No conversation of English writers is complete without the mention of Charles Dickens. From exploring the plague of poverty and the plight of orphans in The Adventures of Oliver Twist, to the fantastic allegorical tale of redemption in A Christmas Carol, Dickens has always delighted readers with his detailed imagery of Victorian London and its social order, and his astute understanding of human behavior. Universally loved and acclaimed today, Dickens’ childhood was as difficult as the protagonists of his novels. Born Charles John Huffam Dickens on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, he was the second of eight children. Perennially plagued with financial troubles, his father was imprisoned in 1824. So, at the young age of 12, Dickens had to drop out of school to work in a factory. Dickens never let his lack of formal education come in the way of his success. The body of work he left behind speaks volumes about his ingenuity, perseverance and strength of spirit. He edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles. He was also a prolific lecturer and an esteemed social critic. But more than anything else, what makes Dickens one of the greatest authors in the English language is the universality of his characters and themes. While mostly set in Victorian London, his stories speak a language everyone can identify with. His characters, from the protagonists of his novels to the meticulously etched out minor characters in his tales, can be found even today, and not just in England. While often shrouded in a damp aura of dread and despair, his characters fought against their circumstances, not unlike Dickens himself, and ventured on in the pursuit of happiness.

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