Speeches: Literary and Social, by Charles Dickens

SPEECH: NEW YORK, APRIL 20, 1868.

[Mr. Dickens’s last Reading in the United States was given at the Steinway Hall on the above date. The task finished he was about to retire, but a tremendous burst of applause stopped him. He came forward and spoke thus:-]

Ladies and gentlemen — The shadow of one word has impended over me this evening, and the time has come at length when the shadow must fall. It is but a very short one, but the weight of such things is not measured by their length, and two much shorter words express the round of our human existence. When I was reading “David Copperfield” a few evenings since, I felt there was more than usual significance in the words of Peggotty, “My future life lies over the sea.” And when I closed this book just now, I felt most keenly that I was shortly to establish such an alibi as would have satisfied even the elder Mr. Weller. The relations which have been set up between us, while they have involved for me something more than mere devotion to a task, have been by you sustained with the readiest sympathy and the kindest acknowledgment.

Those relations must now be broken for ever. Be assured, however, that you will not pass from my mind. I shall often realise you as I see you now, equally by my winter fire and in the green English summer weather. I shall never recall you as a mere public audience, but rather as a host of personal friends, and ever with the greatest gratitude, tenderness, and consideration. Ladies and gentlemen, I beg to bid you farewell. God bless you, and God bless the land in which I leave you.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:30