Study Guide

Charles Dickens Popularity & Later Life

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Popularity & Later Life

For the next twenty years, Charles Dickens did two things really well: write novels, and make children (ten altogether). On the novel front, he produced Nicholas Nickleby (1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), Barnaby Rudge (1841), A Christmas Carol (1843), Martin Chuzzlewit (1844), Dombey and Son (1848), David Copperfield (1850, and by far his most autobiographical work), Bleak House (1853), Hard Times (1854), and Little Dorrit (1857). He also continued to nurse his love of the theater by writing plays and occasionally acting in them himself. He was a champion of the poor and lent his name and efforts to many fundraising efforts for London's needy.

Dickens was a literary rock star. "Mr. Dickens has written so much and so well that the severest ordeal any thing new that he writes has to undergo is the comparison with what he has written before," gushed Harper's Weekly in 1860. "His published stories are so popular that people will hardly admit that they can be equaled."

There was one bright spot in his personal life. In 1857, Dickens met the actress Ellen "Nelly" Ternan, who was working on a production of one of his plays. The actress was eighteen; Dickens was 45. Despite this age gap, the two began a romantic relationship that lasted for the rest of Dickens's life. The two traveled together frequently, though their relationship was kept a secret from the prim-and-proper Victorian public. Dickens and his wife Catherine agreed to separate the following year.

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