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.


1859.

January, 1 (Saturday). Edition 458 of Household Words is published.

January, 6 (Thursday, Twelfth Night). Last of three reading performances originally scheduled over the Christmas period at St. Martin’s Hall, in London’s Covent Garden area. Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm.

January, 8 (Saturday). Edition 459 of Household Words is published.

January, 14 (Thursday). Due to the success of the three Christmas performances, a further five readings are put on in January (14, 20, 28) and February (3, 10) to satisfy demand for tickets. At 8pm, Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, again held at St. Martin’s Hall.

January, 15 (Saturday). Edition 460 of Household Words is published.

January, 20 (Thursday). Dickens reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at St. Martin’s Hall.

January, 22 (Saturday). Edition 461 of Household Words is published.

January, 28 (Friday). Dickens reads from The Poor Traveller, The Boots at the Hollytree Inn, and the Mrs Gamp episode from Martin Chuzzlewit, held at 8pm at St. Martin’s Hall.

January, 29 (Saturday). Edition 462 of Household Words is published.

February, 3 (Thursday). Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at St. Martin’s Hall.

February, 5 (Saturday). Edition 463 of Household Words is published.

February, 12 (Saturday). Edition 464 of Household Words is published.

February, 7 (Monday). Charles Dickens’s 47th birthday.

February, 10 (Thursday). Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at St. Martin’s Hall.

February, 19 (Saturday). Edition 465 of Household Words is published.

February, 26 (Saturday). Edition 466 of Household Words is published.

March, 5 (Saturday). Edition 467 of Household Words is published.

March, 12 (Saturday). Edition 468 of Household Words is published.

March, 19 (Saturday). Edition 469 of Household Words is published.

March, 26 (Saturday). Edition 470 of Household Words is published.

April, 2 (Saturday). Edition 471 of Household Words is published.

April, 9 (Saturday). Edition 472 of Household Words is published.

April, 16 (Saturday). Edition 473 of Household Words is published.

April, 23 (Saturday). Edition 474 of Household Words is published.

April, 30 (Saturday). Edition 475 of Household Words is published.

April, 30 (Saturday). Launch of All the Year Round, a weekly magazine founded and owned by Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities is first published weekly between April and November in the magazine. The first edition contains Book 1, Chapters 13.

May, 2. The Royal Albert Bridge, carrying trains over the River Tamar in between Plymouth, Devon and Saltash, Cornwall, is officially opened by Prince Albert, watched by several thousand spectators. Albert travelled from Windsor on the Royal Train.

May, 4. Public train services across the River Tamar between Devon and Cornwall, operated by the Cornwall Railway, begin following the opening of the Royal Albert Bridge.

May, 7 (Saturday). Edition 476 of Household Words is published.

May, 7 (Saturday). Edition 2 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 1, Chapter 4 of A Tale of Two Cities.

May, 14 (Saturday). Edition 477 of Household Words is published.

May, 14 (Saturday). Edition 3 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 1, Chapter 5 of A Tale of Two Cities.

May, 21 (Saturday). Edition 478 of Household Words is published.

May, 21 (Saturday). Edition 4 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 1, Chapter 6 of A Tale of Two Cities.

May, 28 (Saturday). Final edition (No. 479) of Household Words is published.

May, 28 (Saturday). Edition 5 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapters 12 of A Tale of Two Cities.

May, 31. The clock tower at the north end of the newly rebuilt Palace of Westminster, London, nicknamed Big Ben after the great bell of the clock within, is completed.

June, 4 (Saturday). Edition 6 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 3 of A Tale of Two Cities.

June, 4 (Saturday). Battle of Magenta. During the Italian Independence wars, the French army, under Napoleon III, defeat the Austrian army near the town of Magenta in the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, then a crown land of the Austrian Empire.

June, 11 (Saturday). Edition 7 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapters 45 of A Tale of Two Cities.

June, 18 (Saturday). Edition 8 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 6 of A Tale of Two Cities.

June, 25 (Saturday). Edition 9 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapters 78 of A Tale of Two Cities.

June, 30. The celebrated tightrope-walker Blondin (Jean François Gravelet) crosses the gorge below the Niagara Falls, a distance of around 1100 feet. He will go on to make a further 16 crossings at the Falls, each one more daring than the last.

July, 2 (Saturday). Edition 10 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 9 of A Tale of Two Cities.

July, 8 (Friday). King Charles XV ascends to the thrones of Sweden and Norway following the death of Oscar I. The third monarch of the House of Bernadotte, his reign lasted until his death on 18 September 1872, aged 46.

July, 9 (Saturday). Edition 11 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter s 1011 of A Tale of Two Cities.

July, 16 (Saturday). Edition 12 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapters 1213 of A Tale of Two Cities.

July, 23 (Saturday). Edition 13 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 14 of A Tale of Two Cities.

July, 26 (Tuesday). At the Court for Probate and Divorce Causes in London, Anna Weller, wife of Frederick Dickens, oldest brother of Charles, is granted a judicial separation on the grounds of his adultery. Following the separation Fred moves to Darlington, becoming an alcoholic and dying in 1868 at the age of 48.

July, 30 (Saturday). Edition 14 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 15 of A Tale of Two Cities.

August, 6 (Saturday). Edition 15 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 16 of A Tale of Two Cities.

August, 13 (Saturday). Edition 16 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 1718 of A Tale of Two Cities.

August, 15 (Monday). Wilkie Collins begins writing The Woman in White, whilst staying in Broadstairs. It begins serialisation in Edition 31 of All the Year Round on 26 November.

August, 20 (Saturday). Edition 17 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 1920 of A Tale of Two Cities.

August, 27 (Saturday). Edition 18 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 21 of A Tale of Two Cities.

September, 3 (Saturday). Edition 19 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 2223 of A Tale of Two Cities.

September, 7 (Wednesday). The clock and chimes of the Clock Tower at the rebuilt Palace of Westminster (nicknamed ‘Big Ben‘) become operational.

September, 10 (Saturday). Edition 20 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 2, Chapter 24 of A Tale of Two Cities.

September, 15. Death of the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the age of 53. One of the foremost architects of industrial revolution, Brunel was famous for his pioneering work on Britain’s railways and ships.

September, 17 (Saturday). Edition 21 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 1 of A Tale of Two Cities.

September, 24 (Saturday). Edition 22 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 23 of A Tale of Two Cities.

October, 1 (Saturday). Edition 23 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 45 of A Tale of Two Cities.

October, 1 (Saturday). The London School of Dental Surgery is opened by the Odontological Society of London, the first dental school in Britain.

October, 8 (Saturday). Edition 24 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 67 of A Tale of Two Cities.

October, 10 – 28. Charles Dickens undertakes a short reading tour, giving thirteen readings in ten towns.

October, 10 (Monday). Ipswich. Charles Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at the Corn Exchange.

October, 11 (Tuesday). Norwich. Charles Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at St. Andrew’s Hall.

October, 12 (Wednesday). Norwich. Charles Dickens reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the Mrs Gamp episode from Martin Chuzzlewit, held at 8pm at St. Andrew’s Hall.

October, 13 (Thursday). Bury St. Edmunds. Charles Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at the Athenaeum Hall.

October, 15 (Saturday). Edition 25 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 8 of A Tale of Two Cities.

October, 17 (Monday). Cambridge. Charles Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at the Town Hall.

October, 18 (Tuesday). Cambridge. Charles Dickens reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the Mrs Gamp episode from Martin Chuzzlewit, held at 8pm at the Town Hall.

October, 18 (Tuesday) – October 24 (Monday). After a prolonged period of unseasonably warm weather, a very cold weather spell moves across the UK, resulting in early frosts and snow. The cold spell is followed by a great storm (see 25 October).

October, 20 (Thursday). Bradford. Charles Dickens reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at St. George’s Hall at 8pm.

October, 21 (Friday). Nottingham. Charles Dickens reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at the Mechanics’ Hall at 8pm.

October, 22 (Saturday). Charles Dickens is forced to return to London, cancelling a second Nottingham reading scheduled that day (where he was due to perform A Christmas Carol).

October, 22 (Saturday). Edition 26 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 9 of A Tale of Two Cities.

October, 24 (Monday). Oxford. Charles Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm at the Town Hall.

October, 25 (Tuesday). Oxford. Charles Dickens reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the Mrs Gamp episode from Martin Chuzzlewit, held at 8pm at the Town Hall.

October, 25/26 (Tuesday/Wednesday). A great storm batters the British Isles. Considered to be the most severe storm to hit the Irish Sea in the 19th century, the total death toll is estimated at over 800 people. On the north coast of Anglesey, the steam clipper Royal Charter, approaching the end of her voyage from Melbourne to Liverpool, is driven ashore and smashed to pieces against rocks, with the loss of over 450 lives.

October, 27 (Thursday). Cheltenham. At 3pm, Charles Dickens reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and at 8pm reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers. Both are held at the Music Hall. Whilst in Cheltenham, Dickens stays at the Queen’s Hotel.

October, 29 (Saturday). Edition 27 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 10 of A Tale of Two Cities.

November, 5 (Saturday). Edition 28 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 1112 of A Tale of Two Cities.

November, 12 (Saturday). Edition 29 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 13 of A Tale of Two Cities.

November, 12 (Saturday). HMS Victoria, the Royal Navy’s last and largest wooden first-rate three-decker ship of the line to see sea service, is launched at Portsmouth Dockyard.

November, 19 (Saturday). Edition 30 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 14 of A Tale of Two Cities.

November, 24 (Thursday). Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species‘ is published. The scientific work is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology.

November, 26 (Saturday). Edition 31 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Book 3, Chapter 15 (the final chapter) of A Tale of Two Cities and the first part of Wilkie Collins‘s The Woman in White.

December, 3 (Saturday). Edition 32 of All the Year Round is published.

December, 8 (Thursday). Death of the English journalist and author Thomas De Quincey (born in 1785). De Quincey is best known for his autobiographical account Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, first published in 1821.

December, 10 (Saturday). Edition 33 of All the Year Round is published.

December, 17 (Saturday). Edition 34 of All the Year Round is published.

December, 22 (Thursday). Charles Dickens gives a speech to help raise funds for the Commercial Travellers’ School at the London Tavern.

December, 24 (Saturday). Edition 35 of All the Year Round is published.

December, 24 (Saturday). Charles Dickens gives a reading, the first of three over the Christmas period held at St. Martin’s Hall, in London’s Covent Garden area. At 3pm he reads from A Christmas Carol.

December, 26 (Monday). On Boxing Day evening Charles Dickens gives a reading, the second of three over the Christmas period held at St. Martin’s Hall, in London’s Covent Garden area. At 8pm he reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

December, 31 (Saturday). Edition 36 of All the Year Round is published.


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.