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15 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Charles Dickens

15 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Charles Dickens

15 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was the greatest novelist of the Victorian period, utterly dedicating himself to his work and creating some of the most distinguished fiction in literary history.

Poor social and bleak economic circumstances are oft referred to in the modern era as being “Dickensian” in nature and the subjects and narratives of Dickens’s books would suggest a serially sombre author who probably isn’t much fun on a night out.

Not so. This list alone paints Charles Dickens as not only a man of great authority, talent and wisdom, but also a more amusing character down the pub than you would give him credit for. At least part of number 8 does.

Read on!

(Images: Rex Features, Flickr Creative Commons, Penguin)


Dickens had a tough childhood, which he chronicled heavily in David Copperfield. "I had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind,” he scoffed.


Dickens also suffered from epilepsy as a child but later grew out of the condition. He chronicled his sufferings via his some of his characters including Bradley Headstone from Our Mutual Friend and Edward Leeford, a.k.a. Monks, from Oliver Twist.


Dickens had a pet raven called Grip which he had taxidermied and mounted when it died in 1841 from eating lead paint chips.


No matter where he lay, Dickens always made sure to sleep with his head pointing north as he believed it improved his writing.


The only novel by Dickens that includes the word “kangaroo” is David Copperfield and the only novel by Charles Dickens that mentions “beetroot” is Martin Chuzzlewit.


Dickens is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing no less than 247 new words and usages into the language including “butter-fingers”, “fluffiness” and the verb “to manslaughter”.


He was very fond of nicknames and imbued all of his children with them such as “Chickenstalker” and “Skittles”. He called his favourite daughter Kate, “Lucifer Box”, because her temper could flare up in an instant.


Dickens was an amateur magician, very afraid of bats and an insomniac.


Dickens had a Bond-esque secret door in his study which was disguised as a bookcase filled with fake books.


Dickens had more than a passing interest in the paranormal and was an active member of The Ghost Club.


Dickens liked to blow his own trumpet, referring to himself quite matter-of-factually as ‘The Sparkler of Albion’. (Gently mocking Shakespeare referring to himself as the “Bard of Avon” at the same time.)


After having ten children together, Charles Dickens and Catherine Hogarth decide they weren’t right for each other, and separated in 1858 (she was becoming 'fat and boring'). He then met a nubile young actress named Ellen Ternan who was the same age as his younger daughter, Kate.


He had a favourite letter opener (as you do) that was engineered from the claw of his favourite cat, Bob.


Dickens had a little bit of the Melvin Udall about him: He preferred to touch things 3 times for luck and was a mild obsessive-compulsive with regard to his hair and would often comb and preen it over 100 times every day.


Charles Dickens gave everything he had to his work and died on 9th June 1870 after suffering a massive stroke. The last novel he completed was Our Mutual Friend. He is buried in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.