Charles Dickens

Ladies and gentlemen, I have not had an opportunity of verifying this experience with my friends of the managing committee, but I have no doubt from its reception to-night that my friend the newsman was perfectly right. Well, as a sort of beacon in a sufficiently dark life, and as an assurance that among a little body of working men there is a feeling of brotherhood and sympathy- -which is worth much to all men, or they would herd with wolves-- the newsvendors once upon a time established the Benevolent and Provident Institution, and here it is. Under the Provident head, certain small annuities are granted to old and hard-working subscribers. Under the Benevolent head, relief is afforded to temporary and proved distress. Under both heads, I am bound to say the help rendered is very humble and very sparing, but if you like it to be handsomer you have it in your power to make it so. Such as it is, it is most gratefully received, and does a deal of good. Such as it is, it is most discreetly and feelingly administered; and it is encumbered with no wasteful charges for management or patronage.

You know upon an old authority, that you may believe anything except facts and figures, but you really may believe that during the last year we have granted 100 pounds in pensions, and some 70 pounds in temporary relief, and we have invested in Government securities some 400 pounds. But, touching this matter of investments, it was suggested at the anniversary dinner, on the high and kind authority of Sir Benjamin Phillips that we might grant more pensions and invest less money. We urged, on the other hand, that we wished our pensions to be certain and unchangeable-- which of course they must be if they are always paid out of our Government interest and never out of our capital. However, so amiable is our nature, that we profess our desire to grant more pensions and to invest more money too. The more you give us to- night again, so amiable is our nature, the more we promise to do in both departments. That the newsman's work has greatly increased, and that it is far more wearing and tearing than it used to be, you may infer from one fact, not to mention that we live in railway times. It is stated in Mitchell's "Newspaper Press Directory," that during the last quarter of a century the number of newspapers which appeared in London had more than doubled, while the increase in the number of people among whom they were disseminated was probably beyond calculation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have stated the newsman's simple case. I leave it in your hands. Within the last year the institution has had the good fortune to attract the sympathy and gain the support of the eminent man of letters I am proud to call my friend, {24} who now represents the great Republic of America at the British Court. Also it has the honour of enrolling upon its list of donors and vice-presidents the great name of Longfellow. I beg to propose to you to drink "Prosperity to the Newsvendors' Benevolent and Provident Institution."


[On the evening of the above day the friends and admirers of Mr. Macready entertained him at a public dinner. Upwards of six hundred gentlemen assembled to do honour to the great actor on his retirement from the stage. Sir E. B. Lytton took the chair. Among the other speakers were Baron Bunsen, Sir Charles Eastlake, Mr. Thackeray, Mr. John Forster, Mr. W. J. Fox, and Mr. Charles Dickens, who proposed "The Health of the Chairman" in the following words:-]

Gentlemen,--After all you have already heard, and so rapturously received, I assure you that not even the warmth of your kind welcome would embolden me to hope to interest you if I had not full confidence in the subject I have to offer to your notice. But my reliance on the strength of this appeal to you is so strong that I am rather encouraged than daunted by the brightness of the track on which I have to throw my little shadow.

Gentlemen, as it seems to me, there are three great requisites essential to the perfect realisation of a scene so unusual and so splendid as that in which we are now assembled.