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Charles Dickens


Charles Dickens
February 7, 1812, Portsmuth, England
Died: June 9, 1870, Gad's Hill Place, Higham, Kent, England

Charles Dickens was a celebrity of his time. He was born in Portsmuth, England in February of 1812. The Napoleanic wars were ending and the Victorian era was beginning. The Industrial Revolution led to gruesome working conditions. Charles Dickens was one of 8 children.

Charles Dickens

He was a highly imaginative child, and sought to entertain people. His father was careless with his money and got himself into debt. Dickens fictionalized many of his family and friends in the novel David Copperfield, which became his most autobiographical novel. At the age of 12 his father was arrested for debt and thrown in prison; he brought his entire family along except Charles.

Charles Dickens was sent to work in a shoe polish factory, in order to earn money to pay off his father’s debt. It crushed his dreams. He worked there for one year. He felt shame/guilt about this. Having guilty secrets is at the heart of many of his novels. His father and mother argued about whether Charles should continue to work, and use the money he made to support the family or to become educated/a gentleman.

At age 16, he went to work as a clerk in a lawyer’s office. He found the law boring, and considered lawyers to be awful people. A few years later he wanted to become an actor, but instead became a shorthand reporter for the newspaper. In this job he learned a lot about human behavior, government, and social conditions. His first love was Maria Beadnele. Maria toyed with his affections. He did not marry her because her father wanted her to marry someone who was wealthy.

The first step in his career was creating drawings accompanied by text. Originally posted around town, they were later gathered into his first publication called Sketches by Boz. It was after this success that he met Catherine Hogarth, and fell madly in love with her. They married in 1836. His career was taking off, and he was next asked to work on a project called The Pickwick Papers. He was to write text for descriptions of cockneyed sportsmen trying to be country gentry in London, but who were comically clumsy about it. Before the project was complete, the illustrator killed himself, allowing Dickens to make creative decisions about the project. It was wildly popular, and sold over 40,000 copies per month. His first “novel” was Nickolaus Nickelby, which was serialized, or sold in parts. This made the work more accessible to the public.

Charles Dickens was a workaholic. He was the most famous author in England, even though he was only in his twenties. At this time, Catherine’s younger sister, Mary, moved in with them to help with the children. Charles fell in love with her, and after she died he became obsessed with her, even expressing the desire to share her grave. Next he went on his first American tour. He found America to be crass and disappointing. Upon his return to England, he experienced his first drop in sales. At this point, he wanted to write something special for Christmas. A Christmas Carol was written in 1843, the same year the first Christmas card was published. After his next novel, Dombey and Sons, he was always successful and had no money troubles.

Despite a successful career, loving wife and ten beautiful children, he was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his life. He received a letter from his first love, Maria Beadnele, and decided to meet her. Upon seeing her again, he realized she was fat, forty, and silly. While his early novels end happily, after Bleakhouse, none of the novels end tidily. In 1858, he became legally separated from his wife. Nine of the ten children lived with him. They became close to their mother again when Dickens died.

Charles Dickens was afraid of failure. He began doing public readings of his most popular works. In the 1860’s he made another trip to America. He wanted to milk the “Golden American Cow.” This took its toll, and Charles became physically exhausted. He started the novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. But unfortunately, he never finished it. In June of 1870, Charles Dickens died of a stroke. He was buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, an honored resting place. Charles Dickens was haunted by “demons.” He felt loneliness, anger, and disappointment about so many events in his life, but realized that those feelings are what made him a great writer. He is known as one of the most influential writers of all time.

Ever seeking new adventures, Hemingway took his first African safari in 1933-1934; during these travels he also revisited Spain and France. His Green Hills of Africa, published in 1935, resulted from this, his first of many African ventures. Back in Key West after the Spanish Civil War ended in 1938, Hemingway was restless, and in 1939, he bought a house, called Finca Vigia, outside Havana, Cuba, and moved there. Hemingway’s obsession with adventure and with proving his masculinity-clear motivations for many of his more daring adventures-made him difficult to live with; in 1940, Pauline divorced him. In the same year, For Whom the Bell Tolls was published, and Hemingway married newswoman Martha Gellhorn, several years his senior, whom he regarded subconsciously as a mother figure, as he may have done all his wives. His resentment of his own mother is often said to have manifested itself in his marriages, directed against the women he chose to marry.

With the entry of the United States into World War II, Hemingway again went to Europe as a war correspondent. He participated in the Allied Normandy invasion, hatched a personal scheme to liberate Paris, and attached himself to the Fourth Infantry Division, somewhat against the will of its officers. When Hemingway returned to Cuba during the war, he became a self-appointed antisubmarine operative, sailing into the ocean on his yacht to spot enemy submarines and disable any he encountered. The U.S. government was embarrassed by Hemingway’s unsolicited help. His literary production declined during this period, and his drinking was out of control. When Martha Gellhorn divorced him in 1944, he quickly married Mary Welsh, who would remain his wife until Hemingway, seeking the same solution to his problems that his father had earlier, committed suicide in 1961.

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