St James's Hall - Readings By Charles Dickens

Readings By Charles Dickens

In 1868, famed Victorian author Charles Dickens presented a final series of "Farewell Readings," at the hall, which commenced on the evening of October 6, with a program devoted to "Doctor Marigold" (from the Christmas Story) and "The Trial" from Pickwick. He had settled with his tour managers, Chappell & Co., on 100 readings for the princely sum of £8,000 pounds. Attendees would receive printed programs and Chappell's advertisements included the following statement:

It is scarcely necessary for Messrs. CHAPPELL and Co. to add that any announcement made in connexion with these FAREWELL READINGS will be strictly adhered to and considered final; and that on no consideration whatever will Mr. DICKENS be induced to appoint an extra night in any place in which he shall have been once announced to read for the last time.

The stalls were priced at five shillings, balcony seats at three, and general admission at one shilling. A new amenity, sofa stalls ("of which there will be a limited number only"), went for seven shillings.

The following year Dickens would have to cut a provincial tour short after collapsing showing symptoms of a mild stroke in Preston on April 22, 1869. When he had regained sufficient strength, he arranged, with medical approval, for a series of readings to partially make up to Chappell & Co. what they had lost due of his illness. There were to be twelve final performances, running starting on January 11, 1870 back at the hall. Dickens would give his last public reading here at 8:00 pm on the 15 March 1870. He died shortly thereafter on 9 June, having suffered another stroke.

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