Thursday, February 3, 2011

15 Things You Never Knew About Dickens

If you consider yourself to be a well-read individual — at least of the classics — you’ve probably read a lot of Dickens. Even non-English majors have most likely stumbled across Dickens’ greatest characters in college classes and of course, in iconic films remakes, like A Christmas Carol. And just as you’d expect, the writer behind Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist and Pip was just as complex as his famous characters. Here are 15 things you may not have known about Charles Dickens (professors and total Dickens freaks aside).
  1. He was a control freak: Although he was never diagnosed, and it’s impossible to posthumously diagnose someone, scientists and doctors believe that Dickens may have had OCD. He was supposedly a control freak and had many rituals involving repetitive behavior, like rearranging furniture and religiously inspecting his children’s bedrooms for tidiness and order.
  2. He had ten children: Between 1837 and 1852, Dickens’ wife Catherine gave birth to 10 children. Dora Annie died when she was an infant, and the youngest, Edward, died at 10 years old.
  3. He took on factory work at age 12: You may already know that Dickens’ father was taken to prison because of financial problems, but you may not have known that 12-year-old Charles went to work wrapping shoe-black bottles at Warren’s Blacking Factory to help support his family during that time.
  4. Dickens spoke out against slavery: A long-time, committed supporter of social justice issues, Dickens also disapproved of slavery. He reportedly spoke out against it when visiting friends in America, which did not go over well.
  5. He was a leader of social justice and reform until his death: Dickens was an advocate for all kinds of social justice issues, including educating the poor, parliamentary reform, public health, the legal system, the workhouse system, and others.
  6. He was a realistic recorder of epilepsy and seizures: Dickens wrote about epileptic fits and seizures (characters like Guster from Bleak House, Monks from Oliver Twist, and Bradley Headstone from Our Mutual Friend had them) with such accuracy that today’s doctors believe he may have suffered from them himself.
  7. Dickens wrote 5 Christmas books: While he’s best known for A Christmas Carol, Dickens actually wrote five books about Christmastime: The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, as well as A Christmas Carol. They were all published between 1843-1848.
  8. He practiced mesmerism: Dickens was introduced to mesmerism — an early form of hypnosis — by Professor Joseph Elliotson at University College, London. Dickens supposedly became a master at mesmerism was fascinated at its power to control minds.
  9. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print: A Christmas Carol was published for the first time in 1843, and since then, it has never been out of print.
  10. His nickname was "Boz": Dickens’ younger brother Augustus supposedly used to pronounce his nickname in a way that sounded like "Boz," and Dickens adopted that name as his own pseudonym.
  11. Dickens nicknamed his kids, too: A fan of using nicknames with siblings and in his work, Dickens also gave his kids nicknames, like Skittles.
  12. He often based characters on people he knew in real life: Dickensian characters are so memorable, it’s no wonder Dickens actually modeled some of them on real-life people he knew. And David Copperfield is said to be mostly autobiographical.
  13. He worked as a court reporter and parliamentary reporter: Before becoming a fiction writer, Dickens worked for a lawyer but then switched professions to focus on writing and journalism. He first worked as a court reporter and then as a parliamentary reporter, before publishing his first story in 1833.
  14. The Pickwick Papers started as a series of sketches: The Pickwick Papers is Dickens’ first novel, but it actually started out as a series of sketches and caricatures of Cockneys, drawn by Robert Seymour. Seymour’s publishers recruited Dickens to write bits of text to accompany the sketches, but Dickens ended up taking over the project.
  15. He died working on a novel: Dickens’ last novel was just a work in progress when he died. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is still unfinished, but some installments were published, and two films were even made based on the work.
This post is a guest post from Accredited Online Colleges, contributed by Emma Taylor.


  1. Thanks! This was very enjoyable & will be shared at our dinner table!

  2. Very nice! I was especially interested in his documentation of seizures.

  3. Haha, that's great, Gina! Sounds like my family :)

  4. Wow. He sounds like a cool guy. We coulda hung out ;)

  5. I did not know all of this. It's very interesting - thanks for sharing! :)


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