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Charles Dickens is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 19th century. He was an advocate for social change during a very bleak time in Britain's history, and his views and experiences are reflected in his writing. He penned such works as David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and A Tale of Two Cities.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth on the southern coast of England. He was one of eight children born to John and Elizabeth Dickens. Despite the efforts and aspirations of John and Elizabeth, their family remained resolutely poor, and in 1824, when Charles was 12, his father was imprisoned for his debt. Charles was forced to go to work, and he was given a job at a boot-blacking factory
After a short respite during which John was able to pay off his debts and Charles could go back to school, he was forced once again to join the workforce. At 15, he started as an office clerk, then as a shorthand reporter for the courts, and finally as an office assistant for a newspaper.
This launched him into the world of journalism, and he soon started to freelance as a writer, illustrator, and captionist under the pen name “Boz.” In 1836, his sketches and short pieces from various magazines were published together in his first book titled Sketches by Boz.
In spring of 1843, Dickens became aware of a government report on child labor. The report consisted of interviews with children (gathered by a journalist friend of Dickens) on the intensity of their labors. He also visited the Field Lane Ragged School, a destitute facility for the schooling of the poorest of London’s children.
The report and his visit to the school had a profound impact on Dickens, who himself had once been part of that child labor force. In fall of that year, he began work on what would become A Christmas Carol.
"This boy is Ignorance and this
girl is Want.
Beware them both...but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."