The following is a detailed timeline we are compiling of the movements of the life of the Victorian writer Charles Dickens as we come across them in letters, newspaper articles and other research. We have also included some key contemporary events that occurred in society.

[box type=”note”]Missing a date? if you know of any movements not covered here we would welcome letting us know, along with a reference to any source material so we can try to fill in the gaps.[/box]



  • August (21). John Dickens was born in London, the son of William Dickens and Elizabeth Ball.


  • December (21). Elizabeth Barrow is born, the daughter of Charles Barrow and Mary Culliford.




[box type=”info”]May (11). Tory Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is assassinated.[/box]


  • March. Alfred Dickens born. He died in September of the same year.



  • April. Letitia Dickens (1816 – 1893) born.





[box type=”info”]August (16). Peterloo massacre in Manchester.[/box]

  • September. Harriet Dickens (1819 – 1822) born.


  • John Dickens writes a story for The Times.
  • Frederick Dickens (1820 – 1868) born.

[box type=”info”]February (23). Cato Street Conspiracy. A plot to kill the whole cabinet of government is thwarted and the conspirators arrested.[/box]



  • The Dickens family moves to Bayham Street in Camden Town, London.
  • Alfred Dickens (1822 – 1860) born.





  • Charles’s studies continue at Wellington House Academy, but his family’s financial situation worsens and makes the costs of schooling for Fanny and Charles increasingly unbearable.


  • March. Dickens family are evicted for non-payment of rates.
  • Dickens leaves Wellington House Academy.
  • Starts work as a solicitor’s clerk at Gray’s Inn, London.
  • Augustus Dickens (1827 – 1858) born.


  • The Dickens family moves back to lodgings above a grocer’s shop at Norfolk Street.



  • February (8). Eighteenth birthday. Dickens admitted as reader to British Museum.
  • May. Dickens meets Maria Beadnell, his first love interest.

[box type=”info”]May (30). World’s first regular passenger train service begins, linking Canterbury to Whitstable, powered by Robert Stephenson’s Invicta steam locomotive.[/box]


  • Dickens works as a parliamentary reporter.



[box type=”info”]July (26). The Slavery Abolition Bill is passed by Parliament. It leads to the eventual outlawing of slavery throughout the British Empire.[/box]


[box type=”info”]October (16). Houses of Parliament destroyed by fire.[/box]




[box type=”info”]June (20). Victoria becomes became Queen of the United Kingdom.[/box]


  • January (30). Dickens and Hablot Browne travel to Yorkshire to visit boarding schools.
  • February. Dickens begins work on Nicholas Nickleby.
  • March (6). Dickens’s second child, Mary, is born.
  • March (30) – September 1839. Nicholas Nickleby is published.
  • Dickens is elected a member of the Athenaeum club.
  • [box type=”info”]June (28). Coronation of Queen Victoria.[/box]
  • September. Dickens and family holiday on the Isle of Wight, passing through Portsmouth en-route.

[box type=”info”]September (17). London to Birmingham line opens and the railway boom begins.[/box]



[box type=”info”]January (10). A new national postal service with a universal rate, the penny post, begins. The first stamps go on sale a few months later.[/box]

  • January (14). Dickens attends an inquest at Marylebone workhouse into death of the infant child of a young maid, Eliza Burgess.
  • February (29, Saturday). Dickens, along with friends John Forster and Daniel Maclise, travel to Bath by coach, departing London at 9.30am and arriving in the evening just before 8pm, after a lunch stop at 2pm. The party stay over at the York House hotel.
  • March (1, Sunday). In Bath. Dickens visits his friend Walter Savage Landor for dinner. Writes to his wife Catherine, from Landor’s house at 35, St. James Square.
  • March (2, Monday). In Bath.
  • March (3, Tuesday). In Bath.
  • March (4, Wednesday). Evening. Travels from Bath to London, returning to the family home the following morning.
  • April. The Old Curiosity Shop is published weekly between April 1840 and February 1841.
  • July (6). Dickens, along with William Makepeace Thackeray, attend the public hanging of François Benjamin Courvoisier outside Newgate Prison. A crowd of around 40,000 witness the execution.


  • February. Barnaby Rudge. is published weekly between February and November.
  • February (8). Their fourth child, Walter Savage Landor Dickens, is born.
  • June. Dickens attends a public dinner in his honour at Edinburgh.
  • Summer. Charles and Catherine tour Scotland.


  • January (2). Charles and Catherine travel to Liverpool, staying the night at the Adelphi Hotel in preparation for their journey to America.
  • January (3). Charles and Catherine depart from Liverpool on the steamship SS Britannia to America.
  • January (22). Arrives Boston.
  • February (2). Visited mills at Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • February (13). Arrives New York by boat.
  • February (14). Ball at Park Theatre in honour of Dickens, attended by 3,000 people.
  • March (2). Visits Tombs Prison and Public Department.
  • March (6). Arrives Philadelphia.
  • March (10). Visited Capitol and White House.
  • March (13). Dinner at the White House.
  • March (29). Arrives Pittsburgh.
  • April (4). Arrives Cincinnati.
  • April (10). Arrives St Louis.
  • April 26 – May 3: Niagara Falls.
  • May 4- 29: Visits Canada.
  • June (7). Departs America for England, sailing in the George Washington from New York.

[box type=”info”]June (22). Mines Act bans children under 10 from working in mines and females from working underground.[/box]

  • June (29). Returns to Liverpool and departs for London.
  • August (1). The Dickens family leave London to spend the summer in Broadstairs. Stays there two months.

[box type=”info”]August (29). The Treaty of Nanking is signed, ending the First Opium War (1839–42) between the United Kingdom and China, and ceding Hong Kong to the British Empire.[/box]

  • December (6). Charles and Catherine visit the St. John’s home of the poet and friend Thomas Hood, along with friend and painter Daniel Maclise.



  • January (6). A pirated version of A Christmas Carol appears.
  • January (8). Dickens issues proceedings for an injunction against the publishers Lee and Haddock.
  • January (10). Injunction against the publishers Lee and Haddock issued.
  • January (11). Injunctions against the four other publishers for pirated versions of A Christmas Carol.
  • January (18). Publishers Lee and Haddok attempt to overturn the injunction against them at a hearing at Westminster Hall. It is thrown out.
  • February (5). Edward Stirling’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol opens at Adelphi Theatre.
  • February (26). Travels to Liverpool with his sister, Fanny and brother-in-law. Gives a speech at the Mechanics’ Institution.
  • February (28). Travels by train to Birmingham. Gives a speech in aid of the Birmingham Polytechnic Institution at the Town Hall. Stays over at Dee’s Royal Hotel in Temple Row.
  • April (4). Dickens stays over at York to attend a funeral the following day.
  • April (5). Dickens takes an early morning coach to Malton to attend the funeral of his friend Charles Smithson.
  • Dickens’s fifth child, Francis Jeffrey (Frank) is born.
  • Dickens and family travel to Italy for an extended stay.
  • December (2). Gives a private reading of The Chimes at John Forster’s house.


  • Summer. Works on a production of Every Man in his Humour.

[box type=”info”]September. Irish potato famine begins. It is estimated that about a million people died during the four-year famine and led to the emigration of a further million people.[/box]