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.
January, 1 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens gives two readings in Leamington Spa. In afternoon reads from David Copperfield. In evening reads from Nicholas Nickleby and also the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
January, 3 (Friday). Charles Dickens gives a reading in Cheltenham, held at the Assembly Rooms. Reads from Nicholas Nickleby and also The Boots at the Hollytree Inn. William Charles Macready is in attendance.
January, 4 (Saturday). Charles Dickens gives a second reading in Cheltenham, held at the Assembly Rooms. In the afternoon reads from David Copperfield.
January, 6 (Monday). Charles Dickens gives the first of two readings at the Town Hall, otherwise known as the Saint George’s Hall, in Stonehouse, Plymouth. At 8pm he reads from Nicholas Nickleby and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
January, 7 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens gives the second of two readings at the Town Hall, otherwise known as the Saint George’s Hall, in Stonehouse, Plymouth. At 8pm he reads six chapters from David Copperfield.
January, 8 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens gives a reading in the Devon seaside town of Torquay, held at the Bath Saloon. At 8pm he reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers. Dickens was suffering from a cold and cancelled a planned reading from Nicholas Nickleby.
January, 16 (Thursday). Henry Fielding Dickens‘s 13th birthday.
January, 16 (Thursday). Hartley Colliery disaster. A coal mining accident in the coastal village of Hartley, Northumberland resulted in the deaths of 204 men when the beam of the pit’s pumping engine broke and fell down the shaft, trapping the men below.
January, 27 (Monday). Charles Dickens gives the first of three nights of readings in Liverpool, held in the small concert room of St. George’s Hall at 8pm. Dickens gives readings from Nicholas Nickleby and also Bob Sawyer’s Party from The Pickwick Papers.
January, 28 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens gives the second of three nights of readings in Liverpool, held in the small concert room of St. George’s Hall at 8pm. Reads from David Copperfield and also Bob Sawyer’s Party from The Pickwick Papers.
January, 29 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens gives the last of three nights of readings in Liverpool, held in the small concert room of St. George’s Hall at 8pm. Reads from Nicholas Nickleby and also the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 50th birthday.
February, 5. Moldavia and Wallachia formally unite to create the Romanian United Principalities.
February, 11. Death of Elizabeth Siddall, English artist, poet, and artists’ model (born in 1829).
February, 12. Death of the notorious former Magistrate Allan Stewart Laing (born in 1788). Dickens based the character of Magistrate Fang (Oliver Twist) on Laing.
February, 16. During the American Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant captures Fort Donelson, Tennessee.
February, 17. Allan Stewart Laing is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London (see 12 February).
March-June. Dickens gives a series of public readings in London.
March, 1. Death of Peter Barlow, mathematician and physicist (born in 1776).
April, 3. Death of James Clark Ross, naval officer and explorer (born in 1800).
April, 20. France formally declares a state of war between itself and Mexico.
April, 28. Battle of Las Cumbres/Battle of Acultzingo. During the Second Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867), French soldiers attempting to advance on the Mexican city of Puebla were repelled by Mexican troops at Las Cumbres passage.
May, 1. The 1862 International Exhibition of Industry and Science opens in South Kensington.
May, 5. Battle of Puebla. During the Second Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867), local forces commanded by Ignacio Zaragoza and Porfirio Diaz repel an advance on the Mexican city of Puebla by French troops.
May, 18. Battle of Barranca Seca. During the Second Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867), French soldiers repel Mexican forces, under Santiago Tapia, at Barranca Seca in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
May, 24 (Saturday). The new Westminster Bridge in central London, designed by Thomas Page, is opened to traffic. The bridge replaced an earlier one that opened in 1750 and stood for 110 years.
June, 17. Death of Charles Canning, 1st Earl Canning, Viceroy of India (born in 1812).
June, 20 (Friday). Barbu Catargiu (born in 1807), the Prime Minister of Romania, is assassinated.
June, 22 (Sunday). Seventeen-year-old Mary Hall is murdered whilst walking to a church in the Hampshire town of Fordingbridge. The brutality of the attack causes a national outrage.
July, 1. Marriage of Princess Alice, second daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine.
July, 4 (Friday). In the Hampshire town of Fordingbridge, Magistrates hear the case of George Jacob Gilbert for the brutal murder of Mary Hall (see 22 June). After a six-hour hearing, Gilbert’s case is referred to the county assizes court.
July, 18 (Friday). At the Winchester assizes court, George Jacob Gilbert is found guilty of the brutal murder of Mary Hall (see also 22 June, 4 July, 4 August).
August, 4 (Monday). At 8am, George Jacob Gilbert is publicly hanged at Winchester Gaol for the brutal murder of Mary Hall whilst she was walking to a Sunday morning church service (see also 22 June, 4 July, 18 July). The execution was carried out by the noted hangman William Calcraft.
August, 5 (Tuesday). Battle of Baton Rouge. During the American Civil War, Confederate troops attempt to take Baton Rouge in Louisiana, but are driven back by fire from Union gunboats.
August, 9 (Friday). Whilst performing at London’s Canterbury Hall, trapeze artist Maximim Argonaud falls, landing on a candelabra and suffering severe injuries.
August, 14 (Thursday). Whilst performing a high-wire walk at Highbury Barns, Selina Young, also known as ‘Madame Geneveive‘ or the ‘Female Blondin‘, falls and severely injuries herself. The accident ended her career as a tightrope walker.
August, 31. The last mail coach runs from Carlisle to Hawick, Scotland.
Autumn. Construction begins of the Thames Embankment in London, designed by Joseph Bazalgette.
October, 9 (Thursday). A benefit night is held at Highbury Barns for Selina Young, following her fall there two months earlier (see 14 August). The performers include trapeze pioneer Jules Léotard, the young female acrobat Nathalie Foucart and the minstrel performer Edmund W. Mackney.
October, 20 (Monday). Nurse Catherine Wilson is hanged at Newgate for murder, the last woman to be publicly hanged in London. A crowd of 20,000 people watch the execution.
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.