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    [Charles Dickens]. Framed Ticket Stub from a Reading at Boston's Tremont Temple, February 27, 1868. This simple ticket stub measures approximately two inches by two and a quarter inches. It is attractively double-matted and framed to an overall size of nine inches by nine inches, and would make a great display item in the home or office of any Dickensian. It is punched at the bottom, stamped at left, and has minor surface wear, but is overall a very desirable piece.

    Charles Dickens spent much of his later life giving public readings. This very ticket stub comes from Dickens's last American reading tour, and in fact the last time he read in Boston. Public readings were very amenable to Dickens, giving him the chance to air grievances, gain readership, or delight his already vast fan base by performing passages from established classics like A Christmas Carol or The Pickwick Papers. And he was good at it, evidenced from this passage in Kenneth Benson's Charles Dickens: The Life of the Author:

    "Dickens's warmth, histrionic flair and expressiveness evoked tears, applause, shrieks, laughter, hisses, and shouts of 'Hear, hear!' from his audiences, who responded to the most memorable troopers of his great repertory company as if they were old acquaintances. It must have been quite a night at the theater. After attending the final evening in Boston during Dickens's second American tour, poet John Greenleaf Whittier marveled, 'Another such star-shower is not to be expected in one's life-time.'

    Dickens toured incessantly, some said compulsively, on both sides of the Atlantic for the last fifteen years of his life. In late 1857, as the tense situation of his private life was working toward the separation from Catherine that would take place the next spring, he told Forster, who always opposed the readings as beneath a great writer's dignity: 'I can see no better thing to do that is half so hopeful in itself, or half so suited to my restless state.' The next year he turned professional, and he drove himself relentlessly, refusing to cancel performances no matter the state of his health. (In April 1869, 'half dead' with overwork and the pressures of touring, Dickens cancelled a "farewell reading" at Preston along with subsequent engagements only when his physician unequivocally ordered 'instant rest.')

    Once on stage, 'a lithe, energetic man, of medium stature,' invariably with a red carnation in his button-hole, Dickens rarely glanced at the text before him, for through rigorous preparation and rehearsal he made himself, as he said, 'master of the situation.' He played variations on the readings, continually adding new material and even 'slashing' whole sections (as one reviewer noted) on the wing; inspired both by the moment and by his profound rapport with the audience, and avoiding the mechanical repetition of effects and gestures that had scored the night before, Dickens kept each performance a miracle of freshness and invention. He did nothing by rote, he took everything on himself, and the house responded, as one American admirer said, not with applause, but with 'a passionate outburst of love for the man.'

    During the late 1850s and 1860s Dickens published his final three novels: A Tale of Two Cities (1859), a historical novel set during the French Revolution; Great Expectations (1860-61; 1861), a mysterious and deeply affecting tale following a young man making his way in the world; and Our Mutual Friend (1864-65; 1865), a very dark exploration of the materialistic forces shaping society and the corrupting power of wealth, which has aptly been called Dickens's Waste Land. All three novels show him working with undiminished imaginative force and, if anything, even greater subtlety and artistry.

    Throughout the 1860s, Dickens suffered increasingly from exhaustion and poor health, and yet his drive remained remarkable, his restlessness often nearly manic. Those close to him fretted that as he amassed thousands of pounds through his lucrative public readings, he was surely shortening his life by pushing himself so recklessly. ('While engaged in these readings,' G.A. Sala mused sadly after his death, 'his life must have been that of a convict in golden fetters.')

    Yet he continued to tour tirelessly, and in the summer of 1867, America--and the riches to be made there--began to beckon. And as it had twenty-five years earlier, America again welcomed Dickens like a conquering hero when he returned to the States for a tour that stretched for more than four months, with readings continuing from December 2, 1867 to April 20, 1868. Performances averaged four evenings a week. 'Well, the work is hard, the climate is hard, the life is hard,' Dickens would write to Forster, 'but ... the gain is enormous.'"

    A rare chance to obtain a delightful piece of authentic Dickensian ephemera. From the H. Barry Morris Collection.

    View all of [The H. Barry Morris Collection of Charles Dickens' First Editions ]

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