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


January. The King’s Library, George III’s personal library of 65,000 volumes, 19,000 pamphlets, maps, charts and topographical drawings, is offered to the British Museum.

January, 3. Birth of Robert Whitehead, marine engineer (died in 1905).

January, 26. Death of Edward Jenner, physician and pioneer of vaccination (born in 1749).

January, 27. Death of Charles Hutton, mathematician (born in 1737).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 11th birthday.

March. The Royal Academy of Music opens to students.

April, 4. Fanny Dickens starts at the Royal Academy of Music, where she will spend four years studying. Her enrolment, and the debts of John Dickens, means there is insufficient money to pay for the young Charles to get an education.

April, 24 (Thursday). Benefit concert to raise funds for the Royal Academy of Music held at the Kings Theatre, Haymarket.

The Concert at the Opera on Thursday night was the most brilliant we have witnessed for many years, whether we refer to the merit of the. Performers, the choice of the music, or the brilliancy of the audience … The orchestra was placed on the stage, and the usual orchestra, in place of being thrown into the pit, was reserved for the Pupils of the Institution.

Saint James’s Chronicle. Saturday, 26 April 1823.

July. Robert Peel ensures the passage of five Acts of Parliament, effectively abolishing the death penalty for over one hundred offences; in particular, the Judgement of Death Act allows judges to commute sentences for capital offences other than murder or treason to imprisonment or transportation.

July, 2. End of Portuguese military rule of Brazil. Portuguese commander, Inácio Luís Madeira de Melo, surrenders his forces to a Brazilian army, thus the ending of the Siege of Salvador. Two years later Brazil is formally recognised as an independent nation with the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro.

September, 11. Death of David Ricardo, economist (born in 1772).

September, 23. Burmese attack the British on Shapura, an island close to Chittagong. The event would contribute to the First Anglo-Burmese War (March 1824 – February 1826).

October, 5. The medical journal The Lancet is first published.

October, 30 (Thursday). In the Court of Common Pleas, William Shaw, headmaster of Bowes Academy school in Yorkshire, is found guilty of the neglect of two of his pupils. Charles Dickens would visit the school in 1838, and finding conditions little improved, use it as the inspiration for Dotheboys Hall in his novel Nicholas Nickleby.

Witness’s brother and three others lay in one bed, in a room where there were about 30 beds; there were not five in every bed; in some only three or four; there was one sheet and a quilt for each bed; one part of the sheet they laid upon, and the other covered them. There was a tub in the middle of the room, which often used to run over. They were troubled with fleas every other morning. The boys used to have quills given them by the usher to kill the fleas. There were maggots, and the usher promised a penny for every one that could be caught.

The Morning Post. Friday, 31 October 1823. Report of the case against William Shaw in the Court of Common Pleas.

November, 11. At the Crown and Anchor Tavern on London’s Strand, Dr. George Birkbeck gives a speech on the importance of educating working people. Hundreds of supporters attend the event, including the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, politician and journalist William Cobbett, Radical Member of Parliament John Hobhouse, and the educational reformer Henry Brougham. The meeting would lead to the creation of the London Mechanics’ Institution three weeks later (see 2 December).

December, 2. The London Mechanics’ Institution is founded by Dr. George Birkbeck. It is the first mechanics institution in England. By 1825, sufficient funds were raised to build premises at Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane, Holborn. The London Mechanics’ Institution was the basis for Birbeck College, now part of the University of London.

December, 26. The Dickens family move to 4, Gower Street North (later renumbered 147 Gower Street), a recently-built house in the Bloomsbury area of London. The property is rented until 4 April 1824.

(?) Summonses issued against the Dickens family for non payment of debts.

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.