December 2 in Literary History: Dickens Gives First Public Reading in America

The most significant events in the history of books on the 2nd of December

1814: Marquis de Sade dies. As well as giving us the word ‘sadist’ for one who enjoys inflicting pain on others, Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade (to cite his full name) was also a novelist who wrote Justine in just two weeks in 1787, while imprisoned in the Bastille.

1854: Tennyson writes ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, in response to an article in The Times about the battle. The poem would be published in The Examiner a week later.

1867: Charles Dickens gives his first public reading in the United States, at Tremont Temple, Boston. Hundreds of Dickens3Americans had paid $2 to hear Dickens read from his work. A young Henry James recorded sniffily that it was ‘impossible to get tickets’; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson had both proved more fortunate, and were in the audience. It was the first time Dickens had read A Christmas Carol to audiences in the United States.

1985: Philip Larkin dies. We’ve put together a list of his ten best poems, even while we acknowledge that reducing his output to just ten poems is impossible without some notable absences. Larkin is most associated with the cities of Coventry (where he grew up) and Hull (where he worked for 30 years), though he also had ties with the Leicestershire town of Loughborough, which he visited many times over two decades: his mother lived in the midlands town.

1995: Robertson Davies dies. This bushy-bearded Canadian novelist, playwright, journalist, and academic once observed: ‘Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.’

Image: Charles Dickens, public domain.

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