The Education of Charles Dickens
In 1812, when John and Elizabeth Dickens admired their newborn, Charles, they
had no idea how his educational pursuits would lead him to immortality in the
literary world. John Dickens hoped his son would grow up to be a “learned and
distinguished gentleman” (Ackroyd 78). He passed this aspiration on to his son
who kept it true to his heart. To Charles Dickens, education was the means by
which he would reach this goal that had been deeply embedded in him as a child.
Unfortunately, the educational offerings of early nineteenth century England
were sparse and inadequate. His educational pursuits left him frustrated and
unfulfilled. But Dickens’ determination didn’t let him give up his dreams. With
no other alternatives available to him, he educated himself.
Formal schooling began at the age of nine for Charles. His first encounter with
Victorian education was at the Rome Dame School in Chatham. He and his sister,
Fanny, received a typical Dame school education, which amounted to less than
what Elizabeth Dickens had already taught them. His parents quickly pulled their
children out of this institution and enrolled them into an institution of higher
academic standards, the Clover Lane Academy.
Reverend William Giles, a well-known teacher from Oxford, ran the Clover Lane
Academy. The school’s curriculum would have consisted of advanced reading,
writing, calculating, and possibly Latin. Charles was an excellent student. His
mentor “pronounced” him “to be a boy of capacity ” (Forster 11). All references
made by Dickens regarding this period in his life are positive and happy ones.
Charles was finally on his way to achieving his dreams. But it was a short-lived
In Victorian England, the quality of the education the children received was
directly related to the family finances. After two years, John Dickens was
transferred to London and Charles had to leave Clover Lane Academy. Charles
hoped for a continuation of his education but poor financial decisions had put a
strain on family finances. His family obligations took precedence; the Dickens