Charles Dickens (1812-1836)
John Dickens was the son of William Dickens and Elizabeth Ball Dickens. His parents were servants in the household of John Crewe, a large landowner in Cheshire with a house in Mayfair. William Dickens, recently promoted to the post of butler, died just before his son was born. His mother continued to work as a servant at Crewe Hall.
John Crewe was the member of the House of Commons for Cheshire. His wife, Frances Crewe was a leading supporter of the Whig Party and regular visitors to Crewe Hall included leading politicians such as, Charles James Fox, Augustus FitzRoy and Edmund Burke. They also hosted artists and writers such as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Charles Burney, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Sarah Burney and Hester Thrale. During this period Frances became the mistress of Sheridan, the country's leading playwright. He had dedicated his most famous play, The School for Scandal, to her in 1777.
John Dickens was treated very well by the Crewe family. He was allowed to use the family library and in April 1805 was appointed to the Navy Pay Office in London. The Treasurer of the Navy at this time was George Canning, a close friend of the Crewe family. The job came to Dickens through Canning's patronage, on which all such appointments depended. Claire Tomalin, the author of Dickens: A Life (2011) has pointed out: "John Dickens may have been the son of the elderly butler, but it is also possible that he had a different father - perhaps John Crewe, exercising his droit de seigneur, cheering himself up for his wife's infidelities, or another of the gentlemen who were regular guests at the Crewe residences. Or he may have believed that he was. His silence about his first twenty years, his habit of spending and borrowing and enjoying good things as though he were somehow entitled to do so, all suggest something of the kind, and harks back to the sort of behaviour he would have observed with dazzled eyes at Crewe Hall and in Mayfair."
Charles Dickens's mother was the daughter of Charles Barrow, who worked as Chief Conductor of Monies at Somerset House in London. According to her friends she was a slim, energetic young woman who loved dancing. She had received a good education and appreciated music and books. Elizabeth had several brothers. John Barrow was a published novelist and poet, whereas Edward Barrow was a journalist who married an artist. A third brother, Thomas Barrow, worked in the Navy Pay Office, where he met fellow worker, John Dickens. Elizabeth married Dickens at St Mary-le-Strand in June, 1809. The following year her father, Charles Barrow, was forced to leave the country, when it was discovered that he had been defrauding the government. A daughter, Fanny Dickens, was born was born