Charles Dickens

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 {11} 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 board.


[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.