Charles Dickens.

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The Works of Charles Dickens

In Thirty-four Volumes.






Printed from the Edition tfiat iras carefully corrected by the Author
in 1867 and 1868.







In One Volume







As early as July, 1839, Dickens was revolving the project of
H visit to the United States. His commercial success, as has
elsewhere been shown, was by no means on a level with his
fame and popularity. He was caressing the idea of a weekly
paper of his own, which took shape in Master Humphrey's
Clock, and he " was ready to contract to go " either to Ireland
or America, "and to write from thence a series of papers
illustrative of the places and people I see, introducing local
tales, traditions, and legends, something after the plan of
\Yashington Irving's Alhambra.""

The States have their local legends and traditions, of old
adventurous days under Elizabeth, of Indian wars, of all that
Hawthorne has preserved and adorned from times of Puritanism
and Revolution. But the American Notes have nothing to sav
about things historical and antiquarian. Despite this change
of plan, the trip to America was devised in the interests of
literary material. The popularity of Dickens in America, mean-
while, became a louder echo of his popularity at home. But
it cannot have been of much commercial value. Till recently
the two countries preyed on each other's literature. Copy-
right there was none. A system of "involuntary exchanges"


prevailed, to use the Aristotelian phrase, and the exchange
was heavily in favour of America. In Scott's time, Cooper,
the novelist, attempted to invent some scheme for securing
profit to Sir Walter out of his American circulation ; but
Scott seems to have been but moderately interested, and
very far from hopeful. He did not wish the Americans to
be obliged to pay a high price for his works, and, always
in need of money, clearly expected no gains from this
quarter. Dickens was more sanguine and pugnacious, being
a much younger man. He hoped to obtain some advantages
for English authors, but did not live to see the present
arrangement, so lucrative to popular authors.

Not till September, 1841, had Dickens definitely made up
his mind to visit America. He started immediately after
the new year of 1842, and his voyage is graphically
described in the Notes. Readers interested in this "Inter-
national Episode " should compare with American Notes the
letters in the Life by Mr. Forster. The Notes are, in part,
compiled from the letters, but the letters are much more
outspoken. A suppressed Introduction, given in the Life, is
"necessary to be read," as the author declared. Unlike Mr.
N. P. Willis and many other travellers, Dickens abstained,
as he says, from personalities. He made no allusions to the
politics of the day. He deemed it becoming to say nothing
about the splendours of his own reception. This was modest,
but, in practice, misleading. Dickens saw the States as a
wonderfully successful " lion " sees them ; consequently he did
not see them as a normal traveller does, nor see them as
they were. All impressions of hasty travel are chaotic ; much
more must the impressions of a man so feasted and crowded
be chaotic. But, omitting his welcome, and giving his
impressions with abstraction of that essential circumstance,


he could not make his Nat-ex really representative of
American life. For as correct a view of his experience as
possible, it is necessary to turn to his letters.

The general effect is not agreeable. Dickens had expected
much that he did not find, and he found a great deal that
he did not expect. He returned with the belief that the
view of America would convert any but a well-grounded
Radical into a Tory.

The traveller was very young, eager, and outspoken. He
was juvenile enough to suppose that the criticism of an alien
would have a salutary effect on any people. He persistently
aired his ideas about Copyright, and about Slavery. The
ideas have been justified by time. Slavery has ceased to
exist, and we have a measure of Copyright. Dickens, in
his degree, may have helped to strengthen the party of
Abolition, and the party (including all American men of
letters) in favour of Copyright. But he did not make himself
a persona grata by his freedom of speech, and, especially, he
irritated many of the newspapers. His opinion of them is
expressed with extreme vigour in the closing passages of his
American Notes.

An older, a less eager man than Dickens, would have en-
joyed the hospitality offered to him, and would neither have
introduced the question of slavery, nor indulged in any inter-
national criticism. Thus Thackeray, after his tour as a
lecturer in America, abstained from all but good words, and
uttered very few even of them. Mankind naturally resents
criticism from without. It does not do any good, even when
the criticised accept the justice of the judgment. Haw-
thorne's remarks on England are still, in many places, far
from agreeable reading, even where we agree with them. Mr.
Pickwick might have made his fortune by a book on the


Americans, "if he abused them enough," as the elder Mr.
Weller remarked. But the private benefit to Mr. Pickwick
would almost have been a public loss. Many Americans
could see where Dickens's comments " touched them nearly ; "
but no one loves to be so touched, especially in public.
Dickens maintained, in his suppressed chapter, that he spoke
no more freely about " foibles and abuses abroad " than about
foibles and abuses at home. But at home and abroad are
different places. The freedoms licensed in the family circle
are not welcomed in the mouth of a stranger. Public-
opinion, in America, resented the Notes. Some forms of
reply were obvious. The Republic did not introduce slavery ;
it was a bequest of our own moral ancestors. Once in-
troduced, vast interests were entangled in this nefarious
legacy of ours. An Englishman ought rather to feel re-
morseful sympathy, than intrude with his censure. We settled
with much difficulty, and at incalculable expense, our far
less gigantic problem of slavery in the West Indies. Not
infrequently the sinners in America, sinners in bad manners
(as Dickens himself observed) or in literary piracy, or in
promiscuous shooting, turned out to be men of English birth.
An acquaintance of my own, many years ago, saw a fight
with revolvers in a cafe at New Orleans. " American
manners, 1 " he murmured, sotto voce. " I would ask you to
observe, sir," said a stranger, "that one of those men is
Scotch, and the other Welsh." It might have been replied
that they do not behave so in Wales and Scotland, but the
stranger's remark was telling.

America, fifty or sixty years ago, was not what it is now.
Not only did slavery flourish, but the Western states were
extremely unkempt, as Dickens^s descriptions of travelling
prove. It is interesting to compare his account of the


Mississippi, which he detested, with the charming pictures
of a rather more recent date, in Mark Twain's Tom
Saieyer and Huckleberry Finn. Mark sees the life from
within, and in a golden haze of memory. Dickens saw the
life from without, as a hurried, uncomfortable, and much-
gaped-at traveller sees it. Mark admits the shootings, the
feuds, the slavery, the poverty, the lounging habits of the
loafers. But his picture is genial and attractive. The picture
by Dickens is drawn in sharp outlines, with angry colours.
And now all is altered, out of all knowledge : both pictures
are historical.

Historical, too, is the study of the voyage as it used to be,
with the wonderful description of the agonies of the steamer
in a head-wind. For the early bloom of Dickens's reception
the letters must be consulted. " It is no nonsense, and no
common feeling," said Dr. Channing, "it is all heart;" and
Dickens, at first, felt that it was so. The extraordinary cir-
cumstance was the revival of this heartiness, when Dickens
revisited America, at the close of his career. Mr. Bret
Harte's beautiful poem, written when the news arrived of
Dickens's death, illustrates a genuine sentiment. Considering
this, it would be in a high degree ungracious to revive, in
this place, the severities of Dickens's comments on obsolete
points in American manners ; severities most acrid in his
letters. About his public speeches on Copyright enough
has been said. His lectures were not welcomed : they pro-
voked cynical retorts. The man and the hour, in the ques-
tion of Copyright, had not come. " My blood so boiled as I
thought of the monstrous injustice, that I felt as if I were
twelve feet high when I thrust it down their throats'" after
dinner ! We look at the portrait of Dickens at this date,
almost girlishly pretty, with long hair, dressed in an exuberant


fashion, eagerness shining on every feature, and we recognise
that he behaved like a very young man, and spoke when
silence would have been golden. As the French say, he
missed an invaluable opportunity to hold his tongue. He
caused irritation, and, in turn, was provoked by the very
vehemence of his welcome, by the indiscretions of popular
curiosity. The circumstances were " febrile,"" as he said
himself; so he declined public invitations, and went on the
rapid tour described in the Notes. He admits that he "never
once was asked an offensive or unpolite question," except by
Englishmen. But he was travelling in a country still very raw,
and he was constitutionally sensitive. The " febrile " climate
had its effect. He thought it " impossible for any Englishman
to live here and be happy." Sometimes he " was so exhausted
that he could hardly stand," and then admirers made demands
on his time and vigour. He played Homc> Sweet Home, at
night, with feeling, on the accordion. Necessarily his im-
pressions, in this condition of affairs, were such as he records
in the Notes. He made friends among such Americans as
were like Englishmen, including Mr. Felton, a professor of
Greek, but he did not make friends of the people at large.
He found them oddly flat and dull, whereas, whatever faults
an American may have, he generally strikes us as lively. Pro-
bably they were not lively in swamps such as Cairo was in his
description. A people is like a poet like Tennyson as drawn
by himself. No amount of praise makes up for a word of
dispraise, and in the Notes such words abound. "The
Americans are friendly, earnest, hospitable, kind, frank, very
often accomplished, far less prejudiced than you would
suppose, warm-hearted, fervent, and enthusiastic ; " but the
men spit, and shoot, and own slaves, and pirate our books,
and the women, though beautiful, fade earlv, and have not


good figures. And the Press is terrible. That is the gist of
the Notes. Moreover, the mountain scenery is inferior to that
of Glencoe. The prairie, the boundless prairie, is less im-
pressive than Salisbury Plain, and has no Stonehenge. The
enthusiastic passages on Niagara, and on certain asylums, could
not make Americans relish these criticisms. Mr. Park Ben-
jamin opened a reply with these words in capitals " DICKENS
is A FOOL AND A LIAR " and this on the strength of a forged
letter attributed to the author of Pickwick. The visit did
not draw closer the bonds between the old country and the
new. Dickens's books, like all good literature, made for inter-
national amity, but his presence in America had no such
effect. Mark Tapley in the States " made them all stark
staring raving mad across the water, 11 says the author of
Martin Chuzzlewit. He was accused of ingratitude for hospi-
tality, and all criticism of our hosts has, indeed, an inhospi-
table air. In the end, Chuzzlewit seems to have been regarded
as mere laughable caricature ; at the moment it must have
been acutely irritating. An English statement of the pre-
sumed sentiment of America may be found in Bon Gaultier's
ballads. Happily a new generation, in 1868, showed a truly
Christian spirit of forgiving and forgetting.


It has already been shown, in the preface to Mat-tin Chuzzle*
u'/'tf, that the novel and the Christmas Carol were, financially,
disappointing. Dickens was at variance with his publishers,
Messrs. Chapman and Hall, and was negotiating with Messrs.
Bradbury and Evans. On November 1, 1843, he told Mr.
Forster that, " if he had made money, 11 he would " fade


away from the public eye for a year, and enlarge my stock
of description and observation by seeing countries new to
me ; which it is most necessary to me that I should see, and
which, with an increasing family, I can scarcely hope to see
at all, unless I see them now."" His journey was to be, in
a way, educational ; he felt the need of wider experience.
He wanted a rest ; he feared that he might tire the public
by constant appearances. Italy had long attracted him,
and he wisely decided to enjoy the country while he was
young; not to visit it, like Scott, "a driveller, in his miser-
able decay.""

In July, 1844, he set forth on the tour which the Pictures
from Italy describe. His letters add little to what is told
in the book. He writes throughout in good humour.
Sirocco, cold, rain at Genoa, vermin and dirt, did not disturb
his temper. He had not expected to carry with him " the
comforts o 1 the Saut-market." The beauty of the Mediter-
ranean, the picturesque towns, prosperous or decaying, and
the pleasant character of the Italians

" With all their faults a nice and natural people,"

as Clough says repaid Dickens for exile and discomfort.
He was no peevish cockney tourist. At the same time, he
had no special interest in history, archaeology, or art. He
greatly delighted in what he saw, but he did not attempt
minute research ; nor, when he came to publish the " pictures "
in the Dally New, did he try to instruct his readers. His
intention was to offer "pictures," sketches and studies in
words views of Italy seen through his own temperament.
We note how the fire-flies impressed him, and his surprise
that Juvenal never borrows an illustration from them.
Indeed, the writer does not remember an allusion to the


flitting lanterns of these insects in ancient literature.
Dickens does not seem to have busied himself much more
with classical studies in Italy than Scott did, much as he
was moved, like Chateaubriand, by the desolation of the
Campagna and the ruins of the Colosseum. His interest
lay in the spectacle of life, with a few thoughts on the
contrast of things faded and dead, which Du Bellay and
Spenser dwell on in "The Ruines of Rome." He did not
care to mix in Italian society, and delivered scarcely any of
his letters of introduction. He took a holiday, in fact,
sauntering, or walking with his usual energy when the
weather permitted, bathing, letting the new and old sink
into his memory and imagination. He abstained from
discussing politics, though naturally opposed to the system
of small states, now destroyed with results which make a
new "bankruptcy of Liberalism." His work was chiefly
confined to The Chimes, suggested by the bells of Genoa.
On this head, and on the way in which he missed the London
crowd when composing, enough has been said in the preface
to the Christmas Books. He suffered from a pain which had
attacked him in his boyhood, and his fervent fancy took the
shape of a very strange dream of his dead sister-in-law.
Cool reflection analyzed the dream into its normal elements ;
but "for you, said the spirit, the Catholic religion is the
tast." In so earnest a Protestant this dream may indicate
a subconscious effect produced by the spectacle of the
ancient faith in its ancient seat; but Dickens remained
averse to monks and friars a rule which admitted of
exceptions in favour of individuals. He made a flying visit
to London in winter, and read Ttie Chimes aloud to a set of
friends, so successfully that his idea of giving public readings
dates from that day. In November, 1844, he started, with


an excellent courier, but without his wife, on the tour which
is described in the Pictures. The letters to Mr. Forster
contain a brilliant passage about his delight in Venice :
"I never saw the thing before that I should be afraid
to describe. ... I have never yet seen any praise of
Titian's great picture of the Assumption of the Virgin at
Venice, which soared half so high as the beautiful and
amazing reality. It is perfection." Dickens was a pre-
Ruskinian traveller, and his delight in what was really
excellent is entirely genial and unforced. With Rome he
was, at first and only at first, disappointed. Florence,
Venice, and Genoa remained, to his thinking, the paragons of
the cities of Italy. He left Genoa in June, 1845, travelling
through Switzerland. Beautiful as he found it, he longed
for "the pleasant looks and cheerful words," and "sighed
for the dirt again," the dirt of Italy.

His book, he says, contains mere " shadows in water "-
reflections very brilliant and effective. Marseilles reappears
in the best chapter of Little Dorr it, the prison -scene ; and in
the same work he introduces one of the Italian sailors whom
he had been studying. The Italy of to-day is, perhaps, as
unlike the Italy which he saw, as the America of to-day is
unlike that of the American Notes. It is curious that the
Western people, practically English under new conditions,
were so infinitely less sympathetic than the Latin race to a
man who was, on the whole, so thoroughly English as Dickens.
He seems to have felt the need of a break in the routine of
life and work, and he soon went abroad again, to Switzer-
land. The truth is that, except Copperfield, his central
masterpieces now lay behind him. His fancy was fatigued,
his health far from good, and he needed change and repose,
though repose was uncongenial to him. His travels leave no


very notable mark on his work, which is always best on
English soil. But his nature was widened by the experiences,
and the tolerance which welcomed "the smiling face, the
courteous manner, the light-hearted, pleasant, simple air,
so many jewels set in dirt." This temper makes the Pictures
from Italy a much more agreeable book than the American





Going Away ........... 1


The Passage out . . . . . . . . .11

Boston . . . . . . . . . ' . . -28


An American Railroad. Lowell and its Factory System . . 72


\Vorcester. The Connecticut River. Hartford. New Haven.

To New York 83

New York ... 94


Philadelphia, and its Solitary Prison 115




Washington. The Legislature. And the President's House . 133


A Night Steamer on the Potomac River. Virginia Road, and
a Black Driver. Richmond. Baltimore. The Harrisburg
Mail, and a Glimpse of the City. A Canal Boat . . . 152


Some further Account of the Canal Boat, its Domestic Economy,
and its Passengers. Journey to Pittsburg across the Alleghany
Mountains. Pittsburg ... .... 172


From Pittsburg to Cincinnati in a Western Steamboat. Cin-
cinnati . 185


From Cincinnati to Louisville in another Western Steamboat ;

arid from Louisville to St. Louis in another. St. Louis . IDG

A Jaunt to the Looking-glass Prairie and back .... 210


Return to Cincinnati. A Stage-coach Ride from that City to
Columbus, and thence to Sandusky. So, by Lake Erie, to
the Falls of Niagara 220


In Canada ; Toronto ; Kingston ; Montreal ; Quebec ; St. John's.
In the United States again ; Lebanon ; The Shaker Village ;
West Point . , . . , 240



The Passage Home ......... 262


Slaver}- 272


Concluding Remarks . . . . . . . 291



The Reader's Passport 309

Going through France 312

Lyons, the Rhone, and the Goblin of Avignon .... 321

Avignon to Genoa 332

Genoa and its Neighbourhood 338

To Parma, Modena, and Bologna ....... 374

Through Bologna and Ferrara 385

An Italian Dream . . . . 392

By Verona, Mantua, and Milan, across the Pass of the Simplon

into Switzerland ....... . 402

To Rome by Pisa and Siena . .420

Rome . . . 436

A Rapid Diorama

To Naples . . 488

Naples .... 491

Pompeii Herculaneum 496

Pjestum 499

Vesuvius 501

Return to Naples 505

Monte Cassino 500

Florence .... . f>13













MY readers have opportunities of judging for themselves
whether the influences and tendencies which I distrusted in
America, had, at that time, any existence but in my imagina-
tion. They can examine for themselves whether there has
been anything in the 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-going, 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, otherwise than
in favour of the United States. I have many friends in
America, I feel a grateful interest in the country, I hope
and believe it will successfully work out a problem of the
highest importance to the \f\\o\e human race. To represent
me as viewing AMERICA with ill-nature, coldness, or animosity,
is merely to do a very foolish 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 eighteen-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 even 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 giraffe
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-house
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 : these were truths which I really could not, for the
moment, bring my mind at all to bear upon or comprehend.

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 1 of 43)