Charles Dickens scarcely needs an introduction: he created some of the world's best-known fictional characters, was wildly popular in his own lifetime. and is still widely regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

He was born Charles John Huffam Dickens on 7 February 1812 at 1 Mile End Terrace, Landport in Portsea Island (Portsmouth), Hampshire, the second of eight children of Elizabeth Dickens (1789–1863) and John Dickens (1785–1851). His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office and was temporarily stationed in Portsmouth.

Clearly one of Charles Dickens's middle names was that of his father, John. The other middle name, Huffam, could be imagined as that of a character in one of Dickens's own novels. In fact, the origin was close to home. John Dickens had asked Christopher Huffam, rigger to His Majesty's Navy, gentleman, and head of an established firm, to act as godfather to Charles.

Charles Dickens's career was strongly influenced by his early life experiences. He largely missed out on formal education because he had to leave school to work in a factory when his father was committed to a debtors' prison. The prison became a setting in "Little Dorrit." The experience of injustice and grinding working conditions informed much of his literary output.

Christopher Huffam, Dickens's godfather, is thought to be the inspiration for Paul Dombey, the owner of a shipping company in the 1848 novel "Dombey and Son."

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