Speeches: Literary and Social, by Charles Dickens

SPEECH: LONDON, MAY 1, 1853

[At a dinner given by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House, on the above date, Mr. Justice Talfourd proposed as a toast “Anglo-Saxon Literature,” and alluded to Mr. Dickens as having employed fiction as a means of awakening attention to the condition of the oppressed and suffering classes:-]

“Mr. Dickens replied to this toast in a graceful and playful strain. In the former part of the evening, in reply to a toast on the chancery department, Vice-Chancellor Wood, who spoke in the absence of the Lord Chancellor, made a sort of defence of the Court of Chancery, not distinctly alluding to Bleak House, but evidently not without reference to it. The amount of what he said was, that the Court had received a great many more hard opinions than it merited; that they had been parsimoniously obliged to perform a great amount of business by a very inadequate number of judges; but that more recently the number of judges had been increased to seven, and there was reason to hope that all business brought before it would now be performed without unnecessary delay.

“Mr. Dickens alluded playfully to this item of intelligence; said he was exceedingly happy to hear it, as he trusted now that a suit, in which he was greatly interested, would speedily come to an end. I heard a little by-conversation between Mr. Dickens and a gentleman of the bar, who sat opposite me, in which the latter seemed to be reiterating the same assertions, and I understood him to say, that a case not extraordinarily complicated might be got through with in three months. Mr. Dickens said he was very happy to hear it; but I fancied there was a little shade of incredulity in his manner; however, the incident showed one thing, that is, that the chancery were not insensible to the representations of Dickens; but the whole tone of the thing was quite good-natured and agreeable.” 10

10 The above is extracted from Mrs. Stowe’s “Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands,”, a book in which her eaves-dropping propensities were already developed in a sufficiently ugly form. — ED.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dickens/charles/d54sls/chapter12.html

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