A bright boy who endured stress and struggle, including a humiliating stint of child labor in a shoe polish factory, Dickens would grow up to make his name in London as the creator of comic characters in The Pickwick Papers in the 1830s.
His books, including classics such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities, became incredibly popular even as the content of his writing grew more serious. The characters he created became household words on both sides of the Atlantic, and Dickens himself was one of the most famous people on earth.
His work discipline was legendary, and it probably aged him prematurely. And his personal life, especially in his later years, was often troubled. But the reputation of Dickens as a writer has never diminished, and his books are still in print and widely read.
To mark the bicentennial of Charles Dickens there will be commemorations in London, and around the world, this week and throughout the year. Organizations ranging from museums to libraries to television networks are planning special events. And if it has been years since you've read anything by Dickens, 2012 is the time to get back to his work.
Photograph: Charles Dickens, circa 1850/Getty Images
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