Published: 06:00, 12 January 2021
Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens - but often his life, and death, proved to be as engaging as some of his most famous literary works.
Newspaper reports at the time revealed he was sitting down to dinner with his sister-in-law when he started to look unwell.
Saying they should call for medical assistance, Dickens dismissed her concern believing he just had toothache and would get better soon.
His last words are thought to be "on the ground" after being told to lay down.
He slipped unconscious and would never awaken. He died the following day.
In his will he left a fortune well in excess of the equivalent of £8 million.
We've taken a look back through the archives at some notable events which may have escaped your attention about the man whose celebrity stretches around the globe.
Under the hammer
Before his death, the author had arranged for many of his personal art works and possessions from his Higham home to be sold at auction after his passing.
And the sale certainly attracted a great deal of attention when it took place at Christie, Manson and Wood's sales room in London. Today the auction house is better known simply as Christie's.
An expectation of sky-high prices had expected to put crowds off attending. The reality was quite the opposite.
Described as "a modest, unpretending assemblage of pictures, china and glass ornaments" it certainly pulled in a crowd of "old and young" to glimpse the relics of the famed writer and the rooms were full when the sale started. The first lot was a water colour of Rochester.
One of the big sellers was the stuffed remains of one of his beloved Grip ravens - as featured in his novel Barnaby Rudge - mounted in a display case (see below). It sold for 120 guineas. Which, in today's money is around £7,500.
Friends and family joined the bidders in an attempt to gain a keepsake.
While others content themselves with cats or dogs, Dickens preferred the company of a raven to which he would become fond.
Named Grip, it would prove inspirational to both Dickens and another globally celebrated wordsmith.
While living in London the raven became a family friend - although not so much with the author's children who felt its pecking a little too often around their legs.
But when it died in 1841 - shortly after drinking some left over lead paint - Dickens had the bird stuffed and mounted in a display case. It would stay with him - moving to his home in Higham - until the day he died.
Yet his death didn't stop Dickens adopting two more of the birds over the years - to which a man of such imagination also named, um, Grip.
The birds inspired a key feathered character in his novel Barnaby Rudge also named, guess what, Grip.
However, scholars also believe the raven inspired a friend of Dickens - the American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe - when writing The Raven, one of his most celebrated poems.
The stuffed Grip is today on display at the Free Library in Philadelphia.
For a man of such global reputation, his funeral on the morning of Tuesday, June 14, 1870, was a rather muted affair.
His grave was dug in Westminster Abbey after the building had been closed to the public the previous day and with little fanfare.
He was laid to rest with just 14 mourners present.
Mind you, he had wanted to be buried near his Kent home - and not Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey as he feared was a possibility.
In his will, he had instructed he be "buried in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner; that no public announcement be made of the time or place of my burial; that at the utmost not more than three plain mourning coaches be employed; and that those who attend my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hat-band, or other such revolting absurdity".
Dickens himself had wanted his last resting place to be in a "small graveyard under Rochester Castle wall or in the churches of Cobham or Shorne".
He was to have been buried at Rochester Cathedral and a grave had even been dug in St Mary's Chapel in preparation, but a clamour in the media - and some suggest his closest confidants - saw his remains instead head to the capital.
His grave was left open for three days for the public to pay their respects.
In June 1862, the life of the author could have taken a turn for the worse but for the fickle hand of fate.
Dickens had been due to arrive at 10.30pm at Higham Station after catching a train from London. A carriage had been sent to collect him with groom James Marsh holding the reins.
However, the author missed his train and so the carriage set off to return to his Kent home and await further instructions.
As Marsh travelled back along the road he was alerted to the two rollers lying across the road by gardener William Phillips who had spotted them and stood by to raise the alarm should vehicles approach.
According to local newspaper reports at the time, had the carriage hit the rollers they would have caused "serious mischief".
The rollers had been left in the middle of the road "with the intention of upsetting the carriage of Mr Charles Dickens" by farm labourer James Stedman who had spotted the carriage en route to the station. Whether he knew the famous man it had been sent to collect is not known.
He blamed being drunk when he appeared in court and paid a high price - two months' hard labour.
Off the rails
On June 9, 1865, Dickens, who had just crossed the Channel by ferry after a visit to Paris boarded the daily boat train from Folkestone to London.
After travelling through Headcorn at 50mph, a red flag alerted the driver to stop. Up ahead a stretch of track crossing the Beult viaduct at Staplehurst had been removed for engineering works. Despite slamming on the brakes the train could slow only to 15mph before it derailed, spewing carriages onto a dry river bed.
The driver had not been notified of the works and the warning flag waved too close to the site.
Ten people were killed and 40 people injured.
Dickens, who had been travelling with his mistress, Ellen Ternan, was in a carriage which did not derail but hung over the bridge. Relatively unharmed he helped other passengers, filling his top hat with water to try and aid and comfort the injured.
He later wrote in a letter: "The scene was so affecting when I helped in getting out the wounded and dead, that for a little while afterwards I felt shaken by the remembrance of it."
Dickens' son Henry would later say his father "may be said never to have altogether recovered" from the incident. He died five years to the day to the disaster. He was just 58.