Final Speech, Final Words

Dickens felt charged with a duty towards the poor; a duty to help them; to represent them; to console them and ultimately to see them as fellow human beings. In his society so plagued with injustice, ignorance, and greed, Dickens nevertheless fulfilled that duty in excess.

His literature played a huge role in exposing wealthy middle to upper class people to the daily struggles of so many millions upon whom their wealth lay heavy. His characters, so overflowing with humanity despite their lowly conditions, again shook the very foundations of ignorance and distance which the wealthy used to justify their lifestyles.

However, it was his unmatched dedication to public speaking which most reflects the fulfilling of his duty. Dickens travelled tirelessly across Britain and America for decades, bringing to every banquet and every ball his determined message that society can and must do better for its unfortunates. From opening polytechnic institutions to establishing a refuge for poor and hopeless women, Dickens’ advocacy and action was unwavering throughout his public life.

In his final speech, given after a reading of A Christmas Carol and The Trial of Pickwick, Dickens closes with a profound appreciation for the creative life he has been able to live, and the support he had received throughout his career. Yet even during his final moments in the public gaze he reaffirms the duty he feels towards the public, describing himself as no less than ‘a faithful servant of the public’.

The profound impact Dickens’s public speeches had on all who heard, and on those many poor families far beyond whom indirectly will have been aided thanks to his diligent advocacy, cannot be ignored. Dickens would not live to see the end of 1870, yet with what little time he had left, he dedicated once more, as he said he would, to the creativity which brought him such fame.

‘…but from these garish lights I vanish now for evermore, with a heartfelt, grateful, respectful, and affectionate farewell.’ 

Final Speech, Final Words