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American Notes for General Circulation Paperback – November 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author


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.

Patricia Ingham is senior research fellow and reader at St. Anne's College, Oxford. She is the general editor of Thomas Hardy's fiction in Penguin Classics and edited Gaskell's North and South for the series.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1456569457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1456569457
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,605,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
In 1842, the young Dickens made a sweeping tour of the United States and Canada, visiting Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburg, Cincinatti, St. Louis, Niagra Falls, Montreal, and Quebec among other places. (He chose not to venture to the south, out of a repugnance for slavery.) This brief account of his travels begins with optimism and the usual Dickens eye for the comic. As it goes on, we begin to sense the weariness of the journey and the author's disappointment with what he found. We get a vivid picture of a nation still being built, quite literally in the case of frontier places. The fine introduction to the Penguin edition places this work in the context of English travel narratives of the time. This edition is also well footnoted and contains a sampling of letters Dickens wrote to friends at home, in which he is quite candid. Modern readers may find fascinating glimpses of American life at the time (such as the disgusting habit of spitting and the nastiness of the press), but may be less interested than the author was in prisons, courts, and other public institutions. Furthermore, some places are passed over cursorily, but this is to keep the journey moving along. (My favorite parts are the anecdotes about individual characters that Dickens meets while travelling.) As the introduction suggests, this book is as much about Dickens and his personal evolution as it is about America, despite the fact that Dickens does not speak extensively of the inconveniences he faced due to his fame. The trip was to inspire parts of "Martin Chuzzlewit" and must be taken in the context of Dickens' career - some of the views herein were moderated by a second trip to America later in life.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Someone please pick up this book! I've already mentioned it to two of my English professor who knew almost nothing about what I consider a true classic. Just because there is no movie to accompany it does not mean it should'nt be read for fear of confusing a public accustomed to Dickens' supposed "classics". Please take the time to open one of my favorite books. I am sure it will surprise and delight you. Remember, a "classic" is what we make of it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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