Charles James Lever Biography

“No matter how skillfully a man play the game of life, there is but one test of his ability–did he win?”

Early Life of Charles James Lever 

Born to a purely English family on Aug. 31, 1806, in Dublin, Ireland. He was the second son of his father James lever. He educated from private schools becoming the leader of the discipline breach community of students.

He completed his M.B. (medicine) from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1831. In a profession of medicine which gained him quite a sum and with all his inherited fortune, he was still always left short of money due to his extravaganza and gambling habits. To make some extra money he started using his gift of storytelling.

He married in the year 1833, to his first love Catherine Baker. His first novel was formed with the art of his storytelling which was titled The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer. It was first published serially in Dublin University Magazine in 1837 and was a great success.

Until Harry Lorrequer, Lever never met William Hamilton Maxwell the founder of the service class novels which was prevalent seven years before Harry Lorrequer. During Lorrequer, Charles lever was settled ironically as a fashionable physician in Brussels.

In 1842, Lever returned to Dublin to edit the Dublin University Magazine. In the same year, he was invited to Templeogue. In 1845, he visited Europe and served as British consultant at Trieste and La Spezia. When he wanted to try something fresh for his writings and his anecdotes, he moved back to Brussels and from there started a continuous tour for Europe with his family.

He’d stop for a few months at someplace according to his spending amount, sometimes in a castle or sometimes ending up entertaining Charles Dickens and his wife.

Famous works of Charles James Lever 

Though fictional, his major works have been derived out of his life adventure and many of his characters in his books are inspired by his friends and family.

The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer (1837)

His first finest piece of work which is one of the exuberantly lively and amusing military novels. The story revolves around a young and dashing British Army officer who is transferred with his regiment to cork.

Where he experiences as the author calls ‘ incongruous adventures’ such as narrated by the author on page 30, the last paragraph of the book “Such was our life in Cork-dining, drinking, dancing, riding steeplechases, pigeon shooting, and tandem driving-filling up any little interval that was found to exist between a late breakfast, and the time to dress for dinner…”

The novel contains many stories and anecdotes, some hilarious, some adventurous and towards the end, the hero of the story meets Arthur O’Leary who later becomes the protagonist of his another famous novel Arthur O’ Leary. (1845)

Charles O’Malley

The Irish Dragoon, Charles O’Malley was published in 1841. The unique character of Frank Webber (spiritual ancestor of Foker and Mr Bouncer) in this novel by Lever was similar to his friend at Trinity College, Robert Boyle.

They both were very close friends and used to write songs and poems together which they sang on the streets and also played many pranks. These cherishing moments of his college life were immortalized in his many books majorly Charles O’Malley, Con Cregan and Lord Kilgobbin.

He wrote some wonderful works in his last few years with the help of his friends like Sir Brooke Fosbrooke (1866), Tony Butler (1865),  Lord Kilgobbin (another Classic,1872), The Fortunes of Glencore (1857),  Luttrell of Arran (1865), and the table-talk of Cornelius O’Dowd.

Tom Burke of “Ours”

It was published in 1857 and is one of his best fictional novels which narrates the military life and battle in France during the days of the empire.

Other of his major works are Barrington (1863), Luttrell of Arran (1865), Sir Brook Fossbrooke (1866), the Bramleighs of Bishop’s Folly (1868), a Rent in a Cloud (1869) Confessions of Con Cregan: the Irish Gil Blas. London, W.S. Orr, (1849), Roland Cashel (1850), The Daltons, or, Three roads in life (1852), The Dodd Family Abroad (1854), The Martins of Cro’Martin (1856), The Fortunes of Glencore (1857), Davenport Dunn: a man of our day (1859), One of Them (novel) (1861) and many others.

Charles James Lever: Later Life and Death

He travelled continuously in Europe from Como to Florence, from Florence to the Baths of Lucca from Lucca to La Spezia and so on but with time his joyous writing was being crowded by his sadness.

But even though he was depressed his creation of ideas and interesting plots still delighted people. And in 1867 he again became hopeful when he received a letter by Lord Derby stating the offer of the consulship of Trieste. Lever was a guy who couldn’t live without people and his friends and family made sure he was never alone.

They also helped him to give his best in his few last works he was working on. His depression was hit due to many reasons of which the death of his wife made it worse. Catherine died on 23rd April 1870 with whom lever was closely attached.

His incipient heart disease was neither helping him recover with the misery he was facing in his life. All this while he travelled with low spirit and lower health status and death had already knocked by his doors a couple of times.

It was one of his times when he was travelling back to Trieste he had a sudden cardiac arrest on 1st of June 1872 and died the most painless death yet with the most painful life he could have lived in his last days.

Found info useful?