Charles Dickens is one of England’s
most famous writers. Born in 1812, he began writing as a free-lance
reporter in 1829. Although he worked as a journalist throughout his
career, he is best known for his novels. His first successful novel was
The Pickwick Papers. In the custom of the day, it was first
published in installments in a magazine. Like other books first
published this way that proved popular, it was later published in
regular book form.
Dickens had a difficult childhood. His
father was sent to debtors’ prison. Some of his most famous novels,
Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations,
are based on his own childhood experiences. His other famous novels are
A Tale of Two Cities, about the French Revolution, Nicholas
Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Bleak House. In 1843,
the year he wrote Martin Chuzzlewit, he also published The
Christmas Carol, the most famous of his popular series of Christmas
books. The first episode of his final book, The Mystery of Edwin
Drood, was published in a magazine in April 1870, only three months
before he died.
It is estimated that, during Dickens’
lifetime, one out of every ten Britons read his books, frequently out
loud to other people. They were not the only ones to read Dickens’
works aloud. The author himself was a great public reader of his work.
His public readings throughout England and in other European countries
were highly popular events. He made a reading tour of America in 1867.
The 12 farewell
readings he gave in London in January 1870 are thought to have damaged
his health. Charles Dickens died of a brain hemorrhage on June 9.
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(1) Like many other 19-century authors, Dickens is highly prolific. (2)
That is, he wrote many novels, most of which are long, and much else in
addition. (3) The books’ strong story lines and their memorable,
well-drawn characters makes them as interesting to readers today as they
were in his day. (4) This could also be said of some of his fellow
writers. (5) Tobias Smollett, Sir Walter Scott, and, particularly,
Anthony Trollope, all also wrote copiously and still have a significant
readerships today. (6) Even so, no other author of his time has matched
Dickens’ continuing popularity. (7) His books are read and studied by
readers from grammar school to graduate school, which have been
translated into countless languages. (8) Professional critics and
biographers continue to study both the man and his work. (9) Perhaps the
strongest indication of his popularity and relevance for our day are the
facts that many of his works have been turned into popular movies, stage
plays, and even Broadway musicals.
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