The following is a detailed timeline we are compiling of the movements of the life of the Victorian writer Charles Dickens during for 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. Charing Cross railway station in London opens. The station was built over the site of Warren’s blacking factory, where Dickens was made to work as a boy.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 52nd birthday.
February, 20. The Illustrated Police News first published.
February, 22. Flowerly Land pirates executed at Newgate.
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.
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.
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 pass the amendment on January 31, 1865 and it was ratified and adopted on December 6, 1865.
April, 12. Dickens gives a speech in support of free health care for the poor, 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. A Prussian-Austrian army defeats Denmark and gains control of Schleswig. Denmark surrenders the province in the following peace settlement.
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.
June. Second part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 1, Chapters 5-7).
June, 13. Hammersmith & City railway opens between Hammersmith in west London and Farringdon in the city.
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, 9 (Saturday). Britain’s first railway murder. Thomas Briggs is slain inside a North London Railway train and his body dumped on the tracks.
Horrible Murder on the North London Railway.
One of the most atrocious crimes that probably ever disgraced this country was perpetrated late on Saturday evening in a first-class carriage of a passenger train on the North London Railway, when a gentleman, Mr. Thomas Briggs, connected with the banking establishment of Messrs. Robarts, Curtis, and Co., of Lombard street, was murderously assailed, plundered, and thrown out of the train, and by the time these details meet the eye of the public death will have terminated his shocking sufferings.
The unfortunate gentleman, Mr. Briggs, was upwards of sixty years of age. He was a fine, tall, hale man, and resided at No. 5, Clapton-square, near Hackney Church. He held the office of chief clerk in the above bank, and was most highly respected and esteemed by a very large circle of friends.The Sun. Monday, 11 July 1864.
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. Charles Bricknell is executed at Newgate.
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, he illustrated A Christmas Carol.
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, 14. Franz Muller executed at Newgate in front of a large crowd for the murder of Thomas Briggs (see 9 July).
December. Eighth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 2, Chapters 7-10).
December, 8. The Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Bristol Avon, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed as a memorial to him, opens to traffic.
December, 23. Death of James Bronterre O’Brien, Irish Chartist leader, reformer and journalist.
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.