Crazy Facts About Charles Dickens

By | December 12, 2022

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Dickens at his desk, 1858. (National Portrait Gallery/Wikimedia Commons)

He Was Put To Work At An Early Age

Life should have been easy for Charles Dickens, having been born into a middle-class English family, but not long after their move to London, things went south for his father, a naval office clerk, who eventually fell into so much debt that he was arrested and sent to labor prison (which was a thing that used to happen). Dickens was only 12 years old, but without family support, he went to work in a warehouse for three years. No wonder childhood poverty and the struggles of the class system are major themes of his work.

He Began His Writing Career As A Journalist

Once he finally returned to school, Dickens found he had a knack for writing but turned his attention toward the news media at first. He worked for The Mirror Of Parliament, Morning Chronicle, and The True Sun but decided initially to publish under the pseudonym Boz because "dickens" was considered slightly N.S.F.W. at the time, thanks to Shakespeare's famous coinage of "What the dickens?" in his play The Merry Wives Of Windsor.

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"Marley's Ghost," original illustration by John Leech from the 1843 edition. (British Library/Wikimedia Commons)

He Wrote Really Fast

By October 1843, Dickens had once again fallen on hard times. Convinced that a holiday hit would save him from ruin, he churned out A Christmas Carol, which not only sold well but went on to become his greatest literary success and a genuine classic, in only about six weeks. The cost to print the book was actually so high that he initially didn't make very much money from it, but it was enough to keep his head above water.