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 XVI (16) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 49–51).

January, 19. Death of Isaac D’Israeli, author (born in 1766). He was the father of Benjamin Disraeli, who became a Conservative Party politician and twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

January, 24. The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) begins when gold is discovered at Sutter’s Mill, in Coloma, California. The news of the discovery brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.

February. Part XVII (17) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 52–54).

February, 2. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed, ending the Mexican–American War,

February, 4. Soldier Henry Ducker is fatally shot by his lover Annette Meyers in Birdcage Walk, London. Meyers is sentenced to death but the verdict causes a national outcry after it emerges she was abused by Ducker. Meyers sentence was later commuted to imprisonment (see also March 8, March 12).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 36th birthday.

February, 15. The Caledonian Railway is opened throughout between Edinburgh, Carstairs and Carlisle, completing a through rail route from London by the West Coast Main Line and providing the first service of through carriages between Scotland and England.

February, 21. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto, originally a 23-page pamphlet written in German, in London.

February, 22. The French Revolution of 1848, which would lead to the establishment of the French Second Republic, begins.

February, 23. Death of John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829 (born in 1767).

February, 24. Following several days of revolution in Paris, King Louis Philippe I of France abdicates and flees to England.

March. Part XVIII (18) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 55–57).

March, 8 (Wednesday). Abolitionists hold a packed public meeting at the London Tavern calling for an end to capital punishment and a petition to seek a commutation of the sentence of Annette Meyers (see also February 4, March 12).

March, 10 (Friday). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is ratified by the United States Senate, formally ending the Mexican–American War.

March, 12 (Sunday). The sentence of Annette Meyers for the murder of soldier Henry Ducker is commuted to life imprisonment following a public outcry and campaign from newspapers including The Times (see also February 4, March 8).

March, 13 (Monday). Large demonstrations in Vienna mark the start of the German revolutions of 1848–49, a series of loosely coordinated protests and rebellions in the states of the German Confederation, including the Austrian the city’s Habsburg authorities to accept a 12 Point plan for freedom and self-determination.

March, 15 (Wednesday). Start of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Hungarians peacefully revolt in Budapest, forcing the city’s Habsburg authorities to accept a 12 Point plan for freedom and self-determination.

March, 18 (Saturday). Queen Victoria gives birth to her sixth child and fourth daughter, Louise.

April. Parts XIX-XX (19-20), the final parts of Dombey and Son published (chapters 58–62).

April, 8. Queen Victoria leaves London for the Isle of Wight ahead of possible civil unrest in the capital.

April, 10. A large mass meeting of Chartists is held on Kennington Common, London, believed to number 150,000 protestors.

April, 11. The first Hungarian national government is formed.

April, 18. The Second Anglo-Sikh War breaks out in the Punjab.

April, 22. The Treason Felony Act is passed, reducing certain categories of capital high treason to crimes punishable by penal transportation.

May, 11. Death of Tom Cribb, world champion bare-knuckle boxer (born in 1781).

May, 15. Dickens manages and performs at a charity night at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in aid of Shakespeare’s House at Stratford-upon-Avon.

May, 22. The Scottish Central Railway opens to Perth.

June, 5. Dickens appears in charity performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor in Liverpool.

June, 27. Dickens appears in charity performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham.

July, 4. St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark, London is opened as a Roman Catholic church, designed by Augustus Pugin.

July, 11. London’s Waterloo station opens.

July, 26. Matale Rebellion against British rule in Sri Lanka.

August, 12 (Saturday). Death of George Stephenson, locomotive pioneer (born in 1781).

August, 14 (Monday). Mary May executed at Chelmsford, Essex for the poisoning of her half-brother. The case helped to reveal the practise of killing family members to claim money from burial clubs.

August, 19 (Saturday). Moray Firth fishing disaster: 100 fishermen lose their lives in a severe storm off the east coast of Scotland.

August, 19 (Saturday). A literary review of Narrative of the Expedition sent by her Majesty’s Government to the river Niger in 1841 written by Charles Dickens is published in The Examiner.

September, 2. Dickens’ beloved older sister, Fanny, dies.

September, 8. Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort, first visit Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Victoria recorded in her diary that she found the house ‘small but pretty‘, but that ‘all seemed to breathe freedom and peace, and to make one forget the world and its sad turmoils‘. The couple formally purchased Balmoral in 1852 but finding the property too small had it knocked down and a new castle was completed in 1856.

November, 1. The first W H Smith bookstall at a railway station opens, at Euston Station, in London.

November, 24. Death of William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, British Whig statesman who served as Home Secretary (1830–1834) and Prime Minister (1834 and 1835–1841). Melbourne is best known for being prime minister in Queen Victoria’s early years and coaching her in the ways of politics, acting almost as her private secretary.(born in 1779).

November, 27. Stays at Bedford Hotel, Brighton.

November, 28. Stays at Bedford Hotel, Brighton.

November, 28. Farmer James Rush murders two people at Stanfield Hall in Norfolk, a crime that shocked Victorian society. Six weeks later Dickens visits Stanfield Hall as part of a short trip to East Anglia, staying at Yarmouth.

December. The Haunted Man, Dickens last Christmas book is published.

December, 5. Marriage of Augustus Dickens, youngest brother of Charles, to Harriett Lovell at Trinity Church, Marylebone. Charles attends the service.

December, 10. Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte is elected first president of the French Second Republic.

December, 19. Death of author Emily Brontë, at the age of 30, from tuberculosis (born in 1818).

December, 30. Marriage of Frederick Dickens, oldest brother of Charles, to Anna Weller, held at Cheltenham. Charles disapproved of the relationship. The couple separated ten years later.

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.