Friday, December 4, 2009

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was an interesting person.

He was born in 1812, in the English city of Portsmouth. He was the second of eight children. His older sister was named Fanny. (Check back tomorrow for the character list, to see why I mentioned this.)

His father was jovial and liked to sample "libations" liberally. His mother was cheerful and chatty. However, their jolly personalities did not indicate any ability to manage their personal finances, so in 1824, John Dickens was sent to Debtor's Prison (scroll down the far left column). Charles, at age 12, went to work at a boot-black (shoe polish) factory, putting labels on jars to support his family. He only stayed there for a few months, till his father managed to get some money and redeem his debt. Charles never forgot the humiliating experience however, and many of his books feature children that have been abandoned to horrifying circumstances by their parents.

Charles was extremely focused on income, as a result of this experience. No "starving writer" life for him. He wrote for income.

Charles graduated from school at 15, and did not go to college. He lived at home for the next several years, and worked two jobs which would color his novels: clerk at a law office and news reporter for the Morning Chronicle, where he covered a variety of political issues. Charles was also involved with the theater - both as a spectator and as a potential actor. He scored an audition at Covent Garden Theatre, but was so ill that day, he cancelled, and never rescheduled.

Charles submitted his first story to the Monthly Magazine in 1833. He did not get any payment for the first nine stories he published there. After those first nine sketches established him as a successful writer, he started requiring payment for his stories, and started publishing in other magazines and newspapers. He'd eventually gather 60 of these sketches together and publish them as Sketches by Boz. (Boz, rhymes with Laws, was his pen name for about 3 years.)

After that his publishing career took off. In 1836, he stopped working for the Morning Chronicle, and started writing full-time. He also married at this time, and started his eventual family of 10 children. Charles had a wandering eye, and "idolized" his wife's younger sister Mary, and after Mary's death, Kate's even younger sister Georgina. Charles eventually left Kate in 1858, and took up with an 18 year old actress, Ellen Ternan, who was his mistress till his death in 1870.

Dickens published some of the most recognizable titles in the history of literature: David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, The Cricket on the Hearth, and of course, A Christmas Carol.

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