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Charles Dickens was born at Landport in Portsea on February 7 1812 His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay-office and was temporarily on duty in the neighborhood Very soon after the birth of Charles Dickens however the family moved for a short period to Norfolk Street Bloomsbury and then for a long period to Chatham which thus became the real home and for all serious purposes the native place of Dickens The whole story of his life moves like a Canterbury pilgrimage along the great roads of Kent John Dickens his father was as stated a clerk but such mere terms of trade tell us little of the tone or status of a family Brownings father to take an instance at random would also be described as a clerk and a man of the middle class but the Browning family and the Dickens family had the color of two different civilizations Merely saying that Browning stood many strata above Dickens cannot convey the difference It must also be conveyed that Browning belonged to that section of the middle class which tends in the small social sense to rise the Dickens to that section which tends in the same sense to fall If Browning had not been a poet he would have been a better clerk than his father and his son probably a better and richer clerk than he But if they had not been lifted in the air by the enormous accident of a man of genius the Dickens I fancy would have appeared in poorer and poorer places as inventory clerks as caretakers as addressers of envelopes until they melted into the masses of the poor Yet at the time of Dickenss birth and childhood this weakness in their worldly destiny was in no way apparent especially it was not apparent to the little Charles himself He was born and grew up in a paradise of small prosperity He
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