What remains today of the Second Marshalsea prison
Dickens got a job pasting labels on pots of boot black ten hours a day for just a few shillings a week to help out his parents and siblings. That experience among the working poor and roustabouts of the back alleys contributed to his later interest in social and work reforms, as well as providing another source of characters like old Fagin the master pick-pocket in Oliver Twist. The future author already demonstrated the sponge-like memory of youth, and his profound feelings that came with his troubled family like a plague. Upon receipt of a legacy from his mother, Charles’s father left debtor’s prison and reestablished his family in better circumstances.
An illustration from Dickens’ Oliver Twist, where Oliver famously asks “Please sir, may I have some more?” after finishing his meager rations
Charles got a job as a junior clerk in a law office and found that his abilities to mimic people made him a popular figure. He spent a multitude of hours at the theatres, where he studied famous performers. Joining a relative as a court reporter for four years taught him the ins and outs of “going to law,” that especially afflicted the poor. His experiences at Grey’s Inn Court provided a wealth of material for books such as Nicholas Nickleby and Bleak House. At the age of twenty, Charles Dickens decided on trying the theatre, a likely place for him given his entertainment abilities and zeal to be famous. In one of the historically interesting twists of providence, he missed his audition due to a cold, and settled on being a writer instead.