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Title: Speeches: Literary and Social
Author: Dickens, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1880 Chatto and Windus edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]



SPEECHES
_LITERARY AND SOCIAL_


                                    BY
                             CHARLES DICKENS

          WITH CHAPTERS ON “CHARLES DICKENS AS A LETTER WRITER,
                        POET, AND PUBLIC READER.”

                  [Picture: Drawing of Charles Dickens]

                             _A NEW EDITION_

                                  London
                      CHATTO AND WINDUS, PICCADILLY
                                   1880



INTRODUCTION.


CHARLES DICKENS was born at Landport, Portsmouth, on February 7, 1812.
At that time his father, Mr. John Dickens, held an office in the Navy Pay
Department, the duties of which obliged him to reside alternately at the
principal naval stations of England.  But on the conclusion of peace in
1815 a considerable reduction was made by Government in this branch of
the public service.  Mr. John Dickens, among others, was pensioned off,
and he removed to London with his wife and children, when his son Charles
was hardly four years of age.

No doubt the varied bustling scenes of life witnessed by Charles Dickens
in his early years, had an influence on his mind that gave him a taste
for observing the manners and mental peculiarities of different classes
of people engaged in the active pursuits of life, and quickened a
naturally lively perception of the ridiculous, for which he was
distinguished even in boyhood.

It is curious to observe how similar opportunities of becoming acquainted
practically with life, and the busy actors on its varied scenes, in very
early life, appear to influence the minds of thinking and imaginative men
in after-years.  Goldsmith’s pedestrian excursions on the Continent,
Bulwer’s youthful rambles on foot in England, and equestrian expeditions
in France, and Maclise’s extensive walks in boyhood over his native
county, and the mountains and valleys of Wicklow a little later, were
fraught with similar results.

Charles Dickens was intended by his father to be an attorney.  Nature and
Mr. John Dickens happily differed on that point.  London law may have
sustained little injury in losing Dickens for “a limb.”  English
literature would have met with an irreparable loss, had she been deprived
of him whom she delights to own as a favourite son.

Dickens, having decided against the law, began his career in “the
gallery,” as a reporter on _The True Sun_; and from the first made
himself distinguished and distinguishable among “the corps,” for his
ability, promptness, and punctuality.

Remaining for a short term on the staff of this periodical, he seceded to
_The Mirror of Parliament_, which was started with the express object of
furnishing _verbatim_ reports of the debates.  It only lived, however,
for two sessions.

The influence of his father, who on settling in the metropolis, had
become connected with the London press, procured for Charles Dickens an
appointment as short-hand reporter on the _Morning Chronicle_.  To this
period of his life he has made some graceful and interesting allusions in
a speech delivered at the Second Anniversary of the Newspaper Press Fund,
about five years ago.

It was in _The Monthly Magazine_ of January, 1834, before he had quite
attained his twenty-second year, that Charles Dickens made his first
appearance in print as a story-teller. {7}  Neither the editor of the
magazine, nor the readers, nor even the ardent and gratified young author
himself (who has described in the preface to the “Pickwick Papers” his
sensations on finding his little contribution accepted), then dreamt that
he would become in five short years from that time one of the most
popular and widely-read of English authors, that his name would shortly
become familiar as a household word, and that his praise would be on
every tongue on both sides of the Atlantic.

Encouraged by his success, Charles Dickens continued to send sketches in
the same vein, and for the next twelve months was a tolerably constant
contributor to the _Magazine_.  All, or nearly all, of these little
papers were reprinted in the collection of _Sketches by Boz_; but as it
will perhaps be interesting to some of our readers to trace their
original appearance in the magazine, we give a list of them here:—

February, 1834,      Horatio Sparkins.
                     Marriage a-la-Mode.
April „              The Bloomsbury Christening.
May „                The Boarding-House.
August „             _Ibid._  (No II.) {8a}
September „          The Goings-on at Bramsby Hall.
October „            The Steam Excursion.
January, 1835.       Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle.
February „           _Ib._  Chapter Second.

A similar series was afterwards contributed to the evening edition of
_The Morning Chronicle_, {8b} then edited by Mr. John Black, and on which
Dickens was engaged as parliamentary reporter.

While writing the “Sketches,” a strong inclination towards the stage
induced Mr. Charles Dickens to test his powers as a dramatist, and his
first piece, a farce called _The Strange Gentleman_, was produced at the
St. James’s Theatre on the opening night of the season, September 29,
1836.  The late Mr. Harley was the hero of the farce, which was received
with great favour.  This was followed by an opera, called _The Village
Coquettes_, for which Mr. Hullah composed the music, and which was
brought out at the same establishment, on Tuesday, December 6, 1836.  The
quaint humour, unaffected pathos, and graceful lyrics of this production
found prompt recognition, and the piece enjoyed a prosperous run.  _The
Village Coquettes_ took its title from two village girls, Lucy and Rose,
led away by vanity, coquetting with men above them in station, and
discarding their humble, though worthy lovers.  Before, however, it is
too late they see their error, and the piece terminates happily.  Miss
Rainforth and Miss Julia Smith were the heroines, and Mr. Bennet and Mr.
Gardner were their betrothed lovers.  Braham was the Lord of the Manor,
who would have led astray the fair Lucy.  There was a capital scene,
where he was detected by Lucy’s father, played by Strickland, urging an
elopement.  Harley had a trifling part in the piece, rendered highly
amusing by his admirable acting.

On March 6, 1837, was brought out at the St. James’s Theatre a farce,
called _Is She His Wife_; _or_, _Something Singular_, in which Harley
played the principal character, Felix Tapkins, a flirting bachelor, and
sang a song in the character of Pickwick, “written expressly for him by
Boz.”

Under the pseudonym of Timothy Sparks Charles Dickens published about
this time a wholesome, wise, and cleverly written little pamphlet against
Sabbatarianism, in which he cogently and forcibly advocated more liberal
views respecting the observance of Sunday than generally obtain in this
country. {10}

In March, 1836, appeared the first number of “Pickwick,” with
illustrations by Seymour.  It was continued in monthly shilling numbers
until its completion, and this has been Mr. Dickens’s favourite and usual
form of publication ever since.  The success and popularity of the
work—which, in freshness and vigour, he has never surpassed in his later
and maturer writings—were unmistakeable.  Several playwrights dramatised
it, with more or less success; and a swarm of obscure scribblers flooded
the town with imitations and sequels, which, like Avanelleda’s second
part of “Don Quixote,” came mostly to grief, and were quickly forgotten.

Before the work had reached its third number, the talented artist who had
undertaken the illustrations, and who has immortalised the features of
Mr. Pickwick, was unfortunately removed by death, and Mr. Hablot Browne
(the well-known _Phiz_) was chosen to replace him, and continued to
illustrate most of Mr. Dickens’s novels for many years after.  During the
years 1837–1838, Mr. Dickens carried on the editorship of _Bentley’s
Miscellany_, where his novel of “Oliver Twist” (illustrated by George
Cruikshank) first appeared.  To this magazine, during the time that he
conducted it, he also contributed some humorous papers, entitled “Full
Report of the Meetings of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of
Everything.”  But, finding his editorial office irksome, he soon
abandoned it.

During his engagement with Mr. Bentley, he edited and partly wrote the
“Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi,” {11} a book now almost forgotten, though
not without passages of pathos and humour.  Dickens, in the introductory
chapter (dated February, 1838), gives the following account of his share
in the work:—

    “For about a year before his death, Grimaldi was employed in writing
    a full account of his life and adventures, and as people who write
    their own lives often find time to extend them to a most inordinate
    length, it is no wonder that his account of himself was exceedingly
    voluminous.

    “This manuscript was confided to Mr. Thomas Egerton Wilks, to alter
    and revise, with a view to its publication.  While he was thus
    engaged, Grimaldi died; and Mr. Wilks having, by the commencement of
    September (1837), concluded his labours, offered the manuscript to
    Mr. Bentley, by whom it was shortly afterwards purchased.

    “The present editor of these volumes has felt it necessary to say
    thus much in explanation of their origin.  His own share in them is
    stated in a few words.  Being much struck by several incidents in the
    manuscript—such as the description of Grimaldi’s infancy, the
    burglary, the brother’s return from sea, and many other passages—and
    thinking that they might be related in a more attractive manner, he
    accepted a proposal from the publisher to edit the book, and _has_
    edited it to the best of his ability, altering its form throughout,
    and making such other alterations as he conceived would improve the
    narration of the facts, without any departure from the facts
    themselves.”

His next work was “Nicholas Nickleby,” published in monthly numbers.  The
following passage from the original preface, which is only to be found in
the old editions, alludes to the great success that attended this story:—

    “It only now remains for the writer of these pages, with that feeling
    of regret with which we leave almost any pursuit that has for a long
    time occupied us and engaged our thoughts, and which is naturally
    augmented in such a case as this, when that pursuit has been
    surrounded by all that could animate and cheer him on—it only now
    remains for him, before abandoning his task, to bid his readers
    farewell.”

This was followed by “Master Humphrey’s Clock,” the publication of which,
in weekly numbers, with illustrations by Cattermole and Hablot Browne,
was commenced in April, 1840.  “Master Humphrey’s Clock” comprised the
two novels of “The Old Curiosity Shop” and “Barnaby Rudge,” which are now
published in a separate form, stripped of the introductory portion
relating to Master Humphrey, and of the intercalary chapters in which Mr.
Pickwick and the two Wellers appear again on the scene.  It was pleasant
to meet once more these familiar humorous creations, and it may be a
matter for regret that this portion of the book has been consigned to
oblivion.  But the author considered that these passages served only to
interrupt the continuity of the main story, and they were consequently
eliminated.

These three characters (the Wellers and Mr. Pickwick) have all the same
raciness and inexhaustible humour in this sequel as in the work in which
we were first introduced to them.  As the original edition of the work we
are alluding to is now somewhat rare, the reader may not be displeased to
have a few specimens laid before him.  Here is Mr. Weller senior’s
opinion of railways:—

    “I con-sider,” said Mr. Weller, “that the rail is unconstitootional
    and an inwaser o’ priwileges, and I should wery much like to know
    what that ’ere old Carter as once stood up for our liberties and wun
    ’em too—I should like to know wot he vould say if he wos alive now,
    to Englishmen being locked up with widders, or with anybody, again
    their wills.  Wot a old Carter would have said, a old Coachman may
    say, and I as-sert that in that pint o’ view alone, the rail is an
    inwaser.  As to the comfort, vere’s the comfort o’ sittin’ in a harm
    cheer lookin’ at brick walls or heaps o’ mud, never comin’ to a
    public house, never seein’ a glass o’ ale, never goin’ through a
    pike, never meetin’ a change o’ no kind (horses or othervise), but
    alvays comin’ to a place, ven you come to one at all, the wery picter
    o’ the last, vith the same p’leesemen standing about, the same
    blessed old bell a ringin’, the same unfort’nate people standing
    behind the bars, a waitin’ to be let in; and everythin’ the same
    except the name, vich is wrote up in the same sized letters as the
    last name and vith the same colors.  As to the _h_onour and dignity
    o’ travelling vere can that be vithout a coachman; and wot’s the rail
    to sich coachmen and guards as is sometimes forced to go by it, but a
    outrage and a insult?  As to the pace, wot sort o’ pace do you think
    I, Tony Veller, could have kept a coach goin’ at, for five hundred
    thousand pound a mile, paid in adwance afore the coach was on the
    road?  And as to the ingein—a nasty wheezin’, creaking, gasping,
    puffin, bustin’ monster, alvays out o’ breath, vith a shiny green and
    gold back, like a unpleasant beetle in that ’ere gas magnifier—as to
    the ingein as is alvays a pourin’ out red hot coals at night, and
    black smoke in the day, the sensiblest thing it does in my opinion,
    is, ven there’s somethin’ in the vay and it sets up that ’ere
    frightful scream vich seems to say, ‘Now here’s two hundred and forty
    passengers in the wery greatest extremity o’ danger, and here’s their
    two hundred and forty screams in vun!’” {15}

While Mr. Pickwick is listening to Master Humphrey’s story above, the
Wellers are entertained by the housekeeper in the kitchen, where they
find Mr. Slithers, the barber, to whom Sam Weller, drawing extensively we
may suppose upon his lively imagination, relates the following anecdote:—

    “I never knew,” said Sam, fixing his eyes in a ruminative manner upon
    the blushing barber, “I never knew but von o’ your trade, but _he_
    wos worth a dozen, and wos indeed dewoted to his callin’!”

    “Was he in the easy shaving way, sir,” inquired Mr. Slithers; “or in
    the cutting and curling line?”

    “Both,” replied Sam; “easy shavin’ was his natur, and cuttin’ and
    curlin’ was his pride and glory.  His whole delight wos in his trade.
    He spent all his money in bears and run in debt for ’em besides, and
    there they wos a growling avay down in the front cellar all day long,
    and ineffectooally gnashing their teeth, vile the grease o’ their
    relations and friends wos being re-tailed in gallipots in the shop
    above, and the first-floor winder wos ornamented vith their heads;
    not to speak o’ the dreadful aggrawation it must have been to ’em to
    see a man alvays a walkin’ up and down the pavement outside, vith the
    portrait of a bear in his last agonies, and underneath in large
    letters, ‘Another fine animal wos slaughtered yesterday at
    Jinkinson’s!’  Hows’ever, there they wos, and there Jinkinson wos,
    till he wos took wery ill with some inn’ard disorder, lost the use of
    his legs, and wos confined to his bed, vere he laid a wery long time,
    but sich wos his pride in his profession even then, that wenever he
    wos worse than usual, the doctor used to go down stairs and say,
    ‘Jinkinson’s wery low this mornin’; we must give the bears a stir;’
    and as sure as ever they stirred ’em up a bit, and made ’em roar,
    Jinkinson opens his eyes if he wos ever so bad, calls out, ‘There’s
    the bears!’ and rewives agin.  Vun day the doctor happenin’ to say,
    ‘I shall look in as usual to-morrow mornin’,’ Jinkinson catches hold
    of his hand and says, ‘Doctor,’ he says, ‘will you grant me one
    favor?’  ‘I will, Jinkinson,’ says the doctor.  ‘Then, doctor,’ says
    Jinkinson, ‘vill you come un-shaved, and let me shave you?’  ‘I
    will,’ says the doctor.  ‘God bless you,’ says Jinkinson.  Next day
    the doctor came, and arter he’d been shaved all skilful and reg’lar,
    he says, ‘Jinkinson,’ he says, ‘it’s wery plain this does you good.
    Now,’ he says, ‘I’ve got a coachman as has got a beard that it ’d
    warm your heart to work on, and though the footman,’ he says, ‘hasn’t
    got much of a beard, still he’s a trying it on vith a pair o’ viskers
    to that extent, that razors is christian charity.  If they take it in
    turns to mind the carriage wen it’s a waitin’ below,’ he says, ‘wot’s
    to hinder you from operatin’ on both of ’em ev’ry day as well as upon
    me? you’ve got six children,’ he says, ‘wot’s to hinder you from
    shavin’ all their heads, and keepin’ ’em shaved?  You’ve got two
    assistants in the shop down-stairs, wot’s to hinder you from cuttin’
    and curlin’ them as often as you like?  Do this,’ he says, ‘and
    you’re a man agin.’  Jinkinson squeedged the doctor’s hand, and begun
    that wery day; he kept his tools upon the bed, and wenever he felt
    his-self gettin’ worse, he turned to at vun o’ the children, who wos
    a runnin’ about the house vith heads like clean Dutch cheeses, and
    shaved him agin.  Vun day the lawyer come to make his vill; all the
    time he wos a takin’ it down, Jinkinson was secretly a clippin’ avay
    at his hair vith a large pair of scissors.  ‘Wot’s that ’ere snippin’
    noise?’ says the lawyer every now and then, ‘it’s like a man havin’
    his hair cut.’  ‘It _is_ wery like a man havin’ his hair cut,’ says
    poor Jinkinson, hidin’ the scissors and lookin’ quite innocent.  By
    the time the lawyer found it out, he was wery nearly bald.  Jinkinson
    was kept alive in this vay for a long time, but at last vun day he
    has in all the children, vun arter another, shaves each on ’em wery
    clean, and gives him vun kiss on the crown of his head; then he has
    in the two assistants, and arter cuttin’ and curlin’ of ’em in the
    first style of elegance, says he should like to hear the woice o’ the
    greasiest bear, vich rekvest is immedetly complied with; then he says
    that he feels wery happy in his mind, and vishes to be left alone;
    and then he dies, prevously cuttin’ his own hair, and makin’ one flat
    curl in the wery middle of his forehead.” {18a}

There is a great deal more in the same vein, not unworthy of the
“Pickwick Papers.”  We must leave the curious reader to find it out,
however, for himself.

During the progress of this publication, it seems that certain officious
persons, mistaking it for a kind of _omnium gatherum_, by “several
hands,” tendered contributions to its pages, and the author was compelled
to issue the following advertisement:

                           MASTER HUMPHREY’S CLOCK.

    MR. DICKENS begs to inform all those Ladies and Gentlemen who have
    tendered him contributions for this work, and all those who may now
    or at any future time have it in contemplation to do so, that he
    cannot avail himself of their obliging offers, as it is written
    solely by himself, and cannot possibly include any productions from
    other hands.

    This announcement will serve for a final answer to all
    correspondents, and will render any private communications
    unnecessary.

After “winding up his Clock,” as he termed it, Dickens resolved to make a
tour in the United States.  Before he went away, however, some of the
most distinguished citizens of Edinburgh gave him a farewell banquet.
{18b}  He was then only twenty-nine years of age, and this was the first
great public recognition of his genius, and the first occasion that was
afforded him of displaying his powers as a public speaker.  Professor
Wilson (Christopher North) presided, and spoke of the young author in the
following terms:—

    “Our friend has dealt with the common feelings and passions of
    ordinary men in the common and ordinary paths of life.  He has not
    sought—at least he has not yet sought—to deal with those thoughts and
    passions that are made conspicuous from afar by the elevated stations
    of those who experience them.  He has mingled in the common walks of
    life; he has made himself familiar with the lower orders of society.
    He has not been deterred by the aspect of vice and wickedness, and
    misery and guilt, from seeking a spirit of good in things evil, but
    has endeavoured by the might of genius to transmute what was base
    into what is precious as the beaten gold. . . .  But I shall be
    betrayed, if I go on much longer,—which it would be improper for me
    to do—into something like a critical delineation of the genius of our
    illustrious guest.  I shall not attempt that; but I cannot but
    express in a few ineffectual words, the delight which every human
    bosom feels in the benign spirit which pervades all his creations.
    How kind and good a man he is, I need not say; nor what strength of
    genius he has acquired by that profound sympathy with his
    fellow-creatures, whether in prosperity and happiness, or overwhelmed
    with unfortunate circumstances, but who do not yet sink under their
    miseries, but trust to their own strength of endurance, to that
    principle of truth and honour and integrity which is no stranger to
    the uncultivated bosom, which is found in the lowest abodes in as
    great strength as in the halls of nobles and the palaces of kings.

    “Mr. Dickens is also a satirist.  He satirises human life, but he
    does not satirise it to degrade it.  He does not wish to pull down
    what is high into the neighbourhood of what is low.  He does not seek
    to represent all virtue as a hollow thing, in which no confidence can
    be placed.  He satirises only the selfish, and the hard-hearted, and
    the cruel; he exposes in a hideous light that principle which, when
    acted upon, gives a power to men in the lowest grades to carry on a
    more terrific tyranny than if placed upon thrones.  I shall not
    say—for I do not feel—that our distinguished guest has done full and
    entire justice to one subject—that he has entirely succeeded where I
    have no doubt he would be most anxious to succeed—in a full and
    complete delineation of the female character.  But this he has done:
    he has not endeavoured to represent women as charming merely by the
    aid of accomplishments, however elegant and graceful.  He has not
    depicted those accomplishments as the essentials of their character,
    but has spoken of them rather as always inspired by a love of
    domesticity, by fidelity, by purity, by innocence, by charity, and by
    hope, which makes them discharge, under the most difficult
    circumstances, their duties; and which brings over their path in this
    world some glimpses of the light of heaven.  Mr. Dickens may be
    assured that there is felt for him all over Scotland a sentiment of
    kindness, affection, admiration and love; and I know for certain that
    the knowledge of these sentiments must make him happy.”

                                * * * * *

Dickens left Liverpool, on his voyage across the Atlantic, in the
“Britannia” steam-packet, Captain Hewett, on the 3rd of January, 1842.
At Boston, Hartford, and New York, he was received with ovations
(Washington Irving on one occasion presiding at a banquet held in his
honour), until he was obliged to decline any further appearance in
public.  During this first visit to America, he made three long and
eloquent speeches, which are all given in this volume _in extenso_.  In
each of these he referred in an earnest way to the great question of
International Copyright, urging upon his Transatlantic friends the
necessity of doing right and justice in this matter.  He returned to
England in the month of June, and a few weeks afterwards addressed the
following circular letter to all the principal English authors:—

                         “1, DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, York Gate, Regent’s Park,
                                                      “7_th_ _July_, 1842.

    “You may perhaps be aware that, during my stay in America, I lost no
    opportunity of endeavouring to awaken the public mind to a sense of
    the unjust and iniquitous state of the law in that country, in
    reference to the wholesale piracy of British works.  Having been
    successful in making the subject one of general discussion in the
    United States, I carried to Washington, for presentation to Congress
    by Mr. Clay, a petition from the whole body of American authors,
    earnestly praying for the enactment of an International Copyright
    Law.  It was signed by Mr. Washington Irving, Mr. Prescott, Mr.
    Cooper, and every man who has distinguished himself in the literature
    of America; and has since been referred to a Select Committee of the
    House of Representatives.  To counteract any effect which might be
    produced by that petition, a meeting was held in Boston—which, you
    will remember, is the seat and stronghold of Learning and Letters in
    the United States—at which a memorial against any change in the
    existing state of things in this respect was agreed to, with but one
    dissentient voice.  This document, which, incredible as it may appear
    to you, was actually forwarded to Congress and received, deliberately
    stated that if English authors were invested with any control over
    the re-publication of their own books, it would be no longer possible
    for American editors to alter and adapt them (as they do now) to the
    American taste!  This memorial was, without loss of time, replied to
    by Mr. Prescott, who commented, with the natural indignation of a
    gentleman, and a man of letters, upon its extraordinary dishonesty.
    I am satisfied that this brief mention of its tone and spirit is
    sufficient to impress you with the conviction that it becomes all
    those who are in any way connected with the literature of England, to
    take that high stand, to which the nature of their pursuits, and the
    extent of their sphere of usefulness, justly entitle them, to
    discourage the upholders of such doctrines by every means in their
    power, and to hold themselves aloof from the remotest participation
    in a system, from which the moral sense and honourable feeling of all
    just men must instinctively recoil.

    “For myself, I have resolved that I will never from this time enter
    into any negotiation with any person for the transmission across the
    Atlantic of early proofs of anything I may write, and that I will
    forego all profit derivable from such a source.  I do not venture to
    urge this line of proceeding upon you, but I would beg to suggest,
    and to lay great stress upon the necessity of observing one other
    course of action, to which I cannot too emphatically call your
    attention.  The persons who exert themselves to mislead the American
    public on this question, to put down its discussion, and to suppress
    and distort the truth in reference to it in every possible way, are
    (as you may easily suppose) those who have a strong interest in the
    existing system of piracy and plunder: inasmuch as, so long as it
    continues, they can gain a very comfortable living out of the brains
    of other men, while they would find it very difficult to earn bread
    by the exercise of their own.  These are the editors and proprietors
    of newspapers almost exclusively devoted to the re-publication of
    popular English works.  They are, for the most part, men of very low
    attainments, and of more than indifferent reputation; and I have
    frequently seen them, in the same sheet in which they boast of the
    rapid sale of many thousand copies of an English reprint, coarsely
    and insolently attacking the author of that very book, and heaping
    scurrility and slander upon his head.  I would therefore entreat you,
    in the name of the honourable pursuit with which you are so
    intimately connected, never to hold correspondence with any of these
    men, and never to negotiate with them for the sale of early proofs of
    any work over which you have control, but to treat on all occasions
    with some respectable American publishing house, and with such an
    establishment only.  Our common interest in this subject, and my
    advocacy of it, single-handed, on every occasion that has presented
    itself during my absence from Europe, form my excuse for addressing
    you.

                                                               “I am, &c.,
                                                        “CHARLES DICKENS.”

By his “American Notes,” and by some of the scenes in “Martin
Chuzzlewit,” Dickens gave for a time great offence to the Americans,
though he only satirised some of their foibles (with just a spice of
piquante exaggeration), as he had ours at home.  Let the reader hear what
two candid Americans have recently written on this subject:—

    “The ‘American Notes’ are weak, and unworthy of their author; but the
    American sketches in ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ are among the cleverest and
    truest things he has ever written.  The satire was richly deserved,
    well applied, and has done a great deal of good.  To claim that it
    was mere burlesque and exaggeration, is sheer nonsense, and it is
    highly disingenuous to deny the existence of the absurdities upon
    which it was founded.  Moreover, the popular implication that there
    is really nothing now in the country justly to provoke a smile—to
    urge with so much complacency that we have changed all that—argues
    the continued existence of not a little of the same thin-skinned
    tetchiness, the same inability ‘to see ourselves as others see us,’
    which made us so legitimate a target before.”

    “As for certain American portraits painted in Martin Chuzzlewit,”
    says an American lady, {24} “I should as soon think of objecting to
    them as I should think of objecting to any other discovery in natural
    history.  To deny the existence of Elijah Pogram, Jefferson Brick,
    Colonel Diver, Mrs. Hominy, and Miss Codger, is to deny facts
    somewhat exaggerated, that are patent to any keen observer who has
    ever travelled through the United States.  The character of Elijah
    Pogram is so well known as to constantly figure in the world of
    illustration; and we can well afford to laugh at foibles of native
    growth when Mr. Dickens devotes the greater part of this same novel
    to the exposition of English vice and selfishness.”

The following letter, referring to Martin Chuzzlewit, which was then in
course of publication, was addressed by Mr. Dickens to a friend in
January, 1844:—

                                                      “Devonshire Terrace,
                                                    “_January_ 2_d_, 1844.

    MY DEAR SIR,

    “THAT is a very horrible case you tell me of.  I would to God I could
    get at the parental heart of —, in which event I would so scarify it,
    that he should writhe again.  But if I were to put such a father as
    he into a book, all the fathers going (and especially the bad ones)
    would hold up their hands and protest against the unnatural
    caricature.  I find that a great many people (particularly those who
    might have sat for the character) consider even Mr. Pecksniff a
    grotesque impossibility, and Mrs. Nickleby herself, sitting bodily
    before me in a solid chair, once asked me whether I really believed
    there ever was such a woman.

    “So — reviewing his own case, would not believe in Jonas Chuzzlewit.
    ‘I like Oliver Twist,’ says —, ‘for I am fond of children.  But the
    book is unnatural, for who would think of being cruel to poor little
    Oliver Twist!’

    “Nevertheless I will bear the dog in my mind, and if I can hit him
    between the eyes so that he shall stagger more than you or I have
    done this Christmas under the combined effects of punch and turkey, I
    will.

    “Thank you cordially for your note.  Excuse this scrap of paper.  I
    thought it was a whole sheet until I turned it over.

                                                             “My dear Sir,
                                                        “Faithfully yours,
                                                        “CHARLES DICKENS.”

To a collection of Sketches and Tales by a Working Man, published in
1844, {26} Charles Dickens was induced to contribute a preface, from
which we select the following passages:—

    “I do not recommend it as a book of surpassing originality or
    transcendent merit . . . I do not claim to have discovered, in humble
    life, an extraordinary and brilliant genius.  I cannot charge mankind
    in general with having entered into a conspiracy to neglect the
    author of this volume, or to leave him pining in obscurity.  I have
    not the smallest intention of comparing him with Burns, the
    exciseman; or with Bloomfield, the shoemaker; or with Ebenezer
    Elliott, the worker in iron; or with James Hogg, the shepherd.  I see
    no reason to be hot, or bitter, or lowering, or sarcastic, or
    indignant, or fierce, or sour, or sharp, in his behalf.  I have
    nothing to rail at; nothing to exalt; nothing to flourish in the face
    of a stony-hearted world; and have but a very short and simple story
    to tell.

    “John Overs is, as is set forth in the title-page, a working man.  A
    man who earns his weekly wages (or who did when he was strong enough)
    by plying of the hammer, plane, and chisel.  He became known to me
    nearly six years ago, when he sent me some songs, appropriate to the
    different months of the year, with a letter, stating under what
    circumstances they had been composed, and in what manner he was
    occupied from morning until night.  I was just then relinquishing the
    conduct of a monthly periodical, {27} or I would gladly have
    published them.  As it was, I returned them to him, with a private
    expression of the interest I felt in such productions.  They were
    afterwards accepted, with much readiness and consideration, by Mr.
    Tait, of Edinburgh, and were printed in his Magazine.

    “Finding, after some further correspondence with my new friend, that
    his authorship had not ceased with his verses, but that he still
    occupied his leisure moments in writing, I took occasion to
    remonstrate with him seriously against his pursuing that course.  I
    told him, his persistence in his new calling made me uneasy; and I
    advised him to abandon it as strongly as I could.

    “In answer to this dissuasion of mine, he wrote me as manly and
    straightforward, but withal, as modest a letter, as ever I read in my
    life.  He explained to me how limited his ambition was: soaring no
    higher than the establishment of his wife in some light business, and
    the better education of his children.  He set before me the
    difference between his evening and holiday studies, such as they
    were; and the having no better resource than an ale-house or a
    skittle-ground.  He told me how every small addition to his stock of
    knowledge made his Sunday walks the pleasanter, the hedge-flowers
    sweeter, everything more full of interest and meaning to him.

                                  * * * * *

    “He is very ill; the faintest shadow of the man who came into my
    little study for the first time, half-a-dozen years ago, after the
    correspondence I have mentioned.  He has been very ill for a long
    period; his disease is a severe and wasting affection of the lungs,
    which has incapacitated him these many months for every kind of
    occupation.  ‘If I could only do a hard day’s work,’ he said to me
    the other day, ‘how happy I should be.’

    “Having these papers by him, amongst others, he bethought himself
    that, if he could get a bookseller to purchase them for publication
    in a volume, they would enable him to make some temporary provision
    for his sick wife, and very young family.  We talked the matter over
    together, and that it might be easier of accomplishment I promised
    him that I would write an introduction to his book.

    “I would to Heaven that I could do him better service!  I would to
    Heaven it were an introduction to a long, and vigorous, and useful
    life!  But Hope will not trim his lamp the less brightly for him and
    his, because of this impulse to their struggling fortunes, and trust
    me, reader, they deserve her light, and need it sorely.

    “He has inscribed this book to one {28} whose skill will help him,
    under Providence, in all that human skill can do. {29}  To one who
    never could have recognised in any potentate on earth a higher claim
    to constant kindness and attention than he has recognized in him. * *
    * *”

The beautiful series of Christmas stories, with which during the last
fifteen years the public have become so familiar, was commenced by Mr.
Dickens in December, 1843, with _A Christmas Carol in Prose_, illustrated
by John Leech.  What Jeffrey, what Sydney Smith, what Jerrold, what
Thackeray thought and wrote about this little story is well known.
“Blessings on your kind heart, my dear Dickens,” wrote Jeffrey, “and may
it always be as full and as light as it is kind, and a fountain of
goodness to all within reach of its beatings.  We are all charmed with
your Carol; chiefly, I think, for the genuine goodness which breathes all
through it, and is the true inspiring angel by which its genius has been
awakened.  The whole scene of the Cratchits is like the dream of a
beneficent angel, in spite of its broad reality, and little Tiny Tim in
life and in death almost as sweet and touching as Nelly.  You may be sure
you have done more good, and not only fastened more kindly feelings, but
prompted more positive acts of benevolence by this little publication
than can be traced to all the pulpits and confessionals since Christmas,
1842.”

    “It is the work,” writes Thackeray, {30} “of the master of all the
    English humourists now alive; the young man who came and took his
    place calmly at the head of the whole tribe, and who has kept it.
    Think of all we owe Mr. Dickens since those half-dozen years, the
    store of happy hours that he has made us pass, the kindly and
    pleasant companions whom he has introduced to us; the harmless
    laughter, the generous wit, the frank, manly, human love which he has
    taught us to feel!  Every month of those years has brought us some
    kind token from this delightful genius.  His books may have lost in
    art, perhaps, but could we afford to wait?  Since the days when the
    _Spectator_ was produced by a man of kindred mind and temper, what
    books have appeared that have taken so affectionate a hold of the
    English public as these?

    “Who can listen to objections regarding such a book as this?  It
    seems to me a national benefit, and to every man or woman who reads
    it a personal kindness.  The last two people I heard speak of it were
    women; neither knew the other, or the author, and both said by way of
    criticism, ‘God bless him!’ * * * As for Tiny Tim, there is a certain
    passage in the book regarding that young gentleman about which a man
    should hardly venture to speak in print or in public, any more than
    he would of any other affections of his private heart.  There is not
    a reader in England but that little creature will be a bond of union
    between the author and him; and he will say of Charles Dickens, as
    the woman just now, ‘God bless him!’  What a feeling is this for a
    writer to be able to inspire, and what a reward to reap.”

During six years did Mr. Dickens continue to issue at Christmas these
little volumes: “A Christmas Carol” (December, 1843); “The Chimes”
(December, 1844); “The Cricket on the Hearth” (December, 1845); “The
Battle of Life” (December, 1846); “The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s
Bargain” (December, 1848). {31}

Christmas stories are now grown so much the fashion that, whenever the
season of holly and mistletoe comes round they greet us at every turn,
forcing themselves upon our notice through every species of whimsical and
enticing embellishment.  Why is it that, amidst such a satiety of
novelties we turn again and again, with an interest as keen as ever, to a
perusal of the pages where little Dot Peerybingle chirps as brightly as
the cricket on her own hearth, where Trotty Veck listens to the voices of
the chimes, striving to comprehend what it is they say to him, and where
old Scrooge’s heart is softened by his ghostly visitants?  It is because
Charles Dickens has made such a study of that human nature we all possess
in common that he is able to strike with a practised hand upon the chords
of our hearts, and draw forth harmony that vibrates from soul to soul.

It is not, however, our intention here, to follow Mr. Dickens through the
whole of his long and honourable literary career, far less to undertake
the superfluous task of extolling the numerous and brilliant list of
writings that have followed each other in rapid and welcome succession
from his indefatigable pen.  All that remains for us to do now, is to
notice briefly two very grave charges that have been made against the
general tendency of his writings, and to bring forward some evidence in
refutation of them.

These two charges are, 1, a wilful perversion of facts in describing the
political and social condition of our time; 2, an irreverence for and
ridicule of sacred things and persons, which (say the objectors) infuses
a subtle poison through the whole of his works, and unsettles the belief
of the young.  We shall take these charges one at a time.

In some of his later novels, such as “Bleak House,” and “Little Dorrit,”
in which he has endeavoured to grapple with the great social and
political problems of the age, certain critics have accused him of
exaggeration, and even of a wilful perversion of facts.  Against their
opinion we are pleased to be able to set that of so good an authority as
the author of “Modern Painters:”—

    “The essential value and truth of Dickens’s writings,” says Mr.
    Ruskin, “have been unwisely lost sight of by many thoughtful persons,
    merely because he presents his truth with some colour of caricature.
    Unwisely, because Dickens’s caricature, though often gross, is never
    mistaken.  Allowing for his manner of telling them, the things he
    tells us are always true.  I wish that he could think it right to
    limit his brilliant exaggeration to works written only for public
    amusement; and when he takes up a subject of high national
    importance, such as that which he handled in ‘Hard Times,’ that he
    would use severer and more accurate analysis.  The usefulness of that
    work (to my mind, in several respects the greatest he has written,)
    is with many persons seriously diminished, because Mr. Bounderby is a
    dramatic monster, instead of a characteristic example of a worldly
    master; and Stephen Blackpool a dramatic perfection, instead of a
    characteristic example of an honest workman.  But let us not lose the
    use of Dickens’s wit and insight because he chooses to speak in a
    circle of stage fire.  He is entirely right in his main drift and
    purpose in every book he has written; and all of them, but especially
    ‘Hard Times,’ should be studied with close and earnest care by
    persons interested in social questions.  They will find much that is
    partial, and, because partial, apparently unjust; but if they examine
    all the evidence on the other side, which Dickens seems to overlook,
    it will appear, after all their trouble, that his view was the
    finally right one, grossly and sharply told.” {33}

Secondly, Mr. Dickens is accused of an irreverence for, and unseemly
ridicule of, sacred things.  Any attentive reader of Dickens will have
observed that he is not much in the habit of quoting from, or alluding to
the writings of others; but that when he does quote or allude, it is in
the great majority of cases from or to the Holy Scriptures. {34}
Occasionally we come upon a reference to Shakespeare; now and then we
meet with one from Swift, or Scott, or Byron; but these occur so seldom,
that it may be said, once for all, that the source from which Mr. Dickens
is usually in the habit of making quotations, is the Bible only.  It is
very interesting to find that so many of Mr. Dickens’s characters are
represented as being in the habit either of regularly reading and
studying the Bible, or of having it read to them by some one else.

“I ain’t much of a hand at reading writing-hand,” said Betty Higden,
“though I can read my Bible and most print.”  Little Nell was in the
constant habit of taking the Bible with her to read while in her quiet
and lonely retreat in the old church, after all her long and weary
wanderings were past.  In the happy time which Oliver Twist spent with
Mrs. Maylie and Rose, he used to read, in the evenings, a chapter or two
from the Bible, which he had been studying all the week, and in the
performance of which duty he felt more proud and pleased than if he had
been the clergyman himself.  There was Sarah, in the “Sketches by Boz,”
who regularly read the Bible to her old mistress; and in the touching
sketch of “Our Next-door Neighbour” in the same book, we find the mother
of the sick boy engaged in reading the Bible to him when the visitor
called and interrupted her.  This incident reminds us of the poor
Chancery prisoner in the Fleet, who, when on his death-bed calmly waiting
the release which would set him free for ever, had the Bible read to him
by an old man in a cobbler’s apron.  One of David Copperfield’s earliest
recollections was of a certain Sunday evening, when his mother read aloud
to him and Peggotty the story of Our Saviour raising Lazarus from the
dead.  So deep an impression did the story make upon the boy, taken in
connexion with all that had been lately told him about his father’s
funeral, that he requested to be carried up to his bed-room, from the
windows of which he could see the quiet churchyard with the dead all
lying in their graves at rest below the solemn moon.  Pip, too, in “Great
Expectations,” was not only in the habit of reading the Bible to the
convict under sentence of death, but of praying with him as well; and
Esther Summerson tells us how she used to come downstairs every evening
at nine o’clock to read the Bible to her god-mother.

Not a few of the dwellings into which Mr. Dickens conducts us in the
course of some of his best-known stories, have their walls decorated with
prints illustrative of familiar scenes from sacred history.  Thus when
Martin Chuzzlewit went away from Pecksniff’s, and was ten good miles on
his way to London, he stopped to breakfast in the parlour of a little
roadside inn, on the walls of which were two or three highly-coloured
pictures, representing the Wise Men at the Manger, and the Prodigal Son
returning to his Father.  On the walls of Peggotty’s charming
boat-cottage there were prints, showing the Sacrifice of Isaac, and the
Casting of Daniel into the Den of Lions.  When Arthur Clennam came home
after his long absence in the East, he found the Plagues of Egypt still
hanging, framed and glazed, on the same old place in his mother’s
parlour.  And who has forgotten the fireplace in old Scrooge’s house,
which “was paved all round with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to
illustrate the Scriptures?”

Here are a few comparisons.  Mr. Larry, in bestowing a bachelor’s
blessing on Miss Cross, before “somebody” came to claim her for his own,
“held the fair face from him to look at the well-remembered expression on
the forehead, and then laid the bright golden hair against his little
brown wig, with a genuine tenderness and delicacy which, if such things
be old-fashioned, were as old as Adam.”  As old as Adam here means so
long ago as Adam’s time; while Methuselah suggests great age.  Thus Miss
Jellyby relieved her mind to Miss Summerson on the subject of Mr. Quale,
in the following energetic language:—“If he were to come with his great
shining, lumpy forehead, night after night, till he was as old as
Methuselah, I wouldn’t have anything to say to him.”  And Mr. Filer, in
his eminently practical remarks on the lamentable ignorance of political
economy on the part of working people in connexion with marriage,
observed to Alderman Cute that a man may live to be as old as Methuselah,
and may labour all his life for the benefit of such people; but there
could be no more hope of persuading them that they had no right or
business to be married, than he could hope to persuade them that they had
no earthly right or business to be born.  Miss Betsy Trotwood declared to
Mr. Dick that the natural consequence of David Copperfield’s mother
having married a murderer—or a man with a name very like it—was to set
the boy a-prowling and wandering about the country, “like Cain before he
was grown up.”  Joe Gargery’s journeyman, on going away from his work at
night, used to slouch out of the shop like Cain, or the Wandering Jew, as
if he had no idea where he was going, and had no intention of ever coming
back.  Describing the state of “the thriving City of Eden,” when Martin
and Mark arrived there, the author of “Martin Chuzzlewit” says—“The
waters of the Deluge might have left it but a week before, so choked with
slime and matted growth was the hideous swamp which bore that name.”  The
Deluge suggests Noah’s ark.  The following reference to it is from
“Little Dorrit,” descriptive of the gradual approach of darkness up among
the highest ridges of the Alps:—“The ascending night came up the
mountains like a rising water.  When at last it rose to the walls of the
convent of the great St. Bernard, it was as if that weather-beaten
structure were another ark, and floated on the shadowy waves.”  Here is
something from the Tower of Babel:—“Looming heavy in the black wet night,
the tall chimneys of the Coketown factories rose high into the air, and
looked as if they were so many competing towers of Babel.”  When Mortimer
Lightwood inquired of Charley Hexam, with reference to the body of the
man found in the river, whether or not any means had been employed to
restore life, he received this reply:—“You wouldn’t ask, sir, if you knew
his state.  Pharoah’s multitude that were drowned in the Red Sea ain’t
more beyond restoring to life.”  The boy added, further, “that if Lazarus
were only half as far gone, that was the greatest of all the miracles.”
When the Scotch surgeon was called in professionally to see Mr. Krook’s
unfortunate lodger, the Scotch tongue pronounced him to be “just as dead
as Chairy.”  Job’s poverty is not likely to be forgotten among the
comparisons.  No, Mr. Mell’s mother was as poor as Job.  Nor Samson’s
strength: Dot’s mother had so many infallible recipes for the
preservation of the baby’s health, that had they all been administered,
the said baby must have been done for, though strong as an infant Samson.
Nor Goliath’s importance: John Chivery’s chivalrous feeling towards all
that belonged to Little Dorrit, made him so very respectable, in spite of
his small stature, his weak legs, and his genuine poetic temperament,
that a Goliath might have sat in his place demanding less consideration
at Arthur Clennam’s hands.  Nor Solomon’s wisdom: Trotty Veck was so
delighted when the child kissed him that he couldn’t help saying, “She’s
as sensible as Solomon.”  Miss Wade having said farewell to her
fellow-travellers in the public room of the hotel at Marseilles, sought
her own apartment.  As she passed along the gallery, she heard an angry
sound of muttering and sobbing.  A door stood open, and, looking into the
room, she saw therein Pet’s attendant, the maid with the curious name of
Tattycoram.  Miss Wade asked what was the matter, and received in reply a
few short and angry words in a deeply-injured, ill-used tone.  Then again
commenced the sobs and tears and pinching, tearing fingers, making
altogether such a scene as if she were being “rent by the demons of old.”
Let us close these comparisons by quoting another from the same book,
“Little Dorrit,” descriptive of the evening stillness after a day of
terrific glare and heat at Marseilles:—“The sun went down in a red,
green, golden glory; the stars came out in the heavens, and the
fire-flies mimicked them in the lower air, as men may feebly imitate the
goodness of a better order of beings; the long, dusty roads and the
interminable plains were in repose, and _so deep a hush was on the sea_,
_that it scarcely whispered of the time when it shall give up its dead_.”

Looking over the familiar pages of “Nicholas Nickleby,” our eye lights
upon a passage, almost at opening, which refers to God’s goodness and
mercy.  As Nickleby’s father lay on his death-bed, he embraced his wife
and children, and then “solemnly commended them to One who never deserted
the widow or her fatherless children.”  Towards the close of Esther
Summerson’s narrative in “Bleak House” we read these touching, tender
words regarding Ada’s baby:—“The little child who was to have done so
much was born before the turf was planted on its father’s grave.  It was
a boy; and I, my husband, and my guardian gave him his father’s name.
The help that my dear counted on did come to her; though it came in the
Eternal Wisdom for another purpose.  Though to bless and restore his
mother, not his father, was the errand of this baby, its power was mighty
to do it.  When I saw the strength of the weak little hand, and how its
touch could heal my darling’s heart and raise up hopes within her, I felt
a new sense of the goodness and tenderness of God.”  After these
illustrations of the great lessons of the goodness of God, and that there
is mercy in even our hardest trials, we come next upon one which teaches
the duty of patience and resignation to God’s will.  Mrs. Maylie observed
to Oliver Twist, with reference to the dangerous illness of Rose, that
she had seen and experienced enough to “know that it is not always the
youngest and best who are spared to those that love them; but this should
give us comfort in our sorrow, for Heaven is just, and such things teach
us impressively that there is a brighter world than this, and that the
passage to it is speedy.  God’s will be done!”

Our Saviour’s life and teaching afford so many interesting illustrations
to Charles Dickens that our great difficulty, in the limited space to
which we are now confined, is to make a good selection.  Here is a sketch
entitled “A Christmas Tree,” from one of his reprinted pieces, which
contains this simple and beautiful summary of our Lord’s life on
earth:—“The waits are playing, and they break my childish sleep!  What
images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on
the Christmas Tree?  Known before all the others, keeping far apart from
all the others, they gather round my little bed.  An angel speaking to a
group of shepherds in a field; some travellers, with eyes uplifted,
following a star; a Baby in a manger; a Child in a spacious temple
talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face,
raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back
the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking
through the opened roof of a chamber where He sits, and letting down a
sick person on a bed with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the
water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude;
again, with a child upon His knee, and other children round; again,
restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf,
health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant;
again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness
coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice heard,
‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”

These passages, which are only a few out of a very much longer list that
might be made, will be sufficient, we trust, to show how much our
greatest living novelist is in the habit of going to the sacred narrative
for illustrations to many of his most touching incidents, and how
reverent and respectful always is the spirit in which every such
illustration is employed.  To think of Charles Dickens’s writings as
containing no religious teaching, is to do them a great injustice.

                                * * * * *

The first of Mr. Dickens’s famous public Readings was given at
Birmingham, during the Christmas week of 1853.  At a meeting held on
Monday, January 10, 1853, in the theatre of the Philosophical
Institution, “for the purpose of considering the desirableness of
establishing in Birmingham a Scientific and Literary Society upon a
comprehensive plan, having for its object the diffusion,” &c., Mr. Arthur
Ryland read a letter from Mr. Charles Dickens, received by him the day
after the Literary and Artistic Banquet, containing an offer to visit
Birmingham next Christmas, and read his Christmas Carol, in the Town
Hall, for the benefit of the proposed Institution, with the proviso,
however, that as many as possible of the working class should be admitted
free.  “It would,” said Mr. Dickens, “take about two hours, with a pause
of ten minutes half-way through.  There would be some novelty in the
thing, as I have never done it in public, though I have in private, and
(if I may say so) with a great effect on the hearers.  I was so
inexpressibly gratified last night by the warmth and enthusiasm of my
Birmingham friends, that I feel half ashamed this morning of so poor an
offer.  But as I had decided on making it to you before I came down
yesterday, I propose it nevertheless.”

The readings—three in number—came off with great _éclat_ during the last
week of the year, and brought in a net sum of £400 to the Institute.  Mr.
Dickens continued from this time to give similar readings, for charitable
purposes, both in the provinces and in London; but it was not till five
years later (1858) that he began to read on his own account.

As we are writing, that long series of readings—continued through sixteen
years, in both hemispheres—is drawing to a close, and the voice and
figure of Charles Dickens, that have grown so familiar to us all, will
dwell henceforth in the memory alone, but in one of its most honoured
niches.

We ought not to omit to mention what any reader may well surmise, that
Charles Dickens is inimitable in enlivening correspondence or table-talk
with humorous anecdote, appropriate to the occasion.  We subjoin a few
specimens.  The first is from one of his letters to Douglas Jerrold, and
is dated Paris, 14th February, 1847:—“I am somehow reminded of a good
story I heard the other night from a man who was a witness of it, and an
actor in it.  At a certain German town last autumn there was a tremendous
_furore_ about Jenny Lind, who, after driving the whole place mad, left
it, on her travels, early one morning.  The moment her carriage was
outside the gates, a party of rampant students, who had escorted it,
rushed back to the inn, demanded to be shown to her bedroom, swept like a
whirlwind upstairs into the room indicated to them, tore up the sheets,
and wore them in strips as decorations.  An hour or two afterwards a bald
old gentleman, of amiable appearance, an Englishman, who was staying in
the hotel, came to breakfast at the _table d’hôte_, and was observed to
be much disturbed in his mind, and to show great terror whenever a
student came near him.  At last he said, in a low voice, to some people
who were near him at the table, ‘You are English gentlemen, I observe.
Most extraordinary people, these Germans!  Students, as a body, raving
mad, gentlemen!’  ‘Oh, no!’ said somebody else; ‘excitable, but very good
fellows, and very sensible.’  ‘By God, sir!’ returned the old gentleman,
still more disturbed, ‘then there’s something political in it, and I am a
marked man.  I went out for a little walk this morning after shaving, and
while I was gone’—he fell into a terrible perspiration as he told
it—‘they burst into my bedroom, tore up my sheets, and are now patrolling
the town in all directions with bits of ’em in their button-holes!’  I
needn’t wind up by adding that they had gone to the wrong chamber.”

Dickens now and then administers a little gentle rebuke to affectation,
in a pleasant but unmistakable manner.  Here is an instance of how he
silenced a bilious young writer, who was inveighing against the world in
a very “forcible feeble manner.”  During a pause in this philippic
against the human race, Dickens said across the table, in the most
self-congratulatory of tones:—“I say—what a lucky thing it is you and I
don’t belong to it?  It reminds me,” continued the author of Pickwick,
“of the two men, who on a _raised_ scaffold were awaiting the final
delicate attention of the hangman; the notice of one was aroused by
observing that a bull had got into the crowd of spectators, and was
busily employed in tossing one here, and another there; whereupon one of
the criminals said to the other—‘I say, Bill, how _lucky it is_ for us
that we _are up here_.’”

                                * * * * *

Here is a humorous and graphic account which he sent to the leading
newspaper of his sensations during the shock of earthquake that was felt
all over England in October, 1863.  It is doubly interesting, as giving a
description of his country-house at Gad’s-hill, near Rochester:—

    “I was awakened by a violent swaying of my bedstead from side to
    side, accompanied by a singular heaving motion.  It was exactly as if
    some great beast had been crouching asleep under the bedstead, and
    were now shaking itself and trying to rise.  The time by my watch was
    twenty minutes past three, and I suppose the shock to have lasted
    nearly a minute.  The bedstead, a large iron one, standing nearly
    north and south, appeared to me to be the only piece of furniture in
    the room that was heavily shaken.  Neither the doors nor the windows
    rattled, though they rattle enough in windy weather, this house
    standing alone, on high ground, in the neighbourhood of two great
    rivers.  There was no noise.  The air was very still, and much warmer
    than it had been in the earlier part of the night.  Although the
    previous afternoon had been wet, the glass had not fallen.  I had
    mentioned my surprise at its standing near the letter ‘i’ in ‘Fair,’
    and having a tendency to rise.”

                                * * * * *

But the thing which, above all others, has characterised Dickens
throughout his career, that has made his world-wide fame, and rendered
his name a household word, is his broad, genial sympathy with life in all
its phases, and with those most who are manfully toiling towards a better
day.  To this “enthusiasm of humanity” John Forster has alluded in the
Dedicatory Sonnet to Charles Dickens, prefixed to his “Life of
Goldsmith,” (March, 1848), when he says:—

          “Come with me and behold,
    O friend with heart as gentle for distress,
    As resolute with wise true thoughts to bind
    The happiest to the unhappiest of our kind,
    That there is fiercer crowded misery
    In garret-toil and London loneliness
    Than in cruel islands ’mid the far-off sea.”

The great heart of Dickens has beat in unison with his age and with the
people, and his name will be dear to all English-speaking races long
after this little island of ours, the old home, shall have become a
summer resort—a curiosity to visit—for the children of the great
Anglo-Saxon Republics that are now growing up in the New and the Southern
Worlds.

_December_, 1869.



I.
EDINBURGH, JUNE 25, 1841.


[At a public dinner, given in honour of Mr. Dickens, and presided over by
the late Professor Wilson, the Chairman having proposed his health in a
long and eloquent speech, Mr. Dickens returned thanks as follows:—]

IF I felt your warm and generous welcome less, I should be better able to
thank you.  If I could have listened as you have listened to the glowing
language of your distinguished Chairman, and if I could have heard as you
heard the “thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” which he has
uttered, it would have gone hard but I should have caught some portion of
his enthusiasm, and kindled at his example.  But every word which fell
from his lips, and every demonstration of sympathy and approbation with
which you received his eloquent expressions, renders me unable to respond
to his kindness, and leaves me at last all heart and no lips, yearning to
respond as I would do to your cordial greeting—possessing, heaven knows,
the will, and desiring only to find the way.

The way to your good opinion, favour, and support, has been to me very
pleasing—a path strewn with flowers and cheered with sunshine.  I feel as
if I stood amongst old friends, whom I had intimately known and highly
valued.  I feel as if the deaths of the fictitious creatures, in which
you have been kind enough to express an interest, had endeared us to each
other as real afflictions deepen friendships in actual life; I feel as if
they had been real persons, whose fortunes we had pursued together in
inseparable connexion, and that I had never known them apart from you.

It is a difficult thing for a man to speak of himself or of his works.
But perhaps on this occasion I may, without impropriety, venture to say a
word on the spirit in which mine were conceived.  I felt an earnest and
humble desire, and shall do till I die, to increase the stock of harmless
cheerfulness.  I felt that the world was not utterly to be despised; that
it was worthy of living in for many reasons.  I was anxious to find, as
the Professor has said, if I could, in evil things, that soul of goodness
which the Creator has put in them.  I was anxious to show that virtue may
be found in the bye-ways of the world, that it is not incompatible with
poverty and even with rags, and to keep steadily through life the motto,
expressed in the burning words of your Northern poet—

    “The rank is but the guinea stamp,
    The man’s the gowd for a’ that.”

And in following this track, where could I have better assurance that I
was right, or where could I have stronger assurance to cheer me on than
in your kindness on this to me memorable night?

I am anxious and glad to have an opportunity of saying a word in
reference to one incident in which I am happy to know you were
interested, and still more happy to know, though it may sound
paradoxical, that you were disappointed—I mean the death of the little
heroine.  When I first conceived the idea of conducting that simple story
to its termination, I determined rigidly to adhere to it, and never to
forsake the end I had in view.  Not untried in the school of affliction,
in the death of those we love, I thought what a good thing it would be if
in my little work of pleasant amusement I could substitute a garland of
fresh flowers for the sculptured horrors which disgrace the tomb.  If I
have put into my book anything which can fill the young mind with better
thoughts of death, or soften the grief of older hearts; if I have written
one word which can afford pleasure or consolation to old or young in time
of trial, I shall consider it as something achieved—something which I
shall be glad to look back upon in after life.  Therefore I kept to my
purpose, notwithstanding that towards the conclusion of the story, I
daily received letters of remonstrance, especially from the ladies.  God
bless them for their tender mercies!  The Professor was quite right when
he said that I had not reached to an adequate delineation of their
virtues; and I fear that I must go on blotting their characters in
endeavouring to reach the ideal in my mind.  These letters were, however,
combined with others from the sterner sex, and some of them were not
altogether free from personal invective.  But, notwithstanding, I kept to
my purpose, and I am happy to know that many of those who at first
condemned me are now foremost in their approbation.

If I have made a mistake in detaining you with this little incident, I do
not regret having done so; for your kindness has given me such a
confidence in you, that the fault is yours and not mine.  I come once
more to thank you, and here I am in a difficulty again.  The distinction
you have conferred upon me is one which I never hoped for, and of which I
never dared to dream.  That it is one which I shall never forget, and
that while I live I shall be proud of its remembrance, you must well
know.  I believe I shall never hear the name of this capital of Scotland
without a thrill of gratitude and pleasure.  I shall love while I have
life her people, her hills, and her houses, and even the very stones of
her streets.  And if in the future works which may lie before me you
should discern—God grant you may!—a brighter spirit and a clearer wit, I
pray you to refer it back to this night, and point to that as a Scottish
passage for evermore.  I thank you again and again, with the energy of a
thousand thanks in each one, and I drink to you with a heart as full as
my glass, and far easier emptied, I do assure you.

                                * * * * *

Later in the evening, in proposing the health of Professor Wilson, Mr.
Dickens said:—

I HAVE the honour to be entrusted with a toast, the very mention of which
will recommend itself to you, I know, as one possessing no ordinary
claims to your sympathy and approbation, and the proposing of which is as
congenial to my wishes and feelings as its acceptance must be to yours.
It is the health of our Chairman, and coupled with his name I have to
propose the literature of Scotland—a literature which he has done much to
render famous through the world, and of which he has been for many
years—as I hope and believe he will be for many more—a most brilliant and
distinguished ornament.  Who can revert to the literature of the land of
Scott and of Burns without having directly in his mind, as inseparable
from the subject and foremost in the picture, that old man of might, with
his lion heart and sceptred crutch—Christopher North.  I am glad to
remember the time when I believed him to be a real, actual, veritable old
gentleman, that might be seen any day hobbling along the High Street with
the most brilliant eye—but that is no fiction—and the greyest hair in all
the world—who wrote not because he cared to write, not because he cared
for the wonder and admiration of his fellow-men, but who wrote because he
could not help it, because there was always springing up in his mind a
clear and sparkling stream of poetry which must have vent, and like the
glittering fountain in the fairy tale, draw what you might, was ever at
the full, and never languished even by a single drop or bubble.  I had so
figured him in my mind, and when I saw the Professor two days ago,
striding along the Parliament House, I was disposed to take it as a
personal offence—I was vexed to see him look so hearty.  I drooped to see
twenty Christophers in one.  I began to think that Scottish life was all
light and no shadows, and I began to doubt that beautiful book to which I
have turned again and again, always to find new beauties and fresh
sources of interest.

                                * * * * *

In proposing the memory of the late Sir David Wilkie, Mr. Dickens said:—

LESS fortunate than the two gentlemen who have preceded me, it is
confided to me to mention a name which cannot be pronounced without
sorrow, a name in which Scotland had a great triumph, and which England
delighted to honour.  One of the gifted of the earth has passed away, as
it were, yesterday; one who was devoted to his art, and his art was
nature—I mean David Wilkie. {53}  He was one who made the cottage hearth
a graceful thing—of whom it might truly be said that he found “books in
the running brooks,” and who has left in all he did some breathing of the
air which stirs the heather.  But however desirous to enlarge on his
genius as an artist, I would rather speak of him now as a friend who has
gone from amongst us.  There is his deserted studio—the empty easel lying
idly by—the unfinished picture with its face turned to the wall, and
there is that bereaved sister, who loved him with an affection which
death cannot quench.  He has left a name in fame clear as the bright sky;
he has filled our minds with memories pure as the blue waves which roll
over him.  Let us hope that she who more than all others mourns his loss,
may learn to reflect that he died in the fulness of his time, before age
or sickness had dimmed his powers—and that she may yet associate with
feelings as calm and pleasant as we do now the memory of Wilkie.



II.
JANUARY, 1842.


[In presenting Captain Hewett, of the _Britannia_, {55} with a service of
plate on behalf of the passengers, Mr. Dickens addressed him as follows:]

CAPTAIN HEWETT,—I am very proud and happy to have been selected as the
instrument of conveying to you the heartfelt thanks of my
fellow-passengers on board the ship entrusted to your charge, and of
entreating your acceptance of this trifling present.  The ingenious
artists who work in silver do not always, I find, keep their promises,
even in Boston.  I regret that, instead of two goblets, which there
should be here, there is, at present, only one.  The deficiency, however,
will soon be supplied; and, when it is, our little testimonial will be,
so far, complete.

You are a sailor, Captain Hewett, in the truest sense of the word; and
the devoted admiration of the ladies, God bless them, is a sailor’s first
boast.  I need not enlarge upon the honour they have done you, I am sure,
by their presence here.  Judging of you by myself, I am certain that the
recollection of their beautiful faces will cheer your lonely vigils upon
the ocean for a long time to come.

In all time to come, and in all your voyages upon the sea, I hope you
will have a thought for those who wish to live in your memory by the help
of these trifles.  As they will often connect you with the pleasure of
those homes and fire sides from which they once wandered, and which, but
for you, they might never have regained, so they trust that you will
sometimes associate them with your hours of festive enjoyment; and, that,
when you drink from these cups, you will feel that the draught is
commended to your lips by friends whose best wishes you have; and who
earnestly and truly hope for your success, happiness, and prosperity, in
all the undertakings of your life.



III.
FEBRUARY 1842.


[At dinner given to Mr. Dickens by the young men of Boston.  The company
consisted of about two hundred, among whom were George Bancroft,
Washington Allston, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.  The toast of “Health,
happiness, and a hearty welcome to Charles Dickens,” having been proposed
by the chairman, Mr. Quincy, and received with great applause, Mr.
Dickens responded with the following address:]

GENTLEMEN,—If you had given this splendid entertainment to anyone else in
the whole wide world—if I were to-night to exult in the triumph of my
dearest friend—if I stood here upon my defence, to repel any unjust
attack—to appeal as a stranger to your generosity and kindness as the
freest people on the earth—I could, putting some restraint upon myself,
stand among you as self-possessed and unmoved as I should be alone in my
own room in England.  But when I have the echoes of your cordial greeting
ringing in my ears; when I see your kind faces beaming a welcome so warm
and earnest as never man had—I feel, it is my nature, so vanquished and
subdued, that I have hardly fortitude enough to thank you.  If your
President, instead of pouring forth that delightful mixture of humour and
pathos which you have just heard, had been but a caustic, ill-natured
man—if he had only been a dull one—if I could only have doubted or
distrusted him or you, I should have had my wits at my fingers’ ends,
and, using them, could have held you at arm’s-length.  But you have given
me no such opportunity; you take advantage of me in the tenderest point;
you give me no chance of playing at company, or holding you at a
distance, but flock about me like a host of brothers, and make this place
like home.  Indeed, gentlemen, indeed, if it be natural and allowable for
each of us, on his own hearth, to express his thoughts in the most homely
fashion, and to appear in his plainest garb, I have a fair claim upon you
to let me do so to-night, for you have made my home an Aladdin’s Palace.
You fold so tenderly within your breasts that common household lamp in
which my feeble fire is all enshrined, and at which my flickering torch
is lighted up, that straight my household gods take wing, and are
transported there.  And whereas it is written of that fairy structure
that it never moved without two shocks—one when it rose, and one when it
settled down—I can say of mine that, however sharp a tug it took to pluck
it from its native ground, it struck at once an easy, and a deep and
lasting root into this soil; and loved it as its own.  I can say more of
it, and say with truth, that long before it moved, or had a chance of
moving, its master—perhaps from some secret sympathy between its timbers,
and a certain stately tree that has its being hereabout, and spreads its
broad branches far and wide—dreamed by day and night, for years, of
setting foot upon this shore, and breathing this pure air.  And, trust
me, gentlemen, that, if I had wandered here, unknowing and unknown, I
would—if I know my own heart—have come with all my sympathies clustering
as richly about this land and people—with all my sense of justice as
keenly alive to their high claims on every man who loves God’s image—with
all my energies as fully bent on judging for myself, and speaking out,
and telling in my sphere the truth, as I do now, when you rain down your
welcomes on my head.

Our President has alluded to those writings which have been my occupation
for some years past; and you have received his allusions in a manner
which assures me—if I needed any such assurance—that we are old friends
in the spirit, and have been in close communion for a long time.

It is not easy for a man to speak of his own books.  I daresay that few
persons have been more interested in mine than I, and if it be a general
principle in nature that a lover’s love is blind, and that a mother’s
love is blind, I believe it may be said of an author’s attachment to the
creatures of his own imagination, that it is a perfect model of constancy
and devotion, and is the blindest of all.  But the objects and purposes I
have had in view are very plain and simple, and may be easily told.  I
have always had, and always shall have, an earnest and true desire to
contribute, as far as in me lies, to the common stock of healthful
cheerfulness and enjoyment.  I have always had, and always shall have, an
invincible repugnance to that mole-eyed philosophy which loves the
darkness, and winks and scowls in the light.  I believe that Virtue shows
quite as well in rags and patches, as she does in purple and fine linen.
I believe that she and every beautiful object in external nature, claims
some sympathy in the breast of the poorest man who breaks his scanty loaf
of daily bread.  I believe that she goes barefoot as well as shod.  I
believe that she dwells rather oftener in alleys and by-ways than she
does in courts and palaces, and that it is good, and pleasant, and
profitable to track her out, and follow her.  I believe that to lay one’s
hand upon some of those rejected ones whom the world has too long
forgotten, and too often misused, and to say to the proudest and most
thoughtless—“These creatures have the same elements and capacities of
goodness as yourselves, they are moulded in the same form, and made of
the same clay; and though ten times worse than you, may, in having
retained anything of their original nature amidst the trials and
distresses of their condition, be really ten times better;” I believe
that to do this is to pursue a worthy and not useless vocation.
Gentlemen, that you think so too, your fervent greeting sufficiently
assures me.  That this feeling is alive in the Old World as well as in
the New, no man should know better than I—I, who have found such wide and
ready sympathy in my own dear land.  That in expressing it, we are but
treading in the steps of those great master-spirits who have gone before,
we know by reference to all the bright examples in our literature, from
Shakespeare downward.

There is one other point connected with the labours (if I may call them
so) that you hold in such generous esteem, to which I cannot help
adverting.  I cannot help expressing the delight, the more than happiness
it was to me to find so strong an interest awakened on this side of the
water, in favour of that little heroine of mine, to whom your president
has made allusion, who died in her youth.  I had letters about that
child, in England, from the dwellers in log-houses among the morasses,
and swamps, and densest forests, and deep solitudes of the far west.
Many a sturdy hand, hard with the axe and spade, and browned by the
summer’s sun, has taken up the pen, and written to me a little history of
domestic joy or sorrow, always coupled, I am proud to say, with something
of interest in that little tale, or some comfort or happiness derived
from it, and my correspondent has always addressed me, not as a writer of
books for sale, resident some four or five thousand miles away, but as a
friend to whom he might freely impart the joys and sorrows of his own
fireside.  Many a mother—I could reckon them now by dozens, not by
units—has done the like, and has told me how she lost such a child at
such a time, and where she lay buried, and how good she was, and how, in
this or that respect, she resembles Nell.  I do assure you that no
circumstance of my life has given me one hundredth part of the
gratification I have derived from this source.  I was wavering at the
time whether or not to wind up my Clock, {61} and come and see this
country, and this decided me.  I felt as if it were a positive duty, as
if I were bound to pack up my clothes, and come and see my friends; and
even now I have such an odd sensation in connexion with these things,
that you have no chance of spoiling me.  I feel as though we were
agreeing—as indeed we are, if we substitute for fictitious characters the
classes from which they are drawn—about third parties, in whom we had a
common interest.  At every new act of kindness on your part, I say to
myself “That’s for Oliver; I should not wonder if that was meant for
Smike; I have no doubt that is intended for Nell;” and so I become a much
happier, certainly, but a more sober and retiring man than ever I was
before.

Gentlemen, talking of my friends in America, brings me back, naturally
and of course, to you.  Coming back to you, and being thereby reminded of
the pleasure we have in store in hearing the gentlemen who sit about me,
I arrive by the easiest, though not by the shortest course in the world,
at the end of what I have to say.  But before I sit down, there is one
topic on which I am desirous to lay particular stress.  It has, or should
have, a strong interest for us all, since to its literature every country
must look for one great means of refining and improving its people, and
one great source of national pride and honour.  You have in America great
writers—great writers—who will live in all time, and are as familiar to
our lips as household words.  Deriving (as they all do in a greater or
less degree, in their several walks) their inspiration from the
stupendous country that gave them birth, they diffuse a better knowledge
of it, and a higher love for it, all over the civilized world.  I take
leave to say, in the presence of some of those gentleman, that I hope the
time is not far distant when they, in America, will receive of right some
substantial profit and return in England from their labours; and when we,
in England, shall receive some substantial profit and return in America
for ours.  Pray do not misunderstand me.  Securing to myself from day to
day the means of an honourable subsistence, I would rather have the
affectionate regard of my fellow men, than I would have heaps and mines
of gold.  But the two things do not seem to me incompatible.  They cannot
be, for nothing good is incompatible with justice; there must be an
international arrangement in this respect: England has done her part, and
I am confident that the time is not far distant when America will do
hers.  It becomes the character of a great country; _firstly_, because it
is justice; _secondly_, because without it you never can have, and keep,
a literature of your own.

Gentlemen, I thank you with feelings of gratitude, such as are not often
awakened, and can never be expressed.  As I understand it to be the
pleasant custom here to finish with a toast, I would beg to give you:
AMERICA AND ENGLAND, and may they never have any division but the
Atlantic between them.



IV.
FEBRUARY 7, 1842.


GENTLEMEN,—To say that I thank you for the earnest manner in which you
have drunk the toast just now so eloquently proposed to you—to say that I
give you back your kind wishes and good feelings with more than compound
interest; and that I feel how dumb and powerless the best acknowledgments
would be beside such genial hospitality as yours, is nothing.  To say
that in this winter season, flowers have sprung up in every footstep’s
length of the path which has brought me here; that no country ever smiled
more pleasantly than yours has smiled on me, and that I have rarely
looked upon a brighter summer prospect than that which lies before me
now, {63} is nothing.

But it is something to be no stranger in a strange place—to feel, sitting
at a board for the first time, the ease and affection of an old guest,
and to be at once on such intimate terms with the family as to have a
homely, genuine interest in its every member—it is, I say, something to
be in this novel and happy frame of mind.  And, as it is of your
creation, and owes its being to you, I have no reluctance in urging it as
a reason why, in addressing you, I should not so much consult the form
and fashion of my speech, as I should employ that universal language of
the heart, which you, and such as you, best teach, and best can
understand.  Gentlemen, in that universal language—common to you in
America, and to us in England, as that younger mother-tongue, which, by
the means of, and through the happy union of our two great countries,
shall be spoken ages hence, by land and sea, over the wide surface of the
globe—I thank you.

I had occasion to say the other night in Boston, as I have more than once
had occasion to remark before, that it is not easy for an author to speak
of his own books.  If the task be a difficult one at any time, its
difficulty, certainly, is not diminished when a frequent recurrence to
the same theme has left one nothing new to say.  Still, I feel that, in a
company like this, and especially after what has been said by the
President, that I ought not to pass lightly over those labours of love,
which, if they had no other merit, have been the happy means of bringing
us together.

It has been often observed, that you cannot judge of an author’s personal
character from his writings.  It may be that you cannot.  I think it very
likely, for many reasons, that you cannot.  But, at least, a reader will
rise from the perusal of a book with some defined and tangible idea of
the writer’s moral creed and broad purposes, if he has any at all; and it
is probable enough that he may like to have this idea confirmed from the
author’s lips, or dissipated by his explanation.  Gentlemen, my moral
creed—which is a very wide and comprehensive one, and includes all sects
and parties—is very easily summed up.  I have faith, and I wish to
diffuse faith in the existence—yes, of beautiful things, even in those
conditions of society, which are so degenerate, degraded, and forlorn,
that, at first sight, it would seem as though they could not be described
but by a strange and terrible reversal of the words of Scripture, “God
said, Let there be light, and there was none.”  I take it that we are
born, and that we hold our sympathies, hopes, and energies, in trust for
the many, and not for the few.  That we cannot hold in too strong a light
of disgust and contempt, before the view of others, all meanness,
falsehood, cruelty, and oppression, of every grade and kind.  Above all,
that nothing is high, because it is in a high place; and that nothing is
low, because it is in a low one.  This is the lesson taught us in the
great book of nature.  This is the lesson which may be read, alike in the
bright track of the stars, and in the dusty course of the poorest thing
that drags its tiny length upon the ground.  This is the lesson ever
uppermost in the thoughts of that inspired man, who tells us that there
are

    “Tongues in the trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

Gentlemen, keeping these objects steadily before me, I am at no loss to
refer your favour and your generous hospitality back to the right source.
While I know, on the one hand, that if, instead of being what it is, this
were a land of tyranny and wrong, I should care very little for your
smiles or frowns, so I am sure upon the other, that if, instead of being
what I am, I were the greatest genius that ever trod the earth, and had
diverted myself for the oppression and degradation of mankind, you would
despise and reject me.  I hope you will, whenever, through such means, I
give you the opportunity.  Trust me, that, whenever you give me the like
occasion, I will return the compliment with interest.

Gentlemen, as I have no secrets from you, in the spirit of confidence you
have engendered between us, and as I have made a kind of compact with
myself that I never will, while I remain in America, omit an opportunity
of referring to a topic in which I and all others of my class on both
sides of the water are equally interested—equally interested, there is no
difference between us, I would beg leave to whisper in your ear two
words: _International Copyright_.  I use them in no sordid sense, believe
me, and those who know me best, best know that.  For myself, I would
rather that my children, coming after me, trudged in the mud, and knew by
the general feeling of society that their father was beloved, and had
been of some use, than I would have them ride in their carriages, and
know by their banker’s books that he was rich.  But I do not see, I
confess, why one should be obliged to make the choice, or why fame,
besides playing that delightful _reveil_ for which she is so justly
celebrated, should not blow out of her trumpet a few notes of a different
kind from those with which she has hitherto contented herself.

It was well observed the other night by a beautiful speaker, whose words
went to the heart of every man who heard him, that, if there had existed
any law in this respect, Scott might not have sunk beneath the mighty
pressure on his brain, but might have lived to add new creatures of his
fancy to the crowd which swarm about you in your summer walks, and gather
round your winter evening hearths.

As I listened to his words, there came back, fresh upon me, that touching
scene in the great man’s life, when he lay upon his couch, surrounded by
his family, and listened, for the last time, to the rippling of the river
he had so well loved, over its stony bed.  I pictured him to myself,
faint, wan, dying, crushed both in mind and body by his honourable
struggle, and hovering round him the phantoms of his own
imagination—Waverley, Ravenswood, Jeanie Deans, Rob Roy, Caleb
Balderstone, Dominie Sampson—all the familiar throng—with cavaliers, and
Puritans, and Highland chiefs innumerable overflowing the chamber, and
fading away in the dim distance beyond.  I pictured them, fresh from
traversing the world, and hanging down their heads in shame and sorrow,
that, from all those lands into which they had carried gladness,
instruction, and delight for millions, they brought him not one friendly
hand to help to raise him from that sad, sad bed.  No, nor brought him
from that land in which his own language was spoken, and in every house
and hut of which his own books were read in his own tongue, one grateful
dollar-piece to buy a garland for his grave.  Oh! if every man who goes
from here, as many do, to look upon that tomb in Dryburgh Abbey, would
but remember this, and bring the recollection home!

Gentlemen, I thank you again, and once again, and many times to that.
You have given me a new reason for remembering this day, which is already
one of mark in my calendar, it being my birthday; and you have given
those who are nearest and dearest to me a new reason for recollecting it
with pride and interest.  Heaven knows that, although I should grow ever
so gray, I shall need nothing to remind me of this epoch in my life.  But
I am glad to think that from this time you are inseparably connected with
every recurrence of this day; and, that on its periodical return, I shall
always, in imagination, have the unfading pleasure of entertaining you as
my guests, in return for the gratification you have afforded me to-night.



V.
NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 18, 1842.


[At a dinner presided over by Washington Irving, when nearly eight
hundred of the most distinguished citizens of New York were present,
“Charles Dickens, the Literary Guest of the Nation,” having been
“proferred as a sentiment” by the Chairman, Mr. Dickens rose, and spoke
as follows:]

GENTLEMEN,—I don’t know how to thank you—I really don’t know how.  You
would naturally suppose that my former experience would have given me
this power, and that the difficulties in my way would have been
diminished; but I assure you the fact is exactly the reverse, and I have
completely baulked the ancient proverb that “a rolling stone gathers no
moss;” and in my progress to this city I have collected such a weight of
obligations and acknowledgment—I have picked up such an enormous mass of
fresh moss at every point, and was so struck by the brilliant scenes of
Monday night, that I thought I could never by any possibility grow any
bigger.  I have made, continually, new accumulations to such an extent
that I am compelled to stand still, and can roll no more!

Gentlemen, we learn from the authorities, that, when fairy stories, or
balls, or rolls of thread, stopped of their own accord—as I do not—it
presaged some great catastrophe near at hand. The precedent holds good in
this case.  When I have remembered the short time I have before me to
spend in this land of mighty interests, and the poor opportunity I can at
best have of acquiring a knowledge of, and forming an acquaintance with
it, I have felt it almost a duty to decline the honours you so generously
heap upon me, and pass more quietly among you.  For Argus himself, though
he had but one mouth for his hundred eyes, would have found the reception
of a public entertainment once a-week too much for his greatest activity;
and, as I would lose no scrap of the rich instruction and the delightful
knowledge which meet me on every hand, (and already I have gleaned a
great deal from your hospitals and common jails),—I have resolved to take
up my staff, and go my way rejoicing, and for the future to shake hands
with America, not at parties but at home; and, therefore, gentlemen, I
say to-night, with a full heart, and an honest purpose, and grateful
feelings, that I bear, and shall ever bear, a deep sense of your kind,
your affectionate and your noble greeting, which it is utterly impossible
to convey in words.  No European sky without, and no cheerful home or
well-warmed room within shall ever shut out this land from my vision.  I
shall often hear your words of welcome in my quiet room, and oftenest
when most quiet; and shall see your faces in the blazing fire.  If I
should live to grow old, the scenes of this and other evenings will shine
as brightly to my dull eyes fifty years hence as now; and the honours you
bestow upon me shall be well remembered and paid back in my undying love,
and honest endeavours for the good of my race.

Gentlemen, one other word with reference to this first person singular,
and then I shall close.  I came here in an open, honest, and confiding
spirit, if ever man did, and because I felt a deep sympathy in your land;
had I felt otherwise, I should have kept away.  As I came here, and am
here, without the least admixture of one-hundredth part of one grain of
base alloy, without one feeling of unworthy reference to self in any
respect, I claim, in regard to the past, for the last time, my right in
reason, in truth, and in justice, to approach, as I have done on two
former occasions, a question of literary interest.  I claim that justice
be done; and I prefer this claim as one who has a right to speak and be
heard.  I have only to add that I shall be as true to you as you have
been to me.  I recognize in your enthusiastic approval of the creatures
of my fancy, your enlightened care for the happiness of the many, your
tender regard for the afflicted, your sympathy for the downcast, your
plans for correcting and improving the bad, and for encouraging the good;
and to advance these great objects shall be, to the end of my life, my
earnest endeavour, to the extent of my humble ability.  Having said thus
much with reference to myself, I shall have the pleasure of saying a few
words with reference to somebody else.

There is in this city a gentleman who, at the reception of one of my
books—I well remember it was the Old Curiosity Shop—wrote to me in
England a letter so generous, so affectionate, and so manly, that if I
had written the book under every circumstance of disappointment, of
discouragement, and difficulty, instead of the reverse, I should have
found in the receipt of that letter my best and most happy reward.  I
answered him, {70} and he answered me, and so we kept shaking hands
autographically, as if no ocean rolled between us.  I came here to this
city eager to see him, and [_laying his hand it upon Irving’s shoulder_]
here he sits!  I need not tell you how happy and delighted I am to see
him here to-night in this capacity.

Washington Irving!  Why, gentlemen, I don’t go upstairs to bed two nights
out of the seven—as a very creditable witness near at hand can testify—I
say I do not go to bed two nights out of the seven without taking
Washington Irving under my arm; and, when I don’t take him, I take his
own brother, Oliver Goldsmith.  Washington Irving!  Why, of whom but him
was I thinking the other day when I came up by the Hog’s Back, the Frying
Pan, Hell Gate, and all these places?  Why, when, not long ago, I visited
Shakespeare’s birthplace, and went beneath the roof where he first saw
light, whose name but _his_ was pointed out to me upon the wall?
Washington Irving—Diedrich Knickerbocker—Geoffrey Crayon—why, where can
you go that they have not been there before?  Is there an English farm—is
there an English stream, an English city, or an English country-seat,
where they have not been?  Is there no Bracebridge Hall in existence?
Has it no ancient shades or quiet streets?

In bygone times, when Irving left that Hall, he left sitting in an old
oak chair, in a small parlour of the Boar’s Head, a little man with a red
nose, and an oilskin hat.  When I came away he was sitting there
still!—not a man _like_ him, but the same man—with the nose of immortal
redness and the hat of an undying glaze!  Crayon, while there, was on
terms of intimacy with a certain radical fellow, who used to go about,
with a hatful of newspapers, wofully out at elbows, and with a coat of
great antiquity.  Why, gentlemen, I know that man—Tibbles the elder, and
he has not changed a hair; and, when I came away, he charged me to give
his best respects to Washington Irving!

Leaving the town and the rustic life of England—forgetting this man, if
we can—putting out of mind the country church-yard and the broken
heart—let us cross the water again, and ask who has associated himself
most closely with the Italian peasantry and the bandits of the Pyrenees?
When the traveller enters his little chamber beyond the Alps—listening to
the dim echoes of the long passages and spacious corridors—damp, and
gloomy, and cold—as he hears the tempest beating with fury against his
window, and gazes at the curtains, dark, and heavy, and covered with
mould—and when all the ghost-stories that ever were told come up before
him—amid all his thick-coming fancies, whom does he think of?  Washington
Irving.

Go farther still: go to the Moorish Mountains, sparkling full in the
moonlight—go among the water-carriers and the village gossips, living
still as in days of old—and who has travelled among them before you, and
peopled the Alhambra and made eloquent its shadows?  Who awakes there a
voice from every hill and in every cavern, and bids legends, which for
centuries have slept a dreamless sleep, or watched unwinkingly, start up
and pass before you in all their life and glory?

But leaving this again, who embarked with Columbus upon his gallant ship,
traversed with him the dark and mighty ocean, leaped upon the land and
planted there the flag of Spain, but this same man, now sitting by my
side?  And being here at home again, who is a more fit companion for
money-diggers? and what pen but his has made Rip Van Winkle, playing at
nine-pins on that thundering afternoon, as much part and parcel of the
Catskill Mountains as any tree or crag that they can boast?

But these are topics familiar from my boyhood, and which I am apt to
pursue; and lest I should be tempted now to talk too long about them, I
will, in conclusion, give you a sentiment, most appropriate, I am sure,
in the presence of such writers as Bryant, Halleck, and—but I suppose I
must not mention the ladies here—

                        THE LITERATURE OF AMERICA:

She well knows how to do honour to her own literature and to that of
other lands, when she chooses Washington Irving for her representative in
the country of Cervantes.



VI.
MANCHESTER, OCTOBER 5, 1843.


[This address was delivered at a soirée of the members of the Manchester,
Athenæum, at which Mr. Dickens presided.  Among the other speakers on the
occasion were Mr. Cobden and Mr. Disraeli.]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—I am sure I need scarcely tell you that I am very
proud and happy; and that I take it as a great distinction to be asked to
come amongst you on an occasion such as this, when, even with the
brilliant and beautiful spectacle which I see before me, I can hail it as
the most brilliant and beautiful circumstance of all, that we assemble
together here, even here, upon neutral ground, where we have no more
knowledge of party difficulties, or public animosities between side and
side, or between man and man, than if we were a public meeting in the
commonwealth of Utopia.

Ladies and gentlemen, upon this, and upon a hundred other grounds, this
assembly is not less interesting to me, believe me—although, personally,
almost a stranger here—than it is interesting to you; and I take it, that
it is not of greater importance to all of us than it is to every man who
has learned to know that he has an interest in the moral and social
elevation, the harmless relaxation, the peace, happiness, and
improvement, of the community at large.  Not even those who saw the first
foundation of your Athenæum laid, and watched its progress, as I know
they did, almost as tenderly as if it were the progress of a living
creature, until it reared its beautiful front, an honour to the town—not
even they, nor even you who, within its walls, have tasted its
usefulness, and put it to the proof, have greater reason, I am persuaded,
to exult in its establishment, or to hope that it may thrive and prosper,
than scores of thousands at a distance, who—whether consciously or
unconsciously, matters not—have, in the principle of its success and
bright example, a deep and personal concern.

It well becomes, particularly well becomes, this enterprising town, this
little world of labour, that she should stand out foremost in the
foremost rank in such a cause.  It well becomes her, that, among her
numerous and noble public institutions, she should have a splendid temple
sacred to the education and improvement of a large class of those who, in
their various useful stations, assist in the production of our wealth,
and in rendering her name famous through the world.  I think it is grand
to know, that, while her factories re-echo with the clanking of
stupendous engines, and the whirl and rattle of machinery, the immortal
mechanism of God’s own hand, the mind, is not forgotten in the din and
uproar, but is lodged and tended in a palace of its own.  That it is a
structure deeply fixed and rooted in the public spirit of this place, and
built to last, I have no more doubt, judging from the spectacle I see
before me, and from what I know of its brief history, than I have of the
reality of these walls that hem us in, and the pillars that spring up
about us.

You are perfectly well aware, I have no doubt, that the Athenæum was
projected at a time when commerce was in a vigorous and flourishing
condition, and when those classes of society to which it particularly
addresses itself were fully employed, and in the receipt of regular
incomes.  A season of depression almost without a parallel ensued, and
large numbers of young men employed in warehouses and offices suddenly
found their occupation gone, and themselves reduced to very straitened
and penurious circumstances.  This altered state of things led, as I am
told, to the compulsory withdrawal of many of the members, to a
proportionate decrease in the expected funds, and to the incurrence of a
debt of £3,000.  By the very great zeal and energy of all concerned, and
by the liberality of those to whom they applied for help, that debt is
now in rapid course of being discharged.  A little more of the same
indefatigable exertion on the one hand, and a little more of the same
community of feeling upon the other, and there will be no such thing; the
figures will be blotted out for good and all, and, from that time, the
Athenæum may be said to belong to you, and to your heirs for ever.

But, ladies and gentlemen, at all times, now in its most thriving, and in
its least flourishing condition—here, with its cheerful rooms, its
pleasant and instructive lectures, its improving library of 6,000
volumes, its classes for the study of the foreign languages, elocution,
music; its opportunities of discussion and debate, of healthful bodily
exercise, and, though last not least—for by this I set great store, as a
very novel and excellent provision—its opportunities of blameless,
rational enjoyment, here it is, open to every youth and man in this great
town, accessible to every bee in this vast hive, who, for all these
benefits, and the inestimable ends to which they lead, can set aside one
sixpence weekly.  I do look upon the reduction of the subscription, and
upon the fact that the number of members has considerably more than
doubled within the last twelve months, as strides in the path of the very
best civilization, and chapters of rich promise in the history of
mankind.

I do not know whether, at this time of day, and with such a prospect
before us, we need trouble ourselves very much to rake up the ashes of
the dead-and-gone objections that were wont to be urged by men of all
parties against institutions such as this, whose interests we are met to
promote; but their philosophy was always to be summed up in the unmeaning
application of one short sentence.  How often have we heard from a large
class of men wise in their generation, who would really seem to be born
and bred for no other purpose than to pass into currency counterfeit and
mischievous scraps of wisdom, as it is the sole pursuit of some other
criminals to utter base coin—how often have we heard from them, as an
all-convincing argument, that “a little learning is a dangerous thing?”
Why, a little hanging was considered a very dangerous thing, according to
the same authorities, with this difference, that, because a little
hanging was dangerous, we had a great deal of it; and, because a little
learning was dangerous, we were to have none at all.  Why, when I hear
such cruel absurdities gravely reiterated, I do sometimes begin to doubt
whether the parrots of society are not more pernicious to its interests
than its birds of prey.  I should be glad to hear such people’s estimate
of the comparative danger of “a little learning” and a vast amount of
ignorance; I should be glad to know which they consider the most prolific
parent of misery and crime.  Descending a little lower in the social
scale, I should be glad to assist them in their calculations, by carrying
them into certain gaols and nightly refuges I know of, where my own heart
dies within me, when I see thousands of immortal creatures condemned,
without alternative or choice, to tread, not what our great poet calls
the “primrose path” to the everlasting bonfire, but one of jaded flints
and stones, laid down by brutal ignorance, and held together, like the
solid rocks, by years of this most wicked axiom.

Would we know from any honourable body of merchants, upright in deed and
thought, whether they would rather have ignorant or enlightened persons
in their own employment?  Why, we have had their answer in this building;
we have it in this company; we have it emphatically given in the
munificent generosity of your own merchants of Manchester, of all sects
and kinds, when this establishment was first proposed.  But are the
advantages derivable by the people from institutions such as this, only
of a negative character?  If a little learning be an innocent thing, has
it no distinct, wholesome, and immediate influence upon the mind?  The
old doggerel rhyme, so often written in the beginning of books, says that

    “When house and lands are gone and spent,
    Then learning is most excellent;”

but I should be strongly disposed to reform the adage, and say that

    “Though house and lands be never got,
    Learning can give what they can_not_.”

And this I know, that the first unpurchasable blessing earned by every
man who makes an effort to improve himself in such a place as the
Athenæum, is self-respect—an inward dignity of character, which, once
acquired and righteously maintained, nothing—no, not the hardest
drudgery, nor the direst poverty—can vanquish.  Though he should find it
hard for a season even to keep the wolf—hunger—from his door, let him but
once have chased the dragon—ignorance—from his hearth, and self-respect
and hope are left him.  You could no more deprive him of those sustaining
qualities by loss or destruction of his worldly goods, than you could, by
plucking out his eyes, take from him an internal consciousness of the
bright glory of the sun.

The man who lives from day to day by the daily exercise in his sphere of
hands or head, and seeks to improve himself in such a place as the
Athenæum, acquires for himself that property of soul which has in all
times upheld struggling men of every degree, but self-made men especially
and always.  He secures to himself that faithful companion which, while
it has ever lent the light of its countenance to men of rank and eminence
who have deserved it, has ever shed its brightest consolations on men of
low estate and almost hopeless means.  It took its patient seat beside
Sir Walter Raleigh in his dungeon-study in the Tower; it laid its head
upon the block with More; but it did not disdain to watch the stars with
Ferguson, the shepherd’s boy; it walked the streets in mean attire with
Crabbe; it was a poor barber here in Lancashire with Arkwright; it was a
tallow-chandler’s son with Franklin; it worked at shoemaking with
Bloomfield in his garret; it followed the plough with Burns; and, high
above the noise of loom and hammer, it whispers courage even at this day
in ears I could name in Sheffield and in Manchester.

The more the man who improves his leisure in such a place learns, the
better, gentler, kinder man he must become.  When he knows how much great
minds have suffered for the truth in every age and time, and to what
dismal persecutions opinion has been exposed, he will become more
tolerant of other men’s belief in all matters, and will incline more
leniently to their sentiments when they chance to differ from his own.
Understanding that the relations between himself and his employers
involve a mutual duty and responsibility, he will discharge his part of
the implied contract cheerfully, satisfactorily, and honourably; for the
history of every useful life warns him to shape his course in that
direction.

The benefits he acquires in such a place are not of a selfish kind, but
extend themselves to his home, and to those whom it contains.  Something
of what he hears or reads within such walls can scarcely fail to become
at times a topic of discourse by his own fireside, nor can it ever fail
to lead to larger sympathies with man, and to a higher veneration for the
great Creator of all the wonders of this universe.  It appears to his
home and his homely feeling in other ways; for at certain times he
carries there his wife and daughter, or his sister, or, possibly, some
bright-eyed acquaintance of a more tender description.  Judging from what
I see before me, I think it is very likely; I am sure I would if I could.
He takes her there to enjoy a pleasant evening, to be gay and happy.
Sometimes it may possibly happen that he dates his tenderness from the
Athenæum.  I think that is a very excellent thing, too, and not the least
among the advantages of the institution.  In any case, I am sure the
number of bright eyes and beaming faces which grace this meeting to-night
by their presence, will never be among the least of its excellences in my
recollection.

Ladies and gentlemen, I shall not easily forget this scene, the pleasing
task your favour has devolved upon me, or the strong and inspiring
confirmation I have to-night, of all the hopes and reliances I have ever
placed upon institutions of this nature.  In the latter point of view—in
their bearing upon this latter point—I regard them as of great
importance, deeming that the more intelligent and reflective society in
the mass becomes, and the more readers there are, the more distinctly
writers of all kinds will be able to throw themselves upon the truthful
feeling of the people and the more honoured and the more useful
literature must be.  At the same time, I must confess that, if there had
been an Athenæum, and if the people had been readers, years ago, some
leaves of dedication in your library, of praise of patrons which was very
cheaply bought, very dearly sold, and very marketably haggled for by the
groat, would be blank leaves, and posterity might probably have lacked
the information that certain monsters of virtue ever had existence.  But
it is upon a much better and wider scale, let me say it once again—it is
in the effect of such institutions upon the great social system, and the
peace and happiness of mankind, that I delight to contemplate them; and,
in my heart, I am quite certain that long after your institution, and
others of the same nature, have crumbled into dust, the noble harvest of
the seed sown in them will shine out brightly in the wisdom, the mercy,
and the forbearance of another race.



VII.
LIVERPOOL, FEBRUARY 26, 1844.


[The following address was delivered at a soirée of the Liverpool
Mechanics’ Institution, at which Mr. Dickens presided.]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—It was rather hard of you to take away my breath
before I spoke a word; but I would not thank you, even if I could, for
the favour which has set me in this place, or for the generous kindness
which has greeted me so warmly,—because my first strong impulse still
would be, although I had that power, to lose sight of all personal
considerations in the high intent and meaning of this numerous
assemblage, in the contemplation of the noble objects to which this
building is devoted, of its brilliant and inspiring history, of that
rough, upward track, so bravely trodden, which it leaves behind, and that
bright path of steadily-increasing usefulness which lies stretched out
before it.  My first strong impulse still would be to exchange
congratulations with you, as the members of one united family, on the
thriving vigour of this strongest child of a strong race.  My first
strong impulse still would be, though everybody here had twice as many
hundreds of hands as there are hundreds of persons present, to shake them
in the spirit, everyone, always, allow me to say, excepting those hands
(and there are a few such here), which, with the constitutional infirmity
of human nature, I would rather salute in some more tender fashion.

When I first had the honour of communicating with your Committee with
reference to this celebration, I had some selfish hopes that the visit
proposed to me might turn out to be one of congratulation, or, at least,
of solicitous inquiry; for they who receive a visitor in any season of
distress are easily touched and moved by what he says, and I entertained
some confident expectation of making a mighty strong impression on you.
But, when I came to look over the printed documents which were forwarded
to me at the same time, and with which you are all tolerably familiar,
these anticipations very speedily vanished, and left me bereft of all
consolation, but the triumphant feeling to which I have referred.  For
what do I find, on looking over those brief chronicles of this swift
conquest over ignorance and prejudice, in which no blood has been poured
out, and no treaty signed but that one sacred compact which recognises
the just right of every man, whatever his belief, or however humble his
degree, to aspire, and to have some means of aspiring, to be a better and
a wiser man?  I find that, in 1825, certain misguided and turbulent
persons proposed to erect in Liverpool an unpopular, dangerous,
irreligious, and revolutionary establishment, called a Mechanics’
Institution; that, in 1835, Liverpool having, somehow or other, got on
pretty comfortably in the meantime, in spite of it, the first stone of a
new and spacious edifice was laid; that, in 1837, it was opened; that, it
was afterwards, at different periods, considerably enlarged; that, in
1844, conspicuous amongst the public beauties of a beautiful town, here
it stands triumphant, its enemies lived down, its former students
attesting, in their various useful callings and pursuits, the sound,
practical information it afforded them; its members numbering
considerably more than 3,000, and setting in rapidly for 6,000 at least;
its library comprehending 11,000 volumes, and daily sending forth its
hundreds of books into private homes; its staff of masters and officers,
amounting to half-a-hundred in themselves; its schools, conveying every
sort of instruction, high and low, adapted to the labour, means,
exigencies, and convenience of nearly every class and grade of persons.
I was here this morning, and in its spacious halls I found stores of the
wonders worked by nature in the air, in the forest, in the cavern, and in
the sea—stores of the surpassing engines devised by science for the
better knowledge of other worlds, and the greater happiness of
this—stores of those gentler works of art, which, though achieved in
perishable stone, by yet more perishable hands of dust, are in their
influence immortal.  With such means at their command, so well-directed,
so cheaply shared, and so extensively diffused, well may your Committee
say, as they have done in one of their Reports, that the success of this
establishment has far exceeded their most sanguine expectations.

But, ladies and gentlemen, as that same philosopher whose words they
quote, as Bacon tells us, instancing the wonderful effects of little
things and small beginnings, that the influence of the loadstone was
first discovered in particles of iron, and not in iron bars, so they may
lay it to their hearts, that when they combined together to form the
institution which has risen to this majestic height, they issued on a
field of enterprise, the glorious end of which they cannot even now
discern.  Every man who has felt the advantages of, or has received
improvement in this place, carries its benefits into the society in which
he moves, and puts them out at compound interest; and what the blessed
sum may be at last, no man can tell.  Ladies and gentlemen, with that
Christian prelate whose name appears on your list of honorary Members;
that good and liberal man who once addressed you within these walls, in a
spirit worthy of his calling, and of his High Master—I look forward from
this place, as from a tower, to the time when high and low, and rich and
poor, shall mutually assist, improve, and educate each other.

I feel, ladies and gentlemen, that this is not a place, with its 3,200
members, and at least 3,200 arguments in every one, to enter on any
advocacy of the principle of Mechanics’ Institutions, or to discuss the
subject with those who do or ever did object to them.  I should as soon
think of arguing the point with those untutored savages whose mode of
life you last year had the opportunity of witnessing; indeed, I am
strongly inclined to believe them by far the more rational class of the
two.  Moreover, if the institution itself be not a sufficient answer to
all such objections, then there is no such thing in fact or reason, human
or divine.  Neither will I venture to enter into those details of the
management of this place which struck me most on the perusal of its
papers; but I cannot help saying how much impressed and gratified I was,
as everybody must be who comes to their perusal for the first time, by
the extraordinary munificence with which this institution has been
endowed by certain gentlemen.

Amongst the peculiar features of management which made the greatest
impression on me, I may observe that that regulation which empowers
fathers, being annual subscribers of one guinea, to introduce their sons
who are minors; and masters, on payment of the astoundingly small sum of
five shillings annually, in like manner their apprentices, is not the
least valuable of its privileges; and, certainly not the one least
valuable to society.  And, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot say to you what
pleasure I derived from the perusal of an apparently excellent report in
your local papers of a meeting held here some short time since, in aid of
the formation of a girls’ school in connexion with this institution.
This is a new and striking chapter in the history of these institutions;
it does equal credit to the gallantry and policy of this, and disposes
one to say of it with a slight parody on the words of Burns, that

    “Its ’prentice han’ it tried on man,
    And then it _taught_ the lasses, O.”

That those who are our best teachers, and whose lessons are oftenest
heeded in after life, should be well taught themselves, is a proposition
few reasonable men will gainsay; and, certainly, to breed up good
husbands on the one hand, and good wives on the other, does appear as
reasonable and straightforward a plan as could well be devised for the
improvement of the next generation.

This, and what I see before me, naturally brings me to our fairer
members, in respect of whom I have no doubt you will agree with me, that
they ought to be admitted to the widest possible extent, and on the
lowest possible terms; and, ladies, let me venture to say to you, that
you never did a wiser thing in all your lives than when you turned your
favourable regard on such an establishment as this—for wherever the light
of knowledge is diffused, wherever the humanizing influence of the arts
and sciences extends itself, wherever there is the clearest perception of
what is beautiful, and good, and most redeeming, amid all the faults and
vices of mankind, there your character, your virtues, your graces, your
better nature, will be the best appreciated, and there the truest homage
will be proudly paid to you.  You show best, trust me, in the clearest
light; and every ray that falls upon you at your own firesides, from any
book or thought communicated within these walls, will raise you nearer to
the angels in the eyes you care for most.

I will not longer interpose myself, ladies and gentlemen, between you and
the pleasure we all anticipate in hearing other gentlemen, and in
enjoying those social pleasures with which it is a main part of the
wisdom of this society to adorn and relieve its graver pursuits.  We all
feel, I am sure, being here, that we are truly interested in the cause of
human improvement and rational education, and that we pledge ourselves,
everyone as far as in him lies, to extend the knowledge of the benefits
afforded in this place, and to bear honest witness in its favour.  To
those who yet remain without its walls, but have the means of purchasing
its advantages, we make appeal, and in a friendly and forbearing spirit
say, “Come in, and be convinced—

    ‘Who enters here, leaves _doubt_ behind.’”

If you, happily, have been well taught yourself, and are superior to its
advantages, so much the more should you make one in sympathy with those
who are below you.  Beneath this roof we breed the men who, in the time
to come, must be found working for good or evil, in every quarter of
society.  If mutual respect and forbearance among various classes be not
found here, where so many men are trained up in so many grades, to enter
on so many roads of life, dating their entry from one common
starting-point, as they are all approaching, by various paths, one common
end, where else can that great lesson be imbibed?  Differences of wealth,
of rank, of intellect, we know there must be, and we respect them; but we
would give to all the means of taking out one patent of nobility, and we
define it, in the words of a great living poet, who is one of us, and who
uses his great gifts, as he holds them in trust, for the general welfare—

    “Howe’er it be, it seems to me
    ’Tis only noble to be good:
    True hearts are more than coronets,
    And simple faith than Norman blood.” {88}



VIII.
BIRMINGHAM, FEBRUARY 28, 1844.


[The following speech was delivered at a Conversazione, in aid of the
funds of the Birmingham Polytechnic Institution, at which Mr Dickens
presided.]

YOU will think it very unwise, or very self-denying in me, in such an
assembly, in such a splendid scene, and after such a welcome, to
congratulate myself on having nothing new to say to you: but I do so,
notwithstanding.  To say nothing of places nearer home, I had the honour
of attending at Manchester, shortly before Christmas, and at Liverpool,
only the night before last, for a purpose similar to that which brings
you together this evening; and looking down a short perspective of
similar engagements, I feel gratification at the thought that I shall
very soon have nothing at all to say; in which case, I shall be content
to stake my reputation, like the Spectator of Addison, and that other
great periodical speaker, the Speaker of the House of Commons, on my
powers of listening.

This feeling, and the earnest reception I have met with, are not the only
reasons why I feel a genuine, cordial, and peculiar interest in this
night’s proceedings.  The Polytechnic Institution of Birmingham is in its
infancy—struggling into life under all those adverse and disadvantageous
circumstances which, to a greater or less extent, naturally beset all
infancy; but I would much rather connect myself with it now, however
humble, in its days of difficulty and of danger, than look back on its
origin when it may have become strong, and rich, and powerful.  I should
prefer an intimate association with it now, in its early days and
apparent struggles, to becoming its advocate and acquaintance, its
fair-weather friend, in its high and palmy days.  I would rather be able
to say I knew it in its swaddling-clothes, than in maturer age.  Its two
elder brothers have grown old and died: their chests were weak—about
their cradles nurses shook their heads, and gossips groaned; but the
present institution shot up, amidst the ruin of those which have fallen,
with an indomitable constitution, with vigorous and with steady pulse;
temperate, wise, and of good repute; and by perseverance it has become a
very giant.  Birmingham is, in my mind and in the minds of most men,
associated with many giants; and I no more believe that this young
institution will turn out sickly, dwarfish, or of stunted growth, than I
do that when the glass-slipper of my chairmanship shall fall off, and the
clock strike twelve to-night, this hall will be turned into a pumpkin.  I
found that strong belief upon the splendid array of grace and beauty by
which I am surrounded, and which, if it only had one-hundredth part of
the effect upon others it has upon me, could do anything it pleased with
anything and anybody.  I found my strong conviction, in the second place,
upon the public spirit of the town of Birmingham—upon the name and fame
of its capitalists and working men; upon the greatness and importance of
its merchants and manufacturers; upon its inventions, which are
constantly in progress; upon the skill and intelligence of its artisans,
which are daily developed; and the increasing knowledge of all portions
of the community.  All these reasons lead me to the conclusion that your
institution will advance—that it will and must progress, and that you
will not be content with lingering leagues behind.

I have another peculiar ground of satisfaction in connexion with the
object of this assembly; and it is, that the resolutions about to be
proposed do not contain in themselves anything of a sectarian or class
nature; that they do not confine themselves to any one single
institution, but assert the great and omnipotent principles of
comprehensive education everywhere and under every circumstance.  I beg
leave to say that I concur, heart and hand, in those principles, and will
do all in my power for their advancement; for I hold, in accordance with
the imperfect knowledge which I possess, that it is impossible for any
fabric of society to go on day after day, and year after year, from
father to son, and from grandfather to grandson, punishing men for not
engaging in the pursuit of virtue and for the practice of crime, without
showing them what virtue is, and where it best can be found—in justice,
religion, and truth.  The only reason that can possibly be adduced
against it is one founded on fiction—namely, the case where an obdurate
old geni, in the “Arabian Nights,” was bound upon taking the life of a
merchant, because he had struck out the eye of his invisible son.  I
recollect, likewise, a tale in the same book of charming fancies, which I
consider not inappropriate: it is a case where a powerful spirit has been
imprisoned at the bottom of the sea, in a casket with a leaden cover, and
the seal of Solomon upon it; there he had lain neglected for many
centuries, and during that period had made many different vows: at first,
that he would reward magnificently those who should release him; and at
last, that he would destroy them.  Now, there is a spirit of great
power—the Spirit of Ignorance—which is shut up in a vessel of leaden
composition, and sealed with the seal of many, many Solomons, and which
is effectually in the same position: release it in time, and it will
bless, restore, and reanimate society; but let it lie under the rolling
waves of years, and its blind revenge is sure to lead to certain
destruction.  That there are classes which, if rightly treated,
constitute strength, and if wrongly, weakness, I hold it impossible to
deny—by these classes I mean industrious, intelligent, and honourably
independent men, in whom the higher classes of Birmingham are especially
interested, and bound to afford them the means of instruction and
improvement, and to ameliorate their mental and moral condition.  Far be
it from me (and I wish to be most particularly understood) to attempt to
depreciate the excellent Church Instruction Societies, or the worthy,
sincere, and temperate zeal of those reverend gentlemen by whom they are
usually conducted; on the contrary, I believe that they have done, and
are doing, much good, and are deserving of high praise; but I hope that,
without offence, in a community such as Birmingham, there are other
objects not unworthy in the sight of heaven, and objects of recognised
utility which are worthy of support—principles which are practised in
word and deed in Polytechnic Institutions—principles for the diffusion of
which honest men of all degrees and of every creed might associate
together, on an independent footing and on neutral ground, and at a small
expense, for the better understanding and the greater consideration of
each other, and for the better cultivation of the happiness of all: for
it surely cannot be allowed that those who labour day by day, surrounded
by machinery, shall be permitted to degenerate into machines themselves,
but, on the contrary, they should assert their common origin from their
Creator, at the hands of those who are responsible and thinking men.
There is, indeed, no difference in the main with respect to the dangers
of ignorance and the advantages of knowledge between those who hold
different opinions—for it is to be observed, that those who are most
distrustful of the advantages of education, are always the first to
exclaim against the results of ignorance.  This fact was pleasantly
illustrated on the railway, as I came here.  In the same carriage with me
there sat an ancient gentleman (I feel no delicacy in alluding to him,
for I know that he is not in the room, having got out far short of
Birmingham), who expressed himself most mournfully as to the ruinous
effects and rapid spread of railways, and was most pathetic upon the
virtues of the slow-going old stage coaches.  Now I, entertaining some
little lingering kindness for the road, made shift to express my
concurrence with the old gentleman’s opinion, without any great
compromise of principle.  Well, we got on tolerably comfortably together,
and when the engine, with a frightful screech, dived into some dark
abyss, like some strange aquatic monster, the old gentleman said it would
never do, and I agreed with him.  When it parted from each successive
station, with a shock and a shriek as if it had had a double-tooth drawn,
the old gentleman shook his head, and I shook mine.  When he burst forth
against such new-fangled notions, and said no good could come of them, I
did not contest the point.  But I found that when the speed of the engine
was abated, or there was a prolonged stay at any station, up the old
gentleman was at arms, and his watch was instantly out of his pocket,
denouncing the slowness of our progress.  Now I could not help comparing
this old gentleman to that ingenious class of persons who are in the
constant habit of declaiming against the vices and crimes of society, and
at the same time are the first and foremost to assert that vice and crime
have not their common origin in ignorance and discontent.

The good work, however, in spite of all political and party differences,
has been well begun; we are all interested in it; it is advancing, and
cannot be stopped by any opposition, although it may be retarded in this
place or in that, by the indifference of the middle classes, with whom
its successful progress chiefly rests.  Of this success I cannot
entertain a doubt; for whenever the working classes have enjoyed an
opportunity of effectually rebutting accusations which falsehood or
thoughtlessness have brought against them, they always avail themselves
of it, and show themselves in their true characters; and it was this
which made the damage done to a single picture in the National Gallery of
London, by some poor lunatic or cripple, a mere matter of newspaper
notoriety and wonder for some few days.  This, then, establishes a fact
evident to the meanest comprehension—that any given number of thousands
of individuals, in the humblest walks of life in this country, can pass
through the national galleries or museums in seasons of holiday-making,
without damaging, in the slightest degree, those choice and valuable
collections.  I do not myself believe that the working classes ever were
the wanton or mischievous persons they were so often and so long
represented to be; but I rather incline to the opinion that some men take
it into their heads to lay it down as a matter of fact, without being
particular about the premises; and that the idle and the prejudiced, not
wishing to have the trouble of forming opinions for themselves, take it
for granted—until the people have an opportunity of disproving the stigma
and vindicating themselves before the world.

Now this assertion is well illustrated by what occurred respecting an
equestrian statue in the metropolis, with respect to which a legend
existed that the sculptor hanged himself, because he had neglected to put
a girth to the horse.  This story was currently believed for many years,
until it was inspected for altogether a different purpose, and it was
found to have had a girth all the time.

But surely if, as is stated, the people are ill-disposed and mischievous,
that is the best reason that can be offered for teaching them better; and
if they are not, surely that is a reason for giving them every
opportunity of vindicating their injured reputation; and no better
opportunity could possibly be afforded than that of associating together
voluntarily for such high purposes as it is proposed to carry out by the
establishment of the Birmingham Polytechnic Institution.  In any
case—nay, in every case—if we would reward honesty, if we would hold out
encouragement to good, if we would eradicate that which is evil or
correct that which is bad, education—comprehensive, liberal education—is
the one thing needful, and the only effective end.  If I might apply to
my purpose, and turn into plain prose some words of Hamlet—not with
reference to any government or party (for party being, for the most part,
an irrational sort of thing, has no connexion with the object we have in
view)—if I might apply those words to education as Hamlet applied them to
the skull of Yorick, I would say—“Now hie thee to the council-chamber,
and tell them, though they lay it on in sounding thoughts and learned
words an inch thick, to this complexion they must come at last.”

                                * * * * *

In answer to a vote of thanks, {95} Mr. Dickens said, at the close of the
meeting—

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now quite even—for every effect which I may
have made upon you, the compliment has been amply returned to me; but at
the same time I am as little disposed to say to you, ‘go and sin no
more,’ as I am to promise for myself that ‘I will never do so again.’  So
long as I can make you laugh and cry, I will; and you will readily
believe me, when I tell you, you cannot do too much on your parts to show
that we are still cordial and loving friends.  To you, ladies of the
Institution, I am deeply and especially indebted.  I sometimes [_pointing
to the word_ ‘_Boz_’ _in front of the great gallery_] think there is some
small quantity of magic in that very short name, and that it must consist
in its containing as many letters as the three graces, and they, every
one of them, being of your fair sisterhood.

A story is told of an eastern potentate of modern times, who, for an
eastern potentate, was a tolerably good man, sometimes bowstringing his
dependants indiscriminately in his moments of anger, but burying them in
great splendour in his moments of penitence, that whenever intelligence
was brought him of a new plot or turbulent conspiracy, his first inquiry
was, ‘Who is she?’ meaning that a woman was at the bottom.  Now, in my
small way, I differ from that potentate; for when there is any good to be
attained, the services of any ministering angel required, my first
inquiry is, ‘Where is she?’ and the answer invariably is, ‘Here.’  Proud
and happy am I indeed to thank you for your generosity—

    ‘A thousand times, good night;
    A thousand times the worse to want your light.’



IX.
GARDENERS AND GARDENING.
LONDON, JUNE 14, 1852.


[The Ninth Anniversary Dinner of the Gardeners’ Benevolent Institution
was held on the above date at the London Tavern.  The company numbered
more than 150.  The dessert was worthy of the occasion, and an admirable
effect was produced by a profuse display of natural flowers upon the
tables and in the decoration of the room.  The chair was taken by Mr.
Charles Dickens, who, in proposing the toast of the evening, spoke as
follows:—]

FOR three times three years the Gardeners’ Benevolent Institution has
been stimulated and encouraged by meetings such as this, and by three
times three cheers we will urge it onward in its prosperous career.
[_The cheers were warmly given_.]

Occupying the post I now do, I feel something like a counsel for the
plaintiff with nobody on the other side; but even if I had been placed in
that position ninety times nine, it would still be my duty to state a few
facts from the very short brief with which I have been provided.

This Institution was founded in the year 1838.  During the first five
years of its existence, it was not particularly robust, and seemed to
have been placed in rather a shaded position, receiving somewhat more
than its needful allowance of cold water.  In 1843 it was removed into a
more favourable position, and grafted on a nobler stock, and it has now
borne fruit, and become such a vigorous tree that at present thirty-five
old people daily sit within the shelter of its branches, and all the
pensioners upon the list have been veritable gardeners, or the wives of
gardeners.  It is managed by gardeners, and it has upon its books the
excellent rule that any gardener who has subscribed to it for fifteen
years, and conformed to the rules, may, if he will, be placed upon the
pensioners’ list without election, without canvass, without solicitation,
and as his independent right.  I lay very great stress upon that
honourable characteristic of the charity, because the main principle of
any such institution should be to help those who help themselves.  That
the Society’s pensioners do not become such so long as they are able to
support themselves, is evinced by the significant fact that the average
age of those now upon the list is seventy-seven; that they are not
wasteful is proved by the fact that the whole sum expended on their
relief is but £500 a-year; that the Institution does not restrict itself
to any narrow confines, is shown by the circumstance, that the pensioners
come from all parts of England, whilst all the expenses are paid from the
annual income and interest on stock, and therefore are not
disproportionate to its means.

Such is the Institution which appeals to you through me, as a most
unworthy advocate, for sympathy and support, an Institution which has for
its President a nobleman {98} whose whole possessions are remarkable for
taste and beauty, and whose gardener’s laurels are famous throughout the
world.  In the list of its vice-presidents there are the names of many
noblemen and gentlemen of great influence and station, and I have been
struck in glancing through the list of its supporters, with the sums
written against the names of the numerous nurserymen and seedsmen therein
comprised.  I hope the day will come when every gardener in England will
be a member of the charity.

The gardener particularly needs such a provision as this Institution
affords.  His gains are not great; he knows gold and silver more as being
of the colour of fruits and flowers than by its presence in his pockets;
he is subjected to that kind of labour which renders him peculiarly
liable to infirmity; and when old age comes upon him, the gardener is of
all men perhaps best able to appreciate the merits of such an
institution.

To all indeed, present and absent, who are descended from the first

                        “gardener Adam and his wife,”

the benefits of such a society are obvious.  In the culture of flowers
there cannot, by their very nature, be anything, solitary or exclusive.
The wind that blows over the cottager’s porch, sweeps also over the
grounds of the nobleman; and as the rain descends on the just and on the
unjust, so it communicates to all gardeners, both rich and poor, an
interchange of pleasure and enjoyment; and the gardener of the rich man,
in developing and enhancing a fruitful flavour or a delightful scent, is,
in some sort, the gardener of everybody else.

The love of gardening is associated with all conditions of men, and all
periods of time.  The scholar and the statesman, men of peace and men of
war, have agreed in all ages to delight in gardens.  The most ancient
people of the earth had gardens where there is now nothing but solitary
heaps of earth.  The poor man in crowded cities gardens still in jugs and
basins and bottles: in factories and workshops people garden; and even
the prisoner is found gardening in his lonely cell, after years and years
of solitary confinement.  Surely, then, the gardener who produces shapes
and objects so lovely and so comforting, should have some hold upon the
world’s remembrance when he himself becomes in need of comfort.

I will call upon you to drink “Prosperity to the Gardeners’ Benevolent
Institution,” and I beg to couple with that toast the name of its noble
President, the Duke of Devonshire, whose worth is written in all his
deeds, and who has communicated to his title and his riches a lustre
which no title and no riches could confer.

                                * * * * *

[Later in the evening, Mr. Dickens said:—]

My office has compelled me to burst into bloom so often that I could wish
there were a closer parallel between myself and the American aloe.  It is
particularly agreeable and appropriate to know that the parents of this
Institution are to be found in the seed and nursery trade; and the seed
having yielded such good fruit, and the nursery having produced such a
healthy child, I have the greatest pleasure in proposing the health of
the parents of the Institution.

                                * * * * *

[In proposing the health of the Treasurers, Mr. Dickens said:—]

My observation of the signboards of this country has taught me that its
conventional gardeners are always jolly, and always three in number.
Whether that conventionality has reference to the Three Graces, or to
those very significant letters, L., S., D., I do not know.  Those mystic
letters are, however, most important, and no society can have officers of
more importance than its Treasurers, nor can it possibly give them too
much to do.



X.
BIRMINGHAM, JANUARY 6, 1853.


[On Thursday, January 6, 1853, at the rooms of the Society of Artists, in
Temple Row, Birmingham, a large company assembled to witness the
presentation of a testimonial to Mr. Charles Dickens, consisting of a
silver-gilt salver and a diamond ring.  Mr. Dickens acknowledged the
tribute, and the address which accompanied it, in the following words:—]

GENTLEMEN, I feel it very difficult, I assure you, to tender my
acknowledgments to you, and through you, to those many friends of mine
whom you represent, for this honour and distinction which you have
conferred upon me.  I can most honestly assure you, that it is in the
power of no great representative of numbers of people to awaken such
happiness in me as is inspired by this token of goodwill and remembrance,
coming to me direct and fresh from the numbers themselves.  I am truly
sensible, gentlemen, that my friends who have united in this address are
partial in their kindness, and regard what I have done with too great
favour.  But I may say, with reference to one class—some members of
which, I presume, are included there—that I should in my own eyes be very
unworthy both of the generous gift and the generous feeling which has
been evinced, and this occasion, instead of pleasure, would give me
nothing but pain, if I was unable to assure them, and those who are in
front of this assembly, that what the working people have found me
towards them in my books, I am throughout my life.  Gentlemen, whenever I
have tried to hold up to admiration their fortitude, patience,
gentleness, the reasonableness of their nature, so accessible to
persuasion, and their extraordinary goodness one towards another, I have
done so because I have first genuinely felt that admiration myself, and
have been thoroughly imbued with the sentiment which I sought to
communicate to others.

Gentlemen, I accept this salver and this ring as far above all price to
me, as very valuable in themselves, and as beautiful specimens of the
workmanship of this town, with great emotion, I assure you, and with the
liveliest gratitude.  You remember something, I daresay, of the old
romantic stories of those charmed rings which would lose their brilliance
when their wearer was in danger, or would press his finger reproachfully
when he was going to do wrong.  In the very improbable event of my being
in the least danger of deserting the principles which have won me these
tokens, I am sure the diamond in that ring would assume a clouded aspect
to my faithless eye, and would, I know, squeeze a throb of pain out of my
treacherous heart.  But I have not the least misgiving on that point;
and, in this confident expectation, I shall remove my own old diamond
ring from my left hand, and in future wear the Birmingham ring on my
right, where its grasp will keep me in mind of the good friends I have
here, and in vivid remembrance of this happy hour.

Gentlemen, in conclusion, allow me to thank you and the Society to whom
these rooms belong, that the presentation has taken place in an
atmosphere so congenial to me, and in an apartment decorated with so many
beautiful works of art, among which I recognize before me the productions
of friends of mine, whose labours and triumphs will never be subjects of
indifference to me.  I thank those gentlemen for giving me the
opportunity of meeting them here on an occasion which has some connexion
with their own proceedings; and, though last not least, I tender my
acknowledgments to that charming presence, without which nothing
beautiful can be complete, and which is endearingly associated with rings
of a plainer description, and which, I must confess, awakens in my mind
at the present moment a feeling of regret that I am not in a condition to
make an offer of these testimonials.  I beg you, gentlemen, to commend me
very earnestly and gratefully to our absent friends, and to assure them
of my affectionate and heartfelt respect.

                                * * * * *

The company then adjourned to Dee’s Hotel, where a banquet took place, at
which about 220 persons were present, among whom were some of the most
distinguished of the Royal Academicians.  To the toast of “The Literature
of England,” Mr. Dickens responded as follows:—

Mr. Mayor and Gentlemen, I am happy, on behalf of many labourers in that
great field of literature to which you have pledged the toast, to thank
you for the tribute you have paid to it.  Such an honour, rendered by
acclamation in such a place as this, seems to me, if I may follow on the
same side as the venerable Archdeacon (Sandford) who lately addressed
you, and who has inspired me with a gratification I can never forget—such
an honour, gentlemen, rendered here, seems to me a two-sided illustration
of the position that literature holds in these latter and, of course,
“degenerate” days.  To the great compact phalanx of the people, by whose
industry, perseverance, and intelligence, and their result in
money-wealth, such places as Birmingham, and many others like it, have
arisen—to that great centre of support, that comprehensive experience,
and that beating heart, literature has turned happily from individual
patrons—sometimes munificent, often sordid, always few—and has there
found at once its highest purpose, its natural range of action, and its
best reward.  Therefore it is right also, as it seems to me, not only
that literature should receive honour here, but that it should render
honour, too, remembering that if it has undoubtedly done good to
Birmingham, Birmingham has undoubtedly done good to it.  From the shame
of the purchased dedication, from the scurrilous and dirty work of Grub
Street, from the dependent seat on sufferance at my Lord Duke’s table
to-day, and from the sponging-house or Marshalsea to-morrow—from that
venality which, by a fine moral retribution, has degraded statesmen even
to a greater extent than authors, because the statesman entertained a low
belief in the universality of corruption, while the author yielded only
to the dire necessity of his calling—from all such evils the people have
set literature free.  And my creed in the exercise of that profession is,
that literature cannot be too faithful to the people in return—cannot too
ardently advocate the cause of their advancement, happiness, and
prosperity.  I have heard it sometimes said—and what is worse, as
expressing something more cold-blooded, I have sometimes seen it
written—that literature has suffered by this change, that it has
degenerated by being made cheaper.  I have not found that to be the case:
nor do I believe that you have made the discovery either.  But let a good
book in these “bad” times be made accessible,—even upon an abstruse and
difficult subject, so that it be one of legitimate interest to
mankind,—and my life on it, it shall be extensively bought, read, and
well considered.

Why do I say this?  Because I believe there are in Birmingham at this
moment many working men infinitely better versed in Shakespeare and in
Milton than the average of fine gentlemen in the days of bought-and-sold
dedications and dear books.  I ask anyone to consider for himself who, at
this time, gives the greatest relative encouragement to the dissemination
of such useful publications as “Macaulay’s History,” “Layard’s
Researches,” “Tennyson’s Poems,” “The Duke of Wellington’s published
Despatches,” or the minutest truths (if any truth can be called minute)
discovered by the genius of a Herschel or a Faraday?  It is with all
these things as with the great music of Mendelssohn, or a lecture upon
art—if we had the good fortune to listen to one to-morrow—by my
distinguished friend the President of the Royal Academy.  However small
the audience, however contracted the circle in the water, in the first
instance, the people are nearer the wider range outside, and the Sister
Arts, while they instruct them, derive a wholesome advantage and
improvement from their ready sympathy and cordial response.  I may
instance the case of my friend Mr. Ward’s magnificent picture; {105} and
the reception of that picture here is an example that it is not now the
province of art in painting to hold itself in monastic seclusion, that it
cannot hope to rest on a single foundation for its great temple,—on the
mere classic pose of a figure, or the folds of a drapery—but that it must
be imbued with human passions and action, informed with human right and
wrong, and, being so informed, it may fearlessly put itself upon its
trial, like the criminal of old, to be judged by God and its country.

Gentlemen, to return and conclude, as I shall have occasion to trouble
you again.  For this time I have only once again to repeat what I have
already said.  As I begun with literature, I shall end with it.  I would
simply say that I believe no true man, with anything to tell, need have
the least misgiving, either for himself or his message, before a large
number of hearers—always supposing that he be not afflicted with the
coxcombical idea of writing down to the popular intelligence, instead of
writing the popular intelligence up to himself, if, perchance, he be
above it;—and, provided always that he deliver himself plainly of what is
in him, which seems to be no unreasonable stipulation, it being supposed
that he has some dim design of making himself understood.  On behalf of
that literature to which you have done so much honour, I beg to thank you
most cordially, and on my own behalf, for the most flattering reception
you have given to one whose claim is, that he has the distinction of
making it his profession.

                                * * * * *

Later in the evening, Mr. Dickens gave as a toast, “The Educational
Institutions of Birmingham,” in the following speech:

I am requested to propose—or, according to the hypothesis of my friend,
Mr. Owen, I am in the temporary character of a walking advertisement to
advertise to you—the Educational Institutions of Birmingham; an
advertisement to which I have the greatest pleasure in calling your
attention, Gentlemen, it is right that I should, in so many words,
mention the more prominent of these institutions, not because your local
memories require any prompting, but because the enumeration implies what
has been done here, what you are doing, and what you will yet do.  I
believe the first is the King Edward’s Grammar School, with its various
branches, and prominent among them is that most admirable means of
training the wives of working men to be good wives and working wives, the
prime ornament of their homes, and the cause of happiness to others—I
mean those excellent girls’ schools in various parts of the town, which,
under the excellent superintendence of the principal, I should most
sincerely desire to see in every town in England.  Next, I believe, is
the Spring Hill College, a learned institution belonging to the body of
Independents, foremost among whose professors literature is proud to hail
Mr. Henry Rogers as one of the soundest and ablest contributors to the
Edinburgh Review.  The next is the Queen’s College, which, I may say, is
only a newly-born child; but, in the hands of such an admirable Doctor,
we may hope to see it arrive at a vigorous maturity.  The next is the
School of Design, which, as has been well observed by my friend Sir
Charles Eastlake, is invaluable in such a place as this; and, lastly,
there is the Polytechnic Institution, with regard to which I had long ago
occasion to express my profound conviction that it was of unspeakable
importance to such a community as this, when I had the honour to be
present, under the auspices of your excellent representative, Mr.
Scholefield.  This is the last of what has been done in an educational
way.  They are all admirable in their kind; but I am glad to find that
more is yet doing.  A few days ago I received a Birmingham newspaper,
containing a most interesting account of a preliminary meeting for the
formation of a Reformatory School for juvenile delinquents.  You are not
exempt here from the honour of saving these poor, neglected, and wretched
outcasts.  I read of one infant, six years old, who has been twice as
many times in the hands of the police as years have passed over his
devoted head.  These are the eggs from which gaol-birds are hatched; if
you wish to check that dreadful brood, you must take the young and
innocent, and have them reared by Christian hands.

Lastly, I am rejoiced to find that there is on foot a scheme for a new
Literary and Scientific Institution, which would be worthy even of this
place, if there was nothing of the kind in it—an institution, as I
understand it, where the words “exclusion” and “exclusiveness” shall be
quite unknown—where all classes may assemble in common trust, respect,
and confidence—where there shall be a great gallery of painting and
statuary open to the inspection and admiration of all comers—where there
shall be a museum of models in which industry may observe its various
sources of manufacture, and the mechanic may work out new combinations,
and arrive at new results—where the very mines under the earth and under
the sea shall not be forgotten, but presented in little to the inquiring
eye—an institution, in short, where many and many of the obstacles which
now inevitably stand in the rugged way of the poor inventor shall be
smoothed away, and where, if he have anything in him, he will find
encouragement and hope.

I observe with unusual interest and gratification, that a body of
gentlemen are going for a time to lay aside their individual
prepossessions on other subjects, and, as good citizens, are to be
engaged in a design as patriotic as well can be.  They have the intention
of meeting in a few days to advance this great object, and I call upon
you, in drinking this toast, to drink success to their endeavour, and to
make it the pledge by all good means to promote it.

If I strictly followed out the list of educational institutions in
Birmingham, I should not have done here, but I intend to stop, merely
observing that I have seen within a short walk of this place one of the
most interesting and practical Institutions for the Deaf and Dumb that
has ever come under my observation.  I have seen in the factories and
workshops of Birmingham such beautiful order and regularity, and such
great consideration for the workpeople provided, that they might justly
be entitled to be considered educational too.  I have seen in your
splendid Town Hall, when the cheap concerts are going on there, also an
admirable educational institution.  I have seen their results in the
demeanour of your working people, excellently balanced by a nice
instinct, as free from servility on the one hand, as from self-conceit on
the other.  It is a perfect delight to have need to ask a question, if
only from the manner of the reply—a manner I never knew to pass unnoticed
by an observant stranger.  Gather up those threads, and a great marry
more I have not touched upon, and weaving all into one good fabric,
remember how much is included under the general head of the Educational
Institutions of your town.



XI.
LONDON, APRIL 30, 1853.


[At the annual Dinner of the Royal Academy, the President, Sir Charles
Eastlake, proposed as a toast, “The Interests of Literature,” and
selected for the representatives of the world of letters, the Dean of St.
Paul’s and Mr. Charles Dickens.  Dean Milman having returned thanks.]

MR DICKENS then addressed the President, who, it should be mentioned,
occupied a large and handsome chair, the back covered with crimson
velvet, placed just before Stanfield’s picture of _The Victory_.

Mr. Dickens, after tendering his acknowledgments of the toast, and the
honour done him in associating his name with it, said that those
acknowledgments were not the less heartfelt because he was unable to
recognize in this toast the President’s usual disinterestedness; since
English literature could scarcely be remembered in any place, and,
certainly, not in a school of art, without a very distinct remembrance of
his own tasteful writings, to say nothing of that other and better part
of himself, which, unfortunately, was not visible upon these occasions.

If, like the noble Lord, the Commander-in-Chief (Viscount Hardinge), he
(Mr. Dickens) might venture to illustrate his brief thanks with one word
of reference to the noble picture painted by a very dear friend of his,
which was a little eclipsed that evening by the radiant and rubicund
chair which the President now so happily toned down, he would beg leave
to say that, as literature could nowhere be more appropriately honoured
than in that place, so he thought she could nowhere feel a higher
gratification in the ties that bound her to the sister arts.  He ever
felt in that place that literature found, through their instrumentality,
always a new expression, and in a universal language.



XII.
LONDON, MAY 1, 1853.


[At a dinner given by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House, on the above
date, Mr. Justice Talfourd proposed as a toast “Anglo-Saxon Literature,”
and alluded to Mr. Dickens as having employed fiction as a means of
awakening attention to the condition of the oppressed and suffering
classes:—]

“MR. DICKENS replied to this toast in a graceful and playful strain.  In
the former part of the evening, in reply to a toast on the chancery
department, Vice-Chancellor Wood, who spoke in the absence of the Lord
Chancellor, made a sort of defence of the Court of Chancery, not
distinctly alluding to Bleak House, but evidently not without reference
to it.  The amount of what he said was, that the Court had received a
great many more hard opinions than it merited; that they had been
parsimoniously obliged to perform a great amount of business by a very
inadequate number of judges; but that more recently the number of judges
had been increased to seven, and there was reason to hope that all
business brought before it would now be performed without unnecessary
delay.

“Mr. Dickens alluded playfully to this item of intelligence; said he was
exceedingly happy to hear it, as he trusted now that a suit, in which he
was greatly interested, would speedily come to an end.  I heard a little
by-conversation between Mr. Dickens and a gentleman of the bar, who sat
opposite me, in which the latter seemed to be reiterating the same
assertions, and I understood him to say, that a case not extraordinarily
complicated might be got through with in three months.  Mr. Dickens said
he was very happy to hear it; but I fancied there was a little shade of
incredulity in his manner; however, the incident showed one thing, that
is, that the chancery were not insensible to the representations of
Dickens; but the whole tone of the thing was quite good-natured and
agreeable.” {113}



XIII.
BIRMINGHAM, DECEMBER 30, 1853.


[The first of the Readings generously given by Mr. Charles Dickens on
behalf of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, took place on Tuesday
evening, December 27, 1853, at the Birmingham Town Hall, where,
notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, nearly two thousand
persons had assembled.  The work selected was the _Christmas Carol_.  The
high mimetic powers possessed by Mr. Dickens enabled him to personate
with remarkable force the various characters of the story, and with
admirable skill to pass rapidly from the hard, unbelieving Scrooge, to
trusting and thankful Bob Cratchit, and from the genial fulness of
Scrooge’s nephew, to the hideous mirth of the party assembled in Old Joe
the Ragshop-keeper’s parlour.  The reading occupied more than three
hours, but so interested were the audience, that only one or two left the
Hall previously to its termination, and the loud and frequent bursts of
applause attested the successful discharge of the reader’s arduous task.
On Thursday evening Mr. Dickens read _The Cricket on the Hearth_.  The
Hall was again well ruled, and the tale, though deficient in the dramatic
interest of the _Carol_, was listened to with attention, and rewarded
with repeated applause.  On Friday evening, the _Christmas Carol_ was
read a second time to a large assemblage of work-people, for whom, at Mr.
Dickens’s special request, the major part of the vast edifice was
reserved.  Before commencing the tale, Mr. Dickens delivered the
following brief address, almost every sentence of which was received with
loudly expressed applause.]

MY GOOD FRIENDS,—When I first imparted to the committee of the projected
Institute my particular wish that on one of the evenings of my readings
here the main body of my audience should be composed of working men and
their families, I was animated by two desires; first, by the wish to have
the great pleasure of meeting you face to face at this Christmas time,
and accompany you myself through one of my little Christmas books; and
second, by the wish to have an opportunity of stating publicly in your
presence, and in the presence of the committee, my earnest hope that the
Institute will, from the beginning, recognise one great principle—strong
in reason and justice—which I believe to be essential to the very life of
such an Institution.  It is, that the working man shall, from the first
unto the last, have a share in the management of an Institution which is
designed for his benefit, and which calls itself by his name.

I have no fear here of being misunderstood—of being supposed to mean too
much in this.  If there ever was a time when any one class could of
itself do much for its own good, and for the welfare of society—which I
greatly doubt—that time is unquestionably past.  It is in the fusion of
different classes, without confusion; in the bringing together of
employers and employed; in the creating of a better common understanding
among those whose interests are identical, who depend upon each other,
who are vitally essential to each other, and who never can be in
unnatural antagonism without deplorable results, that one of the chief
principles of a Mechanics’ Institution should consist.  In this world a
great deal of the bitterness among us arises from an imperfect
understanding of one another.  Erect in Birmingham a great Educational
Institution, properly educational; educational of the feelings as well as
of the reason; to which all orders of Birmingham men contribute; in which
all orders of Birmingham men meet; wherein all orders of Birmingham men
are faithfully represented—and you will erect a Temple of Concord here
which will be a model edifice to the whole of England.

Contemplating as I do the existence of the Artisans’ Committee, which not
long ago considered the establishment of the Institute so sensibly, and
supported it so heartily, I earnestly entreat the gentlemen—earnest I
know in the good work, and who are now among us,—by all means to avoid
the great shortcoming of similar institutions; and in asking the working
man for his confidence, to set him the great example and give him theirs
in return.  You will judge for yourselves if I promise too much for the
working man, when I say that he will stand by such an enterprise with the
utmost of his patience, his perseverance, sense, and support; that I am
sure he will need no charitable aid or condescending patronage; but will
readily and cheerfully pay for the advantages which it confers; that he
will prepare himself in individual cases where he feels that the adverse
circumstances around him have rendered it necessary; in a word, that he
will feel his responsibility like an honest man, and will most honestly
and manfully discharge it.  I now proceed to the pleasant task to which I
assure you I have looked forward for a long time.

                                * * * * *

At the close of the reading Mr. Dickens received a vote of thanks, and
“three cheers, with three times three.”  As soon as the enthusiasm of the
audience would allow him to speak, Mr. Dickens said:—

You have heard so much of my voice since we met to-night, that I will
only say, in acknowledgment of this affecting mark of your regard, that I
am truly and sincerely interested in you; that any little service I have
rendered to you I have freely rendered from my heart; that I hope to
become an honorary member of your great Institution, and will meet you
often there when it becomes practically useful; that I thank you most
affectionately for this new mark of your sympathy and approval; and that
I wish you many happy returns of this great birthday-time, and many
prosperous years.



XIV.
COMMERCIAL TRAVELLERS.
LONDON, DECEMBER 30, 1854.


[The following speech was made by Mr. Dickens at the Anniversary Dinner
in commemoration of the foundation of the Commercial Travellers’ Schools,
held at the London Tavern on the above date.  Mr. Dickens presided on
this occasion, and proposed the toasts.]

I THINK it may be assumed that most of us here present know something
about travelling.  I do not mean in distant regions or foreign countries,
although I dare say some of us have had experience in that way, but at
home, and within the limits of the United Kingdom.  I dare say most of us
have had experience of the extinct “fast coaches,” the “Wonders,”
“Taglionis,” and “Tallyhos,” of other days.  I daresay most of us
remember certain modest postchaises, dragging us down interminable roads,
through slush and mud, to little country towns with no visible
population, except half-a-dozen men in smock-frocks, half-a-dozen women
with umbrellas and pattens, and a washed-out dog or so shivering under
the gables, to complete the desolate picture.  We can all discourse, I
dare say, if so minded, about our recollections of the “Talbot,” the
“Queen’s Head,” or the “Lion” of those days.  We have all been to that
room on the ground floor on one side of the old inn yard, not quite free
from a certain fragrant smell of tobacco, where the cruets on the
sideboard were usually absorbed by the skirts of the box-coats that hung
from the wall; where awkward servants waylaid us at every turn, like so
many human man-traps; where county members, framed and glazed, were
eternally presenting that petition which, somehow or other, had made
their glory in the county, although nothing else had ever come of it.
Where the books in the windows always wanted the first, last, and middle
leaves, and where the one man was always arriving at some unusual hour in
the night, and requiring his breakfast at a similarly singular period of
the day.  I have no doubt we could all be very eloquent on the comforts
of our favourite hotel, wherever it was—its beds, its stables, its vast
amount of posting, its excellent cheese, its head waiter, its capital
dishes, its pigeon-pies, or its 1820 port.  Or possibly we could recal
our chaste and innocent admiration of its landlady, or our fraternal
regard for its handsome chambermaid.  A celebrated domestic critic once
writing of a famous actress, renowned for her virtue and beauty, gave her
the character of being an “eminently gatherable-to-one’s-arms sort of
person.”  Perhaps some one amongst us has borne a somewhat similar
tribute to the mental charms of the fair deities who presided at our
hotels.

With the travelling characteristics of later times, we are all, no doubt,
equally familiar.  We know all about that station to which we must take
our ticket, although we never get there; and the other one at which we
arrive after dark, certain to find it half a mile from the town, where
the old road is sure to have been abolished, and the new road is going to
be made—where the old neighbourhood has been tumbled down, and the new
one is not half built up.  We know all about that party on the platform
who, with the best intentions, can do nothing for our luggage except
pitch it into all sorts of unattainable places.  We know all about that
short omnibus, in which one is to be doubled up, to the imminent danger
of the crown of one’s hat; and about that fly, whose leading peculiarity
is never to be there when it is wanted.  We know, too, how
instantaneously the lights of the station disappear when the train
starts, and about that grope to the new Railway Hotel, which will be an
excellent house when the customers come, but which at present has nothing
to offer but a liberal allowance of damp mortar and new lime.

I record these little incidents of home travel mainly with the object of
increasing your interest in the purpose of this night’s assemblage.
Every traveller has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the
more from his wandering.  If he has no home, he learns the same lesson
unselfishly by turning to the homes of other men.  He may have his
experiences of cheerful and exciting pleasures abroad; but home is the
best, after all, and its pleasures are the most heartily and enduringly
prized.  Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, every one must be prepared to
learn that commercial travellers, as a body, know how to prize those
domestic relations from which their pursuits so frequently sever them;
for no one could possibly invent a more delightful or more convincing
testimony to the fact than they themselves have offered in founding and
maintaining a school for the children of deceased or unfortunate members
of their own body; those children who now appeal to you in mute but
eloquent terms from the gallery.

It is to support that school, founded with such high and friendly
objects, so very honourable to your calling, and so useful in its solid
and practical results, that we are here to-night.  It is to roof that
building which is to shelter the children of your deceased friends with
one crowning ornament, the best that any building can have, namely, a
receipt stamp for the full amount of the cost.  It is for this that your
active sympathy is appealed to, for the completion of your own good work.
You know how to put your hands to the plough in earnest as well as any
men in existence, for this little book informs me that you raised last
year no less a sum than £8000, and while fully half of that sum consisted
of new donations to the building fund, I find that the regular revenue of
the charity has only suffered to the extent of £30.  After this, I most
earnestly and sincerely say that were we all authors together, I might
boast, if in my profession were exhibited the same unity and
steadfastness I find in yours.

I will not urge on you the casualties of a life of travel, or the
vicissitudes of business, or the claims fostered by that bond of
brotherhood which ought always to exist amongst men who are united in a
common pursuit.  You have already recognized those claims so nobly, that
I will not presume to lay them before you in any further detail.  Suffice
it to say that I do not think it is in your nature to do things by
halves.  I do not think you could do so if you tried, and I have a moral
certainty that you never will try.  To those gentlemen present who are
not members of the travellers’ body, I will say in the words of the
French proverb, “Heaven helps those who help themselves.”  The Commercial
Travellers having helped themselves so gallantly, it is clear that the
visitors who come as a sort of celestial representatives ought to bring
that aid in their pockets which the precept teaches us to expect from
them.  With these few remarks, I beg to give you as a toast, “Success to
the Commercial Travellers’ School.”

                                * * * * *

In proposing the health of the Army in the Crimea, Mr. Dickens said:—

IT does not require any extraordinary sagacity in a commercial assembly
to appreciate the dire evils of war.  The great interests of trade
enfeebled by it, the enterprise of better times paralysed by it, all the
peaceful arts bent down before it, too palpably indicate its character
and results, so that far less practical intelligence than that by which I
am surrounded would be sufficient to appreciate the horrors of war.  But
there are seasons when the evils of peace, though not so acutely felt,
are immeasurably greater, and when a powerful nation, by admitting the
right of any autocrat to do wrong, sows by such complicity the seeds of
its own ruin, and overshadows itself in time to come with that fatal
influence which great and ambitious powers are sure to exercise over
their weaker neighbours.

Therefore it is, ladies and gentlemen, that the tree has not its root in
English ground from which the yard wand can be made that will measure—the
mine has not its place in English soil that will supply the material of a
pair of scales to weigh the influence that may be at stake in the war in
which we are now straining all our energies.  That war is, at any time
and in any shape, a most dreadful and deplorable calamity, we need no
proverb to tell us; but it is just because it is such a calamity, and
because that calamity must not for ever be impending over us at the fancy
of one man against all mankind, that we must not allow that man to darken
from our view the figures of peace and justice between whom and us he now
interposes.

Ladies and gentlemen, if ever there were a time when the true spirits of
two countries were really fighting in the cause of human advancement and
freedom—no matter what diplomatic notes or other nameless botherations,
from number one to one hundred thousand and one, may have preceded their
taking the field—if ever there were a time when noble hearts were
deserving well of mankind by exposing themselves to the obedient bayonets
of a rash and barbarian tyrant, it is now, when the faithful children of
England and France are fighting so bravely in the Crimea.  Those faithful
children are the admiration and wonder of the world, so gallantly are
they discharging their duty; and therefore I propose to an assembly,
emphatically representing the interests and arts of peace, to drink the
health of the Allied Armies of England and France, with all possible
honours.

                                * * * * *

In proposing the health of the Treasurer, Mr. Dickens said:—

If the President of this Institution had been here, I should possibly
have made one of the best speeches you ever heard; but as he is not here,
I shall turn to the next toast on my list:—“The health of your worthy
Treasurer, Mr. George Moore,” a name which is a synonym for integrity,
enterprise, public spirit, and benevolence.  He is one of the most
zealous officers I ever saw in my life; he appears to me to have been
doing nothing during the last week but rushing into and out of
railway-carriages, and making eloquent speeches at all sorts of public
dinners in favour of this charity.  Last evening he was at Manchester,
and this evening he comes here, sacrificing his time and convenience, and
exhausting in the meantime the contents of two vast leaden inkstands and
no end of pens, with the energy of fifty bankers’ clerks rolled into one.
But I clearly foresee that the Treasurer will have so much to do
to-night, such gratifying sums to acknowledge and such large lines of
figures to write in his books, that I feel the greatest consideration I
can show him is to propose his health without further observation,
leaving him to address you in his own behalf.  I propose to you,
therefore, the health of Mr. George Moore, the Treasurer of this charity,
and I need hardly add that it is one which is to be drunk with all the
honours.

                                * * * * *

[Later in the evening, Mr. Dickens rose and said:—]

So many travellers have been going up Mont Blanc lately, both in fact and
in fiction, that I have heard recently of a proposal for the
establishment of a Company to employ Sir Joseph Paxton to take it down.
Only one of those travellers, however, has been enabled to bring Mont
Blanc to Piccadilly, and, by his own ability and good humour, so to thaw
its eternal ice and snow, as that the most timid lady may ascend it twice
a-day, “during the holidays,” without the smallest danger or fatigue.
Mr. Albert Smith, who is present amongst us to-night, is undoubtedly “a
traveller.”  I do not know whether he takes many orders, but this I can
testify, on behalf of the children of his friends, that he gives them in
the most liberal manner.

We have also amongst us my friend Mr. Peter Cunningham, who is also a
traveller, not only in right of his able edition of Goldsmith’s
“Traveller,” but in right of his admirable Handbook, which proves him to
be a traveller in the right spirit through all the labyrinths of London.
We have also amongst us my friend Horace Mayhew, very well known also for
his books, but especially for his genuine admiration of the company at
that end of the room [_Mr. Dickens here pointed to the ladies gallery_],
and who, whenever the fair sex is mentioned, will be found to have the
liveliest personal interest in the conversation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to propose to you the health of these
three distinguished visitors.  They are all admirable speakers, but Mr.
Albert Smith has confessed to me, that on fairly balancing his own merits
as a speaker and a singer, he rather thinks he excels in the latter art.
I have, therefore, yielded to his estimate of himself, and I have now the
pleasure of informing you that he will lead off the speeches of the other
two gentlemen with a song.  Mr. Albert Smith has just said to me in an
earnest tone of voice, “What song would you recommend?” and I replied,
“Galignani’s Messenger.”  Ladies and gentlemen, I therefore beg to
propose the health of Messrs.  Albert Smith, Peter Cunningham, and Horace
Mayhew, and call on the first-named gentleman for a song.



XV.
ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM.


           THEATRE ROYAL, DRURY LANE, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 1855.

I CANNOT, I am sure, better express my sense of the kind reception
accorded to me by this great assembly, than by promising to compress what
I shall address to it within the closest possible limits.  It is more
than eighteen hundred years ago, since there was a set of men who
“thought they should be heard for their much speaking.”  As they have
propagated exceedingly since that time, and as I observe that they
flourish just now to a surprising extent about Westminster, I will do my
best to avoid adding to the numbers of that prolific race.  The noble
lord at the head of the Government, when he wondered in Parliament about
a week ago, that my friend, Mr. Layard, did not blush for having stated
in this place what the whole country knows perfectly well to be true, and
what no man in it can by possibility better know to be true than those
disinterested supporters of that noble lord, who had the advantage of
hearing him and cheering him night after night, when he first became
premier—I mean that he did officially and habitually joke, at a time when
this country was plunged in deep disgrace and distress—I say, that noble
lord, when he wondered so much that the man of this age, who has, by his
earnest and adventurous spirit, done the most to distinguish himself and
it, did not blush for the tremendous audacity of having so come between
the wind and his nobility, turned an airy period with reference to the
private theatricals at Drury Lane Theatre.  Now, I have some slight
acquaintance with theatricals, private and public, and I will accept that
figure of the noble lord.  I will not say that if I wanted to form a
company of Her Majesty’s servants, I think I should know where to put my
hand on “the comic old gentleman;” nor, that if I wanted to get up a
pantomime, I fancy I should know what establishment to go to for the
tricks and changes; also, for a very considerable host of
supernumeraries, to trip one another up in that contention with which
many of us are familiar, both on these and on other boards, in which the
principal objects thrown about are loaves and fishes.  But I will try to
give the noble lord the reason for these private theatricals, and the
reason why, however ardently he may desire to ring the curtain down upon
them, there is not the faintest present hope of their coming to a
conclusion.  It is this:—The public theatricals which the noble lord is
so condescending as to manage are so intolerably bad, the machinery is so
cumbrous, the parts so ill-distributed, the company so full of “walking
gentlemen,” the managers have such large families, and are so bent upon
putting those families into what is theatrically called “first
business”—not because of their aptitude for it, but because they _are_
their families, that we find ourselves obliged to organize an opposition.
We have seen the _Comedy of Errors_ played so dismally like a tragedy
that we really cannot bear it.  We are, therefore, making bold to get up
the _School of Reform_, and we hope, before the play is out, to improve
that noble lord by our performance very considerably.  If he object that
we have no right to improve him without his license, we venture to claim
that right in virtue of his orchestra, consisting of a very powerful
piper, whom we always pay.

Sir, as this is the first political meeting I have ever attended, and as
my trade and calling is not associated with politics, perhaps it may be
useful for me to show how I came to be here, because reasons similar to
those which have influenced me may still be trembling in the balance in
the minds of others.  I want at all times, in full sincerity, to do my
duty by my countrymen.  If _I_ feel an attachment towards them, there is
nothing disinterested or meritorious in that, for I can never too
affectionately remember the confidence and friendship that they have long
reposed in me.  My sphere of action—which I shall never change—I shall
never overstep, further than this, or for a longer period than I do
to-night.  By literature I have lived, and through literature I have been
content to serve my country; and I am perfectly well aware that I cannot
serve two masters.  In my sphere of action I have tried to understand the
heavier social grievances, and to help to set them right.  When the
_Times_ newspaper proved its then almost incredible case, in reference to
the ghastly absurdity of that vast labyrinth of misplaced men and
misdirected things, which had made England unable to find on the face of
the earth, an enemy one-twentieth part so potent to effect the misery and
ruin of her noble defenders as she has been herself, I believe that the
gloomy silence into which the country fell was by far the darkest aspect
in which a great people had been exhibited for many years.  With shame
and indignation lowering among all classes of society, and this new
element of discord piled on the heaving basis of ignorance, poverty and
crime, which is always below us—with little adequate expression of the
general mind, or apparent understanding of the general mind, in
Parliament—with the machinery of Government and the legislature going
round and round, and the people fallen from it and standing aloof, as if
they left it to its last remaining function of destroying itself, when it
had achieved the destruction of so much that was dear to them—I did and
do believe that the only wholesome turn affairs so menacing could
possibly take, was, the awaking of the people, the outspeaking of the
people, the uniting of the people in all patriotism and loyalty to effect
a great peaceful constitutional change in the administration of their own
affairs.  At such a crisis this association arose; at such a crisis I
joined it: considering its further case to be—if further case could
possibly be needed—that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s
business, that men must be gregarious in good citizenship as well as in
other things, and that it is a law in nature that there must be a centre
of attraction for particles to fly to, before any serviceable body with
recognised functions can come into existence.  This association has
arisen, and we belong to it.  What are the objections to it?  I have
heard in the main but three, which I will now briefly notice.  It is said
that it is proposed by this association to exercise an influence, through
the constituencies, on the House of Commons.  I have not the least
hesitation in saying that I have the smallest amount of faith in the
House of Commons at present existing and that I consider the exercise of
such influence highly necessary to the welfare and honour of this
country.  I was reading no later than yesterday the book of Mr. Pepys,
which is rather a favourite of mine, in which he, two hundred years ago,
writing of the House of Commons, says:

    “My cousin Roger Pepys tells me that it is matter of the greatest
    grief to him in the world that he should be put upon this trust of
    being a Parliament man; because he says nothing is done, that he can
    see, out of any truth and sincerity, but mere envy and design.”

Now, how it comes to pass that after two hundred years, and many years
after a Reform Bill, the house of Commons is so little changed, I will
not stop to inquire.  I will not ask how it happens that bills which
cramp and worry the people, and restrict their scant enjoyments, are so
easily passed, and how it happens that measures for their real interests
are so very difficult to be got through Parliament.  I will not analyse
the confined air of the lobby, or reduce to their primitive gases its
deadening influences on the memory of that Honourable Member who was once
a candidate for the honour of your—and my—independent vote and interest.
I will not ask what is that Secretarian figure, full of blandishments,
standing on the threshold, with its finger on its lips.  I will not ask
how it comes that those personal altercations, involving all the removes
and definitions of Shakespeare’s Touchstone—the retort courteous—the quip
modest—the reply churlish—the reproof valiant—the countercheck
quarrelsome—the lie circumstantial and the lie direct—are of immeasurably
greater interest in the House of Commons than the health, the taxation,
and the education, of a whole people.  I will not penetrate into the
mysteries of that secret chamber in which the Bluebeard of Party keeps
his strangled public questions, and with regard to which, when he gives
the key to his wife, the new comer, he strictly charges her on no account
to open the door.  I will merely put it to the experience of everybody
here, whether the House of Commons is not occasionally a little hard of
hearing, a little dim of sight, a little slow of understanding, and
whether, in short, it is not in a sufficiency invalided state to require
close watching, and the occasional application of sharp stimulants; and
whether it is not capable of considerable improvement?  I believe that,
in order to preserve it in a state of real usefulness and independence,
the people must be very watchful and very jealous of it; and it must have
its memory jogged; and be kept awake when it happens to have taken too
much Ministerial narcotic; it must be trotted about, and must be bustled
and pinched in a friendly way, as is the usage in such cases.  I hold
that no power can deprive us of the right to administer our functions as
a body comprising electors from all parts of the country, associated
together because their country is dearer to them than drowsy twaddle,
unmeaning routine, or worn-out conventionalities.

This brings me to objection number two.  It is stated that this
Association sets class against class.  Is this so?  (_Cries of_ “No.”)
No, it finds class set against class, and seeks to reconcile them.  I
wish to avoid placing in opposition those two words—Aristocracy and
People.  I am one who can believe in the virtues and uses of both, and
would not on any account deprive either of a single just right belonging
to it.  I will use, instead of these words, the terms, the governors and
the governed.  These two bodies the Association finds with a gulf between
them, in which are lying, newly-buried, thousands on thousands of the
bravest and most devoted men that even England ever bred.  It is to
prevent the recurrence of innumerable smaller evils, of which, unchecked,
that great calamity was the crowning height and the necessary
consummation, and to bring together those two fronts looking now so
strangely at each other, that this Association seeks to help to bridge
over that abyss, with a structure founded on common justice and supported
by common sense.  Setting class against class!  That is the very parrot
prattle that we have so long heard.  Try its justice by the following
example:—A respectable gentleman had a large establishment, and a great
number of servants, who were good for nothing, who, when he asked them to
give his children bread, gave them stones; who, when they were told to
give those children fish, gave them serpents.  When they were ordered to
send to the East, they sent to the West; when they ought to have been
serving dinner in the North, they were consulting exploded cookery books
in the South; who wasted, destroyed, tumbled over one another when
required to do anything, and were bringing everything to ruin.  At last
the respectable gentleman calls his house steward, and says, even then
more in sorrow than in anger, “This is a terrible business; no fortune
can stand it—no mortal equanimity can bear it!  I must change my system;
I must obtain servants who will do their duty.”  The house steward throws
up his eyes in pious horror, ejaculates “Good God, master, you are
setting class against class!” and then rushes off into the servants’
hall, and delivers a long and melting oration on that wicked feeling.

I now come to the third objection, which is common among young gentlemen
who are not particularly fit for anything but spending money which they
have not got.  It is usually comprised in the observation, “How very
extraordinary it is that these Administrative Reform fellows can’t mind
their own business.”  I think it will occur to all that a very sufficient
mode of disposing of this objection is to say, that it is our own
business we mind when we come forward in this way, and it is to prevent
it from being mismanaged by them.  I observe from the Parliamentary
debates—which have of late, by-the-bye, frequently suggested to me that
there is this difference between the bull of Spain the bull of Nineveh,
that, whereas, in the Spanish case, the bull rushes at the scarlet, in
the Ninevite case, the scarlet rushes at the bull—I have observed from
the Parliamentary debates that, by a curious fatality, there has been a
great deal of the reproof valiant and the counter-check quarrelsome, in
reference to every case, showing the necessity of Administrative Reform,
by whomsoever produced, whensoever, and wheresoever.  I daresay I should
have no difficulty in adding two or three cases to the list, which I know
to be true, and which I have no doubt would be contradicted, but I
consider it a work of supererogation; for, if the people at large be not
already convinced that a sufficient general case has been made out for
Administrative Reform, I think they never can be, and they never will be.
There is, however, an old indisputable, very well known story, which has
so pointed a moral at the end of it that I will substitute it for a new
case: by doing of which I may avoid, I hope, the sacred wrath of St.
Stephen’s.  Ages ago a savage mode of keeping accounts on notched sticks
was introduced into the Court of Exchequer, and the accounts were kept,
much as Robinson Crusoe kept his calendar on the desert island.  In the
course of considerable revolutions of time, the celebrated Cocker was
born, and died; Walkinghame, of the Tutor’s Assistant, and well versed in
figures, was also born, and died; a multitude of accountants,
book-keepers, and actuaries, were born, and died.  Still official routine
inclined to these notched sticks, as if they were pillars of the
constitution, and still the Exchequer accounts continued to be kept on
certain splints of elm wood called “tallies.”  In the reign of George
III. an inquiry was made by some revolutionary spirit, whether pens, ink,
and paper, slates and pencils, being in existence, this obstinate
adherence to an obsolete custom ought to be continued, and whether a
change ought not to be effected.

All the red tape in the country grew redder at the bare mention of this
bold and original conception, and it took till 1826 to get these sticks
abolished.  In 1834 it was found that there was a considerable
accumulation of them; and the question then arose, what was to be done
with such worn-out, worm-eaten, rotten old bits of wood?  I dare say
there was a vast amount of minuting, memoranduming, and despatch-boxing,
on this mighty subject.  The sticks were housed at Westminster, and it
would naturally occur to any intelligent person that nothing could be
easier than to allow them to be carried away for fire-wood by the
miserable people who live in that neighbourhood.  However, they never had
been useful, and official routine required that they never should be, and
so the order went forth that they were to be privately and confidentially
burnt.  It came to pass that they were burnt in a stove in the House of
Lords.  The stove, overgorged with these preposterous sticks, set fire to
the panelling; the panelling set fire to the House of Lords; the House of
Lords set fire to the House of Commons; the two houses were reduced to
ashes; architects were called in to build others; we are now in the
second million of the cost thereof; the national pig is not nearly over
the stile yet; and the little old woman, Britannia, hasn’t got home
to-night.

Now, I think we may reasonably remark, in conclusion, that all obstinate
adherence to rubbish which the time has long outlived, is certain to have
in the soul of it more or less that is pernicious and destructive; and
that will some day set fire to something or other; which, if given boldly
to the winds would have been harmless; but which, obstinately retained,
is ruinous.  I believe myself that when Administrative Reform goes up it
will be idle to hope to put it down, on this or that particular instance.
The great, broad, and true cause that our public progress is far behind
our private progress, and that we are not more remarkable for our private
wisdom and success in matters of business than we are for our public
folly and failure, I take to be as clearly established as the sun, moon,
and stars.  To set this right, and to clear the way in the country for
merit everywhere: accepting it equally whether it be aristocratic or
democratic, only asking whether it be honest or true, is, I take it, the
true object of this Association.  This object it seeks to promote by
uniting together large numbers of the people, I hope, of all conditions,
to the end that they may better comprehend, bear in mind, understand
themselves, and impress upon others, the common public duty.  Also, of
which there is great need, that by keeping a vigilant eye on the
skirmishers thrown out from time to time by the Party of Generals, they
may see that their feints and manœuvres do not oppress the small
defaulters and release the great, and that they do not gull the public
with a mere field-day Review of Reform, instead of an earnest,
hard-fought Battle.  I have had no consultation with any one upon the
subject, but I particularly wish that the directors may devise some means
of enabling intelligent working men to join this body, on easier terms
than subscribers who have larger resources.  I could wish to see great
numbers of them belong to us, because I sincerely believe that it would
be good for the common weal.

Said the noble Lord at the head of the Government, when Mr. Layard asked
him for a day for his motion, “Let the hon. gentleman find a day for
himself.”

    “Now, in the names of all the gods at once,
    Upon what meat doth this our Cæsar feed
    That he is grown so great?”

If our Cæsar will excuse me, I would take the liberty of reversing that
cool and lofty sentiment, and I would say, “First Lord, your duty it is
to see that no man is left to find a day for himself.  See you, who take
the responsibility of government, who aspire to it, live for it, intrigue
for it, scramble for it, who hold to it tooth-and-nail when you can get
it, see you that no man is left to find a day for himself.  In this old
country, with its seething hard-worked millions, its heavy taxes, its
swarms of ignorant, its crowds of poor, and its crowds of wicked, woe the
day when the dangerous man shall find a day for himself, because the head
of the Government failed in his duty in not anticipating it by a brighter
and a better one!  Name you the day, First Lord; make a day; work for a
day beyond your little time, Lord Palmerston, and History in return may
then—not otherwise—find a day for you; a day equally associated with the
contentment of the loyal, patient, willing-hearted English people, and
with the happiness of your Royal Mistress and her fair line of children.”



XVI.
SHEFFIELD, DECEMBER 22, 1855.


[On Saturday Evening Mr. Charles Dickens read his Christmas Carol in the
Mechanics’ Hall in behalf of the funds of the Institute.

After the reading the Mayor said, he had been charged by a few gentlemen
in Sheffield to present to Mr. Dickens for his acceptance a very handsome
service of table cutlery, a pair of razors, and a pair of fish carvers,
as some substantial manifestation of their gratitude to Mr. Dickens for
his kindness in coming to Sheffield.  Henceforth the Christmas of 1855
would be associated in his mind with the name of that gentleman.]

MR. CHARLES DICKENS, in receiving the presentation, said, he accepted
with heartfelt delight and cordial gratitude such beautiful specimens of
Sheffield-workmanship; and he begged to assure them that the kind
observations which had been made by the Mayor, and the way in which they
had been responded to by that assembly, would never be obliterated from
his remembrance.  The present testified not only to the work of Sheffield
hands, but to the warmth and generosity of Sheffield hearts.  It was his
earnest desire to do right by his readers, and to leave imaginative and
popular literature associated with the private homes and public rights of
the people of England.  The case of cutlery with which he had been so
kindly presented, should be retained as an heirloom in his family; and he
assured them that he should ever be faithful to his death to the
principles which had earned for him their approval.  In taking his
reluctant leave of them, he wished them many merry Christmases, and many
happy new years.



XVII.
LONDON, FEBRUARY 9, 1858.


[At the Anniversary Festival of the Hospital for Sick Children, on
Tuesday, February the 9th, 1858, about one hundred and fifty gentlemen
sat down to dinner, in the Freemasons’ Hall.  Later in the evening all
the seats in the gallery were filled with ladies interested in the
success of the Hospital.  After the usual loyal and other toasts, the
Chairman, Mr. Dickens, proposed “Prosperity to the Hospital for Sick
Children,” and said:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—It is one of my rules in life not to believe a man
who may happen to tell me that he feels no interest in children.  I hold
myself bound to this principle by all kind consideration, because I know,
as we all must, that any heart which could really toughen its affections
and sympathies against those dear little people must be wanting in so
many humanising experiences of innocence and tenderness, as to be quite
an unsafe monstrosity among men.  Therefore I set the assertion down,
whenever I happen to meet with it—which is sometimes, though not often—as
an idle word, originating possibly in the genteel languor of the hour,
and meaning about as much as that knowing social lassitude, which has
used up the cardinal virtues and quite found out things in general,
usually does mean.  I suppose it may be taken for granted that we, who
come together in the name of children and for the sake of children,
acknowledge that we have an interest in them; indeed, I have observed
since I sit down here that we are quite in a childlike state altogether,
representing an infant institution, and not even yet a grown-up company.
A few years are necessary to the increase of our strength and the
expansion of our figure; and then these tables, which now have a few
tucks in them, will be let out, and then this hall, which now sits so
easily upon us, will be too tight and small for us.  Nevertheless, it is
likely that even we are not without our experience now and then of spoilt
children.  I do not mean of our own spoilt children, because nobody’s own
children ever were spoilt, but I mean the disagreeable children of our
particular friends.  We know by experience what it is to have them down
after dinner, and, across the rich perspective of a miscellaneous dessert
to see, as in a black dose darkly, the family doctor looming in the
distance.  We know, I have no doubt we all know, what it is to assist at
those little maternal anecdotes and table entertainments illustrated with
imitations and descriptive dialogue which might not be inaptly called,
after the manner of my friend Mr. Albert Smith, the toilsome ascent of
Miss Mary and the eruption (cutaneous) of Master Alexander.  We know what
it is when those children won’t go to bed; we know how they prop their
eyelids open with their forefingers when they will sit up; how, when they
become fractious, they say aloud that they don’t like us, and our nose is
too long, and why don’t we go?  And we are perfectly acquainted with
those kicking bundles which are carried off at last protesting.  An
eminent eye-witness told me that he was one of a company of learned
pundits who assembled at the house of a very distinguished philosopher of
the last generation to hear him expound his stringent views concerning
infant education and early mental development, and he told me that while
the philosopher did this in very beautiful and lucid language, the
philosopher’s little boy, for his part, edified the assembled sages by
dabbling up to the elbows in an apple pie which had been provided for
their entertainment, having previously anointed his hair with the syrup,
combed it with his fork, and brushed it with his spoon.  It is probable
that we also have our similar experiences sometimes, of principles that
are not quite practice, and that we know people claiming to be very wise
and profound about nations of men who show themselves to be rather weak
and shallow about units of babies.

But, ladies and gentlemen, the spoilt children whom I have to present to
you after this dinner of to-day are not of this class.  I have glanced at
these for the easier and lighter introduction of another, a very
different, a far more numerous, and a far more serious class.  The spoilt
children whom I must show you are the spoilt children of the poor in this
great city, the children who are, every year, for ever and ever
irrevocably spoilt out of this breathing life of ours by tens of
thousands, but who may in vast numbers be preserved if you, assisting and
not contravening the ways of Providence, will help to save them.  The two
grim nurses, Poverty and Sickness, who bring these children before you,
preside over their births, rock their wretched cradles, nail down their
little coffins, pile up the earth above their graves.  Of the annual
deaths in this great town, their unnatural deaths form more than
one-third.  I shall not ask you, according to the custom as to the other
class—I shall not ask you on behalf of these children to observe how good
they are, how pretty they are, how clever they are, how promising they
are, whose beauty they most resemble—I shall only ask you to observe how
weak they are, and how like death they are!  And I shall ask you, by the
remembrance of everything that lies between your own infancy and that so
miscalled second childhood when the child’s graces are gone and nothing
but its helplessness remains; I shall ask you to turn your thoughts to
_these_ spoilt children in the sacred names of Pity and Compassion.

Some years ago, being in Scotland, I went with one of the most humane
members of the humane medical profession, on a morning tour among some of
the worst lodged inhabitants of the old town of Edinburgh.  In the closes
and wynds of that picturesque place—I am sorry to remind you what fast
friends picturesqueness and typhus often are—we saw more poverty and
sickness in an hour than many people would believe in a life.  Our way
lay from one to another of the most wretched dwellings, reeking with
horrible odours; shut out from the sky, shut out from the air, mere pits
and dens.  In a room in one of these places, where there was an empty
porridge-pot on the cold hearth, with a ragged woman and some ragged
children crouching on the bare ground near it—where, I remember as I
speak, that the very light, refracted from a high damp-stained and
time-stained house-wall, came trembling in, as if the fever which had
shaken everything else there had shaken even it—there lay, in an old
egg-box which the mother had begged from a shop, a little feeble, wasted,
wan, sick child.  With his little wasted face, and his little hot, worn
hands folded over his breast, and his little bright, attentive eyes, I
can see him now, as I have seen him for several years, look in steadily
at us.  There he lay in his little frail box, which was not at all a bad
emblem of the little body from which he was slowly parting—there he lay,
quite quiet, quite patient, saying never a word.  He seldom cried, the
mother said; he seldom complained; “he lay there, seemin’ to woonder what
it was a’ aboot.”  God knows, I thought, as I stood looking at him, he
had his reasons for wondering—reasons for wondering how it could possibly
come to be that he lay there, left alone, feeble and full of pain, when
he ought to have been as bright and as brisk as the birds that never got
near him—reasons for wondering how he came to be left there, a little
decrepid old man pining to death, quite a thing of course, as if there
were no crowds of healthy and happy children playing on the grass under
the summer’s sun within a stone’s throw of him, as if there were no
bright, moving sea on the other side of the great hill overhanging the
city; as if there were no great clouds rushing over it; as if there were
no life, and movement, and vigour anywhere in the world—nothing but
stoppage and decay.  There he lay looking at us, saying, in his silence,
more pathetically than I have ever heard anything said by any orator in
my life, “Will you please to tell me what this means, strange man? and if
you can give me any good reason why I should be so soon, so far advanced
on my way to Him who said that children were to come into His presence
and were not to be forbidden, but who scarcely meant, I think, that they
should come by this hard road by which I am travelling; pray give that
reason to me, for I seek it very earnestly and wonder about it very
much;” and to my mind he has been wondering about it ever since.  Many a
poor child, sick and neglected, I have seen since that time in this
London; many a poor sick child I have seen most affectionately and kindly
tended by poor people, in an unwholesome house and under untoward
circumstances, wherein its recovery was quite impossible; but at all such
times I have seen my poor little drooping friend in his egg-box, and he
has always addressed his dumb speech to me, and I have always found him
wondering what it meant, and why, in the name of a gracious God, such
things should be!

Now, ladies and gentlemen, such things need not be, and will not be, if
this company, which is a drop of the life-blood of the great
compassionate public heart, will only accept the means of rescue and
prevention which it is mine to offer.  Within a quarter of a mile of this
place where I speak, stands a courtly old house, where once, no doubt,
blooming children were born, and grew up to be men and women, and
married, and brought their own blooming children back to patter up the
old oak staircase which stood but the other day, and to wonder at the old
oak carvings on the chimney-pieces.  In the airy wards into which the old
state drawing-rooms and family bedchambers of that house are now
converted are such little patients that the attendant nurses look like
reclaimed giantesses, and the kind medical practitioner like an amiable
Christian ogre.  Grouped about the little low tables in the centre of the
rooms are such tiny convalescents that they seem to be playing at having
been ill.  On the doll’s beds are such diminutive creatures that each
poor sufferer is supplied with its tray of toys; and, looking round, you
may see how the little tired, flushed cheek has toppled over half the
brute creation on its way into the ark; or how one little dimpled arm has
mowed down (as I saw myself) the whole tin soldiery of Europe.  On the
walls of these rooms are graceful, pleasant, bright, childish pictures.
At the bed’s heads, are pictures of the figure which is the universal
embodiment of all mercy and compassion, the figure of Him who was once a
child himself, and a poor one.  Besides these little creatures on the
beds, you may learn in that place that the number of small Out-patients
brought to that house for relief is no fewer than ten thousand in the
compass of one single year.  In the room in which these are received, you
may see against the wall a box, on which it is written, that it has been
calculated, that if every grateful mother who brings a child there will
drop a penny into it, the Hospital funds may possibly be increased in a
year by so large a sum as forty pounds.  And you may read in the Hospital
Report, with a glow of pleasure, that these poor women are so respondent
as to have made, even in a toiling year of difficulty and high prices,
this estimated forty, fifty pounds.  In the printed papers of this same
Hospital, you may read with what a generous earnestness the highest and
wisest members of the medical profession testify to the great need of it;
to the immense difficulty of treating children in the same hospitals with
grown-up people, by reason of their different ailments and requirements,
to the vast amount of pain that will be assuaged, and of life that will
be saved, through this Hospital; not only among the poor, observe, but
among the prosperous too, by reason of the increased knowledge of
children’s illnesses, which cannot fail to arise from a more systematic
mode of studying them.  Lastly, gentlemen, and I am sorry to say, worst
of all—(for I must present no rose-coloured picture of this place to
you—I must not deceive you;) lastly, the visitor to this Children’s
Hospital, reckoning up the number of its beds, will find himself perforce
obliged to stop at very little over thirty; and will learn, with sorrow
and surprise, that even that small number, so forlornly, so miserably
diminutive, compared with this vast London, cannot possibly be
maintained, unless the Hospital be made better known; I limit myself to
saying better known, because I will not believe that in a Christian
community of fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, it can fail,
being better known, to be well and richly endowed.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this, without a word of adornment—which I
resolved when I got up not to allow myself—this is the simple case.  This
is the pathetic case which I have to put to you; not only on behalf of
the thousands of children who annually die in this great city, but also
on behalf of the thousands of children who live half developed, racked
with preventible pain, shorn of their natural capacity for health and
enjoyment.  If these innocent creatures cannot move you for themselves,
how can I possibly hope to move you in their name?  The most delightful
paper, the most charming essay, which the tender imagination of Charles
Lamb conceived, represents him as sitting by his fireside on a winter
night telling stories to his own dear children, and delighting in their
society, until he suddenly comes to his old, solitary, bachelor self, and
finds that they were but dream-children who might have been, but never
were.  “We are nothing,” they say to him; “less than nothing, and dreams.
We are only what might have been, and we must wait upon the tedious shore
of Lethe, millions of ages, before we have existence and a name.”  “And
immediately awaking,” he says, “I found myself in my arm chair.”  The
dream-children whom I would now raise, if I could, before every one of
you, according to your various circumstances, should be the dear child
you love, the dearer child you have lost, the child you might have had,
the child you certainly have been.  Each of these dream-children should
hold in its powerful hand one of the little children now lying in the
Child’s Hospital, or now shut out of it to perish.  Each of these
dream-children should say to you, “O, help this little suppliant in my
name; O, help it for my sake!”  Well!—And immediately awaking, you should
find yourselves in the Freemasons’ Hall, happily arrived at the end of a
rather long speech, drinking “Prosperity to the Hospital for Sick
Children,” and thoroughly resolved that it shall flourish.



XVIII.
EDINBURGH, MARCH, 26, 1858.


[On the above date Mr. Dickens gave a reading of his Christmas Carol in
the Music Hall, before the members and subscribers of the Philosophical
Institution.  At the conclusion of the reading the Lord Provost of
Edinburgh presented him with a massive silver wassail cup.  Mr. Dickens
acknowledged the tribute as follows:]

MY LORD PROVOST, ladies, and gentlemen, I beg to assure you I am deeply
sensible of your kind welcome, and of this beautiful and great surprise;
and that I thank you cordially with all my heart.  I never have
forgotten, and I never can forget, that I have the honour to be a burgess
and guild-brother of the Corporation of Edinburgh.  As long as sixteen or
seventeen years ago, the first great public recognition and encouragement
I ever received was bestowed on me in this generous and magnificent
city—in this city so distinguished in literature and so distinguished in
the arts.  You will readily believe that I have carried into the various
countries I have since traversed, and through all my subsequent career,
the proud and affectionate remembrance of that eventful epoch in my life;
and that coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming home.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard so much of my voice to-night, that I
will not inflict on you the additional task of hearing any more.  I am
better reconciled to limiting myself to these very few words, because I
know and feel full well that no amount of speech to which I could give
utterance could possibly express my sense of the honour and distinction
you have conferred on me, or the heartfelt gratification I derive from
this reception.



XIX.
LONDON, MARCH 29, 1858.


[At the thirteenth anniversary festival of the General Theatrical Fund,
held at the Freemasons’ Tavern, at which Thackeray presided, Mr. Dickens
made the following speech:]

IN our theatrical experience as playgoers we are all equally accustomed
to predict by certain little signs and portents on the stage what is
going to happen there.  When the young lady, an admiral’s daughter, is
left alone to indulge in a short soliloquy, and certain smart
spirit-rappings are heard to proceed immediately from beneath her feet,
we foretell that a song is impending.  When two gentlemen enter, for
whom, by a happy coincidence, two chairs, and no more, are in waiting, we
augur a conversation, and that it will assume a retrospective
biographical character.  When any of the performers who belong to the
sea-faring or marauding professions are observed to arm themselves with
very small swords to which are attached very large hilts, we predict that
the affair will end in a combat.  Carrying out the association of ideas,
it may have occurred to some that when I asked my old friend in the chair
to allow me to propose a toast I had him in my eye; and I have him now on
my lips.

The duties of a trustee of the Theatrical Fund, an office which I hold,
are not so frequent or so great as its privileges.  He is in fact a mere
walking gentleman, with the melancholy difference that he has no one to
love.  If this advantage could be added to his character it would be one
of a more agreeable nature than it is, and his forlorn position would be
greatly improved.  His duty is to call every half year at the bankers’,
when he signs his name in a large greasy inconvenient book, to certain
documents of which he knows nothing, and then he delivers it to the
property man and exits anywhere.

He, however, has many privileges.  It is one of his privileges to watch
the steady growth of an institution in which he takes great interest; it
is one of his privileges to bear his testimony to the prudence, the
goodness, the self-denial, and the excellence of a class of persons who
have been too long depreciated, and whose virtues are too much denied,
out of the depths of an ignorant and stupid superstition.  And lastly, it
is one of his privileges sometimes to be called on to propose the health
of the chairman at the annual dinners of the institution, when that
chairman is one for whose genius he entertains the warmest admiration,
and whom he respects as a friend, and as one who does honour to
literature, and in whom literature is honoured.  I say when that is the
case, he feels that this last privilege is a great and high one.  From
the earliest days of this institution I have ventured to impress on its
managers, that they would consult its credit and success by choosing its
chairmen as often as possible within the circle of literature and the
arts; and I will venture to say that no similar institution has been
presided over by so many remarkable and distinguished men.  I am sure,
however, that it never has had, and that it never will have, simply
because it cannot have, a greater lustre cast upon it than by the
presence of the noble English writer who fills the chair to-night.

It is not for me at this time, and in this place, to take on myself to
flutter before you the well-thumbed pages of Mr. Thackeray’s books, and
to tell you to observe how full they are of wit and wisdom, how
out-speaking, and how devoid of fear or favour; but I will take leave to
remark, in paying my due homage and respect to them, that it is fitting
that such a writer and such an institution should be brought together.
Every writer of fiction, although he may not adopt the dramatic form,
writes in effect for the stage.  He may never write plays; but the truth
and passion which are in him must be more or less reflected in the great
mirror which he holds up to nature.  Actors, managers, and authors are
all represented in this company, and it maybe supposed that they all have
studied the deep wants of the human heart in many theatres; but none of
them could have studied its mysterious workings in any theatre to greater
advantage than in the bright and airy pages of _Vanity Fair_.  To this
skilful showman, who has so often delighted us, and who has charmed us
again to-night, we have now to wish God speed, and that he may continue
for many years {150} to exercise his potent art.  To him fill a bumper
toast, and fervently utter, God bless him!



XX.
LONDON, APRIL 29, 1858.


[The reader will already have observed that in the Christmas week of
1853, and on several subsequent occasions, Mr. Dickens had read the
_Christmas Carol_ and the _Chimes_ before public audiences, but always in
aid of the funds of some institution, or for other benevolent purposes.
The first reading he ever gave for his own benefit took place on the
above date, in St. Martin’s Hall, (now converted into the Queen’s
Theatre).  This reading Mr. Dickens prefaced with the following speech:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—It may perhaps be in known to you that, for a few
years past, I have been accustomed occasionally to read some of my
shorter books, to various audiences, in aid of a variety of good objects,
and at some charge to myself, both in time and money.  It having at
length become impossible in any reason to comply with these always
accumulating demands, I have had definitively to choose between now and
then reading on my own account, as one of my recognised occupations, or
not reading at all.  I have had little or no difficulty in deciding on
the former course.  The reasons that have led me to it—besides the
consideration that it necessitates no departure whatever from the chosen
pursuits of my life—are threefold: firstly, I have satisfied myself that
it can involve no possible compromise of the credit and independence of
literature; secondly, I have long held the opinion, and have long acted
on the opinion, that in these times whatever brings a public man and his
public face to face, on terms of mutual confidence and respect, is a good
thing; thirdly, I have had a pretty large experience of the interest my
hearers are so generous as to take in these occasions, and of the delight
they give to me, as a tried means of strengthening those relations—I may
almost say of personal friendship—which it is my great privilege and
pride, as it is my great responsibility, to hold with a multitude of
persons who will never hear my voice nor see my face.  Thus it is that I
come, quite naturally, to be here among you at this time; and thus it is
that I proceed to read this little book, quite as composedly as I might
proceed to write it, or to publish it in any other way.



XXI.
LONDON, MAY 1, 1858.


[The following short speech was made at the Banquet of the Royal Academy,
after the health of Mr. Dickens and Mr. Thackeray had been proposed by
the President, Sir Charles Eastlake:—]

FOLLOWING the order of your toast, I have to take the first part in the
duet to be performed in acknowledgment of the compliment you have paid to
literature.  In this home of art I feel it to be too much an interchange
of compliments, as it were, between near relations, to enter into any
lengthened expression of our thanks for the honour you have done us.  I
feel that it would be changing this splendid assembly into a sort of
family party.  I may, however, take leave to say that your sister, whom I
represent, is strong and healthy; that she has a very great affection
for, and an undying interest in you, and that it is always a very great
gratification to her to see herself so well remembered within these
walls, and to know that she is an honoured guest at your hospitable
board.



XXII.
LONDON, JULY 21, 1858.


[On the above date, a public meeting was held at the Princess’s Theatre,
for the purpose of establishing the now famous Royal Dramatic College.
Mr. Charles Kean was the chairman, and Mr. Dickens delivered the
following speech:]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—I think I may venture to congratulate you
beforehand on the pleasant circumstance that the movers and seconders of
the resolutions which will be submitted to you will, probably, have very
little to say.  Through the Report which you have heard read, and through
the comprehensive address of the chairman, the cause which brings us
together has been so very clearly stated to you, that it can stand in
need of very little, if of any further exposition.  But, as I have the
honour to move the first resolution which this handsome gift, and the
vigorous action that must be taken upon it, necessitate, I think I shall
only give expression to what is uppermost in the general mind here, if I
venture to remark that, many as the parts are in which Mr. Kean has
distinguished himself on these boards, he has never appeared in one in
which the large spirit of an artist, the feeling of a man, and the grace
of a gentleman, have been more admirably blended than in this day’s
faithful adherence to the calling of which he is a prosperous ornament,
and in this day’s manly advocacy of its cause.

Ladies and gentlemen, the resolution entrusted to me is:

“That the Report of the provisional committee be adopted, and that this
meeting joyfully accepts, and gratefully acknowledges, the gift of five
acres of land referred to in the said Report.” {153}

It is manifest, I take it, that we are all agreed upon this acceptance
and acknowledgment, and that we all know very well that this generous
gift can inspire but one sentiment in the breast of every lover of the
dramatic art.  As it is far too often forgotten by those who are indebted
to it for many a restorative flight out of this working-day world, that
the silks, and velvets, and elegant costumes of its professors must be
every night exchanged for the hideous coats and waistcoats of the present
day, in which we have now the honour and the misfortune of appearing
before you, so when we do meet with a nature so considerably generous as
this donor’s, and do find an interest in the real life and struggles of
the people who have delighted it, so very spontaneous and so very
liberal, we have nothing to do but to accept and to admire, we have no
duty left but to “take the goods the gods provide us,” and to make the
best and the most of them.  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to remark,
that in this mode of turning a good gift to the highest account, lies the
truest gratitude.

In reference to this, I could not but reflect, whilst Mr. Kean was
speaking, that in an hour or two from this time, the spot upon which we
are now assembled will be transformed into the scene of a crafty and a
cruel bond.  I know that, a few hours hence, the Grand Canal of Venice
will flow, with picturesque fidelity, on the very spot where I now stand
dryshod, and that “the quality of mercy” will be beautifully stated to
the Venetian Council by a learned young doctor from Padua, on these very
boards on which we now enlarge upon the quality of charity and sympathy.
Knowing this, it came into my mind to consider how different the real
bond of to-day from the ideal bond of to-night.  Now, all generosity, all
forbearance, all forgetfulness of little jealousies and unworthy
divisions, all united action for the general good.  Then, all
selfishness, all malignity, all cruelty, all revenge, and all evil,—now
all good.  Then, a bond to be broken within the compass of a few—three or
four—swiftly passing hours,—now, a bond to be valid and of good effect
generations hence.

Ladies and gentlemen, of the execution and delivery of this bond, between
this generous gentleman on the one hand, and the united members of a too
often and too long disunited art upon the other, be you the witnesses.
Do you attest of everything that is liberal and free in spirit, that is
“so nominated in the bond;” and of everything that is grudging,
self-seeking, unjust, or unfair, that it is by no sophistry ever to be
found there.  I beg to move the resolution which I have already had the
pleasure of reading.



XXIII.
MANCHESTER, DECEMBER 3, 1858.


[The following speech was delivered at the annual meeting of the
Institutional Association of Lancashire and Cheshire, held in the
Free-trade Hall on the evening of the above day, at which Mr. Dickens
presided.]

IT has of late years become noticeable in England that the autumn season
produces an immense amount of public speaking.  I notice that no sooner
do the leaves begin to fall from the trees, than pearls of great price
begin to fall from the lips of the wise men of the east, and north, and
west, and south; and anybody may have them by the bushel, for the picking
up.  Now, whether the comet has this year had a quickening influence on
this crop, as it is by some supposed to have had upon the corn-harvest
and the vintage, I do not know; but I do know that I have never observed
the columns of the newspapers to groan so heavily under a pressure of
orations, each vying with the other in the two qualities of having little
or nothing to do with the matter in hand, and of being always addressed
to any audience in the wide world rather than the audience to which it
was delivered.

The autumn having gone, and the winter come, I am so sanguine as to hope
that we in our proceedings may break through this enchanted circle and
deviate from this precedent; the rather as we have something real to do,
and are come together, I am sure, in all plain fellowship and
straightforwardness, to do it.  We have no little straws of our own to
throw up to show us which way any wind blows, and we have no oblique
biddings of our own to make for anything outside this hall.

At the top of the public announcement of this meeting are the words,
“Institutional Association of Lancashire and Cheshire.”  Will you allow
me, in reference to the meaning of those words, to present myself before
you as the embodied spirit of ignorance recently enlightened, and to put
myself through a short, voluntary examination as to the results of my
studies.  To begin with: the title did not suggest to me anything in the
least like the truth.  I have been for some years pretty familiar with
the terms, “Mechanics’ Institutions,” and “Literary Societies,” but they
have, unfortunately, become too often associated in my mind with a body
of great pretensions, lame as to some important member or other, which
generally inhabits a new house much too large for it, which is seldom
paid for, and which takes the name of the mechanics most grievously in
vain, for I have usually seen a mechanic and a dodo in that place
together.

I, therefore, began my education, in respect of the meaning of this
title, very coldly indeed, saying to myself, “Here’s the old story.”  But
the perusal of a very few lines of my book soon gave me to understand
that it was not by any means the old story; in short, that this
association is expressly designed to correct the old story, and to
prevent its defects from becoming perpetuated.  I learnt that this
Institutional Association is the union, in one central head, of one
hundred and fourteen local Mechanics’ Institutions and Mutual Improvement
Societies, at an expense of no more than five shillings to each society;
suggesting to all how they can best communicate with and profit by the
fountain-head and one another; keeping their best aims steadily before
them; advising them how those aims can be best attained; giving a direct
end and object to what might otherwise easily become waste forces; and
sending among them not only oral teachers, but, better still, boxes of
excellent books, called “Free Itinerating Libraries.”  I learned that
these books are constantly making the circuit of hundreds upon hundreds
of miles, and are constantly being read with inexpressible relish by
thousands upon thousands of toiling people, but that they are never
damaged or defaced by one rude hand.  These and other like facts lead me
to consider the immense importance of the fact, that no little cluster of
working men’s cottages can arise in any Lancashire or Cheshire valley, at
the foot of any running stream which enterprise hunts out for
water-power, but it has its educational friend and companion ready for
it, willing for it, acquainted with its thoughts and ways and turns of
speech even before it has come into existence.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is the main consideration that has
brought me here.  No central association at a distance could possibly do
for those working men what this local association does.  No central
association at a distance could possibly understand them as this local
association does.  No central association at a distance could possibly
put them in that familiar and easy communication one with another, as
that I, man or boy, eager for knowledge, in that valley seven miles off,
should know of you, man or boy, eager for knowledge, in that valley
twelve miles off, and should occasionally trudge to meet you, that you
may impart your learning in one branch of acquisition to me, whilst I
impart mine in another to you.  Yet this is distinctly a feature, and a
most important feature, of this society.

On the other hand, it is not to be supposed that these honest men,
however zealous, could, as a rule, succeed in establishing and
maintaining their own institutions of themselves.  It is obvious that
combination must materially diminish their cost, which is in time a vital
consideration; and it is equally obvious that experience, essential to
the success of all combination, is especially so when its object is to
diffuse the results of experience and of reflection.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the student of the present profitable history
of this society does not stop here in his learning; when he has got so
far, he finds with interest and pleasure that the parent society at
certain stated periods invites the more eager and enterprising members of
the local society to submit themselves to voluntary examination in
various branches of useful knowledge, of which examination it takes the
charge and arranges the details, and invites the successful candidates to
come to Manchester to receive the prizes and certificates of merit which
it impartially awards.  The most successful of the competitors in the
list of these examinations are now among us, and these little marks of
recognition and encouragement I shall have the honour presently of giving
them, as they come before you, one by one, for that purpose.

I have looked over a few of those examination papers, which have
comprised history, geography, grammar, arithmetic, book-keeping, decimal
coinage, mensuration, mathematics, social economy, the French language—in
fact, they comprise all the keys that open all the locks of knowledge.  I
felt most devoutly gratified, as to many of them, that they had not been
submitted to me to answer, for I am perfectly sure that if they had been,
I should have had mighty little to bestow upon myself to-night.  And yet
it is always to be observed and seriously remembered that these
examinations are undergone by people whose lives have been passed in a
continual fight for bread, and whose whole existence, has been a constant
wrestle with

    “Those twin gaolers of the daring heart—
    Low birth and iron fortune.” {161}

I could not but consider, with extraordinary admiration, that these
questions have been replied to, not by men like myself, the business of
whose life is with writing and with books, but by men, the business of
whose life is with tools and with machinery.

Let me endeavour to recall, as well as my memory will serve me, from
among the most interesting cases of prize-holders and certificate-gainers
who will appear before you, some two or three of the most conspicuous
examples.  There are two poor brothers from near Chorley, who work from
morning to night in a coal-pit, and who, in all weathers, have walked
eight miles a-night, three nights a-week, to attend the classes in which
they have gained distinction.  There are two poor boys from Bollington,
who begin life as piecers at one shilling or eighteen-pence a-week, and
the father of one of whom was cut to pieces by the machinery at which he
worked, but not before he had himself founded the institution in which
this son has since come to be taught.  These two poor boys will appear
before you to-night, to take the second-class prize in chemistry.  There
is a plasterer from Bury, sixteen years of age, who took a third-class
certificate last year at the hands of Lord Brougham; he is this year
again successful in a competition three times as severe.  There is a
wagon-maker from the same place, who knew little or absolutely nothing
until he was a grown man, and who has learned all he knows, which is a
great deal, in the local institution.  There is a chain-maker, in very
humble circumstances, and working hard all day, who walks six miles
a-night, three nights a-week, to attend the classes in which he has won
so famous a place.  There is a moulder in an iron foundry, who, whilst he
was working twelve hours a day before the furnace, got up at four o’clock
in the morning to learn drawing.  “The thought of my lads,” he writes in
his modest account of himself, “in their peaceful slumbers above me, gave
me fresh courage, and I used to think that if I should never receive any
personal benefit, I might instruct them when they came to be of an age to
understand the mighty machines and engines which have made our country,
England, pre-eminent in the world’s history.”  There is a piecer at
mule-frames, who could not read at eighteen, who is now a man of little
more than thirty, who is the sole support of an aged mother, who is
arithmetical teacher in the institution in which he himself was taught,
who writes of himself that he made the resolution never to take up a
subject without keeping to it, and who has kept to it with such an
astonishing will, that he is now well versed in Euclid and Algebra, and
is the best French scholar in Stockport.  The drawing-classes in that
same Stockport are taught by a working blacksmith; and the pupils of that
working blacksmith will receive the highest honours of to-night.  Well
may it be said of that good blacksmith, as it was written of another of
his trade, by the American poet:

    “Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
       Onward through life he goes;
    Each morning sees some task begun,
       Each evening sees its clause.
    Something attempted, something done,
       Has earn’d a night’s repose.”

To pass from the successful candidates to the delegates from local
societies now before me, and to content myself with one instance from
amongst them.  There is among their number a most remarkable man, whose
history I have read with feelings that I could not adequately express
under any circumstances, and least of all when I know he hears me, who
worked when he was a mere baby at hand-loom weaving until he dropped from
fatigue: who began to teach himself as soon as he could earn five
shillings a-week: who is now a botanist, acquainted with every production
of the Lancashire valley: who is a naturalist, and has made and preserved
a collection of the eggs of British birds, and stuffed the birds: who is
now a conchologist, with a very curious, and in some respects an original
collection of fresh-water shells, and has also preserved and collected
the mosses of fresh water and of the sea: who is worthily the president
of his own local Literary Institution, and who was at his work this time
last night as foreman in a mill.

So stimulating has been the influence of these bright examples, and many
more, that I notice among the applications from Blackburn for preliminary
test examination papers, one from an applicant who gravely fills up the
printed form by describing himself as ten years of age, and who, with
equal gravity, describes his occupation as “nursing a little child.”  Nor
are these things confined to the men.  The women employed in factories,
milliners’ work, and domestic service, have begun to show, as it is
fitting they should, a most decided determination not to be outdone by
the men; and the women of Preston in particular, have so honourably
distinguished themselves, and shown in their examination papers such an
admirable knowledge of the science of household management and household
economy, that if I were a working bachelor of Lancashire or Cheshire, and
if I had not cast my eye or set my heart upon any lass in particular, I
should positively get up at four o’clock in the morning with the
determination of the iron-moulder himself, and should go to Preston in
search of a wife.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, these instances, and many more, daily
occurring, always accumulating, are surely better testimony to the
working of this Association, than any number of speakers could possibly
present to you.  Surely the presence among us of these indefatigable
people is the Association’s best and most effective triumph in the
present and the past, and is its noblest stimulus to effort in the
future.  As its temporary mouth-piece, I would beg to say to that portion
of the company who attend to receive the prizes, that the institution can
never hold itself apart from them;—can never set itself above them; that
their distinction and success must be its distinction and success; and
that there can be but one heart beating between them and it.  In
particular, I would most especially entreat them to observe that nothing
will ever be further from this Association’s mind than the impertinence
of patronage.  The prizes that it gives, and the certificates that it
gives, are mere admiring assurances of sympathy with so many striving
brothers and sisters, and are only valuable for the spirit in which they
are given, and in which they are received.  The prizes are money prizes,
simply because the Institution does not presume to doubt that persons who
have so well governed themselves, know best how to make a little money
serviceable—because it would be a shame to treat them like grown-up
babies by laying it out for them, and because it knows it is given, and
knows it is taken, in perfect clearness of purpose, perfect trustfulness,
and, above all, perfect independence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, reverting once more to the whole collective
audience before me, I will, in another two minutes, release the hold
which your favour has given me on your attention.  Of the advantages of
knowledge I have said, and I shall say, nothing.  Of the certainty with
which the man who grasps it under difficulties rises in his own respect
and in usefulness to the community, I have said, and I shall say,
nothing.  In the city of Manchester, in the county of Lancaster, both of
them remarkable for self-taught men, that were superfluous indeed.  For
the same reason I rigidly abstain from putting together any of the
shattered fragments of that poor clay image of a parrot, which was once
always saying, without knowing why, or what it meant, that knowledge was
a dangerous thing.  I should as soon think of piecing together the
mutilated remains of any wretched Hindoo who has been blown from an
English gun.  Both, creatures of the past, have been—as my friend Mr.
Carlyle vigorously has it—“blasted into space;” and there, as to this
world, is an end of them.

So I desire, in conclusion, only to sound two strings.  In the first
place, let me congratulate you upon the progress which real mutual
improvement societies are making at this time in your neighbourhood,
through the noble agency of individual employers and their families, whom
you can never too much delight to honour.  Elsewhere, through the agency
of the great railway companies, some of which are bestirring themselves
in this matter with a gallantry and generosity deserving of all praise.
Secondly and lastly, let me say one word out of my own personal heart,
which is always very near to it in this connexion.  Do not let us, in the
midst of the visible objects of nature, whose workings we can tell of in
figures, surrounded by machines that can be made to the thousandth part
of an inch, acquiring every day knowledge which can be proved upon a
slate or demonstrated by a microscope—do not let us, in the laudable
pursuit of the facts that surround us, neglect the fancy and the
imagination which equally surround us as a part of the great scheme.  Let
the child have its fables; let the man or woman into which it changes,
always remember those fables tenderly.  Let numerous graces and ornaments
that cannot be weighed and measured, and that seem at first sight idle
enough, continue to have their places about us, be we never so wise.  The
hardest head may co-exist with the softest heart.  The union and just
balance of those two is always a blessing to the possessor, and always a
blessing to mankind.  The Divine Teacher was as gentle and considerate as
He was powerful and wise.  You all know how He could still the raging of
the sea, and could hush a little child.  As the utmost results of the
wisdom of men can only be at last to help to raise this earth to that
condition to which His doctrine, untainted by the blindnesses and
passions of men, would have exalted it long ago; so let us always
remember that He set us the example of blending the understanding and the
imagination, and that, following it ourselves, we tread in His steps, and
help our race on to its better and best days.  Knowledge, as all
followers of it must know, has a very limited power indeed, when it
informs the head alone; but when it informs the head and the heart too,
it has a power over life and death, the body and the soul, and dominates
the universe.



XXIV.
COVENTRY, DECEMBER 4, 1858.


[On the above evening, a public dinner was held at the Castle Hotel, on
the occasion of the presentation to Mr. Charles Dickens of a gold watch,
as a mark of gratitude for the reading of his Christmas Carol, given in
December of the previous year, in aid of the funds of the Coventry
Institute.  The chair was taken by C. W. Hoskyns, Esq.  Mr. Dickens
ackowledged the testimonial in the following words:]

MR. CHAIRMAN, Mr. Vice-chairman, and Gentlemen,—I hope your minds will be
greatly relieved by my assuring you that it is one of the rules of my
life never to make a speech about myself.  If I knowingly did so, under
any circumstances, it would be least of all under such circumstances as
these, when its effect on my acknowledgment of your kind regard, and this
pleasant proof of it, would be to give me a certain constrained air,
which I fear would contrast badly with your greeting, so cordial, so
unaffected, so earnest, and so true.  Furthermore, your Chairman has
decorated the occasion with a little garland of good sense, good feeling,
and good taste; so that I am sure that any attempt at additional ornament
would be almost an impertinence.

Therefore I will at once say how earnestly, how fervently, and how deeply
I feel your kindness.  This watch, with which you have presented me,
shall be my companion in my hours of sedentary working at home, and in my
wanderings abroad.  It shall never be absent from my side, and it shall
reckon off the labours of my future days; and I can assure you that after
this night the object of those labours will not less than before be to
uphold the right and to do good.  And when I have done with time and its
measurement, this watch shall belong to my children; and as I have seven
boys, and as they have all begun to serve their country in various ways,
or to elect into what distant regions they shall roam, it is not only
possible, but probable, that this little voice will be heard scores of
years hence, who knows? in some yet unfounded city in the wilds of
Australia, or communicating Greenwich time to Coventry Street, Japan.

Once again, and finally, I thank you; and from my heart of hearts, I can
assure you that the memory of to-night, and of your picturesque and
interesting city, will never be absent from my mind, and I can never more
hear the lightest mention of the name of Coventry without having inspired
in my breast sentiments of unusual emotion and unusual attachment.

                                * * * * *

[Later in the evening, in proposing the health of the Chairman, Mr.
Dickens said:]

THERE may be a great variety of conflicting opinions with regard to
farming, and especially with reference to the management of a clay farm;
but, however various opinions as to the merits of a clay farm may be,
there can be but one opinion as to the merits of a clay farmer,—and it is
the health of that distinguished agriculturist which I have to propose.

In my ignorance of the subject, I am bound to say that it may be, for
anything I know, indeed I am ready to admit that it _is_, exceedingly
important that a clay farm should go for a number of years to waste; but
I claim some knowledge as to the management of a clay farmer, and I
positively object to his ever lying fallow.  In the hope that this very
rich and teeming individual may speedily be ploughed up, and that, we
shall gather into our barns and store-houses the admirable crop of
wisdom, which must spring up when ever he is sown, I take leave to
propose his health, begging to assure him that the kind manner in which
he offered to me your very valuable present, I can never forget.



XXV.
LONDON, MARCH 29, 1862.


[At a Dinner of the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution, the
following Address was delivered by Mr. Charles Dickens from the chair:—]

SEVEN or eight years ago, without the smallest expectation of ever being
called upon to fill the chair at an anniversary festival of the Artists’
General Benevolent Institution, and without the remotest reference to
such an occasion, I selected the administration of that Charity as the
model on which I desired that another should be reformed, both as
regarded the mode in which the relief was afforded, and the singular
economy with which its funds were administered.  As a proof of the latter
quality during the past year, the cost of distributing £1,126 among the
recipients of the bounty of the Charity amounted to little more than
£100, inclusive of all office charges and expenses.  The experience and
knowledge of those entrusted with the management of the funds are a
guarantee that the last available farthing of the funds will be
distributed among proper and deserving recipients.  Claiming, on my part,
to be related in some degree to the profession of an artist, I disdain to
stoop to ask for charity, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, on
behalf of the Artists.  In its broader and higher signification of
generous confidence, lasting trustfulness, love and confiding belief, I
very readily associate that cardinal virtue with art.  I decline to
present the artist to the notice of the public as a grown-up child, or as
a strange, unaccountable, moon-stricken person, waiting helplessly in the
street of life to be helped over the road by the crossing-sweeper; on the
contrary, I present the artist as a reasonable creature, a sensible
gentleman, and as one well acquainted with the value of his time, and
that of other people, as if he were in the habit of going on high ’Change
every day.  The Artist whom I wish to present to the notice of the
Meeting is one to whom the perfect enjoyment of the five senses is
essential to every achievement of his life.  He can gain no wealth nor
fame by buying something which he never touched, and selling it to
another who would also never touch or see it, but was compelled to strike
out for himself every spark of fire which lighted, burned, and perhaps
consumed him.  He must win the battle of life with his own hand, and with
his own eyes, and was obliged to act as general, captain, ensign,
non-commissioned officer, private, drummer, great arms, small arms,
infantry, cavalry, all in his own unaided self.  When, therefore, I ask
help for the artist, I do not make my appeal for one who was a cripple
from his birth, but I ask it as part payment of a great debt which all
sensible and civilised creatures owe to art, as a mark of respect to art,
as a decoration—not as a badge—as a remembrance of what this land, or any
land, would be without art, and as the token of an appreciation of the
works of the most successful artists of this country.  With respect to
the society of which I am the advocate, I am gratified that it is so
liberally supported by the most distinguished artists, and that it has
the confidence of men who occupy the highest rank as artists, above the
reach of reverses, and the most distinguished in success and fame, and
whose support is above all price.  Artists who have obtained wide-world
reputation know well that many deserving and persevering men, or their
widows and orphans, have received help from this fund, and some of the
artists who have received this help are now enrolled among the
subscribers to the Institution.



XXVI.
LONDON, MAY 20, 1862.


[The following speech was made by Mr. Dickens, in his capacity as
chairman, at the annual Festival of the Newsvendors’ and Provident
Institution, held at the Freemasons’ Tavern on the above date.]

WHEN I had the honour of being asked to preside last year, I was
prevented by indisposition, and I besought my friend, Mr. Wilkie Collins,
to reign in my stead.  He very kindly complied, and made an excellent
speech.  Now I tell you the truth, that I read that speech with
considerable uneasiness, for it inspired me with a strong misgiving that
I had better have presided last year with neuralgia in my face and my
subject in my head, rather than preside this year with my neuralgia all
gone and my subject anticipated.  Therefore, I wish to preface the toast
this evening by making the managers of this Institution one very solemn
and repentant promise, and it is, if ever I find myself obliged to
provide a substitute again, they may rely upon my sending the most
speechless man of my acquaintance.

The Chairman last year presented you with an amiable view of the
universality of the newsman’s calling.  Nothing, I think, is left for me
but to imagine the newsman’s burden itself, to unfold one of those
wonderful sheets which he every day disseminates, and to take a
bird’s-eye view of its general character and contents.  So, if you
please, choosing my own time—though the newsman cannot choose his time,
for he must be equally active in winter or summer, in sunshine or sleet,
in light or darkness, early or late—but, choosing my own time, I shall
for two or three moments start off with the newsman on a fine May
morning, and take a view of the wonderful broadsheets which every day he
scatters broadcast over the country.  Well, the first thing that occurs
to me following the newsman is, that every day we are born, that every
day we are married—some of us—and that every day we are dead;
consequently, the first thing the newsvendor’s column informs me is, that
Atkins has been born, that Catkins has been married, and that Datkins is
dead.  But the most remarkable thing I immediately discover in the next
column, is that Atkins has grown to be seventeen years old, and that he
has run away; for, at last, my eye lights on the fact that William A.,
who is seventeen years old, is adjured immediately to return to his
disconsolate parents, and everything will be arranged to the satisfaction
of everyone.  I am afraid he will never return, simply because, if he had
meant to come back, he would never have gone away.  Immediately below, I
find a mysterious character in such a mysterious difficulty that it is
only to be expressed by several disjointed letters, by several figures,
and several stars; and then I find the explanation in the intimation that
the writer has given his property over to his uncle, and that the
elephant is on the wing.  Then, still glancing over the shoulder of my
industrious friend, the newsman, I find there are great fleets of ships
bound to all parts of the earth, that they all want a little more
stowage, a little more cargo, that they have a few more berths to let,
that they have all the most spacious decks, that they are all built of
teak, and copper-bottomed, that they all carry surgeons of experience,
and that they are all A1 at Lloyds’, and anywhere else.  Still glancing
over the shoulder of my friend the newsman, I find I am offered all kinds
of house-lodging, clerks, servants, and situations, which I can possibly
or impossibly want.  I learn, to my intense gratification, that I need
never grow old, that I may always preserve the juvenile bloom of my
complexion; that if ever I turn ill it is entirely my own fault; that if
I have any complaint, and want brown cod-liver oil or Turkish baths, I am
told where to get them, and that, if I want an income of seven pounds
a-week, I may have it by sending half-a-crown in postage-stamps.  Then I
look to the police intelligence, and I can discover that I may bite off a
human living nose cheaply, but if I take off the dead nose of a pig or a
calf from a shop-window, it will cost me exceedingly dear.  I also find
that if I allow myself to be betrayed into the folly of killing an
inoffensive tradesman on his own door-step, that little incident will not
affect the testimonials to my character, but that I shall be described as
a most amiable young man, and as, above all things, remarkable for the
singular inoffensiveness of my character and disposition.  Then I turn my
eye to the Fine Arts, and, under that head, I see that a certain “J. O.”
has most triumphantly exposed a certain “J. O. B.,” which “J. O. B.” was
remarkable for this particular ugly feature, that I was requested to
deprive myself of the best of my pictures for six months; that for that
time it was to be hung on a wet wall, and that I was to be requited for
my courtesy in having my picture most impertinently covered with a wet
blanket.  To sum up the results of a glance over my newsman’s shoulder,
it gives a comprehensive knowledge of what is going on over the continent
of Europe, and also of what is going on over the continent of America, to
say nothing of such little geographical regions as India and China.

Now, my friends, this is the glance over the newsman’s shoulders from the
whimsical point of view, which is the point, I believe, that most
promotes digestion.  The newsman is to be met with on steamboats, railway
stations, and at every turn.  His profits are small, he has a great
amount of anxiety and care, and no little amount of personal wear and
tear.  He is indispensable to civilization and freedom, and he is looked
for with pleasurable excitement every day, except when he lends the paper
for an hour, and when he is punctual in calling for it, which is
sometimes very painful.  I think the lesson we can learn from our newsman
is some new illustration of the uncertainty of life, some illustration of
its vicissitudes and fluctuations.  Mindful of this permanent lesson,
some members of the trade originated this society, which affords them
assistance in time of sickness and indigence.  The subscription is
infinitesimal.  It amounts annually to five shillings.  Looking at the
returns before me, the progress of the society would seem to be slow, but
it has only been slow for the best of all reasons, that it has been sure.
The pensions granted are all obtained from the interest on the funded
capital, and, therefore, the Institution is literally as safe as the
Bank.  It is stated that there are several newsvendors who are not
members of this society; but that is true in all institutions which have
come under my experience.  The persons who are most likely to stand in
need of the benefits which an institution confers, are usually the
persons to keep away until bitter experience comes to them too late.



XXVII.
LONDON, MAY 11, 1864.


[On the above date Mr. Dickens presided at the Adelphi Theatre, at a
public meeting, for the purpose of founding the Shakespeare Schools, in
connexion with the Royal Dramatic College, and delivered the following
address:]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN—Fortunately for me, and fortunately for you, it is
the duty of the Chairman on an occasion of this nature, to be very
careful that he does not anticipate those speakers who come after him.
Like Falstaff, with a considerable difference, he has to be the cause of
speaking in others.  It is rather his duty to sit and hear speeches with
exemplary attention than to stand up to make them; so I shall confine
myself, in opening these proceedings as your business official, to as
plain and as short an exposition as I can possibly give you of the
reasons why we come together.

First of all I will take leave to remark that we do not come together in
commemoration of Shakespeare.  We have nothing to do with any
commemoration, except that we are of course humble worshippers of that
mighty genius, and that we propose by-and-by to take his name, but by no
means to take it in vain.  If, however, the Tercentenary celebration were
a hundred years hence, or a hundred years past, we should still be
pursuing precisely the same object, though we should not pursue it under
precisely the same circumstances.  The facts are these: There is, as you
know, in existence an admirable institution called the Royal Dramatic
College, which is a place of honourable rest and repose for veterans in
the dramatic art.  The charter of this college, which dates some five or
six years back, expressly provides for the establishment of schools in
connexion with it; and I may venture to add that this feature of the
scheme, when it was explained to him, was specially interesting to his
Royal Highness the late Prince Consort, who hailed it as evidence of the
desire of the promoters to look forward as well as to look back; to found
educational institutions for the rising generation, as well as to
establish a harbour of refuge for the generation going out, or at least
having their faces turned towards the setting sun.  The leading members
of the dramatic art, applying themselves first to the more pressing
necessity of the two, set themselves to work on the construction of their
harbour of refuge, and this they did with the zeal, energy, good-will,
and good faith that always honourably distinguish them in their efforts
to help one another.  Those efforts were very powerfully aided by the
respected gentleman {177} under whose roof we are assembled, and who, I
hope, may be only half as glad of seeing me on these boards as I always
am to see him here.  With such energy and determination did Mr. Webster
and his brothers and sisters in art proceed with their work, that at this
present time all the dwelling-houses of the Royal Dramatic College are
built, completely furnished, fitted with every appliance, and many of
them inhabited.  The central hall of the College is built, the grounds
are beautifully planned and laid out, and the estate has become the
nucleus of a prosperous neighbourhood.  This much achieved, Mr. Webster
was revolving in his mind how he should next proceed towards the
establishment of the schools, when, this Tercentenary celebration being
in hand, it occurred to him to represent to the National Shakespeare
Committee their just and reasonable claim to participate in the results
of any subscription for a monument to Shakespeare.  He represented to the
committee that the social recognition and elevation of the followers of
Shakespeare’s own art, through the education of their children, was
surely a monument worthy even of that great name.  He urged upon the
committee that it was certainly a sensible, tangible project, which the
public good sense would immediately appreciate and approve.  This claim
the committee at once acknowledged; but I wish you distinctly to
understand that if the committee had never been in existence, if the
Tercentenary celebration had never been attempted, those schools, as a
design anterior to both, would still have solicited public support.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, what it is proposed to do is, in fact, to find
a new self-supporting public school; with this additional feature, that
it is to be available for both sexes.  This, of course, presupposes two
separate distinct schools.  As these schools are to be built on land
belonging to the Dramatic College, there will be from the first no
charge, no debt, no incumbrance of any kind under that important head.
It is, in short, proposed simply to establish a new self-supporting
public school, in a rapidly increasing neighbourhood, where there is a
large and fast accumulating middle-class population, and where property
in land is fast rising in value.  But, inasmuch as the project is a
project of the Royal Dramatic College, and inasmuch as the schools are to
be built on their estate, it is proposed evermore to give their schools
the great name of Shakespeare, and evermore to give the followers of
Shakespeare’s art a prominent place in them.  With this view, it is
confidently believed that the public will endow a foundation, say, for
forty foundation scholars—say, twenty girls and twenty boys—who shall
always receive their education gratuitously, and who shall always be the
children of actors, actresses, or dramatic writers.  This school, you
will understand, is to be equal to the best existing public school.  It
is to be made to impart a sound, liberal, comprehensive education, and it
is to address the whole great middle class at least as freely, as widely,
and as cheaply as any existing public school.

Broadly, ladies and gentlemen, this is the whole design.  There are
foundation scholars at Eton, foundation scholars at nearly all our old
schools, and if the public, in remembrance of a noble part of our
standard national literature, and in remembrance of a great humanising
art, will do this thing for these children, it will at the same time be
doing a wise and good thing for itself, and will unquestionably find its
account in it.  Taking this view of the case—and I cannot be satisfied to
take any lower one—I cannot make a sorry face about “the poor player.”  I
think it is a term very much misused and very little understood—being, I
venture to say, appropriated in a wrong sense by players themselves.
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I can only present the player to you
exceptionally in this wise—that he follows a peculiar and precarious
vocation, a vocation very rarely affording the means of accumulating
money—that that vocation must, from the nature of things, have in it many
undistinguished men and women to one distinguished one—that it is not a
vocation the exerciser of which can profit by the labours of others, but
in which he must earn every loaf of his bread in his own person, with the
aid of his own face, his own limbs, his own voice, his own memory, and
his own life and spirits; and these failing, he fails.  Surely this is
reason enough to render him some little help in opening for his children
their paths through life.  I say their paths advisedly, because it is not
often found, except under the pressure of necessity, or where there is
strong hereditary talent—which is always an exceptional case—that the
children of actors and actresses take to the stage.  Persons therefore
need not in the least fear that by helping to endow these schools they
would help to overstock the dramatic market.  They would do directly the
reverse, for they would divert into channels of public distinction and
usefulness those good qualities which would otherwise languish in that
market’s over-rich superabundance.

This project has received the support of the head of the most popular of
our English public schools.  On the committee stands the name of that
eminent scholar and gentleman, the Provost of Eton.  You justly admire
this liberal spirit, and your admiration—which I cordially share—brings
me naturally to what I wish to say, that I believe there is not in
England any institution so socially liberal as a public school.  It has
been called a little cosmos of life outside, and I think it is so, with
the exception of one of life’s worst foibles—for, as far as I know,
nowhere in this country is there so complete an absence of servility to
mere rank, to mere position, to mere riches as in a public school.  A boy
there is always what his abilities or his personal qualities make him.
We may differ about the curriculum and other matters, but of the frank,
free, manly, independent spirit preserved in our public schools, I
apprehend there can be no kind of question.  It has happened in these
later times that objection has been made to children of dramatic artists
in certain little snivelling private schools—but in public schools never.
Therefore, I hold that the actors are wise, and gratefully wise, in
recognizing the capacious liberality of a public school, in seeking not a
little hole-and-corner place of education for their children exclusively,
but in addressing the whole of the great middle class, and proposing to
them to come and join them, the actors, on their own property, in a
public school, in a part of the country where no such advantage is now to
be found.

I have now done.  The attempt has been a very timid one.  I have
endeavoured to confine myself within my means, or, rather, like the
possessor of an extended estate, to hand it down in an unembarrassed
condition.  I have laid a trifle of timber here and there, and grubbed up
a little brushwood, but merely to open the view, and I think I can descry
in the eye of the gentleman who is to move the first resolution that he
distinctly sees his way.  Thanking you for the courtesy with which you
have heard me, and not at all doubting that we shall lay a strong
foundation of these schools to-day, I will call, as the mover of the
first resolution, on Mr. Robert Bell.



XXVIII.
LONDON, MAY 9, 1865.


[On the above date Mr. Dickens presided at the Annual Festival of the
Newsvendors’ Benevolent and Provident Association, and, in proposing the
toast of the evening, delivered the following speech.]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—Dr. Johnson’s experience of that club, the members
of which have travelled over one another’s minds in every direction, is
not to be compared with the experience of the perpetual president of a
society like this.  Having on previous occasions said everything about it
that he could possibly find to say, he is again produced, with the same
awful formalities, to say everything about it that he cannot possibly
find to say.  It struck me, when Dr. F. Jones was referring just now to
Easter Monday, that the case of such an ill-starred president is very
like that of the stag at Epping Forest on Easter Monday.  That
unfortunate animal when he is uncarted at the spot where the meet takes
place, generally makes a point, I am told, of making away at a cool trot,
venturesomely followed by the whole field, to the yard where he lives,
and there subsides into a quiet and inoffensive existence, until he is
again brought out to be again followed by exactly the same field, under
exactly the same circumstances, next Easter Monday.

The difficulties of the situation—and here I mean the president and not
the stag—are greatly increased in such an instance as this by the
peculiar nature of the institution.  In its unpretending solidity,
reality, and usefulness, believe me—for I have carefully considered the
point—it presents no opening whatever of an oratorical nature.  If it
were one of those costly charities, so called, whose yield of wool bears
no sort of proportion to their cry for cash, I very likely might have a
word or two to say on the subject.  If its funds were lavished in
patronage and show, instead of being honestly expended in providing small
annuities for hard-working people who have themselves contributed to its
funds—if its management were intrusted to people who could by no
possibility know anything about it, instead of being invested in plain,
business, practical hands—if it hoarded when it ought to spend—if it got
by cringing and fawning what it never deserved, I might possibly impress
you very much by my indignation.  If its managers could tell me that it
was insolvent, that it was in a hopeless condition, that its accounts had
been kept by Mr. Edmunds—or by “Tom,”—if its treasurer had run away with
the money-box, then I might have made a pathetic appeal to your feelings.
But I have no such chance.  Just as a nation is happy whose records are
barren, so is a society fortunate that has no history—and its president
unfortunate.  I can only assure you that this society continues its
plain, unobtrusive, useful career.  I can only assure you that it does a
great deal of good at a very small cost, and that the objects of its care
and the bulk of its members are faithful working servants of the
public—sole ministers of their wants at untimely hours, in all seasons,
and in all weathers; at their own doors, at the street-corners, at every
railway train, at every steam-boat; through the agency of every
establishment and the tiniest little shops; and that, whether regarded as
master or as man, their profits are very modest and their risks numerous,
while their trouble and responsibility are very great.

The newsvendors and newsmen are a very subordinate part of that wonderful
engine—the newspaper press.  Still I think we all know very well that
they are to the fountain-head what a good service of water pipes is to a
good water supply.  Just as a goodly store of water at Watford would be a
tantalization to thirsty London if it were not brought into town for its
use, so any amount of news accumulated at Printing-house Square, or Fleet
Street, or the Strand, would be if there were no skill and enterprise
engaged in its dissemination.

We are all of us in the habit of saying in our every-day life, that “We
never know the value of anything until we lose it.”  Let us try the
newsvendors by the test.  A few years ago we discovered one morning that
there was a strike among the cab-drivers.  Now, let us imagine a strike
of newsmen.  Imagine the trains waiting in vain for the newspapers.
Imagine all sorts and conditions of men dying to know the shipping news,
the commercial news, the foreign news, the legal news, the criminal news,
the dramatic news.  Imagine the paralysis on all the provincial
exchanges; the silence and desertion of all the newsmen’s exchanges in
London.  Imagine the circulation of the blood of the nation and of the
country standing still,—the clock of the world.  Why, even Mr. Reuter,
the great Reuter—whom I am always glad to imagine slumbering at night by
the side of Mrs. Reuter, with a galvanic battery under his bolster, bell
and wires to the head of his bed, and bells at each ear—think how even he
would click and flash those wondrous dispatches of his, and how they
would become mere nothing without the activity and honesty which catch up
the threads and stitches of the electric needle, and scatter them over
the land.

It is curious to consider—and the thought occurred to me this day, when I
was out for a stroll pondering over the duties of this evening, which
even then were looming in the distance, but not quite so far off as I
could wish—I found it very curious to consider that though the newsman
must be allowed to be a very unpicturesque rendering of Mercury, or Fame,
or what-not conventional messenger from the clouds, and although we must
allow that he is of this earth, and has a good deal of it on his boots,
still that he has two very remarkable characteristics, to which none of
his celestial predecessors can lay the slightest claim.  One is that he
is always the messenger of civilization; the other that he is at least
equally so—not only in what he brings, but in what he ceases to bring.
Thus the time was, and not so many years ago either, when the newsman
constantly brought home to our doors—though I am afraid not to our
hearts, which were custom-hardened—the most terrific accounts of murders,
of our fellow-creatures being publicly put to death for what we now call
trivial offences, in the very heart of London, regularly every Monday
morning.  At the same time the newsman regularly brought to us the
infliction of other punishments, which were demoralising to the innocent
part of the community, while they did not operate as punishments in
deterring offenders from the perpetration of crimes.  In those same days,
also, the newsman brought to us daily accounts of a regularly accepted
and received system of loading the unfortunate insane with chains,
littering them down on straw, starving them on bread and water, damaging
their clothes, and making periodical exhibitions of them at a small
charge; and that on a Sunday one of our public resorts was a kind of
demoniacal zoological gardens.  They brought us accounts at the same time
of some damage done to the machinery which was destined to supply the
operative classes with employment.  In the same time they brought us
accounts of riots for bread, which were constantly occurring, and
undermining society and the state; of the most terrible explosions of
class against class, and of the habitual employment of spies for the
discovery—if not for the origination—of plots, in which both sides found
in those days some relief.  In the same time the same newsmen were
apprising us of a state of society all around us in which the grossest
sensuality and intemperance were the rule; and not as now, when the
ignorant, the wicked, and the wretched are the inexcusably vicious
exceptions—a state of society in which the professional bully was
rampant, and when deadly duels were daily fought for the most absurd and
disgraceful causes.  All this the newsman has ceased to tell us of.  This
state of society has discontinued in England for ever; and when we
remember the undoubted truth, that the change could never have been
effected without the aid of the load which the newsman carries, surely it
is not very romantic to express the hope on his behalf that the public
will show to him some little token of the sympathetic remembrance which
we are all of us glad to bestow on the bearers of happy tidings—the
harbingers of good news.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, you will be glad to hear that I am coming to a
conclusion; for that conclusion I have a precedent.  You all of you know
how pleased you are on your return from a morning’s walk to learn that
the collector has called.  Well, I am the collector for this district,
and I hope you will bear in mind that I have respectfully called.
Regarding the institution on whose behalf I have presented myself, I need
only say technically two things.  First, that its annuities are granted
out of its funded capital, and therefore it is safe as the Bank; and,
secondly, that they are attainable by such a slight exercise of prudence
and fore-thought, that a payment of 25_s._ extending over a period of
five years, entitles a subscriber—if a male—to an annuity of £16 a-year,
and a female to £12 a-year.  Now, bear in mind that this is an
institution on behalf of which the collector has called, leaving behind
his assurance that what you can give to one of the most faithful of your
servants shall be well bestowed and faithfully applied to the purposes to
which you intend them, and to those purposes alone.



XXIX.
NEWSPAPER PRESS FUND.
LONDON, MAY 20, 1865.


[At the second annual dinner of the Institution, held at the Freemasons’
Tavern, on Saturday, the 20th May, 1865, the following speech was
delivered by the chairman, Mr. Charles Dickens, in proposing the toast of
the evening:]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—When a young child is produced after dinner to be
shown to a circle of admiring relations and friends, it may generally be
observed that their conversation—I suppose in an instinctive remembrance
of the uncertainty of infant life—takes a retrospective turn.  As how
much the child has grown since the last dinner; what a remarkably fine
child it is, to have been born only two or three years ago, how much
stronger it looks now than before it had the measles, and so forth.  When
a young institution is produced after dinner, there is not the same
uncertainty or delicacy as in the case of the child, and it may be
confidently predicted of it that if it deserve to live it will surely
live, and that if it deserve to die it will surely die.  The proof of
desert in such a case as this must be mainly sought, I suppose, firstly,
in what the society means to do with its money; secondly, in the extent
to which it is supported by the class with whom it originated, and for
whose benefit it is designed; and, lastly, in the power of its hold upon
the public.  I add this lastly, because no such institution that ever I
heard of ever yet dreamed of existing apart from the public, or ever yet
considered it a degradation to accept the public support.

Now, what the Newspaper Press Fund proposes to do with its money is to
grant relief to members in want or distress, and to the widows, families,
parents, or other near relatives of deceased members in right of a
moderate provident annual subscription—commutable, I observe, for a
moderate provident life subscription—and its members comprise the whole
paid class of literary contributors to the press of the United Kingdom,
and every class of reporters.  The number of its members at this time
last year was something below 100.  At the present time it is somewhat
above 170, not including 30 members of the press who are regular
subscribers, but have not as yet qualified as regular members.  This
number is steadily on the increase, not only as regards the metropolitan
press, but also as regards the provincial throughout the country.  I have
observed within these few days that many members of the press at
Manchester have lately at a meeting expressed a strong brotherly interest
in this Institution, and a great desire to extend its operations, and to
strengthen its hands, provided that something in the independent nature
of life assurance and the purchase of deferred annuities could be
introduced into its details, and always assuming that in it the
metropolis and the provinces stand on perfectly equal ground.  This
appears to me to be a demand so very moderate, that I can hardly have a
doubt of a response on the part of the managers, or of the beneficial and
harmonious results.  It only remains to add, on this head of desert, the
agreeable circumstance that out of all the money collected in aid of the
society during the last year more than one-third came exclusively from
the press.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, in regard to the last claim—the last point of
desert—the hold upon the public—I think I may say that probably not one
single individual in this great company has failed to-day to see a
newspaper, or has failed to-day to hear something derived from a
newspaper which was quite unknown to him or to her yesterday.  Of all
those restless crowds that have this day thronged the streets of this
enormous city, the same may be said as the general gigantic rule.  It may
be said almost equally, of the brightest and the dullest, the largest and
the least provincial town in the empire; and this, observe, not only as
to the active, the industrious, and the healthy among the population, but
also to the bedridden, the idle, the blind, and the deaf and dumb.  Now,
if the men who provide this all-pervading presence, this wonderful,
ubiquitous newspaper, with every description of intelligence on every
subject of human interest, collected with immense pains and immense
patience, often by the exercise of a laboriously-acquired faculty united
to a natural aptitude, much of the work done in the night, at the
sacrifice of rest and sleep, and (quite apart from the mental strain) by
the constant overtasking of the two most delicate of the senses, sight
and hearing—I say, if the men who, through the newspapers, from day to
day, or from night to night, or from week to week, furnish the public
with so much to remember, have not a righteous claim to be remembered by
the public in return, then I declare before God I know no working class
of the community who have.

It would be absurd, it would be impertinent, in such an assembly as this,
if I were to attempt to expatiate upon the extraordinary combination of
remarkable qualities involved in the production of any newspaper.  But
assuming the majority of this associated body to be composed of
reporters, because reporters, of one kind or other, compose the majority
of the literary staff of almost every newspaper that is not a
compilation, I would venture to remind you, if I delicately may, in the
august presence of members of Parliament, how much we, the public, owe to
the reporters if it were only for their skill in the two great sciences
of condensation and rejection.  Conceive what our sufferings, under an
Imperial Parliament, however popularly constituted, under however
glorious a constitution, would be if the reporters could not skip.  Dr.
Johnson, in one of his violent assertions, declared that “the man who was
afraid of anything must be a scoundrel, sir.”  By no means binding myself
to this opinion—though admitting that the man who is afraid of a
newspaper will generally be found to be rather something like it, I must
still freely own that I should approach my Parliamentary debate with
infinite fear and trembling if it were so unskilfully served up for my
breakfast.  Ever since the time when the old man and his son took their
donkey home, which were the old Greek days, I believe, and probably ever
since the time when the donkey went into the ark—perhaps he did not like
his accommodation there—but certainly from that time downwards, he has
objected to go in any direction required of him—from the remotest periods
it has been found impossible to please everybody.

I do not for a moment seek to conceal that I know this Institution has
been objected to.  As an open fact challenging the freëst discussion and
inquiry, and seeking no sort of shelter or favour but what it can win, it
has nothing, I apprehend, but itself, to urge against objection.  No
institution conceived in perfect honesty and good faith has a right to
object to being questioned to any extent, and any institution so based
must be in the end the better for it.  Moreover, that this society has
been questioned in quarters deserving of the most respectful attention I
take to be an indisputable fact.  Now, I for one have given that
respectful attention, and I have come out of the discussion to where you
see me.  The whole circle of the arts is pervaded by institutions between
which and this I can descry no difference.  The painters’ art has four or
five such institutions.  The musicians’ art, so generously and charmingly
represented here, has likewise several such institutions.  In my own art
there is one, concerning the details of which my noble friend the
president of the society and myself have torn each other’s hair to a
considerable extent, and which I would, if I could, assimilate more
nearly to this.  In the dramatic art there are four, and I never yet
heard of any objection to their principle, except, indeed, in the cases
of some famous actors of large gains, who having through the whole period
of their successes positively refused to establish a right in them,
became, in their old age and decline, repentant suppliants for their
bounty.  Is it urged against this particular Institution that it is
objectionable because a parliamentary reporter, for instance, might
report a subscribing M.P. in large, and a non-subscribing M.P. in little?
Apart from the sweeping nature of this charge, which, it is to be
observed, lays the unfortunate member and the unfortunate reporter under
pretty much the same suspicion—apart from this consideration, I reply
that it is notorious in all newspaper offices that every such man is
reported according to the position he can gain in the public eye, and
according to the force and weight of what he has to say.  And if there
were ever to be among the members of this society one so very foolish to
his brethren, and so very dishonourable to himself, as venally to abuse
his trust, I confidently ask those here, the best acquainted with
journalism, whether they believe it possible that any newspaper so
ill-conducted as to fail instantly to detect him could possibly exist as
a thriving enterprise for one single twelvemonth?  No, ladies and
gentlemen, the blundering stupidity of such an offence would have no
chance against the acute sagacity of newspaper editors.  But I will go
further, and submit to you that its commission, if it be to be dreaded at
all, is far more likely on the part of some recreant camp-follower of a
scattered, disunited, and half-recognized profession, than when there is
a public opinion established in it, by the union of all classes of its
members for the common good: the tendency of which union must in the
nature of things be to raise the lower members of the press towards the
higher, and never to bring the higher members to the lower level.

I hope I may be allowed in the very few closing words that I feel a
desire to say in remembrance of some circumstances, rather special,
attending my present occupation of this chair, to give those words
something of a personal tone.  I am not here advocating the case of a
mere ordinary client of whom I have little or no knowledge.  I hold a
brief to-night for my brothers.  I went into the gallery of the House of
Commons as a parliamentary reporter when I was a boy not eighteen, and I
left it—I can hardly believe the inexorable truth—nigh thirty years ago.
I have pursued the calling of a reporter under circumstances of which
many of my brethren at home in England here, many of my modern
successors, can form no adequate conception.  I have often transcribed
for the printer, from my shorthand notes, important public speeches in
which the strictest accuracy was required, and a mistake in which would
have been to a young man severely compromising, writing on the palm of my
hand, by the light of a dark lantern, in a post-chaise and four,
galloping through a wild country, and through the dead of the night, at
the then surprising rate of fifteen miles an hour.  The very last time I
was at Exeter, I strolled into the castle yard there to identify, for the
amusement of a friend, the spot on which I once “took,” as we used to
call it, an election speech of my noble friend Lord Russell, in the midst
of a lively fight maintained by all the vagabonds in that division of the
county, and under such a pelting rain, that I remember two goodnatured
colleagues, who chanced to be at leisure, held a pocket-handkerchief over
my notebook, after the manner of a state canopy in an ecclesiastical
procession.  I have worn my knees by writing on them on the old back row
of the old gallery of the old House of Commons; and I have worn my feet
by standing to write in a preposterous pen in the old House of Lords,
where we used to be huddled together like so many sheep—kept in waiting,
say, until the woolsack might want re-stuffing.  Returning home from
excited political meetings in the country to the waiting press in London,
I do verily believe I have been upset in almost every description of
vehicle known in this country.  I have been, in my time, belated on miry
by-roads, towards the small hours, forty or fifty miles from London, in a
wheelless carriage, with exhausted horses and drunken postboys, and have
got back in time for publication, to be received with never-forgotten
compliments by the late Mr. Black, coming in the broadest of Scotch from
the broadest of hearts I ever knew.

Ladies and gentlemen, I mention these trivial things as an assurance to
you that I never have forgotten the fascination of that old pursuit.  The
pleasure that I used to feel in the rapidity and dexterity of its
exercise has never faded out of my breast.  Whatever little cunning of
hand or head I took to it, or acquired in it, I have so retained as that
I fully believe I could resume it to-morrow, very little the worse from
long disuse.  To this present year of my life, when I sit in this hall,
or where not, hearing a dull speech, the phenomenon does occur—I
sometimes beguile the tedium of the moment by mentally following the
speaker in the old, old way; and sometimes, if you can believe me, I even
find my hand going on the table-cloth, taking an imaginary note of it
all.  Accept these little truths as a confirmation of what I know; as a
confirmation of my undying interest in this old calling.  Accept them as
a proof that my feeling for the location of my youth is not a sentiment
taken up to-night to be thrown away to-morrow—but is a faithful sympathy
which is a part of myself.  I verily believe—I am sure—that if I had
never quitted my old calling I should have been foremost and zealous in
the interests of this Institution, believing it to be a sound, a
wholesome, and a good one.  Ladies and gentlemen, I am to propose to you
to drink “Prosperity to the Newspaper Press Fund,” with which toast I
will connect, as to its acknowledgment, a name that has shed new
brilliancy on even the foremost newspaper in the world—the illustrious
name of Mr. Russell.



XXX.
KNEBWORTH, JULY 29, 1865.


[On the above date the members of the “Guild of Literature and Art”
proceeded to the neighbourhood of Stevenage, near the magnificent seat of
the President, Lord Lytton, to inspect three houses built in the Gothic
style, on the ground given by him for the purpose.  After their survey,
the party drove to Knebworth to partake of the hospitality of Lord
Lytton.  Mr. Dickens, who was one of the guests, proposed the health of
the host in the following words:]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—It was said by a very sagacious person, whose
authority I am sure my friend of many years will not impugn, seeing that
he was named Augustus Tomlinson, the kind friend and philosopher of Paul
Clifford—it was said by that remarkable man, “Life is short, and why
should speeches be long?”  An aphorism so sensible under all
circumstances, and particularly in the circumstances in which we are
placed, with this delicious weather and such charming gardens near us, I
shall practically adopt on the present occasion; and the rather so
because the speech of my friend was exhaustive of the subject, as his
speeches always are, though not in the least exhaustive of his audience.
In thanking him for the toast which he has done us the honour to propose,
allow me to correct an error into which he has fallen.  Allow me to state
that these houses never could have been built but for his zealous and
valuable co-operation, and also that the pleasant labour out of which
they have arisen would have lost one of its greatest charms and strongest
impulses, if it had lost his ever ready sympathy with that class in which
he has risen to the foremost rank, and of which he is the brightest
ornament.

Having said this much as simply due to my friend, I can only say, on
behalf of my associates, that the ladies and gentlemen whom we shall
invite to occupy the houses we have built will never be placed under any
social disadvantage.  They will be invited to occupy them as artists,
receiving them as a mark of the high respect in which they are held by
their fellow-workers.  As artists I hope they will often exercise their
calling within those walls for the general advantage; and they will
always claim, on equal terms, the hospitality of their generous
neighbour.

Now I am sure I shall be giving utterance to the feelings of my brothers
and sisters in literature in proposing “Health, long life, and prosperity
to our distinguished host.”  Ladies and gentlemen, you know very well
that when the health, life, and beauty now overflowing these halls shall
have fled, crowds of people will come to see the place where he lived and
wrote.  Setting aside the orator and statesman—for happily we know no
party here but this agreeable party—setting aside all, this you know very
well, that this is the home of a very great man whose connexion with
Hertfordshire every other county in England will envy for many long years
to come.  You know that when this hall is dullest and emptiest you can
make it when you please brightest and fullest by peopling it with the
creations of his brilliant fancy.  Let us all wish together that they may
be many more—for the more they are the better it will be, and, as he
always excels himself, the better they will be.  I ask you to listen to
their praises and not to mine, and to let them, not me, propose his
health.



XXXI.
LONDON, FEBRUARY 14, 1866.


[On this occasion Mr. Dickens officiated as Chairman at the annual dinner
of the Dramatic, Equestrian, and Musical Fund, at Willis’s Rooms, where
he made the following speech:]

LADIES, before I couple you with the gentlemen, which will be at least
proper to the inscription over my head (St. Valentine’s day)—before I do
so, allow me, on behalf of my grateful sex here represented, to thank you
for the great pleasure and interest with which your gracious presence at
these festivals never fails to inspire us.  There is no English custom
which is so manifestly a relic of savage life as that custom which
usually excludes you from participation in similar gatherings.  And
although the crime carries its own heavy punishment along with it, in
respect that it divests a public dinner of its most beautiful ornament
and of its most fascinating charm, still the offence is none the less to
be severely reprehended on every possible occasion, as outraging equally
nature and art.  I believe that as little is known of the saint whose
name is written here as can well be known of any saint or sinner.  We,
your loyal servants, are deeply thankful to him for having somehow gained
possession of one day in the year—for having, as no doubt he has,
arranged the almanac for 1866—expressly to delight us with the enchanting
fiction that we have some tender proprietorship in you which we should
scarcely dare to claim on a less auspicious occasion.  Ladies, the utmost
devotion sanctioned by the saint we beg to lay at your feet, and any
little innocent privileges to which we may be entitled by the same
authority we beg respectfully but firmly to claim at your hands.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, you need no ghost to inform you that I am
going to propose “Prosperity to the Dramatic, Musical, and Equestrian
Sick Fund Association,” and, further, that I should be going to ask you
actively to promote that prosperity by liberally contributing to its
funds, if that task were not reserved for a much more persuasive speaker.
But I rest the strong claim of the society for its useful existence and
its truly charitable functions on a very few words, though, as well as I
can recollect, upon something like six grounds.  First, it relieves the
sick; secondly, it buries the dead; thirdly, it enables the poor members
of the profession to journey to accept new engagements whenever they find
themselves stranded in some remote, inhospitable place, or when, from
other circumstances, they find themselves perfectly crippled as to
locomotion for want of money; fourthly, it often finds such engagements
for them by acting as their honest, disinterested agent; fifthly, it is
its principle to act humanely upon the instant, and never, as is too
often the case within my experience, to beat about the bush till the bush
is withered and dead; lastly, the society is not in the least degree
exclusive, but takes under its comprehensive care the whole range of the
theatre and the concert-room, from the manager in his room of state, or
in his caravan, or at the drum-head—down to the theatrical housekeeper,
who is usually to be found amongst the cobwebs and the flies, or down to
the hall porter, who passes his life in a thorough draught—and, to the
best of my observation, in perpetually interrupted endeavours to eat
something with a knife and fork out of a basin, by a dusty fire, in that
extraordinary little gritty room, upon which the sun never shines, and on
the portals of which are inscribed the magic words, “stage-door.”

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this society administers its benefits
sometimes by way of loan; sometimes by way of gift; sometimes by way of
assurance at very low premiums; sometimes to members, oftener to
non-members; always expressly, remember, through the hands of a secretary
or committee well acquainted with the wants of the applicants, and
thoroughly versed, if not by hard experience at least by sympathy, in the
calamities and uncertainties incidental to the general calling.  One must
know something of the general calling to know what those afflictions are.
A lady who had been upon the stage from her earliest childhood till she
was a blooming woman, and who came from a long line of provincial actors
and actresses, once said to me when she was happily married; when she was
rich, beloved, courted; when she was mistress of a fine house—once said
to me at the head of her own table, surrounded by distinguished guests of
every degree, “Oh, but I have never forgotten the hard time when I was on
the stage, and when my baby brother died, and when my poor mother and I
brought the little baby from Ireland to England, and acted three nights
in England, as we had acted three nights in Ireland, with the pretty
creature lying upon the only bed in our lodging before we got the money
to pay for its funeral.”

Ladies and gentlemen, such things are, every day, to this hour; but,
happily, at this day and in this hour this association has arisen to be
the timely friend of such great distress.

It is not often the fault of the sufferers that they fall into these
straits.  Struggling artists must necessarily change from place to place,
and thus it frequently happens that they become, as it were, strangers in
every place, and very slight circumstances—a passing illness, the
sickness of the husband, wife, or child, a serious town, an
anathematising expounder of the gospel of gentleness and forbearance—any
one of these causes may often in a few hours wreck them upon a rock in
the barren ocean; and then, happily, this society, with the swift
alacrity of the life-boat, dashes to the rescue, and takes them off.
Looking just now over the last report issued by this society, and
confining my scrutiny to the head of illness alone, I find that in one
year, I think, 672 days of sickness had been assuaged by its means.  In
nine years, which then formed the term of its existence, as many as 5,500
and odd.  Well, I thought when I saw 5,500 and odd days of sickness, this
is a very serious sum, but add the nights!  Add the nights—those long,
dreary hours in the twenty-four when the shadow of death is darkest, when
despondency is strongest, and when hope is weakest, before you gauge the
good that is done by this institution, and before you gauge the good that
really will be done by every shilling that you bestow here to-night.
Add, more than all, that the improvidence, the recklessness of the
general multitude of poor members of this profession, I should say is a
cruel, conventional fable.  Add that there is no class of society the
members of which so well help themselves, or so well help each other.
Not in the whole grand chapters of Westminster Abbey and York Minster,
not in the whole quadrangle of the Royal Exchange, not in the whole list
of members of the Stock Exchange, not in the Inns of Court, not in the
College of Physicians, not in the College of Surgeons, can there possibly
be found more remarkable instances of uncomplaining poverty, of cheerful,
constant self-denial, of the generous remembrance of the claims of
kindred and professional brotherhood, than will certainly be found in the
dingiest and dirtiest concert room, in the least lucid theatre—even in
the raggedest tent circus that was ever stained by weather.

I have been twitted in print before now with rather flattering actors
when I address them as one of their trustees at their General Fund
dinner.  Believe me, I flatter nobody, unless it be sometimes myself;
but, in such a company as the present, I always feel it my manful duty to
bear my testimony to this fact—first, because it is opposed to a stupid,
unfeeling libel; secondly, because my doing so may afford some slight
encouragement to the persons who are unjustly depreciated; and lastly,
and most of all, because I know it is the truth.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is time we should what we professionally
call “ring down” on these remarks.  If you, such members of the general
public as are here, will only think the great theatrical curtain has
really fallen and been taken up again for the night on that dull, dark
vault which many of us know so well; if you will only think of the
theatre or other place of entertainment as empty; if you will only think
of the “float,” or other gas-fittings, as extinguished; if you will only
think of the people who have beguiled you of an evening’s care, whose
little vanities and almost childish foibles are engendered in their
competing face to face with you for your favour—surely it may be said
their feelings are partly of your making, while their virtues are all
their own.  If you will only do this, and follow them out of that sham
place into the real world, where it rains real rain, snows real snow, and
blows real wind; where people sustain themselves by real money, which is
much harder to get, much harder to make, and very much harder to give
away than the pieces of tobacco-pipe in property bags—if you will only do
this, and do it in a really kind, considerate spirit, this society, then
certain of the result of the night’s proceedings, can ask no more.  I beg
to propose to you to drink “Prosperity to the Dramatic, Equestrian, and
Musical Sick Fund Association.”

                                * * * * *

[Mr. Dickens, in proposing the next toast, said:—]

Gentlemen: as I addressed myself to the ladies last time, so I address
you this time, and I give you the delightful assurance that it is
positively my last appearance but one on the present occasion.  A certain
Mr. Pepys, who was Secretary for the Admiralty in the days of Charles
II., who kept a diary well in shorthand, which he supposed no one could
read, and which consequently remains to this day the most honest diary
known to print—Mr. Pepys had two special and very strong likings, the
ladies and the theatres.  But Mr. Pepys, whenever he committed any slight
act of remissness, or any little peccadillo which was utterly and wholly
untheatrical, used to comfort his conscience by recording a vow that he
would abstain from the theatres for a certain time.  In the first part of
Mr. Pepys’ character I have no doubt we fully agree with him; in the
second I have no doubt we do not.

I learn this experience of Mr. Pepys from remembrance of a passage in his
diary that I was reading the other night, from which it appears that he
was not only curious in plays, but curious in sermons; and that one night
when he happened to be walking past St. Dunstan’s Church, he turned, went
in, and heard what he calls “a very edifying discourse;” during the
delivery of which discourse, he notes in his diary—“I stood by a pretty
young maid, whom I did attempt to take by the hand.”  But he adds—“She
would not; and I did perceive that she had pins in her pocket with which
to prick me if I should touch her again—and was glad that I spied her
design.”  Afterwards, about the close of the same edifying discourse, Mr.
Pepys found himself near another pretty, fair young maid, who would seem
upon the whole to have had no pins, and to have been more impressible.

Now, the moral of this story which I wish to suggest to you is, that we
have been this evening in St. James’s much more timid than Mr. Pepys was
in St. Dunstan’s, and that we have conducted ourselves very much better.
As a slight recompense to us for our highly meritorious conduct, and as a
little relief to our over-charged hearts, I beg to propose that we devote
this bumper to invoking a blessing on the ladies.  It is the privilege of
this society annually to hear a lady speak for her own sex.  Who so
competent to do this as Mrs. Stirling?  Surely one who has so gracefully
and captivatingly, with such an exquisite mixture of art, and fancy, and
fidelity, represented her own sex in innumerable charities, under an
infinite variety of phases, cannot fail to represent them well in her own
character, especially when it is, amidst her many triumphs, the most
agreeable of all.  I beg to propose to you “The Ladies,” and I will
couple with that toast the name of Mrs. Stirling.



XXXII.
LONDON, MARCH 28, 1866.


[The following speech was made by Mr. Dickens at the Annual Festival of
the Royal General Theatrical Fund, held at the Freemasons’ Tavern, in
proposing the health of the Lord Mayor (Sir Benjamin Phillips), who
occupied the chair.]

GENTLEMEN, in my childish days I remember to have had a vague but
profound admiration for a certain legendary person called the Lord
Mayor’s fool.  I had the highest opinion of the intellectual capacity of
that suppositious retainer of the Mansion House, and I really regarded
him with feelings approaching to absolute veneration, because my nurse
informed me on every gastronomic occasion that the Lord Mayor’s fool
liked everything that was good.  You will agree with me, I have no doubt,
that if this discriminating jester had existed at the present time he
could not fail to have liked his master very much, seeing that so good a
Lord Mayor is very rarely to be found, and that a better Lord Mayor could
not possibly be.

You have already divined, gentlemen, that I am about to propose to you to
drink the health of the right honourable gentleman in the chair.  As one
of the Trustees of the General Theatrical Fund, I beg officially to
tender him my best thanks for lending the very powerful aid of his
presence, his influence, and his personal character to this very
deserving Institution.  As his private friends we ventured to urge upon
him to do us this gracious act, and I beg to assure you that the perfect
simplicity, modesty, cordiality, and frankness with which he assented,
enhanced the gift one thousand fold.  I think it must also be very
agreeable to a company like this to know that the President of the night
is not ceremoniously pretending, “positively for this night only,” to
have an interest in the drama, but that he has an unusual and thorough
acquaintance with it, and that he has a living and discerning knowledge
of the merits of the great old actors.  It is very pleasant to me to
remember that the Lord Mayor and I once beguiled the tedium of a journey
by exchanging our experiences upon this subject.  I rather prided myself
on being something of an old stager, but I found the Lord Mayor so
thoroughly up in all the stock pieces, and so knowing and yet so fresh
about the merits of those who are most and best identified with them,
that I readily recognised in him what would be called in fistic language,
a very ugly customer—one, I assure you, by no means to be settled by any
novice not in thorough good theatrical training.

Gentlemen, we have all known from our earliest infancy that when the
giants in Guildhall hear the clock strike one, they come down to dinner.
Similarly, when the City of London shall hear but one single word in just
disparagement of its present Lord Mayor, whether as its enlightened chief
magistrate, or as one of its merchants, or as one of its true gentlemen,
he will then descend from the high personal place which he holds in the
general honour and esteem.  Until then he will remain upon his pedestal,
and my private opinion, between ourselves, is that the giants will come
down long before him.

Gentlemen, in conclusion, I would remark that when the Lord Mayor made
his truly remarkable, and truly manly, and unaffected speech, I could not
but be struck by the odd reversal of the usual circumstances at the
Mansion House, which he presented to our view, for whereas it is a very
common thing for persons to be brought tremblingly before the Lord Mayor,
the Lord Mayor presented himself as being brought tremblingly before us.
I hope that the result may hold still further, for whereas it is a common
thing for the Lord Mayor to say to a repentant criminal who does not seem
to have much harm in him, “let me never see you here again,” so I would
propose that we all with one accord say to the Lord Mayor, “Let us by all
means see you here again on the first opportunity.”  Gentlemen, I beg to
propose to you to drink, with all the honours, “The health of the right
hon. the Lord Mayor.”



XXXIII.
LONDON, MAY 7, 1866.


[The Members of the Metropolitan Rowing Clubs dining together at the
London Tavern, on the above date, Mr. Dickens, as President of the
Nautilus Rowing Club, occupied the chair.  The Speech that follows was
made in proposing “Prosperity to the Rowing Clubs of London.”  Mr.
Dickens said that:—]

HE could not avoid the remembrance of what very poor things the amateur
rowing clubs on the Thames were in the early days of his noviciate; not
to mention the difference in the build of the boats.  He could not get on
in the beginning without being a pupil under an anomalous creature called
a “fireman waterman,” who wore an eminently tall hat, and a perfectly
unaccountable uniform, of which it might be said that if it was less
adapted for one thing than another, that thing was fire.  He recollected
that this gentleman had on some former day won a King’s prize wherry, and
they used to go about in this accursed wherry, he and a partner, doing
all the hard work, while the fireman drank all the beer.  The river was
very much clearer, freër, and cleaner in those days than these; but he
was persuaded that this philosophical old boatman could no more have
dreamt of seeing the spectacle which had taken place on Saturday (the
procession of the boats of the Metropolitan Amateur Rowing Clubs), or of
seeing these clubs matched for skill and speed, than he (the Chairman)
should dare to announce through the usual authentic channels that he was
to be heard of at the bar below, and that he was perfectly prepared to
accommodate Mr. James Mace if he meant business.  Nevertheless, he could
recollect that he had turned out for a spurt a few years ago on the River
Thames with an occasional Secretary, who should be nameless, and some
other Eton boys, and that he could hold his own against them.  More
recently still, the last time that he rowed down from Oxford he was
supposed to cover himself with honour, though he must admit that he found
the “locks” so picturesque as to require much examination for the
discovery of their beauty.  But what he wanted to say was this, that
though his “fireman waterman” was one of the greatest humbugs that ever
existed, he yet taught him what an honest, healthy, manly sport this was.
Their waterman would bid them pull away, and assure them that they were
certain of winning in some race.  And here he would remark that aquatic
sports never entailed a moment’s cruelty, or a moment’s pain, upon any
living creature.  Rowing men pursued recreation under circumstances which
braced their muscles, and cleared the cobwebs from their minds.  He
assured them that he regarded such clubs as these as a “national
blessing.”  They owed, it was true, a vast deal to steam power—as was
sometimes proved at matches on the Thames—but, at the same time, they
were greatly indebted to all that tended to keep up a healthy, manly
tone.  He understood that there had been a committee selected for the
purpose of arranging a great amateur regatta, which was to take place off
Putney in the course of the season that was just begun.  He could not
abstain from availing himself of this occasion to express a hope that the
committee would successfully carry on its labours to a triumphant result,
and that they should see upon the Thames, in the course of this summer,
such a brilliant sight as had never been seen there before.  To secure
this there must be some hard work, skilful combinations, and rather large
subscriptions.  But although the aggregate result must be great, it by no
means followed that it need be at all large in its individual details.

[In conclusion, Mr. Dickens made a laughable comparison between the
paying off or purification of the national debt and the purification of
the River Thames.]



XXXIV.
LONDON, JUNE 5, 1867.


[On the above date Mr. Dickens presided at the Ninth Anniversary Festival
of the Railway Benevolent Society, at Willis’s Rooms, and in proposing
the toast of the evening, made the following speech.]

ALTHOUGH we have not yet left behind us by the distance of nearly fifty
years the time when one of the first literary authorities of this country
insisted upon the speed of the fastest railway train that the Legisture
might disastrously sanction being limited by Act of Parliament to ten
miles an hour, yet it does somehow happen that this evening, and every
evening, there are railway trains running pretty smoothly to Ireland and
to Scotland at the rate of fifty miles an hour; much as it was objected
in its time to vaccination, that it must have a tendency to impart to
human children something of the nature of the cow, whereas I believe to
this very time vaccinated children are found to be as easily defined from
calves as they ever were, and certainly they have no cheapening influence
on the price of veal; much as it was objected that chloroform was a
contravention of the will of Providence, because it lessened
providentially-inflicted pain, which would be a reason for your not
rubbing your face if you had the tooth-ache, or not rubbing your nose if
it itched; so it was evidently predicted that the railway system, even if
anything so absurd could be productive of any result, would infallibly
throw half the nation out of employment; whereas, you observe that the
very cause and occasion of our coming here together to-night is, apart
from the various tributary channels of occupation which it has opened
out, that it has called into existence a specially and directly employed
population of upwards of 200,000 persons.

Now, gentlemen, it is pretty clear and obvious that upwards of 200,000
persons engaged upon the various railways of the United Kingdom cannot be
rich; and although their duties require great care and great exactness,
and although our lives are every day, humanly speaking, in the hands of
many of them, still, for the most of these places there will be always
great competition, because they are not posts which require skilled
workmen to hold.  Wages, as you know very well, cannot be high where
competition is great, and you also know very well that railway directors,
in the bargains they make, and the salaries which they pay, have to deal
with the money of the shareholders, to whom they are accountable.  Thus
it necessarily happens that railway officers and servants are not
remunerated on the whole by any means splendidly, and that they cannot
hope in the ordinary course of things to do more than meet the ordinary
wants and hazards of life.  But it is to be observed that the general
hazards are in their case, by reason of the dangerous nature of their
avocations, exceptionally great, so very great, I find, as to be
stateable, on the authority of a parliamentary paper, by the very
startling round of figures, that whereas one railway traveller in
8,000,000 of passengers is killed, one railway servant in every 2,000 is
killed.

Hence, from general, special, as well, no doubt, for the usual prudential
and benevolent considerations, there came to be established among railway
officers and servants, nine years ago, the Railway Benevolent
Association.  I may suppose, therefore, as it was established nine years
ago, that this is the ninth occasion of publishing from this chair the
banns between this institution and the public.  Nevertheless, I feel
bound individually to do my duty the same as if it had never been done
before, and to ask whether there is any just cause or impediment why
these two parties—the institution and the public—should not be joined
together in holy charity.  As I understand the society, its objects are
five-fold—first, to guarantee annuities which, it is always to be
observed, is paid out of the interest of invested capital, so that those
annuities may be secure and safe—annual pensions, varying from £10 to
£25, to distressed railway officers and servants incapacitated by age,
sickness, or accident; secondly, to guarantee small pensions to
distressed widows; thirdly, to educate and maintain orphan children;
fourthly, to provide temporary relief for all those classes till lasting
relief can be guaranteed out of funds sufficiently large for the purpose;
lastly, to induce railway officers and servants to assure their lives in
some well-established office by sub-dividing the payment of the premiums
into small periodical sums, and also by granting a reversionary bonus of
£10 per cent. on the amount assured from the funds of the institution.

This is the society we are met to assist—simple, sympathetic, practical,
easy, sensible, unpretending.  The number of its members is large, and
rapidly on the increase: they number 12,000; the amount of invested
capital is very nearly £15,000; it has done a world of good and a world
of work in these first nine years of its life; and yet I am proud to say
that the annual cost of the maintenance of the institution is no more
than £250.  And now if you do not know all about it in a small compass,
either I do not know all about it myself, or the fault must be in my
“packing.”

One naturally passes from what the institution is and has done, to what
it wants.  Well, it wants to do more good, and it cannot possibly do more
good until it has more money.  It cannot safely, and therefore it cannot
honourably, grant more pensions to deserving applicants until it grows
richer, and it cannot grow rich enough for its laudable purpose by its
own unaided self.  The thing is absolutely impossible.  The means of
these railway officers and servants are far too limited.  Even if they
were helped to the utmost by the great railway companies, their means
would still be too limited; even if they were helped—and I hope they
shortly will be—by some of the great corporations of this country, whom
railways have done so much to enrich.  These railway officers and
servants, on their road to a very humble and modest superannuation, can
no more do without the help of the great public, than the great public,
on their road from Torquay to Aberdeen, can do without them.  Therefore,
I desire to ask the public whether the servants of the great
railways—who, in fact, are their servants, their ready, zealous,
faithful, hard-working servants—whether they have not established,
whether they do not every day establish, a reasonable claim to liberal
remembrance.

Now, gentlemen, on this point of the case there is a story once told me
by a friend of mine, which seems to my mind to have a certain
application.  My friend was an American sea-captain, and, therefore, it
is quite unnecessary to say his story was quite true.  He was captain and
part owner of a large American merchant liner.  On a certain voyage out,
in exquisite summer weather, he had for cabin passengers one beautiful
young lady, and ten more or less beautiful young gentlemen.  Light winds
or dead calms prevailing, the voyage was slow.  They had made half their
distance when the ten young gentlemen were all madly in love with the
beautiful young lady.  They had all proposed to her, and bloodshed among
the rivals seemed imminent pending the young lady’s decision.  On this
extremity the beautiful young lady confided in my friend the captain, who
gave her discreet advice.  He said: “If your affections are disengaged,
take that one of the young gentlemen whom you like the best and settle
the question.”  To this the beautiful young lady made reply, “I cannot do
that because I like them all equally well.”  My friend, who was a man of
resource, hit upon this ingenious expedient, said he, “To-morrow morning
at mid-day, when lunch is announced, do you plunge bodily overboard, head
foremost.  I will be alongside in a boat to rescue you, and take the one
of the ten who rushes to your rescue, and then you can afterwards have
him.”  The beautiful young lady highly approved, and did accordingly.
But after she plunged in, nine out of the ten more or less beautiful
young gentlemen plunged in after her; and the tenth remained and shed
tears, looking over the side of the vessel.  They were all picked up, and
restored dripping to the deck.  The beautiful young lady upon seeing them
said, “What am I to do?  See what a plight they are in.  How can I
possibly choose, because every one of them is equally wet?”  Then said my
friend the captain, acting upon a sudden inspiration, “Take the dry one.”
I am sorry to say that she did so, and they lived happy ever afterwards.

Now, gentleman, in my application of this story, I exactly reverse my
friend the captain’s anecdote, and I entreat the public in looking about
to consider who are fit subjects for their bounty, to give each his hand
with something in it, and not award a dry hand to the industrious railway
servant who is always at his back.  And I would ask any one with a doubt
upon this subject to consider what his experience of the railway servant
is from the time of his departure to his arrival at his destination.  I
know what mine is.  Here he is, in velveteen or in a policeman’s dress,
scaling cabs, storming carriages, finding lost articles by a sort of
instinct, binding up lost umbrellas and walking sticks, wheeling trucks,
counselling old ladies, with a wonderful interest in their affairs—mostly
very complicated—and sticking labels upon all sorts of articles.  I look
around—there he is, in a station-master’s uniform, directing and
overseeing, with the head of a general, and with the courteous manners of
a gentleman; and then there is the handsome figure of the guard, who
inspires confidence in timid passengers.  I glide out of the station, and
there he is again with his flags in his hand at his post in the open
country, at the level crossing, at the cutting, at the tunnel mouth, and
at every station on the road until our destination is reached.  In
regard, therefore, to the railway servants with whom we do come into
contact, we may surely have some natural sympathy, and it is on their
behalf that I this night appeal to you.  I beg now to propose “Success to
the Railway Benevolent Society.”



XXXV.
LONDON, SEPTEMBER 17, 1867.


[On presiding at a public Meeting of the Printers’ Readers, held at the
Salisbury Hotel, on the above date, Mr. Dickens said:—]

THAT as the meeting was convened, not to hear him, but to hear a
statement of facts and figures very nearly affecting the personal
interests of the great majority of those present, his preface to the
proceedings need be very brief.  Of the details of the question he knew,
of his own knowledge, absolutely nothing; but he had consented to occupy
the chair on that occasion at the request of the London Association of
Correctors of the Press for two reasons—first, because he thought that
openness and publicity in such cases were a very wholesome example very
much needed at this time, and were highly becoming to a body of men
associated with that great public safeguard—the Press; secondly, because
he knew from some slight practical experience, what the duties of
correctors of the press were, and how their duties were usually
discharged; and he could testify, and did testify, that they were not
mechanical, that they were not mere matters of manipulation and routine;
but that they required from those who performed them much natural
intelligence, much super-added cultivation, readiness of reference,
quickness of resource, an excellent memory, and a clear understanding.
He most gratefully acknowledged that he had never gone through the sheets
of any book that he had written, without having presented to him by the
correctors of the press something that he had overlooked, some slight
inconsistency into which he had fallen, some little lapse he had made—in
short, without having set down in black and white some unquestionable
indication that he had been closely followed through the work by a
patient and trained mind, and not merely by a skilful eye.  And in this
declaration he had not the slightest doubt that the great body of his
brother and sister writers would, as a plain act of justice, readily
concur.  For these plain reasons he was there; and being there he begged
to assure them that every one present—that every speaker—would have a
patient hearing, whatever his opinions might be.

                                * * * * *

[The proceedings concluded with a very cordial and hearty vote of thanks
to Mr. Dickens for taking the chair on the occasion.]

Mr. Dickens briefly returned thanks, and expressed the belief that their
very calm and temperate proceedings would finally result in the
establishment of relations of perfect amity between the employers and the
employed, and consequently conduce to the general welfare of both.



XXXVI.
LONDON, NOVEMBER 2, 1867.


[On Saturday evening, November 2, 1867, a grand complimentary farewell
dinner was given to Mr. Dickens at the Freemasons’ Tavern on the occasion
of his revisiting the United States of America.  Lord Lytton officiated
as chairman, and proposed as a toast—“A Prosperous Voyage, Health, and
Long Life to our Illustrious Guest and Countryman, Charles Dickens”.  The
toast was drunk with all the honours, and one cheer more.  Mr. Dickens
then rose, and spoke as follows:]

NO thanks that I can offer you can express my sense of my reception by
this great assemblage, or can in the least suggest to you how deep the
glowing words of my friend the chairman, and your acceptance of them,
have sunk into my heart.  But both combined have so greatly shaken the
composure which I am used to command before an audience, that I hope you
may observe in me some traces of an eloquence more expressive than the
richest words.  To say that I am fervently grateful to you is to say
nothing; to say that I can never forget this beautiful sight, is to say
nothing; to say that it brings upon me a rush of emotion not only in the
present, but in the thought of its remembrance in the future by those who
are dearest to me, is to say nothing; but to feel all this for the
moment, even almost to pain, is very much indeed.  Mercutio says of the
wound in his breast, dealt him by the hand of a foe, that—“’Tis not so
deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door; but ’tis enough, ’twill
serve.” {220}  I may say of the wound in my breast, newly dealt to me by
the hands of my friends, that it is deeper than the soundless sea, and
wider than the whole Catholic Church.  I may safely add that it has for
the moment almost stricken me dumb.  I should be more than human, and I
assure you I am very human indeed, if I could look around upon this
brilliant representative company and not feel greatly thrilled and
stirred by the presence of so many brother artists, not only in
literature, but also in the sister arts, especially painting, among whose
professors living and unhappily dead, are many of my oldest and best
friends.  I hope that I may, without presumption, regard this thronging
of my brothers around me as a testimony on their part that they believe
that the cause of art generally has been safe in my keeping, and that it
has never been falsely dealt with by me.  Your resounding cheers just now
would have been but so many cruel reproaches to me if I could not here
declare that, from the earliest days of my career down to this proud
night, I have always tried to be true to my calling.  Never unduly to
assert it, on the one hand, and never, on any pretence or consideration,
to permit it to be patronized in my person, has been the steady endeavour
of my life; and I have occasionally been vain enough to hope that I may
leave its social position in England better than I found it.  Similarly,
and equally I hope without presumption, I trust that I may take this
general representation of the public here, through so many orders,
pursuits, and degrees, as a token that the public believe that, with a
host of imperfections and shortcomings on my head, I have as a writer, in
my soul and conscience, tried to be as true to them as they have ever
been true to me.  And here, in reference to the inner circle of the arts
and the outer circle of the public, I feel it a duty to-night to offer
two remarks.  I have in my duty at odd times heard a great deal about
literary sets and cliques, and coteries and barriers; about keeping this
man up, and keeping that man down; about sworn disciples and sworn
unbelievers, and mutual admiration societies, and I know not what other
dragons in the upward path.  I began to tread it when I was very young,
without influence, without money, without companion, introducer, or
adviser, and I am bound to put in evidence in this place that I never
lighted on these dragons yet.  So have I heard in my day, at divers other
odd times, much generally to the effect that the English people have
little or no love of art for its own sake, and that they do not greatly
care to acknowledge or do honour to the artist.  My own experience has
uniformly been exactly the reverse.  I can say that of my countrymen,
though I cannot say that of my country.

And now passing to the immediate occasion of your doing me this great
honour, the story of my going again to America is very easily and briefly
told.  Since I was there before a vast and entirely new generation has
arisen in the United States.  Since I was there before most of the best
known of my books have been written and published; the new generation and
the books have come together and have kept together, until at length
numbers of those who have so widely and constantly read me; naturally
desiring a little variety in the relationship between us, have expressed
a strong wish that I should read myself.  This wish, at first conveyed to
me through public channels and business channels, has gradually become
enforced by an immense accumulation of letters from individuals and
associations of individuals, all expressing in the same hearty, homely,
cordial unaffected way, a kind of personal interest in me—I had almost
said a kind of personal affection for me, which I am sure you would agree
with me it would be dull insensibility on my part not to prize.  Little
by little this pressure has become so great that, although, as Charles
Lamb says, my household gods strike a terribly deep root, I have torn
them from their places, and this day week, at this hour, shall be upon
the sea.  You will readily conceive that I am inspired besides by a
natural desire to see for myself the astonishing change and progress of a
quarter of a century over there, to grasp the hands of many faithful
friends whom I left there, to see the faces of the multitude of new
friends upon whom I have never looked, and last, not least, to use my
best endeavour to lay down a third cable of intercommunication and
alliance between the old world and the new.  Twelve years ago, when
Heaven knows I little thought I should ever be bound upon the voyage
which now lies before me, I wrote in that form of my writings which
obtains by far the most extensive circulation, these words of the
American nation:—“I know full well, whatever little motes my beamy eyes
may have descried in theirs, that they are a kind, large-hearted,
generous, and great people.”  In that faith I am going to see them again;
in that faith I shall, please God, return from them in the spring; in
that same faith to live and to die.  I told you in the beginning that I
could not thank you enough, and Heaven knows I have most thoroughly kept
my word.  If I may quote one other short sentence from myself, let it
imply all that I have left unsaid, and yet most deeply feel.  Let it,
putting a girdle round the earth, comprehend both sides of the Atlantic
at once in this moment, and say, as Tiny Tim observes, “God bless us
every one.”



XXXVII.
BOSTON, APRIL 8, 1868.


[Mr. Dickens gave his last Reading at Boston, on the above date.  On his
entrance a surprise awaited him.  His reading-stand had been decorated
with flowers and palm-leaves by some of the ladies of the city.  He
acknowledged this graceful tribute in the following words:—“Before
allowing Dr. Marigold to tell his story in his own peculiar way, I kiss
the kind, fair hands unknown, which have so beautifully decorated my
table this evening.”  After the Reading, Mr. Dickens attempted in vain to
retire.  Persistent hands demanded “one word more.”  Returning to his
desk, pale, with a tear in his eye, that found its way to his voice, he
spoke as follows:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—My gracious and generous welcome in America, which
can never be obliterated from my remembrance, began here.  My departure
begins here, too; for I assure you that I have never until this moment
really felt that I am going away.  In this brief life of ours, it is sad
to do almost anything for the last time, and I cannot conceal from you,
although my face will so soon be turned towards my native land, and to
all that makes it dear, that it is a sad consideration with me that in a
very few moments from this time, this brilliant hall and all that it
contains, will fade from my view—for ever more.  But it is my consolation
that the spirit of the bright faces, the quick perception, the ready
response, the generous and the cheering sounds that have made this place
delightful to me, will remain; and you may rely upon it that that spirit
will abide with me as long as I have sense and sentiment left.

I do not say this with any limited reference to private friendships that
have for years upon years made Boston a memorable and beloved spot to me,
for such private references have no business in this public place.  I say
it purely in remembrance of, and in homage to, the great public heart
before me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I beg most earnestly, most gratefully, and most
affectionately, to bid you, each and all, farewell.



XXXVIII.
NEW YORK, APRIL 18, 1863.


[On the above date Mr. Dickens was entertained at a farewell dinner at
Delmonico’s Hotel, previous to his return to England.  Two hundred
gentlemen sat down to it; Mr. Horace Greeley presiding.  In
acknowledgment of the toast of his health, proposed by the chairman, Mr.
Dickens rose and said:—]

GENTLEMEN,—I cannot do better than take my cue to from your distinguished
president, and refer in my first remarks to his remarks in connexion with
the old, natural, association between you and me.  When I received an
invitation from a private association of working members of the press of
New York to dine with them to-day, I accepted that compliment in grateful
remembrance of a calling that was once my own, and in loyal sympathy
towards a brotherhood which, in the spirit, I have never quieted.  To the
wholesome training of severe newspaper work, when I was a very young man,
I constantly refer my first successes; and my sons will hereafter testify
of their father that he was always steadily proud of that ladder by which
he rose.  If it were otherwise, I should have but a very poor opinion of
their father, which, perhaps, upon the whole, I have not.  Hence,
gentlemen, under any circumstances, this company would have been
exceptionally interesting and gratifying to me.  But whereas I supposed
that, like the fairies’ pavilion in the “Arabian Nights,” it would be but
a mere handful, and I find it turn out, like the same elastic pavilion,
capable of comprehending a multitude, so much the more proud am I of the
honour of being your guest; for you will readily believe that the more
widely representative of the press in America my entertainers are, the
more I must feel the good-will and the kindly sentiments towards me of
that vast institution.

Gentlemen, so much of my voice has lately been heard in the land, and I
have for upwards of four hard winter months so contended against what I
have been sometimes quite admiringly assured was “a true American catarrh
”—a possession which I have throughout highly appreciated, though I might
have preferred to be naturalised by any other outward and visible signs—I
say, gentlemen, so much of my voice has lately been heard, that I might
have been contented with troubling you no further from my present
standing-point, were it not a duty with which I henceforth charge myself,
not only here but on every suitable occasion whatsoever and wheresoever,
to express my high and grateful sense of my second reception in America,
and to bear my honest testimony to the national generosity and
magnanimity.  Also, to declare how astounded I have been by the amazing
changes that I have seen around me on every side—changes moral, changes
physical, changes in the amount of land subdued and peopled, changes in
the rise of vast new cities, changes in the growth of older cities almost
out of recognition, changes in the graces and amenities of life, changes
in the press, without whose advancement no advancement can be made
anywhere.  Nor am I, believe me, so arrogant as to suppose that in
five-and-twenty years there have been no changes in me, and that I had
nothing to learn and no extreme impressions to correct when I was here
first.

And, gentlemen, this brings me to a point on which I have, ever since I
landed here last November, observed a strict silence, though tempted
sometimes to break it, but in reference to which I will, with your good
leave, take you into my confidence now.  Even the press, being human, may
be sometimes mistaken or misinformed, and I rather think that I have in
one or two rare instances known its information to be not perfectly
accurate with reference to myself.  Indeed, I have now and again been
more surprised by printed news that I have read of myself than by any
printed news that I have ever read in my present state of existence.
Thus, the vigour and perseverance with which I have for some months past
been collecting materials for and hammering away at a new book on America
have much astonished me, seeing that all that time it has been perfectly
well known to my publishers on both sides of the Atlantic that I
positively declared that no consideration on earth should induce me to
write one.  But what I have intended, what I have resolved upon (and this
is the confidence I seek to place in you) is, on my return to England, in
my own person, to bear, for the behoof of my countrymen, such testimony
to the gigantic changes in this country as I have hinted at to-night.
Also, to record that wherever I have been, in the smallest places equally
with the largest, I have been received with unsurpassable politeness,
delicacy, sweet temper, hospitality, consideration, and with
unsurpassable respect for the privacy daily enforced upon me by the
nature of my avocation here, and the state of my health.  This testimony,
so long as I live, and so long as my descendants have any legal right in
my books, I shall cause to be re-published, as an appendix to every copy
of those two books of mine in which I have referred to America.  And this
I will do and cause to be done, not in mere love and thankfulness, but
because I regard it as an act of plain justice and honour.

Gentlemen, the transition from my own feelings towards and interest in
America to those of the mass of my countrymen seems to be a natural one;
but, whether or no, I make it with an express object.  I was asked in
this very city, about last Christmas time, whether an American was not at
some disadvantage in England as a foreigner.  The notion of an American
being regarded in England as a foreigner at all, of his ever being
thought of or spoken of in that character, was so uncommonly incongruous
and absurd to me, that my gravity was, for the moment, quite overpowered.
As soon as it was restored, I said that for years and years past I hoped
I had had as many American friends and had received as many American
visitors as almost any Englishman living, and that my unvarying
experience, fortified by theirs, was that it was enough in England to be
an American to be received with the readiest respect and recognition
anywhere.  Hereupon, out of half-a-dozen people, suddenly spoke out two,
one an American gentleman, with a cultivated taste for art, who, finding
himself on a certain Sunday outside the walls of a certain historical
English castle, famous for its pictures, was refused admission there,
according to the strict rules of the establishment on that day, but who,
on merely representing that he was an American gentleman, on his travels,
had, not to say the picture gallery, but the whole castle, placed at his
immediate disposal.  The other was a lady, who, being in London, and
having a great desire to see the famous reading-room of the British
Museum, was assured by the English family with whom she stayed that it
was unfortunately impossible, because the place was closed for a week,
and she had only three days there.  Upon that lady’s going to the Museum,
as she assured me, alone to the gate, self-introduced as an American
lady, the gate flew open, as it were magically.  I am unwillingly bound
to add that she certainly was young and exceedingly pretty.  Still, the
porter of that institution is of an obese habit, and, according to the
best of my observation of him, not very impressible.

Now, gentlemen, I refer to these trifles as a collateral assurance to you
that the Englishman who shall humbly strive, as I hope to do, to be in
England as faithful to America as to England herself, has no previous
conceptions to contend against.  Points of difference there have been,
points of difference there are, points of difference there probably
always will be between the two great peoples.  But broadcast in England
is sown the sentiment that those two peoples are essentially one, and
that it rests with them jointly to uphold the great Anglo-Saxon race, to
which our president has referred, and all its great achievements before
the world.  And if I know anything of my countrymen—and they give me
credit for knowing something—if I know anything of my countrymen,
gentlemen, the English heart is stirred by the fluttering of those Stars
and Stripes, as it is stirred by no other flag that flies except its own.
If I know my countrymen, in any and every relation towards America, they
begin, not as Sir Anthony Absolute recommended that lovers should begin,
with “a little aversion,” but with a great liking and a profound respect;
and whatever the little sensitiveness of the moment, or the little
official passion, or the little official policy now, or then, or here, or
there, may be, take my word for it, that the first enduring, great,
popular consideration in England is a generous construction of justice.

Finally, gentlemen, and I say this subject to your correction, I do
believe that from the great majority of honest minds on both sides, there
cannot be absent the conviction that it would be better for this globe to
be riven by an earthquake, fired by a comet, overrun by an iceberg, and
abandoned to the Arctic fox and bear, than that it should present the
spectacle of these two great nations, each of which has, in its own way
and hour, striven so hard and so successfully for freedom, ever again
being arrayed the one against the other.  Gentlemen, I cannot thank your
president enough or you enough for your kind reception of my health, and
of my poor remarks, but, believe me, I do thank you with the utmost
fervour of which my soul is capable.



XXXIX.
NEW YORK, APRIL 20, 1868.


[Mr. Dickens’s last Reading in the United States was given at the
Steinway Hall on the above date.  The task finished he was about to
retire, but a tremendous burst of applause stopped him.  He came forward
and spoke thus:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—The shadow of one word has impended over me this
evening, and the time has come at length when the shadow must fall.  It
is but a very short one, but the weight of such things is not measured by
their length, and two much shorter words express the round of our human
existence.  When I was reading “David Copperfield” a few evenings since,
I felt there was more than usual significance in the words of Peggotty,
“My future life lies over the sea.”  And when I closed this book just
now, I felt most keenly that I was shortly to establish such an _alibi_
as would have satisfied even the elder Mr. Weller.  The relations which
have been set up between us, while they have involved for me something
more than mere devotion to a task, have been by you sustained with the
readiest sympathy and the kindest acknowledgment.

Those relations must now be broken for ever.  Be assured, however, that
you will not pass from my mind.  I shall often realise you as I see you
now, equally by my winter fire and in the green English summer weather.
I shall never recall you as a mere public audience, but rather as a host
of personal friends, and ever with the greatest gratitude, tenderness,
and consideration.  Ladies and gentlemen, I beg to bid you farewell.  God
bless you, and God bless the land in which I leave you.



XL.
LIVERPOOL, APRIL 10, 1869.


[The following speech was delivered by Mr. Dickens at a Banquet held in
his honour at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, after his health had been
proposed by Lord Dufferin.]

MR. MAYOR, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, although I have been so well accustomed
of late to the sound of my own voice in this neighbourhood as to hear it
with perfect composure, the occasion is, believe me, very, very different
in respect of those overwhelming voices of yours.  As Professor Wilson
once confided to me in Edinburgh that I had not the least idea, from
hearing him in public, what a magnificent speaker he found himself to be
when he was quite alone—so you can form no conception, from the specimen
before you, of the eloquence with which I shall thank you again and again
in some of the innermost moments of my future life.  Often and often,
then, God willing, my memory will recall this brilliant scene, and will
re-illuminate this banquet-hall.  I, faithful to this place in its
present aspect, will observe it exactly as it stands—not one man’s seat
empty, not one woman’s fair face absent, while life and memory abide by
me.

Mr. Mayor, Lord Dufferin in his speech so affecting to me, so eloquently
uttered, and so rapturously received, made a graceful and gracious
allusion to the immediate occasion of my present visit to your noble
city.  It is no homage to Liverpool, based upon a moment’s untrustworthy
enthusiasm, but it is the solid fact built upon the rock of experience
that when I first made up my mind, after considerable deliberation,
systematically to meet my readers in large numbers, face to face, and to
try to express myself to them through the breath of life, Liverpool stood
foremost among the great places out of London to which I looked with
eager confidence and pleasure.  And why was this?  Not merely because of
the reputation of its citizens for generous estimation of the arts; not
merely because I had unworthily filled the chair of its great
self-educational institution long ago; not merely because the place had
been a home to me since the well-remembered day when its blessed roofs
and steeples dipped into the Mersey behind me on the occasion of my first
sailing away to see my generous friends across the Atlantic twenty-seven
years ago.  Not for one of those considerations, but because it had been
my happiness to have a public opportunity of testing the spirit of its
people.  I had asked Liverpool for help towards the worthy preservation
of Shakespeare’s house.  On another occasion I had ventured to address
Liverpool in the names of Leigh Hunt and Sheridan Knowles.  On still
another occasion I had addressed it in the cause of the brotherhood and
sisterhood of letters and the kindred arts, and on each and all the
response had been unsurpassably spontaneous, open-handed, and munificent.

Mr. Mayor, and ladies and gentlemen, if I may venture to take a small
illustration of my present position from my own peculiar craft, I would
say that there is this objection in writing fiction to giving a story an
autobiographical form, that through whatever dangers the narrator may
pass, it is clear unfortunately to the reader beforehand that he must
have come through them somehow else he could not have lived to tell the
tale.  Now, in speaking fact, when the fact is associated with such
honours as those with which you have enriched me, there is this singular
difficulty in the way of returning thanks, that the speaker must
infallibly come back to himself through whatever oratorical disasters he
may languish on the road.  Let me, then, take the plainer and simpler
middle course of dividing my subject equally between myself and you.  Let
me assure you that whatever you have accepted with pleasure, either by
word of pen or by word of mouth, from me, you have greatly improved in
the acceptance.  As the gold is said to be doubly and trebly refined
which has seven times passed the furnace, so a fancy may be said to
become more and more refined each time it passes through the human heart.
You have, and you know you have, brought to the consideration of me that
quality in yourselves without which I should but have beaten the air.
Your earnestness has stimulated mine, your laughter has made me laugh,
and your tears have overflowed my eyes.  All that I can claim for myself
in establishing the relations which exist between us is constant fidelity
to hard work.  My literary fellows about me, of whom I am so proud to see
so many, know very well how true it is in all art that what seems the
easiest done is oftentimes the most difficult to do, and that the
smallest truth may come of the greatest pains—much, as it occurred to me
at Manchester the other day, as the sensitive touch of Mr. Whitworth’s
measuring machine, comes at last, of Heaven and Manchester and its mayor
only know how much hammering—my companions-in-arms know thoroughly well,
and I think it only right the public should know too, that in our careful
toil and trouble, and in our steady striving for excellence—not in any
little gifts, misused by fits and starts—lies our highest duty at once to
our calling, to one another, to ourselves, and to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, before sitting down I find that I have to clear
myself of two very unexpected accusations.  The first is a most singular
charge preferred against me by my old friend Lord Houghton, that I have
been somewhat unconscious of the merits of the House of Lords.  Now,
ladies and gentlemen, seeing that I have had some few not altogether
obscure or unknown personal friends in that assembly, seeing that I had
some little association with, and knowledge of, a certain obscure peer
lately known in England by the name of Lord Brougham; seeing that I
regard with some admiration and affection another obscure peer wholly
unknown in literary circles, called Lord Lytton; seeing also that I have
had for some years some slight admiration of the extraordinary judicial
properties and amazingly acute mind of a certain Lord Chief Justice
popularly known by the name of Cockburn; and also seeing that there is no
man in England whom I respect more in his public capacity, whom I love
more in his private capacity, or from whom I have received more
remarkable proofs of his honour and love of literature than another
obscure nobleman called Lord Russell; taking these circumstances into
consideration, I was rather amazed by my noble friend’s accusation.  When
I asked him, on his sitting down, what amazing devil possessed him to
make this charge, he replied that he had never forgotten the days of Lord
Verisopht.  Then, ladies and gentlemen, I understood it all.  Because it
is a remarkable fact that in the days when that depreciative and
profoundly unnatural character was invented there was no Lord Houghton in
the House of Lords.  And there was in the House of Commons a rather
indifferent member called Richard Monckton Milnes.

Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude, for the present, I close with the
other charge of my noble friend, and here I am more serious, and I may be
allowed perhaps to express my seriousness in half a dozen plain words.
When I first took literature as my profession in England, I calmly
resolved within myself that, whether I succeeded or whether I failed,
literature should be my sole profession.  It appeared to me at that time
that it was not so well understood in England as it was in other
countries that literature was a dignified profession, by which any man
might stand or fall.  I made a compact with myself that in my person
literature should stand, and by itself, of itself, and for itself; and
there is no consideration on earth which would induce me to break that
bargain.

Ladies and gentlemen, finally allow me to thank you for your great
kindness, and for the touching earnestness with which you have drunk my
health.  I should have thanked you with all my heart if it had not so
unfortunately happened that, for many sufficient reasons, I lost my heart
at between half-past six and half-past seven to-night.



THE OXFORD AND HARVARD BOAT RACE.
SYDENHAM, AUGUST 30, 1869.


[The International University Boat Race having taken place on August 27,
the London Rowing Club invited the Crews to a Dinner at the Crystal
Palace on the following Monday.  The dinner was followed by a grand
display of pyrotechnics.  Mr. Dickens, in proposing the health of the
Crews, made the following speech:]

GENTLEMEN, flushed with fireworks, I can warrant myself to you as about
to imitate those gorgeous illusions by making a brief spirt and then
dying out.  And, first of all, as an invited visitor of the London Rowing
Club on this most interesting occasion, I will beg, in the name of the
other invited visitors present—always excepting the distinguished guests
who are the cause of our meeting—to thank the president for the modesty
and the courtesy with which he has deputed to one of us the most
agreeable part of his evening’s duty.  It is the more graceful in him to
do this because he can hardly fail to see that he might very easily do it
himself, as this is a case of all others in which it is according to good
taste and the very principles of things that the great social vice,
speech-making, should hide it diminished head before the great social
virtue action.  However, there is an ancient story of a lady who threw
her glove into an arena full of wild beasts to tempt her attendant lover
to climb down and reclaim it.  The lover, rightly inferring from the
action the worth of the lady, risked his life for the glove, and then
threw it rightly in her face as a token of his eternal adieu. {239}  I
take up the President’s glove, on the contrary, as a proof of his much
higher worth, and of my real interest in the cause in which it was thrown
down, and I now profess my readiness to do even injustice to the duty
which he has assigned me.

Gentlemen, a very remarkable and affecting volume was published in the
United States within a short time before my last visit to that hospitable
land, containing ninety-five biographies of young men, for the most part
well-born and well nurtured, and trained in various peaceful pursuits of
life, who, when the flag of their country waved them from those quiet
paths in which they were seeking distinction of various kinds, took arms
in the dread civil war which elicited so much bravery on both sides, and
died in the defence of their country.  These great spirits displayed
extraordinary aptitude in the acquisition, even in the invention, of
military tactics, in the combining and commanding of great masses of men,
in surprising readiness of self-resource for the general good, in
humanely treating the sick and the wounded, and in winning to themselves
a very rare amount of personal confidence and trust.  They had all risen
to be distinguished soldiers; they had all done deeds of great heroism;
they had all combined with their valour and self-devotion a serene
cheerfulness, a quiet modesty, and a truly Christian spirit; and they had
all been educated in one school—Harvard University.

Gentlemen, nothing was more remarkable in these fine descendants of our
forefathers than the invincible determination with which they fought
against odds, and the undauntable spirit with which they resisted defeat.
I ask you, who will say after last Friday that Harvard University is less
true to herself in peace than she was in war?  I ask you, who will not
recognise in her boat’s crew the leaven of her soldiers, and who does not
feel that she has now a greater right than ever to be proud of her sons,
and take these sons to her breast when they return with resounding
acclamations?  It is related of the Duke of Wellington that he once told
a lady who foolishly protested that she would like to see a great victory
that there was only one thing worse than a great victory, and that was a
great defeat.

But, gentlemen, there is another sense in which to use the term a great
defeat.  Such is the defeat of a handful of daring fellows who make a
preliminary dash of three or four thousand stormy miles to meet great
conquerors on their own domain—who do not want the stimulus of friends
and home, but who sufficiently hear and feel their own dear land in the
shouts and cheers of another—and who strive to the last with a desperate
tenacity that makes the beating of them a new feather in the proudest
cap.  Gentlemen, you agree with me that such a defeat is a great, noble
part of a manly, wholesome action; and I say that it is in the essence
and life-blood of such a defeat to become at last sure victory.

Now, gentlemen, you know perfectly well the toast I am going to propose,
and you know equally well that in thus glancing first towards our friends
of the white stripes, I merely anticipate and respond to the instinctive
courtesy of Oxford towards our brothers from a distance—a courtesy
extending, I hope, and I do not doubt, to any imaginable limits except
allowing them to take the first place in last Friday’s match, if they
could by any human and honourable means be kept in the second.  I will
not avail myself of the opportunity provided for me by the absence of the
greater part of the Oxford crew—indeed, of all but one, and that, its
most modest and devoted member—I will not avail myself of the golden
opportunity considerately provided for me to say a great deal in honour
of the Oxford crew.  I know that the gentleman who attends here attends
under unusual anxieties and difficulties, and that if he were less in
earnest his filial affection could not possibly allow him to be here.

It is therefore enough for me, gentlemen, and enough for you, that I
should say here, and now, that we all unite with one accord in regarding
the Oxford crew as the pride and flower of England—and that we should
consider it very weak indeed to set anything short of England’s very best
in opposition to or competition with America; though it certainly must be
confessed—I am bound in common justice and honour to admit it—it must be
confessed in disparagement of the Oxford men, as I heard a discontented
gentleman remark—last Friday night, about ten o’clock, when he was
baiting a very small horse in the Strand—he was one of eleven with pipes
in a chaise cart—I say it must be admitted in disparagement of the Oxford
men on the authority of this gentleman, that they have won so often that
they could afford to lose a little now, and that “they ought to do it,
but they won’t.”

Gentlemen, in drinking to both crews, and in offering the poor testimony
of our thanks in acknowledgment of the gallant spectacle which they
presented to countless thousands last Friday, I am sure I express not
only your feeling, and my feeling, and the feeling of the Blue, but also
the feeling of the whole people of England, when I cordially give them
welcome to our English waters and English ground, and also bid them “God
speed” in their voyage home.  As the greater includes the less, and the
sea holds the river, so I think it is no very bold augury to predict that
in the friendly contests yet to come and to take place, I hope, on both
sides of the Atlantic—there are great river triumphs for Harvard
University yet in store.  Gentlemen, I warn the English portion of this
audience that these are very dangerous men.  Remember that it was an
undergraduate of Harvard University who served as a common seaman two
years before the mast, {242} and who wrote about the best sea book in the
English tongue.  Remember that it was one of those young American
gentlemen who sailed his mite of a yacht across the Atlantic in
mid-winter, and who sailed in her to sink or swim with the men who
believed in him.

And now, gentlemen, in conclusion, animated by your cordial acquiescence,
I will take upon myself to assure our brothers from a distance that the
utmost enthusiasm with which they can be received on their return home
will find a ready echo in every corner of England—and further, that none
of their immediate countrymen—I use the qualifying term immediate, for we
are, as our president said, fellow countrymen, thank God—that none of
their compatriots who saw, or who will read of, what they did in this
great race, can be more thoroughly imbued with a sense of their
indomitable courage and their high deserts than are their rivals and
their hosts to-night.  Gentlemen, I beg to propose to you to drink the
crews of Harvard and Oxford University, and I beg to couple with that
toast the names of Mr. Simmons and Mr. Willan.



XLII.
BIRMINGHAM, SEPTEMBER 27, 1869.


[Inaugural Address on the opening of the Winter Session of the Birmingham
and Midland Institute.

One who was present during the delivery of the following speech, informs
the editor that “no note of any kind was referred to by Mr.
Dickens—except the Quotation from Sydney Smith.  The address, evidently
carefully prepared, was delivered without a single pause, in Mr.
Dickens’s best manner, and was a very great success.”]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—We often hear of our common country that it is an
over-populated one, that it is an over-pauperized one, that it is an
over-colonizing one, and that it is an over-taxed one.  Now, I entertain,
especially of late times, the heretical belief that it is an over-talked
one, and that there is a deal of public speech-making going about in
various directions which might be advantageously dispensed with.  If I
were free to act upon this conviction, as president for the time being of
the great institution so numerously represented here, I should
immediately and at once subside into a golden silence, which would be of
a highly edifying, because of a very exemplary character.  But I happen
to be the institution’s willing servant, not its imperious master, and it
exacts tribute of mere silver or copper speech—not to say brazen—from
whomsoever it exalts to my high office.  Some African tribes—not to draw
the comparison disrespectfully—some savage African tribes, when they make
a king require him perhaps to achieve an exhausting foot-race under the
stimulus of considerable popular prodding and goading, or perhaps to be
severely and experimentally knocked about the head by his Privy Council,
or perhaps to be dipped in a river full of crocodiles, or perhaps to
drink immense quantities of something nasty out of a calabash—at all
events, to undergo some purifying ordeal in presence of his admiring
subjects.

I must confess that I became rather alarmed when I was duly warned by
your constituted authorities that whatever I might happen to say here
to-night would be termed an inaugural address on the entrance upon a new
term of study by the members of your various classes; for, besides that,
the phrase is something high-sounding for my taste, I avow that I do look
forward to that blessed time when every man shall inaugurate his own work
for himself, and do it.  I believe that we shall then have inaugurated a
new era indeed, and one in which the Lord’s Prayer will become a
fulfilled prophecy upon this earth.  Remembering, however, that you may
call anything by any name without in the least changing its
nature—bethinking myself that you may, if you be so minded, call a
butterfly a buffalo, without advancing a hair’s breadth towards making it
one—I became composed in my mind, and resolved to stick to the very
homely intention I had previously formed.  This was merely to tell you,
the members, students, and friends of the Birmingham and Midland
Institute—firstly, what you cannot possibly want to know, (this is a very
popular oratorical theme); secondly, what your institution has done; and,
thirdly, what, in the poor opinion of its President for the time being,
remains for it to do and not to do.

Now, first, as to what you cannot possibly want to know.  You cannot need
from me any oratorical declamation concerning the abstract advantages of
knowledge or the beauties of self-improvement.  If you had any such
requirement you would not be here.  I conceive that you are here because
you have become thoroughly penetrated with such principles, either in
your own persons or in the persons of some striving fellow-creatures, on
whom you have looked with interest and sympathy.  I conceive that you are
here because you feel the welfare of the great chiefly adult educational
establishment, whose doors stand really open to all sorts and conditions
of people, to be inseparable from the best welfare of your great town and
its neighbourhood.  Nay, if I take a much wider range than that, and say
that we all—every one of us here—perfectly well know that the benefits of
such an establishment must extend far beyond the limits of this midland
county—its fires and smoke,—and must comprehend, in some sort, the whole
community, I do not strain the truth.  It was suggested by Mr. Babbage,
in his ninth “Bridgewater Treatise,” that a mere spoken word—a single
articulated syllable thrown into the air—may go on reverberating through
illimitable space for ever and for ever, seeing that there is no rim
against which it can strike—no boundary at which it can possibly arrive.
Similarly it may be said—not as an ingenious speculation, but as a
stedfast and absolute fact—that human calculation cannot limit the
influence of one atom of wholesome knowledge patiently acquired, modestly
possessed, and faithfully used.

As the astronomers tell us that it is probable that there are in the
universe innumerable solar systems besides ours, to each of which myriads
of utterly unknown and unseen stars belong, so it is certain that every
man, however obscure, however far removed from the general recognition,
is one of a group of men impressible for good, and impressible for evil,
and that it is in the eternal nature of things that he cannot really
improve himself without in some degree improving other men.  And observe,
this is especially the case when he has improved himself in the teeth of
adverse circumstances, as in a maturity succeeding to a neglected or an
ill-taught youth, in the few daily hours remaining to him after ten or
twelve hours’ labour, in the few pauses and intervals of a life of toil;
for then his fellows and companions have assurance that he can have known
no favouring conditions, and that they can do what he has done, in
wresting some enlightenment and self-respect from what Lord Lytton finely
calls—

    “Those twin gaolers of the daring heart,
    Low birth and iron fortune.”

As you have proved these truths in your own experience or in your own
observation, and as it may be safely assumed that there can be very few
persons in Birmingham, of all places under heaven, who would contest the
position that the more cultivated the employed the better for the
employer, and the more cultivated the employer the better for the
employed; therefore, my references to what you do not want to know shall
here cease and determine.

Next, with reference to what your institution has done on my summary,
which shall be as concise and as correct as my information and my
remembrance of it may render possible, I desire to lay emphatic stress.
Your institution, sixteen years old, and in which masters and workmen
study together, has outgrown the ample edifice in which it receives its
2,500 or 2,600 members and students.  It is a most cheering sign of its
vigorous vitality that of its industrial-students almost half are
artisans in the receipt of weekly wages.  I think I am correct in saying
that 400 others are clerks, apprentices, tradesmen, or tradesmen’s sons.
I note with particular pleasure the adherence of a goodly number of the
gentler sex, without whom no institution whatever can truly claim to be
either a civilising or a civilised one.  The increased attendance at your
educational classes is always greatest on the part of the artisans—the
class within my experience the least reached in any similar institutions
elsewhere, and whose name is the oftenest and the most constantly taken
in vain.  But it is specially reached here, not improbably because it is,
as it should be, specially addressed in the foundation of the industrial
department, in the allotment of the direction of the society’s affairs,
and in the establishment of what are called its penny classes—a bold,
and, I am happy to say, a triumphantly successful experiment, which
enables the artisan to obtain sound evening instruction in subjects
directly bearing upon his daily usefulness or on his daily happiness, as
arithmetic (elementary and advanced), chemistry, physical geography, and
singing, on payment of the astoundingly low fee of a single penny every
time he attends the class.  I beg emphatically to say that I look upon
this as one of the most remarkable schemes ever devised for the
educational behoof of the artisan, and if your institution had done
nothing else in all its life, I would take my stand by it on its having
done this.

Apart, however, from its industrial department, it has its general
department, offering all the advantages of a first-class literary
institution.  It has its reading-rooms, its library, its chemical
laboratory, its museum, its art department, its lecture hall, and its
long list of lectures on subjects of various and comprehensive interest,
delivered by lecturers of the highest qualifications.  Very well.  But it
may be asked, what are the practical results of all these appliances?
Now, let us suppose a few.  Suppose that your institution should have
educated those who are now its teachers.  That would be a very remarkable
fact.  Supposing, besides, it should, so to speak, have educated
education all around it, by sending forth numerous and efficient teachers
into many and divers schools.  Suppose the young student, reared
exclusively in its laboratory, should be presently snapped up for the
laboratory of the great and famous hospitals.  Suppose that in nine years
its industrial students should have carried off a round dozen of the much
competed for prizes awarded by the Society of Arts and the Government
department, besides two local prizes originating in the generosity of a
Birmingham man.  Suppose that the Town Council, having it in trust to
find an artisan well fit to receive the Whitworth prizes, should find him
here.  Suppose that one of the industrial students should turn his
chemical studies to the practical account of extracting gold from waste
colour water, and of taking it into custody, in the very act of running
away with hundreds of pounds down the town drains.  Suppose another
should perceive in his books, in his studious evenings, what was amiss
with his master’s until then inscrutably defective furnace, and should go
straight—to the great annual saving of that master—and put it right.
Supposing another should puzzle out the means, until then quite unknown
in England, of making a certain description of coloured glass.  Supposing
another should qualify himself to vanquish one by one, as they daily
arise, all the little difficulties incidental to his calling as an
electro-plater, and should be applied to by his companions in the shop in
all emergencies under the name of the “Encyclopædia.”  Suppose a long
procession of such cases, and then consider that these are not
suppositions at all, but are plain, unvarnished facts, culminating in the
one special and significant fact that, with a single solitary exception,
every one of the institution’s industrial students who have taken its
prizes within ten years, have since climbed to higher situations in their
way of life.

As to the extent to which the institution encourages the artisan to
think, and so, for instance, to rise superior to the little shackling
prejudices and observances perchance existing in his trade when they will
not bear the test of inquiry, that is only to be equalled by the extent
to which it encourages him to feel.  There is a certain tone of modest
manliness pervading all the little facts which I have looked through
which I found remarkably impressive.  The decided objection on the part
of industrial students to attend classes in their working clothes,
breathes this tone, as being a graceful and at the same time perfectly
independent recognition of the place and of one another.  And this tone
is admirably illustrated in a different way, in the case of a poor
bricklayer, who, being in temporary reverses through the illness of his
family, and having consequently been obliged to part with his best
clothes, and being therefore missed from his classes, in which he had
been noticed as a very hard worker, was persuaded to attend them in his
working clothes.  He replied, “No, it was not possible.  It must not be
thought of.  It must not come into question for a moment.  It would be
supposed, or it might be thought, that he did it to attract attention.”
And the same man being offered by one of the officers a loan of money to
enable him to rehabilitate his appearance, positively declined it, on the
ground that he came to the institution to learn and to know better how to
help himself, not otherwise to ask help, or to receive help from any man.
Now, I am justified in calling this the tone of the institution, because
it is no isolated instance, but is a fair and honourable sample of the
spirit of the place, and as such I put it at the conclusion—though last
certainly not least—of my references to what your institution has
indubitably done.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I come at length to what, in the humble
opinion of the evanescent officer before you, remains for the institution
to do, and not to do.  As Mr. Carlyle has it towards the closing pages of
his grand history of the French Revolution, “This we are now with due
brevity to glance at; and then courage, oh listener, I see land!” {250}
I earnestly hope—and I firmly believe—that your institution will do
henceforth as it has done hitherto; it can hardly do better.  I hope and
believe that it will know among its members no distinction of persons,
creed, or party, but that it will conserve its place of assemblage as a
high, pure ground, on which all such considerations shall merge into the
one universal, heaven-sent aspiration of the human soul to be wiser and
better.  I hope and believe that it will always be expansive and elastic;
for ever seeking to devise new means of enlarging the circle of its
members, of attracting to itself the confidence of still greater and
greater numbers, and never evincing any more disposition to stand still
than time does, or life does, or the seasons do.  And above all things, I
hope, and I feel confident from its antecedents, that it will never allow
any consideration on the face of the earth to induce it to patronise or
to be patronised, for I verily believe that the bestowal and receipt of
patronage in such wise has been a curse in England, and that it has done
more to prevent really good objects, and to lower really high character,
than the utmost efforts of the narrowest antagonism could have effected
in twice the time.

I have no fear that the walls of the Birmingham and Midland Institute
will ever tremble responsive to the croakings of the timid opponents of
intellectual progress; but in this connexion generally I cannot forbear
from offering a remark which is much upon my mind.  It is commonly
assumed—much too commonly—that this age is a material age, and that a
material age is an irreligious age.  I have been pained lately to see
this assumption repeated in certain influential quarters for which I have
a high respect, and desire to have a higher.  I am afraid that by dint of
constantly being reiterated, and reiterated without protest, this
assumption—which I take leave altogether to deny—may be accepted by the
more unthinking part of the public as unquestionably true; just as
caricaturists and painters, professedly making a portrait of some public
man, which was not in the least like him to begin with, have gone on
repeating and repeating it until the public came to believe that it must
be exactly like him, simply because it was like itself, and really have
at last, in the fulness of time, grown almost disposed to resent upon him
their tardy discovery—really to resent upon him their late discovery—that
he was not like it.  I confess, standing here in this responsible
situation, that I do not understand this much-used and much-abused
phrase—the “material age.”  I cannot comprehend—if anybody can I very
much doubt—its logical signification.  For instance, has electricity
become more material in the mind of any sane or moderately insane man,
woman, or child, because of the discovery that in the good providence of
God it could be made available for the service and use of man to an
immeasurably greater extent than for his destruction?  Do I make a more
material journey to the bed-side of my dying parent or my dying child
when I travel there at the rate of sixty miles an hour, than when I
travel thither at the rate of six?  Rather, in the swiftest case, does
not my agonised heart become over-fraught with gratitude to that Supreme
Beneficence from whom alone could have proceeded the wonderful means of
shortening my suspense?  What is the materiality of the cable or the wire
compared with the materiality of the spark?  What is the materiality of
certain chemical substances that we can weigh or measure, imprison or
release, compared with the materiality of their appointed affinities and
repulsions presented to them from the instant of their creation to the
day of judgment?  When did this so-called material age begin?  With the
use of clothing; with the discovery of the compass; with the invention of
the art of printing?  Surely, it has been a long time about; and which is
the more material object, the farthing tallow candle that will not give
me light, or that flame of gas which will?

No, ladies and gentlemen, do not let us be discouraged or deceived by any
fine, vapid, empty words.  The true material age is the stupid Chinese
age, in which no new or grand revelations of nature are granted, because
they are ignorantly and insolently repelled, instead of being diligently
and humbly sought.  The difference between the ancient fiction of the mad
braggart defying the lightning and the modern historical picture of
Franklin drawing it towards his kite, in order that he might the more
profoundly study that which was set before him to be studied (or it would
not have been there), happily expresses to my mind the distinction
between the much-maligned material sages—material in one sense, I
suppose, but in another very immaterial sages—of the Celestial Empire
school.  Consider whether it is likely or unlikely, natural or unnatural,
reasonable or unreasonable, that I, a being capable of thought, and
finding myself surrounded by such discovered wonders on every hand,
should sometimes ask myself the question—should put to myself the solemn
consideration—can these things be among those things which might have
been disclosed by divine lips nigh upon two thousand years ago, but that
the people of that time could not bear them?  And whether this be so or
no, if I am so surrounded on every hand, is not my moral responsibility
tremendously increased thereby, and with it my intelligence and
submission as a child of Adam and of the dust, before that Shining Source
which equally of all that is granted and all that is withheld holds in
His mighty hands the unapproachable mysteries of life and death.

To the students of your industrial classes generally I have had it in my
mind, first, to commend the short motto, in two words,
“Courage—Persevere.”  This is the motto of a friend and worker.  Not
because the eyes of Europe are upon them, for I don’t in the least
believe it; nor because the eyes of even England are upon them, for I
don’t in the least believe it; not because their doings will be
proclaimed with blast of trumpet at street corners, for no such musical
performances will take place; not because self-improvement is at all
certain to lead to worldly success, but simply because it is good and
right of itself, and because, being so, it does assuredly bring with it
its own resources and its own rewards.  I would further commend to them a
very wise and witty piece of advice on the conduct of the understanding
which was given more than half a century ago by the Rev. Sydney
Smith—wisest and wittiest of the friends I have lost.  He says—and he is
speaking, you will please understand, as I speak, to a school of
volunteer students—he says: “There is a piece of foppery which is to be
cautiously guarded against, the foppery of universality, of knowing all
sciences and excelling in all arts—chymistry, mathematics, algebra,
dancing, history, reasoning, riding, fencing, Low Dutch, High Dutch, and
natural philosophy.  In short, the modern precept of education very often
is, ‘Take the Admirable Crichton for your model, I would have you
ignorant of nothing.’  Now,” says he, “my advice, on the contrary, is to
have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order
that you may avoid the calamity of being ignorant of everything.”

To this I would superadd a little truth, which holds equally good of my
own life and the life of every eminent man I have ever known.  The one
serviceable, safe, certain, remunerative, attainable quality in every
study and in every pursuit is the quality of attention.  My own invention
or imagination, such as it is, I can most truthfully assure you, would
never have served me as it has, but for the habit of commonplace, humble,
patient, daily, toiling, drudging attention.  Genius, vivacity, quickness
of penetration, brilliancy in association of ideas—such mental qualities,
like the qualities of the apparition of the externally armed head in
_Macbeth_, will not be commanded; but attention, after due term of
submissive service, always will.  Like certain plants which the poorest
peasant may grow in the poorest soil, it can be cultivated by any one,
and it is certain in its own good season to bring forth flowers and
fruit.  I can most truthfully assure you by-the-by, that this eulogium on
attention is so far quite disinterested on my part as that it has not the
least reference whatever to the attention with which you have honoured
me.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have done.  I cannot but reflect how often
you have probably heard within these walls one of the foremost men, and
certainly one of the very best speakers, if not the very best, in
England.  I could not say to myself, when I began just now, in
Shakespeare’s line—

                     “I will be BRIGHT and shining gold,”

but I could say to myself, and I did say to myself, “I will be as natural
and easy as I possibly can,” because my heart has all been in my subject,
and I bear an old love towards Birmingham and Birmingham men.  I have
said that I bear an old love towards Birmingham and Birmingham men; let
me amend a small omission, and add “and Birmingham women.”  This ring I
wear on my finger now is an old Birmingham gift, and if by rubbing it I
could raise the spirit that was obedient to Aladdin’s ring, I heartily
assure you that my first instruction to that genius on the spot should be
to place himself at Birmingham’s disposal in the best of causes.

                                * * * * *

[In acknowledging the vote of thanks, Mr. Dickens said:—]

Ladies and gentlemen, as I hope it is more than possible that I shall
have the pleasure of meeting you again before Christmas is out, and shall
have the great interest of seeing the faces and touching the bands of the
successful competitors in your lists, I will not cast upon that
anticipated meeting the terrible foreshadowing of dread which must
inevitably result from a second speech.  I thank you most heartily, and I
most sincerely and fervently say to you, “Good night, and God bless you.”
In reference to the appropriate and excellent remarks of Mr. Dixon, I
will now discharge my conscience of my political creed, which is
contained in two articles, and has no reference to any party or persons.
My faith in the people governing is, on the whole, infinitesimal; my
faith in the People governed is, on the whole, illimitable.



XLIII.
BIRMINGHAM, JANUARY 6, 1870.


[On the evening of the above date, Mr. Dickens, as President of the
Birmingham and Midland Institute, distributed the prizes and certificates
awarded to the most successful students in the first year.  The
proceedings took place in the Town Hall: Mr. Dickens entered at eight
o’clock, accompanied by the officers of the Institute, and was received
with loud applause.  After the lapse of a minute or two, he rose and
said:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—When I last had the honour to preside over a
meeting of the Institution which again brings us together, I took
occasion to remark upon a certain superabundance of public speaking which
seems to me to distinguish the present time.  It will require very little
self-denial on my part to practise now what I preached then; firstly,
because I said my little say that night; and secondly, because we have
definite and highly interesting action before us to-night.  We have now
to bestow the rewards which have been brilliantly won by the most
successful competitors in the society’s lists.  I say the most
successful, because to-night we should particularly observe, I think,
that there is success in all honest endeavour, and that there is some
victory gained in every gallant struggle that is made.  To strive at all
involves a victory achieved over sloth, inertness, and indifference; and
competition for these prizes involves, besides, in the vast majority of
cases, competition with and mastery asserted over circumstances adverse
to the effort made.  Therefore, every losing competitor among my hearers
may be certain that he has still won much—very much—and that he can well
afford to swell the triumph of his rivals who have passed him in the
race.

I have applied the word “rewards” to these prizes, and I do so, not
because they represent any great intrinsic worth in silver or gold, but
precisely because they do not.  They represent what is above all
price—what can be stated in no arithmetical figures, and what is one of
the great needs of the human soul—encouraging sympathy.  They are an
assurance to every student present or to come in your institution, that
he does not work either neglected or unfriended, and that he is watched,
felt for, stimulated, and appreciated.  Such an assurance, conveyed in
the presence of this large assembly, and striking to the breasts of the
recipients that thrill which is inseparable from any great united
utterance of feeling, is a reward, to my thinking, as purely worthy of
the labour as the labour itself is worthy of the reward; and by a
sensitive spirit can never be forgotten.

[One of the prize-takers was a Miss Winkle, a name suggestive of
“Pickwick,” which was received with laugher.  Mr. Dickens made some
remarks to the lady in an undertone; and then observed to the audience,
“I have recommended Miss Winkle to change her name.”  The prizes having
been distributed, Mr. Dickens made a second brief speech.  He said:—]

The prizes are now all distributed, and I have discharged myself of the
delightful task you have entrusted to me; and if the recipients of these
prizes and certificates who have come upon this platform have had the
genuine pleasure in receiving their acknowledgments from my hands that I
have had in placing them in theirs, they are in a true Christian temper
to-night.  I have the painful sense upon me, that it is reserved for some
one else to enjoy this great satisfaction of mind next time.  It would be
useless for the few short moments longer to disguise the fact that I
happen to have drawn King this Twelfth Night, but that another Sovereign
will very soon sit upon my inconstant throne.  To-night I abdicate, or,
what is much the same thing in the modern annals of Royalty—I am politely
dethroned.  This melancholy reflection, ladies and gentlemen, brings me
to a very small point, personal to myself, upon which I will beg your
permission to say a closing word.

When I was here last autumn I made, in reference to some remarks of your
respected member, Mr. Dixon, a short confession of my political faith—or
perhaps I should better say want of faith.  It imported that I have very
little confidence in the people who govern us—please to observe “people”
there will be with a small “p,”—but that I have great confidence in the
People whom they govern; please to observe “people” there with a large
“P.”  This was shortly and elliptically stated, and was with no evil
intention, I am absolutely sure, in some quarters inversely explained.
Perhaps as the inventor of a certain extravagant fiction, but one which I
do see rather frequently quoted as if there were grains of truth at the
bottom of it—a fiction called the “Circumlocution Office,”—and perhaps
also as the writer of an idle book or two, whose public opinions are not
obscurely stated—perhaps in these respects I do not sufficiently bear in
mind Hamlet’s caution to speak by the card lest equivocation should undo
me.

Now I complain of nobody; but simply in order that there may be no
mistake as to what I did mean, and as to what I do mean, I will re-state
my meaning, and I will do so in the words of a great thinker, a great
writer, and a great scholar, {259} whose death, unfortunately for
mankind, cut short his “History of Civilization in England:”—“They may
talk as they will about reforms which Government has introduced and
improvements to be expected from legislation, but whoever will take a
wider and more commanding view of human affairs, will soon discover that
such hopes are chimerical.  They will learn that lawgivers are nearly
always the obstructors of society instead of its helpers, and that in the
extremely few cases where their measures have turned out well their
success has been owing to the fact that, contrary to their usual custom,
they have implicitly obeyed the spirit of their time, and have been—as
they always should be—the mere servants of the people, to whose wishes
they are bound to give a public and legal sanction.”



XLIV.
LONDON, APRIL 6, 1846. {260}


[The first anniversary festival of the General Theatrical Fund
Association was held on the evening of the above date at the London
Tavern.  The chair was taken by Mr. Dickens, who thus proposed the
principal toast:]

GENTLEMEN,—In offering to you a toast which has not as yet been publicly
drunk in any company, it becomes incumbent on me to offer a few words in
explanation: in the first place, premising that the toast will be “The
General Theatrical Fund.”

The Association, whose anniversary we celebrate to-night, was founded
seven years ago, for the purpose of granting permanent pensions to such
of the _corps dramatique_ as had retired from the stage, either from a
decline in their years or a decay of their powers.  Collected within the
scope of its benevolence are all actors and actresses, singers, or
dancers, of five years’ standing in the profession.  To relieve their
necessities and to protect them from want is the great end of the
Society, and it is good to know that for seven years the members of it
have steadily, patiently, quietly, and perseveringly pursued this end,
advancing by regular contribution, moneys which many of them could ill
afford, and cheered by no external help or assistance of any kind
whatsoever.  It has thus served a regular apprenticeship, but I trust
that we shall establish to-night that its time is out, and that
henceforth the Fund will enter upon a flourishing and brilliant career.

I have no doubt that you are all aware that there are, and were when this
institution was founded, two other institutions existing of a similar
nature—Covent Garden and Drury Lane—both of long standing, both richly
endowed.  It cannot, however, be too distinctly understood, that the
present Institution is not in any way adverse to those.  How can it be
when it is only a wide and broad extension of all that is most excellent
in the principles on which they are founded?  That such an extension was
absolutely necessary was sufficiently proved by the fact that the great
body of the dramatic corps were excluded from the benefits conferred by a
membership of either of these institutions; for it was essential, in
order to become a member of the Drury Lane Society, that the applicant,
either he or she, should have been engaged for three consecutive seasons
as a performer.  This was afterwards reduced, in the case of Covent
Garden, to a period of two years, but it really is as exclusive one way
as the other, for I need not tell you that Covent Garden is now but a
vision of the past.  You might play the bottle conjuror with its dramatic
company and put them all into a pint bottle.  The human voice is rarely
heard within its walls save in connexion with corn, or the ambidextrous
prestidigitation of the Wizard of the North.  In like manner, Drury Lane
is conducted now with almost a sole view to the opera and ballet,
insomuch that the statue of Shakespeare over the door serves as
emphatically to point out his grave as his bust did in the church of
Stratford-upon-Avon.  How can the profession generally hope to qualify
for the Drury Lane or Covent Garden institution, when the oldest and most
distinguished members have been driven from the boards on which they have
earned their reputations, to delight the town in theatres to which the
General Theatrical Fund alone extended?

I will again repeat that I attach no reproach to those other Funds, with
which I have had the honour of being connected at different periods of my
life.  At the time those Associations were established, an engagement at
one of those theatres was almost a matter of course, and a successful
engagement would last a whole life; but an engagement of two months’
duration at Covent Garden would be a perfect Old Parr of an engagement
just now.  It should never be forgotten that when those two funds were
established, the two great theatres were protected by patent, and that at
that time the minor theatres were condemned by law to the representation
of the most preposterous nonsense, and some gentlemen whom I see around
me could no more belong to the minor theatres of that day than they could
now belong to St. Bartholomew fair.

As I honour the two old funds for the great good which they have done, so
I honour this for the much greater good it is resolved to do.  It is not
because I love them less, but because I love this more—because it
includes more in its operation.

Let us ever remember that there is no class of actors who stand so much
in need of a retiring fund as those who do not win the great prizes, but
who are nevertheless an essential part of the theatrical system, and by
consequence bear a part in contributing to our pleasures.  We owe them a
debt which we ought to pay.  The beds of such men are not of roses, but
of very artificial flowers indeed.  Their lives are lives of care and
privation, and hard struggles with very stern realities.  It is from
among the poor actors who drink wine from goblets, in colour marvellously
like toast and water, and who preside at Barmecide beasts with wonderful
appetites for steaks,—it is from their ranks that the most triumphant
favourites have sprung.  And surely, besides this, the greater the
instruction and delight we derive from the rich English drama, the more
we are bound to succour and protect the humblest of those votaries of the
art who add to our instruction and amusement.

Hazlitt has well said that “There is no class of society whom so many
persons regard with affection as actors.  We greet them on the stage, we
like to meet them in the streets; they almost always recal to us pleasant
associations.” {263}  When they have strutted and fretted their hour upon
the stage, let them not be heard no more—but let them be heard sometimes
to say that they are happy in their old age.  When they have passed for
the last time from behind that glittering row of lights with which we are
all familiar, let them not pass away into gloom and darkness,—but let
them pass into cheerfulness and light—into a contented and happy home.

This is the object for which we have met; and I am too familiar with the
English character not to know that it will be effected.  When we come
suddenly in a crowded street upon the careworn features of a familiar
face—crossing us like the ghost of pleasant hours long forgotten—let us
not recal those features with pain, in sad remembrance of what they once
were, but let us in joy recognise it, and go back a pace or two to meet
it once again, as that of a friend who has beguiled us of a moment of
care, who has taught us to sympathize with virtuous grief, cheating us to
tears for sorrows not our own—and we all know how pleasant are such
tears.  Let such a face be ever remembered as that of our benefactor and
our friend.

I tried to recollect, in coming here, whether I had ever been in any
theatre in my life from which I had not brought away some pleasant
association, however poor the theatre, and I protest, out of my varied
experience, I could not remember even one from which I had not brought
some favourable impression, and that, commencing with the period when I
believed the clown was a being born into the world with infinite pockets,
and ending with that in which I saw the other night, outside one of the
“Royal Saloons,” a playbill which showed me ships completely rigged,
carrying men, and careering over boundless and tempestuous oceans.  And
now, bespeaking your kindest remembrance of our theatres and actors, I
beg to propose that you drink as heartily and freely as ever a toast was
drunk in this toast-drinking city “Prosperity to the General Theatrical
Fund.”



XLV.
LEEDS, DECEMBER 1, 1847.


[On the above evening a Soirée of the Leeds Mechanics’ Institution took
place, at which about 1200 persons were present.  The chair was taken by
Mr. Dickens, who thus addressed the meeting:]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—Believe me, speaking to you with a most disastrous
cold, which makes my own voice sound very strangely in my ears—that if I
were not gratified and honoured beyond expression by your cordial
welcome, I should have considered the invitation to occupy my present
position in this brilliant assemblage in itself a distinction not easy to
be surpassed.  The cause in which we are assembled and the objects we are
met to promote, I take, and always have taken to be, _the_ cause and
_the_ objects involving almost all others that are essential to the
welfare and happiness of mankind.  And in a celebration like the present,
commemorating the birth and progress of a great educational
establishment, I recognise a something, not limited to the spectacle of
the moment, beautiful and radiant though it be—not limited even to the
success of the particular establishment in which we are more immediately
interested—but extending from this place and through swarms of toiling
men elsewhere, cheering and stimulating them in the onward, upward path
that lies before us all.  Wherever hammers beat, or wherever factory
chimneys smoke, wherever hands are busy, or the clanking of machinery
resounds—wherever, in a word, there are masses of industrious human
beings whom their wise Creator did not see fit to constitute all body,
but into each and every one of whom He breathed a mind—there, I would
fain believe, some touch of sympathy and encouragement is felt from our
collective pulse now beating in this Hall.

Ladies and gentlemen, glancing with such feelings at the report of your
Institution for the present year sent to me by your respected
President—whom I cannot help feeling it, by-the-bye, a kind of crime to
depose, even thus peacefully, and for so short a time—I say, glancing
over this report, I found one statement of fact in the very opening which
gave me an uncommon satisfaction.  It is, that a great number of the
members and subscribers are among that class of persons for whose
advantage Mechanics’ Institutions were originated, namely, persons
receiving weekly wages.  This circumstance gives me the greatest delight.
I am sure that no better testimony could be borne to the merits and
usefulness of this Institution, and that no better guarantee could be
given for its continued prosperity and advancement.

To such Associations as this, in their darker hours, there may yet
reappear now and then the spectral shadow of a certain dead and buried
opposition; but before the light of a steady trust in them on the part of
the general people, bearing testimony to the virtuous influences of such
Institutions by their own intelligence and conduct, the ghost will melt
away like early vapour from the ground.  Fear of such Institutions as
these!  We have heard people sometimes speak with jealousy of them,—with
distrust of them!  Imagine here, on either hand, two great towns like
Leeds, full of busy men, all of them feeling necessarily, and some of
them heavily, the burdens and inequalities inseparable from civilized
society.  In this town there is ignorance, dense and dark; in that town,
education—the best of education; that which the grown man from day to day
and year to year furnishes for himself and maintains for himself, and in
right of which his education goes on all his life, instead of leaving
off, complacently, just when he begins to live in the social system.
Now, which of these two towns has a good man, or a good cause, reason to
distrust and dread?  “The educated one,” does some timid politician, with
a marvellously weak sight, say (as I have heard such politicians say),
“because knowledge is power, and because it won’t do to have too much
power abroad.”  Why, ladies and gentlemen, reflect whether ignorance be
not power, and a very dreadful power.  Look where we will, do we not find
it powerful for every kind of wrong and evil?  Powerful to take its
enemies to its heart, and strike its best friends down—powerful to fill
the prisons, the hospitals, and the graves—powerful for blind violence,
prejudice, and error, in all their gloomy and destructive shapes.
Whereas the power of knowledge, if I understand it, is, to bear and
forbear; to learn the path of duty and to tread it; to engender that
self-respect which does not stop at self, but cherishes the best respect
for the best objects—to turn an always enlarging acquaintance with the
joys and sorrows, capabilities and imperfections of our race to daily
account in mildness of life and gentleness of construction and humble
efforts for the improvement, stone by stone, of the whole social fabric.

I never heard but one tangible position taken against educational
establishments for the people, and that was, that in this or that
instance, or in these or those instances, education for the people has
failed.  And I have never traced even this to its source but I have found
that the term education, so employed, meant anything but
education—implied the mere imperfect application of old, ignorant,
preposterous spelling-book lessons to the meanest purposes—as if you
should teach a child that there is no higher end in electricity, for
example, than expressly to strike a mutton-pie out of the hand of a
greedy boy—and on which it is as unreasonable to found an objection to
education in a comprehensive sense, as it would be to object altogether
to the combing of youthful hair, because in a certain charity school they
had a practice of combing it into the pupils’ eyes.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I turn to the report of this Institution, on
whose behalf we are met; and I start with the education given there, and
I find that it really is an education that is deserving of the name.  I
find that there are papers read and lectures delivered, on a variety of
subjects of interest and importance.  I find that there are evening
classes formed for the acquisition of sound, useful English information,
and for the study of those two important languages, daily becoming more
important in the business of life,—the French and German.  I find that
there is a class for drawing, a chemical class, subdivided into the
elementary branch and the manufacturing branch, most important here.  I
find that there is a day-school at twelve shillings a quarter, which
small cost, besides including instruction in all that is useful to the
merchant and the man of business, admits to all the advantages of the
parent institution.  I find that there is a School of Design established
in connexion with the Government School; and that there was in January
this year, a library of between six and seven thousand books.  Ladies and
gentlemen, if any man would tell me that anything but good could come of
such knowledge as this, all I can say is, that I should consider him a
new and most lamentable proof of the necessity of such institutions, and
should regard him in his own person as a melancholy instance of what a
man may come to by never having belonged to one or sympathized with one.

There is one other paragraph in this report which struck my eye in
looking over it, and on which I cannot help offering a word of joyful
notice.  It is the steady increase that appears to have taken place in
the number of lady members—among whom I hope I may presume are included
some of the bright fair faces that are clustered around me.  Gentlemen, I
hold that it is not good for man to be alone—even in Mechanics’
Institutions; and I rank it as very far from among the last or least of
the merits of such places, that he need not be alone there, and that he
is not.  I believe that the sympathy and society of those who are our
best and dearest friends in infancy, in childhood, in manhood, and in old
age, the most devoted and least selfish natures that we know on earth,
who turn to us always constant and unchanged, when others turn away,
should greet us here, if anywhere, and go on with us side by side.

I know, gentlemen, by the evidence of my own proper senses at this
moment, that there are charms and graces in such greetings, such as no
other greeting can possess.  I know that in every beautiful work of the
Almighty hand, which is illustrated in your lectures, and in every real
or ideal portraiture of fortitude and goodness that you find in your
books, there is something that must bring you home again to them for its
brightest and best example.  And therefore, gentlemen, I hope that you
will never be without them, or without an increasing number of them in
your studies and your commemorations; and that an immense number of new
marriages, and other domestic festivals naturally consequent upon those
marriages, may be traced back from time to time to the Leeds Mechanics’
Institution.

There are many gentlemen around me, distinguished by their public
position and service, or endeared to you by frequent intercourse, or by
their zealous efforts on behalf of the cause which brings us together;
and to them I shall beg leave to refer you for further observations on
this happy and interesting occasion; begging to congratulate you finally
upon the occasion itself; upon the prosperity and thriving prospects of
your institution; and upon our common and general good fortune in living
in these times, when the means of mental culture and improvement are
presented cheaply, socially, and cheerfully, and not in dismal cells or
lonely garrets.  And lastly, I congratulate myself, I assure you most
heartily, upon the part with which I am honoured on an occasion so
congenial to my warmest feelings and sympathies, and I beg to thank you
for such evidences of your good-will, as I never can coldly remember and
never forget.

                                * * * * *

[In acknowledging the vote of thanks, Mr. Dickens said:—]

Ladies and Gentlemen,—It is a great satisfaction to me that this question
has been put by the Mayor, inasmuch as I hope I may receive it as a token
that he has forgiven me those extremely large letters, which I must say,
from the glimpse I caught of them when I arrived in the town, looked like
a leaf from the first primer of a very promising young giant.

I will only observe, in reference to the proceeding of this evening, that
after what I have seen, and the excellent speeches I have heard from
gentlemen of so many different callings and persuasions, meeting here as
on neutral ground, I do more strongly and sincerely believe than I ever
have in my life,—and that is saying a great deal,—that institutions such
as this will be the means of refining and improving that social edifice
which has been so often mentioned to-night, until,—unlike that Babel
tower that would have taken heaven by storm,—it shall end in sweet accord
and harmony amongst all classes of its builders.

Ladies and gentlemen, most respectfully and heartily I bid you good night
and good-bye, and I trust the next time we meet it will be in even
greater numbers, and in a larger room, and that we often shall meet
again, to recal this evening, then of the past, and remember it as one of
a series of increasing triumphs of your excellent institution.



XLVI.
GLASGOW, DECEMBER 28, 1847.


[The first Soirée, commemorative of the opening of the Glasgow Athenæum
took place on the above evening in the City Hall.  Mr. Charles Dickens
presided, and made the following speech:]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN—Let me begin by endeavouring to convey to you the
assurance that not even the warmth of your reception can possibly exceed,
in simple earnestness, the cordiality of the feeling with which I come
amongst you.  This beautiful scene and your generous greeting would
naturally awaken, under any circumstances, no common feeling within me;
but when I connect them with the high purpose of this brilliant
assembly—when I regard it as an educational example and encouragement to
the rest of Scotland—when I regard it no less as a recognition on the
part of everybody here of the right, indisputable and inalienable, of all
those who are actively engaged in the work and business of life to
elevate and improve themselves so far as in them lies, by all good
means—I feel as if I stand here to swear brotherhood to all the young men
in Glasgow;—and I may say to all the young women in Glasgow; being
unfortunately in no position to take any tenderer vows upon myself—and as
if we were pledged from this time henceforth to make common cause
together in one of the most laudable and worthy of human objects.

Ladies and gentlemen, a common cause must be made in such a design as
that which brings us together this night; for without it, nothing can be
done, but with it, everything.  It is a common cause of right, God knows;
for it is idle to suppose that the advantages of such an institution as
the Glasgow Athenæum will stop within its own walls or be confined to its
own members.  Through all the society of this great and important city,
upwards to the highest and downwards to the lowest, it must, I know, be
felt for good.  Downward in a clearer perception of, and sympathy with,
those social miseries which can be alleviated, and those wide-open doors
to vice and crime that can be shut and barred; and upward in a greater
intelligence, increased efficiency, and higher knowledge, of all who
partake of its benefits themselves, or who communicate, as all must do,
in a greater or less degree, some portion to the circle of relatives or
friends in which they move.

Nor, ladies and gentlemen, would I say for any man, however high his
social position, or however great his attainments, that he might not find
something to be learnt even from immediate contact with such
institutions.  If he only saw the goddess Knowledge coming out of her
secluded palaces and high places to mingle with the throng, and to give
them shining glimpses of the delights which were long kept hoarded up, he
might learn something.  If he only saw the energy and the courage with
which those who earn their daily bread by the labour of their hands or
heads, come night after night, as to a recreation, to that which was,
perhaps, the whole absorbing business of his youth, there might still be
something very wholesome for him to learn.  But when he could see in such
places their genial and reviving influences, their substituting of the
contemplation of the beauties of nature and art, and of the wisdom of
great men, for mere sensual enjoyment or stupid idleness—at any rate he
would learn this—that it is at once the duty and the interest of all good
members of society to encourage and protect them.

I took occasion to say at an Athenæum in Yorkshire a few weeks since,
{274} and I think it a point most important to be borne in mind on such
commemorations as these, that when such societies are objected to, or are
decried on the ground that in the views of the objectors, education among
the people has not succeeded, the term education is used with not the
least reference to its real meaning, and is wholly misunderstood.  Mere
reading and writing is not education; it would be quite as reasonable to
call bricks and mortar architecture—oils and colours art—reeds and
cat-gut music—or the child’s spelling-books the works of Shakespeare,
Milton, or Bacon—as to call the lowest rudiments of education, education,
and to visit on that most abused and slandered word their failure in any
instance; and precisely because they were not education; because,
generally speaking, the word has been understood in that sense a great
deal too long; because education for the business of life, and for the
due cultivation of domestic virtues, is at least as important from day to
day to the grown person as to the child; because real education, in the
strife and contention for a livelihood, and the consequent necessity
incumbent on a great number of young persons to go into the world when
they are very young, is extremely difficult.  It is because of these
things that I look upon mechanics’ institutions and athenæums as vitally
important to the well-being of society.  It is because the rudiments of
education may there be turned to good account in the acquisition of sound
principles, and of the great virtues, hope, faith, and charity, to which
all our knowledge tends; it is because of that, I take it, that you have
met in education’s name to-night.

It is a great satisfaction to me to occupy the place I do in behalf of an
infant institution; a remarkably fine child enough, of a vigorous
constitution, but an infant still.  I esteem myself singularly fortunate
in knowing it before its prime, in the hope that I may have the pleasure
of remembering in its prime, and when it has attained to its lusty
maturity, that I was a friend of its youth.  It has already passed
through some of the disorders to which children are liable; it succeeded
to an elder brother of a very meritorious character, but of rather a weak
constitution, and which expired when about twelve months old, from, it is
said, a destructive habit of getting up early in the morning: it
succeeded this elder brother, and has fought manfully through a sea of
troubles.  Its friends have often been much concerned for it; its pulse
has been exceedingly low, being only 1250, when it was expected to have
been 10,000; several relations and friends have even gone so far as to
walk off once or twice in the melancholy belief that it was dead.
Through all that, assisted by the indomitable energy of one or two
nurses, to whom it can never be sufficiently grateful, it came
triumphantly, and now, of all the youthful members of its family I ever
saw, it has the strongest attitude, the healthiest look, the brightest
and most cheerful air.  I find the institution nobly lodged; I find it
with a reading-room, a coffee-room, and a news-room; I find it with
lectures given and in progress, in sound, useful and well-selected
subjects; I find it with morning and evening classes for mathematics,
logic, grammar, music, French, German, Spanish, and Italian, attended by
upwards of five hundred persons; but, best and first of all and what is
to me more satisfactory than anything else in the history of the
institution, I find that all, this has been mainly achieved by the young
men of Glasgow themselves, with very little assistance.  And, ladies and
gentlemen, as the axiom, “Heaven helps those who help themselves,” is
truer in no case than it is in this, I look to the young men of Glasgow,
from such a past and such a present, to a noble future.  Everything that
has been done in any other athenæum, I confidently expect to see done
here; and when that shall be the case, and when there shall be great
cheap schools in connexion with the institution, and when it has bound
together for ever all its friends, and brought over to itself all those
who look upon it as an objectionable institution,—then, and not till
then, I hope the young men of Glasgow will rest from their labours, and
think their study done.

If the young men of Glasgow want any stimulus or encouragement in this
wise, they have one beside them in the presence of their fair townswomen,
which is irresistible.  It is a most delightful circumstance to me, and
one fraught with inestimable benefits to institutions of this kind, that
at a meeting of this nature those who in all things are our best
examples, encouragers, and friends, are not excluded.  The abstract idea
of the Graces was in ancient times associated with those arts which
refine the human understanding; and it is pleasant to see now, in the
rolling of the world, the Graces popularising the practice of those arts
by their example, and adorning it with their presence.

I am happy to know that in the Glasgow Athenæum there is a peculiar bond
of union between the institution and the fairest part of creation.  I
understand that the necessary addition to the small library of books
being difficult and expensive to make, the ladies have generally resolved
to hold a fancy bazaar, and to devote the proceeds to this admirable
purpose; and I learn with no less pleasure that her Majesty the Queen, in
a graceful and womanly sense of the excellence of this design, has
consented that the bazaar shall be held under her royal patronage.  I can
only say, that if you do not find something very noble in your books
after this, you are much duller students than I take you to be.  The
ladies—the single ladies, at least—however disinterested I know they are
by sex and nature, will, I hope, resolve to have some of the advantages
of these books, by never marrying any but members of the Athenæum.  It
seems to me it ought to be the pleasantest library in the world.

Hazlitt says, in speaking of some of the graceful fancies of some
familiar writer of fiction, “How long since I first became acquainted
with these characters; what old-fashioned friends they seem; and yet I am
not tired of them like so many other friends, nor they of me.”  In this
case the books will not only possess all the attractions of their own
friendships and charms, but also the manifold—I may say
womanfold—associations connected with their donors.  I can imagine how,
in fact, from these fanciful associations, some fair Glasgow widow may be
taken for the remoter one whom Sir Roger de Coverley could not forget; I
can imagine how Sophia’s muff may be seen and loved, but not by Tom
Jones, going down the High Street on any winter day; or I can imagine the
student finding in every fair form the exact counterpart of the Glasgow
Athenæum, and taking into consideration the history of Europe without the
consent of Sheriff Alison.  I can imagine, in short, how through all the
facts and fictions of this library, these ladies will be always active,
and that

    “Age will not wither them, nor custom stale
    Their infinite variety.”

It seems to me to be a moral, delightful, and happy chance, that this
meeting has been held at this genial season of the year, when a new time
is, as it were, opening before us, and when we celebrate the birth of
that divine and blessed Teacher, who took the highest knowledge into the
humblest places, and whose great system comprehended all mankind.  I hail
it as a most auspicious omen, at this time of the year, when many
scattered friends and families are re-assembled, for the members of this
institution to be calling men together from all quarters, with a
brotherly view to the general good, and a view to the general
improvement; as I consider that such designs are practically worthy of
the faith we hold, and a practical remembrance of the words, “On earth
peace, and good will toward men.”  I hope that every year which dawns on
your Institution, will find it richer in its means of usefulness, and
grayer-headed in the honour and respect it has gained.  It can hardly
speak for itself more appropriately than in the words of an English
writer, when contemplating the English emblem of this period of the year,
the holly-tree:—

[Mr. Dickens concluded by quoting the last three stanzas of Southey’s
poem, _The Holly Tree_.]

                                * * * * *

[In acknowledging a vote of thanks proposed by Sir Archibald (then Mr.)
Alison, Mr. Dickens said:]

Ladies and Gentlemen,—I am no stranger—and I say it with the deepest
gratitude—to the warmth of Scottish hearts; but the warmth of your
present welcome almost deprives me of any hope of acknowledging it.  I
will not detain you any longer at this late hour; let it suffice to
assure you, that for taking the part with which I have been honoured in
this festival, I have been repaid a thousand-fold by your abundant
kindness, and by the unspeakable gratification it has afforded me.  I
hope that, before many years are past, we may have another meeting in
public, when we shall rejoice at the immense progress your institution
will have made in the meantime, and look back upon this night with new
pleasure and satisfaction.  I shall now, in conclusion, repeat most
heartily and fervently the quotation of Dr. Ewing, the late Provost of
Glasgow, which Bailie Nicol Jarvie, himself “a Glasgow body,” observed
was “elegantly putten round the town’s arms.”



XLVII.
LONDON, APRIL 14, 1851.


[The Sixth Annual Dinner of the General Theatrical Fund was held at the
London Tavern on the above date.  Mr. Charles Dickens occupied the chair,
and in giving the toast of the evening said:—]

I HAVE so often had the satisfaction of bearing my testimony, in this
place, to the usefulness of the excellent Institution in whose behalf we
are assembled, that I should be really sensible of the disadvantage of
having now nothing to say in proposing the toast you all anticipate, if I
were not well assured that there is really nothing which needs be said.
I have to appeal to you on the old grounds, and no ingenuity of mine
could render those grounds of greater weight than they have hitherto
successfully proved to you.

Although the General Theatrical Fund Association, unlike many other
public societies and endowments, is represented by no building, whether
of stone, or brick, or glass, like that astonishing evidence of the skill
and energy of my friend Mr. Paxton, which all the world is now called
upon to admire, and the great merit of which, as you learn from the best
authorities, is, that it ought to have fallen down long before it was
built, and yet that it would by no means consent to doing so—although, I
say, this Association possesses no architectural home, it is nevertheless
as plain a fact, rests on as solid a foundation, and carries as erect a
front, as any building, in the world.  And the best and the utmost that
its exponent and its advocate can do, standing here, is to point it out
to those who gather round it, and to say, “judge for yourselves.”

It may not, however, be improper for me to suggest to that portion of the
company whose previous acquaintance with it may have been limited, what
it is not.  It is not a theatrical association whose benefits are
confined to a small and exclusive body of actors.  It is a society whose
claims are always preferred in the name of the whole histrionic art.  It
is not a theatrical association adapted to a state of theatrical things
entirely past and gone, and no more suited to present theatrical
requirements than a string of pack-horses would be suited to the
conveyance of traffic between London and Birmingham.  It is not a rich
old gentleman, with the gout in his vitals, brushed and got-up once a
year to look as vigorous as possible, and brought out for a public airing
by the few survivors of a large family of nephews and nieces, who
afterwards double-lock the street-door upon the poor relations.  It is
not a theatrical association which insists that no actor can share its
bounty who has not walked so many years on those boards where the English
tongue is never heard—between the little bars of music in an aviary of
singing birds, to which the unwieldy Swan of Avon is never admitted—that
bounty which was gathered in the name and for the elevation of an
all-embracing art.

No, if there be such things, this thing is not of that kind.  This is a
theatrical association, expressly adapted to the wants and to the means
of the whole theatrical profession all over England.  It is a society in
which the word exclusiveness is wholly unknown.  It is a society which
includes every actor, whether he be Benedict or Hamlet, or the Ghost, or
the Bandit, or the court-physician, or, in the one person, the whole
King’s army.  He may do the “light business,” or the “heavy,” or the
comic, or the eccentric.  He may be the captain who courts the young
lady, whose uncle still unaccountably persists in dressing himself in a
costume one hundred years older than his time.  Or he may be the young
lady’s brother in the white gloves and inexpressibles, whose duty in the
family appears to be to listen to the female members of it whenever they
sing, and to shake hands with everybody between all the verses.  Or he
may be the baron who gives the fête, and who sits uneasily on the sofa
under a canopy with the baroness while the fête is going on.  Or he may
be the peasant at the fête who comes on the stage to swell the drinking
chorus, and who, it may be observed, always turns his glass upside down
before he begins to drink out of it.  Or he may be the clown who takes
away the doorstep of the house where the evening party is going on.  Or
he may be the gentleman who issues out of the house on the false alarm,
and is precipitated into the area.  Or, to come to the actresses, she may
be the fairy who resides for ever in a revolving star with an occasional
visit to a bower or a palace.  Or the actor may be the armed head of the
witch’s cauldron; or even that extraordinary witch, concerning whom I
have observed in country places, that he is much less like the notion
formed from the description of Hopkins than the Malcolm or Donalbain of
the previous scenes.  This society, in short, says, “Be you what you may,
be you actor or actress, be your path in your profession never so high,
or never so low, never so haughty, or never so humble, we offer you the
means of doing good to yourselves, and of doing good to your brethren.”

This society is essentially a provident institution, appealing to a class
of men to take care of their own interests, and giving a continuous
security only in return for a continuous sacrifice and effort.  The actor
by the means of this society obtains his own right, to no man’s wrong;
and when, in old age, or in disastrous times, he makes his claim on the
institution, he is enabled to say, “I am neither a beggar, nor a
suppliant.  I am but reaping what I sowed long ago.”  And therefore it is
that I cannot hold out to you that in assisting this fund you are doing
an act of charity in the common acceptation of that phrase.  Of all the
abuses of that much abused term, none have more raised my indignation
than what I have heard in this room in past times, in reference to this
institution.  I say, if you help this institution you will be helping the
wagoner who has resolutely put his own shoulder to the wheel, and who has
_not_ stuck idle in the mud.  In giving this aid you will be doing an act
of justice, and you will be performing an act of gratitude; and this is
what I solicit from you; but I will not so far wrong those who are
struggling manfully for their own independence as to pretend to entreat
from you an act of charity.

I have used the word gratitude; and let any man ask his own heart, and
confess if he have not some grateful acknowledgments for the actor’s art?
Not peculiarly because it is a profession often pursued, and as it were
marked, by poverty and misfortune—for other callings, God knows, have
their distresses—nor because the actor has sometimes to come from scenes
of sickness, of suffering, ay, even of death itself, to play his part
before us—for all of us, in our spheres, have as often to do violence to
our feelings and to hide our hearts in fighting this great battle of
life, and in discharging our duties and responsibilities.  But the art of
the actor excites reflections, sombre or grotesque, awful or humorous,
which we are all familiar with.  If any man were to tell me that he
denied his acknowledgments to the stage, I would simply put to him one
question—whether he remembered his first play?

If you, gentlemen, will but carry back your recollection to that great
night, and call to mind the bright and harmless world which then opened
to your view, we shall, I think, hear favourably of the effect upon your
liberality on this occasion from our Secretary.

This is the sixth year of meetings of this kind—the sixth time we have
had this fine child down after dinner.  His nurse, a very worthy person
of the name of Buckstone, who has an excellent character from several
places, will presently report to you that his chest is perfectly sound,
and that his general health is in the most thriving condition.  Long may
it be so; long may it thrive and grow; long may we meet (it is my sincere
wish) to exchange our congratulations on its prosperity; and longer than
the line of Banquo may be that line of figures which, as its patriotic
share in the national debt, a century hence shall be stated by the
Governor and Company of the Bank of England.



XLVIII.
THE ROYAL LITERARY FUND.
LONDON, MARCH 12, 1856.


[The Corporation of the Royal Literary Fund was established in 1790, its
object being to administer assistance to authors of genius and learning,
who may be reduced to distress by unavoidable calamities, or deprived, by
enfeebled faculties or declining life, of the power of literary exertion.
At the annual general meeting held at the house of the society on the
above date, the following speech was made by Mr. Charles Dickens:]

SIR,—I shall not attempt to follow my friend Mr. Bell, who, in the
profession of literature, represents upon this committee a separate and
distinct branch of the profession, that, like

    “The last rose of summer
    Stands blooming alone,
    While all its companions
    Are faded and gone,”

into the very prickly bramble-bush with which he has ingeniously
contrived to beset this question.  In the remarks I have to make I shall
confine myself to four points:—1. That the committee find themselves in
the painful condition of not spending enough money, and will presently
apply themselves to the great reform of spending more.  2. That with
regard to the house, it is a positive matter of history, that the house
for which Mr. Williams was so anxious was to be applied to uses to which
it never has been applied, and which the administrators of the fund
decline to recognise.  3. That, in Mr. Bell’s endeavours to remove the
Artists’ Fund from the ground of analogy it unquestionably occupies with
reference to this fund, by reason of their continuing periodical relief
to the same persons, I beg to tell Mr. Bell what every gentleman at that
table knows—that it is the business of this fund to relieve over and over
again the same people.

MR. BELL: But fresh inquiry is always made first.

MR. C. DICKENS: I can only oppose to that statement my own experience
when I sat on that committee, and when I have known persons relieved on
many consecutive occasions without further inquiry being made.  As to the
suggestion that we should select the items of expenditure that we
complain of, I think it is according to all experience that we should
first affirm the principle that the expenditure is too large.  If that be
done by the meeting, then I will proceed to the selection of the separate
items.  Now, in rising to support this resolution, I may state at once
that I have scarcely any expectation of its being carried, and I am happy
to think it will not.  Indeed, I consider it the strongest point of the
resolution’s case that it should not be carried, because it will show the
determination of the fund’s managers.  Nothing can possibly be stronger
in favour of the resolution than that the statement should go forth to
the world that twice within twelve months the attention of the committee
has been called to this great expenditure, and twice the committee have
considered that it was not unreasonable.  I cannot conceive a stronger
case for the resolution than this statement of fact as to the expenditure
going forth to the public accompanied by the committee’s assertion that
it is reasonable.  Now, to separate this question from details, let us
remember what the committee and their supporters asserted last year, and,
I hope, will re-assert this year.  It seems to be rather the model kind
of thing than otherwise now that if you get £100 you are to spend £40 in
management; and if you get £1000, of course you may spend £400 in giving
the rest away.  Now, in case there should be any ill-conditioned people
here who may ask what occasion there can be for all this expenditure, I
will give you my experience.  I went last year to a highly respectable
place of resort, Willis’s Rooms, in St. James’s, to a meeting of this
fund.  My original intention was to hear all I could, and say as little
as possible.  Allowing for the absence of the younger and fairer portion
of the creation, the general appearance of the place was something like
Almack’s in the morning.  A number of stately old dowagers sat in a row
on one side, and old gentlemen on the other.  The ball was opened with
due solemnity by a real marquis, who walked a minuet with the secretary,
at which the audience were much affected.  Then another party advanced,
who, I am sorry to say, was only a member of the House of Commons, and he
took possession of the floor.  To him, however, succeeded a lord, then a
bishop, then the son of a distinguished lord, then one or two celebrities
from the City and Stock Exchange, and at last a gentleman, who made a
fortune by the success of “Candide,” sustained the part of Pangloss, and
spoke much of what he evidently believed to be the very best management
of this best of all possible funds.  Now it is in this fondness for being
stupendously genteel, and keeping up fine appearances—this vulgar and
common social vice of hanging on to great connexions at any price, that
the money goes.  The last time you got a distinguished writer at a public
meeting, and he was called on to address you somewhere amongst the small
hours, he told you he felt like the man in plush who was permitted to
sweep the stage down after all the other people had gone.  If the founder
of this society were here, I should think he would feel like a sort of
Rip van Winkle reversed, who had gone to sleep backwards for a hundred
years and woke up to find his fund still lying under the feet of people
who did nothing for it instead of being emancipated and standing alone
long ago.  This Bloomsbury house is another part of the same desire for
show, and the officer who inhabits it.  (I mean, of course, in his
official capacity, for, as an individual, I much respect him.)  When one
enters the house it appears to be haunted by a series of
mysterious-looking ghosts, who glide about engaged in some extraordinary
occupation, and, after the approved fashion of ghosts, but seldom
condescend to disclose their business.  What are all these meetings and
inquiries wanted for?  As for the authors, I say, as a writer by
profession, that the long inquiry said to be necessary to ascertain
whether an applicant deserves relief, is a preposterous pretence, and
that working literary men would have a far better knowledge of the cases
coming before the board than can ever be attained by that committee.
Further, I say openly and plainly, that this fund is pompously and
unnaturally administered at great expense, instead of being quietly
administered at small expense; and that the secrecy to which it lays
claim as its greatest attribute, is not kept; for through those “two
respectable householders,” to whom reference must be made, the names of
the most deserving applicants are to numbers of people perfectly well
known.  The members have now got before them a plain statement of fact as
to these charges; and it is for them to say whether they are justifiable,
becoming, or decent.  I beg most earnestly and respectfully to put it to
those gentlemen who belong to this institution, that must now decide, and
cannot help deciding, what the Literary Fund is for, and what it is not
for.  The question raised by the resolution is whether this is a public
corporation for the relief of men of genius and learning, or whether it
is a snug, traditional, and conventional party, bent upon maintaining its
own usages with a vast amount of pride; upon its own annual puffery at
costly dinner-tables, and upon a course of expensive toadying to a number
of distinguished individuals.  This is the question which you cannot this
day escape.



XLIX.
LONDON, NOVEMBER 5, 1857.


[At the fourth anniversary dinner of the Warehousemen and Clerks Schools,
which took place on Thursday evening, Nov. 5th, 1857, at the London
Tavern, and was very numerously attended, Mr. Charles Dickens occupied
the chair.  On the subject which had brought the company together Mr.
Dickens spoke as follows:—]

I MUST now solicit your attention for a few minutes to the cause of your
assembling together—the main and real object of this evening’s gathering;
for I suppose we are all agreed that the motto of these tables is not
“Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die;” but, “Let us eat and drink,
for to-morrow we live.”  It is because a great and good work is to live
to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to live a greater and better
life with every succeeding to-morrow, that we eat and drink here at all.
Conspicuous on the card of admission to this dinner is the word
“Schools.”  This set me thinking this morning what are the sorts of
schools that I don’t like.  I found them on consideration, to be rather
numerous.  I don’t like to begin with, and to begin as charity does at
home—I don’t like the sort of school to which I once went myself—the
respected proprietor of which was by far the most ignorant man I have
ever had the pleasure to know; one of the worst-tempered men perhaps that
ever lived, whose business it was to make as much out of us and put as
little into us as possible, and who sold us at a figure which I remember
we used to delight to estimate, as amounting to exactly £2 4s. 6d. per
head.  I don’t like that sort of school, because I don’t see what
business the master had to be at the top of it instead of the bottom, and
because I never could understand the wholesomeness of the moral preached
by the abject appearance and degraded condition of the teachers who
plainly said to us by their looks every day of their lives, “Boys, never
be learned; whatever you are, above all things be warned from that in
time by our sunken cheeks, by our poor pimply noses, by our meagre diet,
by our acid-beer, and by our extraordinary suits of clothes, of which no
human being can say whether they are snuff-coloured turned black, or
black turned snuff-coloured, a point upon which we ourselves are
perfectly unable to offer any ray of enlightenment, it is so very long
since they were undarned and new.”  I do not like that sort of school,
because I have never yet lost my ancient suspicion touching that curious
coincidence that the boy with four brothers to come always got the
prizes.  In fact, and short, I do not like that sort of school, which is
a pernicious and abominable humbug, altogether.  Again, ladies and
gentlemen, I don’t like that sort of school—a ladies’ school—with which
the other school used to dance on Wednesdays, where the young ladies, as
I look back upon them now, seem to me always to have been in new stays
and disgrace—the latter concerning a place of which I know nothing at
this day, that bounds Timbuctoo on the north-east—and where memory always
depicts the youthful enthraller of my first affection as for ever
standing against a wall, in a curious machine of wood, which confined her
innocent feet in the first dancing position, while those arms, which
should have encircled my jacket, those precious arms, I say, were
pinioned behind her by an instrument of torture called a backboard, fixed
in the manner of a double direction post.  Again, I don’t like that sort
of school, of which we have a notable example in Kent, which was
established ages ago by worthy scholars and good men long deceased, whose
munificent endowments have been monstrously perverted from their original
purpose, and which, in their distorted condition, are struggled for and
fought over with the most indecent pertinacity.  Again, I don’t like that
sort of school—and I have seen a great many such in these latter
times—where the bright childish imagination is utterly discouraged, and
where those bright childish faces, which it is so very good for the
wisest among us to remember in after life—when the world is too much with
us, early and late {292}—are gloomily and grimly scared out of
countenance; where I have never seen among the pupils, whether boys or
girls, anything but little parrots and small calculating machines.
Again, I don’t by any means like schools in leather breeches, and with
mortified straw baskets for bonnets, which file along the streets in long
melancholy rows under the escort of that surprising British monster—a
beadle, whose system of instruction, I am afraid, too often presents that
happy union of sound with sense, of which a very remarkable instance is
given in a grave report of a trustworthy school inspector, to the effect
that a boy in great repute at school for his learning, presented on his
slate, as one of the ten commandments, the perplexing prohibition, “Thou
shalt not commit doldrum.”  Ladies and gentlemen, I confess, also, that I
don’t like those schools, even though the instruction given in them be
gratuitous, where those sweet little voices which ought to be heard
speaking in very different accents, anathematise by rote any human being
who does not hold what is taught there.  Lastly, I do not like, and I did
not like some years ago, cheap distant schools, where neglected children
pine from year to year under an amount of neglect, want, and youthful
misery far too sad even to be glanced at in this cheerful assembly.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps you will permit me to sketch in a
few words the sort of school that I do like.  It is a school established
by the members of an industrious and useful order, which supplies the
comforts and graces of life at every familiar turning in the road of our
existence; it is a school established by them for the Orphan and
Necessitous Children of their own brethren and sisterhood; it is a place
giving an education worthy of them—an education by them invented, by them
conducted, by them watched over; it is a place of education where, while
the beautiful history of the Christian religion is daily taught, and
while the life of that Divine Teacher who Himself took little children on
His knees is daily studied, no sectarian ill-will nor narrow human dogma
is permitted to darken the face of the clear heaven which they disclose.
It is a children’s school, which is at the same time no less a children’s
home, a home not to be confided to the care of cold or ignorant
strangers, nor, by the nature of its foundation, in the course of ages to
pass into hands that have as much natural right to deal with it as with
the peaks of the highest mountains or with the depths of the sea, but to
be from generation to generation administered by men living in precisely
such homes as those poor children have lost; by men always bent upon
making that replacement, such a home as their own dear children might
find a happy refuge in if they themselves were taken early away.  And I
fearlessly ask you, is this a design which has any claim to your
sympathy?  Is this a sort of school which is deserving of your support?

This is the design, this is the school, whose strong and simple claim I
have to lay before you to-night.  I must particularly entreat you not to
suppose that my fancy and unfortunate habit of fiction has anything to do
with the picture I have just presented to you.  It is sober matter of
fact.  The Warehousemen and Clerks’ Schools, established for the
maintaining, clothing, and educating of the Orphan and Necessitous
Children of those employed in the wholesale trades and manufactures of
the United Kingdom, are, in fact, what I have just described.  These
schools for both sexes were originated only four years ago.  In the first
six weeks of the undertaking the young men of themselves and quite
unaided, subscribed the large sum of £3,000.  The schools have been
opened only three years, they have now on their foundation thirty-nine
children, and in a few days they will have six more, making a total of
forty-five.  They have been most munificently assisted by the heads of
great mercantile houses, numerously represented, I am happy to say,
around me, and they have a funded capital of almost £14,000.  This is
wonderful progress, but the aim must still be upwards, the motto always
“Excelsior.”  You do not need to be told that five-and-forty children can
form but a very small proportion of the Orphan and Necessitous Children
of those who have been entrusted with the wholesale trades and
manufactures of the United Kingdom: you do not require to be informed
that the house at New-cross, rented for a small term of years, in which
the schools are at present established, can afford but most imperfect
accommodation for such a breadth of design.  To carry this good work
through the two remaining degrees of better and best there must be more
work, more co-operation, more friends, more money.  Then be the friends
and give the money.  Before I conclude, there is one other feature in
these schools which I would commend to your special attention and
approval.  Their benefits are reserved for the children of subscribers;
that is to say, it is an essential principle of the institution that it
must help those whose parents have helped them, and that the unfortunate
children whose father has been so lax, or so criminal, as to withhold a
subscription so exceedingly small that when divided by weeks it amounts
to only threepence weekly, cannot, in justice, be allowed to jostle out
and shoulder away the happier children, whose father has had that little
forethought, or done that little kindness which was requisite to secure
for them the benefits of the institution.  I really cannot believe that
there will long be any such defaulting parents.  I cannot believe that
any of the intelligent young men who are engaged in the wholesale houses
will long neglect this obvious, this easy duty.  If they suppose that the
objects of their love, born or unborn, will never want the benefits of
the charity, that may be a fatal and blind mistake—it can never be an
excuse, for, supposing them to be right in their anticipation, they
should do what is asked for the sake of their friends and comrades around
them, assured that they will be the happier and the better for the deed.

Ladies and gentlemen, this little “labour of love” of mine is now done.
I most heartily wish that I could charm you now not to see me, not to
think of me, not to hear me—I most heartily wish that I could make you
see in my stead the multitude of innocent and bereaved children who are
looking towards these schools, and entreating with uplifted hands to be
let in.  A very famous advocate once said, in speaking of his fears of
failure when he had first to speak in court, being very poor, that he
felt his little children tugging at his skirts, and that recovered him.
Will you think of the number of little children who are tugging at my
skirts, when I ask you, in their names, on their behalf, and in their
little persons, and in no strength of my own, to encourage and assist
this work?

                                * * * * *

At a later period of the evening Mr. Dickens proposed the health of the
President of the Institution, Lord John Russell.  He said he should do
nothing so superfluous and so unnecessary as to descant upon his
lordship’s many faithful, long, and great public services, upon the
honour and integrity with which he had pursued his straightforward public
course through every difficulty, or upon the manly, gallant, and
courageous character, which rendered him certain, in the eyes alike of
friends and opponents, to rise with every rising occasion, and which,
like the seal of Solomon, in the old Arabian story, enclosed in a not
very large casket the soul of a giant.  In answer to loud cheers, he said
he had felt perfectly certain, that that would be the response for in no
English assembly that he had ever seen was it necessary to do more than
mention the name of Lord John Russell to ensure a manifestation of
personal respect and grateful remembrance.



L.
LONDON, MAY 8, 1858.


[The forty-eighth Anniversary of the establishment of the Artists’
Benevolent Fund took place on the above date at the Freemasons’ Tavern.
The chair was taken by Mr. Charles Dickens, who, after having disposed of
the preliminary toasts with his usual felicity, proceeded to advocate the
claims of the Institution in whose interest the company had assembled, in
the following terms:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—There is an absurd theatrical story which was once
told to me by a dear and valued friend, who has now passed from this
sublunary stage, and which is not without its moral as applied to myself,
in my present presidential position.  In a certain theatrical company was
included a man, who on occasions of emergency was capable of taking part
in the whole round of the British drama, provided he was allowed to use
his own language in getting through the dialogue.  It happened one night
that Reginald, in the _Castle Spectre_, was taken ill, and this veteran
of a hundred characters was, of course, called up for the vacant part.
He responded with his usual promptitude, although knowing nothing
whatever of the character, but while they were getting him into the
dress, he expressed a not unreasonable wish to know in some vague way
what the part was about.  He was not particular as to details, but in
order that he might properly pourtray his sufferings, he thought he
should have some slight inkling as to what really had happened to him.
As, for example, what murders he had committed, whose father he was, of
what misfortunes he was the victim,—in short, in a general way to know
why he was in that place at all.  They said to him, “Here you are,
chained in a dungeon, an unhappy father; you have been here for seventeen
years, during which time you have never seen your daughter; you have
lived upon bread and water, and, in consequence, are extremely weak, and
suffer from occasional lowness of spirits.”—“All right,” said the actor
of universal capabilities, “ring up.”  When he was discovered to the
audience, he presented an extremely miserable appearance, was very
favourably received, and gave every sign of going on well, until, through
some mental confusion as to his instructions, he opened the business of
the act by stating in pathetic terms, that he had been confined in that
dungeon seventeen years, during which time he had not tasted a morsel of
food, to which circumstance he was inclined to attribute the fact of his
being at that moment very much out of condition.  The audience, thinking
this statement exceedingly improbable, declined to receive it, and the
weight of that speech hung round him until the end of his performance.

Now I, too, have received instructions for the part I have the honour of
performing before you, and it behoves both you and me to profit by the
terrible warning I have detailed, while I endeavour to make the part I
have undertaken as plain and intelligible as I possibly can.

As I am going to propose to you that we should now begin to connect the
business with the pleasure of the evening, by drinking prosperity to the
Artists’ Benevolent Fund, it becomes important that we should know what
that fund is.  It is an Association supported by the voluntary gifts of
those who entertain a critical and admiring estimation of art, and has
for its object the granting of annuities to the widows and children of
deceased artists—of artists who have been unable in their lives to make
any provision for those dear objects of their love surviving themselves.
Now it is extremely important to observe that this institution of an
Artists’ Benevolent Fund, which I now call on you to pledge, has
connected with it, and has arisen out of another artists’ association,
which does not ask you for a health, which never did, and never will ask
you for a health, which is self-supporting, and which is entirely
maintained by the prudence and providence of its three hundred artist
members.  That fund, which is called the Artists’ Annuity Fund, is, so to
speak, a joint and mutual Assurance Company against infirmity, sickness,
and age.  To the benefits it affords every one of its members has an
absolute right, a right, be it remembered, produced by timely thrift and
self-denial, and not assisted by appeals to the charity or compassion of
any human being.  On that fund there are, if I remember a right, some
seventeen annuitants who are in the receipt of eleven hundred a-year, the
proceeds of their own self-supporting Institution.  In recommending to
you this benevolent fund, which is not self-supporting, they address you,
in effect, in these words:—“We ask you to help these widows and orphans,
because we show you we have first helped ourselves.  These widows and
orphans may be ours or they may not be ours; but in any case we will
prove to you to a certainty that we are not so many wagoners calling upon
Jupiter to do our work, because we do our own work; each has his shoulder
to the wheel; each, from year to year, has had his shoulder set to the
wheel, and the prayer we make to Jupiter and all the gods is simply
this—that this fact may be remembered when the wagon has stopped for
ever, and the spent and worn-out wagoner lies lifeless by the roadside.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I most particularly wish to impress on you the
strength of this appeal.  I am a painter, a sculptor, or an engraver, of
average success.  I study and work here for no immense return, while life
and health, while hand and eye are mine.  I prudently belong to the
Annuity Fund, which in sickness, old age, and infirmity, preserves me
from want.  I do my duty to those who are depending on me while life
remains; but when the grass grows above my grave there is no provision
for them any longer.”

This is the case with the Artists’ Benevolent Fund, and in stating this I
am only the mouthpiece of three hundred of the trade, who in truth stands
as independent before you as if they were three hundred Cockers all
regulated by the Gospel according to themselves.  There are in existence
three artists’ funds, which ought never to be mentioned without respect.
I am an officer of one of them, and can speak from knowledge; but on this
occasion I address myself to a case for which there is no provision.  I
address you on behalf of those professors of the fine arts who have made
provision during life, and in submitting to you their claims I am only
advocating principles which I myself have always maintained.

When I add that this Benevolent Fund makes no pretensions to gentility,
squanders no treasure in keeping up appearances, that it considers that
the money given for the widow and the orphan, should really be held for
the widow and the orphan, I think I have exhausted the case, which I
desire most strenuously to commend to you.

Perhaps you will allow me to say one last word.  I will not consent to
present to you the professors of Art as a set of helpless babies, who are
to be held up by the chin; I present them as an energetic and persevering
class of men, whose incomes depend on their own faculties and personal
exertions; and I also make so bold as to present them as men who in their
vocation render good service to the community.  I am strongly disposed to
believe there are very few debates in Parliament so important to the
public welfare as a really good picture.  I have also a notion that any
number of bundles of the driest legal chaff that ever was chopped would
be cheaply expended for one really meritorious engraving.  At a highly
interesting annual festival at which I have the honour to assist, and
which takes place behind two fountains, I sometimes observe that great
ministers of state and other such exalted characters have a strange
delight in rather ostentatiously declaring that they have no knowledge
whatever of art, and particularly of impressing on the company that they
have passed their lives in severe studies.  It strikes me when I hear
these things as if these great men looked upon the arts as a sort of
dancing dogs, or Punch’s show, to be turned to for amusement when one has
nothing else to do.  Now I always take the opportunity on these occasions
of entertaining my humble opinion that all this is complete “bosh;” and
of asserting to myself my strong belief that the neighbourhoods of
Trafalgar Square, or Suffolk Street, rightly understood, are quite as
important to the welfare of the empire as those of Downing Street, or
Westminster Hall.  Ladies and Gentlemen, on these grounds, and backed by
the recommendation of three hundred artists in favour of the Benevolent
Fund, I beg to propose its prosperity as a toast for your adoption.



LI.
THE FAREWELL READING.
ST. JAMES’S HALL, MARCH 15, 1870.


[With the “Christmas Carol” and “The Trial from Pickwick,” Mr. Charles
Dickens brought to a brilliant close the memorable series of public
readings which have for sixteen years proved to audiences unexampled in
numbers, the source of the highest intellectual enjoyment.  Every portion
of available space in the building was, of course, last night occupied
some time before the appointed hour; but could the St. James’s Hall have
been specially enlarged for the occasion to the dimensions of Salisbury
Plain, it is doubtful whether sufficient room would even then have been
provided for all anxious to seize the last chance of hearing the
distinguished novelist give his own interpretation of the characters
called into existence by his own creative pen.  As if determined to
convince his auditors that, whatever reason had influenced his
determination, physical exhaustion was not amongst them, Mr. Dickens
never read with greater spirit and energy.  His voice to the last
retained its distinctive clearness, and the transitions of tone, as each
personage in the story, conjured up by a word, rose vividly before the
eye, seemed to be more marvellous than ever.  The vast assemblage, hushed
into breathless attention, suffered not a syllable to escape the ear, and
the rich humour and deep pathos of one of the most delightful books ever
written found once again the fullest appreciation.  The usual burst of
merriment responsive to the blithe description of Bob Cratchit’s
Christmas day, and the wonted sympathy with the crippled child “Tiny
Tim,” found prompt expression, and the general delight at hearing of
Ebenezer Scrooge’s reformation was only checked by the saddening
remembrance that with it the last strain of the “carol” was dying away.
After the “Trial from Pickwick,” in which the speeches of the opposing
counsel, and the owlish gravity of the judge, seemed to be delivered and
depicted with greater dramatic power than ever, the applause of the
audience rang for several minutes through the hall, and when it had
subsided, Mr. Dickens, with evidently strong emotion, but in his usual
distinct and expressive manner, spoke as follows:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—It would be worse than idle—for it would be
hypocritical and unfeeling—if I were to disguise that I close this
episode in my life with feelings of very considerable pain.  For some
fifteen years, in this hall and in many kindred places, I have had the
honour of presenting my own cherished ideas before you for your
recognition, and, in closely observing your reception of them, have
enjoyed an amount of artistic delight and instruction which, perhaps, is
given to few men to know.  In this task, and in every other I have ever
undertaken, as a faithful servant of the public, always imbued with a
sense of duty to them, and always striving to do his best, I have been
uniformly cheered by the readiest response, the most generous sympathy,
and the most stimulating support.  Nevertheless, I have thought it well,
at the full flood-tide of your favour, to retire upon those older
associations between us, which date from much further back than these,
and henceforth to devote myself exclusively to the art that first brought
us together.  Ladies and gentlemen, in but two short weeks from this time
I hope that you may enter, in your own homes, on a new series of
readings, at which my assistance will be indispensable; {303} but from
these garish lights I vanish now for evermore, with a heartfelt,
grateful, respectful, and affectionate farewell.

[Amidst repeated acclamations of the most enthusiastic description,
whilst hats and handkerchiefs were waving in every part of the hall, Mr.
Charles Dickens retired, withdrawing with him one of the greatest
intellectual treats the public ever enjoyed.]



LII.
THE NEWSVENDORS’ INSTITUTION.
LONDON, APRIL 5, 1870.


[The annual dinner in aid of the funds of the Newsvendors’ Benevolent and
Provident Institution was held on the above evening, at the Freemason’s
Tavern.  Mr. Charles Dickens presided, and was supported by the Sheriffs
of the City of London and Middlesex.

After the usual toasts had been given and responded to,

The Chairman said that if the approved order of their proceedings had
been observed, the Corporation of the City of London would no doubt have
considered themselves snubbed if they were not toasted by themselves.  He
was sure that a distinguished member of the Corporation who was present
would tell the company what the Corporation were going to do; and he had
not the slightest doubt they were going to do something highly creditable
to themselves, and something highly serviceable to the whole metropolis;
and if the secret were not at present locked up in the blue chamber, they
would be all deeply obliged to the gentleman who would immediately follow
him, if he let them into it in the same confidence as he had observed
with respect to the Corporation of the City of London being snubbed.  He
begged to give the toast of “The Corporation of the City of London.”

Mr. Alderman Cotton, in replying to the toast, said for once, and once
only, had their chairman said an unkind word about the Corporation of
London.  He had always reckoned Mr. Dickens to be one of the warmest
friends of the Corporation; and remembering that he (Mr. Dickens) did
really go through a Lord Mayor’s Show in a Lord Mayor’s carriage, if he
had not felt himself quite a Lord Mayor, he must have at least considered
himself next to one.

In proposing the toast of the evening Mr. Dickens said:—]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—You receive me with so much cordiality that I fear
you believe that I really did once sit in a Lord Mayor’s state coach.
Permit me to assure you, in spite of the information received from Mr.
Alderman Cotton, that I never had that honour.  Furthermore, I beg to
assure you that I never witnessed a Lord Mayor’s show except from the
point of view obtained by the other vagabonds upon the pavement.  Now,
ladies and gentlemen, in spite of this great cordiality of yours, I doubt
if you fully know yet what a blessing it is to you that I occupy this
chair to-night, because, having filled it on several previous occasions
for the society on whose behalf we are assembled, and having said
everything that I could think of to say about it, and being, moreover,
the president of the institution itself, I am placed to-night in the
modest position of a host who is not so much to display himself as to
call out his guests—perhaps even to try to induce some among them to
occupy his place on another occasion.  And, therefore, you may be safely
sure that, like Falstaff, but with a modification almost as large as
himself, I shall try rather to be the cause of speaking in others than to
speak myself to-night.  Much in this manner they exhibit at the door of a
snuff shop the effigy of a Highlander with an empty mull in his hand,
who, having apparently taken all the snuff he can carry, and discharged
all the sneezes of which he is capable, politely invites his friends and
patrons to step in and try what they can do in the same line.

It is an appropriate instance of the universality of the newsman’s
calling that no toast we have drunk to-night—and no toast we shall drink
to-night—and no toast we might, could, should, or would drink to-night,
is separable for a moment from that great inclusion of all possible
subjects of human interest which he delivers at our doors every day.
Further, it may be worthy the consideration of everybody here who has
talked cheerfully to his or her neighbour since we have sat down at the
table, what in the name of Heaven should we have talked about, and how on
earth could we have possibly got on, if our newsman had only for one
single day forgotten us.  Now, ladies and gentlemen, as our newsman is
not by any means in the habit of forgetting us, let us try to form a
little habit of not forgetting our newsman.  Let us remember that his
work is very arduous; that it occupies him early and late; that the
profits he derives from us are at the best very small; that the services
he renders to us are very great; that if he be a master, his little
capital is exposed to all sorts of mischances, anxieties, and hazards;
and if he be a journeyman, he himself is exposed to all manner of
weathers, of tempers, and of difficult and unreasonable requirements.

Let me illustrate this.  I was once present at a social discussion, which
originated by chance.  The subject was, What was the most absorbing and
longest-lived passion in the human breast?  What was the passion so
powerful that it would almost induce the generous to be mean, the
careless to be cautious, the guileless to be deeply designing, and the
dove to emulate the serpent?  A daily editor of vast experience and great
acuteness, who was one of the company, considerably surprised us by
saying with the greatest confidence that the passion in question was the
passion of getting orders for the play.

There had recently been a terrible shipwreck, and very few of the
surviving sailors had escaped in an open boat.  One of these on making
land came straight to London, and straight to the newspaper office, with
his story of how he had seen the ship go down before his eyes.  That
young man had witnessed the most terrible contention between the powers
of fire and water for the destruction of that ship and of every one on
board.  He had rowed away among the floating, dying, and the sinking
dead.  He had floated by day, and he had frozen by night, with no shelter
and no food, and, as he told his dismal tale, he rolled his haggard eyes
about the room.  When he had finished, and the tale had been noted down
from his lips, he was cheered and refreshed, and soothed, and asked if
anything could be done for him.  Even within him that master passion was
so strong that he immediately replied he should like an order for the
play.  My friend the editor certainly thought that was rather a strong
case; but he said that during his many years of experience he had
witnessed an incurable amount of self-prostration and abasement having no
outer object, and that almost invariably on the part of people who could
well afford to pay.

This made a great impression on my mind, and I really lived in this faith
until some years ago it happened upon a stormy night I was kindly
escorted from a bleak railway station to the little out-of-the-way town
it represented by a sprightly and vivacious newsman, to whom I
propounded, as we went along under my umbrella—he being most excellent
company—this old question, what was the one all-absorbing passion of the
human soul?  He replied, without the slightest hesitation, that it
certainly was the passion for getting your newspaper in advance of your
fellow-creatures; also, if you only hired it, to get it delivered at your
own door at exactly the same time as another man who hired the same copy
four miles off; and, finally, the invincible determination on the part of
both men not to believe the time was up when the boy called.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have not had an opportunity of verifying this
experience with my friends of the managing committee, but I have no doubt
from its reception to-night that my friend the newsman was perfectly
right.  Well, as a sort of beacon in a sufficiently dark life, and as an
assurance that among a little body of working men there is a feeling of
brotherhood and sympathy—which is worth much to all men, or they would
herd with wolves—the newsvendors once upon a time established the
Benevolent and Provident Institution, and here it is.  Under the
Provident head, certain small annuities are granted to old and
hard-working subscribers.  Under the Benevolent head, relief is afforded
to temporary and proved distress.  Under both heads, I am bound to say
the help rendered is very humble and very sparing, but if you like it to
be handsomer you have it in your power to make it so.  Such as it is, it
is most gratefully received, and does a deal of good.  Such as it is, it
is most discreetly and feelingly administered; and it is encumbered with
no wasteful charges for management or patronage.

You know upon an old authority, that you may believe anything except
facts and figures, but you really may believe that during the last year
we have granted £100 in pensions, and some £70 in temporary relief, and
we have invested in Government securities some £400.  But, touching this
matter of investments, it was suggested at the anniversary dinner, on the
high and kind authority of Sir Benjamin Phillips that we might grant more
pensions and invest less money.  We urged, on the other hand, that we
wished our pensions to be certain and unchangeable—which of course they
must be if they are always paid out of our Government interest and never
out of our capital.  However, so amiable is our nature, that we profess
our desire to grant more pensions and to invest more money too.  The more
you give us to-night again, so amiable is our nature, the more we promise
to do in both departments.  That the newsman’s work has greatly
increased, and that it is far more wearing and tearing than it used to
be, you may infer from one fact, not to mention that we live in railway
times.  It is stated in Mitchell’s “Newspaper Press Directory,” that
during the last quarter of a century the number of newspapers which
appeared in London had more than doubled, while the increase in the
number of people among whom they were disseminated was probably beyond
calculation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have stated the newsman’s simple case.  I leave
it in your hands.  Within the last year the institution has had the good
fortune to attract the sympathy and gain the support of the eminent man
of letters I am proud to call my friend, {309} who now represents the
great Republic of America at the British Court.  Also it has the honour
of enrolling upon its list of donors and vice-presidents the great name
of Longfellow.  I beg to propose to you to drink “Prosperity to the
Newsvendors’ Benevolent and Provident Institution.”



LIII.
MACREADY.
LONDON, MARCH 1, 1851.


[On the evening of the above day the friends and admirers of Mr. Macready
entertained him at a public dinner.  Upwards of six hundred gentlemen
assembled to do honour to the great actor on his retirement from the
stage.  Sir E. B. Lytton took the chair.  Among the other speakers were
Baron Bunsen, Sir Charles Eastlake, Mr. Thackeray, Mr. John Forster, Mr.
W. J. Fox, and Mr. Charles Dickens, who proposed “The Health of the
Chairman” in the following words:—]

GENTLEMEN,—After all you have already heard, and so rapturously received,
I assure you that not even the warmth of your kind welcome would embolden
me to hope to interest you if I had not full confidence in the subject I
have to offer to your notice.  But my reliance on the strength of this
appeal to you is so strong that I am rather encouraged than daunted by
the brightness of the track on which I have to throw my little shadow.

Gentlemen, as it seems to me, there are three great requisites essential
to the perfect realisation of a scene so unusual and so splendid as that
in which we are now assembled.  The first, and I must say very difficult
requisite, is a man possessing the stronghold in the general remembrance,
the indisputable claim on the general regard and esteem, which is
possessed by my dear and much valued friend our guest.  The second
requisite is the presence of a body of entertainers,—a great multitude of
hosts so cheerful and good-humoured (under, I am sorry to say, some
personal inconvenience),—so warm-hearted and so nobly in earnest, as
those whom I have the privilege of addressing.  The third, and certainly
not the least of these requisites, is a president who, less by his social
position, which he may claim by inheritance, or by fortune, which may
have been adventitiously won, and may be again accidentally lost, than by
his comprehensive genius, shall fitly represent the best part of him to
whom honour is done, and the best part of those who unite in the doing of
it.  Such a president I think we have found in our chairman of to-night,
and I need scarcely add that our chairman’s health is the toast I have to
propose to you.

Many of those who now hear me were present, I daresay, at that memorable
scene on Wednesday night last, {311} when the great vision which had been
a delight and a lesson,—very often, I daresay, a support and a comfort to
you, which had for many years improved and charmed us, and to which we
had looked for an elevated relief from the labours of our lives, faded
from our sight for ever.  I will not stop to inquire whether our guest
may or may not have looked backward, through rather too long a period for
us, to some remote and distant time when he might possibly bear some
far-off likeness to a certain Spanish archbishop whom Gil Blas once
served.  Nor will I stop to inquire whether it was a reasonable
disposition in the audience of Wednesday to seize upon the words—

             “And I have brought,
    Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
    Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
    Not cast aside so soon—” {312}

but I will venture to intimate to those whom I am addressing how in my
mind I mainly connect that occasion with the present.  When I looked
round on the vast assemblage, and observed the huge pit hushed into
stillness on the rising of the curtain, and that mighty surging gallery,
where men in their shirt-sleeves had been striking out their arms like
strong swimmers—when I saw that boisterous human flood become still water
in a moment, and remain so from the opening to the end of the play, it
suggested to me something besides the trustworthiness of an English
crowd, and the delusion under which those labour who are apt to disparage
and malign it: it suggested to me that in meeting here to-night we
undertook to represent something of the all-pervading feeling of that
crowd, through all its intermediate degrees, from the full-dressed lady,
with her diamonds sparkling upon her breast in the proscenium-box, to the
half-undressed gentleman; who bides his time to take some refreshment in
the back row of the gallery.  And I consider, gentlemen, that no one who
could possibly be placed in this chair could so well head that
comprehensive representation, and could so well give the crowning grace
to our festivities, as one whose comprehensive genius has in his various
works embraced them all, and who has, in his dramatic genius, enchanted
and enthralled them all at once.

Gentlemen, it is not for me here to recall, after what you have heard
this night, what I have seen and known in the bygone times of Mr.
Macready’s management, of the strong friendship of Sir Bulwer Lytton for
him, of the association of his pen with his earliest successes, or of Mr.
Macready’s zealous and untiring services; but it may be permitted me to
say what, in any public mention of him I can never repress, that in the
path we both tread I have uniformly found him from the first the most
generous of men; quick to encourage, slow to disparage, ever anxious to
assert the order of which he is so great an ornament; never condescending
to shuffle it off, and leave it outside state rooms, as a Mussulman might
leave his slippers outside a mosque.

There is a popular prejudice, a kind of superstition to the effect that
authors are not a particularly united body, that they are not invariably
and inseparably attached to each other.  I am afraid I must concede
half-a-grain or so of truth I to that superstition; but this I know, that
there can hardly be—that there hardly can have been—among the followers
of literature, a man of more high standing farther above these little
grudging jealousies, which do sometimes disparage its brightness, than
Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.

And I have the strongest reason just at present to bear my testimony to
his great consideration for those evils which are sometimes unfortunately
attendant upon it, though not on him.  For, in conjunction with some
other gentlemen now present, I have just embarked in a design with Sir
Bulwer Lytton, to smoothe the rugged way of young labourers, both in
literature and the fine arts, and to soften, but by no eleemosynary
means, the declining years of meritorious age.  And if that project
prosper as I hope it will, and as I know it ought, it will one day be an
honour to England where there is now a reproach; originating in his
sympathies, being brought into operation by his activity, and endowed
from its very cradle by his generosity.  There are many among you who
will have each his own favourite reason for drinking our chairman’s
health, resting his claim probably upon some of his diversified
successes.  According to the nature of your reading, some of you will
connect him with prose, others will connect him with poetry.  One will
connect him with comedy, and another with the romantic passions of the
stage, and his assertion of worthy ambition and earnest struggle against

             “those twin gaolers of the human heart,
    Low birth and iron fortune.”

Again, another’s taste will lead him to the contemplation of Rienzi and
the streets of Rome; another’s to the rebuilt and repeopled streets of
Pompeii; another’s to the touching history of the fireside where the
Caxton family learned how to discipline their natures and tame their wild
hopes down.  But, however various their feelings and reasons may be, I am
sure that with one accord each will help the other, and all will swell
the greeting, with which I shall now propose to you “The Health of our
Chairman, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton.”



LIV.
SANITARY REFORM.
LONDON, MAY 10, 1851.


[The members and friends of the Metropolitan Sanitary Association dined
together on the above evening at Gore House, Kensington.  The Earl of
Carlisle occupied the chair.  Mr. Charles Dickens was present, and in
proposing “The Board of Health,” made the following speech:—]

THERE are very few words for me to say upon the needfulness of sanitary
reform, or the consequent usefulness of the Board of Health.  That no man
can estimate the amount of mischief grown in dirt,—that no man can say
the evil stops here or stops there, either in its moral or physical
effects, or can deny that it begins in the cradle and is not at rest in
the miserable grave, is as certain as it is that the air from Gin Lane
will be carried by an easterly wind into Mayfair, or that the furious
pestilence raging in St. Giles’s no mortal list of lady patronesses can
keep out of Almack’s.  Fifteen years ago some of the valuable reports of
Mr. Chadwick and Dr. Southwood Smith, strengthening and much enlarging my
knowledge, made me earnest in this cause in my own sphere; and I can
honestly declare that the use I have since that time made of my eyes and
nose have only strengthened the conviction that certain sanitary reforms
must precede all other social remedies, and that neither education nor
religion can do anything useful until the way has been paved for their
ministrations by cleanliness and decency.

I do not want authority for this opinion: you have heard the speech of
the right reverend prelate {316} this evening—a speech which no sanitary
reformer can have heard without emotion.  Of what avail is it to send
missionaries to the miserable man condemned to work in a foetid court,
with every sense bestowed upon him for his health and happiness turned
into a torment, with every month of his life adding to the heap of evils
under which he is condemned to exist?  What human sympathy within him is
that instructor to address? what natural old chord within him is he to
touch?  Is it the remembrance of his children?—a memory of destitution,
of sickness, of fever, and of scrofula?  Is it his hopes, his latent
hopes of immortality?  He is so surrounded by and embedded in material
filth, that his soul cannot rise to the contemplation of the great truths
of religion.  Or if the case is that of a miserable child bred and
nurtured in some noisome, loathsome place, and tempted, in these better
days, into the ragged school, what can a few hours’ teaching effect
against the ever-renewed lesson of a whole existence?  But give them a
glimpse of heaven through a little of its light and air; give them water;
help them to be clean; lighten that heavy atmosphere in which their
spirits flag and in which they become the callous things they are; take
the body of the dead relative from the close room in which the living
live with it, and where death, being familiar, loses its awe; and then
they will be brought willingly to hear of Him whose thoughts were so much
with the poor, and who had compassion for all human suffering.

The toast which I have to propose, The Board of Health, is entitled to
all the honour which can be conferred upon it.  We have very near us, in
Kensington, a transparent illustration that no very great thing can ever
be accomplished without an immense amount of abuse being heaped upon it.
In connexion with the Board of Health we are always hearing a very large
word which is always pronounced with a very great relish—the word
centralization.  Now I submit that in the time of the cholera we had a
pretty good opportunity of judging between this so called centralization
and what I may, I think, call “vestrylisation.”  I dare say the company
present have read the reports of the Cholera Board of Health, and I
daresay they have also read reports of certain vestries.  I have the
honour of belonging to a constituency which elected that amazing body,
the Marylebone vestry, and I think that if the company present will look
to what was done by the Board of Health at Glasgow, and then contrast
those proceedings with the wonderful cleverness with which affairs were
managed at the same period by my vestry, there will be very little
difficulty in judging between them.  My vestry even took upon itself to
deny the existence of cholera as a weak invention of the enemy, and that
denial had little or no effect in staying the progress of the disease.
We can now contrast what centralization is as represented by a few noisy
and interested gentlemen, and what centralization is when worked out by a
body combining business habits, sound medical and social knowledge, and
an earnest sympathy with the sufferings of the working classes.

Another objection to the Board of Health is conveyed in a word not so
large as the other,—“Delay.”  I would suggest, in respect to this, that
it would be very unreasonable to complain that a first-rate chronometer
didn’t go when its master had not wound it up.  The Board of Health may
be excellently adapted for going and very willing and anxious to go, and
yet may not be permitted to go by reason of its lawful master having
fallen into a gentle slumber and forgotten to set it a going.  One of the
speakers this evening has referred to Lord Castlereagh’s caution “not to
halloo until they were out of the wood.”  As regards the Board of Trade I
would suggest that they ought not to halloo until they are out of the
Woods and Forests.  In that leafy region the Board of Health suffers all
sorts of delays, and this should always be borne in mind.  With the toast
of the Board of Health I will couple the name of a noble lord (Ashley),
of whose earnestness in works of benevolence, no man can doubt, and who
has the courage on all occasions to face the cant which is the worst and
commonest of all—the cant about the cant of philanthropy.



LV.
GARDENING.
LONDON, JUNE 9, 1851.


[At the anniversary dinner of the Gardeners’ Benevolent Institution, held
under the presidency of Mr., afterwards Sir Joseph Paxton, Mr. Charles
Dickens made the following speech:—]

I FEEL an unbounded and delightful interest in all the purposes and
associations of gardening.  Probably there is no feeling in the human
mind stronger than the love of gardening.  The prisoner will make a
garden in his prison, and cultivate his solitary flower in the chink of a
wall.  The poor mechanic will string his scarlet bean from one side of
his window to the other, and watch it and tend it with unceasing
interest.  It is a holy duty in foreign countries to decorate the graves
of the dead with flowers, and here, too, the resting-places of those who
have passed away from us will soon be gardens.  From that old time when
the Lord walked in the garden in the cool of the evening, down to the day
when a Poet-Laureate sang—

    “Trust me, Clara Vere de Vere,
       From yon blue heaven above us bent
    The gardener Adam and his wife
       Smile at the claims of long descent,”

at all times and in all ages gardens have been amongst the objects of the
greatest interest to mankind.  There may be a few, but I believe they are
but a few, who take no interest in the products of gardening, except
perhaps in “London Pride,” or a certain degenerate kind of “Stock,” which
is apt to grow hereabouts, cultivated by a species of frozen-out
gardeners whom no thaw can ever penetrate: except these, the gardeners’
art has contributed to the delight of all men in their time.  That there
ought to be a Benevolent Provident Institution for gardeners is in the
fitness of things, and that such an institution ought to flourish and
does flourish is still more so.

I have risen to propose to you the health of a gentleman who is a great
gardener, and not only a great gardener but a great man—the growth of a
fine Saxon root cultivated up with a power of intellect to a plant that
is at this time the talk of the civilized world—I allude, of course, to
my friend the chairman of the day.  I took occasion to say at a public
assembly hard-by, a month or two ago, in speaking of that wonderful
building Mr. Paxton has designed for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park,
that it ought to have fallen down, but that it refused to do so.  We were
told that the glass ought to have been all broken, the gutters all choked
up, and the building flooded, and that the roof and sides ought to have
been blown away; in short that everything ought to have done what
everything obstinately persisted in not doing.  Earth, air, fire, and
water all appear to have conspired together in Mr. Paxton’s favour—all
have conspired together to one result, which, when the present generation
is dust, will be an enduring temple to his honour, and to the energy, the
talent, and the resources of Englishmen.

“But,” said a gentleman to me the other day, “no doubt Mr. Paxton is a
great man, but there is one objection to him that you can never get over,
that is, he is a gardener.”  Now that is our case to-night, that he is a
gardener, and we are extremely proud of it.  This is a great age, with
all its faults, when a man by the power of his own genius and good sense
can scale such a daring height as Mr. Paxton has reached, and composedly
place his form on the top.  This is a great age, when a man impressed
with a useful idea can carry out his project without being imprisoned, or
thumb-screwed, or persecuted in any form.  I can well understand that
you, to whom the genius, the intelligence, the industry, and the
achievements of our friend are well known, should be anxious to do him
honour by placing him in the position he occupies to-night; and I assure
you, you have conferred great gratification on one of his friends, in
permitting him to have the opportunity of proposing his health, which
that friend now does most cordially and with all the honours.



LVI.
THE ROYAL ACADEMY DINNER.
LONDON, MAY 2, 1870.


[On the occasion of the Second Exhibition of the Royal Academy in their
new galleries in Piccadilly, the President, Sir F. Grant, and the council
gave their usual inaugurative banquet, and a very distinguished company
was present.  The dinner took place in the large central room, and covers
were laid for 200 guests.  The Prince of Wales acknowledged the toast of
his health and that of the Princess, the Duke of Cambridge responded to
the toast of the army, Mr. Childers to the navy, Lord Elcho to the
volunteers, Mr. Motley to “The Prosperity of the United States,” Mr.
Gladstone to “Her Majesty’s Ministers,” the Archbishop of York to, “The
Guests,” and Mr. Dickens to “Literature.”  The last toast having been
proposed in a highly eulogistic speech, Mr. Dickens responded.]

MR. PRESIDENT, your Royal Highnesses, my Lords and Gentlemen,—I beg to
acknowledge the toast with which you have done me the great honour of
associating my name.  I beg to acknowledge it on behalf of the
brotherhood of literature, present and absent, not forgetting an
illustrious wanderer from the fold, whose tardy return to it we all hail
with delight, and who now sits—or lately did sit—within a few chairs of
or on your left hand.  I hope I may also claim to acknowledge the toast
on behalf of the sisterhood of literature also, although that “better
half of human nature,” to which Mr. Gladstone rendered his graceful
tribute, is unworthily represented here, in the present state of its
rights and wrongs, by the devouring monster, man.

All the arts, and many of the sciences, bear witness that women, even in
their present oppressed condition, can attain to quite as great
distinction, and can attain to quite as lofty names as men.  Their
emancipation (as I am given to understand) drawing very near, there is no
saying how soon they may “push us from our stools” at these tables, or
how soon our better half of human nature, standing in this place of mine,
may eloquently depreciate mankind, addressing another better half of
human nature sitting in the president’s chair.

The literary visitors of the Royal Academy to-night desire me to
congratulate their hosts on a very interesting exhibition, in which risen
excellence supremely asserts itself, and from which promise of a
brilliant succession in time to come is not wanting.  They naturally see
with especial interest the writings and persons of great men—historians,
philosophers, poets, and novelists, vividly illustrated around them here.
And they hope that they may modestly claim to have rendered some little
assistance towards the production of many of the pictures in this
magnificent gallery.  For without the patient labours of some among them
unhistoric history might have long survived in this place, and but for
the researches and wandering of others among them, the most preposterous
countries, the most impossible peoples, and the absurdest superstitions,
manners, and customs, might have usurped the place of truth upon these
walls.  Nay, there is no knowing, Sir Francis Grant, what unlike
portraits you yourself might have painted if you had been left, with your
sitters, to idle pens, unchecked reckless rumours, and undenounced lying
malevolence.

I cannot forbear, before I resume my seat, adverting to a sad theme (the
recent death of Daniel Maclise) to which his Royal Highness the Prince of
Wales made allusion, and to which the president referred with the
eloquence of genuine feeling.  Since I first entered the public lists, a
very young man indeed, it has been my constant fortune to number amongst
my nearest and dearest friends members of the Royal Academy who have been
its grace and pride.  They have so dropped from my side one by one that I
already, begin to feel like the Spanish monk of whom Wilkie tells, who
had grown to believe that the only realities around him were the pictures
which he loved, and that all the moving life he saw, or ever had seen,
was a shadow and a dream.

For many years I was one of the two most intimate friends and most
constant companions of the late Mr. Maclise.  Of his genius in his chosen
art I will venture to say nothing here, but of his prodigious fertility
of mind and wonderful wealth of intellect, I may confidently assert that
they would have made him, if he had been so minded, at least as great a
writer as he was a painter.  The gentlest and most modest of men, the
freshest as to his generous appreciation of young aspirants, and the
frankest and largest-hearted as to his peers, incapable of a sordid or
ignoble thought, gallantly sustaining the true dignity of his vocation,
without one grain of self-ambition, wholesomely natural at the last as at
the first, “in wit a man, simplicity a child,” no artist, of whatsoever
denomination, I make bold to say, ever went to his rest leaving a golden
memory more pure from dross, or having devoted himself with a truer
chivalry to the art goddess whom he worshipped.

          [These were the last public words of Charles Dickens.]



CHARLES DICKENS AS A LETTER-WRITER, AND AS A POET.


I.—AS A LETTER-WRITER.


IN the graceful but difficult art of letter-writing Charles Dickens has
proved himself as accomplished a master as he has of public speaking,
which the two or three specimens given in our Introduction, together with
the following extracts from his correspondence with two distinguished
friends, Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold, will sufficiently show.

In the spring of 1841, some months before Mr. Dickens had decided upon
his first visit to the United States, Washington Irving, who was then
personally unknown to him, addressed him a letter, full of warm sympathy
and generous acknowledgment of his genius, and of the pleasure Dickens’s
writings had afforded him.  A few extracts from Mr. Dickens’s reply are
given below.

In February, 1842, Mr. Dickens had the gratification of making the
personal acquaintance of his illustrious correspondent, who was induced
to overcome his objection to public speaking, and to take the chair at a
banquet given in Dickens’s honour by some of the citizens of New York.
Irving, however, entirely broke down in his speech, and could do little
more than propose the toast of the evening.

There were probably never two men of more congenial mind and common
sympathies than the author of the “Sketch Book,” and the author of
“Pickwick;” and it is pleasant to think that the chance of things should
have brought them together for a time in so unexpected a way.

In Mr. Dickens’ reply he tells Washington Irving that:—

    “There is no man in the world who could have given me the heartfelt
    pleasure you have, by your kind note of the 13th of last month.
    There is no living writer—and there are very few among the dead—whose
    approbation I should feel so proud to earn.  And with everything you
    have written upon my shelves, and in my thoughts, and in my heart of
    hearts, I may honestly and truly say so.  If you could know how
    earnestly I write this, you would be glad to read it—as I hope you
    will be, faintly guessing at the warmth of the hand I autographically
    hold out to you over the broad Atlantic.

    “I wish I could find in your welcome letter some hint of an intention
    to visit England.  I can’t.  I have held it at arm’s length, and
    taken a bird’s-eye view of it, after reading it a great many times,
    but there is no greater encouragement in it this way than on a
    microscopic inspection.  I should love to go with you—as I have gone,
    God knows how often—into Little Britain, and Eastcheap, and Green
    Arbour Court, and Westminster Abbey.  I should like to travel with
    you, outside the last of the coaches, down to Bracebridge Hall.  It
    would make my heart glad to compare notes with you about that shabby
    gentleman in the oil-cloth hat, and red nose, who sat in the
    nine-cornered back parlour of the _Mason’s Arms_; and about Robert
    Preston, and the tallow-chandler’s widow, whose sitting-room is
    second nature to me; and about all those delightful places and people
    that I used to walk about and dream of in the day-time, when a very
    small and not over-particularly-taken-care-of boy.  I have a good
    deal to say, too, about that dashing Alonzo de Ojeda, that you can’t
    help being fonder of than you ought to be; and much to hear
    concerning Moorish legend, and poor, unhappy Boabdil.  Diedrich
    Knickerbocker I have worn to death in my pocket, and yet I should
    show you his mutilated carcass with a joy past all expression.

    “I have been so accustomed to associate you with my pleasantest and
    happiest thoughts, and with my leisure hours, that I rush at once
    into full confidence with you, and fall, as it were naturally, and by
    the very laws of gravity, into your open arms.  Questions come
    thronging to my pen as to the lips of people who meet after long
    hoping to do so.  I don’t know what to say first, or what to leave
    unsaid, and am constantly disposed to break off and tell you again
    how glad I am this moment has arrived.

    “My dear Washington Irving, I cannot thank you enough for your
    cordial and generous praise, or tell you what deep and lasting
    gratification it has given me.  I hope to have many letters from you,
    and to exchange a frequent correspondence.  I send this to say so.
    After the first two or three, I shall settle down into a connected
    style, and become gradually rational.

    “You know what the feeling is, after having written a letter, sealed
    it, and sent it off.  I shall picture you reading this, and answering
    it, before it has lain one night in the post-office.  Ten to one that
    before the fastest packet could reach New York I shall be writing
    again.

    “Do you suppose the post-office clerks care to receive letters?  I
    have my doubts.  They get into a dreadful habit of indifference.  A
    postman, I imagine, is quite callous.  Conceive his delivering one to
    himself, without being startled by a preliminary double knock!”

In the spring of 1842 Mr. Dickens was at Washington, from whence he wrote
to Irving:—

    “We passed through—literally passed through—this place again to-day.
    I did not come to see you, for I really have not the heart to say
    “good-bye” again, and felt more than I can tell you when we shook
    hands last Wednesday.

    “You will not be at Baltimore, I fear?  I thought, at the time, that
    you only said you might be there, to make our parting the gayer.
    Wherever you go, God bless you!  What pleasure I have had in seeing
    and talking with you, I will not attempt to say.  I shall never
    forget it as long as I live.  What _would_ I give, if we could have
    but a quiet week together!  Spain is a lazy place, and its climate an
    indolent one.  But if you have ever leisure under its sunny skies, to
    think of a man who loves you, and holds communion with your spirit
    oftener, perhaps, than any other person alive—leisure from
    listlessness, I mean—and will write to me in London, you will give me
    an inexpressible amount of pleasure.”

Wishing, in the summer of 1856, to introduce a relation to Irving, Mr.
Dickens sent a pleasant letter of introduction, wherein he says:—

    “If you knew how often I write to you individually and personally, in
    my books, you would be no more surprised in seeing this note, than
    you were in seeing me do my duty by that flowery julep (in what I
    dreamily apprehend to have been a former state of existence) at
    Baltimore.

    “Will you let me present to you a cousin of mine, Mr. B—, who is
    associated with a merchant’s house in New York?  Of course, he wants
    to see you, and know you.  How can _I_ wonder at that?  How can
    anybody?

    “I had a long talk with Leslie at the last Academy dinner (having
    previously been with him in Paris), and he told me that you were
    flourishing.  I suppose you know that he wears a moustache—so do I,
    for the matter of that, and a beard too—and that he looks like a
    portrait of Don Quixote.

    “Holland House has four-and-twenty youthful pages in it now—twelve
    for my lord, and twelve for my lady; and no clergyman coils his leg
    up under his chair all dinner-time, and begins to uncurve it when the
    hostess goes.  No wheeled chair runs smoothly in, with that beaming
    face in it; and —’s little cotton pocket-handkerchief helped to make
    (I believe) this very sheet of paper.  A half-sad, half-ludicrous
    story of Rogers, is all I will sully it with.  You know, I daresay,
    that, for a year or so before his death, he wandered and lost
    himself, like one of the Children in the Wood, grown up there and
    grown down again.  He had Mrs. Procter and Mrs. Carlyle to breakfast
    with him one morning—only those two.  Both excessively talkative,
    very quick and clever, and bent on entertaining him.  When Mrs.
    Carlyle had flashed and shone before him for about three-quarters of
    an hour on one subject, he turned his poor old eyes on Mrs. Procter,
    and, pointing to the brilliant discourser with his poor old finger,
    said (indignantly), “Who is _she_?”  Upon this, Mrs. Procter, cutting
    in, delivered—(it is her own story)—a neat oration on the life and
    writings of Carlyle, and enlightened him in her happiest and airiest
    manner; all of which he heard, staring in the dreariest silence, and
    then said (indignantly as before), “And who are you?”

                                * * * * *

WITH few of his literary contemporaries has Mr. Dickens held more cordial
and pleasant relations than with the late DOUGLAS JERROLD.  During all
the years of their intercourse that sympathy and friendship existed
between them, which two minds so thoroughly manly and honourable could
hardly help feeling for each other.  Dickens, though considerably the
younger of the two, had won earlier the prizes of his profession.  But
there was no mean envy and jealousy on the one side, and no mean
assumption on the other.  The letters that passed between the two men are
altogether delightful to read.  We shall proceed to give, as far as our
space will allow, a few extracts from those of Dickens to Jerrold, {330}
with intercalary elucidations explanatory of the circumstances under
which they were written.

In the year 1843, Douglas Jerrold wrote to Mr. Dickens from Herne Bay,
where he had taken up his abode in “a little cabin, built up of ivy and
woodbine, and almost within sound of the sea.”

Mr. Dickens replies:—

    “Herne Bay.  Hum!  I suppose it’s no worse than any other place in
    this weather, but it _is_ watery, rather, isn’t it?  In my mind’s
    eye, I have the sea in a perpetual state of small-pox, and the chalk
    running down hill like town milk.  But I know the comfort of getting
    to work ‘in a fresh place,’ and proposing pious projects to one’s
    self, and having the more substantial advantage of going to bed
    early, and getting up ditto, and walking about alone.  If there were
    a fine day, I should like to deprive you of the last-named happiness,
    and to take a good long stroll.”

                                * * * * *

In the summer of 1844, “Come,” wrote Mr. Dickens temptingly, “come and
see me in Italy.  Let us smoke a pipe among the vines.  I have taken a
little house surrounded by them, and no man in the world should be more
welcome to it than you.”

                                * * * * *

Again from Cremona, (November, 1844,) Dickens writes:—

    “You rather entertained the notion once, of coming to see me at
    Genoa.  I shall return straight on the ninth of December, limiting my
    stay in town to one week.  Now, couldn’t you come back with me?  The
    journey that way is very cheap, and I am sure the gratification to
    you would be high.  I am lodged in quite a wonderful place, and would
    put you in a painted room as big as a church, and much more
    comfortable.  There are pens and ink upon the premises; orange trees,
    gardens, battledores and shuttlecocks, rousing wood fires for
    evenings, and a welcome worth having.” * * *

                                * * * * *

In 1846, again, Mr. Dickens is off to Switzerland, and still would tempt
Jerrold in his wake.  “I wish,” he writes, “you would seriously consider
the expediency and feasibility of coming to Lausanne in the summer or
early autumn.  It is a wonderful place to see; and what sort of welcome
you would find I will say nothing about, for I have vanity enough to
believe that you would be willing to feel yourself as much at home in my
household as in any man’s.”

Arrived at Lausanne, Mr. Dickens writes that he will be ready for his
guest in June.  “We are established here,” he says, “in a perfect doll’s
house, which could be put bodily into the hall of our Italian palazzo.
But it is in the most lovely and delicious situation imaginable, and
there is a spare bedroom wherein we could make you as comfortable as need
be.  Bowers of roses for cigar-smoking, arbours for cool punch-drinking,
mountain and Tyrolean countries close at hand, piled-up Alps before the
windows, &c., &c., &c.”  Then follow business-like directions for the
journey.

But it could not be.  Jerrold was busy with his paper, and with his
magazine, and felt unable to abandon them even for a few weeks.  Well,
could he reach Paris for Christmas, persisted Mr. Dickens, and spend that
merry time with his friend.

Early in 1847 Jerrold thought he did see his way clear at last to make a
short visit to Paris, where Dickens was still established.  “We are
delighted at your intention of coming,” writes the latter, giving the
most minute details of the manner in which the journey was to be
performed; but even this journey was never accomplished.  Once only,
after all these promises and invitations—and that for but two or three
days—did Douglas Jerrold escape from the cares of London literary life,
to meet Mr. Dickens at Ostend, on his return from Italy, and have a few
days’ stroll about Belgium.

The following is an extract from a curious and interesting letter
addressed by Dickens to Douglas Jerrold on the subject of public hanging,
respecting which the latter held conservative opinions:—

                                   ‘Devonshire Terrace, November 17, 1849.

    “In a letter I have received from G. this morning he quotes a recent
    letter from you, in which you deprecate the ‘mystery’ of private
    hanging.

    “Will you consider what punishment there is, except death, to which
    ‘mystery’ does not attach?  Will you consider whether all the
    improvements in prisons and punishments that have been made within
    the last twenty years have or have not, been all productive of
    ‘mystery?’  I can remember very well when the silent system was
    objected to as mysterious, and opposed to the genius of English
    society.  Yet there is no question that it has been a great benefit.
    The prison vans are mysterious vehicles; but surely they are better
    than the old system of marching prisoners through the streets chained
    to a long chain, like the galley slaves in Don Quixote.  Is there no
    mystery about transportation, and our manner of sending men away to
    Norfolk Island, or elsewhere?  None in abandoning the use of a man’s
    name, and knowing him only by a number?  Is not the whole improved
    and altered system, from the beginning to end, a mystery?  I wish I
    could induce you to feel justified in leaving that word to the
    platform people, on the strength of your knowledge of what crime was,
    and of what its punishments were, in the days when there was no
    mystery connected with these things, and all was as open as Bridewell
    when Ned Ward went to see the women whipped.”



II.—AS A POET.


THERE are several among our foremost prose writers in the present
century, who, possessing high imagination, and a considerable power of
rhythmical expression, have occasionally produced verse of a high though
not of the first order.  Lord Macaulay will not be remembered either by
his prize poems, or by his “Lays of Ancient Rome,” but one who wrote such
eloquent prose could hardly fail ignobly when he attempted verse.  Thomas
Carlyle, in spite of his energetic denunciation of modern poetry as mere
dilettantism and trifling, has occasionally courted the muse, and were
the original pieces and translations from the German which lie scattered
through his earlier writings, collected together, they would by
themselves form a volume of no mean value.  They have a wild, rugged
melody of their own, as have also the occasional verses of Emerson; the
latter bear in many respects a remarkable resemblance to those of Blake.
The author of _Modern Painters_ might also have gained some reputation as
a poet, had he chosen to preserve in a more permanent form his scattered
contributions to annuals.  Indeed, it would seem that no eloquent writer
of prose is altogether devoid of the lyric gift if he chooses to exercise
it.  The only attempt at poetry by Charles Dickens which is at all known
to the general public is the famous song of “The Ivy Green,” in the
Pickwick Papers.  This exquisite little lyric, with its beautiful
refrain, so often wedded to music and so familiar to us all, would alone
suffice to give him no mean rank among contemporary writers of verse.
But in the Comic Opera of the Village Coquettes, {334} to which we
alluded in our Introduction, there were a dozen songs of equal tenderness
and melody, though, as the author has never thought fit to reprint the
little piece, they are now forgotten.

The first is a song of Harvest-Home, supposed to be sung by a company of
reapers.

It must be mentioned that this and the other songs had the advantage of
being set to music by John Hullah.  The next, “Love is not a feeling to
pass away,” was a great favourite at the time.  We quote the first
stanza, the last line of which recalls the little song in the Pickwick
Papers:

    “Love is not a feeling to pass away,
    Like the balmy breath of a summer day;
    It is not—it cannot be—laid aside;
    It is not a thing to forget or hide.
    It clings to the heart, ah, woe is me!
    As the ivy clings to the old oak tree.”

The next is a Bacchanalian song, supposed to be sung by a country squire.

But the gem of all these little lyrics, in our opinion, is that of
“Autumn Leaves,” of which the refrain strikes us as being peculiarly
happy.  The reader, however, shall judge for himself, from the following
quotation:—

    “Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here;
    Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear!
          How like the hopes of childhood’s day,
             Thick clustering on the bough!
          How like those hopes is their decay,
             How faded are they now!
    Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here
    Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear!”

The next lyric, “The Child and the Old Man,” was sung by Braham at
different concerts, long after the piece from which it is taken, had been
forgotten, and was almost invariably encored.

Mr. Dickens’s poetical attempts have not, however, been confined to
song-writing.  In 1842 he wrote for a friend a very fine Prologue to a
new tragedy.  Mr. Westland Marston came to London in his twenty-first
year, and resolved to try his success in the world of letters: after
writing for several of the second-class magazines, he finished his
tragedy of the “Patrician’s Daughter,” and introduced himself to Mr.
Dickens, who became interested in the play.  Struck with the novelty of
“a coat-and-breeches tragedy,” the good-tempered novelist recommended
Macready to produce it, and after some little hesitation, this
distinguished actor took himself the chief character—Mordaunt,—and also
recited a prologue by Mr. Dickens, {336} from which we quote a few lines.

Impressing the audience strongly with the scope and purpose of what they
had come to see, this prologue thoroughly prepared them for welcome and
applause.  The strength and truth of some of the concluding lines address
themselves equally to a larger audience.

    “No tale of streaming plumes and harness bright
    Dwells on the poet’s maiden theme to-night.

                                 * * * *

    Enough for him if in his boldest word
    The beating heart of man be faintly stirr’d.
    That mournful music, that, like chords which sigh
    Through charmed gardens, all who hear it die;
    That solemn music he does not pursue,
    To distant ages out of human view.

                                 * * * *

    But musing with a calm and steady gaze
    Before the crackling flame of living days,
    He hears it whisper, through the busy roar
    Of what shall be, and what has been before.
    Awake the Present!  Shall no scene display
    The tragic passion of the passing day?
    Is it with man as with some meaner things,
    That out of death his solemn purpose springs?
    Can this eventful life no moral teach,
    Unless he be for aye beyond its reach?

                                 * * * *

    Awake the Present!  What the past has sown
    Is in its harvest garner’d, reap’d, and grown.
    How pride engenders pride, and wrong breeds wrong,
    And truth and falsehood hand in hand along
    High places walk in monster-like embrace,
    The modern Janus with a double face;
    How social usage hath the power to change
    Good thought to evil in its highest range,
    To cramp the noble soul, and turn to ruth
    The kindling impulse of the glowing youth,
    Crushing the spirit in its house of clay,—
    Learn from the lesson of the present day.
    Not light its import, and not poor its mien,
    Yourselves the actors, and your home the scene.”

We now come to a very curious fact.  Mr. R. H. Horne pointed out
twenty-five years ago, {337} that a great portion of the scenes
describing the death of Little Nell in the “Old Curiosity Shop,” will be
found to be written—whether by design or harmonious accident, of which
the author was not even subsequently fully conscious—in blank verse, of
irregular metre and rhythms, which Southey, Shelley, and some other poets
have occasionally adopted.  The following passage, properly divided into
lines, will stand thus:

                               NELLY’S FUNERAL.

       “And now the bell—the bell
    She had so often heard by night and day,
       And listen’d to with solemn pleasure,
          Almost as a living voice—
    Rung its remorseless toll for her,
    So young, so beautiful, so good.

       “Decrepit age, and vigorous life,
    And blooming youth and helpless infancy,
    Pour’d forth—on crutches, in the pride of strength
          And health, in the full blush
       Of promise, the mere dawn of life—
    To gather round her tomb.  Old men were there,
             Whose eyes were dim
             And senses failing—
    Grandames, who might have died ten years ago,
    And still been old—the deaf, the blind, the lame,
       The palsied,
    The living dead in many shapes and forms,
    To see the closing of this early grave.
       What was the death it would shut in,
    To that which still could crawl and creep above it!

    “Along the crowded path they bore her now;
       Pure as the new-fall’n snow
    That cover’d it; whose day on earth
       Had been as fleeting.
    Under that porch, where she had sat when Heaven
    In mercy brought her to that peaceful spot,
       She pass’d again, and the old church
       Received her in its quiet shade.”

Throughout the whole of the above, only two unimportant words have been
omitted—_in_ and _its_; and “grandames” has been substituted for
“grandmothers.”  All that remains is exactly as in the original, not a
single word transposed, and the punctuation the same to a comma.

Again, take the brief homily that concludes the funeral:

    “Oh! it is hard to take to heart
    The lesson that such deaths will teach,
          But let no man reject it,
       For it is one that all must learn,
    And is a mighty, universal Truth.
    When Death strikes down the innocent and young,
    For every fragile form from which he lets
       The parting spirit free,
       A hundred virtues rise,
    In shapes of mercy, charity, and love,
       To walk the world and bless it.
          Of every tear
    That sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves
    Some good is born, some gentler nature comes.”

Not a ward of the original is changed in the above quotation, which is
worthy of the best passages in Wordsworth, and thus, meeting on the
common ground of a deeply truthful sentiment, the two most dissimilar men
in the literature of the century are brought into the closest
approximation.

Something of a similar kind of versification in prose may be discovered
in Chapter LXXVII. of “Barnaby Rudge,” and there is an instance of
successive verses in the Third Part of the “Christmas Carol,” beginning

                    “Far in this den of infamous resort.”

The following is from the concluding paragraph of “Nicholas Nickleby”:—

    “The grass was green above the dead boy’s grave,
       Trodden by feet so small and light,
       That not a daisy droop’d its head
          Beneath their pressure.
       Through all the spring and summer time
    Garlands of fresh flowers, wreathed by infant hands,
          Rested upon the stone.”

The following stanzas, entitled “A Word in Season,” were contributed by
Mr. Dickens in the winter of 1843 to an annual edited by his friend and
correspondent, the Countess of Blessington.  Since that time he has
ceased to write, or at any rate to publish anything in verse.

This poem savours much of the manner of Robert Browning.  Full of wit and
wisdom, and containing some very remarkable and rememberable lines, an
extract from it will fitly close this chapter of our volume.

                              A WORD IN SEASON.
                             BY CHARLES DICKENS.

       “They have a superstition in the East,
       That ALLAH, written on a piece of paper,
    Is better unction than can come of priest
       Of rolling incense, and of lighted taper:
    Holding, that any scrap which bears that name,
       In any characters, its front impress’d on,
    Shall help the finder thro’ the purging flame,
       And give his toasted feet a place to rest on.

    “So have I known a country on the earth,
       Where darkness sat upon the living waters,
    And brutal ignorance, and toil, and dearth
       Were the hard portion of its sons and daughters:
    And yet, where they who should have oped the door
       Of charity and light, for all men’s finding,
    Squabbled for words upon the altar-floor,
       And rent The Book, in struggles for the binding.” {341}



CHARLES DICKENS’S READINGS.
THE FIRST PUBLIC READING.
BY ONE WHO HEARD IT.


NOTE.—_In the Introduction to the present volume_, _p._ 42, _it is stated
that Dickens’s_ “FIRST _Reading_” _in public was given at Birmingham in
the Christmas of_ 1853.  _The offer to read on this public occasion was
certainly the_ FIRST _which the great novelist made_, _but before the
Christmas had come around he thought proper to give a trial Reading
before a much smaller audience_, _in the quiet little city of
Peterborough_.—ED.

IT must be sixteen or seventeen years ago—I cannot fix the date exactly,
though the affair made a strong impression on me at the time—that I
witnessed Charles Dickens’s _débût_ as a public reader.  The
circumstances surrounding this event were so singular that I am tempted
to recall them.

Scene, the City of Peterborough—dreamy and quiet enough then, though now
a flourishing railroad terminus—a silent city, with a grand old Norman
cathedral, round which the rooks cawed lazily all day, straggling narrow
streets of brick-built houses, a large Corn Exchange, a Mechanics’
Institute, and about seven thousand inhabitants.  The Mechanics’
Institute brought it all about.  That well-meaning but weak-kneed
organization was, I need hardly say, in debt.  Mechanics’ Institutes
always are in debt.  That is their chief peculiarity, next to the fact
that they never by any chance have any mechanics among their members.
Our institution was no exception to the rule.  On the contrary, it was a
bright and shining example.  No mechanics’ institute of its size anywhere
around was so deeply in debt; none was more snobbishly exclusive in its
membership.  We had overrun our resources to such an extent that we could
not even pay the rent of the building we occupied, and were in daily
danger of being turned out of doors.  Lectures on highly improving
subjects had been tried, but the proceeds did not pay the printer.
Concerts succeeded better, but the committee said they were immoral.  We
had given two monster tea meetings to pay off the debt, on which
occasions all the cake required was supplied gratuitously by the members’
mothers, and all the members and their friends came in by free tickets
and ate it up.  Henry Vincent delivered us an oration; George Dawson
propounded metaphysical sophistries for our intellectual mystification;
but with all this we got no better of our troubles—every flounder we made
only plunged us deeper into the mud.  At last it was resolved to write to
our Borough members.  This was in the good old days of Whig supremacy;
and all the land and all the houses round about us being owned by one
great Whig earl, our borough was privileged to return two members to
represent the opinions of that unprotected earl in Parliament.  A
contested election had just come to a close, and the honeyed promises and
grateful pledges of our elected candidates were still fresh in our
memory.  So to our members the committee addressed their tearful
entreaties—“deserving institution,”—“valuable agency of
self-improvement,”—“pressing pecuniary embarrassments,” and so forth.
Member No. 1 sent his compliments and a five pound note.  Member No. 2
delayed writing for several days, and then had great pleasure in
informing us that the celebrated author, Mr. Charles Dickens, had kindly
consented to deliver a public reading on our behalf.

What an excitement it caused in the little city!  Mr. Dickens at that
time had made no public appearance as a reader.  He had occasionally been
heard of as giving selections from his works to small coteries of friends
or in the private saloon of some distinguished patron of art.  But he had
nervously shrunk from any public _débût_, unwilling, so it seemed, to
weaken his reputation as a writer by any possible failure as a reader.
This diffidence had taken so strong a hold of him that it might never
have been overcome but for the insidious persuasions of “our member.”
“Here was an opportunity,” he argued, “for testing the matter without
risk: an antediluvian country town; an audience of farmers’ sons and
daughters, rural shop-keepers, and a few country parsons—if interest
could be excited in the stolid minds of such a Bœotian assemblage, the
success of the reader would be assured wherever the English tongue was
spoken.  On the other hand, if failure resulted, none would be the wiser
outside this Sleepy-Hollow circle.”  The bait took, and Mr. Dickens
consented to deliver a public reading in aid of the Peterborough
Mechanics’ Institute.  He only stipulated that the prices of admission
should be such that every mechanic, if he chose, might come to hear him,
and named two shillings, a shilling, and sixpence as the limit of charge.

Vain limitation!—a fortnight before the reading every place was taken,
and half a guinea and a guinea were the current rates for front seat
tickets.

Dickens himself came down and superintended the arrangements, so anxious
was he as to the result.  At one end of the large Corn Exchange before
spoken of he had caused to be erected a tall pulpit of red baize, as much
like a Punch and Judy show with the top taken off as anything.  This was
to be the reader’s rostrum.  But, as the tall red pulpit looked lanky and
very comical stuck up there alone, two dummy pulpits of similar
construction were placed one on each side to bear it company.  When the
reader mounted into the middle box nothing was visible of him but his
head and shoulders.  So if it be really true, as was stated afterwards by
an indiscreet supernumerary, that Mr. Dickens’s legs shook under him from
first to last, the audience knew nothing of it.  The whole character of
the stage arrangements suggested that Mr. Dickens was sure of his head,
but was not quite so sure of his legs.

It was the _Christmas Carol_ that Mr. Dickens read; the night was
Christmas Eve.  As the clock struck the appointed hour, a red, jovial
face, unrelieved by the heavy moustache which the novelist has since
assumed, a broad, high forehead, and a perfectly Micawber-like expanse of
shirt-collar and front appeared above the red baize box, and a full,
sonorous voice rang out the words, “_Marley-was-dead-to-begin-with_”—then
paused, as if to take in the character of the audience.  No need of
further hesitation.  The voice held all spellbound.  Its depth of quiet
feeling when the ghost of past Christmases led the dreamer through the
long-forgotten scenes of his boyhood—its embodiment of burly good nature
when old Fezziwig’s calves were twinkling in the dance—its tearful
suggestiveness when the spirit of Christmases to come pointed to the
nettle-grown, neglected grave of the unloved man—its exquisite pathos by
the death-bed of Tiny Tim, dwell yet in memory like a long-known tune.
That one night’s reading in the quaint little city, so curiously brought
about, so ludicrous almost in its surroundings, committed Mr. Dickens to
the career of a public reader; and he has since derived nearly as large
an income from his readings as from the copyright of his novels.  Only he
signally failed to carry out his wish of making his first bow before an
uneducated audience.  The vote of thanks which closed the proceedings was
moved by the senior marquis of Scotland and seconded by the heir of the
wealthiest peer in England.

One other incident suggests itself in this connection.  Somewhere about
this time three notable men stood together in a print-shop in this same
city—a singular three-cornered shop, with three fiddles dangling forlorn
and dusty from the ceiling, and everything from piano-fortes to
hair-brushes comprised in its stock-in-trade.  They stood there one whole
morning, laughing heartily at the perplexities of the little shopwoman,
who in her nervousness continually transposed the first letters of words,
sometimes with very comical effect.  Thus, instead of saying, “Put the
bottle in the cupboard,” she would remark, “Put the cottle in the
bupboard.”  The laughing trio were Dickens, Albert Smith, and Layard the
traveller, now our minister to the court of Madrid.  I strongly suspect
that the eccentricity of the medical student in Albert Smith’s
_Adventures of Mr. Ledbury_—the student who invites his friends to “poke
a smipe” when he means them to “smoke a pipe”—was born on that occasion,
and that Charles Dickens was robbed by his friend of some thunder which
he intended to use himself.

                                * * * * *

BUT to return to the “Readings.”  One glance at the platform is
sufficient to convince the audience that Mr. Dickens thoroughly
appreciates “stage effect.”  A large screen of maroon cloth occupies the
background; before it stands a light table of peculiar design, on the
inner left-hand corner of which there peers forth a miniature desk, large
enough to accommodate the reader’s book.  On the right hand of the table,
and somewhat below its level, is a shelf, where repose a carafe of water
and a tumbler.  This is covered with velvet, somewhat lighter in colour
than the screen.  No drapery conceals the table, whereby it is plain that
Mr. Dickens believes in expression of figure as well as of face, and does
not throw away everything but his head and arms, according to the
ordinary habit of ordinary speakers.  About twelve feet above the
platform, and somewhat in advance of the table, is a horizontal row of
gas-jets with a tin reflector; and midway in both perpendicular gas-pipes
there is one powerful jet with glass chimney.  By this admirable
arrangement, Mr. Dickens stands against a dark background in a frame of
gaslight, which throws out his face and figure to the best advantage.

He comes!  A lithe, energetic man, of medium stature, crosses the
platform at the brisk gait of five miles an hour, and takes his position
behind the table.  This is Charles Dickens, whose name has been a
household word for thirty years in England.  He has a broad, full brow, a
fine head,—which, for a man of such power and energy, is singularly small
at the base of the brain,—and a cleanly cut profile.

There is a slight resemblance between Mr. Dickens and the Emperor of the
French in the latter respect, owing mainly to the nose; but it is
unnecessary to add that the faces of the two men are totally different.
Mr. Dickens’s eyes are light-blue, and his mouth and jaw, without having
any claim to beauty, possess a strength that is not concealed by the veil
of iron-gray moustache and generous imperial.  His head is but slightly
graced with iron-gray hair, and his complexion is florid.  There is a
twinkle in his eye, as he enters, that, like a promissory note, pledges
itself to any amount of fun—within sixty minutes.

People may think in perusing Mr. Dickens’s books that he must be a man of
large humanity, of forgiving nature, of generous impulses; in hearing him
read they _know_ that he must be such a man.  This, of course, does not
alone make a great artist; but equally, of course, it goes a long way
towards making one.  To this general and catholic qualification for his
task Mr. Dickens adds special advantages of a high order.  He has action
of singular ease and felicity, a remarkably expressive eye, and a
mobility of the facial muscles which belongs to actors of the highest
grade.  As in the case of Garrick, it is impossible to say whether love
or terror, humour or despair, are best simulated in a countenance which
expresses each and all on occasion with almost absolute perfection.  This
is, no doubt, due in a great measure not to natural qualities only, but
to a varied and peculiar experience.  Some will have it that actors, like
poets, are born, not made, but this is only true in a limited and guarded
sense.

                          THE CHRISTMAS CAROL. {349}

    “Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honour to read to you ‘A Christmas
    Carol,’ in four staves.  Stave one, Marley’s Ghost.  Marley was dead.
    There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial
    was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief
    mourner.  Scrooge signed it.  And Scrooge’s name was good upon
    ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.  Old Marley was as
    dead as a door-nail.”

At the close of this paragraph our first impression is that Mr. Dickens’s
voice is limited in power, husky, and naturally monotonous.  If he
succeeds in overcoming these defects, it will be by dramatic genius.  We
begin to wonder why Mr. Dickens constantly employs the rising inflexion,
and never comes to a full stop; but we are so pleasantly introduced to
Scrooge, that our spirits revive.

“Foul weather didn’t know where to leave him.  The heaviest rain and
snow, and hail, and sleet could boast of the advantage over him in only
one respect,—they often ‘came down’ handsomely, and Scrooge _never did_.”
Here the magnetic current between reader and listener sets in, and when
Scrooge’s clerk “put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at
the candle; in which effort, not being a man of strong imagination, he
failed;” the connexion is tolerably well established.  We see old Scrooge
very plainly, growling and snarling at his pleasant nephew; and when that
nephew invites that uncle to eat a Christmas dinner with him, and Mr.
Dickens goes on to relate that Scrooge said “he would see him—yes, I am
sorry to say he did,—he went the whole length of the expression, and said
he would see him in that extremity first.”  He makes one dive at our
sense of humour, and takes it captive.  Mr. Dickens is Scrooge; he is the
two portly gentlemen on a mission of charity; he is twice Scrooge when,
upon one of the portly gentlemen remarking that many poor people would
rather die than go to the workhouse, he replies: “If they would rather
die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population;” and
thrice Scrooge, when, turning upon his clerk, he says, “You’ll want all
day to-morrow, I suppose?”  It is the incarnation of a hard-hearted,
hard-fisted, hard-voiced miser.

“If quite convenient, sir.”  A few words, but they denote Bob Cratchit in
three feet of comforter exclusive of fringe, in well-darned, thread-bare
clothes, with a mild, frightened voice, so thin that you can see through
it!

Then there comes the change when Scrooge, upon going home, “saw in the
knocker, Marley’s face!”  Of course Scrooge saw it, because the
expression of Mr. Dickens’s face makes us see it “with a dismal light
about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.”  There is good acting in
this scene, and there is fine acting when the dying flame leaps up as
though it cried, “I know him!  Marley’s ghost!”  With what gusto Mr.
Dickens reads that description of Marley, and how, “looking through his
waistcoat, Scrooge _could see the two buttons on his coat behind_.”

Nothing can be better than the rendering of the Fezziwig party, in Stave
Two.  You behold Scrooge gradually melting into humanity; Scrooge, as a
joyous apprentice; that model of employers, Fezziwig; Mrs. Fezziwig “one
vast substantial smile,” and all the Fezziwigs.  Mr. Dickens’s expression
as he relates how “in came the housemaid with _her cousin_ the baker, and
in came the cook _with her brother’s particular friend the milkman_,” is
delightfully comic, while his complete rendering of that dance where “all
were top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them,” is owing to
the inimitable action of his hands.  They actually perform upon the
table, as if it were the floor of Fezziwig’s room, and every finger were
a leg belonging to one of the Fezziwig’s family.  This feat is only
surpassed by Mr. Dickens’s illustration of Sir Roger de Coverley, as
interpreted by Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, when “a positive light appeared to
issue from Fezziwig’s calves,” and he “cut so deftly that he appeared to
wink with his legs!”  It is a maze of humour.  Before the close of the
stave, Scrooge’s horror at sight of the young girl once loved by him, and
put aside for gold, shows that Mr. Dickens’s power is not purely comic.

But the best of all, is Stave Three.  We distinctly see that “Cratchit”
family.  There are the potatoes that “knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid
to be let out and peeled;” there is Mrs. Cratchit, fluttering and
cackling like a motherly hen with a young brood of chickens; and there is
everybody.  The way those two young Cratchits hail Martha, and
exclaim—“There’s _such_ a goose, Martha!” can never be forgotten.  By
some conjuring trick, Mr. Dickens takes off his own head and puts on a
Cratchit’s.  Later Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim come in.  Assuredly it is
Bob’s thin voice that pipes out, “Why, where’s our Martha?” and it is
Mrs. Cratchit who shakes her head and replies, “Not coming!”  Then Bob
relates how Tiny Tim behaved: “as good as gold and better.  Somehow he
gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest
things you have ever heard.  He told me, coming home, that he hoped the
people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be
pleasant to them to remember, upon Christmas-day, who made lame beggars
walk, and blind men see.”  There is a volume of pathos in these words,
which are the most delicate and artistic rendering of the whole reading.

Ah, that Christmas dinner!  We feel as if we were eating every morsel of
it.  There are “the two young Cratchits,” who “crammed spoons into their
mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn;” there is
Tiny Tim, who “beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly
cried, ‘Hoorray,’” in such a still, small voice.  And there is that
goose!  I see it with my naked eye.  And O the pudding!  “A smell like a
washing-day!  That was the cloth.  A smell like an eating-house and a
pastry-cook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to
that!  That was the pudding.”  Mr. Dickens’s sniffing and smelling of
that pudding would make a starving family believe that they had swallowed
it, holly and all.  It is infectious.

What Mr. Dickens _does_ is very frequently infinitely better than
anything he says, or the way he says it; yet the doing is as delicate and
intangible as the odour of violets, and can be no better described.
Nothing of its kind can be more touchingly beautiful than the manner in
which Bob Cratchit—previous to proposing “a merry Christmas to us all, my
dears, God bless us”—stoops down, with tears in his eyes and places Tiny
Tim’s withered little hand in his, “as if he loved the child, and wished
to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.”
It is pantomime worthy of the finest actor.

Admirable is Mrs. Cratchit’s ungracious drinking to Scrooge’s health, and
Martha’s telling how she had seen a lord, and how he “was much about as
tall as Peter!”

It is a charming cabinet picture, and so likewise is the glimpse of
Christmas at Scrooge’s nephew’s.  The plump sister is “satisfactory, O
perfectly satisfactory,” and Topper is a magnificent fraud on the
understanding; a side-splitting fraud.  We see Fred get off the sofa, and
_stamp_ at his own fun, and we hear the plump sister’s voice when she
guesses the wonderful riddle, “It’s your uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!”
Altogether, Mr. Dickens is better than any comedy.

What a change in Stave Four!  There sit the gray-haired rascal “Old Joe,”
with his crooning voice; Mr. Dilber, and those robbers of dead men’s
shrouds; there lies the body of the plundered, unknown man; there sit the
Cratchits weeping over Tiny Tim’s death, a scene that would be beyond all
praise were Bob’s cry, “My little, little child!” a shade less dramatic.
Here, and only here, Mr. Dickens forgets the nature of Bob’s voice, and
employs all the power of his own, carried away apparently by the
situation.  Bob would not thus give way to his feelings.  Finally, there
is Scrooge, no longer a miser, but a human being, screaming at the
“conversational” boy in Sunday clothes, to buy him the prize turkey “that
never could have stood upon his legs, that bird.  He would have snapped
’em off in a minute, like sticks of sealing-wax.”  There is Bob Cratchit
behind time, trying to overtake nine o’clock, “that fled fifteen minutes
before.”  There is Scrooge poking Bob in the ribs, and vowing he will
raise his salary; and there is at last happiness for all, as Tiny Tim
exclaims, “God bless us every one!”

It is difficult to see how the “Christmas Carol” can be read and acted
better.  The only improvement possible is in the ghosts, who are,
perhaps, too monotonous; a way ghosts have when they return to earth.
Solemnity and monotony are not synonymous terms, yet every theatrical
ghost insists that they are, and Mr. Dickens is no exception to the rule.
If monotony is excusable in anyone, however, it is in him; for, when one
actor is obliged to represent _twenty-three different characters_, giving
to everyone an individual tone, he may be pardoned if his ghosts are not
colloquial.

Talk of sermons and churches!  There never was a more beautiful sermon
than this of “The Christmas Carol.”  Sacred names do not necessarily mean
sacred things.

                           SIKES AND NANCY. {353a}

“Although amongst his friends, and such of the outside world as had been
admitted to the private performances of the Tavistock House theatricals,
Mr. Dickens was known to possess much dramatic power, it was not until
within the last few weeks {353b} that he found scope for its exhibition
on the platform.  Although the characters in his previous readings had
each a distinct and defined individuality—and in true artistic spirit the
comparatively insignificant characters have as much finish bestowed upon
their representation as the heroes and heroines, _e.g._ the fat man on
’Change who replies ‘God knows,’ to the query as to whom Scrooge had left
his money—a bit of perfect Dutch painting—one could not help feeling that
the personation was but a half-personation given under restraint; that
the reader was ‘underacting,’ as it is professionally termed, and one
longed to see him give his dramatic genius full vent.  That wish has now
been realised.  When Mr. Dickens called round him some half-hundred of
his friends and acquaintances on whose discrimination and knowledge of
public audiences he had reliance, and when, after requesting their frank
verdict on the experiment, he commenced the new reading, ‘Sikes and
Nancy,’ until, gradually warming with excitement, he flung aside his book
and acted the scene of the murder, shrieked the terrified pleadings of
the girl, growled the brutal savagery of the murderer, brought looks,
tones, gestures simultaneously into play to illustrate his meaning, there
was no one, not even of those who had known him best, or who believed in
him most, but was astonished at the power and the versatility of his
genius.

“Grandest of all the characters stands out Fagin, the Jew.  The voice is
husky and with a slight lisp, but there is no nasal intonation; a bent
back, but no shoulder shrug; the conventional attributes are omitted, the
conventional words are never spoken; and the Jew fence, crafty and
cunning even in his bitter vengeance, is there before us, to the life.

“Next comes Nancy.  Readers of the old editions of ‘Oliver Twist’ will
doubtless recollect how desperately difficult it was to fight against the
dreadful impression which Mr. George Cruikshank’s picture of Nancy left
upon the mind, and how it required all the assistance of the author’s
genius to preserve interest in the stunted, squab, round-faced trull whom
the artist had depicted.  Accurately delineating every other character in
the book, and excelling all his previous and subsequent productions in
his etching of ‘Fagin in the Condemned Cell,’ Mr. Cruikshank not merely
did not convey the right idea of Nancy, which would have been bad enough,
but conveyed the wrong one, which was worse.  No such ill-favoured slut
would have found a protector in Sikes, who amongst his set and in his
profession was a man of mark.  We all know Nancy’s position; but just
because we know it we are certain she must have had some amount of
personal comeliness, which Mr. Cruikshank has entirely denied her.  In
the reading we get none of the common side of her character, which peeps
forth occasionally in the earlier volumes.  She is the heroine, doing
evil that good may come of it—breaking the trust reposed in her that the
man she loves and they amongst whom she has lived may be brought to
better lives.  With the dread shadow of impending death upon her, she is
thrillingly earnest, almost prophetic.  Thus, in accordance with a
favourite custom of the author, during the interview on the steps at
London Bridge, not only does the girl’s language rise from the tone of
everyday life and become imbued with dramatic imagery and fervour, but
that eminently prosaic old person, Mr. Brownlow, becomes affected in the
same manner, saying, ‘before this river wakes to life,’ and indulging in
other romantic types and metaphors.  This may be scarcely life-like, but
it is very effective in the reading, enchaining the attention of the
audience and forming a fine contrast to the simple pathos of the dialogue
in the murder-scene, every word of which is in the highest degree natural
and well-placed.  It is here, of course, that the excitement of the
audience is wrought to its highest pitch, and that the acme of the
actor’s art is reached.  The raised hands, the bent-back head, are good;
but shut your eyes, and the illusion is more complete.  Then the cries
for mercy, the ‘Bill! dear Bill! for dear God’s sake!’ uttered in tones
in which the agony of fear prevails even over the earnestness of the
prayer, the dead, dull voice as hope departs, are intensely real.  When
the pleading ceases, you open your eyes in relief, in time to see the
impersonation of the murderer seizing a heavy club, and striking his
victim to the ground.

“Artistically speaking, the story of Sikes and Nancy ends at the point
here indicated.  Throughout the entire scene of the murder, from the
entrance of Sikes into the house until the catastrophe, the silence was
intense—the old phrase ‘a pin might have been heard to drop,’ could have
been legitimately employed.  It was a great study to watch the faces of
the people—eager, excited, intent—permitted for once in a life-time to be
natural, forgetting to be British, and cynical, and unimpassioned.  The
great strength of this feeling did not last into the concluding five
minutes.  The people were earnest and attentive; but the wild excitement
so seldom seen amongst us died as Nancy died, and the rest was somewhat
of an anti-climax.

“No one who appreciates great acting should miss this scene.  It will be
a treat such as they have not had for a long time, such as, from all
appearances, they are not likely to have soon again.  To them the
earnestness and force, the subtlety, the _nuances_, the delicate lights
and shades of the great dramatic art, will be exhibited by one of the
first—if not the first—of its living masters; while those of far less
intellectual calibre will understand the vigour of the entire
performance, and be specially amused at the facial and vocal dexterity by
which the crafty Fagin is, instantaneously changed into the
chuckle-headed Noah Claypole.”

                                * * * * *

Mr. Dickens, as a reader, is an artist of the very first rank; and to say
that his reading of the choicest portions of his own works is actually as
fine in its way as the works themselves in theirs, is a compliment at
once exceedingly high and richly deserved.

During his late visit to America, the great men of the land travelled
from far and near to be present at the readings; the poet Longfellow went
three nights in succession, and he afterwards declared to a friend that
they were “the most delightful evenings of his life.”



FOOTNOTES


{7}  This first Sketch was entitled, “_Mrs. Joseph Porter_, ‘_over the
Way_.’”  The _Monthly Magazine_ in which this appeared was published by
Cochrane and M‘Crone, and must not be confounded with _The New Monthly
Magazine_, published by Colburn.

{8a}  This was the first paper in which Dickens assumed the pseudonym of
“Boz.”  The previous sketches appeared anonymously.

{8b}  Of these Sketches two volumes were collected and published by
Macrone (with illustrations by George Cruikshank), in February, 1836, and
a third in the December following.

{10}  The pamphlet was entitled _Sunday wider Three Heads_: _As it is_;
_as Sabbath Bills would make it_; _as it might be made_.  By Timothy
Sparks.  London, Chapman and Hall, 1836, pp. 49 (with illustrations by
Hablot K. Browne).

{11}  “Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi,” edited by _Boz_.  With illustrations
by George Cruikshank.  In two volumes.  London, R. Bentley. 1838.

{15}  “Master Humphrey’s Clock,” Vol. I. p. 72.

{18a}  “Master Humphrey’s Clock,” Vol. I., pp. 98, 99.

{18b}  June 25, 1841.

{24}  Kate Field.

{26}  _Evenings of a Working Man_, by John Overs, with a Preface relative
to the Author, by Charles Dickens.  London: Newby, 1844.

{27}  _Bentley’s Miscellany_, edited by Mr. Dickens during the years
1837–38.

{28}  Dr. Elliotson.

{29}  We are told that Overs did not live long after the publication of
his little book: “the malady under which he was labouring, terminated
fatally the following October.”

{30}  _Fraser’s Magazine_, July, 1844.

{31}  These five volumes were all gracefully illustrated by John Leech,
Daniel Maclise, Clarkson Stanfield, Sir Edwin Landseer, Richard Doyle,
and others; and a set of the original issue is now much sought after, and
not easily met with.

{33}  “Unto this Last.”  Chap. I.

{34}  The following instances are, by kind permission, selected from an
admirable article upon this subject, which appeared in the “Temple Bar”
Magazine for September, 1869.

{53}  Sir David Wilkie died at sea, on board the _Oriental_, off
Gibraltar, on the 1st of June, 1841, whilst on his way back to England.
During the evening of the same day his body was committed to the
deep.—ED.

{55}  The _Britannia_ was the vessel that conveyed Mr. Dickens across the
Atlantic, on his first visit to America.—ED.

{61}  _Master Humphrey’s Clock_, under which title the two novels of
Barnaby Rudge and The Old Curiosity Shop originally appeared.—ED.

{63}  “I shall always entertain a very pleasant and grateful recollection
of Hartford.  It is a lovely place, and I had many friends there, whom I
can never remember with indifference.  We left it with no little regret.”
_American Notes_ (Lond. 1842).  Vol. I, p. 182.

{70}  See the _Life and Letters of Washington Irving_ (Lond. 1863), p.
644, where Irving speaks of a letter he has received “from that glorious
fellow Dickens, in reply to the one I wrote, expressing my heartfelt
delight with his writings, and my yearnings toward himself.”  See also
the letter itself, in the second division of this volume.—ED.

{88}  _TENNYSON_, _Lady Clara Vere de Vere_, then newly published in
collection of 1842.—ED.

{95}  “That this meeting, while conveying its cordial thanks to Charles
Dickens, Esq., for his presence this evening, and for his able and
courteous conduct as President, cannot separate without tendering the
warmest expression of its gratitude and admiration to one whose writings
have so loyally inculcated the lessons of benevolence and virtue, and so
richly contributed to the stores of public pleasure and instructions.”

{98}  The Duke of Devonshire.

{105}  _Charlotte Corday going to Execution_.

{113}  The above is extracted from Mrs. Stowe’s “Sunny Memories of
Foreign Lands,”, a book in which her eaves-dropping propensities were
already developed in a sufficiently ugly form.—ED.

{150}  Alas! the “many years” were to be barely six, when the speaker was
himself destined to write some memorial pages commemorative of his
illustrious friend (Cornhill Magazine, February, 1864.)—ED.

{153}  Mr. Henry Dodd had proposed to give five acres of land in
Berkshire, but, in consequence of his desiring to attach certain
restrictions, after a long and unsatisfactory correspondence, the
Committee, on 13th January following, rejected the offer.
(_Communicated_.)

{161}  Claude Melnotte in _The Lady of Lyons_, Act iii. sc. 2.

{177}  Mr. B. Webster.

{220}  _Romeo and Juliet_, Act III.  Sc. 1.

{239}  Robert Browning: _Bells and Pomegranates_.

{242}  R. H.

{250}  _Carlyle’s French Revolution_.  Book X., Chapter I.

{259}  Henry Thomas Buckle.

{260}  This and the Speeches which follow were accidentally omitted in
their right places.

{263}  Hazlitt’s Round Table (Edinburgh, 1817, vol ii., p. 242), _On
Actors and Acting_.

{274}  _Vide suprà_, _p._ 268.

{292}  An allusion to a well-known Sonnet of Wordsworth, beginning—“The
world is too much with us—late and soon,” &c.—ED.

{303}  Alluding to the forthcoming serial story of _Edwin Drood_.

{309}  The Honourable John Lothrop Motley.

{311}  February 26th, 1851.  Mr. Macready’s Farewell Benefit at Drury
Lane Theatre, on which occasion he played the part of Macbeth.—ED.

{312}  MACBETH, Act I., sc. 7.

{316}  The Bishop of Ripon (Dr. Longley).

{330}  These passages are given by kind permission of Mr. Blanchard
Jerrold, who has obligingly allowed us to make free use of this portion
of the Memoir of his father.  We refer the reader who is desirous of
seeing more, to that ably-written biography.—ED.

{334}  _The Village Coquettes_: _a Comic Opera in Two Acts_.  By CHARLES
DICKENS.  The music by John Hullah.  London: Richard Bentley, 1836.

{336}  Produced for the first time at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on
Saturday, December 10, 1842.  We would fain have given this fine prologue
entire, had we felt authorized in doing so.

{337}  In “A New Spirit of the Age.”  (Lond., 1844), Vol. I., pp. 65–68.

{341}  _The Keepsake for_ 1844.  _Edited by the Countess of Blessington_,
pp. 73, 74.

{349}  The reader who desires to further renew his recollections of Mr.
Dickens’s Readings is referred to Miss Kate Field’s admirable “Pen
Photographs,” published in Boston, in 1868.  The little volume is a
valuable estimate of the readings recently given in America.

{353a}  Extracted (by kind permission) from a criticism by Mr. Edmund
Yates.

{353b}  Written in 1868.





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