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Famous Asthma Sufferer: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English author extraordinaire, remains among the most popular Victorian era novelists. Often written in serialized form, his novels are known for cliffhanger scenes, powerful characters, and themes of social reform. A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist are three of his most famous works. These novels show up frequently on school reading lists throughout the country and throughout the world. In fact, Dickens's work has remained so popular that it has never gone out of print!

Dickens's childhood spanned the gamut of both privilege and poverty.  These childhood experiences plus his photographic memory lend poignant credence to many of the scenes in his novels and short stories. Dickens's writing career began when he worked as a junior clerk in a law office. He later began to work as a freelance political reporter. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was directly influenced by his exposure to the political world and was published in 1836.

Unlike many authors, Dickens enjoyed the fruits of his success during his lifetime. He was married with ten children, and he made several trips, including two to North America and several around Europe. His later life was punctuated by a separation from his wife, a longtime association with another woman, and a railroad crash that deeply affected him.

Though Charles Dickens is a household name recognized the world over, what many people do not know is that he suffered from asthma for his entire life. In David Copperfield, Dickens's biographical novel, the character Mr. Omer suffers from asthma. This character depicts Dickens's own struggle with "chest trouble." There is also mention of asthma and hay fever like symptoms in House Words. At that time, opium was prescribed medicinally for his asthma and the drug was the only thing that offered the author relief from his respiratory problems. But by being incorporated into his work, asthma not only shaped Charles Dickens's life but also his creativity.

One can only imagine how the author would have been affected by today's environmental control and allergen avoidance methods. Dickens would have greatly benefited from allergy relief bedding, allergy masks, allergy relief cleaning products, and modern asthma treatments. He could have controlled his environment better with a quality air purifier, a HEPA vacuum cleaner, a dehumidifier, or a humidifier. He might have improved his quality of life and his lifespan with these innovations. Dickens could have doubled the number of novels he was able to finish in his career!