Speeches: Literary and Social, by Charles Dickens

SPEECH: LONDON, SEPTEMBER 17, 1867.

[On presiding at a public Meeting of the Printers’ Readers, held at the Salisbury Hotel, on the above date, Mr. Dickens said:-]

That as the meeting was convened, not to hear him, but to hear a statement of facts and figures very nearly affecting the personal interests of the great majority of those present, his preface to the proceedings need be very brief. Of the details of the question he knew, of his own knowledge, absolutely nothing; but he had consented to occupy the chair on that occasion at the request of the London Association of Correctors of the Press for two reasons — first, because he thought that openness and publicity in such cases were a very wholesome example very much needed at this time, and were highly becoming to a body of men associated with that great public safeguard — the Press; secondly, because he knew from some slight practical experience, what the duties of correctors of the press were, and how their duties were usually discharged; and he could testify, and did testify, that they were not mechanical, that they were not mere matters of manipulation and routine; but that they required from those who performed them much natural intelligence, much super-added cultivation, readiness of reference, quickness of resource, an excellent memory, and a clear understanding. He most gratefully acknowledged that he had never gone through the sheets of any book that he had written, without having presented to him by the correctors of the press something that he had overlooked, some slight inconsistency into which he had fallen, some little lapse he had made — in short, without having set down in black and white some unquestionable indication that he had been closely followed through the work by a patient and trained mind, and not merely by a skilful eye. And in this declaration he had not the slightest doubt that the great body of his brother and sister writers would, as a plain act of justice, readily concur. For these plain reasons he was there; and being there he begged to assure them that every one present — that every speaker — would have a patient hearing, whatever his opinions might be.

[The proceedings concluded with a very cordial and hearty vote of thanks to Mr. Dickens for taking the chair on the occasion.]

Mr. Dickens briefly returned thanks, and expressed the belief that their very calm and temperate proceedings would finally result in the establishment of relations of perfect amity between the employers and the employed, and consequently conduce to the general welfare of both.

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