A Dickens of a Night
A famous event at Freemasons' Hall 135 years ago in honour of Charles Dickens is to be celebrated next month. Michael Slater explains the background
On 2 November 1867, Freemasons' Hall was the setting for a grand dinner in honour of Charles
Dickens, who was about to embark on a reading tour of the United States.
Nearly 450 guests sat down to a banquet in the hall while, as Charles Kent, author of Charles Dickens as a Reader, put it: 'more than 100 fair
spectators were ranged in the ladies' gallery'.
As Dickens entered the hall arm-in-arm with his
brother novelist Lord Lytton, the band of the Grenadier Guards struck up a 'full march' and the two men
received a hugely enthusiastic, handkerchief waving welcome.
On the walls of the hall were emblazoned the titles of
Dickens' books 'in great gold letters' and the Observer declared: 'the noble room had all the semblance of a temple especially erected to the honour and for the glorification of England's favourite author'.
When, after the dinner, a visibly shaken Dickens, moved by the warmth of his reception, rose to speak, 'the whole company rose in their seats, and cheered again and again'.
Web site created by Mark Griffin