Charles Dickens His Life

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1 Mile End Terrace/
387 or 393 Commercial Road, Portsmouth
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on Friday 7 Feb 1812.

He was born at 1 Mile End Terrace (it is now 387 or 393 Commercial Road), Landport, Portsmouth England.

Charles was the second of eight children, the eldest son.

Elizabeth and seven of her children. (Charles second left)
His father was John Dickens (1785-1851) a clerk in the Royal Navy pay office and mother was Elizabeth Dickens (1789-1863).

They were on the edge of middle-class, though precariously so. His father asked Charles Huffam, a rigger in the Royal Navy, to be Charles’s godfather – and to provide two of his names.

Huffam is thought to have later been the inspiration for Paul Dombey in Dombey and Son.

He was baptised on 4 Mar 1812 at St Mary’s Portsea.

St Mary’s Church, Portsea

2 Ordnance Terrace, Chatham
They moved from Portsmouth, initially to Norfolk Street, Fitzrovia, London, then to Sheerness and finally to a newly-built house.

They lived at 2 Ordnance Terrace, St Mary’s Place, Chatham Kent, they lived here from 1817-1822.

This was therefore where Charles spent his childhood. He had a good childhood, though he described himself as a ‘very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy’.

He was a big reader of books.
His father worked in the Navy Pay Office.
Navy Pay Office, Chatham

William Giles school
Charles first attended a ‘dame school’, a local place where a local women, or ‘dame’, would teach reading and arithmetic.

But, as compulsory education was being introduced, for around one year he went to William Giles’ school at Clover Lane (today Clover Street), Chatham, Kent.

He attended from the age of 9 to 10.

Giles was a Baptist, a nonconformist. He was the inspiration for Mr Feeder, the teacher in Dombey and Son.
While at this school, aged 9 (1820), he wrote Misnar, the Sultan of India.

It was a tragedy based on The Enchantress, a tale from James Ridley’s pseudo-Oriental Tales of the Genii (1764), the manuscript has however not survived.

Misnar, the Sultan of India
Charles was the second eldest and his siblings used nicknames for each other.

His youngest brother Augustus was ‘Moses’. Moses was apparently derived from the second son of Oliver Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield (published in 1761-1762).

‘Boz’ came from a nasal form of Moses, said as if with a cold as Boses and reduced to Boz. Charles took it as his pen name.

But controversy continues as to whether it is pronounced Boze, Bahz or Bozz.
The family lived at 141 Bayham Street, Camden Town, London from 1822.

141 Bayham Street, Camden Town

The Marshalsea, southern face of first prison
But, in 1824, his father, father John, was committed to the Marshalsea debtors’ prison in Southwark. His wife and younger children went to the jail with him.
Charles, at just twelve years of age, boarded with Elizabeth Roylance, a family friend, at 112 College Place, Camden Town. From there he visited his family at Marshalsea, and this shaped several of his books.

Elizabeth would later be his inspiration for Mrs Pipchin in Dombey and Son.

He later moved into the back attic of Archibald Russell, an agent for the Insolvent Court, He lived in Lant Street, Southwark, this was a house belonging to the Vestry Clerk of St George’s Church (probably St George the Martyr, opposite Borough Station).

Archibald Russell was later the inspiration for Garlands in The Old Curiosity Shop.

Lant Street (pictured in 1935)

Blue plaque to commemorate his living in Lant Street

Warren’s Blacking Warehouse, on Hungerford Stairs
In 1824, Charles, the eldest boy, was withdrawn from school and sent to work ten-hour days at Warren’s [Boot] Blacking Warehouse, on Hungerford Stairs, on the bank of the Thames.

This period provided him images of factory work and prisons and this later featured in many of his novels, He said of this role, ‘One of the other boys came up, in a ragged apron and a paper cap, on the first Monday morning, to show me the trick of using the string and tying the knot. His name was Bob Fagin; and I took the liberty of using his name, long afterwards, in Oliver Twist’.

The factory later moved to Chandos Street in Covent Garden, which provided him with a window onto the street.
But ‘thankfully’, Charles’s paternal grandmother died a few months later and left his father, John, the sum of £450, the money to get him released.

The family moved to live with Elizabeth Roylance in Camden Town. His mother wanted him to continue at the factory, perhaps one root of his later misogyny?

However, John sent Charles back to school at the Wellington House Academy in Camden Town (247 Hampstead Road, Kings Cross).

He spent two years there, until March 1827, when he was fifteen. So, he was largely self-taught.

Charles described his time at Wellington House, ‘Much of the haphazard, desultory teaching, poor discipline punctuated by the headmaster’s sadistic brutality, the seedy ushers and general run-down atmosphere, are embodied in Mr Creakle’s Establishment in David Copperfield’.

Wellington House Academy

Ellis and Blackmore’s office

Gray’s Inn Square in Dickens time
The Dickens family was evicted for non-payment of rates.

Charles left school and took up a clerical job in a solicitor’s office (Ellis and Blackmore, Holborn Court, Gray’s Inn).

He worked from May 1827 to Nov 1828.

He wrote a Venetian comedietta, The Stratagems of Rowena while here in 1828. This is the first extant piece of work, He wrote it age sixteen. It was a comedy drama, because he was keen on the theatre at this time.

But, he learned a shorthand system in his spare time (John Gurney’s shorthand writing), He used this to become a shorthand reporter at the lawcourts, forsaking the theatre.
A relative, Thomas Charlton, was a freelance reporter at Doctors’ Commons, a society of lawyers that practised civil law (ecclesiastical and admiralty) rather than common law.

Charles shared Charlton’s box from where he reported the legal proceedings for some four years.

This experience would later be used when he wrote Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son and Bleak House.

Doctors’ Commons

Marie Beadnell
At eighteen, Charles met Marie Beadnell, and fell in love.

But his family’s financial insecurity led to her being told by her parents to break off their courtship.

It is believed that Charles would later draw on this painful experience in writing the character of Dora in David Copperfield.
At twenty he considered becoming an actor, as he had proven to be a capable mimic and he attended the theatre.

At one time he claimed he had attended a theatre every day for three years. To assist with this goal he became an early member of the Garrick Club.

He had thoroughly prepared for an audition at Covent Garden, but missed this due to a cold. Before he could rearrange it, he was taken up with another career.

Covent Garden, back in his time

Furnival’s Inn, Holborn
His maternal uncle, William Barrow, found him a job with The Mirror of Parliament,

He worked in the House of Commons from early in 1832. He reported on debates in the house.

He rented rooms at Furnival’s Inn in Holborn.
He subsequently travelled across Britain as a parliamentary reporter to cover the election campaigns for the Benthamite Morning Chronicle from 1834–36. Of course, the Houses of Parliament were burned down in October 1834, so the travelling became essential.

These were reformist times. As a result, he became quite scathing of both the law and of parliament.

The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons,
16th October, 1834 by JMW Turner

A Dinner at Poplar Walk
In 1833, at the age of 21, he wrote his first story A Dinner at Poplar Walk.

It was published in Monthly Magazine (aka British Register of Politics, Literature, Art, Science, and the Belles Lettres) in Dec 1833, his first published story.

On its publication he reported ‘my eyes were so dimmed with joy and pride that they could not bear the street, and were not fit to be seen there’.

The story would later be reprinted in Sketches by Boz renamed as Mr Minns and his Cousin.
He became a friend of the author William Harrison Ainsworth, and they met regularly at a Harrow Road bachelor salon.

This in turn introduced him to the writer/politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the caricaturist/illustrator George Cruickshank, the statesman, and later PM, Benjamin Disraeli, the Irish painter/illustrator Daniel Maclise and to the publisher John Macrone.

William Harrison Ainsworth,
painted by Daniel Maclise c1834

Catherine Hogarth
In Jan 1835 the Morning Chronicle launched an evening edition, to be edited by George Hogarth, previously the Chronicle’s music critic.

Hogarth, a respected Scottish journalist, invited Charles to contribute Street Sketches. As a result,

Charles regularly visited Hogarth’s Fulham home. Hogarth’s was a friend of Walter Scott, who Dickens much admired.

But he also spent time with Hogarth’s three daughters, Georgina, Mary and the 19-year-old Catherine.
On 29 Sep 1836 Charles presented his first play, The Strange Gentleman, a Comic Burletta in two acts.

Its first performance was at the St James’s Theatre.  It ran for sixty performances.

On 6 Dec 1836 he was back at the St James having written the libretto for a comic opera The Village Coquettes. It ran for nineteen nights then it transferred to Edinburgh.

But when in 1843 there was a suggestion to revive it, he suggested it should be allowed ’…to sink into its native obscurity’.

He said of The Strange Gentleman that it had been a ‘practical joke for the St James…’ and was done ’…without the least consideration or regard to reputation’. He wished ‘these early dramatic efforts to be forgotten’.

The Strange Gentleman

The Pickwick Papers
In 1836 he also collected together his various writings into Sketches by Boz which had some success.

The publishers Chapman & Hall subsequently approached Dickens to put text to the sporting illustrations of Robert Seymour, but he committed suicide after the second month.

Charles hired another illustrator ‘Phiz’ to provided illustrations to his pieces and The Pickwick Papers was born.
After a year’s engagement he was married on 2 Apr 1836 to Catherine (née) Hogarth (1815-1879) at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea at the age of 24. They honeymooned in Chalk, near Gravesend, Kent, and moved into lodgings at Furnival’s Inn.

He was married between the second and third episodes of The Pickwick Papers. The final issue sold 40,000 copies.

Its spin-off merchandise, featuring Pickwick cigars, playing cards and china figurines sold well. Sam Weller merchandise was successful too, puzzles, boot polish and joke books.

Sam Weller from The Pickwick Papers

The young Charles Dickens
In Nov 1836 Charles resigned from the Morning Chronicle and was appointed as the editor of Bentley’s Miscellany for three years.

He left Bentley’s after a disagreement with the owner.

During 1836 he completed The Pickwick Papers and moved on to his next serialised novel.
He next wrote Oliver Twist, which was published within Bentley’s Miscellany from 1837-1839.

This was the first Victorian novel to have a child protagonist.

The success of the two novels assured Dickens as an ‘authorpreneur’, writing essays and part-works and a magazine editor.

Oliver Twist asks for more

Dickens Family Tree
Charles and Catherine had ten children:
– Charles Culliford (Charley) (1837-1896);
– Mary (Mamie) (1838-1896);
– Kate Macready (Katie) (1839-1929);
– Walter Savage Landor (1841-1863);
– Francis Jeffrey (Frank or ‘Chickenstalker’) (1844-1886);
– Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson (1845-1912);
– Sydney Smith Haldimand (1847-1872); H
– Henry Fielding (Harry) (1849-1933)
[the father of Monica Dickens, an author];
– Dora Annie (1850-1851);
– Edward Bulwer Lytton (Plorn) (1852-1902).
(Only two of his children’s death pre-dated his.)
When their first was born they moved to 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury from Mar 1837 to Dec 1839.

This building is today the Charles Dickens Museum.

Doughty Street was on a three-year lease at £80 per year.

They were joined there by Frederick the brother of Charles, and Mary the sister of Catherine.

Charles was very fond of Mary who died in his arms on 7 May 1837. He was much affected by this, he stopped working, and would draw on the experience when later writing of the deaths of Little Nell and of Florence in Dombey and Son.

In 1838 he edited the Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi an autobiographical account of the nineteenth century clown. Charles, at seven years of age, had seen Grimaldi perform.

Charles resigned from Bentley’s Miscellany on 31 Jan 1839.

48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury

The Charles Dickens Museum, Doughty Street

1 Devonshire Terrace, Regent’s Park
From 1839 to 1850, Charles Dickens and his family lived at
1 Devonshire Terrace in Regent’s Park.
In 1841 as an angry response to the election of Sir Robert Peel as British prime minister, replacing Lord Melbourne and his Whig government.

Dickens believed the power shift was a serious threat to the liberal cause and its reforms.

He wrote three poems for the Liberal journal The Examiner in 1841 – these were The Fine Old English Gentleman, The Quack Doctor’s Proclamation and Subjects for Painters.

In 1846 he founded the Daily News and officiated as its first editor. But he became bored with the mechanical drudgery of the position, and resigned his editorial functions the following month.

From January 21st to March 2nd he contributed to its columns a series of Travelling Sketches, afterwards reprinted in volume form as Pictures from Italy.

He also availed himself of the opportunity afforded him, by his association with that newspaper, of once more taking up the cudgels against the Tories, and, as in the case of the Examiner, his attack was conveyed through the medium of some doggerel verses.

These were entitled The British Lion – A New Song, but an Old Story, to be sung to the tune of The Great Sea-Snake. They bore the signature of ‘Catnach,’ the famous ballad-singer, and were printed in the Daily News of 24 Jan 1846.
Charles would read to his children at night, He had a pet raven, Grip, who sat on his shoulder or nearby in the room. It was raucous and frightened the children.

It developed the habit of picking at painted surfaces and drinking paint from an open tin. Its behaviour had it confined to the carriage house. Grip died from drinking lead paint, and was stuffed and mounted for display.

A raven featured in Barnaby Rudge and the taxidermist in Our Mutual Friend was based on the one that stuffed Grip.

Dickens had Daniel Maclise paint a portrait of the bird, he liked it so much that the picture travelled with him to the USA.

He met there with Edgar Allan Poe, who in writing a review of Barnaby Rudge, mentioned Grip as ‘intensely amusing’. It is assumed by many that Grip, and other things, inspired  Poe to write his famous poem The Raven.

After Dickens death the stuffed Grip was sold circuitously to an American collector, Col Richard Gimbel, of the Gimbels department store family [who sounds like a Dickens character!]. Gimbel donated it to the Free Library in Philadelphia, where it is still on display.

Grip, stuffed and mounted

Queen Victoria and Charles
Charles flourished, Queen Victoria was reported as reading both Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, the young queen apparently stayed up late discussing them.

However, he showed himself as no fan of the ruling Tories, describing them as ‘people whom, politically, I despise and abhor’. He wrote three anti-Tory satires The Fine Old English Gentleman, The Quack Doctor’s Proclamation, and Subjects for Painters which were published in The Examiner.
Master Humphrey’s Clock ran from 1840 to 1841 – a weekly periodical edited and written entirely by Charles Dickens.

In 1840-1841 he serialised The Old Curiosity Shop.

In 1841 he serialised Barnaby Rudge in it.

Master Humphrey’s Clock, first edition 1840

American Notes
In Jan 1842, Charles and Catherine arrived in the USA for their first trip to the USA and Canada. One of Catherine’s sisters, Georgina Hogarth, moved into their London home to look after the children that they left behind. Georgina would remain within the household as housekeeper, advisor and friend until Charles’s death.

In America he gave lectures, one theme being International Copyright, because he was disturbed by the regular pirating of his work in the USA.

They were in New York for a month. They also visited Canada (Montreal, Niagara and Toronto) where he appeared on stage in comedies. He returned to the UK in June.

He collected his notes and thoughts together from the American trip and produced American Notes.

He was disappointed by America, finding more vulgarity and sharp practice than he had expected.   American readers reacted to his criticisms of slavery, of manners, of their press and his regular groans about international copyright. British readers saw little in it of interest, so it was not well received.
On his return to England, in 1843 Charles serialised Martin Chuzzlewit.

Martin Chuzzlewit

Ebeneezer Scrooge
He then turned to A Christmas Carol (Dec 1843) which invented the concept of a book at Christmas.

He would follow this works’ success with Christmas Novellas: in 1844 with The Chimes
in 1845 with The Cricket on the Hearth
in 1846 with The Battle of Life
in 1848 with The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.
Augustus Dickens, brother to Charles, worked in a firm, John Chapman & Co, where an embezzlement had taken place.

A clerk, author and poet, Thomas Powell, escaped being charged with the crime by moving off to New York. There he published The Living Authors of England and included a chapter on Charles Dickens.

He made allegations that Paul Dombey of Dombey and Son was based upon Thomas Chapman (John Chapman & Co).

Dickens rashly responded with a letter to Gaylord Clark, the editor of The Knickerbocker, a NY literary magazine, and said that Chapman was a forger and a thief.

It was published in The Knickerbocker and Powell sued. Dickens could not gather the evidence to back up his claims and settled out of court.
Palazzo Peschiere
Palazzo Peschiere
Charles, his wife Catherine, their then five children, his sister-in-law Georgina and Louis Roche set off for Italy in a large coach in July 1844.

They rented a house in Genoa but this proved unsatisfactory and so they moved into the rented Palazzo Peschiere and stayed until 1845.

Dickens became enchanted with Italy and the manner of the people which he described as ‘exceedingly animated and pantomimic; so that two friends of the lower class conversing pleasantly in the street, always seem on the eve of stabbing each other forthwith. And a stranger is immensely astonished at their not doing it.’
On his return from Italy, he again flirted with drama.

He both directed and acted in the 16th century play Every Man in His Humour by Ben Jonson.

In which Dickens took the role of Bobadill, Several of his friends also took part, George Cruikshank was Cob and John Forster played Kitely.

It was repeated several times (three or four) across the next two years.
Every Man in His Humor | Folger: Early Modern English Drama
Every Man in His Humour by Ben Johnson

The Daily News
He became editor of the Daily News, a liberal paper, from 21 Jan to 9 Feb 1846.

During this period, he regularly visited France and had travelled to both Italy and Switzerland.

On his trips Dickens had met with the French literati Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo and others.
In 1846 Angela Burdett Coutts, heir to the banking company, approached Dickens and suggested he fund a home for the redemption of fallen women.

He resisted, but later funded Urania Cottage in Shepherd’s Bush in 1847. He wrote about it in All the Year Round.

It provided food and shelter, taught reading and writing, cooking and singing, other household tasks and gardening. He managed it, set its rules and regulations, reviewee the accounts and met with prospective residents.

Georgiana Morson, a widow with three children to support, was appointed its matron, until she remarried in 1854. One of its prime objectives was for the women was for them to emigrate and marry. It is suggested that around 100 graduated from the cottage in the twelve years 1847 to 1859.

Urania Cottage

Dombey and Son
He began work on Dombey and Son (1846-1848).

Dombey and Son is considered by commentators to have been the turning point when he planned more thoroughly, so that his concern about contemporary society was central, rather than merely in occasional pastiches in previous books.
Charles continued this more serious theme with David Copperfield (1849-1850).

This was Dickens’ professed favourite novel it is thought to be semi-autobiographical.

David Copperfield was light relief by contrast, something a break from the ills of society.

David Copperfield

1852, Charles at 40 years old
Charles was not a religious man.

In 1836 he wrote a pamphlet Sunday Under Three Heads, saying of Anglicanism, ‘Look into your churches – diminished congregations and scanty attendance. People have grown sullen and obstinate, and are becoming disgusted with the faith…’.

He disapproved of Roman Catholicism and highlighted deviations from what he called the true spirit of Christianity.

He did however, from 1846 to 1849, write The Life of Our Lord, which was intended only for reading to his children.

He opened it by saying, ‘My Dear Children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as He was’.

The Life of Our Lord was published in 1934, some 64 years after the death of Charles. This was upon the death of Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, who suggested in his will that it be published if the majority of his family so wished. They did.

The original manuscript joined Grip the stuffed raven at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
From 1851 to 1860 he moved the family into Tavistock House.

The novels in the early 1850s were much darker
Bleak House 1852,
Hard Times 1854
Little Dorrit 1855.

They painted a picture of society being unforgiving and harsh. He also used much more satire, and his characters became ever more complex.

Tavistock House, Tavistock Square

Household Words

A Child’s History of England
From Jan 1851 – Dec 1853 he serialised A Child’s History of England.

It was in his journal, Household Words, which ran from 1850 to 1859, as a weekly magazine edited by Dickens.

It covered the Roman Invasion of 55 BCE through to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when William of Orange took over from James II.

Being no historian, Dickens drew upon the works of others to produce a rather Protestant-leaning account of the period.
He also explored his success with the supernatural with the short story To be Read at Dusk in 1852.

He then branched off into a New Year’s Eve tale with The Long Voyage in 1853.

He wrote Hunted Down in 1859.

To be Read at Dusk

Hunted Down

Dickensian characters
In his various writings he created around 1,700 characters.
He worked closely with Wilkie Collins, the playwright and novelist, his protégé. As a result, he indulged in further theatrical work.

In 1857 he hired some professional actresses for the Dickens/Collins play, The Frozen Deep. He would fall in love with one of the actresses, Ellen Ternan, she was just eighteen.

He mentioned being unhappy in his marriage during the late 1850s. Reportedly his wife had found a present he had bought for Ellen Ternan and they separated in 1858, he was 46.

Dickens took Ellen Ternan as his partner for the last thirteen years of his life (1857-1870). She was twenty-seven years his junior.

As a result, his later novels appear to have included more spirited women characters like Estella in Great Expectations.

Wilkie Collins

Ellen Ternan

Gad’s Hill Place, Gad’s Hill – front and rear
In Mar 1856 he bought Gad’s Hill, near Chatham in Kent, for £1,790.

It was an investment initially, but he made it his family home from Jun 1857.

He had regularly visited the area in 1821 at the age of nine when he had been much impressed by Gad’s Hill Place.

Georgina remained part of his household, to help with the children. He focused on reading tours and journalism, only completing two novels in a decade.

In 1858 he received his legal separation from Catherine. He didn’t slow up, between Apr 1858 and Feb 1859 he made 129 reading appearances in 49 towns throughout England.

He is known to have made a bonfire of his personal notes at Gad’s Hill in Sep 1860. Some suggest this was to ensure the press would not publish details of his letters to others. But of course, it also followed on from his separation. Since Ellen Ternan destroyed all of his letters to her, the affair between them remains rather mysterious.
In 1859 he launched the magazine All the Year Round.

He wrote A Tale of Two Cities and it became one of his most famous novels.

Its opening ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, and its ending ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done’ are among the best-known quotations of all time.

All the Year Round launching A Tale of Two Cities

Great Expectations
He added Great Expectations in 1860.

This deals with wealth and poverty, with love and rejection and in its finale Good triumphs over Evil.
He first produced The Uncommercial Traveller, a collection of tales, in 1861. It had later editions in 1865, 1874 and after his death in 1898.

In 1862 there was a planned trip to Australia for a reading tour, he had been offered £10,000 for this. He also planned a travel book entitled The Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down. But it was eventually scrapped as an idea.

Incidentally, two of the children of Dickens, Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens and Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, migrated to Australia.

The Uncommercial Traveller
In the 1860s he revisited short stories, publishing;
Mrs Lirriper’s Lodging (1863)
Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy (1864), and
Doctor Marigold (1865)
In 1864 Charles Albert Fechter, an Anglo-French actor bought Charles a pre-fabricated two-storey Swiss Chalet as a Christmas present.

He had it assembled on the opposite side of Rochester High Road and had a brick-lined tunnel installed between the front lawn of Gad’s Hill and the chalet.

It was on the top floor of the chalet that he wrote:
A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
Great Expectations (1860), and
Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865), and he began
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870).

The Swiss Chalet

Staplehurst Railway Crash
On 9 Jun 1865 Charles was travelling on a train at Staplehurst in Kent. The track was being repaired and a section 42 feet in length was missing. A signalling error placed Charles and Ellen, and her mother in danger.

All but one of the first class carriages fell into a ravine, ten died and forty were injured in the accident. But, their carriage ended up hung over a bridge at a steep angle, they were shaken up by the incident. Charles helped the ladies to safety and then assisted those injured, he described the scene as unimaginable.

He returned to the carriage to retrieve his unfinished manuscript for Our Mutual Friend.

The incident became the inspiration for his chilling short story The Signal-Man in 1866.

He continued to produce short stories with:
No Thoroughfare (1867)
George Silverman’s Explanation (1868), and
Holiday Romance (1868).
Charles had been considering a return the USA, but their Civil War broke out in 1861 and delayed things.

It was therefore Nov 1867 when he finally set off on his second USA tour. He spent a month in Boston, where he met with fellow authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He performed 76 readings between Dec 1867 and Apr 1868, bringing in some £19,000.

He subsequently gave 22 readings in New York at Steinway Hall.

In Apr 1868, he boarded the Cunard liner Russia to return to Britain, exhausted and unable to take solid food. But he did manage to escape a tax on his tour income.

Buying tickets at Steinway Hall

Charles presenting one of his readings
In 1868-1869 he did a series of farewell readings in England, Scotland and Ireland, 75 in the provinces and 12 in London.

He was experiencing giddiness and fits of paralysis but pressed on with the tour. On 18 Apr 1869 he had a stroke in Chester, on the 22 Apr he collapsed.

He returned home and continued working on The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was quite the done thing to ‘do the slums’ in the 1860s, Charles visited Shadwell’s opium dens, and Lasker Sal, an elderly addict, inspired him to include Opium Sal in the novel.

He went back on tour from 11 Jan to 15 Mar 1870, completing 12 reading performances. On 2 May he made his last performance in front of the Prince and Princes of Wales, he dedicated it to the recent death of his friend Daniel Maclise.
Charles had a stroke on 8 Jun 1870 and died at ten past six on 9 Jun 1870 at Gad’s Hill. He was  on a couch in the dining room of Gad’s Hill. He was just 58 years old

It was five years, to the day, since the railway accident.

His estate was £80,000 left to his friend John Forster. He left Georgina Hogarth and two of his sons an £8,000 tax-free sum.

Ellen Ternan received £1,000 and an annuity from a trust fund so she would never need to work. He gave his divorced wife, Catherine, a further annual income of £600. Each servant in his employ received £19 19s.

Gad’s Hill later became a school and is today a Grade 1 listed building.

Death of Charles Dickens

Memorial in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner
The Times, backed by public opinion, ensured that Charles was buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, London.

The grave was dug overnight and he was interred at 09:30 of 14 Jun 1870. There were just twelve mourners present from among his friends and family.

He had written in his will ‘that my name be inscribed in plain English letters on my tomb… I rest my claims to the remembrance of my country upon my published works…’

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