Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, where his father was the oldest of a large family, eight in all. He got his education at a small day-school and from his mother, who was a well-educated woman. In 1821 the Dickens family moved to London. Mr. Dickens was heavily in debt. The few possessions that they had were sold one by one, and finally Mr. Dickens was taken to prison for debt. Later Mrs. Dickens and the younger children went to the prison, too, to join their father. Charles got a job at a blacking factory in the East End of London. He was lonely and hungry and hated the coarse, rough boys with whom he had to work.
Soon his fortunes took a turn for the better. He was able to enter lawyer’s office. He learned shorthand and was able to do some reporting in the House of Commons for newspapers. In 1834 he was taken on the staff of a newspaper, “The Morning Chronicle”. In 1836 “Pickwick Papers” came into being. At one stride Dickens became the most popular living novelist and held this position until his death. The rest can be told in a few words. He poured out novel after novel – “Oliver Twist”, “Nickolas Nickleby”, “The Old Curiosity Shop”, “David Copperfield”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Great Expectations”. At the same time he was editing newspapers and magazines, giving readings from his books to huge crowds of people and writing constantly. It was the excitement of these readings and the strain of his continual work that brought about his sudden death in 1870. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
There is no other novelist in England who has such a hold on all classes of people. Charles Dickens’s books are read by all – by learned and simple, by rich and poor alike. The chief cause of his popularity is the great-heartedness of Dickens. He was one who loved his fellow-men. His kindly, humorous, understanding eye looked with tolerance on good and bad alike. His characters are more real to us than the characters of any other novelist, English or foreign.