American Notes  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

American Notes for General Circulation is a travelogue by Charles Dickens detailing his trip to North America in January to June 1842. He traveled mainly on the east coast and Great Lakes area of both the United States and Canada, primarily by steamship, but also by rail and coach. While there he acted as a critical observer of these societies 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

During his extensive itinerary he made a particular point of visiting prisons and mental institutions and even took a quick glimpse at the prairie. He also wrote merciless parodies of the manners of the locals, including, but not limited to, their tobacco spitting and rural conversations. Although generally impressed by what he found he could not forgive the continued existence of slavery in the United States, and the final chapters of the book are devoted to a criticism of the practice. He was also unhappy about copyright issues. Dickens, by this time, had become an international celebrity, but owing to the lack of an international copyright law, bootleg copies of his works were freely available in North America and he could not abide losing money.

The book formed the basis for Dickens in America, a 2005 authored documentary series by Miriam Margolyes, made by Lion TV for BBC Four, in which Margolyes followed Dickens' journey through the United States, visiting many of the places mentioned by Dickens.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "American Notes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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