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Charles Dickens

Early Life Of Poverty, American Notes, Prison Reform, Final Tour

Born February 7, 1812 (Portsmouth, England)

Died June 9, 1870 (Kent, England)

Social reformer, novelist

Charles Dickens is considered by many as the most important writer of his time and remained the most widely recognizable British author, after William Shakespeare (1564–1616), throughout the twentieth century. He ushered in an age of serious attention to novelists with his dynamic writing, detailing the Victorian era (a very conservative period of formality among upper classes) in which he lived. Dickens's imaginative characters gave him the platform he needed to address the social reforms he had championed for over thirty years.

Dickens worked toward political and educational reform within Britain and was involved internationally in the promotion of prison reform and opposition of capital punishment. His popularity with the general public never declined during his lifetime, and he was seen as an advocate for the poor man. When the Dickens Fellowship was founded in 1902, it focused on Dickens's goal of remedying existing social evils to help the poor, oppressed, and unfortunate.

"I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment [solitary confinement], prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers."

For More Information


Collins, Philip. Dickens and Crime. London: Macmillan & Company, Ltd., 1962.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark Books, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. American Notes. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.

Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1988.

Stephen, Sir Leslie, and Sir Sidney Lee, eds. The Dictionary of National Biography. London: Oxford University Press, 1938.

Web Site

"Charles Dickens: Novelist." The National Archives Learning Curve. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRdickens.htm (accessed on August 15, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law