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. Nineth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 2, Chapters 11-13).

February. Tenth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 2, Chapters 14-16).

March. Eleventh part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 3, Chapters 1-4).

April. Twelfth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 3, Chapters 5-7).

April, 4. Official opening of Crossness Pumping Station, a major landmark in completion of the new London sewerage system designed by Joseph Bazalgette for the Metropolitan Board of Works.

April, 9. In the United States, Confederate Army General in Chief, Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union Army Commanding General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War.

April, 14 (Friday). On Good Friday, actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shoots and mortally wounds U.S. President Abraham Lincoln while Lincoln is attending an evening performance of the farce Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C..

April, 15 (Saturday). American President Abraham Lincoln dies after being shot the previous day. Vice President Andrew Johnson becomes the 17th President of the United States.

May. Thirteenth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 3, Chapters 8-10).

May, 9. The American Civil War is declared at an end by President Andrew Johnson.

May, 12–13. The last land battle of the American Civil War takes place at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in far south Texas, more than a month after Confederate General Lee’s surrender, and ends with a Confederate victory.

May, 20 (Saturday). Dickens gives a speech at the second annual dinner of the Newspaper Press Fund, held at the Freemason’s Tavern, London.

June. Fourteenth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 3, Chapters 11-14).

June. Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens emigrates to Australia.

June, 3. Birth of Prince George of Wales (later George V).

June, 8. Death of Joseph Paxton, gardener and architect (born in 1803).

June, 9. Dickens is involved in the Staplehurst railway crash, with Ellen Ternan and her mother.

June, 26. Jumbo, a young male African elephant, arrives at London Zoo and becomes a popular attraction.

June, 29. The new Poor Law Act improves conditions in workhouses.

July. Fifteenth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 3, Chapters 15-17).

July, 4. Lewis Carroll’s children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is published.

July, 5. The first speed limit is introduced in Britain by the Locomotive Act – 2 mph in town and 4 mph in the country.

July, 23. The SS Great Eastern departs on a voyage to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable

July, 11-24. The 1865 United Kingdom general election is won by the Liberal Party led by Lord Palmerston.

August. Sixteenth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 4, Chapters 1-4).

September. Seventeenth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 4, Chapters 5-7).

September, 2. Charles Dickens completes Our Mutual Friend (date of postscript).

October. Eighteenth part of Our Mutual Friend published (Book 4, Chapters 8-11).

October, 11. Morant Bay rebellion. An unsuccessful uprising against British rule at Morant Bay, Jamaica, is brutally suppressed with 400 rebels executed.

October, 18. Death of the Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston, aged 80.

October, 29. Lord John Russell becomes Prime Minister following the death of Lord Palmerston on 18 October.

November. Final parts of Our Mutual Friend (19 and 20) published (Book 4, Chapters 12-17).

November. Our Mutual Friend published in volume form.

November, 12. Death of Elizabeth Gaskell, the novelist, biographer and short story writer, at the age of 55. Dickens had published a number of her works in his journal Household Words.

December. Second series of The Uncommercial Traveller published.

December, 16 (Saturday). Edward John Eyre, governor of Jamaica, dismissed and censured for his excessive actions during the suppression of the recent rebellion (see 11 October).

December, 18 (Monday). Slavery is formally abolished in America when the 13th Amendment is formally adopted into the United States Constitution.

December, 19 (Tuesday). Dickens gives a charitable reading for the Chatham Mechanics’ Institute, held at the Lecture Hall, Chatham, at 7pm. Reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.

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.