Oshawa Historicist: Charles Dickens in Oshawa

The neighbourhood northeast of Harmony and Adelaide holds a hidden homage to the famous Victorian author of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.  Copperfield Estates, as the area was graciously dubbed by the developer, is home to Dickens Drive, Copperfield Drive, Peggoty Circle, Micawber Street, Traddles Avenue, and Steerforth Street – all names inspired by Dickens’ novel David Copperfield, which features the memorable characters of David Copperfield, James Steerforth, Tommy Traddles, Clara Peggotty and Wilkins Micawber.

Lisa Terech, Community Engagement at the Oshawa Community Museum, looked deeper into the story of the man behind Dickens Drive, and the streets of Copperfield Estate:

Charles Dickens, from the National Portrait Gallery

Charles Dickens, from the National Portrait Gallery

Born in Portsmouth, England, in 1812, Charles Dickens would become one of Britain’s celebrated authors. He spent many years in his childhood facing hard times, including the imprisonment of his father for bad debt, and even Charles himself working in appalling conditions in a blacking factory, where they made stove polish. He was fortunate enough to attend school, and eventually began his career as a journalist.

His first book was published in 1836, Sketches of Boz, a collection of clippings he wrote under the pseudonym of Boz. That same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, and together they had 10 children.

But the marriage would not last.  After 20 years, Dickens and his wife Catherine separated, and the author took up with a young actress named Nelly Ternan with whom it was widely suspected he had been having an affair, despite Dickens rigorous attempts to keep the relationship under wraps.  The couple were secretly together for 13 years, until Dickens death, and allegedly resulted in Ternan giving birth to Dickens’ stillborn child.

At one point the most famous man in London, Charles Dickens would write a large number of novels, short stories, plays, and essays throughout his adult life, the most notable being The Pickwick Papers (1837), Oliver Twist (1839), Nicholas Nickleby (1839), A Christmas Carol (1843), David Copperfield (1850), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861).  During a visit to North American in the 1840s, Dickens visited Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Kingston. Is it possible he passed through Oshawa during his travels?

Dickens died on June 8, 1870 of a stroke, which some attribute to the stress he felt hiding his relationship with his young mistress from public scrutiny. He is buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

This post first appeared on the Oshawa Community Museum Blog and has been used with permission. It has been edited from the original.  


About the Author 

088 - CopyLisa Terech started with the Oshawa Community Museum in 2007 as a volunteer and joined the staff in October 2010. In the role of Community Engagement, Lisa participates with the Museum team in developing and delivering creative, engaging and consistent public programs. A lifelong resident of the Oshawa area, Lisa truly enjoys going out in the community and being a champion for Oshawa’s history and its future.

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