Charles Dickens visited Birminghamin December 1853 in order to deliver several public readings of his work at the Town Hall. ‘A Christmas Carol’ was the first, and deemed the best, of his Christmas Books and his first reading of this novella took place on 19 December 1853 to great public acclaim (John Leech provided etchings and engravings for ‘A Christmas Carol’).
This was the first of several visits to Birmingham and in subsequent years such performances raised significant funds for the construction of a new building for the Birmingham and Midland Institute. Dickens had taken a keen interest in the work of the Institute and became its President in 1869.
Public readings in this country and abroad proved very successful; ultimately they generated more income for Dickens than the sales of his writings. At the very end of his life Dickens undertook a final series of readings in early 1870, making a last appearance at a Royal Academy banquet, and died on 9 June 1870 at his home at Gad’s Hill Place, following a final stroke.