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 XIV (14) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 12–14).
February. Part XV (15) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 15–18).
February. Charles Dickens obtains possession of Gad’s Hill Place.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 45th birthday.
March. Part XVI (16) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 19–22).
March, 27 – April, 24. The 1857 United Kingdom general election is held. The result secures Lord Palmerston’s Whigs a clear majority.
April. Part XVII (17) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 23–26).
April. Charles Dickens, Catherine and Mary spend several days at Wate’s Hotel, Gravesend while work is being done at Gad’s Hill Place.
April, 4. The Treaty of Paris ends the Anglo-Persian War, a six-month war fought between Great Britain and Iran (Persia) under the rule of the Qajar dynasty over control of the city of Herat.
April, 14. Queen Victoria gives birth to her ninth (and last child) and fifth daughter, Beatrice.
May. Part XVIII (18) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 27–29).
May, 10. Members of the Bengal army mutiny in India.
May, 21 (Thursday). In the evening, Dickens presides at the second anniversary dinner of the Royal Hospital for Incurables, held at the London Tavern. Gives an account visit of a recent visit to the institution’s temporary hospital at Carshalton, Surrey.
June. Parts XIX-XX (19-20) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 30–34).
June, 8 (Monday). Death of dramatist and writer Douglas Jerrold (born in 1803), a good friend of Dickens.
June, 15 (Monday). Dickens attends the funeral of Douglas Jerrold at Norwood Cemetery.
June, 22. Queen Victoria opens the South Kensington Museum, predecessor of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London.
June, 25. Queen Victoria formally grants her husband Albert the title Prince Consort.
June, 26. The first award ceremony for the new Victoria Cross medal was held at a ceremony in Hyde Park, London. Queen Victoria invested 62 Crimean recipients.
June, 30 (Tuesday). Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol to raise funds for the widow and family of Douglas Jerrold, a good friend of Dickens who died on 8 June. The reading, to a packed audience, is held at St. Martin’s Hall, London.
The reports respecting Mr. Dickens’s command over an audience have not been in the least exaggerated. It is no such easy matter to read for upwards of two hours a book with which the listeners are acquainted, and to keep them all the while in a state of breathless interest; but this is actually done by Mr. Dickens.The Times, 1 July 1857. Review of Charles Dickens’s benefit reading on 30 June.
July, 14 (Tuesday). The prison hulk HMS Defence catches fire at her moorings off Woolwich. The event brings an end to the use of such hulks in home waters.
Summer. Hans Christian Anderson visits Dickens at Gad’s Hill Place.
August (?). Charles Dickens meets Ellen Ternan.
August, 28. Matrimonial Causes Act makes divorce without parliamentary approval legally possible.
August, 29. Dickens writes to his friend Wilkie Collins asking him to come away for a short trip.
September, 7 (Monday). Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins begin a walking tour of Cumberland, departing by train from London for Carlisle. After arriving at Carlisle the pair make their way to the village of Hesketh Newmarket, staying overnight at the Queen’s Head public house.
September, 8 (Tuesday). Despite bad weather Dickens and Collins climb the mountain of Carrock Fell. Their compass breaks and the pair became hopelessly lost in thick mist. On the descent, Wilkie badly sprains his ankle and the pair head to the market town of Wigton, where Collins was able to see a doctor. The pair spend the night in Wigton.
September, 9 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins travel from Wigton to the coastal village of Allonby, arriving in time for lunch at The Ship, which they will spend two nights at.
September, 10 (Thursday). Allonby. Stay at The Ship.
September, 11 (Friday). Dickens and Collins travel from Allonby to Carlisle. Stay overnight at the County Hotel.
September, 12 (Saturday). Dickens and Collins travel from Carlisle to Lancaster, where they stay overnight en-route to a pre-arranged visit to Doncaster. Dickens writes from Lancaster to his sister-in-law and housekeeper, Georgina Hogarth, saying ‘we shall have, as well as I can make out the complicated list of trains, to sleep at Leeds-which I particularly detest as an odious place-tomorrow night’.
September, 13 (Sunday). Leeds. Dickens and Collins, en-route to Doncaster are forced to stay overnight in Leeds due to the Sunday railway timetables.
September, 14 (Monday). Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins take a train from Leeds to Doncaster, arriving during the St. Leger races week. They stay at the Angel Hotel in Doncaster where Dickens already had a booking, after planning to see Ellen Ternan appear at the Theatre Royal.
September, 15 (Tuesday). Doncaster, staying at the Angel Hotel. The Mayor of Doncaster calls on Dickens in the morning. Later on, he writes to his sister-in-law and housekeeper, Georgina Hogarth.
September, 16 (Wednesday). Doncaster, staying at the Angel Hotel. Dickens visits the St. Leger races, hiring a carriage.
September, 17 (Thursday). Doncaster, staying at the Angel Hotel.
September, 18 (Friday). Doncaster, staying at the Angel Hotel. Dickens visits the St. Leger races, hiring a carriage.
October, 24. Sheffield F.C., the world’s first football team, is founded in Sheffield.
December, 27. Charles Dickens gives a charitable reading for the Rochester and Chatham Mechanics’ Institute.
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.