Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8






On Tuesday, the twenty-sixth of April, 1842, Charles

Dickens writing from America to John Forster in London began

his letter with the heading: "Niagara Falls!!! (upon the English

Side)."1 Then, very suggestively, he drew ten dashes under-

neath the word English!2

Dickens' first tour of the United States, then just about com-

pleted, had not been altogether pleasant.   The typical British

attitude of the time toward people and things in the States had

probably set him off to a bad start; an unpleasant controversy

over international copyrights had added complications; while nu-

merous annoying adventures with "the tobacco-spittle we have

wallowed in, the strange customs we have complied with, the

packing cases in which we have travelled"3 during his swing

through East, South, and West had convinced him that any spot

outside the boundaries of the United States would be a welcome


"Oh! the sublimated essence of comicality that I could distil,

from the materials I have!"4 he wrote to Forster now as he

looked back upon his experiences since first boarding the packet

Britannia at Liverpool on January third.

That he did distil much, his readers were to discover the fol-

lowing October when American Notes was published; and the

process of distillation becomes for Ohioans of a hundred years

afterward a very interesting thing, for although the mass of ad-

denda and apocrypha that have accumulated on the Dickens trip

since 1842 has long suggested that the American Notes did not

tell all, the extent to which the factual reporter in Dickens was in-


1 Charles Dickens to John  Forster, Niagara Falls, April 26, 1842, The Letters of

Charles Dickens, in The Nonesuch Dickens (Bloomsbury, 1938), 1, 441. All references

in this article are to this edition.

2 John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens (London, 1899), I, 285.

3 To Henry Austin, May 1, 1842, Letters.

4 April 26, 1842, ibid.