Charles Dickens

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 Victory.

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

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


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

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

"Mr. Dickens alluded playfully to this item of intelligence; said he was exceedingly happy to hear it, as he trusted now that a suit, in which he was greatly interested, would speedily come to an end. I heard a little by-conversation between Mr. Dickens and a gentleman of the bar, who sat opposite me, in which the latter seemed to be reiterating the same assertions, and I understood him to say, that a case not extraordinarily complicated might be got through with in three months. Mr. Dickens said he was very happy to hear it; but I fancied there was a little shade of incredulity in his manner; however, the incident showed one thing, that is, that the chancery were not insensible to the representations of Dickens; but the whole tone of the thing was quite good-natured and agreeable." {10}


[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.