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.


1855.

Early. Charles Dickens has a disappointing reunion with Maria Winter (Maria Beadnell).

January, 6 (Saturday). 250th edition of Household Words is published.

January, 6 (Saturday). Charles Dickens holds a Twelfth Night celebration at his Tavistock House address, putting on a performance of The Fairy Extravaganza of Fortunio and his Seven Gifted Sons (by J. R. Planché). Amongst the cast are close friends Wilkie Collins and Mark Lemon.

January, 10. Death of Mary Russell Mitford, novelist and dramatist (born in 1787).

January, 13 (Saturday). 251st edition of Household Words is published.

January, 16. Henry Fielding Dickens‘s 6th birthday.

January, 16. A severe frost sweeps across the U.K., which would last for six weeks. It would lead to a number of rivers and inland waterways freezing over, disrupting maritime trade. In London, 10,000 dock workers were laid off leading to civil disturbances in the East End, known as the ‘bread riots’.

January, 20 (Saturday). 252nd edition of Household Words is published.

January, 21 (Sunday). Crimean War Riot. Ten days later, Lord Aberdeen’s government falls.

January, 22 (Monday). French political exile Emmanuel Barthélemy is hanged at Newgate after being convicted of murdering a London man. Barthélemy had previously killed a fellow Frenchman in the last fatal duel in England, but has only been convicted of manslaughter on that occasion.

January, 25. Death of Dorothy Wordsworth, poet and diarist (born in 1771). She was the sister of the romantic poet William Wordsworth.

January, 27 (Saturday). 253rd edition of Household Words is published.

January, 29 (Monday). Lord Aberdeen resigns as Prime Minister.

February, 3 (Saturday). 254th edition of Household Words is published.

February, 5 (Monday). Viscount Palmerston becomes Prime Minister.

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 43rd birthday.

February, 10 (Saturday). 255th edition of Household Words is published.

February, 17 (Saturday). 256th edition of Household Words is published.

February, 19 (Monday). A ‘bread riot’ breaks out in Liverpool.

LIVERPOOL, MONDAY —The weather continues intensely severe; the river is full of floating ice; communication is suspended with the ferries, excepting that of Woodside; the wind is still easterly, and no vessels arriving; consequently the dock porters and other depending upon the in-coming commerce of the port are still unemployed. Starvation is staring them in the face; relief cannot be had for so many, fully twenty thousand men being now out of work. The result is, that what is termed a “Bread Riot” has occurred. The streets of the town are crowded by excited workmen crying for bread for themselves and their starving families. Gangs of them having applied at the bakers and provision shops for something to eat, on being refused broke out into open rebellion, and took off whatever they could lay their hands upon.

Saunders’s News-Letter and Daily Advertiser. Tuesday, 20 February 1855.

February, 21 (Wednesday). A ‘bread riot’ breaks out in the East End of London.

February, 24 (Saturday). 257th edition of Household Words is published.

March, 2. Alexander II becomes the Tsar of Russia.

March, 3 (Saturday). 258th edition of Household Words is published.

March, 3 (Saturday). Charles Dickens watches an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra at the Great National Standard Theatre in Shoreditch, east London.

March, 4 (Sunday). Charles Dickens writes from Tavistock House to friend Wilkie Collins, criticising the adaptation of Anthony and Cleopatra he saw the previous night.

March, 10 (Saturday). 259th edition of Household Words is published.

March, 14 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens attends the annual general meeting of the Royal Literary Fund, held in the society’s own rooms at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury (London).

March, 17 (Saturday). 260th edition of Household Words is published.

March, 24 (Saturday). 261st edition of Household Words is published.

March, 31 (Saturday). 262nd edition of Household Words is published.

March, 31 (Saturday). Death of the author Charlotte Brontë (born in 1816).

March, 31 (Saturday). Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, accompanied by the Duke Cambridge and the Prince of Leiningen, visit the Crystal Palace (Sydenham) in the morning.

April, 2 (Monday). Charles Dickens attends an annual dinner to raise funds for the General Theatrical Fund, held at the London Tavern.

April, 7 (Saturday). 263rd edition of Household Words is published.

April, 14 (Saturday). 264th edition of Household Words is published.

April, 15 (Sunday). Death of the landowner, antiquarian and politician William John Bankes (born in 1786). Bankes served as a Member of Parliament for the constituencies of Truro (1810-1812), the University of Cambridge (1822-6), Marlborough (1829-32), and finally Dorset (1832-4). An Egyptologist and friend of Lord Byron, Bankes had inherited the Dorset estates of Kingston Lacy, Corfe Castle, Studland and the Purbeck hills. He spent much of his time transforming his country house of Kingston Lacy, but had to flee to Italy after allegations of homosexuality were made in 1841. Bankes died in Venice and was buried in the family vault at Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

April, 16 (Monday). Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France arrive at Dover at the start of a visit to see Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Accompanied by Prince Albert, they travel to Windsor Castle.

April, 19 (Thursday). Queen Victoria and Prince Albert along with Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France visit the Guildhall as guests of the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London. In the evening, the party attend the Royal Italian Opera (Theatre Royal Covent Garden), watching Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. Huge sums of money were said to have been paid by people eager to gain a seat at the event.

April, 20 (Friday). Queen Victoria and Prince Albert host Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham. Thousands of people line the route of the 10-carriage royal procession whilst a crowd of 40,000 are reported at the Crystal Palace.

April, 21 (Saturday). 265th edition of Household Words is published.

April, 21 (Saturday). Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France depart via Dover for Paris after their short visit to England.

April, 28 (Saturday). 266th edition of Household Words is published.

May, 4 (Friday). Dickens writes to friend Leigh Hunt, informing him that he is ‘in the wandering-unsettled-restless-uncontrollable state of being about to begin a book‘ (which would become Little Dorrit).

May, 5 (Saturday). 267th edition of Household Words is published.

May, 12 (Saturday). 268th edition of Household Words is published.

May, 15. The Great Gold Robbery, the theft of gold bars from a train between London Bridge and Paris, occurs.

May, 19 (Saturday). 269th edition of Household Words is published.

May, 26 (Saturday). 270th edition of Household Words is published.

June, 2 (Saturday). 271st edition of Household Words is published.

June, 9 (Saturday). 272nd edition of Household Words is published.

June, 11 (Monday). Charles Dickens writes a letter from Tavistock House to Samuel Morley, saying he is unable to attend the inaugural meeting of the Administrative Reform Association (on 13 June) due to prior commitments.

June, 16 (Saturday). 273rd edition of Household Words is published.

June, 16. Charles Dickens puts on private performances of Wilkie Collins’s play The Lighthouse at his Tavistock House home. Four performances are mounted over subsequent nights (with a further one on 10 July at Campden House, Kensington).

June, 16 (Saturday). Charles Dickens chairs a meeting of members of the Royal Literary Fund Society, held at London’s Willis Rooms.

June, 23 (Saturday). 274th edition of Household Words is published.

June, 27 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens gives a speech on administrative reform to members of the Administrative Reform Association, held at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London [read speech].

June, 29 (Friday). A law removing stamp duty from newspapers comes into force, making newspapers cheaper and opening up mass-market media in the United Kingdom.

June, 29 (Friday). The Daily Telegraph newspaper is launched (originally called the Daily Telegraph & Courier).

June, 30 (Saturday). 275th edition of Household Words is published.

July, 7 (Saturday). 276th edition of Household Words is published.

July, 10 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens puts on a benefit performance of Wilkie Collins’s play The Lighthouse at Campden House, Kensington to raise money for the new Consumption Hospital at Bournemouth. The house had been lent for the performance by its owner, Colonel Waugh, at his London home. Waugh owned land near the new Sanatorium site and helped put on local fundraising events for the institution. After a failed business venture, Waugh was later revealed to be a swindler.

July, 14 (Saturday). 277th edition of Household Words is published.

July, 21 (Saturday). 278th edition of Household Words is published.

July, 28 (Saturday). 279th edition of Household Words is published.

July, 31. The Limited Liability Act passes through parliament, giving protection to investors in the event of corporate collapse.

August, 4 (Saturday). 280th edition of Household Words is published.

August, 11 (Saturday). 281st edition of Household Words is published.

August, 18 (Saturday). 282nd edition of Household Words is published.

August, 25 (Saturday). 283rd edition of Household Words is published.

July – Oct (early). Charles Dickens rents a house overlooking the sea in Folkestone at 3 Albion Villas. Whilst there, he would write the first chapters of Little Dorrit.

August, 30. Death of Feargus O’Connor, political radical and Chartist leader (born in 1794 in Ireland).

September, 1 (Saturday). 284th edition of Household Words is published.

September, 3 (Monday). The last Bartholomew Fair is held in London’s Smithfield area.

September, 8 (Saturday). 285th edition of Household Words is published.

September, 9 (Sunday). In the Crimean War, during the Siege of Sevastopol, the Black Sea port of Sevastapol falls to the British and their allies.

September, 15 (Saturday). 286th edition of Household Words is published.

September, 22 (Saturday). 287th edition of Household Words is published.

September, 29 (Saturday). 288th edition of Household Words is published.

October, 2 (Tuesday). The Bournemouth Sanatorium is opened. Initially designed to be a South coast branch of the Brompton Sanatorium, the location of the institution helped popularise Bournemouth as a health resort in the Victorian period. Charles Dickens helped raise funds for its construction by putting on private theatrical performances at his home a few months earlier (see June 16).

October, 5 (Friday). Folkestone. Charles Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol in aid of the Folkestone Mechanics’ Institute, held in a carpenter’s premises.

October, 6 (Saturday). 289th edition of Household Words is published.

October, 10 (Wednesday). Newspaper adverts appear for Dickens’s new work, revealing the title as Little Dorrit, to be published in 20 monthly parts, with the first instalment to be published on 30 November.

October, 13 (Saturday). 290th edition of Household Words is published.

October, 16 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens rents the top of a house at No. 49, Avenue des Champs Elysées, Paris for six months for him and his family.

October, 20 (Saturday). 291st edition of Household Words is published.

October, 27 (Saturday). 292nd edition of Household Words is published.

November, 3 (Saturday). 293rd edition of Household Words is published.

November, 10 (Saturday). 294th edition of Household Words is published.

November, 17 (Saturday). 295th edition of Household Words is published.

November, 17. Explorer David Livingstone discovers Victoria Falls in Africa.

November, 23. Augustus Dickens, youngest brother of Charles Dickens, joins the London Freemasons.

November, 24 (Saturday). 296th edition of Household Words is published.

December. Little Dorrit is published monthly between December 1855 and June 1857.

December. Part I (1) of Little Dorrit published (Book 1, Chapters 1-4).

December, 1 (Saturday). 297th edition of Household Words is published.

December, 8 (Saturday). 298th edition of Household Words is published.

December, 10 (Monday). Swedish singing sensation Jenny Lind, often known as the Swedish Nightingale, performs at London’s Exeter Hall. Lind was one of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century. The Times reports ‘the hall was crammed to suffocation by an assembly almost as fashionable as in the full blaze of the Italian Opera‘. The performance is the first in a short series at Exeter Hall.

December, 15 (Saturday). 299th edition of Household Words is published.

December, 19 (Wednesday). The first meeting of the newly established Metropolitan Board of Works is held at Burlington House in London. The organisation became the principal instrument of London-wide government until it was replaced by the London County Council in 1889. Joseph Bazalgette was later appointed as its first, and only, chief engineer.

December, 18 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol in aid of the Peterborough Mechanics Institute, held at the Peterborough Corn Exchange at 8pm. Dickens had travelled from Paris for the reading, leaving his family there.

December, 22 (Saturday). 300th edition of Household Words is published.

December, 22 (Saturday). Charles Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol in aid of the Sheffield Mechanics Institute.

December, 25 (Tuesday). Christmas 1855 special edition of Household Words is published. It includes the Dickens Christmas Story, The Boots.

December, 29 (Saturday). 301st edition of Household Words is published.

December, 31 (Monday). Jenny Lind performs Handel’s Messiah at London’s Exeter Hall.


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.