Study Guide

Charles Dickens Death

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Dickens published two of his most accomplished novels late in his career: 1) A Tale of Two Cities and 2) Great Expectations. A Tale of Two Cities began running in 1859. It was a gripping saga of the French Revolution and home to the famous "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" opening lines. The first installment of Great Expectations appeared in December 1860.

In 1863, Dickens experienced a year of tragedy, losing both his mother and his 22-year-old son Walter, who was stationed in India. His health by this time was beginning to fail, largely thanks to his insistence on overworking himself. He was still writing prolifically, and editing All the Year Round, and giving lectures and readings around the United Kingdom.

The last novel Dickens completed before his death was Our Mutual Friend, which was finished in 1865. He started work on The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a mystery novel intended to run in twelve parts. Halfway through, however, Dickens suffered a stroke. He died at his London home on 9 June 1870, at age 58, and was buried in the Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey. Just prior to his death, Dickens had recently performed an emotional reading of the murder of Nancy in the character of Oliver Twist's Bill Sikes. Friends believed that the strain of this reading brought on his stroke and killed him. We have no way of knowing all the secrets of Dickens's life, but we know this: up until the very end, he gave everything he had to his work.

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