Who Was…Charles Dickens

by Andrew Billen

  • Published: 01 Jul 2004
  • Price: £4.99
  • Format: Paperback
  • Extent: 100p
  • ISBN: 9781904977186

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Young Charles Dickens’s happy childhood came to a sudden end when his father was jailed for a debt and, aged 12, he was sent to work in a factory making shoe polish.

By his mid twenties, he was on the verge of becoming the most popular novelist the world has ever known, creating hundreds of unforgettable characters. But Charles never forgot his days working alongside poor and abandoned orphans.

Andrew Billen tells the gripping life story of Charles Dickens, explaining how it fed into his work, and how, along the way, he invented the modern idea of Christmas.

‘Life in the factory was as unpleasant as ever. Of course, a lively spirit cannot be entirely crushed by circumstances. Not ever day was terrible. His mother would visit sometimes and soon he found himself getting on better with the other boys, who liked him because he was good at telling stories.

After work they would sometimes play together on the coal barges. Sensibly, he decided to do his work, dull as it was, as well as he could and so discovered the pleasure in performing simple tasks properly. he was also earning money. On Saturday nights, he would walk home with six shillings in his pocket feeling quite grown up and during the following week could spend some of it cake and coffee shops. Once he went to the pub and asked for ”your very best – the VERY best -ale,”. The barlady, guessing his age, poured him one and gave him a kiss to go with it.’

About Andrew Billen

Andrew Billen is a feature writer on, and currently television critic of, The Times. He has worked on The Observer, the Standard and the New Statesman. His previous books include Sam Johnson, The Wonderful Word Doctor also for Short Books. He lives in Oxford, where he went to university, with his wife and young daughter.