Infomotions, Inc.Speeches / Dickens, Charles

Author: Dickens, Charles
Title: Speeches
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Speeches: Literary and Social

by Charles Dickens

February, 1997  [Etext #824]

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Speeches:  Literary and Social by Charles Dickens
Scanned and proofed by David Price

Speeches:  Literary and Social by Charles Dickens


[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

[In proposing the memory of the late Sir David Wilkie, Mr. Dickens

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.  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.


[In presenting Captain Hewett, of the BRITANNIA, with a service of
plate on behalf of the passengers, Mr. Dickens addressed him as

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

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.


[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, 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.


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, 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

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-


[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, 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

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 -


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.


[This address was delivered at a soiree of the members of the
Manchester, Athenaeum, 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
Athenaeum 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

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

You are perfectly well aware, I have no doubt, that the Athenaeum
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
pounds.  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 Athenaeum 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 canNOT."

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 Athenaeum, 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 Athenaeum, 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 Athenaeum.  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

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
Athenaeum, 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.


[The following address was delivered at a soiree 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

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."


[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

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, 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.'


[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

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 pounds
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 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

[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.


[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

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; 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.


[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

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.


[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


[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

You have heard so much of my voice since we met tonight, 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


[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 pounds, 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 pounds.  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

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

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.
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.


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 manoeuvres 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 Caesar feed
That he is grown so great?"

If our Caesar 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."


[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.


[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.


[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.


[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 to exercise his
potent art.  To him fill a bumper toast, and fervently utter, God
bless him!


[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.


[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


[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."

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.


[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."

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.


[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.


[At a Dinner of the Artists' General Benevolent Institution, the
following Address was delivered by Mr. Charles Dickens from the

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 pounds among the
recipients of the bounty of the Charity amounted to little more
than 100 pounds, 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.

SPEECH:  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

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

SPEECH:  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 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.


[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

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

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

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 25S. extending over a
period of five years, entitles a subscriber - if a male - to an
annuity of 16 pounds a-year, and a female to 12 pounds 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.


[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 freest
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.


[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.


[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.


[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."


[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, freer, 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.]


[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 pounds, 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 pounds per cent. on the amount assured from the funds of the

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 pounds; 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 pounds.  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

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."


[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.


[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

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."  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

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."


[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


[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.


[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.


[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 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.  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, 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.


[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

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 "Encyclopaedia."  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!"  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,


[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

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, 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."

SPEECH:  LONDON, APRIL 6, 1846. (1)

[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."  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."


[On the above evening a Soiree 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'

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


[The first Soiree, commemorative of the opening of the Glasgow
Athenaeum 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 Athenaeum 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 Athenaeum in Yorkshire a few weeks
since, 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 athenaeums 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
athenaeum, 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 Athenaeum 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 Athenaeum.  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 Athenaeum, 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."


[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

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 fete, and who sits uneasily on
the sofa under a canopy with the baroness while the fete is going
on.  Or he may be the peasant at the fete 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.


[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
pounds you are to spend 40 pounds in management; and if you get
1000 pounds, of course you may spend 400 pounds 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.


[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 pounds 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 - 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

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 pounds.  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 pounds.  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

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.


[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

"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

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

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.


[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

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; but from these garish lights I vanish now for
evermore, with a heartfelt, grateful, respectful, and affectionate

[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.]


[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 tonight 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 pounds in pensions, and some 70
pounds in temporary relief, and we have invested in Government
securities some 400 pounds.  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, 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."


[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

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, 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 - "

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."


[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

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 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

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.


[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

"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.


[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

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


(1) In the book from which this eText is taken this speech and
those that follow it were accidentally omitted in their right
places.  The original book order has been maintained.

End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Speeches: Literary & Social


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