American Notes for General Circulation

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Chapman and Hall, 1850 - Biography & Autobiography - 175 pages
American Notes for General Circulation is a travelogue by Charles Dickens detailing his trip to North America from January to June, 1842. Whilst there he acted as a critical observer of North American society, almost as if returning a status report on their progress. This can be compared to the style of his Pictures from Italy written four years later, where he wrote far more like a tourist. His American journey was also an inspiration for his novel Martin Chuzzlewit. Having arrived in Boston, he visited Lowell, New York, and Philadelphia, and travelled as far south as Richmond, as far west as St. Louis and as far north as Quebec. The American city he liked best was Boston - "the air was so clear, the houses were so bright and gay. The city is a beautiful one, and cannot fail, I should imagine, to impress all strangers very favourably." Further, it was close to the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind where Dickens encountered Laura Bridgman, who impressed him greatly.
 

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Page 64 - In its intention, I am well convinced that it is kind, humane, and meant for reformation ; but I am persuaded that those who devised this sytem of Prison Discipline, and those benevolent gentlemen who carry it into execution, do not know what it is that they are doing. I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers...
Page 43 - Secondly, nearly all these young ladies subscribe to circulating libraries. Thirdly, they have got up among themselves a periodical called THE LOWELL OFFERING, "a repository of original articles, written exclusively by females actively employed in the mills...
Page 134 - We were at the foot of the American Fall. I could see an immense torrent of water tearing headlong down from some great height, but had no idea of shape, or situation, or anything but vague immensity.
Page 58 - Single shuffle, double shuffle, cut and cross-cut: snapping his fingers, rolling his eyes, turning in his knees, presenting the backs of his legs in front, spinning about on his toes and heels like nothing but the man's fingers on the tambourine; dancing with two left legs, two right legs, two wooden legs, two wire legs, two spring legs — all sorts of legs and no legs — what is this to him?
Page 167 - In the name of wonder, then, what is his merit ? " " Well, sir, he is a smart man.
Page 25 - ... character, it is beautiful to behold her continual gladness, her keen enjoyment of existence, her expansive love, her unhesitating confidence, her sympathy with suffering, her conscientiousness, truthfulness, and hopefulness. • Such are a few fragments from the simple but most interesting and instructive history of Laura Bridgman. The name of her great benefactor and friend, who writes it, is Doctor Howe. There are not many persons, I hope and believe, who, after reading these passages, can...
Page 159 - Ran away, a negro girl called Mary. Has a small scar over her eye, a good many teeth missing, the letter A is branded on her cheek and forehead.
Page 114 - ... water's top ; now rolling past like monstrous bodies, their tangled roots showing like matted hair ; now glancing singly by like giant leeches ; and now writhing round and round in the vortex of some small whirlpool, like wounded snakes. The banks low, the trees dwarfish, the marshes swarming with frogs, the wretched cabins few and far apart, their inmates hollow-cheeked and pale, the weather very hot, mosquitoes penetrating into every crack and crevice of the boat, mud and slime on everything...
Page 39 - There is a great deal of jolting, a great deal of noise, a great deal of wall, not much window, a locomotive engine, a shriek, and a bell. The cars are like shabby omnibuses, but larger : holding thirty, forty, fifty, people. The seats, instead of stretching from end to end, are placed crosswise.
Page 116 - Then, such an oracle as she became in reference to the localities ! and such facetiousness as was displayed by the married ladies ! and such sympathy as was shown by the single ones ! and such peals of laughter as the little woman herself (who would just as soon have cried) greeted every jest with ! At last, there were the lights of St. Louis, and here was the wharf, and those were the steps : and the little woman covering her face with her hands, and laughing (or seeming to laugh) more than ever,...

About the author (1850)

Charles Dickens, perhaps the best British novelist of the Victorian era, was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on February 7, 1812. His happy early childhood was interrupted when his father was sent to debtors' prison, and young Dickens had to go to work in a factory at age twelve. Later, he took jobs as an office boy and journalist before publishing essays and stories in the 1830s. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, made him a famous and popular author at the age of twenty-five. Subsequent works were published serially in periodicals and cemented his reputation as a master of colorful characterization, and as a harsh critic of social evils and corrupt institutions. His many books include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and the couple had nine children before separating in 1858 when he began a long affair with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. Despite the scandal, Dickens remained a public figure, appearing often to read his fiction. He died in 1870, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.

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