American Notes: A Pickwickian Correspondence between Rach and Boze

Wherein we revisit our second week’s reading of American Notes (Week 43 of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club)–with a correspondence between our co-hosts; with a look-ahead to Week Three.

Friends, a little something different for you this week: a sampling of correspondence between Boze (“Mr. Pickwick”) and Rach (“Sam”) on our read-aloud adventure with American Notes! We hope you enjoy it.

And on this Halloween morning, I want to give a very special welcome today to our newest member and author, and Rach’s very dear opera-loving and Dickens-loving friend, Gabriela from Mexico! Warmest welcome to the Dickens Club, Gaby, and thank you so much for joining us! Gaby will be joining us at least by the time we get to the Christmas Books this December. We are all so very excited to have such a kind, thoughtful, warmhearted Dickens-enthusiast aboard for our adventure!

For other “General Mems,” please click here; for a look-ahead on our read this week, please click here.

A Pickwickian Correspondence…

My dear Mr Pickwick ~

I wonder whether Dickens was inspired by his extremely strange bout of seasickness when he (much later) wrote those trippy passages on John Jasper’s opium-induced dream state? But I do love it that he brings in Barnaby–perfect timing:

“…I think I can remember, in this universal indifference, having a kind of lazy joy—of fiendish delight, if anything so lethargic can be dignified with the title—in the fact of my wife being too ill to talk to me.  If I may be allowed to illustrate my state of mind by such an example, I should say that I was exactly in the condition of the elder Mr. Willet, after the incursion of the rioters into his bar at Chigwell.  Nothing would have surprised me.  If, in the momentary illumination of any ray of intelligence that may have come upon me in the way of thoughts of Home, a goblin postman, with a scarlet coat and bell, had come into that little kennel before me, broad awake in broad day, and, apologising for being damp through walking in the sea, had handed me a letter directed to myself, in familiar characters, I am certain I should not have felt one atom of astonishment: I should have been perfectly satisfied.  If Neptune himself had walked in, with a toasted shark on his trident, I should have looked upon the event as one of the very commonest everyday occurrences.”

Maybe it is more along the lines of Susanna Clarke’s eerie descriptions of the state of being “enchanted” by the mischievous fairies, a place where missing fingers and sudden appearances of gold and kings’ crowns or sceptres in one’s hand are nothing out of the common way…

Anyway–I have this feeling that I’ll be just as sad to leave our read-aloud journey with American Notes as I was to leave Edwin Drood. There is just something about reading Dickens aloud, as we’ve talked about, that brings out all the humor and that inimitable Dickensian detail!!!

I think if I’m going to make a recommendation for certain chapters in the Notes to focus on if one wants to get a taste of it but doesn’t have time for the whole thing, I really think the first two chapters are absolute gems of comedy and relatable travel travails! Thoughts?

“God bless that stewardess for her piously fraudulent account of January voyages!  God bless her for her clear recollection of the companion passage of last year, when nobody was ill, and everybody dancing from morning to night, and it was ‘a run’ of twelve days, and a piece of the purest frolic, and delight, and jollity!  All happiness be 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 be 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!”

It’s like, with American Notes, Dickens is using all of his experience as a witty sketch writer to bring the journey alive–so many passages are bringing the Sketches to mind. I will stop here before this gets too long…but, what did you think of our first few chapters? And is it completely weird that I am right now at the university library, checking out books on Lowell factory girls because of Chapter 4?

Ever your Sam,


p.s. While you’ve been on the railroad portion of your Pickwickian adventures to this Dingley Dell-ish wedding, have you seen any signs reminiscent of the one Dickens saw in the remotest parts of nowhere? “WHEN THE BELL RINGS, LOOK OUT FOR THE LOCOMOTIVE.” Be safe!!!!!

My dear Sam,

We’ve read so much Dickens aloud in the past couple weeks – A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, A Child’s Dream of a Star, which seems to have been dashed off during Dickens’s lunch break – but I keep coming back to American Notes, which feels like it belongs in the upper tier of the Dickens canon despite being a “mere” travelogue. But of course Dickens never writes anything in the conventional fashion – in Pictures from Italy, which we just started reading, there’s an old lady known as the Goblin of Avignon who dances around an oubliette yelling “voila le oubliette!” – and American Notes is jammed full of all the sly wit, whimsical musings and sharp satire that you would expect from the inventor of Jingle and Sam Weller. Seen through the eyes of Dickens, America becomes a land of nosy, obtrusive people who have never heard the word “privacy,” very fond of pigs and spitting tobacco, who dislike reading anything longer than a pamphlet but who have a penchant for pontificating at length on religion and politics to anyone who will listen. It’s been nearly two hundred years, but I can attest: Dickens gets us exactly right. There are portions of this book that read as though they were written yesterday. Americans don’t like having their quirks rendered with such accuracy, and it’s easy to see why his name was verboten in America for about twenty years after writing this book.

by Marcus Stone

You wrote, “There is just something about reading Dickens aloud … that brings out all the humor and that inimitable Dickensian detail!!” It’s hard for me to disentangle the joys of reading American Notes from the experience of reading American Notes aloud. Early Victorian England was only just discovering literacy and it’s said that those who could read used to buy copies of the latest installments of his books and read them aloud to the delight of excited crowds. I think we could recapture some of the magic of Dickens if we returned to the tradition today – as, indeed, you and I have discovered. Just as Shakespeare was made to be performed and seen, so Dickens was made to be read aloud.

You mentioned the influence of the sea voyage on Dickens’s later portrayal of John Jasper, but I’d like to ask you about the prisoner, the one who seems pretty conspicuously to have been the model for Doctor Manette. Surely I can’t be the only one to have noticed this? And to think that all during this trip he was storing up images and recollections that wouldn’t emerge for years, even decades, transfigured by the mysterious alchemy of his imagination.

Ever your Pickwick,

My dear Mr Pickwick,

I love this: “transfigured by the mysterious alchemy of his imagination”! Yes!

Our second week’s readings begin so innocuously, in Chapter 7—here, Dickens is in Philadelphia—with the “mild and modest  young quaker, who opened the discourse by informing me, in a grave whisper, that his grandfather was the inventor of cold-drawn castor oil,” and Dickens wondering whether “this is the first occasion on which the valuable medicine in question was ever used as a conversational aperient.”

Philadelphia is “a handsome city, but distractingly regular. After walking about it for an hour or two, I felt that I would have given the world for a crooked street.” I think he was homesick for the meandering streets of London? The streets that seem to live and move and have their being wrapping around the river. Or, say, the strange convergence of streets in Seven Dials or the circularity of Southwark, with streets—at least, by some of the Victorian maps I like to glance at—emanating out of a centerpoint like spokes in a wheel. The streets flash out, they meander, they grow out of odd corners or wrap around one another—a living thing.

But you know you had me with the question about Dr Manette, and his solitary confinement–I’ll focus on that today. (Because, as you know, everything in life relates to A Tale of Two Cities, and Sydney Carton.)

What a powerful essay Chapter 7 becomes, on the inhumane nature of solitary prisons, as Dickens focuses on the Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania and its experiment: “I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body: and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.”

The dreariness, the “dull repose and quiet” broken only by “some lone weaver’s shuttle” or the noise of the shoemaker—Dr Manette, again!—stifled by the thickness of the prison walls, and which “only serves to make the general stillness more profound.”

But I’ll quote it here more at length (emphasis mine):

“Over the head and face of every prisoner who comes into this melancholy house, a black hood is drawn; and in this dark shroud, an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and the living world, he is led to the cell from which he never again comes forth, until his whole term of imprisonment has expired.  He never hears of wife and children; home or friends; the life or death of any single creature.  He sees the prison-officers, but with that exception he never looks upon a human countenance, or hears a human voice.  He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years; and in the mean time dead to everything but torturing anxieties and horrible despair.

“His name, and crime, and term of suffering, are unknown, even to the officer who delivers him his daily food.  There is a number over his cell-door, and in a book of which the governor of the prison has one copy, and the moral instructor another: this is the index of his history.  Beyond these pages the prison has no record of his existence…”

by John McLenan

THIS IS DR MANETTE! “Buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years.” That constant theme in A Tale of Two Cities: “Buried how long?” “Almost eighteen years.” Our response is the horror of Mr Lorry as he comes to dig him out of his grave: “Gracious Creator of day! To be buried alive for eighteen years!” Manette has been buried so long in the North Tower of the Bastille that he has forgotten his identity, his name, and is only known to himself as “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.” When he is taken to stay with the Defarges, they have to keep Manette under lock and key, because he is so accustomed to it that he would not be able to handle the world if he didn’t have that sense of his confinement—and his shoemaking work to do. He keeps himself busily working, so as to concentrate the disordered mind and memory from its madness-inducing reveries and regrets.

In American Notes, Dickens describes a prisoner this way: “He stopped his work when we went in, took off his spectacles, and answered freely to everything that was said to him, but always with a strange kind of pause first, and in a low, thoughtful voice”; and again: “…as he said these words; and in the act of doing so, fell into a strange stare as if he had forgotten something.  A moment afterwards he sighed heavily, put on his spectacles, and went about his work again.”

And here is A Tale of Two Cities, and the very careful approach that must be taken when Lorry and Lucie come to metaphorically dig the doctor out of the grave that he is still in, mentally: “He [Dr Manette] had put up a hand between his eyes and the light…with a steadfastly vacant gaze, pausing in his work. He never looked at the figure before him, without first looking down on this side of himself, then on that, as if he had lost the habit of associating place with sound; he never spoke, without first wandering in this manner, and forgetting to speak.” And later: “The task of recalling him [Dr Manette] from the vacancy into which he always sank when he had spoken, was like recalling some very weak person from a swoon, or endeavouring, in the hope of some disclosure, to stay the spirit of a fast-dying man.”

Clearly, the experience of solitary confinement greatly moved, haunted, and angered Dickens—it is an inhumane torture that separates a person from his own identity and sanity, since he used it so powerfully seventeen years later (“almost eighteen years”!).

Ever your Sam,


p.s. I couldn’t agree more about reading Dickens aloud, and the comparison with seeing Shakespeare acted out. This needs to become a popular pastime! Is it time to plan that heist, and steal the culture’s itty-bitty attention span away from TikTok (yes, I now know what this is), to stretch it back to the length and breadth of Bleak House? Reading aloud might be the way to do it…

My dear Sam,

I loved what you said here: “I think he was homesick for the meandering streets of London? The streets that seem to live and move and have their being wrapping around the river.” I confess that I’m sometimes filled with a sense of despair when gazing at the monotonous grid map of an American city. My heart longs for the hills and curvatures of London or Prague. Ackroyd notes in his biography how Dickens felt that he would never have made it as a writer in America, that there was something uniquely English about him that could only flourish on solid English soil—and was not his soul, in a sense, London-shaped? Was there not something crooked and winding and ragged and grimy about it? Which perhaps explains why he was so beloved in that city, and why we love both him and London so much. Dickens was London and London was Dickens; he was London in human form.

I have to say, too, that I’m utterly charmed by Dickens’s gift for descriptiveness in the travel books that we’ve been reading—his way of painting a scene by listing three dozen objects in such a relentless, thunderous way that you almost feel buried beneath it. This, for example, from the Genoese portion of Pictures from Italy: “The great, heavy, stone balconies, one above another, and tier over tier; with here and there, one larger than the rest, towering high up—a huge marble platform; the doorless vestibules, massively barred lower windows, immense public staircases, thick marble pillars, strong dungeon-like arches, and dreary, dreaming, echoing vaulted chambers … the terrace gardens between house and house, with green arches of the vine, and groves of orange-trees, and blushing oleander in full bloom … the painted halls, mouldering, and blotting, and rotting in the damp corners, and still shining out in beautiful colours and voluptuous designs, where the walls are dry…” How one yearns to wander through that mind that saw everything, remembered everything. If it’s true that Dickens created whole worlds in his fiction, it’s only because he was such a patient and untiring observer of this one.

And seeing those attentive eyes turned on America is particularly surreal for an American reader, who’s spent his or her life reading Dickens novels set in London and Rochester… you begin to appreciate the scope of his observational powers anew when you see him describing your own country, and marveling at just how much he saw and understood. For American Notes to be enjoyed in its fullness, it needs to be read slowly over the course of a four-day train trip across country, the better to enjoy the “scraggly trees” and rusted smokestacks and narrow, muddy rivers as they pass outside the window.

Ever your Pickwick,


General Mems

Friends, I’ve chatted with several of our members, and we’ll be postponing our upcoming online chat (originally scheduled for 5 November) to 10 December. That way, we can talk about both of the “American works” together. (And we’re switching to Zoom rather than Google Meet.) If you’d like Rach to email you a Zoom invite link, please message–e.g. via the contact page–or email her.

If you’re counting, today is day 301 (and week 44) in our #DickensClub! It will be Week Three, the final week of American Notes, our eighth read of the group–one of the “extra” or “optional” reads. (All are “optional,” of course, and we’re thrilled for anyone joining in at any point!) Please feel free to comment below this post for the second week’s chapters, or use the hashtag #DickensClub if you’re commenting on twitter.

No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us. Heartfelt thanks to our dear Dickens Fellowship, The Dickens Society, and the Charles Dickens Letters Project for retweets, and to all those liking, sharing, and encouraging our Club, including Gina Dalfonzo, Dr. Christian Lehmann and Dr. Pete Orford. Huge “thank you” also to The Circumlocution Office (on twitter also!) for providing such a marvelous online resource for us.

And for any more recent members or for those who might be interested in joining: the revised two-and-a-half year reading schedule can be found here. Boze’s introduction to American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit can be found here; Chris’s supplement of Peter Ackroyd’s introductions can be found here. If you’ve been reading along with us but aren’t yet on the Member List, we would love to add you! Please feel free to message Rach here on the site, or on twitter.

A Look-Ahead to Week Three of American Notes (1-7 November, 2022)

This week, we’ll be reading Chapters 13-18 American Notes.

If you’d like to read it online, here’s a link to The Circumlocution Office.


  1. Rach and Boze (Mr. P and Sam), what a brainstorm you had with your little conversation! I hope this will not be the last of such delightful meanderings around the winding streets of CD’s genius!

    As it happens, I had only yesterday read the section in AMERICAN NOTES on solitary confinement, and it is a stunner. There has been much talk on the subject of late in the US media, as this ghastly punishment is still with us, even after two centuries. I’m very much tempted to copy/paste a chunk of it and dash it off as a letter to whomever may be leading the charge to get this barbaric practice overturned, once and for all, as “cruel and unusual.” They couldn’t do better than quote the man whose writings did so much to bring about the reform of other barbaric practices, such as the Yorkshire boarding schools.

    Of course, as evidenced by the fact that CD was apparently persona non grata in America for some time because of his blistering reportage (in this same book) about slavery, I suppose we’re, as a country, practiced in the art of tuning him out when it suits us, more’s the pity.

    Strange, perhaps, but I think it’s because I find these sections of AN so shockingly powerful (“Too soon?” haha, as the saying goes, after two centuries), that I’m finding I can only take it in small doses, instead of binge-listening (on audiobook) on long walks, as I usually love to do with Dickens. It’s rather depressing to see how tenacious certain nasty propensities can be in a people, and I ain’t talkin’ about expectorating on the floor.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. WOW!! What a fantastic reflection!!! 🙏🙏 I want to screenshot this in 2 parts and tweet it ..! Thank you…and yes, we do have a capacity to “tune out” the criticism that doesn’t suit us, alas…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Friends, I meant to add here in the Mems–and will have to do so later–that it looks like we’re all in agreement about postponing our November 5th meeting to the break in December…it’ll be held December 10th, same time! I’ll send out a new email and link to those I have on the email list, and will try to message everyone who I know might be interested 🖤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Just popping in to say that I’m reading the book, but I’m quite far behind the rest of you, as I’m trying (as usual) to read too many books at the same time. But I’m happy to sail along in your wake! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you so much dearest Rach for your warm welcome! I am so happy to be here and I can’t wait to join you with the Christmas books this December!
    Rach and Boze, I enjoyed and loved reading your conversations about the American Notes and I also agree completely about reading aloud, Dickens had a very special magic in describing all details and characters and that is why I agree 100% with you about reading his works aloud. I also agree completely that Dickens was London and that London was Dickens. Now that I finished re-reading again “A Tale of Two Cities” and now that I read your thoughts about American Notes, I also agree with you about Dr Manette! Actually I completely agree with you that everything in life relates to A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton and also to Dr. Manette.
    Again, a big thank you dearest Rach for your warm welcome and I am so excited for the reading of the Christmas books!
    Gabriela Jacqueline from Mexico 🙂 (worldculturalcenter)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. YAAAAY x1003!!!!!!!!!! Gaby, I’m just SO THRILLED that you’re joining us by the time we get to the Christmas Books!!!!!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ Now I feel our Dickensian little merry company is complete. WARMEST WELCOME!!!!

      I love it that you just recently reread A Tale of Two Cities, and see these parallels too…such an interesting reminder about how nothing in a writer's work comes from nowhere, & it is so interesting that this particular subject (solitary confinement) didn't really come to fruition in his work until almost 18 years later. It really speaks to how much the whole experience impacted him. It *does* seem like a truly inhumane sort of torture, no matter what one has done; we're not made for that kind of unremitting isolation. Dickens is so masterful at creating the atmosphere of a situation, so that one not only *reasons* out the wrong, but *feels* it.


  5. Dear group: I’m probably the “outrider” here as I find the AN’s pretty dismal as to their content. The writing, of course, is wonderful, and the observations acute, and the feelings somewhat restrained, as Dickens does his best to try to moderate his disdain, shock, and analysis at so much of what he’s seeing in American Life and the general landscape.

    But as I progress (I’m somewhere around chapter 15), I feel like I’m reading the initial script for a sordid Ken Burns documentary. Thus I find it a quite unpleasant one–to say the least. The sea voyage through the north Atlantic in the dead of winter is predictable (terrible time to attempt the crossing, I fear), and much of what he writes about this aspect of the journey I find somewhat riveting and interesting. But once CD and Kate hit landfall, I feel that, in spite of his initial exuberance regarding the various sites and sounds of Boston, much of his documentary reporting from that time on tends to leave me very depressed and sometimes actually nauseous.

    The various conveyances he and his wife travel on are so poorly made, so non functional, so aggravating, and so dangerous, I can’t even imagine why these two intelligent citizens of sophisticated London prolong their journey for more than a couple of weeks? As I progressed with my reading, I found myself constantly shaking my head, as the various wagons, coaches, vehicles of unnamable parts were constantly getting stuck wading through the muck of marshes, water and crappy mud up first to the center of the wheels and finally just below the bottom of their transport’s windows. I just kept asking myself why, why, why why are these two travelers putting themselves through such hellish circumstances. The brains of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza! Tilting at what? And why? Yes, I suppose we could call this a picaresque narrative through the Tunnel of Despair!

    Worst of all, from my point of view, are our two pilgrims INLAND water voyages, on steamers that could blow up at any time, on flatbottomed boats of no particular description, offering virtual no amenities, and the fact that Charles and Kate have to sleep on shelves much of the time. The strange meals thrown down on long tables, the surly passengers that seem to refuse to communicate while eating, the coarseness of their dress, language, manners–all seem destined to give the reader of this volume headaches, nausea, and depression.

    In reality, REALLY, this is some kind of suicide mission. The steamboat trip on the Mississippi is the death blow. The time when things could finally really go wrong! Long jams everywhere, constantly impeding the the ship, crashing against its sides, cornering it to the point where the travel becomes impossible. Can’t
    sleep at night because of the constant banging and feeling the terrible anxiety that, by god, this baby could go down at any time. What the hell, people?

    AN’s is a documentary of a nightmare trip to America–a society dominated by suspect food, alcohol, tobacco, lousy transportation, yuky manners and grotesque citizens. AND SLAVERY! A landscape where the lovely verdure, the trees, the pristine waterways, have now become, ALREADY in 1842, sordid–turned into a wasteland of tree stumps, trees left to rot on the ground, sitting decaying in swamps unused, roads of mud and muck, byways filled with filthy pigs and chickens, rivers now spoiled and ruined by the passage of steamboats and downed whole trees, people living, somehow in huts, not any more enclosed or usable than those “built” for the animals that they keep. The whole thing seems pretty horrible to me at this point in my reading.

    Maybe, I hope, things will get better in the last few chapters. Do I hope in vain?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello, everyone – I playing catch up and thoroughly enjoying reading the interesting discussions/conversations I missed while I was away. I didn’t get as much reading in as I expected to, but I’m working my way quickly through “American Notes”.

    American Notes is most interesting to me because I frequently have traveled many of the exact routes Dickens took. The eastern seaboard between Virginia and Massachusetts is very familiar as is the route through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana to the “far west” of central Illinois and western Missouri. I currently split my time between Springfield, IL and St. Louis, so I know the area of Dickens’s farthest western trek pretty well. A handful of times I’ve driven through Belleville and Lebanon, Illinois, the area of Dickens’s jaunt to the prairie. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to stop in Lebanon and visit the Mermaid House (where Dickens spent the night) or other sites there, though I have been in contact with the Lebanon tourist board and am working on scheduling a visit. (I had planned to go last April, but COVID intervened.) I’ve never been as far south as Cairo, Il, but I understand it is still as depressed an area as Dickens found it.

    At this point I must take issue with Dickens. I am a proud native of Illinois and thus a child of the prairie, and I cannot stress strongly enough that Dickens should have fired his travel agent for sending him to the Midwest in April. April is arguably the worst month weather-wise to be in central Illinois-western Missouri. Rainy, damp, cold, a month that can’t figure out if it’s spring or still winter – much like the morning Dickens describes at the opening of Ch 10 of “Barnaby Rudge” – but, decidedly and stubbornly clinging to winter with grey, overcast skies and a chill that goes to the bone. The landscape in April is exactly as Dickens describes it in Ch 13 (“It would be difficult to say why, or how . . . the looking-on again, in after life.”), and I am not at all surprised that he was disappointed. If, however, he had come in May or, better yet, September or October, he would have had a vastly different and satisfying experience. Then the prairie is alive – flowers are in bloom or in seed, the prairie grasses grow tall and wave in the breeze, as do the endless fields of corn or soybeans, and the weather is warm and the skies are blue with puffy white clouds. It does, indeed, go on forever, and contrary to Dickens’s impression, the flatness of the prairie provides a panorama of bounty, promise, and opportunity, as well as phenomenal sunrises and sunsets. Anyway, I digress. Being here in April is just the pits! I’m so sad that Dickens, who really wanted to see the prairie in its glory, was so disappointed and left with such a bad opinion. I think the only good thing that came out of his Illinois-St. Louis experience was the fabulous chapters in “Martin Chuzzlewit”. Perhaps it’s a fair tradeoff.

    Lenny’s most recent post reminds me of when some good friends of ours from Italy came to the USA. In the three weeks they were in the US they visited New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., – via train. Then flew to Chicago, drove 3hrs to visit us in Springfield, IL for an overnight, drove back up to Chicago for a couple of days, before flying out to Los Angeles. From LA they boarded a bus to Las Vegas, then on to the Grand Canyon, before heading, by bus, up to San Francisco. From there they flew back to New York before heading home to Italy. Now, while this is a doable trip, it really did not afford them an adequate appreciation for the US, except for the vastness of the country. Most of their time was spent traveling in cramped vehicles or on tourist-y tours which only scratched the surface of what they were seeing. Similarly, it is not at all surprising from the make-up of Dickens’s tour that he was less than enamored by America and/or Americans. I’m not sure who actually planned Dickens’s trip, but, again, I hope he spoke strongly to his travel agent and used a different one on his next visit.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m not from Illinois but I did spend a sizable portion of my childhood on a prairie. I thought it looked really cool too, not so much because of the ground but because of the sky. But it’s certainly not for everyone and the “not” might have included Dickens. I can’t remember the best and worst months to tour.


    2. I love that idea…that Dickens needed to fire his travel agent!! 😂 It does sound like the worst possible time to come. How fabulous that you’ve traveled many of these exact same routes!!!!!

      I understand, Lenny, the dismal feeling about the Notes, though I so enjoyed his sprightly writing that however gross it was it was all enjoyable…until the chapter on slavery. I am SO thankful he wrote it…it is extremely powerful. But it is very, very difficult to read, so I wanted to warn you, as it comes at the very end. Bless him for writing it. But…my God. 😭 What human beings are capable of doing to one another.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I just wanted to thank you, Rachel, for doing this blog post. You mentioned earlier that you and Boze were having some really interesting discussions on Dickens’s American Notes, but you guys didn’t seem to be commenting that much. (I guess you were planning to share your thoughts more on the now postponed zoom chat.) It’s great to be able to read the conversation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My pleasure, Stationmaster! Yes, Boze and I knew the readership & commenting would be quieter for this one, so we thought a post like this would be a nice change, as there wasn’t much discussion to “wrap-up”! 😂 Though I’d posted a fair bit the first week, especially on twitter, I think for the second week I just decided mostly to focus on the email dialogue. I know that Daniel, Dana, Gina, and Rob are reading (and of course Chris & Lenny) and I think a few others are too, so the readership at least is a little more than I’d expected for American Notes!!! I really don’t know what to expect for Chuzzlewit, but I have a feeling that once we get to the Christmas Books and Dombey, it could be quite lively! (I think it’s possible that Pictures from Italy might be equally quiet, so we might try a similar thing…?) 🙂 I still have to make an extended comment for this week…perhaps today I’ll do that.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Rach: I second Stationmaster’s remarks re the dialogue between you and Boze. Many, many kudos for your joint epistolary style. Samuel Richardson would be proud! Your responses to one another about the readings to come which AN’s prefigures make me look forward to the later books with great anticipation!

    Liked by 2 people

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