Boston was Dickens' favourite American city, and he made a good start in a comfortable hotel with a large suite adorned with flowers by Mrs. Fields herself. His foot improved and the clear, frosty weather allowed him to take eight-mile walks with her husband. Both were flattered by the intimacy he offered, and he confided in James Fields his unhappiness in having so many children by an uncongenial wife. He enjoyed a few quiet dinners with old friends, Longfellow, Charles Norton, Emerson, but it was understood that he needed time alone. He was impatient for the first reading on 2 December, knowing how much lay ahead and how high expectations were. On 22 November the young Henry James wrote to his brother, 'Dickens has arrived for his readings. It is impossible to get tickets. At 7 o'clock A.M. on the first day of the sake there were two or three hundred at the office, and at 9, when I strolled up, nearly a thousand. So I don't expect to hear him.' James did in fact hear what he later described as the 'hard charmless readings,' but his verdict was not the public's, and from the first Dickens almost always commanded full houses and ecstatic applause. People knew that this was the event that must be caught now or never, and they were ready to come for miles and through all weather to hear the great man. Sometimes he was showered with bouquets and buttonholes, and always cheered.
from Charles Dickens: a life, by Claire Tomalin