Dickens' childhood was not one of toy soldiers and balloons. When he was only 12, his father was sent to Marshalsea debtors' prison. His mother and younger siblings went to live there as well, as was the custom at the time. Charles stayed with a family friend, Elizabeth Roylance, and worked 10 hour days for a whopping six shillings a week, wrapping and labeling pots of boot blacking. When he reached the ripe old age of 13, he began clerking at a law firm.
These unpleasant early experiences affected Dickens in a huge way and spilled into his novels, creating stories about workhouses, debtors prisons, working-class people, legal system bureaucracy, orphanages, poverty, and families that were anything but "close-knit".
Dickens wrote many of his his novels in serial fashion, producing a chapter a week for readers who would never be able to afford the cost of a book in its entirety.
In 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth. He managed to have 10 children in a marriage that he later found to be unsatisfactory.
Although Dickens is most famous for his novels, he also wrote and acted in several plays. In fact, his acting received rave reviews. His interest in the theater also lead him to a certain indiscretion in his life named Ellen Ternan, a young actress who was just 18 when Dickens was 45. The resulting separation from his wife, in 1858, caused turmoil within his entire family.
Dickens died from a stroke, June 9, 1870, at the age of 58. Although he wanted a simple burial, he was buried in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abby.