Charles Dickens was born at 1, Mile End Terrace, Portsmouth (now the Dickens Museum), where his father, John Dickens, was a Royal Naval Pay Office clerk. Charles was his parents' eldest child. When he was ten, the family moved to Chatham, Kent, where Charles went to Mr Giles's School, and in 1822 they moved on to London. While the family was socially above the labouring classes, John Dickens (like Mr. Micawber) was always disastrously bad with money, and in 1824 he was imprisoned for debt for the first time. At the age of twelve, Charles had to leave school and go to work at Warren's Blacking Factory, a shoe-blacking factory in the City of London, living alone in a common lodging-house. This went on until his father received an inheritance, allowing Charles to return to his education. His mother caused ill-feeling by opposing this, wanting Charles to stay on at the factory. In the end, continuing money problems meant Charles had to leave school again at the age of fifteen. He became a clerk in a law firm, then a short-hand reporter in the courts, and finally a journalist. When he was twenty-five, Dickens' first book, The Pickwick Papers, was a success and he was appointed editor of Bentley's Miscellany, a monthly magazine.
In 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth. They lived in London and had nine surviving children.
In 1857, Dickens met Ellen Lawless Ternan (1839-1914), an actress whom he called 'Nelly', and they began an affair. Catherine and Charles separated in 1858, though they did not divorce, and Charles moved to his country house, Gad's Hill, near Chatham. Nelly remained his mistress until his sudden death from a stroke in 1870. Dickens was buried in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Nelly later married a schoolmaster and had two children.