Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, son to John and Elizabeth Dickens. He was sent to school at the age of nine but htis good fortune was short-lived because his father, whom he used as inspiration for the character of Mr Micawber in 'David Copperfield', was imprisoned for bad debt. All the family, apart from Charles, were sent to Marshalsea along with their patriarch. Charles was sent to work in Warren's blacking factory and endured extremely hard conditions as well as loneliness and despair. After three years he was returned to school, but the experience was never forgotten and became the basis to fictionalise in two of his better-known novels 'David Copperfield' and 'Great Expectations'.
In 1833 he became parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronicle. In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of George Hogarth who was also an editor. However, he was abandoned by his wife in 1858 after the birth of their ten children, and maintained relations with his mistress, an actress named Ellen Ternan. He died of a stroke in 1870 and is buried at Westminster Abbey.
Like many other writers of his time, Dickens began his literary career as a journalist. His own father became a reporter and Charles began with the journals 'The Mirror of Parliament' and 'The True Sun'. When in 1833 he started working as a parliamentary reproter he could make new contacts in the press and was able to publish a series of sketches under the pseudonym 'Boz'. The same month he married Ms Hogarth he published the highly successful 'Pickwick Papers', and from that point on there was no looking back for Dickens.
As well as a huge list of novels he published autobiography, edited weekly periodicals including 'Household Words' and 'All Year Round', wrote travel books and administered charitable organisations. He was also a theatre enthusiast, wrote plays and performed before Queen Victoria in 1851. His energy was inexhaustible and he spent much time abroad - for example lecturing against slavery in the United States and touring Italy with companions Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins, a contemporary writer who inspired Dickens' final unfinished novel 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'.