Charles Dickens was born in a village on the southeast coast of England. His father and mother were constantly in debt. Dickens was forced to go out to work at an early age, when his father was imprisoned for debt. During this period of his life he knew the humiliations of poverty and led a lonely neglected existence.
When his father was released from prison, Dickens received three years of schooling under an ignorant tyrannical master. At the age of sixteen, he obtained a position in a solicitor’s office. There he began to acquire some knowledge of the English legal system, which he then used in some of his novels. He was employed as a law clerk, and later on became known as the best political newspaper reporter in London.
He began writing little stories for various periodicals. When he was twenty-four, some of these appeared in book form under the title Sketches by Boz; in 1837 they were collectively published as the famous Pickwick Papers.
Once famous, Dickens began giving public lectures and reading from his works he visited the United States. The results of these voyages were contained in American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit giving an unfavourable view of American Life.
Dicken’s other well-known works are: Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old curiosity shop, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, A Christmas Carol.
David Copperfield is regarded by many as Dickens’s masterpiece. Dickens championed the cause of the lowly and the oppressed against the proud and the tyrannical. To increase dramatic effect in his stories, he presented odious characters making vice more hateful by slowness, the laws for their seventy, the brutality of masters in charity schools, the appalling degradation of the workhouses, the new manufacturing systems in short, any social class or institution that appeared to him insincere or unjust. Dickens used the novel as a social force directed against injustice.
Dickens was the most popular novelist of Victorian England. Today we are bound to recognize some limitations and defects in his work; his characters are sometimes exaggeratedly. His plots are very seldom carefully constructed, they often follow the hero from his very childhood right into his maturer years through a series of personal adventures but it must be admitted that the genius of the author is able to manage both his plots and his types in such a way as to capture our attention.