In January 1837, Charles Dickens and Catherine were still living in small lodgings at Furnival’s Inn when their first child, a son, was born. With the space being unsuitable to raise a family, they moved to a nearby house at Doughty Street in March. The new house would be a place of grief soon after when Charles’s young sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, to whom he was devotedly attached, died very suddenly. In the autumn Charles stayed at Broadstairs, his first visit to the Kent seaside town which he became very fond of, and where he stayed for a number of successive years. In current affairs, Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom in June, following the death of her uncle, King William IV.
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. Part XI (11) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 30–32).
January, 20. Death of the architect John Soane (born in 1753).
January, 21. Dickens is first elected to join the Garrick Club.
February. Part XII (12) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 33–34).
February, 7 (Sunday). Charles Dickens’s 25th birthday.
February, 19. Death of the author, philosopher and Bishop Thomas Burgess (born in 1756).
March. Part XIII (13) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 35–37).
March, 6. Is She His Wife?, a comic burletta and Dickens’s most risqué work, opens at the St James’s Theatre.
March, 31. Death of John Constable (born in 1776), aged 60. The Suffolk-born painter was noted for his scenes of the English countryside.
April. Part XIV (14) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 38–40).
April, 3. Trial is held at the Old Bailey of James Greenacre for the murder and dissection of his fiancée, Hannah Brown. Greenacre, aged 42, is found guilty and sentenced to death. Sarah Gale, aged 35, is found guilty of assisting him and sentenced to transportation for life.
April, 5. Death of John Entwisle M.P. aged 53. At the time of his death Entwisle was the Member of Parliament for Rochdale (Tory party).
April, 18 (Tuesday). Polling takes place in a Rochdale by-election following the death of John Entwisle. John Fenton is returned the following day as the new Member of Parliament, gaining the seat for the Whig party.
April, 21 (Friday). Death of John Blackburne, M.P. aged 49 at his Hampstead (London) home. At the time of his death Blackburne was the Member of Parliament for Huddersfield (Liberal, 1834-7). As an M.P., he had helped shape municipal government reforms.
May, 2 (Tuesday). Public execution of James Greenacre at Newgate for the murder of his fiancée, Hannah Brown. A crowd of at least 25,000 is estimated to have been present for the early morning spectacle, with at least 2,000 reported as spending the previous night outside to secure a good viewpoint. Greenacre is more commonly known as the ‘Edgware Road Murderer‘.
May, 13. Mary Hogarth is buried at Kensal Green cemetery.
May. Dickens fails to meet a deadline for the next instalment (Part XV/15) of The Pickwick Papers due to mourning for his sister-in-law.
May, 24 (Wednesday). Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent celebrates her 18th birthday. A State Ball is held at London’s St. James’s Palace in commemoration. A number of celebrations are held in towns across the country. A month later Princess Alexandrina Victoria will become Queen Victoria.
May, 31. Death of the actor, comedian and dancer, Joseph Grimaldi (born in 1778). Grimaldi rose to become the one of the most popular entertainers of the Regency era. Shortly after his death, Charles Dickens is asked to write the Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi.
June. Part XV (15) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 41–43).
June, 8 (Thursday). Chapman and Hall, publishers of The Pickwick Papers issue an injunction to stop a pirated version of the story, called Penny Pickwick.
June, 12. Inventors William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone file a patent for their electrical telegraph.
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 (Tuesday). Death of William IV (born in 1765). Victoria becomes Queen of the United Kingdom.
June, 21 (Wednesday). Proclamation ceremony for Queen Victoria is held at St. James’s Palace, London.
July. Part XVI (16) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 44–46).
July, 1. General Register Office begins the practice of registering births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales.
July, 13 (Thursday). Queen Victoria moves from Kensington Palace into Buckingham Palace, the first reigning British monarch to make this, rather than St. James’s Palace, their London home.
July, 15 (Saturday). Marriage of Letitia Dickens, younger sister of Charles, and Henry Austin, an engineer, at St. George’s Church in Bloomsbury, London. Henry Austin was a friend of Charles since childhood. John Dickens, father of Charles, is recorded as living at Edwards Street, Portman Square. The wedding was a double ceremony, with Henry’s sister Amelia also getting married.
July, 19. The SS Great Western is launched at the shipyard of Patterson & Mercer in Bristol. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the first steamship purpose-built for crossing the Atlantic, the Great Western was the largest passenger ship in the world from its launch until 1839.
July, 20. Euston Station, London’s first mainline railway terminus, is opened.
July, 24 – August, 18. The 1837 general election takes place, resulting in a Whig victory.
August. Part XVII (17) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 47–49).
September. Part XVIII (18) of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 50–52).
September, 9 (Saturday). John Macrone, Charles Dickens’s first publisher, dies aged 28.
October. Parts XIX-XX (19-20), a double edition and the final instalment of The Pickwick Papers is published (chapters 53–57).
October, 11. Death of Samuel Wesley, English organist and composer (born in 1766)..
November, 5 (Sunday). Three polars bears arrive by boat in London from Scotland. The wild animals were captured near Greenland and transported across the Atlantic by whaling ships. They were purchased for Wombwell’s menagerie in east London.
December, 2 (Saturday). A thick fog blankets parts of London.
December, 7. Death of the poet Robert Nicoll (born in 1814).
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.