chapter  3
18 Pages

The Failure of Dickens’s Transatlantic Dream in American Notes

Most travel narratives written by British travelers in America during the first half of the nineteenth century tend to dwell on the same themes and locations. Jerome Meckier mentions that an unidentified American journalist, who called at Devonshire Terrace in December 1841, noticed that Charles Dickens was reading Basil Hall's travel account, among other travel books, in preparation for his journey. Like many other British travelers, Hall and Dickens embarked for the United States in the hope of ascertaining whether or not the country conformed to its social and political theories. Their frequent visits to prisons during their tours of America reveal an anxiety about crime and about ways of containing or suppressing it. Beyond the scenery of the American West and Midwest, Niagara Falls constituted another landscape feature that was part and parcel of British travelers' expectations about America. Slavery was the social reality traditionally discussed by British travelers in the New World.