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.


1861.

January, 5 (Saturday). Edition 89 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Part 6 (Chapters 910) of Great Expectations.

January, 12 (Saturday). Edition 90 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Part 7 (Chapter 11) of Great Expectations.

January, 19 (Saturday). Edition 91 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Part 8 (Chapters 1213) of Great Expectations.

January, 26 (Saturday). Edition 92 of All the Year Round is published. It includes Part 9 (Chapters 1415) of Great Expectations.

February. Charles Culliford Dickens returns to London from working overseas, in preparation for marriage.

February, 2 (Saturday). Part 10 (Chapters 1617) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

February, 8 (Friday). Post Office Savings Bank scheme launched to the public.

February, 9 (Saturday). Part 11 (Chapter 18) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

February, 15 (Friday). Chatham Prison Mutiny. Around 350 convicts held on St Mary’s Island at Chatham Dockyard riot over poor food. 1,000 troops from a nearby garrison had to be sent to quell the disturbance.

February, 16 (Saturday). Part 12 (Chapter 19) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

February, 20. A severe storm hits south-east England, damaging the Crystal Palace in London and causing the collapse of the steeple of Chichester Cathedral.

February, 23 (Saturday). Part 13 (Chapters 2021) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

March, 2 (Saturday). Part 14 (Chapter 22) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

March, 9 (Saturday). Part 15 (Chapters 2324) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

March, 16 (Saturday). Part 16 (Chapters 2526) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

March, 16 (Saturday). Death of the Duchess of Kent, mother of Queen Victoria, at Frogmore House, in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

March, 17 (Sunday). The Kingdom of Italy is proclaimed, following King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia being crowned King of Italy. The Kingdom lasted until 1946, when civil discontent led an institutional referendum to abandon the monarchy and form the modern Italian Republic.

March, 23 (Saturday). Part 17 (Chapters 2728) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

March, 30 (Saturday). Part 18 (Chapter 29) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

April, 6 (Saturday). Part 19 (Chapters 3031) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

April, 7. The 1861 United Kingdom census is held. The results reveal the population is more than double that of 1801.

April, 11. The furnishings and decorative arts manufacturer and retailer Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. is established by the artist and designer William Morris and friends from the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The company closed in 1875, to be succeeded by Morris & Co., which ran until 1940.

April, 12-13. The American Civil War begins following the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina by the Confederate States Army, and the return gunfire and subsequent surrender by the United States Army.

April, 13 (Saturday). Part 20 (Chapters 3233) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

April, 20 (Saturday). Part 21 (Chapters 3435) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

April, 27 (Saturday). Part 22 (Chapters 3637) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

May, 4 (Saturday). Part 23 (Chapter 38) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

May, 11 (Saturday). Part 24 (Chapter 39) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

May, 14 (Tuesday). Banquet held at Highbury Barns to celebrate the opening of a two-thousand persons capacity hall at the north London leisure venue.

May, 17 (Friday). Thomas Cook runs the first package holiday from London to Paris.

May, 18 (Saturday). Part 25 (Chapter 40) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

May, 22 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens hires a steamer for the day from Blackwall to Southend. Eight or nine friends, and three or four members of his family, were on board.

May, 25 (Saturday). Part 26 (Chapters 4142) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

May, 29. During the early days of the American Civil War, the Battle of Aquia Creek breaks out between Union Navy gunboats and Confederate shore batteries in Stafford County, Virginia.

June, 1 (Saturday). Part 27 (Chapters 4344) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

June, 1 (Saturday). French acrobat Blondin makes his debut performance at the Crystal Palace.

We need hardly say the excitement among the spectators was immense; whether such exhibitions,—for Blondin will have scores of imitators and rivals in all parts, are calculated “to elevate the taste and improve the masses,” to which ends we were once told the Crystal Palace was consecrated,—we need not discuss.

Morning Advertiser. Monday, 3 June 1861.

June, 6 (Thursday). French acrobat Blondin gives his second performance at the Crystal Palace. He stuns the audience by bringing a stove onto the tightrope and cooking two omlettes, which he then lowers to the audience below.

June, 8 (Saturday). Part 28 (Chapters 4546) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

June, 10 (Monday). French acrobat Blondin gives his third performance at the Crystal Palace.

June, 13 (Thursday). Death of Henry Gray, aged 34, from smallpox. Gray was an anatomist and surgeon most notable for publishing the book Gray’s Anatomy.

June, 15 (Saturday). Part 29 (Chapters 4748) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

June, 15-18 (Saturday-Tuesday). Dickens stays with friend and fellow-novelist, Edward Bulwer-Lytton at Knebworth House. Shows him the proofs of the final chapters of Great Expectations. Bulwer-Lytton suggests it would be too disappointing, forcing Dickens to rewrite a happier ending (see 24 June).

June, 15 (Saturday). French acrobat Blondin gives his fourth performance at the Crystal Palace, the show being in aid of the Warehousemen and Clerks’ Schools charity. He controversially walks across the width of the centre transept on a tightrope with his young daughter in a wheelbarrow.

June, 18 (Tuesday). French acrobat Blondin performs at the Crystal Palace.

June, 20 (Thursday). French acrobat Blondin performs at the Crystal Palace.

June, 21 (Friday). French acrobat Blondin gives a private performance at the Crystal Palace, for the directors and their family.

June, 22 (Saturday). Part 30 (Chapters 4950) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

June, 25 (Tuesday). Dickens sends Edward Bulwer-Lytton his new version of the ending of Great Expectations for his comments (following his visit to him on 15-18 June).

June, 26 (Wednesday). French acrobat Blondin travels from London to Liverpool, staying four nights in the town at The London hotel in Clayton Square.

June, 27 (Thursday). French acrobat Blondin performs at the Zoological Gardens in Liverpool, at 8pm.

June, 28 (Friday). French acrobat Blondin performs at the Zoological Gardens in Liverpool, at 8pm.

June, 29 (Saturday). Part 31 (Chapters 5152) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

June, 29 (Saturday). French acrobat Blondin performs at the Zoological Gardens in Liverpool, giving two shows (at 3pm and at 8pm). On the second show he wheels a young lion across the tightrope, despite strong winds.

June, 30 (Sunday). French acrobat Blondin returns by train to London after his successful appearances in Liverpool.

July, 1 (Monday). French acrobat Blondin gives his eighth performance at the Crystal Palace.

July, 4 (Thursday). French acrobat Blondin gives his ninth performance at the Crystal Palace.

July, 6 (Saturday). Part 32 (Chapter 53) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

July, 11 (Thursday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Malvern.

July, 13 (Saturday). Part 33 (Chapter 54) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

July, 20 (Saturday). Part 34 (Chapters 5556) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

July, 21 (Sunday). The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the Battle of First Manassas, takes place, the first major battle of the American Civil War. Fought in Prince William County, Virginia, the battle is a Confederate victory over an ill-prepared Union army, who are forced into a retreat to Washington, D.C.

July, 22 (Monday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Newcastle at the town’s Cricket Ground, the show commencing at 2pm.

July, 23 (Tuesday). French acrobat Blondin performs in York.

July, 26 (Friday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Leeds at the town’s Royal Park.

July, 27 (Saturday). Part 35 (Chapter 57) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

July, 27 (Saturday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Leeds at the town’s Royal Park.

Grecian. … A feminine aspirant to Blondin honours, in the person of Madame Genevieve, has made some startling ascents on the tight-rope to an altitude described as 150 feet, and with all the difficulties of blindfolding, sacks, baskets, and chains to encounter in her progress.

The Era. Sunday, 28 July 1861.

July, 31 (Wednesday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Manchester at the town’s Pomona Gardens.

July, 31. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act codifies company law.

August. Great Expectations is published in volume form.

August, 2 (Friday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Norwich.

August, 3 (Saturday). Last installment of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round with part 36 (Chapters 5859).

August, 5 (Monday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Bristol at the town’s Zoological Gardens. 17,000 tickets were reportedly sold for the show, with a further 20,000 spectators watching from outside the Gardens.

August, 6 (Tuesday). The Criminal Law Consolidation Acts is granted Royal Assent, with most of the legislation coming into effect on 1 November.

August, 10 (Saturday). French acrobat Blondin returns to Liverpool, giving two performances at the Zoological Gardens.

August, 12 (Monday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ or ‘Madame Genevieve‘ attempts to cross the River Thames on a tightrope between Battersea and Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. Large crowds (estimated at up to 200,000 people) gather to watch the attempt, which had to be abandoned. The crossing is repeated successfully a week later.

August, 16 (Friday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Belfast at the town’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

August, 19 (Monday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ or ‘Madame Genevieve‘ successfully makes her first crossing of the River Thames on a tightrope between Battersea and Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. The crossing, which started at 6pm, lasts eight minutes. At 11pm a performance by celebrated acrobat Leotard is held inside Cremorne.

August, 21 (Wednesday). French acrobat Blondin gives his eighteenth performance at the Crystal Palace, held at 5pm, on a rope over 2,000 feet in length.

August, 22 (Thursday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Hereford, held at Castle Green.

August, 22 (Thursday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ or ‘Madame Genevieve‘ successfully crosses the River Thames on a tightrope between Battersea and Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. It is the third of five planned crossings. At 11pm a performance by celebrated acrobat Leotard is held inside Cremorne.

August, 26 (Monday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ or ‘Madame Genevieve‘ successfully crosses the River Thames on a tightrope between Battersea and Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. It is the fourth of five planned crossings.

August, 27. The last execution in Britain for attempted murder is held, of Martin Doyle at Chester.

September, 2 (Monday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ or ‘Madame Genevieve‘ successfully crosses the River Thames on a tightrope between Battersea and Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. It is the last of five planned crossings, four of which were successful. An estimated 200,000 spectators came to watch the event, which commenced at 6pm.

September, 4 (Wednesday). French acrobat Blondin performs in Dundee.

September, 16 (Monday). The Post Office Savings Bank opens.

September, 16 (Monday). French acrobat Blondin gives a performance in Birmingham, held at Aston Park. A riot breaks out after a large number of people attempt to storm the fence to get into the park without paying just as Blondin ascends. They attack police with stones, later starting a fire from the torn fence panels.

September, 30 (Monday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ performs at Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea.

October, 2 (Wednesday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ performs at Peterborough.

October, 5 (Saturday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ performs at Liverpool.

October, 7 (Monday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ performs at Liverpool.

October, 9. Death of Henry Austin, a brother-in-law of Charles Dickens, and a chief engineer of the Board of Health. Austin married Letitia Dickens (1816–1893). He died, at the age of 49, at his residence of The Hollies, Little Ealing.

October, 12 (Saturday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ performs at Manchester’s Belle Vue Gardens. She is hit by sparks from fireworks but is able to put them out and continue her performance.

October, 13 (Sunday). Death of the civil engineer William Cubitt (born in 1785).

October, 16 (Wednesday). Acrobat Selina Young, known as the ‘Female Blondin’ gives a second performance at Manchester’s Belle Vue Gardens, to an audience of around 5,000 people.

October, 24 (Thursday). HMS Warrior, the world’s first ocean-going iron-hulled armoured battleship is completed and commissioned.

October, 28 (Monday). Charles Dickens gives the first of two readings in Norwich. Reads from six chapters from David Copperfield at St. Andrew’s Hall at 8pm. Stays at the Royal Hotel.

October, 29 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens gives the second reading in Norwich, held at St. Andrew’s Hall at 8pm. Reads from Nicholas Nickleby and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers. Stays at the Royal Hotel.

October, 30 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens gives a reading in the Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds, held at the Athenaeum Hall at 8pm. Reads from six chapters from David Copperfield. Stays at the town’s Angel Hotel.

November, 1 (Friday). Charles Dickens gives a reading in the Essex town of Colchester, held at the Theatre Royal at 8pm. Reads from Nicholas Nickleby and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

November, 4 (Monday). Charles Dickens gives reading of six chapters from David Copperfield at Canterbury, held at the Theatre Royal at 8pm. Stays at the Fountain Hotel.

November, 5 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens gives reading in Dover, held at the Apollonian Hall at 8pm. Reads from Nicholas Nickleby and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

November, 6 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens gives reading in the East Sussex town of Hastings, held at the Music Hall at 8pm. Reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

November, 7 (Thursday). First of three readings in Brighton, held at the Town Hall at 8pm. Reads six chapters of David Copperfield. Stays at the Bedford Hotel.

November, 7 (Thursday). Battle of Belmont. During the American Civil War in Belmont, Missouri, Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant overrun a Confederate camp. They are forced to retreat when Confederate reinforcements arrive.

November, 8 (Friday). Second of three readings in Brighton, held at the Town Hall at 8pm. Reads from Nicholas Nickleby and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

November, 9 (Saturday). Third of three readings in Brighton, held at the Pavilion at 3pm. Reads six chapters of David Copperfield.

November, 19. Charles Culliford Dickens marries Bessie Evans at St. Mark’s Church in Regent’s Park, London.

November, 21 (Thursday). First of three nightly readings in Newcastle, held at the Music Hall. Dickens gives reading of six chapters from David Copperfield. Whilst in Newcastle, Dickens stays at the Queen’s Head.

November, 22 (Friday). Second of three nightly readings in Newcastle, held at the Music Hall. Dickens gives readings from Nicholas Nickleby and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

November, 23 (Saturday). Last of three nightly readings in Newcastle, held at the Music Hall. Dickens gives a reading of the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

December, 3. Death of Peter Laurie at his home at 7 Park Square West, Regent’s Park. Laurie was a politician, magistrate and social campaigner. A former Alderman, Charles Dickens satirised Laurie as Alderman Cute in his 1844 Christmas short story, The Chimes.

December, 10. Death of Thomas Southwood Smith, physician and sanitary reformer (born in 1788).

December, 14. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, husband of Queen Victoria, dies at Windsor Castle at the age of 42 from suspected typhoid fever. Albert’s premature death plunged Victoria into a long period of mourning and withdrawal from public life.

December, 23. Funeral of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Prince Albert is temporarily interred in Windsor’s St. George”s Chapel although Queen Victoria is unable to attend the funeral due to her grief.

December, 25. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management published. Isabella Beeton’s book on household management and cooking will go on to become a bestseller with the aspiring middle 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.