A Tale of Two Cities: Biography: Charles Dickens

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Charles Dickens was the second of seven children born to a lower-middle class family in the town of Portsmouth on February 7, 1812. His father, John Dickens, worked as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. His mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of the Chief Conductor of Moneys in the Navy Pay Office. The family later moved to Chatham where Charles first attended school John Dickens' impulsive speculations coupled with a depressed British economy led the family to move to Camden Town in London where John's failure to pay his debts eventually landed him in Marshalsea Prison. Charles was put to work at Warran's Blacking Factory at the age of twelve. An inheritance from a relative allowed John to pay off his debts and the family sent Charles private school where his was undistinguished as a scholar. He left school at the age of fifteen and worked as an office boy in a firm of solicitors. He resolved to become a reporter and worked his way up to the position of legal reporter for the Mirror of Parliament. His observations of the noisy parliamentary proceedings led him to form many of his early negative opinions of politicians and the workings of government. He allied himself with the radical newspaper True Sun and used his columns to campaign for reform. His first story appeared, like many that followed, in serial form. He published under his own name and under the pseudonym "Boz" in several different papers and the stories were so popular that they were collected into a book published as Sketches by Boz (1836). This began a career for Dickens as a successful novelist and his reputation was established by such lasting works as Oliver Twist (1838), The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) and A Christmas Carol (1843). These and other works made him the most popular writer in England but Dickens, ever the social reformer, continued to fight for the betterment of the working class. He was the editor of several radical newspapers and in 1842 made a tour of America's prisons during the course of which he denounced slavery as immoral. His last journal was named All the Year Round which he founded after a bitter dispute with his previous publisher. Works such as A Tale of Two Cities (1859), which launched the new journal, and Great Expectations (1861) ensured the newspaper's success and solidified Dickens' reputation. He engaged in long, bitter, public airings of his divorce from his first wife during these years. He died suddenly on June 8th, 1870 still very much an active man of letters.

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