(1812 - 1870)
At the age of twelve in 1824, Charles Dickens went to work in a factory while his father went to a debtors’ prison. Three years later, he finished school, finding work first as a clerk in a solicitor’s office and then as a court stenographer. He gained renown for publishing The Pickwick Papers in serial form from 1836 to 1837, which was soon followed by Oliver Twist in 1838 and Nicholas Nickleby in 1839. Both prolific and popular, Dickens is generally considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, with his books David Copperfield, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations among the seminal works of the period. He was also a lifelong ally of social causes, serving more than a decade as director of a reformatory home for female juvenile delinquents. In his later years, Dickens gave hundreds of public readings that drew large crowds of adoring fans on both sides of the Atlantic. He died at the age of fifty-eight in 1870.