Charles Dickens was a literary genius whose books included “Great Expectations,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Oliver Twist” and “David Copperfield.” His best received work however, was an eerie ghost story entitled, “A Christmas Carol.”
“A Christmas Carol” was first published in 1843. Since then, it has been adapted to radio, stage, screen, and television; and continues to be adapted even now, more than one hundred fifty years after Dickens’s death. Yet, if it weren’t for a bequest in his grandmother’s will, the world may have never experienced “A Christmas Carol” or have known the name Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens was born in a poor London neighborhood in 1812. His father, John was a naval clerk who dreamed of striking it rich. His mother, Elizabeth aspired to be a school teacher. Unfortunately, the Dickens family lived beyond their means and John was sent to debtor’s prison.
Charles; the second of eight children, was forced to leave school and go to work at a boot-blacking factory where he earned six shillings a week. He was twelve years old.
Charles did his best to provide what he could for the family. It proved bittersweet when his grandmother, Elizabeth Ball died in 1824. Elizabeth Ball bequeathed her son, John (Charles’s father) four hundred fifty pounds. The money was enough for John to be released from prison, Charles to be released from the factory, and for both of them to rejoin the family.
The inheritance didn’t solve all their problems, but it did offer a much needed reprieve at a time when a reprieve was needed most.
Three years after his grandmother’s death, Charles found himself leaving school again and going back to work. This time he was fifteen. Charles worked as an “office boy” at a law firm. In his spare time, he studied shorthand. A quick study, Charles utilized his newly acquired skill, left the law firm and became a freelance writer. The rest as they say … is history.
Charles Dickens is widely considered one of the greatest writers of the Victorian era. However, if not for his grandmother’s bequest, he may not have made it out of the factory and into legend.
For more information about wills, trust or other estate planning documents, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.