It was a simple, one-line, birth announcement telling readers of the arrival in Portsmouth of Charles Dickens 200 years ago.
And it came from the Hampshire Telegraph, the forerunner of The Evening News and it appeared on our front page today. It is from that paper’s archives that this report also comes.
It appeared in the edition of May 26, 1866, with the now 54-year-old Dickens at the height of his popularity, making not one but two personal appearances in the city of his birth.
The excitement must have been akin to Brad Pitt turning up in the city today.
Dickens was on a nationwide reading tour of the country and read passages from his works for more than two hours on consecutive nights – a Thursday and Friday – at St George’s Hall, Portsea.
Not surprisingly, the newspaper records ‘large audiences’ for both events – the latter of which included the novelist reading from David Copperfield and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
As the report in that Saturday edition says: ‘But, although the mere perusal of his works is a joy in itself, it is an infinitely greater pleasure to hear him read them.
‘We are then enabled to obtain the most perfect conception of each character as the author intended it to be understood...’
Naturally, Dickens appears to have captivated his audience and left everyone wanting more.