Charles Dickens

Then I turn my eye to the Fine Arts, and, under that head, I see that a certain "J. O." has most triumphantly exposed a certain "J. O. B.," which "J. O. B." was remarkable for this particular ugly feature, that I was requested to deprive myself of the best of my pictures for six months; that for that time it was to be hung on a wet wall, and that I was to be requited for my courtesy in having my picture most impertinently covered with a wet blanket. To sum up the results of a glance over my newsman's shoulder, it gives a comprehensive knowledge of what is going on over the continent of Europe, and also of what is going on over the continent of America, to say nothing of such little geographical regions as India and China.

Now, my friends, this is the glance over the newsman's shoulders from the whimsical point of view, which is the point, I believe, that most promotes digestion. The newsman is to be met with on steamboats, railway stations, and at every turn. His profits are small, he has a great amount of anxiety and care, and no little amount of personal wear and tear. He is indispensable to civilization and freedom, and he is looked for with pleasurable excitement every day, except when he lends the paper for an hour, and when he is punctual in calling for it, which is sometimes very painful. I think the lesson we can learn from our newsman is some new illustration of the uncertainty of life, some illustration of its vicissitudes and fluctuations. Mindful of this permanent lesson, some members of the trade originated this society, which affords them assistance in time of sickness and indigence. The subscription is infinitesimal. It amounts annually to five shillings. Looking at the returns before me, the progress of the society would seem to be slow, but it has only been slow for the best of all reasons, that it has been sure. The pensions granted are all obtained from the interest on the funded capital, and, therefore, the Institution is literally as safe as the Bank. It is stated that there are several newsvendors who are not members of this society; but that is true in all institutions which have come under my experience. The persons who are most likely to stand in need of the benefits which an institution confers, are usually the persons to keep away until bitter experience comes to them too late.


[On the above date Mr. Dickens presided at the Adelphi Theatre, at a public meeting, for the purpose of founding the Shakespeare Schools, in connexion with the Royal Dramatic College, and delivered the following address:]

Ladies and gentlemen--Fortunately for me, and fortunately for you, it is the duty of the Chairman on an occasion of this nature, to be very careful that he does not anticipate those speakers who come after him. Like Falstaff, with a considerable difference, he has to be the cause of speaking in others. It is rather his duty to sit and hear speeches with exemplary attention than to stand up to make them; so I shall confine myself, in opening these proceedings as your business official, to as plain and as short an exposition as I can possibly give you of the reasons why we come together.

First of all I will take leave to remark that we do not come together in commemoration of Shakespeare. We have nothing to do with any commemoration, except that we are of course humble worshippers of that mighty genius, and that we propose by-and-by to take his name, but by no means to take it in vain. If, however, the Tercentenary celebration were a hundred years hence, or a hundred years past, we should still be pursuing precisely the same object, though we should not pursue it under precisely the same circumstances. The facts are these: There is, as you know, in existence an admirable institution called the Royal Dramatic College, which is a place of honourable rest and repose for veterans in the dramatic art. The charter of this college, which dates some five or six years back, expressly provides for the establishment of schools in connexion with it; and I may venture to add that this feature of the scheme, when it was explained to him, was specially interesting to his Royal Highness the late Prince Consort, who hailed it as evidence of the desire of the promoters to look forward as well as to look back; to found educational institutions for the rising generation, as well as to establish a harbour of refuge for the generation going out, or at least having their faces turned towards the setting sun.