Bedlam refers to St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital, a “madhouse” in London. The hospital, and others like it, were notoriously inhumane in their treatment of patients.
The hospital still exists today as the Royal Bethlem Hospital in London: it is now a respected psychiatric hospital.
Mental illness was often considered to represent a weakness of character or a judgment from God, and families commonly hid away insane family members.
Perhaps the most famous literary example of this is the locking up of Mrs. Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, an incarceration which inspired Jean Rhys' prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea.
The reign of Charles I (1600-1649) was troubled by political and religious struggles. During the English Civil War (1641-1651), Charles eventually lost both his crown and his head. He was executed in 1649.
The American Founding Father and inventor, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), experimented with electricity by attaching a key to the string of a kite and flying it through an electric storm.
Charles Dickens concealed much of his childhood experience from his own wife and children. Dickens' friend and biographer, John Forster, explained that it was only an accidental question in 1847 that prompted Dickens to confide in him.
You can read the biography in full here.
The children’s nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” was first published in 1806 as a poem entitled “The Star” by sisters Ann and Jane Taylor.
The words of the poem were later used as lyrics and music was added to create the popular lullaby.
Some speculate that the mannerisms and physical appearance of Uriah Heep were based in part on those of Hans Christian Andersen, who visited England shortly before Dickens began writing David Copperfield.
Uriah's deceptive and scheming nature is thought to have been inspired by Thomas Powell, who ingratiated himself into Dickens' social set and was subsequently discovered to be a fraud and a thief.
Agnes Wickfield is most likely based on Charles Dickens’ deceased sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth.
Mary moved into the home of Charles and Catherine Dickens when they were still newlyweds.
In 1837, Mary, who was still in her girlhood, suffered a sudden illness and died in the arms of her brother-in-law. Her death had a deep impact on Dickens and caused him to miss a deadline for the first time in his writing career. Charles and Catherine named their first born daughter Mary “Mamie” Angela Dickens.
In death, Mary became to Charles Dickens an embodiment of female goodness and she inspired many of his angelic female characters, such as Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1841) and Mary Graham in Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-1844).
Mary’s death is thought to have been depicted in The Old Curiosity Shop in the demise of Little Nell.