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English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens's works are characterized by attacks on social evils, injustice, and hypocrisy. He had also experienced in his youth oppression, when he was forced to end school in early teens and work in a factory. Dickens's good, bad, and comic characters, such as the cruel miser Scrooge, the aspiring novelist David Copperfield, or the trusting and innocent Mr. Pickwick, have fascinated generations of readers.
"In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice." (from Great Expectations, 1860-61)
Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Hampshire, during the new industrial age, which created misery for the class of low-paid workers and gave birth to theories of Karl Marx. His father was a clerk in the navy pay office, who was well paid but often ended in financial troubles. In 1814 Dickens moved to London, and then to Chatham, where he received some education. He worked in a blacking factory, Hungerford Market, London, while his family was in Marshalea debtor's prison in 1824 - later this period found its way to the novel Little Dorrit (1855-57). In 1824-27 Dickens studied at Wellington House Academy, London, and at Mr. Dawson's school in 1827. From 1827 to 1828 he was a law office clerk, and then worked as a shorthand reporter at Doctor's Commons. He wrote for True Son (1830-32), Mirror of Parliament (1832-34) and the Morning Chronicle (1834-36). He was in the 1830s a contributor to Monthly Magazine, and The Evening Chronicle and edited Bentley's Miscellany. In the 1840s Dickens founded Master Humphrey's Cloak and edited the London Daily News.
These years as a journalist left Dickens with lasting affection for journalism and suspicious attitude towards unjust laws. His sharp ear for conversation helped him reveal characters through their own words. Dickens's career as a writer of fiction started in 1833 when his short stories and essays to appeared in periodical. His SKETCHES BY BOZ and THE PICKWICK PAPERS were published in 1836; he married in the same year the daughter of his friend George Hogarth, Catherine Hogart. However, some people suspected that he was more fond of her sister, Mary, who moved into their house and died in 1837. Dickens requested that he be buried next to her when he died and wore Mary's ring all his life. Another of Catherine's sisters, Georgiana, moved in with the Dickenses, and the novelist fell in love with her. Dickens had with Catherine 10 children but they were separated in 1858. Dickens also had a long liaison with the actress Ellen Ternan, whom he had met by the late 1850s.
The Pickwick Papers were stories about a group of rather odd individuals and their travels to Ipswich, Rochester, Bath and elsewhere. Dickens's novels first appeared in monthly installments, including OLIVER TWIST (1837-39), which depicts the London underworld and hard years of the foundling Oliver Twist, whose right to his inheritance is kept secret by the villainous Mr. Monks. Oliver suffers in a poorfarm and workhouse. He outrages authorities by asking a second bowl of porridge. From a solitary confinement he is apprenticed to a casket maker, and becomes a member of a gang of young thieves, led by Mr. Fagin. Finally Fagin is hanged at Newgate and Mr. Barnlow adopts Oliver. NICHOLAS NICKELBY (1838-39) was a tale of young Nickleby's struggles to seek his fortune.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1943) is one of Dickens's most loved works, which has been adapted into screen a number of times. The character of Ebenezer Scrooge, the "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching" miser, has attracted such actors as Seymour Hicks, Albert Finney, Michael Caine, George C. Scott and Alastair Sim. In a pornography version from 1975 Mary Stewart was "Carol Screwge".
Among Dicken's later works are DAVID COPPERFIELD (1849-50), where Dickens used his own personal experiences of work in a factory. David's widowed mother marries the tyrannical Mr. Murdstone. David becomes friends with Mr. Micawber and his family. "I went in, and found there a stoutish, middle-aged person, in a brown surtout and black tights and shoes, with no more hair upon his head (which was a large one, and very shining) than there is upon an egg, and with a very extensive face, which he turned full upon me. His clothes were shabby, but he had an imposing short-collar on." Dora, David's first wife, dies and he marries Agnes. He pursues his career as a journalist and later as a novelist. A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859) was set in the years of the French Revolution. The plot circles around the look-alikes Charles Darnay, a nephews of a marquis, and Sydney Carton, a lawyer, who both love the same woman, Lucy.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1860-61) began as a serialized publication in Dickens's periodical All the Year Round on December 1, 1860. The story of Pip (Philip Pirrip) was among Tolstoy's and Dostoyevsky's favorite novels. G.K. Chesterton wrote that the story had "a quality of serene irony and even sadness," which separates it from Dickens's other works. "Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip." Pip, an orphan, lives with his old sister and her husband. He meets an escaped convict named Abel Magwitch and helps him against his will. Magwitch is recaptured and Pip is taken care of Miss Havisham. He falls in love with the cold-hearted Estella, Miss Havisham's ward. With the help of an anonymous benefactor, Pip is properly educated, and he becomes a snob. Magwitch turns out to be the benefactor; he dies and Pip's "great expectations" are ruined. He works as a clerk in a trading firm, and marries Estella, Magwitch's daughter.
From the 1840s Dickens spent much time travelling and campaigning against many of the social evils of his time. In addition he gave talks and reading, wrote pamphlets, plays, and letters. In the 1850s Dickens was founding editor of Household World and its successor All the Year Round (1859-70). In 1844-45 he lived in Italy, Switzerland and Paris. He gave lecturing tours in Britain and the United States in 1858-68. From 1860 Dickens lived at Gadshill Place, near Rochester, Kent. He died at Gadshill on suddenly of a stroke on June 8, 1870.
The unfinished mystery novel THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD was published in 1870. Dickens planned to produce it in 12 monthly parts, but completed only six numbers. The story is chiefly set in the cathedral city of Cloisterham and opens in an opium den. '"Ye've smoked as many as five since ye come in at midnight," the woman goes on, as he chronically complains. "Poor me, poor me, my head is so bad. Them two come in after ye. Ah, poor me, the business is slack, is slack! Few Chinamen about the Docks, and fewer Lascars, and no ships coming in, these say! Here's another ready for ye, deary." The choirmaster of the cathedral, John Jaspers, lives a double life, as an opium addict and a respected member of society. His ward, Edwin Drood, disappears on Christmas Eve, after a quarrel with Neville Landless. However, there is no trace of Edwin's body. Dick Datchery, a disguised detective arrives to investigate the case. "It is the complex nature of Dickens's evil men, not their merited fate, that makes them the peers of Dostoyevsky's lost souls. For this reason, I have always been irked by the critical treatment of his last novel as a pure whodunit. ''Endings'' were not his strong suit." (Angus Wilson in The New York Times, March 1, 1981)
Although Dickens's career as a novelist received much attention, he produced hundreds of essays and edited and rewrote hundreds of others submitted to the various periodicals he edited. Dickens distinguished himself as an essayist in 1834 under the pseudonym Boz. 'A Visit to Newgate' (1836) reflects his own memories of visiting his own family in the Marshalea Prison. In 'A Small Star in in the East' reveals the working conditions on mills and 'Mr. Barlow' (1869) draws a portrait of a insensitive tutor.Information source: wikipedia