It’s been 150 years since the death of one of the most famous English writers – Charles Dickens. His books are so important that they found their way into obligatory1 school reading in our country too. However, the topics Dickens chose were so sad and bleak2 that there are very few people who consider Dickens their favourite author.

  Being a child in the 19th century England was no fun. If you were not born into a noble family or a family of a wealthy businessman, you would probably spend your short life in total misery. Children had to work as hard as adults, often in appalling3 conditions. They were poor, hungry, cold and died very young of various nasty diseases. Victorian England had no social support system. Nobody really cared.
  Charles Dickens experienced all this first-hand. He never forgot what he had to go through as a young boy so he wrote about it to make other people care
as well.

Read some of the facts of Dickens‘ life. You might already be familiar with some of them. However, there are three pieces of information that are not correct. Try to find them or take a guess. Write your ideas down. Then compare them with the key. Were you right?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
• He was born into a large family of eight children.
• His father, John Dickens was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office.
• The family had moved a couple of times before settling down in a poor London neighbourhood.
• John Dickens didn’t manage the family finances and he got into debt.
• When Charles was 12, his father went to prison for not paying his debts.
• Charles then left school to support his family. He worked hard in a factory that produced shoe polish.
• Charles was allowed to go back to school, however, his formal education ended at the age of just 15.
• He worked as an office boy but he started writing at the same time.
• He also worked as a newspaper reporter and started publishing his own short stories and essays.
• His first successful piece of writing was The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club in which he described the life of tea-makers.
• After the first success he wrote his ever-popular books of Oscar Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield. All of those books include the stories of poor children.
• Charles Dickens also wrote a series of Christmas books. The most famous of all was A Christmas Carol which has seen many literary and film adaptations ever since.
• Dickens married a daughter of a newspaper editor at the age of 24. They had 10 children and the marriage was very happy.
• Charles Dickens died of stroke4 at the age of 58. The writing on his tomb reads: “He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed5; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.”

Miroslava Dubanová

Vocabulary: 1 povinný; 2 bezútešný – bezútěšný; 3 otrasný – otřesný, děsný; 4 porážka – mrtvice; 5 utláčaný – utiskovaný

Key:
1) The Pickwick Club Papers didn’t deal with tea-makers. It is the story of four gentlemen, all of them members of the Pickwick Club (named after the club’s president) and their adventures as they travel to explore English countryside.
2) One of Dickens’ most popular books is called Oliver Twist, not Oscar Twist.
3) Dickens’ marriage wasn’t a happy one. The couple separated and Dickens had an affair with a young actress.