Royal Hospital for Incurables Annual Dinner 1856


Chairman's toasts at the Royal Hospital for Incurables Annual Dinner (5 June 1856).


Dickens, Charles


Bibliographic Citation

Dickens, Charles. 'Royal Hospital for Incurables Annual Dinner' (5 June 1856). Dickens Search. Eds. Emily Bell and Lydia Craig. Accessed [date].


In proposing this toast, he said, he hoped it would not be at all supposed that he intended to hint that there was any connexion between a Hospital for Incurables, and the Houses of Lords and Commons. Yet it must be admitted that these houses had given symptoms of labouring under a lingering disease, with intermittent fever – with this difference, that it appeared the cold fits were very long, and the hot fits very short. Yet under the influence of gentle stimulants, the Legislature had occasionally assumed an appearance of being possessed of a strong and vigorous constitution. With the toast of the two Houses of Parliament he would couple the name of Lord Alfred Paget, who notwithstanding he had nearly met with a watery grave last night by his yacht being run down in the Channel, had been determined to be present that evening to support this great and noble charity.

He approached the next toast, he said, with some trepidation, because he felt he could scarcely do justice to an institution which had for its object the finding a permanent home for a most deserving and afflicted class of the community. He had the high privilege to give a toast which recognized the immense social importance and the great Christian humanities of a hospital designed for the permanent care and comfort of those who, by disease, accident, or deformity, were hopelessly disqualified for the duties of life.

It was to be remembered at the outset that it was the distinguishing feature of this institution that it entered into competition with none of the existing hospitals, but came in aid of every one of them. It did appear to him somewhat extraordinary that amongst the innumerable and valuable charities of this metropolis it had been so long without an institution for the relief of those who, in their helplessness, could not be relieved by any other hospital. There was no establishment for the treatment of the sick in this city from the doors of which some unfortunate persons altogether disqualified for the duties of life, were not driven away in consequence of the impossibility there was of rendering them that assistance which their state of health required. The institution was therefore no sooner in existence than, as might be expected, numbers of the most distinguished and experienced members of the medical profession recorded their conviction of its immense usefulness; and certificates had since been signed which placed it wholly and for ever beyond dispute.

There were very many cases of great distress; of person who, brought up in a respectable position, were cut down by hopeless disease with no aid, no solace, in the dark hour of their affliction. It was to afford such a home, it was to relieve such parties that this charity was founded, and he trusted that it would grow, through the fostering care of the public, into one of the greatest of those benevolent institutions which did so much honour to the country.

The Royal Hospital had scarcely achieved the second year of its existence; but nevertheless it had obtained ‘ a local habitation and a name’, in one of the prettiest places in the environs of London. There was nothing about the institution which partook of sectarianism; its principle was to know no distinction in religion; and there were not forty-four patients under its protective care. It divided itself into two branches, affording, first, to those objects of charity a home for life who had no other home; and, secondly, assisting with regular donations and kind counsels such patients as had friends to relieve them in part, and give them shelter, feeling that they could not bear that sharpest pain – the separation from those they loved. The necessity for such a hospital, which he could not but observe with regret, was shown by the circumstance that at the election within the last month, for ten recipients of the advantages of the charity, there were no less than 87 candidates, many of them having particular claims on the sympathy of the benevolent.

He felt it was their duty to do everything that could be done to give these poor creatures even a chance of recovery – or, if not of recovery, of comfort in their closing days; and he trusted, therefore, that the institution would be liberally supported. In remembrance of those from whom they derived their birth; in remembrance of Him who said to the afflicted, ‘Take up thy bed and walk’; in remembrance of those whose pillows it might some day be their duty to smooth; in the name of those bright creatures upon whose breasts they hoped hereafter to rest their heads; for the love of God; for the love of man – which was one – he implored their aid on behalf of this infant institution, so that I might hereafter rank as a most beneficent giant. In conclusion he had great pleasure in proposing ‘Prosperity and Perpetuity to the Royal Hospital’.