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Charles Dickens - Early Life Of Poverty

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On February 7, 1812, Charles John Huffam Dickens was the second of seven children born to Elizabeth Barrow Dickens Charles Dickens. (The Library of Congress)
and John Dickens. His elder sister Fanny proved to be his best friend and had a profound influence on Charles his entire life.

John Dickens was a clerk at the navy pay office of Portsmouth when Charles was born, but the growing family moved often due to John's frequent transfers. Charles began his education at William Giles's school in Chatham, Kent. When his father was transferred to London in 1822, the family once again packed up and moved on.

By 1824 John Dickens had fallen behind with his creditors. He was arrested and sent to debtors prison, often referred to simply as The Marshalsea. At age twelve Charles found work at Warren's Blacking Factory wrapping bottles of black shoe polish. Six months later an inheritance provided enough money for John to leave prison and Charles resumed his education at a nearby private school, Wellington House Academy. When his father again fell into financial difficulties in 1827, young Charles left the academy and found employment as a clerk for the law firm of Ellis and Blackmore. Although he disliked the work, Charles enjoyed what was to become a lifelong habit of walking the streets of London in the late night hours gathering characters to inhabit his stories.

Seeking to improve his lot in life, Charles learned shorthand (a system of rapid handwriting using symbols to represent words) and started working as a freelance reporter in 1828 at the age of sixteen. By 1831 he was working for the Mirror of Parliament, a newspaper that reported the daily proceedings of the British Parliament. This marked the beginning of his interest in social reform. Dickens also began contributing articles to the radical newspaper True Sun. Using his considerable knowledge of what went on in the House of Commons, he worked to promote parliamentary reform.


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