Four of the best
English writers of the 19th century: Dickens, Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte and
Elisabeth Gaskell were called by Karl Marx the "Glorious School of
English Novelists". Marx said that these writers had done more to show
social and political truths to the world than all the politicians, journalists
and moralists put together. They gave a picture of the English upper classes
with all their selfishness and pride, their ignorance and greed.
One of the greatest writers of this
school of novelists was Charles Dickens. He was born in 1812 in the family of
a small government official in the city of Portsmouth. There Charles first
went to school. Never a strong child, he could not join his friends in games
or any sports. He spent most of his free time reading various books.
In 1821 the family moved to London
where his father was soon ruined. His father was thrown into a debtor's prison
called Marshalsea and the whole family went to live there. For many years the
dark buildings of the Marshalsea prison were the family's home. Charles though
only ten years of age had to leave school and begin a long and hard struggle
with poverty. In order to help the family in some way he went to work at a
blacking factory. He worked from early morning till late at night. He suffered
there so much that years later when he was at the height of his fame he never
spoke of the time spent at the factory without pain.
Many years passed before Charles
returned to school. When he graduated from school he became reporter on one of
London's newspapers. He did his work so well that he was considered the best
parliamentary reporter in London. The work of a reporter led him to
journalism, and journalism led to novel-writing. In 1836 when only twenty-four
years of age, Charles Dickens wrote his first book "Sketches by
Boz". This book was followed by "The Posthumous Papers of the
Pickwick Club" and in two years by "Oliver Twist". These novels
brought him fame both in England and in other countries. From that time on
Charles Dickens devoted himself to literature. His most famous novels are
"Hard Times", "David Copperfield", "Domby and
Son" and others. Charles Dickens died in 1870, at the age of fifty-eight.
In his books he protested against
social injustice in bourgeois society, the work-houses, the debtor's prisons
and the ruthless exploitation of children. It is this exposure of social
injustice in bourgeois society that makes his books so important though he did
not call for active struggle against the exploiting classes.