Charles Dickens

Gentlemen, I cannot thank your president enough or you enough for your kind reception of my health, and of my poor remarks, but, believe me, I do thank you with the utmost fervour of which my soul is capable.


[Mr. Dickens's last Reading in the United States was given at the Steinway Hall on the above date. The task finished he was about to retire, but a tremendous burst of applause stopped him. He came forward and spoke thus:-]

Ladies and gentlemen,--The shadow of one word has impended over me this evening, and the time has come at length when the shadow must fall. It is but a very short one, but the weight of such things is not measured by their length, and two much shorter words express the round of our human existence. When I was reading "David Copperfield" a few evenings since, I felt there was more than usual significance in the words of Peggotty, "My future life lies over the sea." And when I closed this book just now, I felt most keenly that I was shortly to establish such an alibi as would have satisfied even the elder Mr. Weller. The relations which have been set up between us, while they have involved for me something more than mere devotion to a task, have been by you sustained with the readiest sympathy and the kindest acknowledgment.

Those relations must now be broken for ever. Be assured, however, that you will not pass from my mind. I shall often realise you as I see you now, equally by my winter fire and in the green English summer weather. I shall never recall you as a mere public audience, but rather as a host of personal friends, and ever with the greatest gratitude, tenderness, and consideration. Ladies and gentlemen, I beg to bid you farewell. God bless you, and God bless the land in which I leave you.


[The following speech was delivered by Mr. Dickens at a Banquet held in his honour at St. George's Hall, Liverpool, after his health had been proposed by Lord Dufferin.]

Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, although I have been so well accustomed of late to the sound of my own voice in this neighbourhood as to hear it with perfect composure, the occasion is, believe me, very, very different in respect of those overwhelming voices of yours. As Professor Wilson once confided to me in Edinburgh that I had not the least idea, from hearing him in public, what a magnificent speaker he found himself to be when he was quite alone--so you can form no conception, from the specimen before you, of the eloquence with which I shall thank you again and again in some of the innermost moments of my future life. Often and often, then, God willing, my memory will recall this brilliant scene, and will re-illuminate this banquet-hall. I, faithful to this place in its present aspect, will observe it exactly as it stands--not one man's seat empty, not one woman's fair face absent, while life and memory abide by me.

Mr. Mayor, Lord Dufferin in his speech so affecting to me, so eloquently uttered, and so rapturously received, made a graceful and gracious allusion to the immediate occasion of my present visit to your noble city. It is no homage to Liverpool, based upon a moment's untrustworthy enthusiasm, but it is the solid fact built upon the rock of experience that when I first made up my mind, after considerable deliberation, systematically to meet my readers in large numbers, face to face, and to try to express myself to them through the breath of life, Liverpool stood foremost among the great places out of London to which I looked with eager confidence and pleasure. And why was this? Not merely because of the reputation of its citizens for generous estimation of the arts; not merely because I had unworthily filled the chair of its great self- educational institution long ago; not merely because the place had been a home to me since the well-remembered day when its blessed roofs and steeples dipped into the Mersey behind me on the occasion of my first sailing away to see my generous friends across the Atlantic twenty-seven years ago.