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, 1. In London, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade is formed (now the London Fire Brigade).
January, 12. The Aeronautical Society of Great Britain is formed in London.
January, 12. Auxiliary steamer SS London sinks in a storm in the Bay of Biscay on passage from Gravesend to Australia with the loss of 244 people and only 19 survivors.
February, 14 (Wednesday). Dickens attends the tenth anniversary festival of the Dramatic, Equestrian, and Musical Sick Fund, held at the Willis’s Rooms, King Street, St. James’s, London. Gives a speech as president.
March – May. Dickens undertakes a three-month national reading tour. He travels with his tour manager, George Dolby.
March, 24 (Saturday). Dickens gives a reading at the Assembly Rooms, Cheltenham. Reads from Dombey and Son.
March, 28. Dickens gives a speech at the annual meeting of the Royal General Theatrical Fund, held at the Freemasons’ Tavern, London.
April, 12 (Thursday). Dickens gives a reading at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester. Reads from Doctor Marigold and Nicholas Nickleby. After the performance he travels back to Liverpool, returning to the Adelphi Hotel.
April, 17 (Tuesday). Dickens gives a reading in the City Hall, Glasgow. Reads from Doctor Marigold and Bob Sawyer’s party from The Pickwick Papers.
April, 18 (Wednesday). Dickens gives a reading in the Music Hall, George Street, Edinburgh. Reads from Doctor Marigold and Nicholas Nickleby.
April, 20 (Friday). Dickens gives a reading in the Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh. Reads from Boots at the Holly-Tree Inn and both the Bob Sawyer’s party and trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
April, 21 (Saturday). Dickens gives a reading in the Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh. Reads from David Copperfield.
May, 2 (Wednesday). Dickens gives a reading in the concert room of Crystal Palace. At 3pm, he reads from Dombey and Son.
May, 2 (Wednesday). Battle of Callao. Peruvian defenders fight off the Spanish fleet at the port city of Callao during the Chincha Islands War.
May, 4 (Friday). Dickens gives a reading at the Greenwich Literary Instituition. Reads from Doctor Marigold and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
May, 7 (Monday). Dickens gives a speech to members of the Metropolitan Rowing Clubs during a dinner held at the London Tavern.
May, 9 (Wednesday). Dickens gives a reading in the Victoria Rooms, Clifton. Reads from Doctor Marigold and Nicholas Nickleby.
May, 11 (Friday). London bank Overend, Gurney and Company collapses precipitating a financial crisis.
May, 15 (Tuesday). Dickens and tour manager George Dolby take an 18-hour journey from London to Aberdeen.
May, 17 (Thursday). Dickens and Dolby travel from Aberdeen to Glasgow, stopping off at Perth where they undertake a walk along the banks of the River Spey. They dine in the coffee room of the George Hotel in Perth.
May, 18 (Friday). Dickens gives reading in the City Hall, Glasgow. At 8pm, he reads from Doctor Marigold and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
May, 19 (Saturday). Dickens gives reading in the Music Hall, George Street, Edinburgh. At 2pm, he reads from Doctor Marigold and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
Though the works do not nominally belong to the dramatic class, there is no “reader” who is more essentially dramatic than Mr. Dickens, who not only personates every speaker in the dialogue, but infuses life and warmth into narrative, as though he were a spectator watching with interest the progress of a scene, and vividly revealing the impression made by it on his mind.The Times, 24 May 1866. Review of Dickens’s reading at St. James’s Hall on 22 May.
June, 14. Start of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, also known as the Seven Weeks’ War.
June, 18. Prime Minister Lord Russell loses a vote of no confidence against his government.
June, 24. Battle of Custoza. In the first battle of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Austrian army defeats the Italian army.
June, 26. Lord Russell resigns as Prime Minister, following splits in the Liberal Party over parliamentary reform. The Earl of Derby takes over, leading a minority Conservative administration.
June, 27. Battle of Náchod. During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Austrian army repels a Prussian advance but suffer heavy losses..
July, 5. Marriage of Princess Helena, third daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein at Windsor.
July, 20. Battle of Lissa. During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Austrian Navy defeats the Italian Navy near the island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea.
July, 23 – 25. Demonstrations in London’s Hyde Park, in favour of parliamentary reform, turn violent.
July, 27. The SS Great Eastern successfully completes laying the transatlantic telegraph cable between Valentia Island, Ireland and Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, permanently restoring a communications link.
August, 1. The National Olympian Association stages the first National Olympian Games field events at the Crystal Palace in south London.
August, 23. The Austro-Prussian War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Prague.
October, 4. Death of Augustus Dickens, youngest brother of Charles Dickens, from tuberculosis in America at the age of 39.
December, 12 (Wednesday). A series of explosions at Oaks Colliery near Barnsley, Yorkshire kills at least 360 miners and rescuers. It remains one of the worst mining accidents in the United Kingdom.
December, 13 (Thursday). An explosion at the Talk-o’-Th’-Hill Colliery, near Newcastle-under-Lyne, Staffordshire, kills 91 miners.
December, 26. Gads Hills. Dickens holds a sports day for local people from the Chatham area at Gads Hill and meadow behind the property. Games held including three-legged races, sack races, and hurdles with prizes awarded. Two tents are erected for the occasion.
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.