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.
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.
- 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.
- October (28). Frances “Fanny” Dickens (1810 – 1848) born.
- February (7). Charles John Huffam Dickens, son of John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow in Landport, Portsmouth.
- March (4). Charles christened at St. Marys Church in Landport, Portsmouth.
May (11). Tory Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is assassinated.
- March. Alfred Dickens born. He died in September of the same year.
- January. John Dickens is posted from Portsmouth to the London Navy Pay Office.
- Family rent rooms above a grocery shop at Norfolk Street.
- April. Letitia Dickens (1816 – 1893) born.
August (16). Peterloo massacre in Manchester.
- September. Harriet Dickens (1819 – 1822) born.
- John Dickens writes a story for The Times.
- Frederick Dickens (1820 – 1868) born.
February (23). Cato Street Conspiracy. A plot to kill the whole cabinet of government is thwarted and the conspirators arrested.
- The Dickens family moves to Bayham Street in Camden Town, London.
- Alfred Dickens (1822 – 1860) born.
- April. Fanny Dickens enrolled at Royal Academy of Music.
- Summonses issued against the Dickens family for non payment of debts.
- December (26). Dickens family move to Gower Street North.
- February. Charles Dickens starts work at Warren’s Blacking Factory.
- February (20). John Dickens arrested for debt and sent to the Marshalsea Prison.
- May (28). John Dickens released from the Marshalsea Prison.
- Dickens is schooled at the Wellington House Academy.
- John Dickens retires on a pension of £145 a year.
- 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.
- Dickens becomes a freelance reporter at the Doctors’ Commons.
- February (8). Eighteenth birthday. Dickens admitted as reader to British Museum.
- May. Dickens meets Maria Beadnell, his first love interest.
May (30). World’s first regular passenger train service begins, linking Canterbury to Whitstable, powered by Robert Stephenson’s Invicta steam locomotive.
- Dickens works as a parliamentary reporter.
- Starts writing for The Mirror of Parliament.
- The relationship with Maria Beadnell ends.
- December. A Dinner at Poplar Walk, the first published work, appears in The Monthly Magazine. Retitled as Mr. Minns and His Cousin when reprinted in Sketches by Boz.
July (26). The Slavery Abolition Bill is passed by Parliament. It leads to the eventual outlawing of slavery throughout the British Empire.
- Dickens becomes a reporter on The Morning Chronicle.
- January. The sketch Mrs. Joseph Porter is published in The Monthly Magazine.
- February. The sketch Horatio Sparkins is published in The Monthly Magazine.
- April. The sketch The Bloomsbury Christening is published in The Monthly Magazine.
- August. Begins using the pseudonym “Boz“.
- September (26). The sketch Omnibuses is published in The Morning Chronicle.
- Autumn. Meets fellow writer at The Morning Chronicle and future father-in-law, George Hogarth.
- Autumn/Winter. Meets his future wife, Catherine Hogarth.
- October. The sketch The Steam Excursion is published in The Monthly Magazine.
- October (10). The sketch Shops and Their Tenants is published in The Morning Chronicle.
October (16). Houses of Parliament destroyed by fire.
- October (23). The sketch The Old Bailey is published in The Morning Chronicle.
- November (5). The sketch Shabby-genteel People is published in The Morning Chronicle.
- December (15). The sketch Brokers and Marine-store Shops is published in The Morning Chronicle.
- Jan/Feb (?). Becomes engaged to Catherine Hogarth.
- January. The first part of the sketch A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle is published in The Monthly Magazine.
- January (31).The Evening Chronicle newspaper is launched. Dickens is commissioned to write a series of twenty Sketches of London for the paper. The first, Hackney-Coach Stands appears in the first edition.
- February. The second part of the sketch A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle is published in The Monthly Magazine.
- February (5). Visits Coldbath Fields and Newgate prisons, gathering material for his observations of London life. Writes to Catherine about his experiences.
- February (7, Saturday). The sketch Gin-Shops is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- February (19, Thursday). The sketch Early Coaches is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- February (28, Saturday). The sketch The Parish is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- March (7, Saturday). The sketch The House is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- March (17, Tuesday). The sketch London Recreations is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- April (7, Tuesday). The sketch Public Dinners is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- April (11, Saturday). The sketch Bellamy’s is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- April (16, Thursday). The sketch Greenwich Fair is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- April (23, Thursday). The sketch Thoughts about People is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- May (1, Friday). Travels from Exeter to Wincanton, arriving at 8pm and staying overnight in the town.
- May (2, Saturday). 9pm. Departs Wincanton on an overnight coach to London, arriving 11 the following morning.
- May (9, Saturday). The sketch Astley’s is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- May (19, Tuesday). The sketch Our Parish is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- June (6, Saturday). The sketch The River is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- June (18, Thursday). The sketch Our Parish is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- June (30, Tuesday). The sketch The Pawnbroker’s Shop is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- August (11, Tuesday). The sketch Private Theatres is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- August (20, Thursday). The sketch Our Parish is published in The Evening Chronicle.
- September (27). The first of a number of sketches appears in Bell’s Weekly Messenger with the publication of Seven Dials.
- October. The publisher John Macrone offers Dickens £100 for the copyright of a collected edition of his newspaper sketches.
- October (4, Sunday). The sketch Miss Evans and The Eagle appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- October (11, Sunday). The sketch The Dancing Academy appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- October (18, Sunday). The sketch Making a Night of It appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- October (25, Sunday). The sketch Love and Oysters appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- November (1, Sunday). The sketch Some Account of an Omnibus Cad appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- November (5). In the morning Dickens visits the prisons of Coldbath Fields and Newgate. Returns to lodgings at Furnival’s Inn where he writes to Catherine Hogarth.
- November (8). Travels from Newbury to Bristol (to report on a dinner given in honour of Lord John Russell for The Morning Chronicle).
- November (10). Attends a dinner given in honour of Lord John Russell at the Ivatt’s Hotel, Clifton.
- November (11). Travels from Bristol to Bath, staying over in the city at the White Hart.
- November (12). Remains in Bath, again staying over in the city at the White Hart.
- November (13). Evening. Returns to London.
- November (22, Sunday). The sketch The Vocal Dressmaker appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- November (29, Sunday). The sketch The Prisoners Van appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- December (13, Sunday). The sketch The Parlour appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- December (27, Sunday). The sketch Christmas Festivities appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- January (3, Sunday). The sketch The New Year appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- January (17, Sunday). The sketch The Streets at Night appears in Bell’s Life in London.
- February (8, Monday). Dickens first book, Sketches by Boz is published by the publisher John Macrone.
- March (18, Friday). The sketch Our Next-Door Neighbours is published in both The Morning Chronicle and The Evening Chronicle.
- March (31). The Pickwick Papers is first published. It is serialized monthly between March 1836 and October 1837.
- April (2). Dickens marries Catherine Hogarth at St. Lukes, Chelsea.
- April. Charles and Catherine honeymoon for a week in Chalk, Kent.
- April (18). Dickens holds a meeting with Robert Seymour, the then illustrator of the The Pickwick Papers. Two days later Seymour commits suicide.
- June. Sunday Under Three Heads, a campaign pamphlet by Charles Dickens under the name Timothy Sparks, written to oppose a proposed law prohibiting all work and all recreation on Sunday, is published.
- August (6, Saturday). The sketch The Hospital Patient is published in the Carlton Chronicle.
- August (22). Signs an agreement with Richard Bentley to write two novels.
- September (17, Saturday). The sketch Hackney-cabs, and Their Drivers is published in the Carlton Chronicle.
- October (26, Wednesday). The sketch Vauxhall-Gardens by day is published in The Morning Chronicle.
- Dickens’s play The Strange Gentleman and the ballad-opera The Village Coquettes are staged at the St James’s Theatre.
- Resigns from The Morning Chronicle and The Evening Chronicle.
- January (6). The first of his 10 children, Charles Culliford Boz Dickens, is born.
- January (21). Dickens is first elected to join the Garrick Club.
- January (31). Oliver Twist is published between January 1837 and March 1839.
- March (6). Is She His Wife?, a comic burletta and Dickens’s most risqué work, opens at the St James’s Theatre.
- March (25). Dickens moves his new family from Furnival’s Inn into new lodgings at Doughty Street.
- April (3). The Peregrinations of Pickwick, W. L. Rede’s adaptation of The Pickwick Papers opens as a three-act burletta opens at Adelphi Theatre.
- May (3). Dickens attends anniversary dinner of the Literary Fund Society. Amongst other members present were Richard Bentley, John Macrone and William Ainsworth.
- May (7). Dickens attends a production of his Is She His Wife? at the St James’s Theatre with his wife Catherine, and her sister Mary Hogarth.
- May (8). In the early hours Mary Hogarth, Catherine’s sister, is taken ill. She dies that afternoon.
- May (13). Mary Hogarth is buried at Kensal Green cemetery.
- June (16). John Forster takes Dickens to see Othello at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Forster introduces Dickens to the actor and theatre manager, William Charles Macready, who would become a close friend for the rest of his life.
June (20). Victoria becomes became Queen of the United Kingdom.
- June (30). Visits Coldbath Fields and Newgate prisons along with friends William Macready, John Forster, George Cattermole and Hablot Browne.
- July. Dickens and Catherine, along with friend Hablot Browne, take a week’s long holiday across the channel, from Calais to Ghent, Brussels, and Antwerp.
- September (9). John Macrone, Charles Dickens’s first publisher, dies aged 28.
- Dickens’ beloved older sister, Fanny, marries Henry Burnett.
- 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.
- June (28). Coronation of Queen Victoria.
- September. Dickens and family holiday on the Isle of Wight, passing through Portsmouth en-route.
September (17). London to Birmingham line opens and the railway boom begins.
- October (29/30). Dickens and Hablot Browne visit Leamington Spa en route to the Midlands and Wales.
- October (31). Dickens travels through the Midlands to Shrewsbury, staying overnight.
- November. Dickens resigns from the Garrick Club.
- November (19). First stage dramatization of Nicholas Nickleby opens at the Adelphi Theatre. Runs for over a hundred performances.
- November (21). Dickens visits Adelphi Theatre to see a performance of Nicholas Nickleby.
- December (5). Dickens visits William Charles Macready having written The Lamplighter for him.
- December (11). Along with John Forster, Dickens again visits William Charles Macready for a reading of The Lamplighter for him.
- March. Visits Exeter, rents a cottage in nearby Alphington for his parents.
- March (30). Dickens chairs a dinner given to William Charles Macready at the Shakespeare Club.
- April (30). Charles Dickens rents Elm Cottage, Petersham (until Aug 31) and spends a lot of that summer there.
- July (20). Dickens is a speaker at a banquet to honour William Charles Macready at the end of his tenure of Theatre Royal Covent Garden.
- September (20). Dickens finishes writing Nicholas Nickleby.
- October (5). A dinner to celebrate completion of Nicholas Nickleby is held at the Albion Tavern. Dickens is presented with a portrait drawn by Daniel Maclise.
- October (23). Nicholas Nickleby is first published in one volume. The novel is dedicated to William Charles Macready.
- October (29). Dickens’s third child, Kate Macready, is born.
- December. The Dickens family move into large premises at Devonshire Terrace, near Regents Park.
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.
- 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.
June (22). Mines Act bans children under 10 from working in mines and females from working underground.
- 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.
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.
- 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. Martin Chuzzlewit is published monthly between January 1843 and July 1844.
- August – September. Spends the summer in Broadstairs.
- October (2). Returns to London from Broadstairs.
- October (5). Gives a speech to members of the Manchester Athenaeum on the virtues on education and learning at the institution.
- December (19). A Christmas Carol is published (in one volume). All 6,000 copies of the initial print run sell out within days.
- 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.
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.
- September (20). Stages Every Man in his Humour at Miss Kelly’s Theatre in Soho.
- October (28). Dickens’s sixth child, Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson, is born.
- November (3). Dickens co-founds and appointed first editor of a new morning paper, The Daily News.