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Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens.
He was the second of eight children. His mother had been in service to Lord Crew, and his father worked as a clerk for the Naval Pay office. John Dickens was imprisoned for debt when Charles was young. Charles Dickens went to work at a blacking warehouse, managed by a relative of his mother, when he was twelve, and his brush with hard times and poverty affected him deeply. He later recounted these experiences in the semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield. Similarly, the concern for social justice and reform which surfaced later in his writings grew out of the harsh conditions he experienced in the warehouse
As a young boy, Charles Dickens was exposed to many artistic and literary works that allowed his imagination to grow and develop considerably. He was greatly influenced by the stories his nursemaid used to tell him and by his many visits to the theater
During this time Charles continued to read voraciously at the British Library, and he experimented with acting and stage-managing amateur theatricals. His experience acting would affect his work throughout his life--he was known to act out characters he was writing in the mirror and then describe himself as the character in prose in his novels
Within a few years, he was regarded as one of the most successful authors of his time, with approximately one out of every ten people in Victorian England avidly reading and following his writings. In 1836 Dickens also married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of a fellow co-worker at his newspaper. The couple had ten children before their separation in 1858.
Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby followed in monthly installments, and both reflected Dickens' understanding of the lower classes as well as his comic genius. In 1843, Dickens published one of his most famous works, A Christmas Carol. His disenchantment with the world's economic drives is clear in this work; he blames much of society's ills on people's obsession with earning money and acquiring status based on money.
On June 9, 1870, Charles Dickens died
. He was buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Though he left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished, he had already written fifteen substantial novels and countless shorter pieces. His legacy is clear. In a whimsical and unique fashion, Dickens pointed out society's flaws in terms of its blinding greed for money and its neglect of the lower classes of society. Through his books, we come to understand the virtues of a loving heart and the pleasures of home in a flawed, cruelly indifferent world. Among English writers, in terms of his fame and of the public's recognition of his characters and stories, he is second only to William Shakespeare.