Charles Dickens was born in Landsport, a small town near the sea, in a middle-class family. In 1814 the family moved to London. His father was a clerk in a navy office; he got a small salary there and usually spent more than he earned. As a result of this he was thrown into the debtors' prison when Charles was only ten. At that age the boy went to work at a factory which was like a dark, damp cellar. There he stuck labels on bottles of shoeblacking all day long, for a few pennies.
Later he went to school which he attended for only three years and at the age of 15 he started his work in a lawyer's office. He continued to educate himself, mainly by reading books. At 18 he became a reporter in Parliament. There he got acquainted with politics and never had a high opinion of his country's policy afterwards.
In 1833 he began to write his first short stories about London life. In 1836 those stories were published as a book, under the title of Sketches by Boz; Boz was the penname with which he signed his first work.
In 1837 Dickens became well-known to the English readers. His first big work appeared, written in instalments for a magazine at first, and later published in book form. It was The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. From then on Dickens was one of the best known and loved writers of his day.
In 1842 he made his first trip to America. He said that he wanted to see for himself what "real" democracy was like. He was rather disappointed with it. He wrote about his trip and his impressions in his American Notes.
Dickens travelled a lot. He visited France and Italy and later went to America again. At the same time he continued to write. In 1858 he began to tour England, reading passages from his works to the public. These readings were a great success, for Dickens was a wonderful actor, but the hard work and travelling were bad for his health. On March 15, 1870, he made his last reading and said to the public "From these garish lights I vanish now for evermore". He suffered a stroke on June, 8, and died the following day at his writing desk penning a sentence for Edwin Drude. The novel was left unfinished.
Dickens literary heritage is of world importance. He developed the English social novel, writing about the most burning social problems of his time. He created a wide gallery of pictures of bourgeois society and its representative types which still exist in England; he wrote of the workhouses of England and the tragedy of the children who lived in them (Oliver Twist); he wrote about the problem of education and showed how it handicapped children (Nicholas Nickleby).
After his trip to America Dickens wrote Martin Chuzzlewit. A part of this work had an American setting. He criticized American customs and democracy very severely. Later Dickens wrote about money and its terrible, destructive power over men (Dombey and Son). David Copperfield, one of the most lyrical of his works, was to some extent autobiographical; it reflected a young man's life in bourgeois society. Dickens criticized some negative aspects of that society, especially child labour and the system of education. Such problems as marriage and love in the bourgeois world were also treated in this novel.
Dickens' later novels were Bleak House and Little Dorrit. In Bleak House he took up the problem of law and justice; in Little Dorrit the reader got acquainted with the debtors' prison of London. Those novels showed more clearly than before the great social gap between the bourgeoisie and the common people. In Hard Times he wrote of the class struggle between the capitalists and the proletariat. Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend reflected an entirely new feeling, that of disillusionment. That tragic feeling became stronger than Dickens' usual optimism.
Among his works there are two historical novels. In 1841 he wrote Barnaby Rudge, taking a subject from English history of the year 1780, known as the "Gordon Rebellion". In 1848 Dickens turned to history again; he wrote
A Tale of Two Cities, a story about people closely connected with the French Bourgeois Revolution, and the time that preceded it.
Well, I can say that Charles Dickens wrote one novel named as DOMBEY AND SON. Truthfully speaking it is to my liking.
This novel was written in 1848. It is the story of a city business man, whose only interest in life is his firm. According to Dombey "The earth was made for Dombey and Son to trade in, and the sun and moon were made to give them light. Rivers and .seas were formed to float their ships; rainbows to give them promise of fair weather;
winds blew for, or against, their enterprises; stars and planets circled in their orbits to preserve inviolate a system of which they were the centre".
Dombey is busy making money, and all that surrounds him is of little or no importance. His coldness, his absolute lack of human feeling towards people is extraordinary.
The firm, which is his life, is called Dombey and Son. He has a daughter, Florence, whom he considers to be "a piece of base coin" because she is a girl. He does not love her, although the little girl loves him dearly.
When at last a son is born, it is he who becomes the centre of Dombey's life and interests. However, he sees in little Paul only a means to continue his business. His main feeling now becomes his anxiety to see Paul grown up and ready to work with him, to continue his money-making business. He does not notice that the little boy sickens at school, where he is sent to be made a man as quickly as possible. The little boy's poor health breaks under the strain of misery. He cannot get accustomed to school life, far away from home, from his sister Florence whom he loves so much. Little Paul feels that he will not get better, that he will die as his mother died when he was born. He cannot understand why the money, that his father considers to be so powerful, could not save his mother and cannot make him strong and well.
The death of little Paul is the beginning of Dombey's misfortunes. His second wife, Edith, a young widow from an aristocratic family, hates him, because he has actually bought her taking advantage of her desperate situation. She soon leaves him, and his secretary, Mr. Carker, runs away with his money and ruins him. Only Florence's love for him remains unchanged, and she and her husband take care of this lonely old man.
When Belinsky read Dombey and Son he called it a miracle that made all other works written by Dickens seem pale and weak. He said that it was "something ugly, monstrously beautiful".
In a work of art he revealed the ugliness of relations based on money. He had an eye that penetrated into the very depths of contemporary society. Thus, the sombre and arrogant Dombey was shown as a cold and tragic figure, a product of the money-making atmosphere. Opposed to him are Florence and Paul, loving and lovable creatures. Dickens made them tender, kind-hearted and despising money. That is why the novel seems at times like a story of these two children, rather than that of their cruel father.
Dickens possessed an immense power of generalization which made all his characters look familiar and recognisable types. He used to repeat that the best compliment to him was to hear his readers say that he or she had known personally this or that one of his characters.
The critical realistic approach to society was established by him at the very beginning of his creative life. His criticism of reality became sharper as his outlook and art matured. In the course of time the soft humour and light-hearted laughter of his first works gave way to mockery and satire. His novels were socially effective because they drew the wide public's attention to various problems and made the authorities consider and introduce reforms into such spheres as education, law and others.
Up to our days Dickens has remained one of the most widely read writers. He is loved and honoured by readers all over the world.