Charles Dickens

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.