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American Notes for General Circulation (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

By Charles Dickens (Author) & Patricia Ingham (Editor)
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Item description for American Notes for General Circulation (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens & Patricia Ingham...

Charles Dickens was the most famous of many travelers of his time who journeyed to America, curious about the revolutionary new civilization that had captured the English imagination. His frank, often humorous descriptions in his 1842 account cover everything from his uncomfortable sea voyage to an ecstatic narrative of his visit to Niagara Falls. Yet Dickens is also critical of American society, its preoccupation with money, and reliance on slavery, as well as the rude, unsavory manners of Americans and their corrupt press. Above all, American Notes is a lively chronicle of what was for Dickens an illuminating encounter with the New World.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Penguin Classics
Pages   311
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.05" Width: 4.84" Height: 0.61"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2001
Publisher   Penguin Classics
Age  18
ISBN  0140436499  
ISBN13  9780140436495  

Availability  0 units.

More About Charles Dickens & Patricia Ingham

Charles Dickens Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in Kent on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation, but also the horror of the infamous debtors' prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and "slave" factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years' formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorney's clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years, the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after twenty-three years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of fifty-eight, when he was characteristically engaged in a multitude of work.

David Pascoe is Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. He has also edited Thackeray's The Newcomers for Penguin Classics.

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 and died in 1870.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs
3Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
4Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( D ) > Dickens, Charles > General
6Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( D ) > Dickens, Charles > Paperback
7Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Classics
8Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Classics
9Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > British > British > Dickens, Charles
10Books > Subjects > Travel > General > Essays & Travelogues

Reviews - What do customers think about American Notes for General Circulation (Penguin Classics)?

Mr. Charles Dickens tours a young America in 1842  Dec 10, 2007
Charles Dickens left London for America in the cold January of 1842. He left behind several children and such bestsellers as "Pickwick Papers"; "Oliver Twist:, "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Nicholas Nickleby."
He and his wife Catherine Hogarth Dickens would journey to the land of their Yankee cousins for six months. This long journey resulted in a short account of the famed novelist's time in the United States.
The passage from Liverpool took 18 days with storms and heavy rain to propel the Britishers forward to the land of the free and home of the brave! Dickens visited several cities. He had good and bad things to say about America. Dickens:
a. Visited Boston and New York insane asylums and homes for the indigent.
He also visited prisons. Dickens was a liberal social reformer and thought the treatment of the insane could be improved. He did not think much of American penology believing the prisoners should be worked harder.
b. From the East the Dickens party traveled West. They passed through Louisville, Cincinnati and Sandusky. Dickens complained about pigs in the streets of these burgeoning cities. He thought Americans bold and brassy with an inordinate patriotism manifestly condescending to foreigners.
c. Dickens traveled to St.Louis complaining of the isolated life found in log cabins and the hot temperatures of North America.
d. Dickens disliked the partisan American press; he thought Americans were ruled by mobocracy and often used guns and fisticuffs when they were not necessary!
e. The travel in stage and by train was difficult in this era in the new American nation. Dickens often comments on how miserable he was!
f. Dickens saves his greatest wrath for the abominable practice of chattel slavery in the American South. In his journey to Virginia he comments on how run down the farms and homes were. Like the earlier English visiotr Fanny Trollope he is to be commended for his hatred of slavery which was the curse of American life in the antebellum period.
g. Dickens also hated the American propensity to spit tobacco juice everwhere in sight including the floor of the US House of Representatives and in the Senate Chamber!
Dickens also toured Canada which at that time was ruled by Great Britain. He is much less critical of Canadians!
Dickens is critical in many pages of the book. The book was not liked in America and little read in England. Dickens also was appalled at the lack of copyright law protecting him and English authors from the pirating of their literary efforts. Dickens would write his next novel "Martin Chuzzlewit" in which the hero travels to America only to be greatly disillusioned by this experience.
Dickens returned to America late in life amending some of his earlier harsh views about the 1842 visit. Slavery had been then been abolished.
It should not be forgotten that Dickens was also very critical of society in Great Britain! This greatest of Victorian novelists was a man who believed society needed to improve in education, care for the poor giving people more equitable justice and a higher standard of living. Dickens failed to realize on his 1842 tour that America would take time to grow as a nation and society. Some of his pointed observations, though, such as our love for elections, guns and military titles still stand!
American Notes is dry reading in many places. It is valuable for how a famous author saw America when he and the United States were both young.
Not a Dickens novel   Dec 5, 2006
I had eagerly looked forward to reading this work. I had expected that Dickens would provide a rich Pickwick Papers-like cast of American characters. Instead Dickens writes of conditions, of scenery, of things but not really of people, not in the way anyway he writes about them in his novels. This made the book disappointing on the 'experiential level'.
In terms of American vs.British conditions he does have interesting things to say. He strongly opposes Slavery and so will not travel to the slave - states. He notes a uniformity in American social opinion and condemns this, and a certain lack of manners. But he also see that in terms of democratic principles the United States is ahead of Britain.This is surprisingly a quite humorless work, again lacking one of Dickens defining virtues as a writer.
Not What I Had Hoped For  Sep 29, 2006
Perhaps because I have read so much of Dickens' fiction and enjoyed it so thoroughly, I had certain expectations that simply cannot be met in a work of non fiction.
To be sure, Dickens' account of America in the 1800s is interesting and his penultimate chapter railing against the institution of slavery is fantastic, but the book seemed a bit verbose (not a surprise, I suppose) and contradictory at times. He makes many observations worth knowing about in relation to Transatlantic studies, but truth be told, certain ideas begin to become repititious fairly early on.
While I feel Dickens' observations are/were valid, I think Fanny Trollope's "Domestic Manners of the Americans" is a much more enthralling read-- an account imbued with wicked humor and wit. In fact, Dickens was very much influenced by Trollope's account of America.
Without question, Dickens is the King of Victorian literature and I am a HUGE fan, but if you want his best...go for broke with "Dombey and Son," "Bleak House," or "David Copperfield."
Disappointing  Nov 17, 2004
I must regretfully confess that this book, so promising in its circumstances, amounts to a profound bore. The opportunity to see a distinct American epoch through the eyes of a Charles Dickens is one that I lusted after. Yet, as Goldman and Whitley's introduction to the Penguin edition rightly observes, the book is "extremely disappointing in its omissions and pervasive flatness." That "flatness" ought to have concerned me upon first reading the title. "American Notes for General Circulation" is hardly an inviting description of what's inside. Not one to judge a book by its cover, though, I dismissed this minor oversight and dove in. However, while Whitley and Goldman go on to suggest that "American Notes" is somehow "fascinating as a record of the ways in which the foremost creative writer of his day responded to the most exciting social experiment of his time," that "fascination" is merely superficial and fails to last beyond the book's mildly humorous opening scenes of a sea journey to Boston.

The book's problems are its redundancy and timidity. Dickens seems to be exclusively interested in reporting on every hospital and prison in America, which he does for at least the first third of the book. While some of his descriptions and observations in this portion of the narrative reveal the character of one of literary history's most compassionate figures, this too grows stale as Dickens fails to overcome his peculiar infatuation and look beyond. Even when he does move on, in DC, Cincinatti and elsewhere, some of the most controversial issues of his day -- slavery, Native American negotiations with the US government -- are mentioned only fleetingly as Dickens turns increasingly inward and elaborates for many pages on the most forgettable and mundane experiences common to any journey or vacation, whether it be a cruise through the Caribbean in 2004 or a trip on a riverboat up the Mississippi in 19th-century America, a river that meets with Dickens's intense disdain.

Some of Dickens's observations on the functions and implications of the American democratic system as well as generalizations on the mannerisms of Americans go far to show how little has changed since Dickens came to Boston in 1842, but rarely rise to the lyrical intensity or vivid portraits one would expect from a powerhouse such as Charles Dickens. The letters included in this edition demonstrate just how much Dickens held back in the writing of the book, which leads me to wonder just why people like Washington Irving found it so objectionable as to never speak to Dickens again. Surely the book offers some less-than-flattering ruminations on the people and corruption surrounding him, but had Dickens's book reflected the more aggressive tone of his letters, "American Notes" may have been as much of a classic today as it might have been an unconscionable offence to Irving or the American journalists who panned it at the time.

Unfortunately, the book is incapable of engenering much more than the relatively tame emotional response it received upon its release, and if its sales were impressive (which they were), this was due chiefly to the author's name and not to anything that is said between the front and back cover. Whitley and Goldman make the excellent point that some of Dickens's high-profile American friends -- Longfellow, for one -- may have influenced his impressions to such an extent that they diluted the final product. This is a case in which Dickens's fame hindered the sincerity of his work. For a more entertaining and memorable reading experience, try Parkman's "Oregon Trail," Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley" or Least-Heat Moon's "Blue Highways". For a great travel-read from a time and place far beyond 19th or 20th-century America, try Marco Polo's truly "fascinating" "Travels".
Naaaaah, we don't look too good here...  Sep 22, 2004
Especially when you realize that some things haven't changed about America. Nevertheless, true or not, is a great book by Dickens. Reading it you get a great sense of the author as well as how he observed the world. His humor really shines through, as does his familiararity. No matter if you agree with the book or not (and sometimes I do, other times I don't) this book is nevertheless a great read for any Dickens fan.

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