Children

On the journey to fame

Charles Dickens was considered one of the greatest writers of his time. Through his writing brought into the open, the suffering and oppression of the poor and downtrodden.

We are all familiar with the story of the Christmas ghost that comes visiting an elderly miser and shows him snippets of a life lived selfishly, causing him to change his lifestyle.

This is a story by Charles Dickens. Born on February 8, 1812, he was an English writer, and created some of the best known fictional characters of his time. He was the second of eight children, and of his early life he says, “Very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy”. He spent a lot of time outdoors and was a voracious reader too. But, his sunny days came to a sudden end when his father was thrown into prison.

Charles had to be lodged with a family friend, whom he later immortalised in his book Dombey and Son, as Mrs. Pipchin. Later, he went to live in the back attic of an agent for the Insolvent Court, whom he wrote about in The Old Curiosity Shop.

He had to leave school, so that he could pay for his board and help his family. He worked 10 hours a day for which he earned six shillings a week. His job? Pasting labels on pots of boot blacking. A few months later, his grandmother passed away and she bequeathed a sum of money to his father that enabled him to pay his debts and be released from prison. The family left for Marshalsea in Southwark, London. However, to Charles’ great dismay, his mother never asked for him to be released from his job. He was sufficiently hurt, “I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back”.

Back to school

He went back to school, after which he worked as a junior clerk at a law office. He later worked as a freelance reporter. By 20, though he lacked focus on what he wanted to become, he knew he wanted fame.

In 1833, he submitted his first story “A Dinner at Poplar Walk” to the London periodical Monthly Magazine. Two years later, he began a series on Street Sketches for the Morning Chronicle. The Sketches by Boz became popular, and he received a proposal from publishers to supply text to match the illustrations for a monthly letterpress. The resulting story became Pickwick Papers, and in its final instalment sold 40,000 copies.

Over time, his success as a novelist grew. It is said the young Queen Victoria read Oliver Twist and Pickwick Papers, and was enthralled by them. Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), The Old Curiosity Shop(1840–41) and, finally, his first historical novel, Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty, as part of the Master Humphrey's Clock series (1840–41), were all published in monthly instalments before being made into books.

On June 8, 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. He has stated that he wished to be buried at Rochester Cathedral “in an inexpensive, ostentatious and, strictly private manner”, but instead was laid to rest in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

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Printable version | May 24, 2020 5:03:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/on-the-journey-to-fame/article26160068.ece

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