Charles Dickens.

American notes, Pictures from Italy, and A child's history of England online

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CROWN EDITION. Price 5s. each Volume.

l.-THE PICKWICK PAPERS. With 43 Illustrations by

Seymour and Phiz.
2. NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. With 40 Illustrations by Phiz.
3. UOMBEY AND SON. With 40 Illustrations by Phiz.
4. DAVID COPPEEFIELD. With 40 Illustrations by Phiz.

5. SKETCHES BY " BOZ." With 40 Illustrations by Geo.

6. MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. With 40 Illustrations by Phiz.

7. THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP. With 75 Illustrations by
Georqe Cattermole aud H. K. Browne.

8. BARNABY RUDGE : A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty. With
76 Illustrations by George Cattermole and H. K. Browke.

24 Illustrations by Cruikshank and 16 by Phiz.

10. BLEAK HOUSE. With 40 Illustrations by Phiz.

11 LITTLE DORRIT. With 40 Illustrations by Phiz.

12. OUR MUTUAL FRIEND. With 40 Illustrations by

Marcus Stone.

A CHILD'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND. With 16 Illustrations

by Marcus Stone.

trations by Landseer, Maclise, Sianfield, Leech, Doyle,
F. Walker, &c.

cluding HUMPHREY'S CLOCK. With Illustrations by Charles
Green, Mahoney, Phiz, Cattermole, &c,

VELLER. With 16 Illustrations by Marcus Stone.

Illustrations by Luke Fildes and F. Walker.

Uniform with above in size and binding.


With Portraits and Illustrations. Added at the request of numerous
THE DICKENS DICTIONARY : a Key to the Characters and
Principal Incidents in the Tales of Charles Dickens.

PRISONERS. By Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. With
















Emigrants Frontispiece

The Solitary Prisoner 87

Black and White . . . . . . . . . .108

The Little "Wife 139


Italian Peasants ....... Frontispiece

Civil and Military ......... 207

The Chiffonier .... ...... 276

In the Catacombs ..... .... 304


Alfred in the Neatherd's Cottage .... Frontispiece

The Finding of the Body of Rufus ...... 395

Arthur and Hubert 430

The Intercession of Queen Pjiilipfa for the Citizens of Calais . -17:2

Joan of Arc Tending her Flock ....... l'J7

Queen Margaret and the Robber ....... 511

Lady Jane Grey Watching the Body of her Husband being Carried

past her Window after Execution ...... 558 I. Taking Leave of his Children . . . . . (JIG




My readers have opportunities of judging for themselves whether
the influences end tendencies which I distrusted in America, had, at
that time, any existence but in my imagination. They can examine
for themselves whether there has been anything in tho public career
of that country since, at home or abroad, which suggests that those
influences and tendencies really did exist. As they find the fact, they
will judge me. If they discern any evidences of wrong-doing, in any
direction that I have indicated, they will acknowledge that I had
reason in what I wrote. If they discern no such indications, they
will consider me altogether mistaken but not wilfully.

Prejudiced, I am not, and never have been, othcrwiso than in favour
of tho United States. I have many friends in America, I feel a
grateful interest in the country, I hopo and believe it will successfully
work out a problem of the highest importance to tho whole human
race. To represent me as viewing Amkiuca with ill-nature, coldness,
or animosity, is merely to do a very 'Polish thing : which is always a
very easy one.




I shall never forget the one-fourth serious and three-fourths comical
astonishment, with which, on the morning of the third of January
eigkteen-hundred-and-forty-two, I opened the door of, and put my
head into, a " state-room " on board the Britannia steam-packet,
twelve hundred tons burthen per register, bound for Halifax and
Boston, and carrying Her Majesty's mails.

That this state-room had been specially engaged for " Charles
Dickens, Esquire, and Lady," was rendered sufficiently clear evon to
my scared intellect by a very small manuscript, announcing the fact,
which was pinned on a very flat quilt, covering a very thin mattress,
spread like a surgical plaster on a most inaccessible shelf. But that
this was the state-room concerning which Charles Dickens, Esquire,
and Lady, had held daily and nightly conferences for at least four
months preceding : that this could by any possibility be that small
snug chamber of the imagination, which Charles Dickens, Esquire,
with the spirit of prophecy strong upon him, had always foretold
would contain at least one little sofa, and which his lady, with a
modest yet most magnificent sense of its limited dimensions, had from
the first opined would not hold more than two enormous portmanteaus
in some odd corner out of sight (portmanteaus which could now no
more be got in at the door, not to say stowed away, than a giraffo
could be persuaded or forced into a flower-pot) : that this utterly
impracticable, thoroughly hopeless, and profoundly preposterous box,
had the remotest reference to, or connection with, those chaste and
pretty, not to say gorgeous little bowers, sketched by a masterly
hand, in the highly varnished lithographic plan hanging up in the
agent's counting-houso in the city of London : that this room of state,
in short, could be anything but a pleasant fiction and cheerful jest of
the captain's, invented and put in practice for the better relish and
enjoyment of the real state-room presently to be disclosed : theso
were truths which I really could not, for the moment, bring my mind
at all to bear upon or comprehend. And I sat down upon a kind of
horsehair slab, or perch, of which there were two within ; and looked,

6 American Notes.

without any expression of countenance whatever, at some friends who
had come on board with us, and who were crushing their faces into
all manner of shapes by endeavouring to squeeze them through the
small doorway.

We had experienced a pretty smart shock before coming below,
which, but that we were the most sanguine people living, might have
prepared us for the worst. The imaginative artist to whom I have
already made allusion, has depicted in the same great work, a chamber
of almost interminable perspective, furnished, as Mr. Robins would
say, in a style of more than Eastern splendour, and filled (but not
inconveniently so) with groups of ladies and gentlemen, in the very
highest state of enjoyment and vivacity. Before descending into the
bowels of the ship, we had passed from the deck into a long narrow
apartment, not unlike a gigantic hearse with windows in the sides ;
having at the upper end a melancholy stove, at which three or four
chilly stewards were warming their hands ; while on either side,
extending down its whole dreary length, was a long, long table, over
each of which a rack, fixed to the low roof, and stuck full of drinking-
glasses and cruet-stands, hinted dismally at rolling seas and heavy
weather. I had not at that time seen the ideal presentment of this
chamber which has since gratified me so much, but I observed that
one of our friends who had made the arrangements for our voyage,
turned pale on entering, retreated on the friend behind him, smote
his forehead involuntarily, and said below his breath, " Impossible !
it cannot be ! " or words to that effect. He recovered himself how-
ever by a great effort, and after a preparatory cough or two, cried,
with a ghastly smile which is still before me, looking at the same
time round the walls, " Ha ! the breakfast-room, steward eh ? " Wo
all foresaw what the answer must be : we knew the agony he suffered.
He had often spoken of the saloon ; had taken in and lived upon the
pictorial idea ; had usually given us to understand, at home, that to
form a just conception of it, ii would be necessary to multiply the
size and furniture of an ordinary drawing-room by seven, and then
fall short of the reality. When the man in reply avowed the truth ;
the blunt, remorseless, naked truth ; " This is the saloon, sir " he
actually reeled beneath the blow.

In persons who were so soon to part, and interpose between their
else daily communication the formidable barrier of many thousand
miles of stormy space, and who were for that reason anxious to cast
no other oloud, not even the passing shadow of a moment's disappoint-
ment or discomfiture, upon the short interval of happy companionship
that yet remained to them in persons so situated, the natural transi-
tion from these first surprises was obviously into peals of hearty
laughter, and I can report that I, for one, being still seated upon the
slab or perch before-mentioned, roared outright until the vessel rang
again. Thus, in less than two minutes after coming upon it for the
first time, wo all by common consent agreed that this state-room was

A Pleasant Stewardess. 7

the pleasantest and most facetious and capital contrivance possible ;
and that to have had it one inch larger, would have been quite a
disagreeable and deplorable state of things. And with this ; and
with showing how, by very nearly closing the door, and twining in
and out like serpents, and by counting the little washing slab as
standing-room, we could manage to insinuate four people into it, all
at one time ; and entreating each other to observe how very airy it
was (in dock), and how there was a beautiful port-hole which could
be kept open all day (weather permitting), and how there was quite
a large bull's-eye just over the looking-glass which would render
shaving a perfectly easy and delightful process (when the ship didn't
roll too much) ; we arrived, at last, at the unanimous conclusion that
it was rather spacious than otherwise : though I do verily believe
that, deducting the two berths, one above the other, than which
nothing smaller for sleeping in was ever made except coffins, it was
no bigger than one of those hackney cabriolets which have the door
behind, and shoot their fares out, like sacks of coals, upon the

Having settled this point to the perfect satisfaction of all parties,
concerned and unconcerned, we sat down round the fire in the ladies'
cabin just to try the effect. It was rather dark, certainly ; but
somebody said, " of course it would be light, at sea," a proposition to
which we all assented ; echoing " of course, of course ; " though it
would be exceedingly difficult to say why we thought so. I remember,
too, when we had discovered and exhausted another topic of con-
solation in the circumstance of this ladies' cabin adjoining our state-
room, and the consequently immense feasibility of sitting there at all
times and seasons, and had fallen into a momentary silence, leaning
our faces on our hands and looking at the fire, one of our party said,
with the solemn air of a man who had made a discovery, " What a
relish mulled claret will have down hero ! " which appeared to strike
us all most forcibly ; as though there were something spicy and
high-flavoured in cabins, which essentially improved that composition,
and rendered it quite incapable of perfection anywhere else.

There was a stewardess, too, actively engaged in producing clean
sheets and tablecloths from the very entrails of the sofas, and from
unexpected lockers, of such artful mechanism, that it made one's head
ache to see them opened one after another, and rendered it quite a
distracting circumstanco to follow Jier proceedings, and to find that
every nook and corner and individual piece of furniture was some-
thing else besides what it pretended to be, and was a mere trap and
deception and place of secret stowage, whose ostensible purpose was
its least useful one.

God bless that stewardess for her piously fraudulent account of
January voyages ! God bless her for her clear recollection of tho
companion passage of last year, when nobody was ill, and everybody
dancing from morning to night, and it was "a run" of twelve days,

8 American Notes.

and a piece of the purest frolic, and delight, and jollity ! All happi-
ness he with her for her bright face and her pleasant Scotch tongue,
which had sounds of old Home in it for my fellow traveller ; and for
her predictions of fair winds and fine weather (all wrong, or I
shouldn't he half so fond of her) ; and for the ten thousand small
fragments of genuine womanly tact, by which, without piecing them
elaborately together, and patching them up into shape and form and
case and pointed application, she nevertheless did plainly show that
all young mothers on one side of the Atlantic were near and close
at hand to their little children left upon the other ; and that what
seemed to the uninitiated a serious journey, was, to those who were in
the secret, a mere frolic, to be sung about and whistled at ! Light be
her heart, and gay her merry eyes, for years !

The state-room had grown pretty fast ; but by this time it had
expanded into something quite bulky, and almost boasted a bay-
window to view the sea from. So we went upon deck again in high
spirits ; and there, everything was in such a state of bustle and active
preparation, that the blood quickened its pace, and whirled through
one's veins on that clear frosty morning with involuntary mirthfulness.
For every gallant ship was riding slowly up and down, and every
little boat was splashing noisily in the water ; and knots of people
stood upon the wharf, gazing with a kind of " dread delight " on the
far-famed fast American steamer ; and one party of men were " taking
in the milk," or, in other words, getting the cow on board ; and
another were filling the icehouses to the very throat with fresh
provisions ; with butchers'-meat and gardenstufi', pale sucking-pigs,
calves' heads in scores, beef, veal, and pork, and poultry out of all
proportion ; and others were coiling ropes and busy with oakum
yarns ; and others were lowering heavy packages into the hold ; and
the purser's head was barely visible as it loomed in a state of
exquisite perplexity from the midst of a vast pile of passengers'
luggage ; and there seemed to be nothing going on anywhere, or
uppermost in the mind of anybody, but preparations for this mighty
voyage. This, with the bright cold sun, the bracing air, the crisply-
curling water, the thin white crust of morning ice upon the decks
which crackled with a sharp and cheerful sound beneath the lightest
tread, was irresistible. And when, again upon the shore, we turned
and saw from the vessel's mast her name signalled in flags of joyous
colours, and fluttering by their side the beautiful American banner
with its stars and stripes, the long three thousand miles and more,
and, longer still, the six whole months of absence, so dwindled and
faded, that the ship had gone out and come home again, and it was
broad spring already in the Coburg Dock at Liverpool.

I have not inquired among my medical acquaintance, whether
Turtle, and cold Punch, with Hock, Champagne, and Claret, and all
the slight et cetera usually included in an unlimited order for a good
dinner especially when it is left to the liberal construction of my

On Board the Tender. 9

faultless friend, Mr. lladley, of the Adelplri Hotel are peculiarly
calculated to sutler a sea-change ; or whether a plain mutton-chop,
and a glass or two of sherry, would be less likely of conversion into
foreign and disconcerting material. My own opinion is, that whether
one is discreet or indiscreet in these particulars, on the eve of a sea-
voyage, is a matter of little consequence ; and that, to use a common
phrase, " it comes to very much the same thing in the end." Be this
as it may, I know that the dinner of that day was undeniably perfect ;
that it comprehended all these items, and a great many more ; and
that we all did ample justice to it. And I know too, that, bating a
certain tacit avoidance of any allusion to to-morrow ; such as may be
supposed to prevail between delicate-minded turnkeys, and a sensitive
prisoner who is to be hanged next morning ; we got on very well, and,
all things considered, were merry enough.

When the morning the morning came, and we met at breakfast,
it was curious to see how eager we all were to prevent a moment's
pause in the conversation, and how astoundingly gay everybody was :
the forced spirits of each member of the little party having as much
likeness to his natural mirth, as hot-house peas at five guineas the
quart, resemble in flavour the growth of the dews, and air, and rain of
Heaven. But as one o'clock, the hour for going aboard, drew near,
Ihis volubility dwindled away by little and little, despite the most
persevering eftbrts to the contrary, until at last, the matter being now
quite desperate, we threw oft' all disguise ; openly speculated upon
where we should be this time to-morrow, this time next day, and so
forth ; and entrusted a vast number of messages to those who intended
returning to town that night, which were to be delivered at home and
elsewhere without fail, within the very shortest possible space of time
after the arrival of the railway train at Eiiston Square. And commis-
sions and remembrances do so crowd upon one at such a time, that we
were still busied with this employment when we found ourselves
fused, as it were, into a dense conglomeration of passengers and
passengers' friends and passengers' luggage, all jumbled together on
the deck of a small steamboat, and panting and snorting oft' to the
packet, which had worked out of dock yesterday afternoon and was
now lying at her moorings in tho river.

And there she is ! all eyes are turned to where she lies, dimly dis-
cernible through the gathering fog of the early winter afternoon ; every
finger is pointed in the same direction ; and murmurs of interest and
admiration as " How beautiful she looks ! " " How trim she is ! "
are heard on every side. Even the lazy gentleman with his hat on
one side and bis hands in his pockets, who has dispensed so much
consolation by inquiring with a yawn of another gentleman whether
he is "going across" as if it were a ferry even he condescends to
look that way, and nod his heart, as who should say, "No mistake;
alxmt thdt : " and not even the sage Lord Burleigh in his nod, included
half so much as this lazy gentleman of might who has made tho

IO American Notes.

passage (as everybody on board has found out already ; it's impossible
to say now) thirteen times without a single accident ! There is
another passenger very much wrapped-up, who has been frowned
down by the rest, and morally trampled upon and crushed, for pre-
suming to inquire with a timid interest how long it is since the poor
President went down. Ho is standing close to the lazy gentleman,
and says with a faint smile that he believes She is a very strong
Ship ; to which the lazy gentleman, looking first in his questioner's
eye and then very hard in the wind's, answers unexpectedly and
ominously, that She need be. Upon this the lazy gentleman instantly
falls very low in the popular estimation, and the passengers, with
looks of defiance, whisper to each other that he is an ass, and an
impostor, and clearly don't know anything at all about it.

But we are made fast alongside the packet, whose huge red funnel
is smoking bravely, giving rich promise of serious intentions. Packing-
cases, portmanteaus, carpet-bags, and boxes, are already passed from
hand to hand, and hauled on board with breathless rapidity. The
officers, smartly dressed, are at the gangway handing the passengers
up the side, and hurrying the men. In five minutes' time, the little
steamer is utterly deserted, and the packet is beset and over-run by
its late freight, who instantly pervade the whole ship, and are to be
met with by the dozen in every nook and corner : swarming down
below with their own baggage, and stumbling over other people's ;
disposing themselves comfortably in wrong cabins, and creating a
most horrible confusion by having to turn out again ; madly bent upon
opening locked doors, and on forcing a passage into all kinds of out-
of-the-way places where there is no thoroughfare ; sending wild
stewards, with elfin hair, to and fro upon the breezy decks on un-
intelligible errands, impossible of execution : and in short, creating
the most extraordinary and bewildering tumult. In the midst of all
this, the lazy gentleman, who seems to have no luggage of any kind
not so much as a friend, even lounges up and down the hurricane
deck, coolly puffing a cigar ; and, as this unconcerned demeanour
again exalts him in the opinion of those who have leisure to observe
his proceedings, every time he looks up at the masts, or down at the
decks, or over the side, they look there too, as wondering whether he
sees anything wrong anywhere, and hoping that, in case he should, he
will have the goodness to mention it.

What have we here ? The captain's boat ! and yonder the captain
himself. Now, by all our hopes and wishes, the very man he ought
to be ! A well-made, tight-built, dapper little fellow ; with a ruddy
face, which is a letter of invitation to shake him by both hands at
once : and with a clear, blue honest eye, that it does one good to see
one's sparkling image in. " Ring the bell ! " " Ding, ding, ding ! "
the very bell is in a hurry. " Now for the shore who's for the
shore ? " " These gentlemen, I am sorry to say." They are away,
and never said, Good b'ye. Ah ! now they wave it from the little

Afloat. 1 1

boat. " Good b'ye ! Good b'ye ! " Three cheers from them ; three
more from us ; three more from them : and they are gone.

To and fro, to and fro, to and fro again a hundred times ! This
waiting for the latest mail-bags is worse than all. If wo could have
gone off in the midst of that last burst, we should have started
triumphantly : but to lie here, two hours and more in the damp fog,
neither staying at home nor going abroad, is letting one gradually
down into the very depths of dulness and low spirits. A speck in the
mist, at last ! That's something. It is tho boat we wait for ! That's
more to the purpose. The captain appears on the paddle-box with his
speaking trumpet ; the officers take their stations ; all hands are on
the alert ; the flagging hopes of the passengers revive ; the cooks pause
in their savoury work, and look out with faces full of interest. The
boat comes alongside ; the bags are dragged in anyhow, and flung down
for the moment anywhere. Three cheers more : and as the first one
riugs upon our ears, the vessel throbs like a strong giant that has just
received the breath of life ; the two great wheels turn fiercely round
for the first time ; and the noble ship, with wind and tide astern,
breaks proudly through the lashed and foaming water.



We all dined together that day ; and a rather formidable party we
were : no fewer than eighty-six strong. The vessel being pretty deep
in the water, with all her coals on board and so many passengers, and
the weather being calm and quiet, there was but little motion ; so that
before the dinner was half over, even those passengers who were most
distrustful of themselves plucked up amazingly ; and those who in
the morning had returned to the universal question, " Are you a good
sailor? " a very decided negativo, now either parried the inquiry with
the evasive reply, " Oh ! I suppose I'm no worso than anybody else ; "
or, reckless of all moral obligations, answered boldly " Yes : " and
with somo irritation too, as though they would add, " I should like to
know what you see in me, sir, particularly, to justify suspicion ! "

Notwithstanding this high tone of courage and confidence, I could
not but observe that very few remained long over their wine ; and that
everybody had an unusual love of the open air ; and that the favourito
and most coveted seats were invariably those nearest to the door. The
tea-table, too, was by no means as well attended as the dinner-table ;
and there was less whist-playing than might have been expected.

Online LibraryCharles DickensAmerican notes, Pictures from Italy, and A child's history of England → online text (page 1 of 79)