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. Dickens receives the news of the death of his son, Walter, who died in India the previous month.

January, 11 (Monday). Charing Cross railway station in London opens, along with a two-mile line linking it to London Bridge station. The station was built over the site of Hungerford Market and also of Warren’s blacking factory, where Charles Dickens was made to work as a boy.

January, 16. Henry Fielding Dickens‘s 15th birthday.

February, 1. Prussian and Austrian forces cross the Danish border, entering the province of Schleswig and sparking a military conflict known as the Second Schleswig War (February-October 1864). The Danes are eventually defeated in the conflict, losing control of the territories of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg (see also 18 April, 9 May, 29 June, 3 July, 30 October).

February, 4. At the Old Bailey, the trial of the Flowerly Land pirates begins. They had mutinied on the ship Flowerly Land, killing five of the crew, including the Captain, on the Singapore bound cargo boat. They were caught at Brazil and returned to London. (see also 11, 19, 22 February).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 52nd birthday.

February, 11 (Thursday). At the Old Bailey, seven of the Flowerly Land pirates are found guilty and sentenced to death. Two were later reprieved (see also 4, 19, 22 February).

February, 19 (Friday). Home Secretary George Grey reprieves two of the Flowerly Land pirates from their sentence of death at the behest of the Spanish Consul.

February, 20 (Saturday). The Illustrated Police News is first published.

February, 22 (Monday). Flowerly Land pirates executed. Five seamen from the ship Flowerly Land were executed in front of a huge crowd at Newgate. A crowd estimated at between 20,000-30,000 people witnessed the first quintuple hanging at Newgate since 1828 (see also 4, 11, 19 February).

March, 11. Great Sheffield Flood. The Dale Dike Dam bursts devastating the northern English town of Sheffield. At least 240 people are killed and more than 5,000 homes and businesses are damaged or destroyed. The dam’s failure led to reforms in engineering practice, setting standards on specifics that needed to be met when constructing such large-scale structures.

April, 6 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens chairs and gives a short speech at the annual dinner of the Printers’ Pension Society, held at the London Tavern [read speech].

April, 8 (Friday). The United States Senate passes the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery by a vote of 38-6. The House of Representatives passed the amendment on 31 January, 1865 and it was ratified and adopted on 6 December, 1865.

April, 12. Dickens gives a speech in support of University College Hospital, held at the Willis’s Rooms, London.

April, 17. Battle of Plymouth. During the American Civil War, Confederate forces attack Plymouth, North Carolina.

April, 18. Battle of Dybbøl. During the Second Schleswig War (February-October 1864), a Prussian-Austrian army defeats Danish forces at the town of Dybbøl, in the southeastern corner of South Jutland, with heavy numbers of Danish casualties. It will prove the key battle of the war.

May. Our Mutual Friend is published monthly between May 1864 and November 1865. The first part contains what is now Book 1, Chapters 1-4 in volume form.

May, 2 (Monday). John Devine is executed at Newgate for the murder and robbery of an elderly man.

May, 7 (Saturday). The clipper City of Adelaide is launched at the William Pile, Hay and Co. shipyard in Sunderland. It is built to carry goods from the U.K. to Australia.

May, 9. Battle of Heligoland. During the Second Schleswig War (February-October 1864), Austro-Prussian naval forces attack Danish naval forces in an inconclusive battle south of the then British North Sea island of Heligoland.

May, 11 (Wednesday). Charles Dickens speaks at a public meeting for the purpose of founding Shakespeare Schools, held at London’s Adelphi Theatre [read speech].

June. Second part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 1, Chapters 5-7).

June, 8 (Wednesday). Jane Geary, a 22-year old servant at the Red Lion Tavern in Islington, is murdered by a work colleague, Frederick Charles Bricknell. Bricknell, who had lusted after Geary, was executed for the crime (see also 11 June, 1 August).

June, 11 (Saturday). Coroner’s inquest into the murder of Jane Geary (see 8 June) is held at the Lion Tavern in Islington’s Copenhagen Fields. The jury returns a verdict of guilt against Frederick Charles Bricknell (see also 1 August).

June, 13 (Monday). The Hammersmith & City railway opens between Hammersmith in west London and Farringdon in the city.

June, 29. Battle of Als. During the Second Schleswig War (February-October 1864), Prussian forces are victorious over Danish forces in a night attack on the island of Als in the Baltic Sea. It would prove to be the last major engagement of the war.

June, 29. In Canada, ninety-nine people are killed in a railway disaster near St-Hilaire, Quebec.

July. Third part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 1, Chapters 8-10).

July, 3. Battle of Lundby. During the Second Schleswig War (February-October 1864), Danish forces bayonet-charge Prussian forces, at Lundby, south of Ålborg in the north of Jutland, resulting in heavy Danish losses. It would prove to be the last battle of the war.

July, 9 (Saturday). Britain’s first railway murder. Thomas Briggs is slain inside a North London Railway train and his body dumped on the tracks.

July, 11 (Monday). During the American Civil War, Confederate forces attempt to invade Washington, D.C. at the Battle of Fort Stevens.

August. Fourth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 1, Chapters 11-13).

August, 1. Frederick Charles Bricknell is executed at Newgate (see 8, 11 June).

September. Fifth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 1, Chapters 14-17).

September, 17. Writer, poet and close friend of Charles Dickens, Walter Savage Landor dies in Florence at the age of 89.

October. Sixth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 2, Chapters 1-3).

October, 29 (Saturday). The caricaturist and illustrator John Leech dies, aged 47, at his Kensington home. A friend of Dickens, Leech illustrated A Christmas Carol.

October, 30 (Sunday). Treaty of Vienna. A peace treaty is signed in Vienna between the Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Kingdom of Denmark, concluding the Second Schleswig War (February-October 1864). As a result of an Austro-Prussian victory in the military conflict, Denmark is forced to cede the territories of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg to Prussia and Austria. Disputes over the administration of Schleswig and Holstein would later lead to the 1866 Austro-Prussian War (or Seven Weeks War), resulting in Prussia annexing both areas.

November. Seventh part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 2, Chapters 4-6).

November, 4 (Friday). Dickens attends the funeral of the illustrator John Leech at Kensal Green Cemetery, along with a number of colleagues from the arts and literature professions.

November, 8 (Tuesday). Abraham Lincoln is re-elected for a second term as President of the United States. He won by a huge electoral vote majority, taking 213 votes to his opponent’s 21 and was the first president to be re-elected since Andrew Jackson in 1832. Just over six months later, on 14 April 1865, Lincoln was assassinated.

November, 14 (Monday). Franz Muller is executed at Newgate in front of a large crowd for the murder of Thomas Briggs (see 9 July).

November, 18 (Friday). James Stansfeld, the Liberal M.P. for Halifax, makes a speech at the Mechanics’ Institute in the town.

December. Eighth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 2, Chapters 7-10).

December, 2 (Friday). Edward Stanley M.P. (known as Lord Stanley) gives a speech to the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute at a prize-giving ceremony.

December, 8 (Thursday). The Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Bristol Avon, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed as a memorial to him, opens to traffic.

December, 15-16. Battle of Nashville. During the American Civil War, a two-day battle is fought at Nashville in the state of Tennessee. It ends with the destruction of the Confederate Army of Tennessee as a fighting force by the Union Army of the Cumberland.

December, 23. Death of James Bronterre O’Brien, Irish Chartist leader, reformer and journalist (born in 1805).

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.