On February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was born into a lower-middle class family in Portsmouth, England. His father, a navy clerk, eventually moved the family — consisting of Dickens and his five siblings, including their youngest brother, a sickly boy known as “Tiny Fred” — to a smaller house in London. That four-room house at 16 Bayham Street is thought to be the model for the Cratchit house in A Christmas Carol.
When he was 12, his father was imprisoned for debt, and Dickens was compelled to work in a factory. He never forgot this humiliation and fictionalized it in some of his novels.
Inspired to write a Christmas story to encourage people to help those in need and to lessen his own financial woes, Dickens wrote in 1843 A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas in six weeks. The book was an instant best-seller that not only introduced a new Christmas-story genre, but also, according to some scholars, invented the modern form of the Christmas holiday in England and America.
A prolific novelist once described as “a writer who could reveal the very pulse of life,” Dickens’ most famous works include The Old Curiosity Shop, The Pickwick Papers, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times: For These Times, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood among others. He was also a critic of contemporary society and was particularly successful in his efforts to reform child labor laws in England, due in no small part to his experience as a boy working in a factory. Dickens died on June 9, 1870, in England.
“Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he’s well dressed. There ain’t much credit in that.” From Martin Chuzzelwit by Charles Dickens.