Dec. 2, 1867: Charles Dickens gives first reading during American tour

·Christy Karras

Charles Dickens was already famous and well respected when he gave his first public reading during a tour of the United States in 1867. The British author was also an avid traveler, having toured England and Ireland and spent time in Italy, Switzerland and France.

This was Dickens’ second trip to America, but it was the first one centered on him reading to crowds of fans. He had traveled to the U.S. in 1842, met with fellow authors including Washington Irving, and lectured on the importance of copyright law to protect authors’ works against plagiarism. He wrote about his travels and impressions of America (as well as his distaste for American slavery) in a travelogue called "American Notes for General Circulation."

Starting with an appearance in Boston — which he had previously declared his favorite American city — Dickens’ second visit looked much like modern authors' often grueling book tours. The trip was focused on giving as many readers as possible a chance to see him in person and hear him read from his works. As they are for modern authors, the reading tours were a moneymaking proposition: Over the course of his six-month tour, Dickens reportedly made about $30,000.