His rags to riches story began on 7 February 1812. At the age of nine he was sent to school only to be taken out again shortly after due to his father being jailed for bad debts. The young Charles was made to work in dreadful conditions in a blacking factory, where he remained for a further 3 years. He returned to school after that but never forgot his experiences in the factory and drew upon them to write two of his better known classic fiction books of all time, David Copperfield and Great Expectations.
As a small boy, barely 12 years old, Charles Dickens spent days of humiliation and neglect pasting labels onto jars of black boot polish, in a rat-infested London warehouse. He saw his relatives only on Sundays, when he visited Marshalsea, a debtor's prison where his whole family, with the exception of one sister, resided. During these years, Dickens swung back and forth between what friends and acquaintances later recounted as either an overwhelmingly cheery disposition or crippling depression.
During the course of his life, Dickens never told another soul, other than his wife and his best friend, about those years of poverty, abandonment, and fear. This period of his life defined him and his books and it is absolutely essential to know this in order to understand the author himself. This period seemed to put a stain on Dickens who was a clever and sensitive boy, that coloured everything he accomplished, though as previously mentioned he never told the story except obliquely through his fiction.
Some little known facts about Dickens are that when he was a young boy he saw a beautiful house and was enchanted by it. His father told him if he worked hard he could one day live in a house like it. Charles went one better and actually purchased the same house he'd seen all those years ago.
Some of the characters in his books, Monks from Oliver Twist; Guster from Bleak House and Bradley Headstone from Our Mutual Friend, suffered from epilepsy and it was believed that Dickens himself suffered from the condition also. Experts came to this conclusion after reading some of Dickens' journals in which he describes the symptoms of epilepsy accurately.
Dickens is well-known for his books about Christmas but despite his efforts couldn't get anyone to publish the very first one. Nevertheless, at a considerable loss to himself he published it on his own. Published in 1843 it is now a Christmas classic - A Christmas Carol.
Many of the characters in his books often have rather peculiar nicknames like Sweedlepipe and Pumblechook to name but two. Dickens was also known to give nicknames to his own children, of which there were 10, for example Boz and Skittles.
Dickens began his literary career as a journalist which allowed him to publish his works on a regular basis, starting with the very successful Pickwick Papers which was just the beginning...
As well as a large number of novels Dickens also wrote travel books and plays, edited periodicals and was an administrator of some charitable organisations. Dickens died of a stroke in 1870 before the completion of his novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood (which has just recently been finished and made into a TV series) and was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Today these novels, many of which closely mirrored Dickens' own life, continue to have a powerful emotional impact on readers.