Home‎ > ‎

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens
Daguerreotype - NY, Circa 1867-1868
by Jeremiah Gurney
    On Charles Dickens' (1812-1870) second trip to America, from 1867-1868, he visited the Ball Hughe's at their home, Sunnyside, in Dorchester, MA. Dickens arrived in Boston on November 19, 1867 from England. He  devoted the rest of the month to preparing for his reading tour and several dinner engagements with such notables as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Charles Dickens as he appears when reading
Wood engraving sketched by C. A. Barry (1830-1892).
Illustration in Harper's Weekly, v. 11, no. 571, 7 December 1867, p. 777.
Library of Congress cph.3c32077

A Christmas Carol

    According to Kenneth Benson in Charles Dickens: The Life of the Author, Dickens' first public performance [in America] of A Christmas Carol was at Tremont Temple in Boston, on the evening of December 2, 1867. He recited from memory for an hour and a half. The next morning, a Boston paper reported:
"Mr. Charles Dickens opened his peculiar entertainment in Tremont Temple ... before as large an audience as could be comfortably crowded into that hall, in which all the poets, philosophers, sages and historians of this city and vicinity were mingled like plums in a Christmas pudding ... The entertainment is unlike anything we have ever seen in this country. It is rather a dramatic recitation than a reading, references to the book being very infrequent, and all the parts being recited with appropriate voice and action ... The audience last evening were in the best of spirits from the start ...”
A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.
by Charles Dickens. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Title page.

    One can only imagine the thrill of being in that audience! I can only assume that the Ball Hughe's were in attendance that evening or one of the other three performances that week.

    Read about Dickens & Christmas on David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page. Read also the annotated text of A Christmas Carol that was condensed by Dickens for his public readings.

    Read more about the details of that night and Dickens visit to Boston in A Dramatic Reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by Ben Edwards at TeachHistory.com. The article also has links to an original article from The New York Times with press coverage of Dickens’ opening night performance in Boston and an Audio Podcast of the article from The New York Times on December 3, 1867 (must hear!).

Charles Dickens and Ball Hughes

    In an interview with Ball Hughes oldest daughter, Georgina Ball Hughes, in the article Boston’s Forgotten Sculptor, she recalls about Dickens visit to Sunnyside. "...here in 1867 or 1868, he received Dickens, an old acquaintance..." This would seem to indicate that the two men must have met in Boston during Dickens' first visit to America in 1842.
    A handwritten note on the newspaper clipping says it’s from the (Boston) Sunday Globe, 31 March ’07'. I believe the visit may have been in November or December of 1867, a few months before Ball Hughes death in March 1868. According to an obituary of Georgina Ball Hughes, Dickens sent Ball Hughes a picture of himself after his visit to the Ball Hughes' family home, Sunnyside.
    Ball Hughes created statues of literary figures in the 1830's including Little Nell from Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop and Oliver Twist in 1842.

    Ball Hughes had a large white Cockatoo named Barnaby Rudge, who had been a family pet for 17 years.  The name Barnaby Rudge was a character in Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty. See a silhouette of the Ball Hughes family that includes the Cockatoo and more about Dickens' Barnaby Rudge at Silhouettes by Edouart.

    Dickens died at age 58 in June 1870, about 2 years after his farewell trip to America.

    The Invisible Woman (2013), a movie by director Ralph Fiennes and starring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones was be released on December 25, 2013. 

Movie Info from Rotten Tomatoes:

Nelly (Felicity Jones), a happily-married mother and schoolteacher, is haunted by her past. Her memories, provoked by remorse and guilt, take us back in time to follow the story of her relationship with Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) with whom she discovered an exciting but fragile complicity. Dickens - famous, controlling and emotionally isolated within his success - falls for Nelly, who comes from a family of actors. The theatre is a vital arena for Dickens - a brilliant amateur actor - a man more emotionally coherent on the page or on stage, than in life. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens' passion and his muse, for both of them secrecy is the price, and for Nelly a life of "invisibility".(c) Sony Classics

See IMDB for more details about The Invisible Woman.

    This movie may help to visualize the personality of Charles Dickens and the times he lived in. I assume the movie will show Dickens reading one of his books in a theatre like he did with A Christmas Carol in Boston on December 2, 1867. 
last update 12/24/2013
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2013