Dickens' education

Dickens' father, when asked about his son‘s education, replied, ‘He may be said to have educated himself.':

  • Dickens had what would now be called a primary education, and two years' further schooling after the painful time in the blacking factory
  • Dickens was not an educated gentleman but learned a great deal through reading – as a young man, he spent many hours in the Reading Room of the British Museum
  • he had an exceptionally retentive memory and the fruit of his reading can be seen both in his letters and in the wide range of literary, historical and mythological references in his fiction
  • the fact that he had effectively to create his own education because he lacked the security provided by a stable financial background made him sympathetic to the cause of widening educational opportunities and also freed him from many of the prejudices and preconceptions of those born in more comfortable circumstances
  • Dickens was very familiar with the works of Shakespeare, and read a great deal of biography and travel
  • he was also extremely interested in all forms of popular culture: street songs and ballads, the circus, the music hall, and fairy tales and legends; these are drawn on in his work, as a source of passing references and to provide characters and settings.
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