Monday, March 12, 2012

Dickens's Child Labouring

In 1824 John Dickens’(Charles Dickens's father) financial condition was very severe, so like it or not Dickens was forced to start working shortly after the age of 12 years. One of his cousins who works at the Warren Blacking Factory helped Dickens to be accepted there. Shortly after Dickens began to work his father and all the family (except Fanny) had to enter the Marshalsea debtor's prison Prison in Southwark because John Dickens could not pay his debts. The system at that time required that people detained in the debtor's Prison must pay the imprisonment cost, in exchange for safety the prison could offer from the pursuit of angry creditors. That means that it was Charles Dickens who must pay for this family.

Dickens had to work 10 hours a day, six days a week, wrapping the blacking bottles and put labels on it. While working, two friends who sat next to Dickens were Poll Green and Bob Fagin. Since Dickens’ family residence was far from the prison, Dickens parents arranged for him to move to a new residence in Lant Street, Southwark. Lant Street was later used as the residence Bob Sawyer, the character from The Pickwick Papers.

illustration of Charles Dickens slept from exhaustion on his working table near the window

Later as an adult, his experience working in the blacking factory will continue to haunt Dickens. No wonder the child labouring theme appears in many of his novels, especially David Copperfield. Even the "blacking bottles" will often appear in various parts of the book, though not too obvious.

Although in May 1824 John was released from prison, and Dickens’s mother knew how much his son must have suffered, yet Mrs. Dickens told him to keep working hard on the table near the window in the blacking factory, in order to generate income for the family.

Dickens suffered from his job, and later he expressed his disappointment at his mother in his unfinished autobiography.

"I do not write resentfully or angrily: for I know all these things have worked together to make me what I am: but I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back."

Dickens had confessed to his friend, John Forster, about his disappointment that he had to work at a young age so that he must leave school. John Forster later published it in "Life of Charles Dickens' around the year of 1872-1874. This is the confession:

"It is wonderful to me how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age. It is wonderful to me, that, even after my descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to London, no one had compassion enough on me--a child of singular abilities, quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt, bodily or mentally--to suggest that something might have been spared, as certainly it might have been, to place me at any common school. Our friends, I take it, were tired out. No one made any sign. My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge."

Fortunately for Dickens, after that he could return to school at Wellington House Academy, although - again - before he graduated, Dickens had to drop out (again) at age 15 because his family - yet again – suffered from another financial crisis. This time he got out of school forever.

In 1827 Charles Dickens began to work as a legal clerk at a law firm.

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