Charles Dickens performed readings from his novels at the Music Hall in both 1858 and 1866. He filled the ballroom which was the largest venue available in the city at that time (before the Concert Hall had been added to the building). Charles Dickens was the first author to read and perform his own novels in public. He had always read to friends and family but had the idea that a national tour of novel performances might be highly profitable. He was an accomplished amateur actor and is said he brought the characters to life so completely audiences were left in tears of laughter at parts and sadness at other parts. In August 1858 he set out from London and starting in Exeter made his way by train all the way up to Aberdeen, giving nearly 40 performances. He returned to Aberdeen a second time in 1866 again travelling north by train, a journey taking 18 hours at that time.
[Steam puffing sounds; low whistle sound]
On his way to Aberdeen in October 1858, Dickens had given five readings in four days to very large audiences at the Queen Street Hall in Edinburgh.
He then crossed the Firth of Forth on a railway ferry, and traversed Fife.
Because the first Tay Bridge had not been built yet he had taken another ferry across the Tay at Dundee, all within a day, and in time for yet another evening performance.
Arriving in Aberdeen the next day, these were to be Dickens’ furthest north readings in the British Isles.
He arrived on the 4th of October 1858, prepared to give his 69th and 70th performances in a single day of this grueling five month tour, that had begun the previous April.
The venue was the Aberdeen County Assembly rooms, that would eventually become the Aberdeen Music Hall. A local press report the following day approved Dickens’ renditions of Dombey and Son, and A Christmas Carol:
“Who is there, who heard Mr Dickens read The Christmas Carol, who did not feel that it contained pictures which required only the light of true feeling to bring them out in new colours? Very rich, and very pleasant. Sending to the heart, with tenfold force, the lessons of loving kindness and humility - which it has long been his object, to inculcate.”
Dickens himself afterwards confirmed that they were crammed to the streets twice in one day.
Produced and Directed by Michael Steele