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.


1857.

January. Part XIV (14) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 12–14).

January, 6 (Tuesday, Twelfth Night). Dickens holds the first of four nights of theatrical performances at his Tavistock House residence. It includes a production of Wilkie Collins new work The Frozen Deep.

January, 9 (Friday). Dickens holds the second of four nights of theatrical performances at his Tavistock House residence.

January, 12 (Monday). Dickens holds the third of four nights of theatrical performances at his Tavistock House residence.

January, 14 (Wednesday). Dickens holds the last of four nights of theatrical performances at his Tavistock House residence.

January, 16 (Friday). Henry Fielding Dickens‘s 8th birthday.

February. Part XV (15) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 15–18).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 45th birthday.

February, 13. Charles Dickens obtains possession of Gad’s Hill Place.

March. Part XVI (16) of Little Dorrit published (Book 2, Chapters 19–22).

March, 25. Death of William Colgate, English-American businessman and philanthropist who founded the Colgate soap company (born in 1783).

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, 5 (Tuesday). The Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester is opened by Prince Albert. Running until 17 October, it attracted 1.3 million visitors and remains the largest art exhibition ever held in the United Kingdom. A temporary iron-and-glass building, inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, was constructed on a three-acre site in the Old Trafford area of the town.

May, 7 (Thursday). Death of Carlisle cotton manufacturer John Dixon (born in 1785). Dixon served as the town’s mayor (1839-41), and was briefly its Member of Parliament (1847-8), but lost his seat after being disqualified when it emerged a coal company of which he was a director held a contract with the Board of Ordnance.

May, 10 (Sunday). Members of the Bengal army mutiny in India.

May, 21 (Thursday). In the evening, Charles 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 Charles Dickens (see also 15 June, 30 June).

June, 15 (Monday). Charles Dickens attends the funeral of Douglas Jerrold at Norwood Cemetery.

June, 20 (Saturday). In the evening, Queen Victoria privately visits the new South Kensington Museum, (predecessor of the Victoria and Albert Museum), prior to its public opening five days later.

June, 24 (Wednesday). The South Kensington Museum (predecessor of the Victoria and Albert Museum), officially opens to the public. The museum initially offers free admission on three days of the week and a small charge on the three remaining days.

June, 25 (Thursday). Queen Victoria formally grants her husband Albert the title Prince Consort.

June, 26 (Friday). 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, 29 (Monday). Queen Victoria visits the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester, just over six weeks after it was opened by her husband Prince Albert. (see 5 May).

June, 30 (Tuesday). Charles 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.

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.

July, 27. In India, the Siege of Arrah begins, in which sixty-eight men hold out for eight days against a force of 2,500 to 3,000 mutinying sepoys and 8,000 irregular forces. The siege was part of a rebellion in India throughout 1857 against rule of the country by the British East India Company.

Summer. Charles Dickens is visited by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, who stays with him at his Gad’s Hill Place home.

Summer. Charles Dickens visits Canning Town (twice). Describes the squalid conditions he finds there in an article titled Londoners over the border, and published in Household Words on 12 September.

August (?). Charles Dickens meets Ellen Ternan.

August, 28. Matrimonial Causes Act makes divorce without parliamentary approval legally possible.

August, 29. Charles 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 inn, which they will spend two nights at.

September, 10 (Thursday). Allonby. Dickens and Collins stay at The Ship.

September, 11 (Friday). Dickens and Collins travel from Allonby to Carlisle. Stay overnight at the County Hotel.

September, 12 (Saturday). Lancaster. Dickens and Collins travel from Carlisle to Lancaster, where they stay overnight en-route to a pre-arranged visit to Doncaster. The pair stay at the King’s Arms in Market Street, and would strike a friendship with the proprietor, Joseph Sly. 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). Doncaster. 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.

September, 22. Russian warship Lefort capsizes and sinks during a storm in the Gulf of Finland, killing all 826 aboard.

October, 17 (Saturday). The Art Treasures Exhibition closes in Manchester (see 5 May).

October, 24. Sheffield F.C., the world’s first football team, is founded in Sheffield.

November, 3 (Tuesday). A first attempted launch of the SS Great Eastern at Millwall takes place, but the huge ship fails to move. Spectators, who had been allowed into the shipyard, hampered preparations.

November, 5 (Thursday). Charles Dickens attends the fourth-anniversary dinner of the Warehousemen and Clerks Schools, held at the London Tavern, where, as Chairman, he gives several toasts and a speech [read speech].

November, 6 (Friday). In the morning, a thick fog envelops London, halting much of the river traffic and forcing trains to crawl at slow speed. One man is drowned in the Pool of London whilst attempting to get ashore.

November, 19 (Thursday). A second attempt to move the SS Great Eastern at Millwall takes place, but fails to move the huge ship.

November, 22 (Sunday). Detective Charles Thain is murdered on board the Caledonia steamer whilst it was sailing to Hamburg. He was pursuing Christian Settler at the time in connection with a hotel robbery. Settler shot Thain dead during a scuffle. He was executed less than three months later, at Newgate on 8 February 1858.

November, 28 (Saturday). A third attempt is made to move the SS Great Eastern at Millwall. Engineer Brunel manages to move the gigantic ship 25 feet towards the River Thames using hydraulic pumps.

December, 3 (Wednesday). Launch of the SS Great Eastern at Millwall. An iron sailing steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, at the time of her launch she was the largest ship that had been built, at 12,000 tonnes.

December, 7. A special Christmas edition of Household Words is published. It features a collaboration between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins with the unusual title of The Perils of Certain English Prisoners and their Treasure, in Woman, Children, Silver, and Jewels. Two months later, Dickens would have the manuscript bound and gifted to Collins.

December, 15. Charles Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol at the Corn Exchange, Coventry in aid of the Coventry Institute.

December, 22 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens gives a charitable reading of A Christmas Carol for the Rochester and Chatham Mechanics’ Institute, held at 8pm.


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.