With his dad in prison, Charles quit school to work in a factory so he could take care of his family. He loved writing, but it wasn't known as a legitimate way of making money back then, so he wrote on the side for the recreation of it.
He fell deeply in love when he was 18 years old with Maria Beadnell, who came from a wealthy family. Her parents told her to stay away from Charles because he wasn’t of her social class. Any chance of them being together was distinguished when her parents sent her to Paris to attend school. One of the characters in his book David Copperfield was said to have been based on her.
He worked late hours at the factory and then wrote into the night. He learned to write short-hand and got a job as a court reporter. His natural sketching ability also made him valuable to the court. He used this talent to provide sketch work for various publications over the years for extra cash.
Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms. His work ethic was tremendous.
He married Catherine Hogarth, who was the daughter of a newspaper editor, and they had ten children. When they got married one of his brothers moved in with them along with Catherine’s 17-year-old sister Mary.
Dickens and Mary became extremely close then one day she became very ill and died in his arms. He was devastated by her death and quit writing. When he did start writing again he used elements of her character to keep her alive in unique ways. Dickens said that losing Mary cut so deep emotionally that he was finally able to write about death in his novels.
A lot of writers like to keep their manuscripts hidden except for allowing the editor(s) and publisher to read it but Dickens was different. The primary reasons authors do this is that they don’t want their writings stolen before they are copyrighted but also because they’re vulnerable to criticism because it’s not their best/finished work. Dickens pursued feedback from a variety of people including his wife regarding his works which helped him develop his stories and characters. For as amazingly talented as he was he didn’t have the ego to go along with it.
His hard work paid off as he went on to write such classics as: Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol. He was just 25 when he published Oliver Twist. Keep in mind that this entire time he continued to write for small publications, help edit other people’s works, etc., another indication that he was modest and just loved reading and writing.
I feel like his writings are so enjoyable to read because of his wit; sometimes even dark subjects would get a little lighter because of the words he chose to use. But not everyone appreciated his works such as Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf as they thought his writing lacked depth. I certainly don’t know if this was jealously or not, but the fact is Dickens came on the writing scene fast and furious. He kept pumping out successful novels and books were fairly expensive back then (I guess they still are now), so he was certainly taking away sales from both Wilde and Woolf.
Besides being such a successful writer, he never forgot his roots and spent his life as a philanthropist helping women and children in need. During a trip to the United States he spoke out against slavery and the oppressed in general. He also spoke out about international copyright laws and piracy which was taking place in the literary world.
Exactly five years to the day before his death, he was on a train that went off the tracks where seven rail cars plunged into a river. Dickens was instrumental in attending to the victims receiving credit for having saved several lives. He began experiencing strokes and then died of a heart attack at the age of 58. He was still writing up until the moment of his death.
I guess the real proof as to how awesome Dickens was is to consider that after 166 years we can still find his books and DVD’s of his movies, pretty much everywhere. That's an awesome legacy!