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.
SPEECH: LONDON, FEBRUARY 9, 1858.
[At the Anniversary Festival of the Hospital for Sick Children, on Tuesday, February the 9th, 1858, about one hundred and fifty gentlemen sat down to dinner, in the Freemasons' Hall. Later in the evening all the seats in the gallery were filled with ladies interested in the success of the Hospital. After the usual loyal and other toasts, the Chairman, Mr. Dickens, proposed "Prosperity to the Hospital for Sick Children," and said:-]
Ladies and gentlemen,--It is one of my rules in life not to believe a man who may happen to tell me that he feels no interest in children. I hold myself bound to this principle by all kind consideration, because I know, as we all must, that any heart which could really toughen its affections and sympathies against those dear little people must be wanting in so many humanising experiences of innocence and tenderness, as to be quite an unsafe monstrosity among men. Therefore I set the assertion down, whenever I happen to meet with it--which is sometimes, though not often--as an idle word, originating possibly in the genteel languor of the hour, and meaning about as much as that knowing social lassitude, which has used up the cardinal virtues and quite found out things in general, usually does mean. I suppose it may be taken for granted that we, who come together in the name of children and for the sake of children, acknowledge that we have an interest in them; indeed, I have observed since I sit down here that we are quite in a childlike state altogether, representing an infant institution, and not even yet a grown-up company. A few years are necessary to the increase of our strength and the expansion of our figure; and then these tables, which now have a few tucks in them, will be let out, and then this hall, which now sits so easily upon us, will be too tight and small for us. Nevertheless, it is likely that even we are not without our experience now and then of spoilt children. I do not mean of our own spoilt children, because nobody's own children ever were spoilt, but I mean the disagreeable children of our particular friends. We know by experience what it is to have them down after dinner, and, across the rich perspective of a miscellaneous dessert to see, as in a black dose darkly, the family doctor looming in the distance. We know, I have no doubt we all know, what it is to assist at those little maternal anecdotes and table entertainments illustrated with imitations and descriptive dialogue which might not be inaptly called, after the manner of my friend Mr. Albert Smith, the toilsome ascent of Miss Mary and the eruption (cutaneous) of Master Alexander. We know what it is when those children won't go to bed; we know how they prop their eyelids open with their forefingers when they will sit up; how, when they become fractious, they say aloud that they don't like us, and our nose is too long, and why don't we go? And we are perfectly acquainted with those kicking bundles which are carried off at last protesting.