Factbox: Charles Dickens at 200

Fri Feb 3, 2012 10:10am EST
 
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(Reuters) - British writer Charles Dickens was born 200 years ago on February 7. 1812. Dickens was one of the great forces in 19th-century British literature and an influential voice against social injustice in the Victorian age.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, attending one of Dickens's readings in Boston, "laughed as if he must crumble to pieces," but, discussing Dickens afterward, he said, "I am afraid he has too much talent for his genius; it is a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest...He daunts me! I have not the key."

Here is a look back at Dickens, his novels and some of the most famous film adaptations:

* EARLY LIFE:

-- Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in a suburb of Portsmouth, the second of eight children to John Dickens (1786-1851), a clerk in the Navy Pay Office.

-- The family moved to London's Camden Town from Chatham after his father lost his job. His father, was arrested for debt and the whole family, except Charles, were imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor's prison in 1824. Charles was sent to work in a factory to support the family. The images of the prison and of the lost, oppressed, or bewildered child recur in many of his novels.

-- On his father's release he was sent back to school and then worked in a lawyer's office and taught himself shorthand.

* LITERARY BEGINNINGS AND A NEW FAMILY:

-- In 1833 Dickens began to contribute short stories and essays to periodicals. "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" was Dickens's first published story. It appeared in the Monthly Magazine under the pen-name 'Boz'. He sold "Sketches by Boz" for 150 pounds buying it back later for 11 times the amount.   Continued...