February 14

This Day in History

Literary

Feb 14, 1842:

The Boz Ball celebrates Dickens

On this day, fans of Charles Dickens organize the Boz Ball, an elite party for the celebrated writer who had arrived in the United States in January for a five-month tour. (Dickens' earliest works had been published under the pseudonym Boz.)

Only members of New York's aristocracy were invited to the ball, with each guest's background and pedigree thoroughly inspected. Tickets were priced at the outrageous sum of $10. The event, held at the Park Theater in New York, sold out, and event organizers later held two more sold-out balls, open to the general public.

Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown in debtors' prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors' jail became topics of several of Dickens' novels.

In his late teens, Dickens became a reporter and started publishing humorous short stories when he was 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories, Sketches by Boz, was published. The same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he would have nine children.

In 1838, Dickens published Oliver Twist, followed by Nicholas Nickleby (1839). In 1841, Dickens published two more novels, then spent five months in the United States, where he was hailed a literary hero. Dickens churned out major novels every year or two, usually serialized in his own circular. Among his most important works are David Copperfield (1850), Great Expectations (1861), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

In the late 1850s, he began a series of public readings, which became immensely popular. He died in 1870 at the age of 58, with his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, still unfinished.

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