mother Elizabeth dies. Dickens' mother-in-law dies. Death of Dickens' son Walter in India. Death of William Makepeace Thackeray. Death of Augustus Egg. Begins work on Our Mutual Friend.

 

  • 1865 – Returning from France, Dickens is involved in the Staplehurst railway accident along with Ellen Ternan and her mother. Dickens keeps Nelly's name out of the papers; shows signs of suffering trauma. Finishes Our Mutual Friend.

  • 1866 – Dickens moves Nelly and her mother to Slough.

  • 1867 – Dickens settles Nelly permanently in Peckham. In November he tours America for the second time.

 

  • 1868 – Dickens cuts his American reading tour short. Back in England, he presents and perfects his Murder of Nancy reading. The result is a public success but irrevocably damages Dickens both physically and psychologically.

  • 1870 – Dickens delivers his farewell public reading to a London audience. On June 9th, Charles Dickens collapses at Windsor Lodge, Nelly's residence in Peckham. Nelly takes the paralytic Dickens by closed coach to the waiting Georgina at Gad’s Hill Place. His children are called. He dies later that day. Against his stated wishes, Dickens is not buried in Rochester but instead at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.