Dickens was 45 and Ternan 18 when he made the decision which went strongly against Victorian convention to separate from his wife Catherine in 1858—divorce was still unthinkable for someone as famous as he was. The resulting story was the The Pickwick Papers with the final instalment selling 40000 copies. Dickens managed to avoid an appearance at the inquest to avoid disclosing that he had been travelling with Ternan and her mother which would have caused a scandal.
He created some of the world's most memorable fictional characters and is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. His creative genius has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to G. Born in Portsmouth England Dickens left school to work in a factory after his father was thrown into debtors' prison.