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Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was the son of a clerk in the navy pay office. His happy childhood came to an abrupt halt when his father was imprisoned for debt and he himself, at the age of 12, was sent to work in a blacking warehouse. This period of complete misery would go onto inspire much of his fiction. His novels captured a mood and the imagination of readers of his time, and despite some criticism that his work veered to sentimentality, he was held in high regard by his contemporaries. In the twentieth century, his work began to attract serious academic attention, which continues to this day.

[The Oxford Companion to English Literature edited by Margaret Drabble, 2000, p.pp.279-280.]