History for the Rest of Us

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Nov 30, 2012

1812 – 1870 Early Years Charles Dickens was born at Landport, now a great town, but then a little suburb of Portsmouth, or Portsea, lying half a mile outside of the town walls. The date of his birth was Friday, February 7, 1812. His father was John Dickens, a clerk in the navy pay-office, and at that time attached to the Portsmouth dockyard. The familiarity which the novelist shows with sea-ports and sailors is not, however, due to his birthplace, because his father, in the year 1814, was recalled to London, and in 1816 went to Chatham. They still show the room in the dockyard where the elder Dickens worked, and where his son often came to visit him. The family lived in Ordnance Place, Chatham, and the boy was sent to a school kept in Gibraltar Place, New Road, by one William Giles. As a child he is said to have been a great reader, and very early began to attempt original writing. In 1821, Charles being then nine years of age, the family fell into trouble; reforms in the Admiralty deprived the father of his post, and the greater part of his income. They had to leave Chatham and removed to London, where a mean house in a shabby street of Camden Town received them. But not for long. The unfortunate father was presently arrested for debt and consigned to the Marshalsea, and Charles, then only ten years of age, and small for his age, was placed in a blacking factory at Hungerford Market, where all he could do was to put the labels on the blacking-bottles, with half a dozen rough and rude boys. The degradation and misery of this occupation sunk deep into the boy’s soul. He could never dare to speak of this time; it was never mentioned in his presence. Not only were his days passed in this wretched work, but the child was left entirely to himself at night, when he made his way home from Hungerford Market to Camden Town, a distance of four miles, to his lonely bedroom. On Sundays he visited his father in the prison. Of course such a neglected way of living...