A Tale of Two Centuries: The Legacy of Charles Dickens

Related Articles

Charles Dickens is likely the most famous and influential author of the nineteenth century and is widely recognized for his literary genius and immense contributions to the literary canon. In the two centuries since his first novel, Oliver Twist, was published in 1837, Dickens has been celebrated, embraced, and immortalized in a myriad of ways. This article will explore the life and successes of Dickens, as well as the continued relevance and influence of his works in the modern century.

Early Life and Works   

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Landport, Portsea, England. His parents, John and Elizabeth, were both quick to recognize and foster his creative abilities, though his family was often beset by economic difficulties. At the age of 12, Dickens was sent to work in a boot-blackening factory, where he was employed for 10 hours a day, six days a week. This experience shaped much of his later writing and was reflected in his works.

Despite his family’s financial troubles, Dickens managed to attend the prestigious Wellington House Academy, where he received a solid education in the liberal arts. After leaving school, he began to focus on his writing, taking numerous menial jobs while contributing to a number of magazines and newspapers.

Throughout the 1830s, Dickens wrote and published a series of short stories, most of them comedy-focused and sentimental in nature. While some of these stories were well-received, his novel Oliver Twist (1837) was the work that propelled him to fame, with its stark portrayal of Victorian England and its stirring study of social injustice and poverty.

In the years that followed, Dickens saw a meteoric rise to success. Between the years of 1837 and 1870, he released over a dozen major works, including novels, novellas, and even a yearly Christmas-time story serialized in papers and magazines.

Works and Themes   

In just about all of his writings, Dickens explored a wide array of themes, from poverty, injustice, and crime to sentimentality and the joys of Christmas.

His works typically explored the realities of the 19th century, particularly the darker aspects of the Victorian era. He painted vivid scenes of the grimy streets of London, portraying the dirt, disease, and poverty of many urban areas. His stories often centered on the lives of the lower classes, whom he portrayed with sympathy and admiration.

He also tackled themes of injustice, bigotry, and hypocrisy in his work. He explored difficult topics such as corruption within the legal and penal systems, as well as the inequalities between the rich and the poor. And while he was deeply critical of the society in which he lived, he also contained within his works a great passion for those who suffered, and a hope for the betterment of mankind.


In the two centuries since Dickens published his first book, his works have been celebrated, embraced, and immortalized in a myriad of ways.

Museums: Several of the locations Tolkien visited in his lifetime, from his birthplace in Portsmouth to the sites of many of his famous works, have now been turned into museums honoring his life and works.

Libraries and Collections: All around the world, London to New York to India and beyond, there are countless collections dedicated to the works of Charles Dickens.

TV and Movies: In recent decades, numerous adaptations of Dickens’ books have been made for both the big and small screens, with a 2009 BBC adaptation of Oliver Twist being but one example.

Online Presence: While the original Dickens works are available in print, they can also be found everywhere in cyberspace, from scan archives or digital libraries to audiobooks and movie adaptations, making his legacy easier to access and further imbuing it with popularity and lasting life.

Continued Relevance: Despite the passage of two centuries, Dickens’ work remains incredibly relevant and even at times prophetic, seen in his prescient warnings about the dangers of technology and obsession with monetary gain.

Two centuries after his first novel, the literary genius of Charles Dickens remains—remembered, celebrated, and vibrantly relevant. His works stand as a timeless testament of his humanity, talent, and insight, and an exaltation of justice and compassion.

More on this topic



Popular stories