Thursday, December 20, 1945
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
MR. THOMPSON: Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Empire Club of Canada, I would like to welcome, to this our Christmas meeting, the wives and friends of our club members who have come here today. I need hardly say that it is very gratifying indeed, to the Club Executive, to see such a large attendance. We sincerely hope you will enjoy yourselves as much as we enjoy the privilege of having you with us.
During the past few years, it has become our custom to celebrate the Christmas Season by inviting the ladies to our meeting and at the same time to provide something different in the way of a programme from our regular meetings. This year we are to be entertained by two distinct groups: The Dickens Fellowship of Toronto and The Malvern Collegiate Mixed Choir.
Rev. J. B. M. Armour, M.A., D.D., President of The Dickens Fellowship will introduce to you their players and Mr. Roy, Wood, Director of the Malvern Choir will' announce their musical numbers.
I will now turn the microphone over to Dr. Armour.
DR. ARMOUR: Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen and all unseen hearers; The Dickens Fellowship of Toronto appreciates very highly the privilege of presenting to the Empire Club two of its Charter Members, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Rostance, as its representatives on this Festive occasion. Mr. and Mrs. Rostance are English-born, in Cheshire and Yorkshire respectively, a delightful ' combination of cheese and pudding! For forty-five years they have been worthy citizens of Toronto and have contributed to its amateur dramatics as Hart House players and in many Dickens plays and sketches.
The Dickens Fellowship has been in existence in Toronto for some forty-one years and still meets during the Winter Season in the Heliconian Club, Hazelton Avenue on the third Thursday of each month.
I am now asking Mr. Rostance to give, in his unique way, a recitation entitled "A Personal Experience". He first heard it given by the late Mr. Bell Smith, one of the former Presidents of the Dickens Fellowship, and I think without insulting the memory of the departed, I can say he has even bettered his example!
In a few minutes I shall have the honour of introducing Mr. Rostance in company with his better half, when he will take the part of Sairey Gamp, and Mrs. Rostance will take the part of Betsy Prig, "her frequent pardner".
The recitation "A Personal Experience" was then given by Mr. Rostance much to the enjoyment of the, audience:
The Malvern Choir, under the direction of Mr. Roy Wood and through the kind permission of Dr. Roy Fenwick, they took over and delightfully entertained the meeting with Christmas Carols and English Folk Songs.
The Chairman, again called, upon Dr. Armour, who introduced the next number on the programme.
DR. ARMOUR: Whilst Mr. and Mrs. Rostance are preparing for the famous scene from Martin Chuzzlewit, taken from Chapter 49, "in which Mrs. Harris, assisted by a teapot, is the cause of division between friends," I have the opportunity of saying a few words of introduction' as a kind of prose prologue.
Mr. Rostance in the role of Mrs. Gamp, is the; result of a conversation he had some years ago with his wife. He saw a representation of Mrs. Gamp, and remarked to his wife as they left the gathering: "I did riot think that portrayal did justice to Mrs. Gamp." "Well" said his wife; ever practical, "if you did not like it, why don't you attempt to do it yourself "
Mrs. Harris is a life-long and imaginary companion of Mrs. Gamp, her confidante on every occasion, and her court of appeal in every argument: The scene is laid in Mrs. Gamp's famous room which is so intimately described by Charles Dickens. Mrs. Gamp is preparing to entertain her frequent pardner, Betsy Prig. She has provided "two pounds of Newcastle salmon, intensely pickled, a delicate new loaf, a plate of fresh butter, and a basin of white sugar" r Mrs. Betsy Prig is late, and after the usual affectionate greetings she makes the sage remark: "I knowed she'd forget the cowcumber." Thereupon she produces out of a capacious pocket a tuppeny salad, and the ladies sit down to tea. The conversation is. hardly as cordial as usual and there is hostility in the air. Finally a teapot is produced from a shelf together with two wine glasses. The ladies drink while Mrs. Gamp discourses, but Mrs. Prig attempts to take two drinks for Mrs. Gamp's one. "No, Betsy. Drink fair wotever you do." This leads up to Betsy Prig's saying "Bother Mrs. Harris," and uttering those memorable and tremendous words: "I don't believe there is no sich a person."
Now, Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, this sketch will indeed amuse you all. There will be pauses when actions take place, which unfortunately the unseen audience cannot see. But beyond all the humour there was the tragedy and neglect of rich and poor in the early days of Queen Victoria when "Mrs. Gamp and Betsy Prig her, frequent pardner" truly represented the nursing profession in those days. Dickens, as Chesterton said, has made Mrs. Gamp a sumptuous character and his gift of humour lightens up a really dark story of cruel neglect and unfeeling conduct. If today we have our splendidly equipped hospitals, our trained nurses, our clean wards, their possession is due in some measure at any rate to the pen of Charles Dickens. In his own inmitable way he drew the picture of nursing conditions as he did of Yorkshire schools, and thus made a contribution to the improved conditions in education and nursing which we enjoy today.
When you enter hospitals, either as a visitor or a patient, never forget the debt owed to Charles Dickens for the services, often sacrificially rendered, by nurses. In spite of the limitations and frailties of his character, Charles Dickens was deeply influenced by the great example of Him Who healed the sick and looked with compassion on the poor. "The healing of His seamless dress is by our beds of pain. We touch Him iii life's throng and press, and we are whole again." So, as we realize that supreme fact at this season of the year, let us each and all make Scrooge's famous resolve: "I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year."
Mr. and Mrs. Rostance then put on their extremely amusing skit entitled "Sairy Gamp and Betsy Prig Take Tea Together" which was greatly enjoyed by everyone.
The Malvern Choir once more favoured the audience with Carols and Folk songs, and a very pleasant meeting was brought to close.