Charles Whitehead

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Charles Whitehead (1804 – 5 July 1862) was an English poet, novelist and dramatist.[1]

Whitehead was born in London, the eldest son of a wine merchant. His most popular works were: The Solitary (1831), a poem, The Autobiography of Jack Ketch (1834), a novel, The Cavalier (1836), a play in blank verse,[2] Richard Savage (1842), perhaps his finest novel; and The Earl of Essex, an historical romance (1843).[1][dead link]

Whitehead recommended Charles Dickens for the writing of the letterpress for Robert Seymour's drawings, which ultimately developed into The Pickwick Papers.[2]

Whitehead had problems with alcohol and decided to travel to Melbourne, Australia, hoping for fresh start, arriving in 1857.[1][dead link] He already was acquainted with Richard Henry Horne, he befriended James Smith and James Neild and wrote a little for the local press. He applied for admission to the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum in February 1862 in vain; a few months later he was picked up exhausted in a street and taken to the Melbourne hospital, where he died on 5 July 1862 of hepatitis and bronchitis and was buried in a pauper's grave.

Mackenzie Bell wrote a tribute to Whitehead, published in 1884 by T. F. Unwin, and also in the same year by Elliot Stock, Forgotten Genius. Charles Whitehead, a critical monograph, then a new edition, with added material and an appreciation by Hall Caine, Charles Whitehead: a Forgotten Genius (1894), published by Ward, Lock & Co.

Illustration from A romance of real life


  1. ^ a b c Serle, Percival (1949). "Whitehead, Charles". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
  2. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). "Whitehead, Charles". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.


Additional resources listed by the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

  • H. T. M. Bell, A Forgotten Genius; Charles Whitehead (Lond, 1894)
  • J. Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, J. W. T. Ley ed (Lond, 1928)
  • C. Turnbull, Australian Lives (Melb, 1965)
  • My Note Book, vol 3 (1858)
  • Examiner (Melbourne), 23 August 1862
  • Australasian, 17 November 1866, 24 September & 18 May 1889, 28 July 1894.