The following is a detailed timeline we are compiling of the movements of the life of the Victorian writer Charles Dickens during for each year of his life, as we come across them in letters, newspaper articles and other research. We have also included some key contemporary events that occurred in society and major news events from across the world at the time.
January, 16. First train services depart from London’s Paddington station.
January, 21. The RMS Tayleur runs aground and sinks off Lambay Island in the Irish Sea on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Australia. Of more than 650 aboard, only 280 survived.
January, 28 (Saturday). Dickens arrives in Preston to observe the effects of the Preston strike of 1853-4, which closed the cotton industry in the town for seven months. Stays at the Old Bull, Church Street.
January, 29 (Sunday). Dickens observes a union meeting at the Temperance Hall, Preston.
January, 30 (Monday). Dickens observes an open-air workers meeting at the Orchard, Preston.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 42nd birthday.
February, 11. On Strike is published in Household Words, an account of the mill strikes following Dickens visit to Preston two weeks earlier.
March, 27 (Monday). Britain joins the Crimean War.
March, 29 (Wednesday). A meeting is held at London’s St. Martin’s Hall in support of Preston cotton mill strikers, attended by union leaders and workmen.
April, 24 (Monday). Dickens presides at a birthday dinner in honour of William Shakespeare, held at the Garrick Club.
June, 10. The Crystal Palace opens, having been dismantled and moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham.
August, 7 (Monday). Hard Times is published in one volume by Bradbury and Evans (originally published with the title Hard Times, for These Times). The novel is divided into three books and the 37 chapters renumbered within them.
September, 2. The novel North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, begins serialisation in Household Words. Published just three weeks after the final chapters of Hard Times the story has shared themes of poverty and industrial strife set in a northern industrial town. Disputes during the publication led to a falling out between Dickens and Gaskell.
August, 31. Severe outbreak of cholera in Soho area of London that goes on to kill 616 people.
September, 7. During an outbreak of cholera in London’s Soho, local physician John Snow presents findings to officials, convincing them to remove the handle off a water pump he suspects of spreading the disease. It stops the spread and leads to evidence that cholera is spread by contaminated water.
Summer/Autumn. Dickens and family in Boulogne, France.
Missing a date? if you know of any movements not covered here we would welcome letting us know, along with a reference to any source material so we can try to fill in the gaps.