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, 21 (Wednesday). The Daily News is first published, with Dickens as Editor.
February, 4 (Wednesday). Dickens publishes a letter in The Daily News, reflecting on a recent visit to the Field Lane Ragged School.
February, 7 (Saturday). Charles Dickens’s 34th birthday. Dickens travels from London to Rochester, taking a boat from Blackheath to Gravesend for part of the journey. Stays at the Crown Hotel, Rochester. Tavels with his wife Catherine, his sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth, Douglas Jerrold and (possibly) Daniel Maclise. The party dine at 5pm.
February, 8 (Sunday). Dickens spends a second night at the Crown Hotel, Rochester.
February, 13 (Friday). Bryan Seery is executed at Mullingar in County Westmeath, Ireland for attempted murder. A highly controversial case, Dickens would refer to it in a letter in The Daily News ten days later.
February, 20 (Friday). Polish insurgents lead an uprising in Kraków to incite a fight for national independence. The rebellion was crushed by the Austrian Empire several days later.
February, 23 (Monday). Dickens publishes a letter in The Daily News, on capital punishment. It is the first in a series of five letters on the topic.
February, 28 (Saturday). Dickens publishes a letter in The Daily News, on capital punishment, the second in a series of five letters on the topic.
March, 9 (Monday). Dickens publishes a letter in The Daily News, on capital punishment, the third in a series of five letters on the topic.
March, 13 (Friday). Dickens publishes a letter in The Daily News, on capital punishment, the fourth in a series of five letters on the topic.
March, 16 (Monday). Dickens publishes a letter in The Daily News, on capital punishment, the fifth in a series of five letters on the topic.
March, 28. Dickens writes to the educational reformer James Kay-Shuttleworth, suggesting they both establish a model ragged school.
April, 10. Construction work starts on the Britannia Bridge, designed by Robert Stephenson to carry the Chester and Holyhead Railway across the Menai Strait between the island of Anglesey and the mainland of Wales.
April, 21. Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson, Dickens’s sixth child, is baptized at the church of St. Mary Marylebone.
April, 25. Mexican-American War begins. A 2,000-man Mexican cavalry detachment attack a 70-man U.S. patrol sent into the contested territory north of the Rio Grande and south of the Nueces River. Mexican cavalry routed the patrol, killing 11 American soldiers and capturing 52.
April, 28 (Tuesday). Dickens writes to Charles Gilpin, an organiser of a meeting planned for the next day calling for the abolition of capital punishment saying he cannot attend but that ‘I sympathise the object of the meeting, or that the the subject to which it is directed‘.
April, 29 (Wednesday). A large meeting is held at Exeter Hall, London calling for the abolition of capital punishment.
May, 3. Siege of Fort Texas. Mexican artillery at Matamoros opened fire on Fort Texas, sparking a bombardment lasting 160 hours. Thirteen U.S. soldiers were injured and two were killed.
May, 8. Battle of Palo Alto. Mexican forces intercept U.S. soldiers travelling to relieve Fort Texas. It becomes the first major battle of the Mexican–American War of 1846-1848.
May, 9. Battle of Resaca de la Palma. During the Mexican–American War, fierce hand-to-hand combat takes place between U.S. and Mexican forces near Brownsville, Texas. After the U.S. Cavalry manage to capture Mexican artillery, the Mexican side is forced to retreat south of the Rio Grande.
May, 13. The United States formally declares war on the Federal Republic of Mexico following a dispute over the American annexation of the Republic of Texas and a Mexican military incursion.
May, 15. The House of Commons votes to repeal the corn laws. The issue had split the Conservative party into Peelite and Protectionist wings. The division led to the fall of Robert Peel’s ministry the following month.
May, 23. During the Mexican–American War (1846-1848), President Mariano Paredes of Mexico issues a manifesto unofficially declaring war on the United States. Mexico officially declared war by Congress on 7 July, 1846.
May, 25. Queen Victoria gives birth to her fifth child and third daughter, Helena.
May, 31. Dickens and his family set off for Switzerland.
June, 11. The Dickens family stay at the Villa Rosemont just outside Lausanne, Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
June, 15. Construction work starts on the Conway Bridge, designed by Robert Stephenson to carry the Chester and Holyhead Railway, who were building a railway line along the coastline of North Wales between Chester and Holyhead on Anglesey, across the River Conway.
June, 22. North Bridge Station was opened in Edinburgh by the North British Railway as the terminus for its line from Berwick-upon-Tweed.
June, 27. Dickens begins writing Dombey and Son.
June, 30. Prime Minister Robert Peel resigns after the Corn Laws are repealed (see 15 May).
July, 7. During the Mexican–American War (1846-1848), the Mexican Congress officially declares war against the United States.
July, 30. Liverpool’s Albert Dock is officially opened by Prince Albert, in honour of whom it was named.
August, 22. In Manchester, three parks are opened to the public with great ceremony. Peel Park on the Lark Hill Estate is the first to be opened, followed by Queen’s Park in Harpurhey and Philips Park in Bradford, Manchester. Peel Park, named in honour of Robert Peel, is now said to be possibly the world’s first Public Park.
September, 20-24. Battle of Monterrey. During the Mexican–American War, U.S. forces attack, and eventually capture, the northern Mexican city of Monterrey.
November. Part II (2) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 5–7).
November, 16. Family leave Villa Rosemont and head for France.
November, 20. Dickens family arrive in Paris, initially staying at the Hotel Brighton and later renting a house at No. 48 Rue de Courcelles (staying in Paris until February 1847).
December. Part III (3) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 8–10).
December, 1-3. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, visit Arundel Castle in West Sussex for a three day visit. The royal couple stay inside the medieval castle, which had been had remodelled in time for the visit.
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.