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 (2/3) Dickens gives readings at the Steinway Hall, New York.
January (6/7). Dickens gives readings at the Tremont Temple, Boston.
January (9/10) Dickens gives readings at the Steinway Hall, New York.
January, 9. Penal transportation from Britain to Australia ends with arrival of the convict ship Hougoumont in Western Australia after an 89-day voyage from England.
January (13/14) Dickens gives readings at the Concert Hall, Philadelphia.
January (16/17/20/21)). Dickens gives readings at the Plymouth Church, Brooklyn.
January (23/24). Dickens gives readings at the Concert Hall, Philadelphia.
January (27/28). Dickens gives readings at the Concordia Opera House, Baltimore.
January, 30-31. Dickens gives readings at the Concert Hall, Philadelphia.
February, 3. Dickens gives a speech and reading at Carroll Hall, Washington. The event is attended by President Andrew Johnson.
February, 4/6/7. Dickens gives further readings at Carroll Hall, Washington.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 56th birthday. Dickens meets with President Andrew Johnson at the White House.
February, 10-11. Dickens gives readings at the Concordia Opera House, Baltimore.
February, 13-14. Dickens gives readings at the Concert Hall, Philadelphia.
February, 18. Dickens gives readings at the Allyn Hall, Hartford, Connecticut.
February, 20-21. Dickens gives readings at the City Hall, Providence, R.I.
February, 24. Andrew Johnson becomes the first President of the United States to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives. He is later acquitted in the Senate.
February, 24/25/27/28. Dickens gives readings at the Tremont Temple, Boston.
February, 27. Benjamin Disraeli succeeds the Earl of Derby as Prime Minister following Derby’s resignation due to ill-health.
March, 9. Dickens gives readings at the Wieting Hall, Syracuse.
March, 10. Dickens gives readings at the Corinthian Hall, Rochester.
March, 12-13. Dickens gives readings at the St James’s Hall, Buffalo.
March, 14-15. Dickens visits Niagara Falls.
March, 16. Gives readings at the Corinthian Hall, Rochester.
March, 18-19. Dickens gives readings at the Twiddle Hall, Albany, New York state.
March, 20. Dickens gives readings at the Music Hall, Springfield, Massachusetts.
March (23). Dickens gives readings at the Mechanics’ Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts.
March (24). Dickens gives readings at the Music Hall, New Haven, Connecticut.
March (25). Dickens gives readings at the Allyn Hall, Hartford, Connecticut.
March (27). Dickens gives readings at the Liberty Hall, New Bedford, Massachusetts.
March (30). Dickens gives readings at the City Hall, Portland.
April (1/2/3/6/7/8). Dickens gives readings at the Tremont Temple, Boston.
April, 2. Last public hanging of a woman in Britain, when Frances Kidder is executed outside Maidstone Prison for drowning her stepdaughter.
April, 7. Irish-Canadian politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee is assassinated by a Fenian activist in Ottawa, Canada.
April ( 13/14/16/17/20). Dickens gives readings at the Steinway Hall, New York.
April (18). Attends a public dinner at Delmonico’s restaurant, New York, hosted by the members of United States press.
April (22). Charles Dickens departs New York, sailing on the Cunard ship Russia.
April, 25. HMS Repulse, the last wooden battleship constructed for the Royal Navy, is launched at Woolwich Dockyard.
May. Dickens returns to England.
May, 7. Death of Henry Peter Brougham, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain (born in 1778).
May, 18. Birth of Grand Duke Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov in Pushkin, south of Saint Petersburg, Russia. He would become Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, and of the Romanov dynasty. Under his reign, the Russian Empire would fall from being one of the foremost great powers in Europe, to economic and military collapse and then revolution in 1917.
May, 26 (Tuesday). Last public hanging in Britain, when Fenian bomber Michael Barrett is executed outside Newgate Prison, London for his part in the Clerkenwell explosion of 1867.
May, 29 (Friday). Capital Punishment Amendment Act, which abolishes public hanging in Britain, comes into force.
June, 2. The inaugural meeting of what became known as the Trade Union Congress (TUC) takes place at the Mechanics’ Institute in David Street, Manchester.
June, 10. Mihailo Obrenović III, Prince of Serbia is assassinated as he was riding in a carriage near his country residence on the outskirts of Belgrade.
June, 29. The Press Association is founded in London.
July, 29. Death of John Elliotson, doctor and author (born in 1791).
July, 31. The Pharmacy Act 1868 is passed through Parliament. It is the U.K.’s first piece of legislation to restrict the sale of poisons and dangerous drugs to qualified persons.
August, 3 (Monday). Dickens writes from Gad’s Hill to his reading tour manager George Dolby, asking to meet to discuss his Income Tax return.
August, 13. First non-public hanging in Britain when Thomas Wells is executed inside Maidstone Prison.
August, 20. Abergele train disaster kills 32 passengers and a fireman.
October, 1. St. Pancras opens. Saint Pancras railway station opens on the northern edges of the London metropolis. The station was commissioned by the Midland Railway, who had a network of routes in the Midlands, but no route of its own to London.
October, 6 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens starts off a series of Autumn readings with a performance at London’s St. James Hall. Reads from Doctor Marigold and also the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers. The Times reports on the event that ‘The large hall was crowded to excess, and the reception of Mr. Dickens, as well as the applause bestowed upon his reading, was most enthusiastic’.
October, 12 (Monday). Dickens arrives in Liverpool for three nightly readings. Stays at his favourite hotel in the town, the Adelphi Hotel. In the evening he gives a reading in the small concert room of St George’s Hall, held at 8pm. Reads Doctor Marigold and also the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers. The Liverpool Daily Post reported the next day that the ‘The small concert-room in St. George’s hall was crowded to excess … We wish everyone could hear him. It will be something to boast of in after years.‘
October, 13 (Tuesday). Dickens gives a reading in the small concert room of St George’s Hall in Liverpool, held at 8pm. Reads from David Copperfield and also Bob Sawyer’s Party from The Pickwick Papers.
October 20 (Tuesday). Death of Frederick Dickens, oldest brother of Charles, in Darlington, north-east England. Aged 48 at the time of his death, he had spent the last years of his life as an alcoholic and living in poverty.
October 23 (Friday). Burial of Frederick Dickens, oldest brother of Charles, in Darlington, north-east England (see 20 October). Unable to attend the funeral himself, Charles sent his oldest son, Charles Dickens, Jr., to represent the family and contributed to the cost of the funeral.
October, 26 (Monday). Charles returns to Liverpool for a second time in the month. First of three readings, held in the small concert room of St. George’s Hall at 8pm. Reads the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and also Bob Sawyer’s Party from The Pickwick Papers.
October, 27 (Tuesday). Death of Charles Thomas Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury (born in 1794).
November, 15-24. The 1868 general election, the first under the extended franchise of the Reform Act 1867, sees a victory for the Liberal Party.
November, 24 (Tuesday). Ceremonial opening of the new meat market at Smithfield. London.
December, 1. Trading starts in the new meat market at Smithfield, London.
THE NEW MEAT MARKET AT SMITHFIELD – Yesterday this market, one of the largest, if not the largest, in the world, was for the first time opened to the public, and, under a special Act of Parliament, old Newgate-market, which it is intended to supplant, and which had long been unequal to the requirements of the metropolis, and a great public nuisance besides, from that time ceased to be. It opened about 3 in the morning, the usual time, and continued open nearly 12 hours. There was a fine show of meat and poultry, the salesmen having been put upon their mettle for the occasion, and the spacious building was crowded throughout the day.The Times. Wednesday, 2 December 1868.
December, 3. William Gladstone becomes Prime Minister.
December, 10. The world’s first traffic lights are installed in Parliament Square, London.
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.