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.
Early. Dickens has a disappointing reunion with Maria Winter (Maria Beadnell).
January,10. Death of Mary Russell Mitford, novelist and dramatist (born in 1787).
January, 22. French political exile Emmanuel Barthélemy is hanged at Newgate after being convicted of murdering a London man. Barthélemy had previously killed a fellow Frenchman in the last fatal duel in England, but has only been convicted of manslaughter on that occasion.
January, 25. Death of Dorothy Wordsworth, poet and diarist (born in 1771). She was the sister of the romantic poet William Wordsworth.
January, 29. Lord Aberdeen resigns as Prime Minister.
February, 5. Viscount Palmerston becomes Prime Minister.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 43rd birthday.
March, 2. Alexander II becomes Tsar of Russia.
March, 31. Death of the author Charlotte Brontë (born in 1816).
April, 2 (Monday). Dickens attends an annual dinner to raise funds for the General Theatrical Fund, held at the London Tavern.
May, 15. The Great Gold Robbery, the theft of gold bars from a train between London Bridge and Folkestone, occurs.
June, 11 (Monday). Writes a letter from Tavistock House to Samuel Morley, saying he is unable to attend the inaugural meeting of the Administrative Reform Association (on 13 June) due to prior commitments.
June, 29 (Friday). A law removing stamp duty from newspapers comes into force, making newspapers cheaper and opening up mass market media in the United Kingdom.
June, 29 (Friday). The Daily Telegraph newspaper is launched (originally called the Daily Telegraph & Courier).
July, 31. The Limited Liability Act passes through parliament, giving protection to investors in the event of corporate collapse.
July – Sept. Dickens rents a house overlooking the sea in Folkestone at 3 Albion Villas.
August, 30. Death of Feargus O’Connor, political radical and Chartist leader (born in 1794 in Ireland).
September, 3. The last Bartholomew Fair in held in London.
September, 9. In the Crimean War, during the Siege of Sevastopol, the Black Sea port of Sevastapol falls to the British and their allies.
October, 16 . Dickens rents the top of a house at No. 49, Avenue des Champs Elysées, Paris for six months for him and his family.
November, 17. Explorer David Livingstone discovers Victoria Falls in Africa.
November, 23. Augustus Dickens, youngest brother of Charles Dickens, joins the London Freemasons.
December. Little Dorrit is published monthly between December 1855 and June 1857.
December. Part I (1) of Little Dorrit published (Book 1, Chapters 1-4).
December, 10 (Monday). Swedish singing sensation Jenny Lind, often known as the Swedish Nightingale, performs at London’s Exeter Hall. Lind was one of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century. The Times reports ‘the hall was crammed to suffocation by an asembly almost as fashionable as in the full blaze of the Italian Opera‘. The performance is the first in a short series at Exeter Hall.
December, 19 (Wednesday). The first meeting of the newly established Metropolitan Board of Works is held at Burlington House in London. The organisation became the principal instrument of London-wide government until it was replaced by the London County Council in 1889. Joseph Bazalgette was later appointed as its first, and only, chief engineer.
December, 22. Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol in aid of the Sheffield Mechanics Institute.
December, 31 (Monday). Jenny Lind performs Handel’s Messiah at London’s Exeter Hall.
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.