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firmly, than you are sure to pull it down and dash it into
fragments : and this, because directly you reward a benefactor,
or a public servant, you distrust him, merely because he ?,y
rewarded ; and immediately apply yourselves to find out,
either that' you have been too bountiful in your acknowledg-
ments, or he remiss in his deserts. Any man who attains a
high place among you, from the President downwards, may
date his downfall from that moment ; for any printed lie that
any notorious villain pens, although it militate directly
against the character and conduct of a life, appeals at once
to your distrust, and is believed. You. will strain at a gnat
in the way of trustfulness and confidence, however fairly won
and well deserved ; but you will swallow a whole caravan of
camels, if they be laden wjth unworthy doubts and mean
suspicions. Is this well, think you, or likely to elevate the
character of the governors or the governed, among you ? "


The answer is invariably the same : " There's freedom of
opinion here, you know. Every man thinks for himself, and
we are not to be easily overreached. That's how our people
come to be suspicious. 11

Another prominent feature is the love of " smart " dealing :
which gilds over many a swindle and gross breach of trust ;
many a defalcation, public and private ; and enables many a
knave to hold his head up with the best, who well deserves
a halter; though it has not been without its retributive
operation, for this smartness has done more in a few years to
impair the public credit, and to cripple the public resources,
than dull honesty, however rash, could have effected in a
century. The merits of a broken speculation, or a bank-
ruptcy, or of a successful scoundrel, are not gauged by its or
his observance of the golden rule, " Do as you would be done
by, 11 but are considered with reference to their smartness. I
recollect, on both occasions of our passing that ill-fated Cairo
on the Mississippi, remarking on the bad effects such gross
deceits must have when they exploded, in generating a want
of confidence abroad, and discouraging foreign investment:
but I was given to understand that this was a very smart
scheme by which a deal of money had been made : and that
its smartest feature was, that they forgot these things abroad,
in a very short time, and speculated again, as freely as ever.
The following dialogue I have held a hundred times : " Is
it not a very disgraceful circumstance that such a man as
So-and-so should be acquiring a large property by the most
infamous and odious means, and notwithstanding all the
crimes of which he has been guilty, should be tolerated and
abetted by your Citizens ? He is a public nuisance, is he not ? **.
"Yes, sir. 11 "A convicted liar? 11 "Yes, sir. 11 "He has
been kicked, and cuffed, and caned? 11 "Yes, sir. 11 "And
he is utterly dishonourable, debased, and profligate ? " " Yes,
sir." " In the name of wonder, then, what is his merit ? *
" Well, sir, he is a smart man. 11

In like manner, all kinds of deficient and impolitic usages


are referred to the national love of trade; though, oddly
enough, it would be a weighty charge against a foreigner that
he regarded the Americans as a trading people. The love
of trade is assigned as a reason for that comfortless custom,
so very prevalent in country towns, of married persons living
in hotels, having no fireside of their own, and seldom meet-
ing from early morning until late at night, but at the hasty
public meals. The love of trade is a reason why the litera-
ture of America is to remain for ever unprotected : " For we
are a trading people, and don't care for poetry : " though we
do, by the way, profess to be very proud of our poets : while
healthful amusements, cheerful means of recreation, and whole-
some fancies, must fade before the stern utilitarian joys of

These three characteristics are strongly presented at every
turn, full in the stranger's view. But, the foul growth of
America has a more tangled root than this ; and it strikes its
fibres, deep in its licentious Press.

Schools may be erected, East, West, North, and South;
pupils be taught, and masters reared, by scores upon scores
of thousands ; colleges may thrive, churches may be crammed,
temperance may be diffused, and advancing knowledge in all
other forms walk through the land with giant strides : but
while the newspaper press of America is in, or near, its
present abject state, high moral improvement in that country
is hopeless. Year by year, it must and will go back ; year
by year, the tone of public feeling must sink lower down;
year by year, the Congress and the Senate must become of
less account before all decent men ; and year by year, the
memory of the Great Fathers of the Revolution must be
outraged more and more, in the bad life of their degenerate

Among the herd of journals which are published in the
States, there are some, the reader scarcely need be told, of
character and credit. From personal intercourse with accom-
plished gentlemen connected with publications of this class, I


have derived both pleasure and profit. But the name of
these is Few, and of the others Legion; and the influence
of the good, is powerless to counteract the moral poison
of the bad.

Among the gentry of America ; among the well-informed
and moderate : in the learned professions ; at the bar and on
the bench : there is, as there can be, but one opinion, in
reference to the vicious character of these infamous journals.
It is sometimes contended I will not say strangely, for it is
natural to seek excuses for such a disgrace that their in-
fluence is not so great as a visitor would suppose. I must
be pardoned for saying that there is no warrant for this
plea, and that every fact and circumstance tends directly
to the opposite conclusion.

When any man, of any grade of desert in intellect or
character, can climb to any public distinction, no matter
what, in America, without first grovelling down upon the
earth, and bending the knee before this monster of depravity ;
when any private excellence is safe from its attacks ; when
any social confidence is left unbroken by it, or any tie of
social decency and honour is held in the least regard ; when
any man in that free country has freedom of opinion, and
presumes to think for himself, and speak for himself, without
humble reference to a censorship which, for its rampant ignor-
ance and base dishonesty, he utterly loathes and despises in
his heart; when those who most acutely feel its infamy and
the reproach it casts upon the nation, and who most denounce
it to each other, dare to set their heels upon, and crush it
openly, in the sight of all men : then, I will believe that its
influence is lessening, and men are returning to their manly
senses. But while that Press has its evil eye in every house,
and its black hand in every appointment in the state, from
a president to a postman ; while, with ribald slander for its
only stock in trade, it is the standard literature of an enor-
mous class, who must find their reading in a newspaper, or
they will not read at all; so long must its odium be upon


the country's head, and so long must the evil it works, be
plainly visible in the Republic.

To those who are accustomed to the leading English
journals, or to the respectable journals of the Continent of
Europe; to those who are accustomed to anything else in
print and paper; it would be impossible, without an amount
of extract for which I have neither space nor inclination, to
convey an adequate idea of this frightful engine in America.
But if any man desire confirmation of my statement on this
head, let him repair to any place in this city of London,
where scattered numbers of these publications are to be
found; and there, let him form his own opinion.*

It would be well, there can be no doubt, for the American
people as a whole, if they loved the Real less, and the Ideal
somewhat more. It would be well, if there were greater
encouragement to lightness of heart and gaiety, and a wider
cultivation of what is beautiful, without being eminently and
directly useful. But here, I think the general remonstrance,
"we are a new country, 11 which is so often advanced as an
excuse for defects which are quite unjustifiable, as being, of
right, only the slow growth of an old one, may be very
reasonably urged: and I yet hope to hear of there being
some other national amusement in the United States, besides
newspaper politics.

They certainly are not a humorous people, and their
temperament always impressed me as being of a dull and
gloomy character. In shrewdness of remark, and a certain
cast-iron quaintness, the Yankees, or people of New England,
unquestionably take the lead; as they do in most other
evidences of intelligence. But in travelling about, out of
the large cities as I have remarked in former parts of these

* NOTE TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION. Or let him refer to an able, and perfectly
truthful article, in The Foreign Quarterly Review, published in the present
month of October; to which my attention has been attracted, since these
sheets have been passing through the press. He will find some specimens
there, by no means remarkable to any man who has been in America, but
sufficiently striking to one who has not.


volumes I was quite oppressed by the prevailing seriousness
and melancholy air of business : which was so general and
unvarying, that at every new town I came to, I seemed to
meet the very same people whom I had left behind me, at
the last. Such defects as are perceptible in the national
manners, seem, to me, to be referable, in a great degree, to
this cause : which has generated a dull, sullen persistence in
coarse usages, and rejected the graces of life as undeserving
of attention. There is no doubt that Washington, who was
always most scrupulous and exact on points of ceremony,
perceived the tendency towards this mistake, even in his
time, and did his utmost to correct it.

I cannot hold with other writers on these subjects that
the prevalence of various forms of dissent ill America, is
in any way attributable to the non-existence there of an
established church : indeed, I think the temper of the people,
if it admitted of such an Institution being founded amongst
them, would lead them to desert it, as a matter of course,
merely because it was established. But, supposing it to exist,
I doubt its probable efficacy in summoning the wandering
sheep to one great fold, simply because of the immense
amount of dissent which prevails at home; and because I
do not find in America any one form of religion with which
we in Europe, or even in England, are unacquainted.
Dissenters resort thither in great numbers, as other people
do, simply because it is a land of resort; and great settle-
ments of them are founded, because ground can be purchased,
and towns and villages reared, where there were none of the
human creation before. But even the Shakers emigrated from
England ; our country is not unknown to Mr. Joseph Smith,
the apostle of Mormonism, or to his benighted disciples ; I
have beheld religious scenes myself in some of our populous
towns which can hardly be surpassed by an American camp-
meeting; and I am not aware that any instance of supersti-
tious imposture on the one hand, and superstitious credulity
on the other, has had its origin in the United States, which


we cannot more than parallel by the precedents of Mrs.
Southcote, Mary Tofts the rabbit-breeder, or even Mr. Thorn
of Canterbury : which latter case arose, some time after the
dark ages had passed away.

The Republican Institutions of America* undoubtedly lead
the people to assert their self-respect and their equality ; but
a traveller is bound to bear those Institutions in his mind,
and not hastily to resent the near approach of a class of
strangers, who, at home, would keep aloof. This charac-
teristic, when it was tinctured with no foolish pride, and
stopped short of no honest service, never offended me ; and
I very seldom, if ever, experienced its rude or unbecoming
display. Once or twice it was comically developed, as in
the following case ; but this was an amusing incident, and
not the rule, or near it.

I wanted a pair of boots at a certain town, for I had none
to travel in, but those with the memorable cork soles, which
were much too hot for the fiery decks of a steamboat. I
therefore sent a message to an artist in boots, importing,
with my compliments, that I should be happy to see him,
if he would do me the polite favour to call. He very kindly
returned for answer, that he would "look round" at six
o'clock that evening.

I was lying on the sofa, with a book and a wine-glass, at
about that time, when the door opened, and a gentleman in
a stiff cravat, within a year or two on either side of thirty,
entered, in his hat and gloves; walked up to the looking-
glass ; arranged his hair ; took off his gloves ; slowly produced
a measure from the uttermost depths of his coat-pocket;
and requested me, in a languid tone, to "unfix" my straps.
I complied, but looked with some curiosity at his hat, which
was still upon his head. It might have been that, or it
might have been the heat but he took it off. Then, he
sat himself down on a chair opposite to me ; rested an arm
on each knee; and, leaning forward very much, took from
the ground, by a great effort, the specimen of metropolitan


workmanship which I had just pulled off: whistling,
pleasantly, as he did so. He turned it over and over ;
surveyed it with a contempt no language can express; and
inquired if I wished him to fix me a boot like that ? I
courteously replied, that provided the boots were large
enough, I would leave the rest to him ; that if convenient
and practicable, I should not object to their bearing some
resemblance to the model then before him; but that I
would be entirely guided by, and would beg to leave the
whole subject to, his judgment and discretion. "You an't
partickler, about this scoop in the heel, I suppose then ? "
says he: "we don't foller that, here." I repeated my last
observation. He looked at himself in the glass again ; went
closer to it to dash a grain or two of dust out of the corner
of his eye ; and settled his cravat. All this time, my leg
and foot were in the air. "Nearly ready, sir?" I inquired.
" Well, pretty nigh," he said ; " keep steady." I kept as
steady as I could, both in foot and face ; and having by
this time got the dust out, and found his pencil-case, he
measured me, and made the necessary notes. When he had
finished, he fell into his old attitude, and taking up the
boot again, mused for some time. "And this," he said, at
last, "is an English boot, -is it? This is a London boot,
eh?" "That, sir," I replied, "is a London boot. He
mused over it again, after the manner of Hamlet with
Yorick's skull ; nodded his head, as who should say, " I pity
the Institutions that led to the production of this boot ! " ;
rose; put up his pencil, notes, and paper glancing at him-
self in the glass, all the time put on his hat ; drew on his
gloves very slowly ; and finally walked out. When he had
been gone about a minute, the door reopened, and his hat
and his head reappeared. He looked round the room, and at
the boot again, which was still lying on the floor; appeared
thoughtful for a minute ; and then said " Well, good arter-
noon." "Good afternoon, sir," said I: and that was the
end of the interview.


There is but one other head on which I wish to offer a
remark ; and that has reference to the public health. In so
vast a country, where there are thousands of millions of acres
of land yet unsettled and uncleared, and on every rood of
which, vegetable decomposition is annually taking place ;
where there are so many great rivers, and such opposite
varieties of climate; there cannot fail to be a great amount
of sickness at certain seasons. But I may venture to say,
after conversing with many members of the medical profes-
sion in America, that I am not singular in the opinion that
much of the disease which does prevail, might be avoided, if
a few common precautions were observed. Greater means
of personal cleanliness, are indispensable to this end ; the
custom of hastily swallowing large quantities of animal food,
three times a-day, and rushing back to sedentary pursuits
after each meal, must be changed; the gentler sex must go
more wisely clad, and take more healthful exercise; and in
the latter clause, the males must be included also. Above
all, in public institutions, and throughout the whole of every
town and city, the system of ventilation, and drainage, and
removal of impurities requires to be thoroughly revised.
There is no local Legislature in America which may not
study Mr. Chadwick's excellent Report upon the Sanitary
Condition of our Labouring Classes, with immense advantage.

I HAVE now arrived at the close of this book. I have
little reason to believe, from certain warnings I have had
since I returned to England, that it will be tenderly or
favourably received by the American people; and as I have
written the Truth in relation to the mass of those who form
their judgments and express their opinions, it will be seen
that I have no desire to court, by any adventitious means,
the popular applause.

It is enough for me, to know, that what I have set down in
these pages, cannot cost me a single friend on the other side


of the Atlantic, who is, in anything, deserving of the name.
For the rest, I put my trust, implicitly, in the spirit in
which they have been conceived and penned ; and I can bide
my time.

I have made no reference to my reception, nor have I
suffered it to influence me in what I have written ; for, in
either c<ose, I should have offered but a sorry acknowledgment,
compared with that I bear within my breast, towards those
partial readers of my former books, across the Water, who
met me with an open hand, and not with one that closed
upon an iron muzzle.



AT a Public Dinner given to me on Saturday the 18th of
April, 1868, in the City of New York, by two hundred
representatives of the Press of the United States of America,
I made the following observations among others :

"So much of my voice has lately been heard in the land,
that I might have been contented with troubling you no
further from my present standing-point, were it not a duty
with which I henceforth charge myself, not only here but on
every suitable occasion, whatsoever and wheresoever, to express
my high and grateful sense of my second reception in America,
and to bear my honest testimony to the national generosity
and magnanimity. Also, to declare how astounded I have
been by the amazing changes I have seen around me on every
side, changes moral, changes physical, changes in the amount
of land subdued and peopled, changes in the rise of vast
new cities, changes in the growth of older cities almost out
of recognition, changes in the graces and amenities of life,
changes in the Press, without whose advancement no advance-
ment can take place anywhere. Nor am I, believe me, so
arrogant as to suppose that in five and twenty years there
have been no changes in me, and that I had nothing to learn


and no extreme impressions to correct when I was here first.
And this brings me to a point on which I have, ever since
I landed in the United States last November, observed a
strict silence, though sometimes tempted to break it, but in
reference to which I will, with your good leave, take you
into my confidence now. Even the Press, being human, may
be sometimes mistaken or misinformed, and I rather think
that I have in one or two rare instances observed its infor-
mation to be not strictly accurate with reference to myself.
Indeed, I have, now and again, been more surprised by
printed news that I have read of myself, than by any printed
news that I have ever read in my present state of existence.
Thus, the vigour and perseverance with which I have for some
months past been collecting materials for, and hammering
away at, a new book on America has much astonished me;
seeing that all that time my declaration has been perfectly
well known to my publishers on both sides of the Atlantic,
that no consideration on earth would induce me to write
one. But what I have intended, what I have resolved upon
(and this is the confidence I seek to place in you) is, on my
return to England, in my own person, in my own Journal,
to bear, for the behoof of my countrymen, such testimony
to the gigantic changes in this country as I have hinted at
to-night. Also, to record that wherever I have been, in the
smallest places equally with the largest, I have been received
with unsurpassable politeness, delicacy, sweet temper, hospi-
tality, consideration, and with unsurpassable respect for the
privacy daily enforced upon me by the nature of my avoca-
tion here and the state of my health. This testimony, so
long as I live, and so long as my descendants have any legal
right in my books, I shall cause to be republished, as an
appendix to every copy of those two books of mine in which


I have referred to America. And this I will do and cause
to be done, not in mere love and thankfulness, but because
I regard it as an act of plain justice and honour.""

I said these words with the greatest earnestness that I
could lay upon them, and I repeat them in print here with
equal earnestness. So long as this book shall last, I hope
that they will form a part of it, and will be fairly read as
inseparable from my experiences and impressions of America.

May, 1868.




IF the readers of this volume will be so kind as to take their
credentials for the different places which are the subject of
its author's reminiscences, from the Author himself, perhaps
they may visit them, in fancy, the more agreeably, and with
a better understanding of what they are to expect.

Many books have been written upon Italy, affording many
means of studying the history of that interesting country,
and the innumerable associations entwined about it. I make
but little reference to that stock of information ; not at all
regarding it as a necessary consequence of my having had
recourse to the storehouse for my own benefit, that I should
reproduce its easily accessible contents before the eyes of my

Neither will there be found, in these pages, any grave exami-
nation into the government or misgovernment of any portion
of the country. No visitor of that beautiful land can fail to
have a strong conviction on the subject ; but as I chose when
residing there, a Foreigner, to abstain from the discussion of
any such questions with any order of Italians, so I would
rather not enter on the inquiry now. During my twelve
months' occupation of a house at Genoa, I never found that


authorities constitutionally jealous were distrustful of me ;
and I should be sorry to give them occasion to regret their
free courtesy, either to myself or any of my countrymen.

There is, probably, not a famous Picture or Statue in all
Italy, but could be easily buried under a mountain of printed
paper devoted to dissertations on it. I do not, therefore,
though an earnest admirer of Painting and Sculpture, ex-
patiate at any length on famous Pictures and Statues.

This Book is a series of faint reflections mere shadows in
the water of places to which the imaginations of most people
are attracted in a greater or less degree, on which mine had
dwelt for years, and which have some interest for all. The
greater part of the descriptions were written on the spot, and
sent home, from time to time, in private letters. I do not
mention the circumstance as an excuse for any defects they
may present, for it would be none; but as a guarantee to
the Reader that they were at least penned in the fulness of
the subject, and with the liveliest impressions of novelty
and freshness.

If they have ever a fanciful and idle air, perhaps the reader
will suppose them written in the shade of a Sunny Day, in
the midst of the objects of which they treat, and will like
them none the worse for having such influences of the country
upon them.

I hope I am not likely to be misunderstood by Professors

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 25 of 43)