Literature: Dickens and the Boz Ball Boz Ball

Every generation has its rock stars

and the Boz Ball given in honor of Charles Dickens on Valentines Day, 1842, in New York City, is evidence of the stuttering esteem in which the author was held.

From the minutes of a “Committee of Citizens of New York,” organizers of the affair:


That in the opinion of this meeting, it is proper and becoming in the Citizens of New York, to unite heartily in those demonstrations of respect and esteem which have been, and will be, everywhere in our land, called forth by the visit of Mr. Dickens to America; not because of his talents alone, but in consideration of the noble use he has made of those talents, in vindicating the rights and claims and feelings of humanity at large, without distinction of rank or circumstance.


That in welcoming Mr. Dickens to America, we feel that we are at once paying due homage to genius and fulfilling the demands of gratitude; for, as individuals, we owe gratitude to the minister of intellectual delight and, as Republicans, we are bound to thank him who has, in his writings, so eloquently maintained the cause of the humble and oppressed; who exhibits, in every line, his own keen sensibility to wrong; and the pervading spirit of all whose works is a touching illustration of the truth, that in the elementary constitution of men there is no difference, whatever difference circumstances may have created.


That in the arrangement of a fitting reception for the visitor whom we delight to honor, regard be had to the participation therein of the Ladies; for we feel assured that our countrywomen will look with little favor on any device which excludes them from joining in a Festival given in honor of him whose imagination and heart gave birth to “Little Nell.”

On motion,

Messrs. Sandford, Maxwell, G. P. Morris, Wetmore and J. W. Edmonds, were appointed a Committee to withdraw and report forthwith a suitable plan for a Ball to be given to Mr. Dickens.
The meeting then resolved, unanimously, that Philip Hone be requested to write a letter of invitation, in behalf of this meeting, to Mr. Dickens, and that D. C. Colden be appointed to deliver it in person. Mr. Hone immediately prepared the following letter, which was signed by all the gentlemen then present [There were eighty-six men on the General Committee].
New York, Jan. 26th, 1842.
The citizens of New York having received the agreeable intelligence of your arrival in the United States, and appreciating the value of your labors in the cause of humanity, and the eminently successful exercise of your literary talents, are ambitious to be among the foremost in tendering to you and your Lady the hearty welcome which they are persuaded is in reserve for you in all parts of our country.
With this object in view, we have been appointed a Committee, in behalf of a meeting of Gentlemen convened for the purpose, to request your attendance at a public Ball to be given in this city.
Mr. C. D. Colden, one of our number, will have the honor of presenting this invitation, and is charged with the agreeable duty of presenting their congratulations on your arrival. We shall expect, through him, your kind acceptance of this invitation, and your designation of the day when it may suit your convenience to attend.
We are, Sir,
With great respect,
Your Obed't Serv'ts.

...To heighten the effect,

and in compliance with the desire universally expressed, it is recommended that the Ball Room represent various compartments of “Curiosity Shop,” in which the productions of “Boz” may be illustrated. In order to add a strikingly novel and agreeable feature to the intended fête, it is suggested that a number of Tableaux Vivants be formed by competent Artists, in the intervals of the dance, drawn from the novels, sketches, poems and dramas of Mr. Dickens, and shadowing forth, in living pictures, the graphic and glowing delineations of this singularly gifted and original author.
As it is believed that the demand for cards of admission will be very great, and that no Ball Room in the City will be large enough to contain the numbers desirous of being present on the occasion, it is recommended that the Park Theatre be engaged, and that the Ball take place at the earliest date, of which due notice be given in the public prints.

The Committee also recommend

the following sketch of decorations and devices for the Ball Room, and arrangements for the floor:
  1. The inside of the Theatre to represent a magnificent Saloon hung with Chandeliers.
  2. The audience part of the house to be ornamented with festoons of flowers, garlands, draperies, and trophies emblematical of the different States of the Union.
  3. The floor to extend from the front of the boxes to the back of the building, where, on an elevated stage, arrangements be made for the representation of numerous Tableaux Vivants from the works of Mr. Dickens, represented by Artists under the direction of the Committee.
  4. The stage part of the Theatre to be highly embellished with various designs from the writings of “Boz,” illustrating many of his striking, original, novel, graphic, and familiar scenes.
  5. A full and efficient orchestra, comprising the principal musical talent at present in the city, to be engaged, and so arranged, as to add to the general effect, without diminishing the space allotted to the company.
  6. The Ball Room to afford accommodations for upwards of 3,000 persons.
  7. The following arrangements, are also recommended. Order of the Dances and Tableaux Vivant:—
1. —Grand March.
2. —Tableau Vivant, “A sketch by Boz.”
3. —Amilie Quadrille.
4. —Tableau Vivant, The Seasons; a “poem, with music.”
5. —Quadrille Waltz, selections.
6. —Tableau Vivant, The Book of “Oliver Twist.”
7. —Quadrille March, Norma.
8. —Tableau Vivant, “The Ivy Green.”
9. —Victoria Waltz.
10. —Tableau Vivant, “Little Nell.”
11. —Basket Quadrille.
12. —Tableau Vivant, the book of “Nicholas Nickleby.”
13. —March.
14. —Tableau Vivant, “a sketch” by “Boz.”
15. —Spanish Dance.
16. —Tableau Vivant, the “Pickwick Papers.”
17. —Boz Waltz.
18. —Tableau Vivant, Washington Irving in England, and Charles Dickens in America.
19. —Postillion Quadrille.
20. —Tableau Vivant, “Curiosity Shop.”
21. —March.
22. —Tableau Vivant, “The Club.”
23. —Contra Dance.
24. —Tableau Vivant, the book of "Barnaby Rudge."
25. —Gallopade.

On motion, it was Resolved

that the Chairman appoint a subcommittee of sixteen, to carry the foregoing arrangements into effect...
The Committee of Arrangements met on Saturday evening, January the 29th, at the Green Room of the Park Theatre, when the Chairman read the  

following letter from Mr. Dickens:

Tremont House, Boston, Jan. 28th, 1842.
My Dear Sir,
I beg to convey to the Committee of Gentlemen, whose organ you are, my hearty and cordial thanks for their most kind congratulations; and my glad acceptance of the honor they propose to confer upon me.
I have had the pleasure of seeing your agent, and of explaining my movements and arrangements to that gentleman.
Rest assured, that I shall only be too proud and happy, to meet you at any time you may appoint, after receiving his explanation of my engagements. With many thanks to you and the Committee, generally,
I am, My dear Sir,
Yours, faithfully and obliged,
The Committee, thereupon, Report, that the Ball take place at the Park Theatre, on Monday the 14th of February next.

The following rules and regulations

to be observed on the occasion:
  • The doors to be opened at half past 7, and the dancing to commence at 9 o’clock.
  • The Committee to appear in full Ball dresses and wear rosettes, with appropriate designs.
  • Military and Naval officers to appear in their respective uniforms.
  • All fancy dresses to be positively excluded, except such as are admitted under the direction of the Committee.
  • An ample supply of refreshments to be provided for the company.
  • Cloak and retiring rooms to be set apart for the accommodation of the Ladies, and suitable attendants to be in waiting.
  • Tickets admitting a Lady and Gentleman to be $5. Any gentleman whose party may exceed more than one lady, to be furnished with extra ladies’ tickets, not to exceed two, at $2 each.
  • Cards of admission to be obtained from either of the Committee, at the Committee Room, in the Astor House, where the name of every person who purchases a ticket, will be registered in a book provided for that especial purpose.
  • Gentlemen applying for tickets, will please to give the names of their Ladies, in order that the same may be written in the cards of invitation.
  • Each member of the Committee, issuing tickets, will endorse his own name on the back of the cards.
  • An early application for cards of admission, will be necessary, as no more persons will be admitted to the fête, than the Ball room can conveniently accommodate.
  • An awning to be erected in front of the Theatre, covering the sidewalk.
  • Carriages on arriving and departing, will comply with the city regulations, for the maintenance of good order at public assemblies.
  • Gentlemen are requested to dismiss their carriages on arriving at the door, and to take the one opposite to the entrance, on their departure.
  • The Superintendent of carriages, will be in attendance to preserve regularity, and to see that no imposition be practiced upon the company through carelessness, extra charges, or otherwise.
  • An efficient Police, to be engaged, to secure order, in the arrival and departure of the company.
  • At a meeting of the General Committee, held at the Astor House, on Monday evening, January, 31st, the foregoing Report was unanimously adopted, and the Executive Committee was directed to carry the same into effect.
Jno. R. Livingston, Jr., Secretary
Wm. B. Dean, Secretary.

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