Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in February 1812. ‘Public and private’ describes his early childhood, his first jobs, and his move into writing. His father’s imprisonment for debt when he was just 12 led to the most painful episode of his life. His first sketch appeared in December 1833 and he went on to write many more under the nickname of Boz. He married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 and before he was 30 was one of the most famous men in Britain. By the late 1840s, he felt financially secure and could devote time to social reform issues. His later work and the failure of his marriage are also described.