Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, at Landport, near Portsmouth, England. He died at Gads Hill, his home in Kent, on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children in a family often plagued by debt, Dickens at ten saw his father arrested and confined in the Marshalsea, a debtors' prison in London, and although a small boy he was placed in a blacking factory where he worked at labeling bottles, visiting John Dickens on Sundays. Charles returned to school on his father's release, taught himself shorthand, and at sixteen became a parliamentary reporter. At twenty-four his career took off with the publication of Sketches by Boz (1836), which was followed by Pickwick Papers the next year. As a novelist and magazine editor he had a long run of serialized successes through Our Mutual Friend (1864-65). His family life had ended earlier, in 1858, when fame drew him apart from his wife of twenty-three years, Catherine, and (although his readers never knew) into the arms of young Ellen Ternan, an actress. Ill health slowed him down but he continued his popular dramatic readings from his fiction to an adoring public that included Queen Victoria. At his death he left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished.
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