Are you a true Dickensian?



9 Questions

What is a common literary technique used by Dickens in his writing?

What was Dickens' standing among his contemporaries?

What is the purpose of coincidence in Dickens' writing?

What is the significance of Dickens' popularity?

What is the main reason for Dickens' use of coincidence in his writing?

What is the genre of Dickens' writing?

What is the significance of Dickens' use of coincidence in his writing?

What is the reason for Dickens' enduring popularity?

What is the effect of coincidence in Dickens' writing?


Charles Dickens: Life, Career, and Literary Legacy

  • Charles Dickens was an English writer and social critic who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

  • Dickens was born in Portsmouth, left school at the age of 12 to work in a boot-blacking factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison, and began his literary career as a journalist.

  • Dickens edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, for education, and for other social reforms.

  • His literary success began with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers, a publishing phenomenon that sparked Pickwick merchandise and spin-offs, and within a few years, Dickens had become an international literary celebrity.

  • His novels, most of them published in monthly or weekly installments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication, and cliffhanger endings in his serial publications kept readers in suspense.

  • Dickens's plots were carefully constructed and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives, and he used the instalment format to evaluate his audience's reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback.

  • His novella A Christmas Carol remains especially popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre, and Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted and evoke images of early Victorian London.

  • His 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities is his best-known work of historical fiction, and the term "Dickensian" is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social or working conditions, or comically repulsive characters.

  • Dickens's early life seems to have been idyllic, but he worked at the Warren's Blacking Warehouse, where he earned six shillings a week pasting labels on pots of boot blacking, and the strenuous and often harsh working conditions made a lasting impression on him.

  • Dickens was eventually sent to the Wellington House Academy in Camden Town, where he remained until March 1827, having spent about two years there, and he worked at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore, attorneys, of Holborn Court, Gray's Inn, as a junior clerk from May 1827 to November 1828.

  • In 1832, at the age of 20, Dickens was energetic and increasingly self-confident, and he enjoyed mimicry and popular entertainment, lacked a clear, specific sense of what he wanted to become, and yet knew he wanted fame.

  • In 1833, Dickens submitted his first story, "A Dinner at Poplar Walk", to the London periodical Monthly Magazine, and his journalism, in the form of sketches in periodicals, formed his first collection of pieces, published in 1836: Sketches by Boz, which led to a proposal from publishers Chapman and Hall for Dickens to supply text to match Robert Seymour's engraved illustrations in a monthly letterpress.

  • The resulting story became The Pickwick Papers, a publishing phenomenon, and John Sutherland called it "[t]he most important single novel of the Victorian era", and it defined its own, a new one that we have learnedCharles Dickens: Life, Works, and Beliefs

  • Dickens was the editor of Bentley's Miscellany, a position he held for three years until he fell out with the owner.

  • Dickens married Catherine Thomson Hogarth in 1836, and they had ten children together.

  • Mary Hogarth, Catherine's sister, died in Dickens's arms in 1837, causing him to stop working for a brief period.

  • Dickens's novels, such as Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Old Curiosity Shop, were published in monthly instalments before being made into books.

  • Dickens went on a two-month tour of Scotland in June 1841 and later decided to go to America in September 1841.

  • Dickens spent a month in New York City, giving lectures and raising the question of international copyright laws and the pirating of his work in America.

  • A Christmas Carol was written in 1843 and did much to promote a renewed enthusiasm for the joys of Christmas in Britain and America.

  • Dickens managed Urania Cottage, which he founded in 1846, for ten years, setting the house rules, reviewing accounts, and interviewing prospective residents.

  • Dickens honoured the figure of Jesus Christ and authored a book called The Life of Our Lord in 1846.

  • Dickens took up the editorship of the London-based Daily News in December 1845 but resigned ten weeks later due to exhaustion and frustration.

  • Dickens often holidayed in France and met the French literati Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and Eugène Sue, among others.

  • Dickens moved into Tavistock House in late November 1851, where he wrote Bleak House, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit.The Life and Works of Charles Dickens

  • Dickens had a fascination with the house in Higham, Kent, where he later lived, as he had passed it in his childhood and dreamed of living there. The area was also a scene in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, which pleased him.

  • Dickens was the publisher, editor, and major contributor to the journals Household Words and All the Year Round. He joined the Administrative Reform Association to demand significant reforms of Parliament and used his pulpit in Household Words to champion the Reform Association.

  • Following the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Dickens criticized the East India Company for its role in the event and wished he was the commander-in-chief in India so that he could exterminate the race upon whom the stain of the late cruelties rested.

  • Dickens fell in love with one of the actresses, Ellen Ternan, in the play The Frozen Deep, which he wrote, and this passion was to last the rest of his life. He separated from his wife, Catherine, after publicly accusing her of suffering from a mental disorder and attempting to have her institutionalized.

  • Dickens undertook a series of hugely popular and remunerative reading tours, which absorbed most of his creative energies for the next decade. He gave 129 appearances in 49 towns throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland on his first reading tour, lasting from April 1858 to February 1859.

  • Dickens's best-known work of historical fiction is A Tale of Two Cities, which is set in London and Paris and is regularly cited as one of the best-selling novels of all time. Great Expectations is another of his works and includes themes such as wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil.

  • In 1862, Dickens was offered £10,000 for a reading tour of Australia; however, he ultimately decided against the tour. Two of his sons migrated to Australia, with Edward becoming a member of the Parliament of New South Wales.

  • Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash in Kent in 1865, where he tended to the wounded and dying and saved some lives. He later used the experience of the crash as material for his short ghost story, "The Signal-Man".

  • Dickens set sail from Liverpool for his second American reading tour in 1867, performing 76 readings, netting £19,000, from December 1867 to April 1868. He saw a change in the people and the circumstances of America during his travels.

  • Dickens gave a series of "farewell readings" in England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1868–69, beginning on 6 October. He had a stroke on 18 April 1869, in Chester, and collapsed on 22 April 1869, at Preston, Lancashire; on doctor's advice, the tour was canceled.

  • Dickens's last public appearance was at a Royal Academy banquet in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, paying a special tribute on the death of his friend, illustrator Daniel Maclise. He died on 9 June 1870, after another stroke, at his home in Gads Hill Place.

  • Dickens left the care of his £80,000 estate to his long-time colleague John Forster and his "best and truest friend" Georgina Hogarth, who also received a tax-free sum of £8,000. He provided hisCharles Dickens: A Summary

  • Dickens had a lifelong affinity with Shakespeare and visited the house in which Shakespeare was born, drawing on this experience in his next work, Nicholas Nickleby.

  • Dickens's writing style is marked by a profuse linguistic creativity, satire, caricature and a mixture of fantasy and realism.

  • Dickens worked closely with his illustrators, supplying them with a summary of the work at the outset, briefing them on plans for each month's instalment.

  • Dickensian characters are some of the most memorable in English literature, with famous names such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Oliver Twist, Pip, and Samuel Pickwick.

  • Dickens's novels were works of social commentary, with a fierce criticism of the poverty and social stratification of Victorian society.

  • Dickens wrote most of his major novels in monthly or weekly instalments in journals, making the stories affordable and accessible to a wider audience.

  • Dickens's talent was to incorporate an episodic writing style but still end up with a coherent novel at the end.

  • Dickens's technique of flooding his narratives with an 'unruly superfluity of material' that, in the gradual dénouement, yields up an unsuspected order, influenced the organization of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

  • Dickens is often described as using idealized characters and highly sentimental scenes to contrast with his caricatures and the ugly social truths he reveals.

  • The question as to whether Dickens belongs to the tradition of the sentimental novel is debatable.

  • Dickens's fiction makes frequent use of coincidence, either for comic effect or to emphasize the idea of providence.

  • Dickens was the most popular novelist of his time and remains one of the best-known and most-read of all time.


How well do you know Charles Dickens? Test your knowledge of the life, career, and literary legacy of this iconic English writer and social critic with our quiz. From his humble beginnings in a boot-blacking factory to becoming an international literary celebrity, explore the key moments and themes in Dickens's life and works. With questions on his most famous characters, popular novels, and social commentary, see if you have what it takes to be a true Dickensian expert. Don't miss out on the chance to

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