Dickens on Stage at Boston's Tremont Temple, 2 December 1867: "Charles Dickens as he appears when reading." Sketched by C. A. Barry, Harper's Weekly, Composite woodblock engraving from sketch, 17.2 cm high by 22.9 cm wide (below the fold). This illustration probably represents Dickens on his opening night in Boston.

Having waited impatiently for another opportunity to reach his American readership directly throughout the Civil War, Dickens sailed from the port of Liverpool on 9 November 1867. Dickens began his second American reading tour in his favourite New World city, Boston, which then had a population of around 250,000 people. In the article accompanying the illustration above, Harper's noted that

the second advent of Mr. Dickens in this country has been accompanied by even greater demonstrations of delight and affection than greeted him on his first arrival [i. e., in 1842]; and it appears to us to be more genuine as well as more general. The desire to hear his readings is manifested among all classes; and nearly ten thousand tickets were sold for the short course of readings in Boston. In this connection we illustrate on page 777 the appearance which Mr. Dickens presents when reading, the faithfulness of which we hope our readers throughout the length and breadth of the land will have an opportunity of testing before Mr. Dickens sails for home again. [782]

In Boston he renewed old acquaintances, dining with such notable Bostonians as Ralph Waldo Emmerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and his exclusive American publisher, James T. Fields, and his wife, Annie, to whom he confided his great secret: his relationship with Ellen Ternan. On the 2nd of December he started his celebrated readings, beginning with selections from A Christmas Carol and the "Trial from Pickwick" at the Tremont Temple, Boston. He performed a varied program seventy-six times and netting £19,000, from December 1867 to April 1868. Dickens shuttled between Boston and New York City, where he gave a total of 22 readings at Steinway Hall. On December 5 Dickens read at the Tremont Temple, Boston, Nicholas Nickleby and 'Boots at the Holly Tree Inn'. On the sixth he read at the same venue Dombey and Son and the 'Trial from Pickwick.' The next day, the seventh, he Dickens travelled by rail from Boston to New York City, where he began the second phase of his readings on the 9th.

According to Peter Ackroyd, Dickens used the same theatrical backdrop and lighting as he had lately used in the United Kingdom:

It took time for the audience to settle but then Dickens, to an accompaniment of loud cheers and applause and waving of handkerchiefs, walked briskly onto the platform in his evening tail-coat with its lapels faced in satin, and with two small red and white flowers in his buttonhole. The "set" was unchanged — the same maroon back-cloth, the same maroon carpet, the desk and the array of gas pipes. Without acknowledging the applause in any way, he began to read from A Christmas Carol. [1013]


Ackroyd, Peter. Dickens: A Biography. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990.

Barry, C. A. "Charles Dickens Reading." Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. 11 (7 December 1867): 777, 782.

Last modified 6 January 2016