Charles Dickens was born on this day in 1812. He was an English writer and social critic. During his lifetime, his works enjoyed unprecedented popularity. He is now considered a literary genius because he created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.
1. Growing up, he had a difficult childhood and was in and out of school.
Dickens had to leave school at 12 and take up a job in a boot-blacking factory after his father, John, was sent to prison for debt in 1824. He returned to school when his family inherited enough money to cover what they owed. But, just 3 years after first leaving school, at the age of 15, he was taken out once again to work in an office.
2. He married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 and together they had 10 children, all of which he gave strange nicknames, such as “Lucifer Box”, “Chickenstalker” and “Skittles”.
Dickens and his wife separated in 1858 and many believe his marriage broke down due to his relationship with young actress Ellen Ternan.
3. During his time as a newspaper journalist, he would send sketches to magazines and newspapers under the pseudonym “Boz”.
His sketches became so popular that he published a compilation of illustrations called Sketches by Boz in 1839.
4. After spending a long time touring there, Dickens took against America and heavily criticised the country in his travelogue American Notes, published in 1842.
He embarked on this tour to give lectures on abolitionism. The movement to end slavery. His lectures became so popular, they turned him into a celebrity.
5. He was one of the first members of “The Ghost Club”, a group in London dedicated to investigating the paranormal.
“The Ghost Club” is the oldest ghost-hunting organisation and is still in operation to this day. Charles Dickens wasn’t the only famous face to join the club, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was also an early member.
6. He kept a pet raven called Grip.
After Grip’s death, Dickens had him stuffed and replaced with another raven and an eagle.
7. As a child Dickens suffered from epilepsy and he was also thought to have had obsessive compulsive disorder.
He channelled his experiences with epilepsy into some of characters with Monks from Oliver Twist and Guster from Bleak House also suffering from seizures.
8. Dickens was working on a novel when he died called The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
The irony is that Edwin Drood is a mystery, no one has a clue how it was supposed to end.
9. He would always sleep facing north.
He thought this would improve his writing and, as he did produce some terrific works, if you’re looking to pen your masterpiece why not give this odd practice ago?
10. He had an interest in hypnosis.
He learnt how to hypnotise others and practiced on his wife, children and friends.
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