Dickens, Charles (18121870)

Dickens, Charles, celebrated English novelist, born at Landport, Portsmouth; son of a navy clerk, latterly in great straits; was brought up amid hardships; was sent to a solicitor's office as a clerk, learned shorthand, and became a reporter, a post in which he learned much of what afterwards served him as an author; wrote sketches for the Monthly Magazine under the name of “Boz” in 1834, and the “Pickwick Papers” in 1836-37, which established his popularity; these were succeeded by “Oliver Twist” in 1838, “Nicholas Nickleby” in 1839, and others which it is needless to enumerate, as they are all known wherever the English language is spoken; they were all written with an aim, and as Ruskin witnesses, “he was entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written,” though he thinks we are apt “to lose sight of his wit and insight, because he chooses to speak in a circle of stage fire.... Allowing for his manner of telling them, the things he tells us are always true”; being a born actor, and fain in his youth to become one, he latterly gave public readings from his works, which were immensely popular; “acted better,” says Carlyle, who witnessed one of these performances, “than any Macready in the world; a whole tragic, comic, heroic theatre visible, performing under one hat, and keeping us laughing—in a sorry way some of us thought—the whole night”; the strain proved too much for him; he was seized with a fit at his residence, Gad's Hill, near Rochester, on June 8, 1870, and died the following morning; he was a little man, with clear blue intelligent eyes, a face of most extreme mobility, and a quiet shrewdness of expression (18121870).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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