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.


1838.

January. Part X (10) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 20–22).

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. Part XI (11) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 23–25).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 26th birthday.

February. Charles Dickens begins work on Nicholas Nickleby.

March. Part XII (12) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 26–27).

March. Part I (1) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 1–4), the first of 19 monthly instalments to September 1839.

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 XIII (13) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 28–30).

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 XIV (14) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 31–32).

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 XV (15) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 33–34).

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 2212 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 XVI (16) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 35–37).

July. Part V (5) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 15–17).

August. Part XVII (17) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 38–part of 39).

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 XVIII (18) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters end of 39–41).

October. Part VIII (8) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 24–26).

October (29/30). Charles Dickens and Hablot Browne visit Leamington Spa en route to the Midlands and Wales.

October, 31. Charles Dickens travels through the Midlands to Shrewsbury, staying overnight.

November. Part XIX (19) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 42–43).

November. Part IX (9) of Nicholas Nickleby is published (chapters 27–29).

November. Charles 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. Charles Dickens visits Adelphi Theatre to see a performance of Nicholas Nickleby.

December. Part XX (20) of Oliver Twist is published in the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany (chapters 44–46).

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.

December (11). Along with John Forster, Charles Dickens again visits William Charles Macready for a reading of 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.