January 10-30 in the Dickens Club: Pictures from Italy

Wherein we read Dickens’s 1846 travelogue of his Italian journey, the thirteenth (and optional) read of The Dickens Chronological Reading Club.

“The Goblin of Avignon,” by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Scanned image by Philip V. Allingham. Via Victorian Web.

by Rach

Friends, who would like to travel to Italy, with Dickens as our guide? For the next three weeks the Dickens Club will read Pictures from Italy, Dickens’s 1846 travelogue of his Italian travels that spanned nearly a year from mid-1844 to mid-1845.

Click here for Boze’s introduction.

Published in 1846 with woodcuts by Samuel Palmer, Pictures from Italy includes the masterfully detailed observation which made his London Sketches so vibrant, and his American Notes so scathing. Perhaps to assuage any fears that it might be another sendup à la American Notes, Dickens assures his readers from the outset that he has no intention to comment on the politics of the country; nor does he intend to do what others had done before him–i.e. he doesn’t intend to “expatiate at any length on famous Pictures and Statues.” Sometimes funny, sometimes Gothic, sometimes lyrical and always full of interest and unique observation, the Pictures is also a great introduction to scenes that Dickens will use later in Little Dorrit.

“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.”

Pacing, and How to Comment on Pictures from Italy

Pictures from Italy is only about two-thirds of the length of American Notes, so, rather than suggesting chapter divisions for the next three weeks, we’ll just keep this post as the placeholder for the entire conversation on the Pictures. Feel free to read at your own pace, and comment when you’re ready! If you’re not reading Pictures, these three weeks will be an additional “break” or an opportunity to catch up if you’re feeling behind.

Whether reading one book or all with us, we’re so thankful that you’re part of the group. The next weeks would be a great opportunity to do a special-interest post!

Please comment below for all chapters of Pictures from Italy, or use the hashtag #DickensClub if commenting on twitter!

If you’d like to read it online, here’s a link to where it can be read or downloaded at Gutenberg.

Other General Mems

Friends, it is Day 371 of the Dickens Club! Happy New Year!

We’ve tentatively set Saturday, 11 February as the date of our next Dickens Club Zoom chat! 11am PT / 2pm ET / 7pm GMT. I will email out the Zoom link shortly, for the members on my email list. Feel free to email me if you’d like the link, or DM me on twitter! Even if you’re not currently up on the reading, please feel free to join us, as long as you don’t mind potential spoilers! This chat, we’ll be focused primarily on the first four Christmas Books, and Pictures from Italy.

Boze and I have put up a starter page for introductions from hosts/authors/contributors! We’d love to have your bio here, too! Please email me a short (1-2 sentences, up to a paragraph) bio, with a preferred image and how you’d prefer to be called, if you’d like to be on the “core company” page. Of course, we still have our more complete Member List, for those–at least, those I know of–who were/are reading with us! If you’re not on this list and are reading with us for one book or for all, please email me or DM me on twitter!

About the Ongoing Conversations on the Christmas Books

A reminder: in order to give everyone ample time to comment on all the Christmas books (which, chronologically, are interrupted by Pictures from Italy and Dombey and Son), we’ll do one wrap up for all five books once the final one–The Haunted Man–is complete: 10 April, 2023. This will have the added benefit of comparing/contrasting the themes running through each one individually, and all together.

Running list of links for the Christmas book discussions:

    • Coming chronologically after Pictures from Italy.
    • Coming chronologically after Dombey and Son.

Please feel free to keep adding to all conversations!

Click here for Chris’s post on Peter Ackroyd’s Introduction to the Christmas books.

See you in the comments, friends!


  1. https://spitalfieldslife.com/
    I thought you might be interested in January 9th’s blog.

    Thanks, A Williams
    Spitalfields Life | In the midst of life I woke to find myself living in an old house beside Brick Lane in the East End of Londonhttps://spitalfieldslife.com/
    The illustrations of Charles Keeping (1924–1988) burned themselves into my consciousness as a child and I have loved his work ever since. A major figure in British publishing in the last century, Keeping illustrated over one hundred books (including the entire novels of Dickens) and won the Kate Greenaway and Carnegie Medals for his superlative talent.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Friends, Dr Pete Orford (who I believe has recently finished editing PICTURES FROM ITALY for Oxford University Press, but I don’t believe it is available yet) does these marvelous Dickens walking tour threads on twitter. Here is one from 2020…a whole thread on Dickens’s Genoa, including touring his residence at the Palazzo Peschiere, and that first residence that he called the “Pink Jail”: https://twitter.com/DrPeteOrford/status/1221523285613207554?t=44AtVkbjIJc-XuEyEm5eBQ&s=19

    Liked by 2 people

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