Spotlight On: Charles Dickens

Hi everyone,

Here’s the third installment of my “Spotlight On…” blogpost series. If you haven’t read my previous ones on Mary Shelley and George Orwell, you can find them here and here.

This one focuses on Charles Dickens, which I think is very apt for this time of year.

Like the last couple of times, this blogpost will be divided into 6 different parts:

1. A little bit about their life

2. Their works I have read

3. Their works I am yet to read

4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works


6. An author biography recommendation

So without further ado…

A Little Bit About Their Life

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on 7th February 1812 in Portsmouth to parents John and Elizabeth Dickens.

Charles was the second of eight children. His father was a Navy Pay Office clerk.

The Dickens family moved onto London in 1814, and from then relocated to Chatham, Kent two years later (a place still synonymous with his name!) In 1822, they had to move back into London, more particularly the poor area of Camden Town due to his father’s financial difficulties.

Perhaps the hardest moment of Dicken’s childhood was when he was just 12 years old; his father was sent to Marshalsea’s debtors prison and, as a result,  Charles was withdrawn from school and forced to work in a workhouse polishing shoes to help his family survive. His experiences in the workhouse contributed to his very accurate depictions of them in his writing.

Dickens-online say “This experience left profound psychological and sociological effects on Charles. It gave him a firsthand acquaintance with poverty and made him the most vigorous and influential voice of the working classes in his age.”

One Dicken’s father was released from prison, he was allowed to return to school. At 15, his formal education finished and he worked as an office clerk at an attorney’s, whilst studying at night. From 1830 he worked as a shorthand reporter in the courts and afterwards as a parliamentary and newspaper reporter.

As his contacts grew in the press world, he was able to publish short stories and sketches under the nom de plume of “Boz”, hence his collection Sketches by Boz (published in 1836). Within the same month came the publication of the highly successful Pickwick Papers, and from that point on there was no looking back for Dickens. His popularity increased massively, to the point where he was able to buy Gad’s Hill Place; an estate he had admired since being a child.

That very same year he married Catherine Hogarth, daugher of the editor of the Evening Chronicle. Together they had ten children in total, and separated in 1858. It was also around this time that he began an affair with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. No one really knows too much about their relationship, as it was clearly a private and personal matter to Dickens.

Although he was primarily known as a novelist, Dickens continued working as a journalist and he helped to edit various publications and newspapers until his death.

During a reading in 1869, Dickens collapsed, showing symptoms of a stroke. He returned back to his house and began work on Edwin Drood which was never completed.

Charles Dickens died at home on 9th June 1870 after suffering a stroke. Contrary to his wish to be buried in Rochester Cathedral, he was buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. The inscription on his tomb reads: “He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world”.

Their Works I Have Read

Of all of Dicken’s works I have only read Oliver Twist, Great Expectations (many times), and A Christmas Carol (various times), American Notes, and many other of his short Christmas and ghost stories.

Though I love what I have read of his works, and would definitely class him as one of my favourite authors, there is a sense of nervousness around me reading his other works. I love Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol so much, that they do really have to live upto those.

Their Works I Am Yet To Read

Of all their works I am yet to read, I would have to say I’m most excited to delve into Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit.

It is one of my 2020 goals to read more Dickens books.

Great Film and TV Adaptations

There are COUNTLESS film and TV adaptations based on Dickens’ works and if I were to discuss all of them then we’d be here forever.

I particularly love Oliver Twist (1968) – the musical adaptation, Great Expectations (2011), and A Christmas Carol (2009).

I’ve also just watched The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) which is a great Christmas film!


“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.”

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
“Heaven knows wIe need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
“Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.”
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

“Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”

“I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”

A Biography Recommendation

If you would like to read more about Dickens life and what him inspired him to write, I would recommend reading Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin, and Dickens: Abridged by Peter Ackroyd.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Zoë xx

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