On Reading to an Audience

Although some writers shy away from public readings, there can be extensive justification of their merit.

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It may perhaps be in known to you that I have been accustomed occasionally to read some of my shorter books to various audiences, in aid of a variety of good objects or causes, and at some charge to myself, both in time and money. It having at length become impossible in any reason to comply with these always accumulating demands, I have had definitively to choose between now and then reading on my own account, as one of my recognised occupations, or not reading at all.

I have had little or no difficulty in deciding on the former course. The reasons that have led me to it—besides the consideration that it necessitates no departure whatever from the chosen pursuits of my life—are threefold.

Firstly, I have satisfied myself that it can involve no possible compromise of the credit and independence of literature.

Secondly, I have long held the opinion, and have long acted on the opinion, that in these times whatever brings a public figure—such as a writer—and their public face to face, on terms of mutual confidence and respect, is a good thing.

Thirdly, I have had a pretty large experience of the interest my hearers are so generous as to take in these occasions, and of the delight they give to me, as a tried means of strengthening those relations—I may almost say of personal friendship—which it is my great privilege and pride, as it is my great responsibility, to hold with a multitude of persons who will never hear my voice nor see my face.

Thus it is that I come, quite naturally, to be among listeners; and thus it is that I proceed to read from my books, quite as composedly as I might proceed to write it, or to publish it in any other way.

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Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a writer. He was best known for his novels including David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol.

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