Charles Dickens

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

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

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

Mr. Mayor and Gentlemen, I am happy, on behalf of many labourers in that great field of literature to which you have pledged the toast, to thank you for the tribute you have paid to it. Such an honour, rendered by acclamation in such a place as this, seems to me, if I may follow on the same side as the venerable Archdeacon (Sandford) who lately addressed you, and who has inspired me with a gratification I can never forget--such an honour, gentlemen, rendered here, seems to me a two-sided illustration of the position that literature holds in these latter and, of course, "degenerate" days. To the great compact phalanx of the people, by whose industry, perseverance, and intelligence, and their result in money-wealth, such places as Birmingham, and many others like it, have arisen--to that great centre of support, that comprehensive experience, and that beating heart, literature has turned happily from individual patrons--sometimes munificent, often sordid, always few--and has there found at once its highest purpose, its natural range of action, and its best reward. Therefore it is right also, as it seems to me, not only that literature should receive honour here, but that it should render honour, too, remembering that if it has undoubtedly done good to Birmingham, Birmingham has undoubtedly done good to it. From the shame of the purchased dedication, from the scurrilous and dirty work of Grub Street, from the dependent seat on sufferance at my Lord Duke's table to-day, and from the sponging-house or Marshalsea to-morrow--from that venality which, by a fine moral retribution, has degraded statesmen even to a greater extent than authors, because the statesman entertained a low belief in the universality of corruption, while the author yielded only to the dire necessity of his calling--from all such evils the people have set literature free. And my creed in the exercise of that profession is, that literature cannot be too faithful to the people in return--cannot too ardently advocate the cause of their advancement, happiness, and prosperity.