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Charles Dickens - Creativity and WritingCharles Dickens - Creativity and Writing


Charles Dickens (1812-70)


English novelist (pictured right) who exposed the cruelty and social injustice of Victorian Britain.

Most of his books were serialized in weekly or monthly magazines and were enormously popular, as they are today.


His most famous books are...

Oliver Twist (1837-9)

David Copperfield  (1849-50)

Great Expectations (1860-1)

Bleak House (1852-3)

Hard Times  (1854)

A Christmas Carol (1843).


Why was he so creative?


1. Customer satisfactionCharles Dickens - Creativity and Writing

He delighted his readers with great stories, humour, social comment and wonderful characters like

  • Fagin (in Oliver Twist) - played by Alec Guinness (pictured right) in the 1948 film
  • Scrooge (in A Christmas Carol)


2. Observation and experience

He was brilliant at:

  • observing and remembering the world around him.
  • using these observations in his books.

They also drew on his experience such as:Charles Dickens - Creativity and Writing

  • the loneliness and rejection of his childhood (in Oliver Twist, played by John Howard Davies in the 1948 film, pictured right).
  • the immaturity and constant debt of his father (personified by Mr Micawber in David Copperfield ).

He was particularly affected by his parents sending him (aged 12) to a boot blacking factory for 13 or 14 months



3. Determination and self-discipline

He was incredibly self-disciplined and determined to be a successful writer, driven by;

  • the love of his readers.
  • his need for money and social status (his first love snobbishly rejected him).

He was never totally happy, because he couldn’t forget his miserable childhood, however hard he worked.

But he never let his depression interfere with his work.

 Charles Dickens - Creativity and Writing

4. Money

Financial security was extremely important to him because of the memory of his father in the debtors’ prison at Marshalsea, pictured right in c1897 (featured in Little Dorrit).

This gave him a fanatical determination to succeed.


5. Energetic and prolific

He wrote 24 novels, sometimes producing 33,000 words a month!

A Christmas Carol took only just over six weeks to write

He even wrote the Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist at the same time!


6. Originality

Dickens was:

 Charles Dickens - Creativity and Writing

a) innovative

Dickens (pictured right in 1842) was always ready to use new ideas in his writing, some of them revolutionary.

For example, Oliver Twist was the first novel in the English language with a child as its central character and hero.


b) socially aware

He was also the first novelist to make justice for the poor a central theme.


c) a trend setter

 A Christmas Carol (published in 1843)

  • transformed Christmas in Britain
  • created the idea of festive spirit and goodwill to all men.

Up until then presents were only given to children and the one day holiday was a time of quiet rest. Christmas cards weren’t introduced until 1846.

Charles Dickens - Creativity and Writing

7. Love of writing

Writing was his life, sacrificing his wife, Catherine (pictured right), and his 10 children.

He was often impatient with them, irritated by their lack of intelligence and ambition.

He and Catherine eventually separated, despite her love for him.


8. Preparation and inspiration

He never sat down to write a novel until he had carefully planned it in great detail.

But he still got new ideas and developed the characters, as he wrote.

He got completely absorbed in his stories, living the lives of his characters which were:

“ever tugging at his coat sleeve”, he said.


9. Restless reflection

Thinking up a story for a new novel was a painful process of restless and solitary reflection, deep in thought walking (see point 10) or in his study staring out of the window.

 Charles Dickens - Creativity and Writing

10. Relaxation and exercise

He walked a lot (10 to 15 miles a day) which:

  • refreshed his mind.
  • helped his depression.
  • eased his worries (particularly about money).

He wrote during the morning and evening (pictured right in 1858), leaving the afternoons for relaxation, usually walking or riding.

He was also a very talented amateur actor.


Key quote on law and justice

Injustice breeds injustice (Bleak House).


Key quotes on past, present and future 

I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future...I will not shut out the lessons that they teach (Scrooge in A Christmas Carol).

It’s in vain, Trot, to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present (David Copperfield in David Copperfield).


Key quote on time management 

Never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time (Mr. Macawber in David Copperfield).


Key quote on marriage 

There can be no disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose (Annie Strong in David Copperfield).


Key quote on decision making

Take nothing on its looks, take everything on evidence (Mr. Jaggers in Great Expectations).


Key quote on family

No man can expect his children to respect what he degrades (Tom Pinch in Martin Chuzzlewit).


Key quote on business ethics

Do other men for they would do you. That’s the true business precept (Jonas Chuzzlewit in Martin Chuzzlewit).


Key quote on change

Change begets change (Martin Chuzzlewit).


Key quote on relationships

No one is useless in this world, retorted the Secretary, who lightens the burden of it for any one else (Our Mutual Friend).


Key quotes on love

Love is in all things a most wonderful teacher (Our Mutual Friend).

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done: it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known (Sydney Carton on sacrificing his life for his sweetheart in A Tale of Two Cities).



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