The ‘fatigue and excitement’ produced by six Spring readings at St James’s Hall, London, ‘in conjunction with a story’, left Dickens exhausted by the end of June 1861. Earlier in May, he had been troubled with neuralgic pains in the face, prompting him to call off social engagements, keep out of hot rooms and avoid late dinners, postpone a scheduled speech at the Annual Dinner of the Newsvendors’ Institution till next year and devote his energy to completing Great Expectations. ‘I have just finished my book’, he wrote to W. C. Macready on 11 June, ‘and am the worse for wear’. Quitting London and returning to Gad’s Hill provided the break he needed. In ‘the first desperate laziness’ of having ‘done’ his book, he joked to Forster, he thought of offering himself ‘to the village school as a live example of that vice for the edification of youth’.