What Charles Dickens Knew A Tale of Two Cities British Literature II Ms. Campbell
Charles Dickens: On Writing “You know my life..., and my character, and what has had its part in making them successful; and the more you see of me, the better perhaps you may understand that the intense pursuit of any idea that takes complete possession of me, is one of the qualities that makes me different — sometimes for good; sometimes I dare say for evil — from other men.” — Letter from Charles Dickens to his wife, December 5, 1853
Biography Brief in• Charles Dickens was born 7 February 1812 – Parents, John and Elizabeth – Siblings were Fanny, Alfred, Letitia, Harriet, Frederick, Alfred, and Augustus• Charles, “…may be said to have educated himself.” (John Dickens)• From 1817-1822, the family lived in Chatham, where John was employed as a pay clerk. – Charles received basic instruction in English and Latin from his mother and, for a time, attended a dame school similar to the school portrayed in Great Expectations For a brief time, he worked with an excellent master, William Giles. Young Charles read fiction from his father’s library.• Everything changed when John Dickens was transferred to London. With the move, his debts mounted and the family moved to Camden Town, the poorest of the London suburbs. Soon, it was necessary to sell off all the family goods.
• When John was unable to meet his financial obligations, he went to Marshalsea Prison under the provisions of the Insolvent Debtor’s Act. – His wife and younger children chose to live in prison with him.• Charles, the oldest son, went to work in Warren’s Blacking Warehouse in Strand – He worked pasting labels on bottles for six shillings a week. Although the work was not hard labor, Charles felt demeaned and shamed as a laborer. Scenes from David Copperieldreflect this time in Charles’ life.• After his father was released, Charles went back to school for two years at Wellington House Academy, although his mother would have left him to continue working – several of Dickens’ characters are based on his parents. In Fact, a theme of paternal neglect is present in virtually all of his novels. Most protagonists are orphans or near-orphans, harbored in the homes of surrogate parents.• When Charles was 15, he left school to become an office boy in a law firm, and at age 17 became a legal reporter.• At age 22, Dickens began his literary career as a journalist (1833) for The Morning Chronicle. Also famous for his sketches of the emerging middle class, and drew under the name “Boz”
• Three years later, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of the editor of the Evening Chronicle. – They had 10 children: Charley, Mamie, Katie, Walter, Francis, Alfred, Sydney, Henry, Dora, and Edward• Dickens was also a theater enthusiast, wrote plays and performed for Queen Victoria in 1851.• His rising popularity drove him to overextend himself and he committed to many writing, editorial, illustration, and managerial projects.• He was deeply committed to social issues and spent time traveling abroad: – He lectured against slavery in the United States – toured Italy• He was estranged from his wife in 1858, but continued his affair with actress Nelly Turnin, which began in 1857 when he was 45 and she was 18.• He died of a stroke in 1870, and is buried at Westminster Abbey.
DISCUSSION: The Victorian EraWhat did you learnin your researchabout mid 19thCentury England? Queen Victoria with her eldest daughter Victoria, the Princess Royal (ca. 1844-45). This is the first photograph ever taken of Queen Victoria. It is a calotype, made by photographer Henry Collen .
SerializedNovels• The publication of fiction in parts grew dramatically in the 1830s, as a direct result of the wild success of Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.• Many 19th century authors established themselves by first publishing original fiction in serial format: WilkieCollins, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson• Serial publication had several advantages: – For the reader, it substantially reduced the cash outlay required to pay for fiction: for a novel in monthly installments like Pickwick, one had to pay only one shilling a month, instead of a guinea (21 shillings) or more for an entire novel. – For the publisher, it expanded the market for fiction, as more people could afford to buy on the installment plan – For advertisers, ads could easily be incorporated into the little booklets in which a typical Dickens novel was issued.
The Novel Charles Dickens• Timeline of novels: - The Pickwick Papers (1836-37) - Oliver Twist (1837-38) - Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39) - The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) - Barnaby Rudge (1840-41) - Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44) - Dombey and Son (1846-48) - David Copperfield (1849-50) - Bleak House (1852-53) - Hard Time (1854) - Little Dorrit (1855-57) - A Tale of Two Cities (1859) - Great Expectations (1860) - Our Mutual Friend (1864-65) - The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870 *unfinished)
Charles Dickens Themes• Many of Dickens’ themes were rooted in his own life experience and the changing world he saw around him: – Parental abandonment; orphan or near orphan as main character – Turbulent love relationships • Marital mismatch • Abuse • Older man/younger woman pairings • Unrequited or lost love – Hypocrisy: characters who do not practice what they preach – Society as a cruel, hard place • Ineffective government and bureaucracy • Child labor • Debt as a sign of social inequity – Hidden or secret identities
Bibliography• Charles Dickens Life and Work – BBC History: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/dicken s_charles.shtml – Victorian Web: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/edh/1. html – David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page: http://charlesdickenspage.com/family_friends.html – Smithsonian Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts- culture/Dickens-Secret-Affair.html
Bibliography• Serialized Novels of the Victorian Era – PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/dickens/life_publication.ht ml – University of Victoria Libraries: http://library.uvic.ca/dig/VictorianSerialNovels.html• Themes of Dickens – 101: http://suite101.com/article/recurring-themes-in- the-works-of-charles-dickens-a124708