Those who set out to read a novel by Charles Dickens probably approach him with high expectations (pun intended), as they should – he was one of the most prolific writers of the 19th century.
Click start to play today’s crossword, where 1-Across will ask you to name one of its famous books.
The English author’s novels are known for bringing to light gruesome truths about Victorian England and the harsh realities of Britain’s social class system. As one of the most popular novelists of his century, Dickens’s books have never been out of print. Here are some facts about the author and his life, to help you get to know him:
1. He had a difficult childhood
Dickens’ father ran up so much debt that the whole family, except the author and his older sister Fanny, were sent to Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison. Left to fend for himself at the age of 12, Dickens had to drop out of school and work in a warehouse along the Thames, sticking labels on cans of blackening used for shoe polish.
2. He worked hard and progressed
In 1827, 15-year-old Dickens found work as a junior clerk in the law firm of Ellis and Blackmore, but instead of concentrating on legal work he devoured the method of abbreviated writing developed by the English author Thomas Gurney. This skill led him to work as a journalist in the 1830s, covering political news for publishers like the Morning Chronicle.
3. He perfected the cliffhanger ending
Most Dickens novels, like David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, were written in weekly or monthly installments for magazines and then republished as a full book later. So Dickens knew he had to hook his readers — he employed cliffhangers at the end of nearly every chapter to entice eager readers to purchase subsequent episodes. In 1841, American readers were so eager to know what had happened in Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop that they flocked to the docks of New York Harbor to ask passengers arriving from England if they were reading the end of history and if the character of Nell was really dead.
4. He opened a home for “fallen women”
With the help of millionaire banking heiress Angela Coutts, Dickens set up and ran Urania Cottage, a rehabilitation home for homeless women and ex-prisoners, so they could reintegrate into Victorian society. Dickens was known to visit the Cottage several times a week, consulting with prison governors, hiring and firing matrons, dealing with gardener and plumbing issues, keeping careful written records of the girls’ backgrounds, and arranging for their emigration. , if necessary, for Australia, South Africa or Canada.
5. He was a Victorian Ghostbuster
Victorians often believed in both spiritualism and science, and Dickens was one of them. Along with authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and William Butler Yeats, he was a member of the Ghost Club – a members-only group that investigated supposed supernatural encounters and often exposed fraud in the process.
What is your favorite Dickens novel? Play today’s crossword and let us know at [email protected]