Dating from 1854, this letter from Charles Dickens to his wife Catherine reveals how popular his public reading tours were becoming. He writes that he is about to read The Chimes to an expected 3,700 people, in an 'enormous hall' in Bradford, Yorkshire.
Thursday Twenty Eighth December 1854
We arrived here pleasantly enough, though we were nearly an hour behind time and the journey was cold. As we came northward, it snowed. a little snow is lying here now. It is a dark dingy place; but we are established in the landlady's little drawing room at the [illegible]. [Hotel?], and it is a bright neat little room. I have a comfortable small bedroom adjoining, except that it looks into what I thought yesterday afternoon was an old rabbit hutch, but which I suspect this morning to be a back street.
The Hall is enormous. They expect to seat tonight, 3,700 people! I do not however, think it at all a different place. It's lighted along the upper cornice, like the Philharmonic rooms at Liverpool, and must be very fine when full. Going to look at it last night, I found arrangements made for seating
60 people in two rows behind me. These / on which the committee [illegible] prided themselves / , I [instantly? illegible]: to the great terror and amazement of the bystanders, who organised in a dismal manner “where was the Mayor to go then?" I said the mayor might go - anywhere - but must not come near me.
A letter this morning from the Sherborne Mr. Fitzgerald, who (thank Heaven!) is kept away. No news of Fletcher. Among certain delegates who are to come from Leeds, I see [Scroope Ayston's?] name.
Our train is due at King's Cross, at 4 tomorrow afternoon. Will you send Cooper and French here, at about a quarter before the hour? Wills and I are now going out to re-inspect the platform arrangements. We were at the Theatre last night - much better than usual.
My love to Georgy - and to Mamey Katey, Charley, Walter, Frank, Alfred, Sydney, Harry, and the [Gocter?]