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The life of Charles Dickens (BBC)
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A cartoon biography of England's greatest novelist, Charles Dickens.

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on the 7th of February 1812 to John and Elizabeth Dickens. Charles was the second child of eight siblings in all, six of whom survived to adulthood. John, a naval clerk, always spent beyond his means. One day, he pointed out a house to Charles, remarking that he could live in such a house, if he worked hard.

The family moved to London in 1822. At twelve, as the family finances worsened, Charles had to start work in a blacking factory, labelling bottles for eleven hours a day. John Dickens was eventually sent to a debtors' prison; Charles visited him there every Sunday.

His youth left him with an ambitious drive. In 1827 he began work as a solicitor's clerk. From the surroundings of is unremarkable office he began to collect names and characteristics of the people he saw.

Charles began a journalistic career in 1831; writing became his passion. Working for the paper by day, and on his own work by night. He was beginning to taste success. His first piece of fiction was published in 1835. That same year, Charles met Catherine Hogarth. They fell in loved and were married. The next few years of fervent activity resulted in much writing and many children.

As his writing become more popular and his fame more widespread, rumours began to abound of his drunkenness and admission to an asylum. Stories were easy to concoct about the writer who kept a pet raven and whose writing dwelt in the extreme of the sentimental and the grotesque.

In 1842, Charles and Catherine set sail for America. On landing in Boston, they were mobbed by crowds. Dickens's interest lay in visiting the unusual which inspired his writing.

He took his whole family on his next big trip to Italy, in the summer of 1844. Upon his return, Dickens began to look for new diversions. He helped to start and edit a radical newspaper, founded a refuge for homeless women and performed his works at public readings.

Aged 44, Charles bought Gads Hill, the house his father had pointed out to him all those years before. It symbolized the pinnacle of achievement. Whilst Dickens was organizing a theatrical project, "The frozen deep", He met and was spell-bound by a young actress, Ellen Ternan; there is much speculation about this relationship that caused the end of his marriage to Catherine.

One fateful night in 1865, whilst Charles and Ellen were returning from Paris, their train crashed at Staplehurst. Dickens administered brandy and water to the injured and dying. Only at the last minute did he remember to retrieve the final part of "Our mutual friend" from the wrecked carriage.

The incident left Charles very shaken. For a while he maintained his busy itinerary, then his health began to fail. At home on Wednesday, the night of June, 1870, at the age of 58, Charles suffered a stroke and die. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

SIBLINGS= Brothers and/or sisters.

WHOM= We use WHOM, and not WHO, after prepositions. We can also use WHOM when it is the direct object of a verb, though that use is very formal and disappearing:
- He is a man on whom you can trust
- Tell me whom you see over there
= tell me who you see over there.

ADULTHOOD= The period of life when a person is an adult, before he is old (at Dickens's time, between 20 and 50 more or less)

CLERK= /klɑ:k/ A person who works in a office.

BEYOND= Further than; More than.

MEANS= Resources; economical possibilities, spending capacity.

POINTED OUT= If you point something out (to somebody), you physically or figuratively use your finger (or whatever) to make somebody direct their attention to something important.


WORSEN= Get worse.

BLACKING FATORY= Blacking is a black substance used for polishing (black) shoes. This factory produced bottles with blacking, and Dickens's job was to stick the paper labels onto them.

EVENTUALLY= Finally, in the end.

DEBTORS= /detəz/ People who owe money to others, people who have debts /dets/ (unpaid)

YOUTH= The period of life between childhood and middle age.

DRIVE= Strong desire or motivation.

SOLICITOR= A kind of lawyer.

UNREMARKABLE= ordinary, with nothing special.

PAPER= Newspaper.

TASTE SUCCESS= Experience success.

FERVENT= Intense.

WIDESPREAD= Something widespread can be found everywhere (or in a very large area).

ABOUND= If something abounds, there is a lot of it.

DRUNKENNESS= The state of being drunk (intoxicated with alcohol).

ASYLUM= An institution were mad/crazy people were kept in the past.

CONCOCT= If you concoct a story, you produce it, make it up, create it little by little (often based on rumours or disperse pieces of information).

A PET RAVEN= A raven (a kind of black bird) which is a pet (like dogs and cats).

DWELT= Lived; lay; was about.

GROTESQUE= Bizarre, extreme, weird.

SET SAIL FOR X= Went to X by vessel (a ship with sails, moved by the wind)

MOBBED= Received by crowds of people (many of them).

UPON= (old fashion) On.

DIVERSIONS= Entertainments.

FOUNDED= If you found an organization, you create it.
(don't confuse the verb "to found" with the forms of "to find": "find-found-found")

REFUGE= A place where people in need are lodged and assisted.

HOMELESS= Without a home, without a house to live in.

AGED 44= At the age of 44, when he was 44.

PINNACLE= The highest point of a triangle, pyramid or something similar in shape. Figuratively, the pinnacle of something is the climax, the highest point of a career or development.


WHILST= (formal) While.

SPELL-BOUND= If you are spell-bound by something, you are completely fascinated by it, as if hypnotized. "Spellbound" literally means "bound by a spell" (bound= tied, spell= magic enchantment)

FATEFUL= Having a very important effect in later events, being of great consequence.

ADMINISTERED= If you administer food or drinks to somebody (especially somebody who is ill or too old to eat or drink by themselves), you give them food or something to drink.

BRANDY= An alcoholic drink a bit similar to wine but denser (French: cognac).

THE INJURED= People who had suffered wounds in the accident.

AND DYING= (the injured and dying = the injured and the dying). The dying = people who were dying.

RETRIEVE= Go and get.

WRECKED= /rekɪd/ If something is wrecked, it has suffered and accident and is all destroyed and useless.

CARRIAGE= A train coach/wagon.

SHAKEN= Shocked, emotionally disturbed.

FOR A WHILE= For some time.


FAIL= If your health fails, you get ill and have medical problems.

A STROKE= A heart attack, a cardiac arrest.

BURIED= /berɪd/ If a person is buried, they are dead and placed underground, usually inside a coffin/cascket in a cemetery/graveyard. (the verb is "to bury" /berɪ/ )

NOTE: Westminster Abbey is the cathedral were many of the most important people in the history of the United Kingdom are buried.

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