Birth of the Book Tour

According to Writer’s Almanac, it was on this day in 1857 that Charles Dickens gave his first public reading:

His first reading, of A Christmas Carol, was held at Saint Martin's Hall in London, and it was so successful that Charles Dickens became one of the first authors to go on huge, international book tours, performing his own work. He even went to America, where one of the people who saw him perform was Mark Twain.

I’m not quite sure what the Boz was doing reading A Christmas Carol in late June. Maybe it’s just that people maybe haven’t changed as much as we sometimes think.

(For instance, Steve Miller has done an awful lot since
Space Cowboy, but fans don't like to think about that too hard. I guess that might be a story for another day. The Pompatus of Love and all of that.)

Though a lot of Dickens’ writing had already been published in novel form --
Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, Bleak House and The Pickwick Papers among them -- it’s possible his reading public demanded his most popular, not necessarily his best. (And, of those mentioned, Bleak House rocks the hardest -- though, clearly, that’s just my opinion -- Little Dorrit and Hard Times would have been his most current works.)

One can imagine Sam Clemens at one of these early readings, watching the skillful orator from England and saying, “Heck! I could do that.” (It probably really would have been “heck” too, dontcha think?) Six years later, he’d reinvent himself as
Mark Twain and, eventually, do his own version of the book tour.


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