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Penguin Classics
30 November 2000
Biography: historical, political & military; Classic travel writing; Penguin Black Classics; Literature, Poetry & Criticism
American Notes is a fascinating account of nineteenth-century America sketched with Charles Dickens's characteristic wit and charm. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with notes and an introduction by Patricia Ingham.

When Charles Dickens set out for America in 1842 he was the most famous man of his day to travel there - curious about the revolutionary new civilization that had captured the English imagination. His frank and often humorous descriptions cover everything from his comically wretched sea voyage to his sheer astonishment at the magnificence of the Niagara Falls, while he also visited hospitals, prisons and law courts and found them exemplary. But Dickens's opinion of America as a land ruled by money, built on slavery, with a corrupt press and unsavoury manners, provoked a hostile reaction on both sides of the Atlantic. American Notes is an illuminating account of a great writer's revelatory encounter with the New World.

In her introduction, Patricia Ingham examines the response the book received when it was published, and compares it with similar travel writings of the period and with Dickens's fiction, in particular Martin Chuzzlewit. This edition includes an updated chronology, appendices and notes.

Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers, have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions.

If you enjoyed American Notes, you might like Dickens's Pictures from Italy, also available in Penguin Classics.
By:   Charles Dickens
Notes by:   Patricia Ingham
Introduction by:   Patricia Ingham
Other primary creator:   Stephen Wall
Imprint:   Penguin Classics
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 15mm
Weight:   245g
ISBN:   9780140436495
ISBN 10:   0140436499
Pages:   352
Publication Date:   30 November 2000
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Charles Dickens (1812-70) was a political reporter and journalist whose popularity was established by the phenomenally successful PICKWICK PAPERS (1836-7). His novels captured and held the public imagination over a period of more than thirty years. He is considered one of the greatest novelists in the English language. Patricia Ingham is Fellow of St Anne's College, Reader in English, and The Times Lecturer in English at the University of Oxford.

Reviews for American Notes

This new edition of the early Dickens classic (1842) returns to the stores the first of his two long out-of-print travel books, the other being Pictures From Italy (1846). The editorial improvements are not great but do embody Dickens' own revisions (and restore his excisions). Written at 30, between Barnaby Rudge and The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, and based largely on letters home describing his American experiences, American Notes is not the vitriolic work many Americans first thought it was because of Dickens' opposition to slavery, his surprise at our more graceless habits and description of the widespread practice of spitting, of corruption in the House of Representatives, of the torture and agony of prolonged incarceration in Philadelphia's solitary prison and in Manhattan's stygian Tombs prison, and of the large sows and swine population trotting along Broadway and mingling with the best society, on an equal, if not superior footing. . . They are the city scavengers, these pigs. Ugly brutes they are; having. . .scanty, brown backs, like the lids of old horsehair trunks: spotted with unwholesome black blotches. . . They are never attended upon, or fed, or driven, or caught, but are thrown upon their own resources in early life, and become preternaturally knowing in consequence. . . At this hour, just as evening is closing in, you will see them roaming towards bed by scores, eating their way to the last. Dickens was also stony towards the American habit of pirating the works of English authors - he knew American Notes would be pirated massively, and called (quite unpopularly) for international copyright laws. And his comments on slavery, and the horrible advertisements identifying runaway slaves, which he reprints, verge on the gruesome and would madden any pro-slaver. He is more kinky about Boston, Hartford, New Haven, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, about life on the Prairie, the physical beauties of travel by steamboat, and is stunned and rhapsodical about Niagara Falls. In a postscript added in 1868, after a return trip, he comments that he has been received with unsurpassable politeness, delicacy, sweet temper, hospitality, consideration, and with unsurpassable respect for the privacy daily enforced upon me by the nature of my avocation here, and the state of my health. It was the least we could do for such an invaluable and honest picture of ourselves. (Kirkus Reviews)


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