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, 20 (Thursday). Charles and Catherine arrive in the Canadian port of Halifax after a miserable voyage in which the couple were sea-sick for long periods. Dickens receives a warm welcome in Halifax but the couple depart onward for Boston.
January, 22 (Saturday). Charles and Catherine arrive in Boston, Massachusetts. The couple stay at the Tremont House hotel.
January, 23 (Sunday). Dickens is visited by a group known as the ‘Young Men of Boston’, formed to greet him. They invited him to a dinner reception in his honour, which he duly obliges (see 1 February).
January, 24 (Monday). Dickens visits the State Capitol. Later on attends a performance at the Tremont Theatre.
February, 1 (Tuesday). Dickens gives a speech at a reception to around 200 young men of Boston, held at Papanti’s Hall. The speech includes the notable line ‘I believe virtue shows quite as well in rags and patches as she does in purple and fine linen‘.
February, 2 (Wednesday). Dickens visits mills at Lowell, Massachusetts.
February, 7 (Monday). Charles Dickens’s 30th birthday.
February, 8 (Tuesday). Dickens is guest of honour at a dinner, held at the City Hotel in Hartford.
February, 13 (Sunday). Arrives New York by boat. Whilst in New York, Dickens stays at the Carlton House Hotel, Broadway (until 5 March).
February, 14 (Monday). Ball at Park Theatre in honour of Dickens, attended by 3,000 people.
February, 18 (Friday). Dickens is guest of honour at a dinner in the City Hotel. The writer and and diplomat Washington Irving is in the chair.
February, 21 (Monday). Dundas Street Station was opened as the Glasgow terminus of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway. It was later renamed Queen Street Station.
February, 27 (Sunday). In New York, Dickens visits an asylum, workhouse and the City Penitentiary.
March, 2 (Wednesday). Dickens visits the New York House of Detention (knwon as the Tombs Prison) and Public Department.
March, 5 (Saturday). In the evening, Dickens travels from New York to Philadelphia, arriving 11pm.
March, 9 (Wednesday). At 6:30 pm, Dickens arrives in Washington, staying at the Fuller Hotel.
March, 10 (Thursday). Dickens visits the Capitol and White House. Meets President John Tyler, the Senate and the House of Representatives..
March, 13 (Sunday). Dickens attends dinner at the White House.
March, 14 (Monday). Dickens attends a private dinner given in his honour.
March, 16 (Wednesday). Dickens departs Washington for Richmond.
March, 17 (Thursday). Dickens visits Richmond, Virginia. Repulsed by seeing slaves.
March, 20 (Sunday). Dickens returns to Washington.
March, 21 (Monday). At 4pm, Dickens departs Washington for Baltimore, staying at Barnum’s Hotel.
March, 24 (Thursday). Dickens departs from Baltimore on the 8:30 a.m. train, travelling to York Pennsylvania, thereon taking a stagecoach to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
March, 25 (Friday). Dickens visits the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Departs Harrisburg at 3 pm. taking a canal boat to Pittsburgh.
March, 28 (Monday). Dickens arrives in Pittsburgh.
April, 4 (Monday). Dickens arrives in Cincinnati.
April, 10 (Sunday). Dickens arrives in St Louis.
April, 14 (Thursday). Two British Members of Parliament, Frederick Villiers and David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre, representing Sudbury are unseated for bribery. Following the corruption scandal, the borough of Sudbury was disfranchised two years later.
April, 26 (Tuesday) – May 29 (Sunday). Dickens and Catherine visit Canada as part of a tour of North America.
April, 26 (Tuesday). Dickens travels from Buffalo to Niagara. They are rowed across to the Canadian side in a little ferryboat. On arriving on the Canadain side, he stays at the Clifton House near to the Falls.
April, 27 (Wednesday). Niagara Falls, staying at the Clifton House.
April, 28 (Thursday). Niagara Falls, staying at the Clifton House.
April, 29 (Friday). Niagara Falls, staying at the Clifton House.
April, 30 (Saturday). Niagara Falls, staying at the Clifton House.
May. A second Chartist petition, signed by over 3 million people, is presented to the House of Commons. MP’s again vote not to hear the petitioners.
May, 1 (Sunday). Niagara Falls, staying at the Clifton House.
May, 2 (Monday). Niagara Falls, staying at the Clifton House.
May, 3 (Tuesday). Niagara Falls, staying at the Clifton House.
May, 4 (Wednesday). Dickens and party take the steamboat Transit across Lake Ontario to Toronto, where they spend the next two nights. Stays at the North American Hotel.
May 5 (Thursday). Toronto, staying at the North American Hotel. Departs Toronoto later that evening on an overnight steamboat.
May 6 (Friday). Following a journey on an overnight steamboat from Toronto, Dickens and party arrive in the morning at Kingston, then the capital of Canada. Dickens stays at Daly’s British American Hotel.
May 7 (Saturday). Toronto, staying at Daly’s British American Hotel.
May 8 (Sunday). Toronto, staying at Daly’s British American Hotel.
May 8 (Sunday). Versailles rail tragedy. A train derails and catches fire travelling between Versailles and Paris in France. The first French railway accident, and the deadliest in the world at the time, it is believed to have caused between 52 and 200 fatalities. Exact numbers were unknown due to the inferno that engulfed passenger carriages.
May 9 (Monday). Toronto, staying at Daly’s British American Hotel.
May 10 (Tuesday). Leaves Toronto, and travels to Montreal, by steamer and partly overland.
May 11 (Wednesday). Arrives in the afternoon at Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 12 (Thursday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 13 (Friday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 14 (Saturday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May, 14 (Saturday). The Illustrated London News is established.
May 15 (Sunday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 16 (Monday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 17 (Tuesday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 18 (Wednesday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 19 (Thursday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 20 (Friday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 21 (Saturday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 22 (Sunday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 23 (Monday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 24 (Tuesday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 25 (Wednesday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel. In the evening Dickens stage-managed and acts in three plays for a private performance at the Theatre Royal, St. Paul Street (re-named the Queen’s Theatre for that one occasion), which had been rented out. The cast are officers fom the local garrison.
May 26 (Thursday). Montreal. In the evening Dickens travels to visit Quebec, taking the overnight steamer Lady Colborne.
May 27 (Friday). Spends the day at the Quebec before returning later to Montreal. Stays at Rasco’s Hotel.
May 28 (Saturday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel. In the evening the theatrical performances from three days earlier are repeated to the public with paid admission.
May 29 (Sunday). Montreal, staying at Rasco’s Hotel.
May, 29 (Sunday). John Francis aims a pistol at Queen Victoria as she rides along The Mall in London with Prince Albert. The gun fails to fire and Francis escapes but returns the next day (see 30 May)..
May 30 (Monday). Dickens departs Montreal in the morning, travelling by ferry and train to St. Johns. At St. Johns they are entertained by the officers of the 85th Regiment. Take the steamer Burlington back to the United States (New York) via Lake Champlain.
May, 30 (Monday). John Francis returns to The Mall in an attempt to assasinate Queen Victoria again (see previous day). His pistol fires but misses the Queen. Francis is quickly apprehended by police.
June, 7 (Tuesday). Dickens and Catherine depart America for England, sailing in the George Washington from New York.
June, 13 (Monday). Queen Victoria travels on the Great Western Railway between Slough and London Paddington station, becoming the first reigning British monarch to travel by train.
June, 17 (Friday). John Francis is found guilty of High Treason at the Criminal Court for attempts to assasinate Queen Victoria on May 29 and 30. He is sentenced to death but Queen Victoria later commutes Francis’ sentence to transportation.
June, 22 (Wednesday). Mines Act bans children under 10 from working in mines and females from working underground.
June, 29 (Wednesday). Returns to Liverpool and departs for London.
June, 30 (Thursday). The Dickens family return to their Devonshire Terrace home in London.
July, 2 (Saturday). Charles Dickens attends a meeting at the Thatched House Tavern in London’s St. James’s Street, to discuss honouring the late David Wilkie, a Scottish scenic painter who passed away on 1 June 1841.
July, 23 (Saturday). Dickens attends the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, admiring Daniel Maclise‘s painting of Hamlet.
July, 25 (Monday). Dickens writes a letter to the Editor of The Morning Chronicle about differences in regulation for mines and collieries compared to the poor.
August, 1. The Dickens family leave London to spend the summer in Broadstairs. Stays there for two months.
August, 29. The Treaty of Nanking is signed, ending the First Opium War (1839–42) between the United Kingdom and China, and ceding Hong Kong to the British Empire.
October, 19. American Notes for General Circulation, a travelogue detailing Charles Dickens’s trip to North America earlier in the year, is published.
October, 22 (Saturday). Dickens writes to Dr. Southwood Smith. Expresses a desire to see ‘the very dreariest and most desolate portion’ of the Cornish coast.
October, 29 (Saturday). Dickens arrives in Exeter by train in the evening. Stays over at the New London Inn.
November, 3 (Thursday). Dickens is in Exeter.
November, 4 (Friday). Dickens returns to London.
November, 8. Death of the English writer William Hone.
November, 11. Dickens attends the funeral of the writer William Hone, held at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington. He is accompanied by George Cruikshank.
November, 15 (Tuesday). Dickens commissions the artist William Powell Frith to paint two small pictures. One is of Dolly Varden and the other of Kate Nickleby.
November, 20 (Sunday). Dickens attends the Unitarian Chapel in Little Portland Street, London. Hears the Rev. Edward Tagart. Subsequently attends services at the chapel for himself and family.
November, 29 (Tuesday). A short article about the Sanatorium, written by Charles Dickens, appears in the Morning Chronicle newspaper. Dickens was closely associated with the Sanatorium, a medical institution across the road from his Devonshire Terrace home.
December, 2 (Friday). Dickens attends a dinner at Gore House, Kensington.
December, 15 (Thursday). Pentonville prison opens to inmates.
December, 28 (Wednesday). Dickens attends a dinner at Gore House, Kensington.
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.