Portrait of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was a famous author who wrote many famous books that commented on many issues at the time, including homelessness, workhouses and child labour. He wrote many short stories, novels and plays throughout his life, but he is most well-known for Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.


Charles Dickens was born on 7th February 1812 in Portsmouth. During his childhood, he spent a lot of time outdoors. He read many books including The Arabian Nights and Robinson Crusoe.

Becoming a journalist

In 1832, when Charles was 20, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, but he knew he wanted fame. At first, he wanted to become an actor, but he missed the audition because of a cold.

Before another audition came, he had submitted his first story to Monthly Magazine in 1833 called “A Dinner at Poplar Walk”. His uncle offered him a job as a political journalist in the House of Commons in early 1832.

Whilst he was a journalist, he made friends with other authors such as William Harrison Ashworth, who wrote the book Rookwood.

Writing his first novels

In 1836, he was nearly finishing a collection of adventure stories called The Pickwick Papers, he started writing one of his most famous novels: Oliver Twist. By this time, he was also editing a literary magazine and writing four plays.

Marrying Catherine

On 2nd April 1836, after being engaged for one year, Charles Dickens and Catherine Thomson became married. They had ten children, and moved to 48 Doughty Street in London.

Dickens’ views on religion

When he was young, Charles Dickens didn’t like certain aspects of religion, such as the ban on playing sports on Sundays that was in his local area. He said:

Look into your churches – diminished congregations and scanty attendance. People have grown sullen and obstinate, and are becoming disgusted with the faith which condemns them to such a day as this, once in every seven. They display their feeling by staying away [from church]. Turn into the streets [on a Sunday] and mark the rigid gloom that reigns over everything around.

Charles Dickens writing in a pamphlet called Sunday Under Three Heads

He liked the figure of Christ, but he didn’t like the extremes of Christianity (Catholicism and evangelicalism) because he thought they would limit personal expression.

Divorcing Catherine

In 1857, whilst he was hiring actresses for a play he and a friend had written called The Frozen Deep, he fell in love with Ellen Ternan. He decided to divorce his wife, when he was 45 and Ellen was 18, something that wasn’t common at the time. Catherine left and never saw Charles again, taking one of their children with her.

Later life

Later in his life, Charles visited the USA for a second time, going on a reading tour where people would pay to see and hear him read out his books. He also did a similar tour in the UK, but wasn’t able to fully complete it due to poor health.

An illustration of people buying tickets for one of his tours in New York | Wikipedia


Charles Dickens died on 8th June 1870 from a stroke. He was buried at Rochester Cathedral.