Charles Dickens

As one of the Trustees of the General Theatrical Fund, I beg officially to tender him my best thanks for lending the very powerful aid of his presence, his influence, and his personal character to this very deserving Institution. As his private friends we ventured to urge upon him to do us this gracious act, and I beg to assure you that the perfect simplicity, modesty, cordiality, and frankness with which he assented, enhanced the gift one thousand fold. I think it must also be very agreeable to a company like this to know that the President of the night is not ceremoniously pretending, "positively for this night only," to have an interest in the drama, but that he has an unusual and thorough acquaintance with it, and that he has a living and discerning knowledge of the merits of the great old actors. It is very pleasant to me to remember that the Lord Mayor and I once beguiled the tedium of a journey by exchanging our experiences upon this subject. I rather prided myself on being something of an old stager, but I found the Lord Mayor so thoroughly up in all the stock pieces, and so knowing and yet so fresh about the merits of those who are most and best identified with them, that I readily recognised in him what would be called in fistic language, a very ugly customer--one, I assure you, by no means to be settled by any novice not in thorough good theatrical training.

Gentlemen, we have all known from our earliest infancy that when the giants in Guildhall hear the clock strike one, they come down to dinner. Similarly, when the City of London shall hear but one single word in just disparagement of its present Lord Mayor, whether as its enlightened chief magistrate, or as one of its merchants, or as one of its true gentlemen, he will then descend from the high personal place which he holds in the general honour and esteem. Until then he will remain upon his pedestal, and my private opinion, between ourselves, is that the giants will come down long before him.

Gentlemen, in conclusion, I would remark that when the Lord Mayor made his truly remarkable, and truly manly, and unaffected speech, I could not but be struck by the odd reversal of the usual circumstances at the Mansion House, which he presented to our view, for whereas it is a very common thing for persons to be brought tremblingly before the Lord Mayor, the Lord Mayor presented himself as being brought tremblingly before us. I hope that the result may hold still further, for whereas it is a common thing for the Lord Mayor to say to a repentant criminal who does not seem to have much harm in him, "let me never see you here again," so I would propose that we all with one accord say to the Lord Mayor, "Let us by all means see you here again on the first opportunity." Gentlemen, I beg to propose to you to drink, with all the honours, "The health of the right hon. the Lord Mayor."


[The Members of the Metropolitan Rowing Clubs dining together at the London Tavern, on the above date, Mr. Dickens, as President of the Nautilus Rowing Club, occupied the chair. The Speech that follows was made in proposing "Prosperity to the Rowing Clubs of London." Mr. Dickens said that:-]

He could not avoid the remembrance of what very poor things the amateur rowing clubs on the Thames were in the early days of his noviciate; not to mention the difference in the build of the boats. He could not get on in the beginning without being a pupil under an anomalous creature called a "fireman waterman," who wore an eminently tall hat, and a perfectly unaccountable uniform, of which it might be said that if it was less adapted for one thing than another, that thing was fire. He recollected that this gentleman had on some former day won a King's prize wherry, and they used to go about in this accursed wherry, he and a partner, doing all the hard work, while the fireman drank all the beer. The river was very much clearer, freer, and cleaner in those days than these; but he was persuaded that this philosophical old boatman could no more have dreamt of seeing the spectacle which had taken place on Saturday (the procession of the boats of the Metropolitan Amateur Rowing Clubs), or of seeing these clubs matched for skill and speed, than he (the Chairman) should dare to announce through the usual authentic channels that he was to be heard of at the bar below, and that he was perfectly prepared to accommodate Mr.