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.


1848.

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 (Wednesday). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed, ending the Mexican–American War (1846-1848). The treaty was ratified by the United States on 10 March and by Mexico on 19 May, the ratifications being exchanged on 30 May. The treaty was proclaimed on 4 July.

February, 4 (Friday). 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 8 March, 12 March).

February, 7 (Monday). Charles Dickens’s 36th birthday.

February, 15 (Tuesday). 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 (Monday). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto, in London. It was originally a 23-page pamphlet written in German.

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

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

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

February, 26 (Saturday). Charles Dickens writes from his Devonshire Terrace residence to the mathematician, philosopher and inventor, Charles Babbage (1791-1871).

February (end). Charles Dickens and Catherine arrive in Brighton, staying for a week. They were accompanied by Catherine Frances Atkins (1804-1852), the wife of friend and leading Shakespearean actor William Charles Macready, who was in poor health. Dickens uses the break to concentrate on writing the conclusion of Dombey and Son. The party initially stay at the town’s Bedford Hotel, before moving to the Junction House.

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

Mrs. Macready is certainly better already, and I really have very great hopes that she will come back in a condition so blooming, as to necessitate the presentation of a piece of plate to the undersigned trainer.

Letter from Charles Dickens to William Charles Macready, 2 March 1848.

March, 2 (Thursday). Charles Dickens writes from the Junction House hotel, Brighton to William Charles Macready, about the health of Macready’s wife (who is with Dickens in Brighton) and also about him coming to Brighton in three-days time.

March, 3 (Friday). King Louis Philippe I arrives in England after fleeing France, landing at Newhaven in Sussex.

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 4 February, 12 March).

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 4 February, 8 March).

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 Empire.

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.

March, 29. In North America, strong winds blew large quantities of ice across Lake Erie, leading to the Niagara Falls running dry for 30 hours.

April, 8. Queen Victoria leaves London for Osborne House on 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, 11. Parts XIX-XX (19-20), the final parts of Dombey and Son published (chapters 58–62).

April, 12. Complete novel of Dombey and Son published.

April, 13 (Thursday). A complimentary review of Dombey and Son appears in The Sun newspaper.

April, 14 (Friday). Charles Dickens writes a private letter from his Devonshire Terrace home to the Editor of The Sun newspaper.

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, 4 (Thursday). Swedish singing sensation Jenny Lind, often known as the Swedish Nightingale, performs at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the opera La sonnambula. Lind was one of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century. Amongst the audience were Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Lord Byron. It is the first public appearance of the Queen since she travelled to Osborne House (Isle of Wight) the previous month fearing civil unrest.

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

May, 12. Charles Dickens writes from his Devonshire Terrace home to the author Peter Cunningham.

May, 15 (Monday). Dickens manages and performs at a charity performance of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (London). It is one of a number to raise funds in aid of Shakespeare’s House at Stratford-upon-Avon, with subsequent performances being held in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

May, 17 (Wednesday). A second benefit performance is held at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (London) to raise funds in aid of Shakespeare’s House at Stratford-upon-Avon. On this occasion, Ben Jonson’s comedy Every Man in his Humour is performed, followed by the James Kenney farce Love, Law and Physic.

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

June, 3 (Saturday). A charity benefit production to raise funds in aid of Shakespeare’s House at Stratford-upon-Avon, is staged by Dickens at the Manchester Theatre Royal, with performances of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor and Elizabeth Inchbald’s play Animal Magnetism.

June, 5 (Monday). Dickens appears in a charity performance of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor in Liverpool, held in the Royal Amphitheatre (now the Royal Court Theatre). It is followed by the James Kenney farce Love, Law and Physic.

June, 6 (Tuesday). A charity benefit production to raise funds in aid of Shakespeare’s House at Stratford-upon-Avon, is staged by Dickens at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, with performances of Every Man in his Humour and Elizabeth Inchbald’s play Animal Magnetism.

June, 13. A planned Dickens charity performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Animal Magnetism in Bristol is cancelled.

June, 22 (Thursday). In the morning, Charles Dickens writes from his Devonshire Terrace home to author Peter Cunningham (1816-1869), asking him to take the role of the ‘Nym‘, in his forthcoming benefit performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

June, 23 (Friday). In the evening, Charles Dickens is at Miss Kelly’s theatre in Soho.

June, 27 (Tuesday). A second charity benefit production to raise funds in aid of Shakespeare’s House at Stratford-upon-Avon, is staged by Dickens at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, with performances of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor.

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

July, 6. In the U.K. Parliament, the House of Commons votes against the ‘Little Charter’ of electoral reforms proposed by radical Member of Parliament Joseph Hume, rejecting it by 351 votes to 84. The reforms proposed household franchise, vote by ballot, triennial Parliaments and a more equal distribution of parliamentary seats.

July, 13. The first train runs out of London’s Waterloo station. The station, which originally had just four platforms, was largely built on marshy land in Lambeth that had been occupied by pleasure grounds including Cuper’s Gardens.

July, 17 (Monday). Dickens appears in a charity performance of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh.

July, 18 (Tuesday). Dickens appears in a charity performance of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor and Elizabeth Inchbald’s play Animal Magnetism at the Theatre Royal in Dunlop Street, Glasgow.

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

July, 29. Tipperary Revolt. During the Irish Famine, an unsuccessful nationalist revolt against British rule is put down by police in County Tipperary, Ireland, at the time part of the United Kingdom.

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

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

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.

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

August, 26 (Saturday). Dickens writes from Broadstairs to his friend, the actor and theatre manager William Charles Macready (1793-1873), asking to meet up before Macready leaves for a tour of the United States.

September, 2 (Saturday). Dickens’ beloved older sister, Fanny (Frances Elizabeth Dickens), 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.

September, 29. Battle of Pákozd. The first battle of the Hungarian Revolution sees the Hungarian revolutionary army led by Lieutenant-General János Móga clash with troops of the Croatian Ban Josip Jelačić in the Pákozd–Sukoró–Pátka triangle. Facing supply issues, Croatian forces eventually retreated to Vienna and the Hungarian victory helped inspire the Vienna Rebellion of 6 October.

October, 6. Vienna Uprising. Violent street battles break out in Vienna after troops of the Austrian Empire were preparing to leave the city to suppress the Hungarian Revolution.

October, 7. Amid public disorder in the city, Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I flees with his court to Olmütz (now Olomouc, Czech Republic). Two weeks later, the Austrian Parliament was moved to Kremsier (now Kroměříž, Czech Republic). Ferdinand I abdicated his throne less than two months later.

October, 14 (Saturday). London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket re-opens after an extensive refurbishment with a performance of Romeo and Juliet. At the time, the theatre was managed by Charles Manby, who also ran the Adelphi.

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

November, 7 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens writes from his Devonshire Terrace residence to the publisher and bookseller Effingham William Wilson (1785-1868), about the setting up of a national theatre, replying that ‘I wish I could cherish a stronger faith than I have in the probability of its establishment on a rational footing within fifty years‘.

November, 9 (Thursday). Death of the German politician, publicist, poet, and publisher Robert Blum (born in 1807). Blum was executed for his role in the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states.

November, 9 (Thursday). Liberal Party politician James Duke is installed as Lord Mayor of London. Large crowds watch the procession from the Guildhall to Westminster.

November, 21 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens writes from his Devonshire Terrace residence to the illustrator Frank Stone, enclosing a second part of The Haunted Man, for him to produce illustrations from.

November, 22 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family arrive in Brighton for a stay of several days, during which Dickens finishes The Haunted Man, his last Christmas book. During the stay in the town, the family reside at the Bedford Hotel.

November, 23 (Thursday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel. Writes from there to the illustrator Frank Stone, concerning illustrations for the upcoming The Haunted Man.

November, 24 (Friday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel.

November, 24 (Friday). 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, 25 (Saturday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel.

November, 26 (Sunday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel. Dickens writes to illustrator Frank Stone about images for his forthcoming work, The Haunted Man. Stone provided three illustrations for the Christmas short story.

November, 27 (Monday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel. Writes from there to the illustrator Frank Stone, concerning illustrations for the upcoming The Haunted Man.

November, 28 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel. Writes from there to the author and close friend Mark Lemon, inviting him to join Dickens in Brighton that Friday.

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

November, 29 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel.

November, 30 (Thursday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel.

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

December, 1 (Friday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel.

December, 2 (Saturday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel.

December, 2 (Saturday). Amid revolt in the country, Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I abdicates his throne, and is succeeded by his nephew Franz Joseph I.

December, 3 (Sunday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family are in Brighton, staying at the Bedford Hotel.

December, 4 (Monday). Charles Dickens, Catherine and family depart Brighton to return to London.

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

December, 10. Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte is elected the 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.

December, 30. During the Siege of Multan in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, a mortar shell from forces controlled by the British East India Company hits 180 tonnes of gunpowder stored in a mosque in Multan, Punjab, causing an explosion and killing 800 defenders. It is considered one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.


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.