"Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!" (from the first line)
In the words of George Orwell, "the strongest single impression one carries away" from the novels of Charles Dickens is "a hatred of tyranny"--a passion that began in Dickens's own early life. Son of a navy pay clerk, Dickens had an idyllic childhood until he was 12, when his improvident father was imprisoned for debt and young Charles was sent by his parents to work in a London blacking factory to raise money to pay off his father's creditors. He was there only a few months, but the experience left a harsh impression on him: he not only wrote frequently in his novels about oppressed and victimized children, but, after he became famous, was a tireless crusader against child labor and other social evils. In time, the young Dickens did return to school, and in his teens, he acquired a reader's ticket to the British Museum, where he educated himself further, reading Shakespeare and other classics. He became a law clerk and a shorthand reporter, and then began writing for various periodicals, becoming a successful and sought-after journalist. In 1833, he published his first short story, and his first full-length book, THE PICKWICK PAPERS, was published three years later, when he was 24--the same year he was married to Catherine Hogarth. As he and his wife began to produce children--10 in all--Dickens also produced literature, most of which was published serially, including OLIVER TWIST (1837), NICHOLAS NICKELBY (1839), and A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1843). He wrote according to a rigorous schedule (daily, between breakfast and luncheon), and from the 1840s on, he traveled widely, giving speeches and readings, and lived in Italy and in Paris briefly in the mid-1840s. His marriage was never a happy one; in 1858, he and his wife separated, and from that period until his death Dickens was romantically involved with the young actress Ellen Ternan. Among Dickens's later works are DAVID COPPERFIELD (1850), HARD TIMES (1854), and LITTLE DORRITT (1857), which drew on his own troubled childhood, as well as A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859) and OUR MUTUAL FRIEND (1865). His last novel, a suspense tale, was THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, left unfinished at his death in June, 1870, from a stroke that may have been brought on by his strenuous schedule of public appearances. Though he lived to be only 58, Dickens's output was prodigious and varied, both wildly comical and deadly serious, and he remains one of the most enduring and beloved writers in the canon of English literature.