Speeches: Literary and Social, by Charles Dickens

SPEECH: LONDON, APRIL 30, 1853.

[At the annual Dinner of the Royal Academy, the President, Sir Charles Eastlake, proposed as a toast, “The Interests of Literature,” and selected for the representatives of the world of letters, the Dean of St. Paul’s and Mr. Charles Dickens. Dean Milman having returned thanks.]

Mr Dickens then addressed the President, who, it should be mentioned, occupied a large and handsome chair, the back covered with crimson velvet, placed just before Stanfield’s picture of The Victory.

Mr. Dickens, after tendering his acknowledgments of the toast, and the honour done him in associating his name with it, said that those acknowledgments were not the less heartfelt because he was unable to recognize in this toast the President’s usual disinterestedness; since English literature could scarcely be remembered in any place, and, certainly, not in a school of art, without a very distinct remembrance of his own tasteful writings, to say nothing of that other and better part of himself, which, unfortunately, was not visible upon these occasions.

If, like the noble Lord, the Commander-in-Chief (Viscount Hardinge), he (Mr. Dickens) might venture to illustrate his brief thanks with one word of reference to the noble picture painted by a very dear friend of his, which was a little eclipsed that evening by the radiant and rubicund chair which the President now so happily toned down, he would beg leave to say that, as literature could nowhere be more appropriately honoured than in that place, so he thought she could nowhere feel a higher gratification in the ties that bound her to the sister arts. He ever felt in that place that literature found, through their instrumentality, always a new expression, and in a universal language.

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