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Blog post from Saturday, 7 February, 2015

On this day, 7th February 1812, the English author Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England.

Dickens originally wrote unpaid pieces for popular journals. Sketches by ‘Boz’, Dickens’s pseudonym, were published in two volumes in 1836 and The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club in 1837. Fame came with the publication of Oliver Twist in 1838 and Nicholas Nickleby in 1839. As novelist, journalist, public speaker and social critic, his popularity was universal and the world of his novels changed contemporary attitudes. At first aware of Australia only as a penal colony, Dickens in Pickwick Papers has the convict, John Edmunds, transported and sent to the country as a shepherd. Mr Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby is similarly sent to the colony. In his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend (1865), Jenny Wren threatens her delinquent father with transportation. Similarly in David Copperfield, Mr Littimer and Uriah Heep are dispatched to Australia to complete their sentences. In Great Expectations (1861) Dickens created Magwitch, the convict who amassed wealth in New South Wales and so produced an English gentleman.

Dickens had contemplated a lecture tour of Australia in 1862 and intended to write a travel book, 'The Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down’, but the tour was abandoned. Two of his sons later migrated to Australia.

Australian Dictionary of Biography (source)

The State Library of New South Wales holds these rare copies of The Pickwick Papers from 1837 and 1838.