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David Copperfield as an example of the Victorian socio-critical novel

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House  

Page 2

I. Life And Work Of Charles Dickens – An Overview

Having a look at the literature of England in the 19th century, during the so-called Victorian Age, one quickly realizes that this epoque is inseparably linked to the name of one author: Charles Dickens. He was born on February 7th 1812 as the second child of John and Elizabeth Dickens in Portsea in South England. In 1822 the family moved to London, where Charles worked in a shoe factory from 1824 till 1826 and attended a private school later on in this period of his life. In the years from 1833 till 1837 he married Catherine Hogarth and published early works like Sketches By Boz and The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The former being a collection of “scetches”, very similar to short stories, Dickens had written for the “Monthly Magazine”. The latter Dickens’ first serialized novel, which was made available to the reading public in regular issues over a period of several months and, after a slow start, finally became a huge success. In the years between 1837 and 1848 Dickens was moving a lot, from England to Italy, back to England and on to Paris, also paying a short visit to the USA, and finally returning to London where he went back to work again. Among his most important works, finished at that time, are various Christmas Tales and, of course, some well-known books, such as Oliver Twist (1837-1839), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-1844). In the latters, Dickens’ tendency to social criticism and his affection for the poor and oppressed became clearly evident for the first time.

In 1850 Dickens’ creativity reached a heyday, culminating in David Copperfield, a socio-critical novel dealing with the adventures of “David Copperfield the Younger Of Blunderstone Rookery”, which will be subject to a thorough scrutiny later on in this paper. After the death of his father and a visit to Preston in North England, where Dickens became witness of an industrial strike, he wrote Hard Times (1854), which was again dealing with the bad social conditions of the Age of Industrialism. The years between 1858 and 1868 were a difficult time for Dickens, as his marriage broke up, there were various changes in his private life and he was shaken by the death of his son and mother. Nevertheless, Charles kept his work going on and produced further widely acknowledged novels, such as A Tale Of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. He even went beyond his usual task of writing and worked as a lecturer in the USA, whereby, however, he was forced by his bad health to return to England. There, in 1870, he began to write his last unfinished work: The Mystery Of Edwin Droode.
He finally died on June 9th in Gate’s Hill. On June 14th his mortal remains were buried in Westminster Abby.[1]

[1] cf . Schmidt, Johann N., Dickens, p.135f

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