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Apart from being one of the greatest authors of all time Charles Dickens was a great orator, giving readings on both sides of the Atlantic. He would often act out the parts he was reading. His first visit to the city of Chester was on Friday 13th August 1858, the year he began professional readings. The reading was from A Christmas Carol. On the 19th December 1861 he was booked, to yet again delight Chester audiences. This visit was cancelled until after Christmas due to the death of the Prince Consort.

The reading took place on Thursday the 30th January 1862. Dickens delighted Chester audiences with readings from The Trial from Pickwick and Nicholas Nickleby at Mr Squeer’s School. Prices for this event were four shillings (20p) for numbered and reserved seats. Unreserved seats in the lower galleries were two shillings (10p) and the back seats were a shilling (5p). These were pretty hefty prices at the time. The reading commenced at 8pm and lasted two hours.

On the 22nd January 1887, Dickens made his final appearance at the Music Hall, but not by choice. The highly respected author of such classics as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield gave readings to the enthusiastic Chester audience on Dr Marigold and Bardell Vs Pickwick. The Chester Chronicle newspaper dated 26th January 1887 says: The Music Hall on Tuesday evening was accordingly well filled on the whole, though a few seats set apart as “reserved” were vacant; and this is the more gratifying as the high prices charged and the exceptional severity of the weather must have been keen dissuasives with all but the most anxious to see and hear him.

Shortly after eight o’ clock Mr Dickens appeared on the platform. He took his stand at the little crimson table provided for him and commenced without a word of preface “I am a cheap Jack – the opening words of Dr Marigold. Dickens concluded with old Weller’s assertions about the value of an alibi, amid loud applause.

Some sources say he gave a reading at the Music Hall shortly before his death in 1870. This is incorrect. He was booked to give a reading on Thursday the 29th April 1869 but it had to be cancelled due to his health. Dickens had suffered a slight stroke. A statement was given to the Chester Chronicle dated 24th April 1869 by Mr F. Carr Beard, Dickens’ doctor and friend. He said that he was satisfied Dickens would not get through his reading, if he appeared. The Chester Chronicle dated 17th April 1869 advertised the visit as one farewell reading (the last Mr Dickens will ever give in Chester). He would have read The Boots at the Holly Tree In, Sikes and Nancy and Mr Bob Sawyer’s party from Pickwick. Sadly his fourth visit wasn’t to be.

Charles Dickens died on the 9th June 1870 at the age of fifty-eight.

Source by D A Ellis

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