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Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was born in Portsmouth, England, and spent most of his life in London. When he was twelve, his father was sent to debtor's prison and he was forced to work in a boot polish factory to help support the family, an experience that marked him for life. At age fifteen he found work in an attorney's office and later become a reporter. His first stories and sketches were published in 1833, and after his tremendous success with the serialization of The Pickwick Papers in 1836 he turned to writing novels. A passionate advocate of social reform throughout his life, he was the most popular writer of the Victorian era.