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 XI (11) of Bleak House is published (chapters 33-35).

January, 20. The United Kingdom annexes Lower Burma ending the Second Anglo-Burmese War.

January, 13 (Thursday). Dickens attends a literary and artistic banquet, held in Birmingham.

February. Part XII (12) of Bleak House is published (chapters 36-38).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 41st birthday.

February, 15. The PS Queen Victoria sinks in a snowstorm at night entering Dublin Bay with the loss of more than 80 lives.

March. Part XIII (13) of Bleak House is published (chapters 39-42).

March, 13. Received a Blank Child is published in Household Words.

March 19 (Saturday). A fire breaks out at Windsor Castle but is soon contained by firefighters.

April. Part XIV (14) of Bleak House is published (chapters 43-46).

April, 7. Queen Victoria gives birth to her eighth child and fourth son, Leopold.

April, 20 (Wednesday). Dickens attends a dinner at Devonshire House (London), hosted by the Duke of Devonshire, to support the Guild of Literature and Art.

May. Part XV (15) of Bleak House is published (chapters 47-49).

June. Part XVI (16) of Bleak House is published (chapters 50-53).

June, 16 (Thursday). Puts on a benefit performance in support of the actress Miss Kelly’s (held at St. James’s Theatre ??).

July. Part XVII (17) of Bleak House is published (chapters 54-56).

Summer. Dickens tours Italy.

August. Part XVIII (18) of Bleak House is published (chapters 57-59).

August, 15 (Monday). Scaffolding collapses whilst the Crystal Palace is being reassembled at Sydenham in south London, throwing 13 labourers to their deaths.

August, 17 (Wednesday). An coroners inquest opens at the Royal Crystal Palace Hotel, Sydenham into the tragedy at the Crystal Palace two days earlier. Amongst the attendees are Joseph Paxton, designer of the structure.

August, 29. Death of Charles James Napier, general and Commander-in-Chief in India (born in 1782).

September. Parts XIX–XX (19-20), a double issue and the final instalments, of Bleak House is published (chapters 60-67).

September, 24. The Spectator magazine publishes an unfavourable review of Bleak House.

September, 28. The emigrant ship Annie Jane sinks in heavy seas off the Scottish island of Vatersay with the loss of 350 lives.

October. Outbreak of the Crimean War, initially between Russia and Turkey.

October, 31. The lockout of Preston cotton mill workers begins. Lancashire cotton mill workers, seeking reinstatement of part of their pay that had been cut in the 1840’s, went on strike. In retaliation the cotton mill owners locked workers out of their factories. One of Britain’s longest industrial disputes, it lasts until 15 May 1854. Dickens visited Preston in late January 1854 to observe mill workers meetings, using it as inspiration for Hard Times.

December, 27 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens gives his first public reading, A Christmas Carol at Birmingham Town Hall in aid of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

December, 28 (Wednesday). Dickens signs a contract to write Hard Times.

December, 29 (Thursday). Dickens gives a second public reading at Birmingham Town Hall in aid of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, reading The Cricket on the Hearth.

December, 30 (Friday). Dickens gives a further public reading of A Christmas Carol at Birmingham Town Hall in aid of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, stipulating that the seats be mainly reserved for working classes.

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.