Gothic Romance: The Life and Works of Charles Dickens


Few authors were as popular during the Victorian era as Charles Dickens. In fact, few authors have attained his level of popularity, not just during the Victorian era, but worldwide, historical, and timeless fame. Dickens holds claim to being one of the most popular authors to have ever lived and his novels have never been out of print.

Early Years

Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Landport, Portsmouth, Hampshire in England. By the time he was ten, the family had moved to London. Sometime before he turned twelve, his father, John, spent the family’s fortune and the entire family – minus Charles, who lived with a family friend in Camden Town – ended up in a debtor’s prison. Dickens was then working, earning some money, and paying for his own board as well as supporting his family but the cruel conditions had an impact on Dickens, as did the rest of this stressful life. Many of these aspects were worked into his later novels. In 1827, he obtained a job in a law office and the next year, he became a freelance reporter. In 1830, he met his first love, Maria Beadnell – believed to be the model for Dora in David Copperfield – but her parents sent her to Paris to end their courtship.

Early Work

Dickens’s first story, A Dinner at Popular Walk, was published in London’s Monthly Magazine in 1833 and the next year, Dickens was reporting on political happenings. His sketches eventually made up Sketches by Box, which was published in 1836. This led to the serialization of his very first novel, The Pickwick Papers, in March 1836. That same year, he became an editor of Bentley’s Miscellany. From 1837 to 1841, he released Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rude: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty. Also during this time, he married Catherine Thomas Hogarth, with whom he would have ten children.

  • Novels: Has some of Dickens’s early works archived.
  • Early Life: Briefly highlights his earlier works.
  • American Notes: E-text of one of his earlier novels.

Literary Style

Dickens’s unique literary style was incomparable. He stuck with the gothic romance style of writing even though most authors thought it below them. In most of his books, he tried to turn even London itself into a character so the reader would fall in love with it. He could be poetic, yet comical at the same time and his satires were immensely popular. He also liked to mix fantasy and realism into his works.

Characters

Dickens’s unique characters are still well-remembered up to this day. Oliver Twist, the little orphan boy and his foil, The Artful Dodger, as well as Fagin and Bill Sikes, Ebenezer Scrooge and his foil, Tiny Tim, even Samuel Pickwick, all of these characters live on, long past the time a book is put down.

  • E-Texts: Online versions of Dickens’s books that show his unique characters.

Autobiographical Aspects of Work

When Dickens attempted to write his autobiography, he ended up with David Copperfield. It mirrored his painful childhood in many ways. Unable to face those memories, he created a character to go through those experiences again.

Social Commentary

Dickens spent a great deal of his life traveling to other countries, observing their political atmospheres. In most of his novels, he expressed strong opinions about poverty, and he despised the social structure of the Victorian Era with a passion. Oliver Twist was written to shock the world and open their eyes to what was really going on in London.

Memorials and Museums

Dickens died on June 9, 1870 after suffering from a stroke. He was laid to rest in the auspicious Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. There are numerous festivals and museums in his honor all over the world as well as organizations devoted to studying him. There is the Charles Dickens Museum in London, a birthplace museum in Portsmouth, another museum in Broadstairs, and even a Dickens World theme attraction.

  • Dickens Project: A college project devoted to promoting the study of his life and works.
  • Dickens Museum: Homepage of the Dickens Museum in London, England.
  • Dickens Page: Links to multiple other museums and memorials.
  • Carlo Dickens: Homepage of an organization in Italy devoted to studying Dickens.