This set of portrait photographs of Charles Dickens were taken in 1858 during a public reading series at St Martin’s Hall, London. Photographed by George Herbert Watkins, Dickens is pictured in several poses and with various props, including a new and specially-designed reading desk (the desk at which Dickens famously stood to perform his readings). Other materials for the public readings also feature, including a book stand and a pointer. These professional photographs reflect the fact that Dickens’s public readings had become, since 1858, a professionalised, lucrative business for the author. They were no longer charitable, occasional ventures.
In rare instances, some of the photographs have captured a slight smile.