Charles John Huff am Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812, the second child of a large family. His father was the son of a butler and a housekeeper, and worked as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. The family moved to London when Dickens was three and to Chatham in Kent two years later. In 1822 Dickens's father was transferred to London and slid seriously into debt.
Dickens did not go back to school and at age twelve was sent to work in a blacking factory. Shortly afterwards his father was imprisoned for debt in the Marshalsea prison. Boot polish factory where 12-year-old Dickens was sent to work, fixing labels to bottles of blacking, to help support his family. Dickens had dreams of becoming a gentleman and was humiliated working with the rough men and boys at the factory. The experience had a major impact on Dickens later life and works and also on his relationship with his mother who, after Charles left the factory as the result of a quarrel between his father and the owners of the factory, argued unsuccessfully to have him sent back. His father was released from the Marshalsea and, after nearly a year, took Dickens out of the blacking factory and sent him to school for two years.
At fifteen he started work as a lawyer's clerk. He became a Parliamentary reporter, and gradually won success first as a journalist and later as a novelist. From around 1840 to his death in 1870 Dickens was the most famous and popular writer in the world. He lived a prosperous middle class life, mainly in London, and knew most of the intelligentsia of the time. Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 and she bore him ten children. He seems to have found relationships with women difficult.
In his novels he idiolises young girls with a penchant for housekeeping and ridicules mature women. In 1857 he met a young actress, Ellen Tern an, and started a relationship with her that lasted until his death. In 1858 he separate from Catherine. With the exception of his eldest son, Dickens's children stayed with their father and saw little of Catherine after the separation. Dickens's experience in the blacking factory had a profound effect on him. His books are almost all set mainly in London and describe it as a dark and contaminated city.
His characters come from all social classes and he wrote passionately about the lives of the poor and campaigned for better conditions for them.