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, 10. Fire destroys Lloyd’s Coffee House and the Royal Exchange in London.
January, 30. Charles Dickens and Hablot Browne travel to Yorkshire to visit boarding schools.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 26th birthday.
February. Charles Dickens begins work on Nicholas Nickleby.
March, 6. Charles Dickens’s second child, Mary, is born.
March, 19. Death of Edward Barnes, U.K. Member of Parliament for Sudbury (Conservative). A former soldier, Barnes had been wounded at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and served as a governor of Ceylon (1824-1831).
Spring. Charles Dickens is elected a member of the Athenaeum club.
April. Part II (2) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 5–7).
April, 8. The National Gallery first opens to the public in the building purpose-designed for it by William Wilkins in Trafalgar Square, London.
April, 8. The Great Western sets off for its maiden voyage from Bristol-New York. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the first steamship purpose-built for crossing the Atlantic, it arrived 15 days later, half the time that sailing ships normally took to make the journey.
May. Part III (3) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 8–10).
May, 21. The People’s Charter is launched by members of the London Working Men’s Association at a mass meeting on Glasgow Green calling for universal suffrage for male voters.
May, 31. Battle of Bossenden Wood. A battle takes place between a small group of labourers and a detachment of soldiers near Hernhill in Kent. The groups leader, the self-styled Sir William Courtenay, who was actually John Nichols Tom, an eccentric Truro maltster, is killed along with eight of his followers. A soldier and a man helping to apprehend Courtenay are also killed in the skirmish.
June. Part IV (4) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 11–14).
June, 4. The first section of the Great Western Railway train line is opened, running 221⁄2 miles (36 km) from Paddington station in London to Maidenhead Bridge station (now Taplow station) in Buckinghamshire.
June, 18. The Newcastle and Carlisle Railway opens, the first line across England.
June, 28. Coronation of Queen Victoria at Westminster Abbey in London.
July. Part V (5) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 15–17).
August. Part VI (6) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 18–20).
September. Part VII (7) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 21–23).
September. Charles Dickens and family holiday on the Isle of Wight, passing through Portsmouth en-route.
September, 7. Grace Darling and her father rescue 13 survivors from the Forfarshire, off the Farne Islands.
September, 17. London to Birmingham line opens and the railway boom begins.
September, 18. The Anti-Corn Law League is established by Richard Cobden.
September, 24. Large meeting held on Kersal Moor, Salford, in support of Chartism.
October. Part VIII (8) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 24–26).
October, 31. Charles Dickens travels through the Midlands to Shrewsbury, staying overnight.
November. Part IX (9) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 27–29).
November. Charles Dickens resigns from the Garrick Club.
December. Part X (10) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 30–33).
December, 5. Charles Dickens visits William Charles Macready having written The Lamplighter for him.
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.