The following is a detailed timeline we are compiling of the movements of the life of the Victorian writer Charles Dickens during for 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, 12. The expedition ship HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin on board, reaches Sydney in Australia.
January, 17 (Sunday). The sketch The Streets at Night appears in Bell’s Life in London. It is the final sketch in a series of twelve that appeared in Bell’s Life in London between 27 September 1835 and 17 January 1836 under the general title of Scenes and Characters. For the series, Dickens adopted the pseudonym Tibbs.
February, 7 (Sunday). Charles Dickens’s 24th birthday.
February, 8. First section of London and Greenwich Railway, the first steam-worked line in London, begins operating between Spa Road (Bermondsey) and Deptford stations in south-east London.
February, 29. The first running of what would become known as the Grand National Steeplechase takes place at Aintree, near Liverpool.
March, 6. Battle of the Alamo. In America, after a thirteen-day siege by an army of 3,000 Mexican troops, 187 Texas volunteers, including frontiersman Davy Crockett and colonel Jim Bowie, defending the Alamo are killed and the fort is captured.
March, 27. Goliad massacre. During the Texas Revolution, 342 Texan prisoners are shot and killed, along with Texan General James Walker Fannin, by Mexican troops in Goliad, near the Presidio La Bahía.
March, 31. The Pickwick Papers is first published with the release of Part I (chapters 1–2). It is serialized monthly between March 1836 and October 1837.
April. Part II (2) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 3–5).
April, 21 (Thursday). Battle of San Jacinto. In a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution, Republic of Texas forces under General Sam Houston defeat troops under Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna.
April, 23 (Saturday). The workhouse at Heckingham, Norfolk, is destroyed by arson. It becomes the first of several to suffer such an attack in protest at the imposition of more restrictive conditions for the inmates under the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834.
May. Part III (3) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 6–8).
June. Part IV (4) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 9–11).
June, 7. The first University Boat Race is held on the Thames in London.
June, 9. The London Working Men’s Association is founded. The organisation later played a central role in the growth of Chartism.
June, 20 (Monday). The House of Commons debates the stamp duty on newspapers, a controversial so-called ‘tax on knowledge’. The duty is reduced during this year from 4d. to 1d, and was eventually scrapped in 1855.
July. Part V (5) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 12–14).
July, 8 (Friday). Sunday Under Three Heads, a campaign pamphlet by Charles Dickens under the pseudonym Timothy Sparks, written to oppose a proposed law prohibiting all work and all recreation on Sunday, is published.
August. Part VI (6) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 15–17).
August, 10 (Wednesday). The Morning Post newspaper publishes a complimentary review of Sunday Under Three Heads.
August, 13 (Saturday). The Tithe Commutation Act receives Royal assent. It replaces the ancient system of payment of tithes in kind with monetary payments.
August, 15 (Monday). Liverpool Lime Street railway station opens in the centre of Liverpool, the first grand terminus building in the world. It replaces the smaller Crown Street station.
THE NEW RAILWAY STATION.—This splendid terminus of the Liverpool end of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened yesterday. The whole of Lime-street, and the Hay Market were crowded throughout the day, witnessing the arrivals of the trains of passengers. This will prove a great convenience to travellers on the line from its centrical situation, and obviates the alternative, which before was obliged to be submitted to, of either paying an extra tax in coach hire, or walking a mile and a half up hill, before the old-station in Crown-street could be reached.Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser. Tuesday, 16 August 1836.
August, 17 (Wednesday). Marriage Act is passed. It legalised civil marriage in England (starting from 1 January 1837) and establishes a Registrar General of Births, Marriages, and Deaths.
August, 22 (Monday). Charles Dickens signs an agreement with Richard Bentley to write two novels.
August, 29 (Tuesday). In the early hours, a fire breaks out in a tea-dealer at the foot of London Bridge, soon spreading to neighbouring buildings in Southwark and destroying the five-storey Fleming’s Wharf, completed only two years previously. Said to be one of the largest warehouse fires in the capital for decades, the loss of property and goods is estimated at up to half-a-million pounds.
September. Part VII (7) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 18–20).
October. Part VIII (8) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 21–23).
October, 2 (Sunday). Naturalist Charles Darwin returns to Falmouth, Cornwall, aboard HMS Beagle after a 5-year journey collecting biological data he will later use to develop his theory of evolution.
Autumn. Dickens’s play The Strange Gentleman and the ballad-opera The Village Coquettes are staged at the St James’s Theatre.
November. Part IX (9) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 24–26).
November, 28. The University of London is established by Royal Charter, with University College London and King’s College London named as the first affiliated colleges.
December. Part X (10) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 27–29).
December, 7. The results of the 1836 United States presidential election gives Martin Van Buren victory over William Henry Harrison, and three other Whig candidates.
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.