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American Notes For General Circulation

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  711 ratings  ·  98 reviews
A fascinating account of nineteenth-century America sketched with Charles Dickens's characteristic wit and charm

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 h
Paperback, Revised, 312 pages
Published July 1st 2001 by Penguin Classics (first published 1842)
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3.58  · 
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 ·  711 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brit-lit
Charles Dickens' American Notes for General Circulation, a travelogue of his trip around the U.S. and Canada from January through June 1842, was not well-received in the United States. Dickens' views of America and Americans were generally not unfair, in fact, many of his observations were right on target. He did not neglect the many positive aspects of American life and society, but Americans of his day, by British standards, were coarse, dirty, ill-mannered, too familiar with strangers, and of ...more
Genia Lukin
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Charles Dickens, in my opinion, is a severely overrated, rather self-important and self-righteous bore. So I don't like most of this books.

This time, though, while he's still a self-important and self-righteous bore whose sense of humour essentially is based entirely on the assumption that the rest of the world is stupid (which, admittedly, is a fair assumption to make), he actually manages to turn these traits to his advantage. It's not very nice being all the aforementioned while writing ficti
Elena Santangelo
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, fans of Dickens, Writers
I'm going to start by saying I don't recommend this book for anyone who has to read is for a school course. Books like this should never be read under duress. Also, if you read this book, I recommend saving the introductory matter for last and beginning with Dickens' narrative.

Although he was a bestselling and well-known author at the time of his trip to America, Dickens had only published a handful of works and was only 29 at the time he embarked. He'd just lost his job as a journalist in 1839,
JS Found
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is a universal truth that the more things change, the more they stay the same.( It is also a universal truth that we speak and write in cliches.) The traveler's view of America, written in 1842 has many uncomfortable truths to say to us in the America of 2013. That this traveler was Charles Dickens, already a critic of his country's poverty laws, government institutions, and the darker aspects of its culture, means that the US was about to face a reckoning--a literary one eighteen years befor ...more
In this book, we see nineteenth-century Washington congressmen hocking tobacco-juice loogies all over the Congressional carpets. This book is awesome.

American Notes for General Circulation is a portrait of 1842 America and Americans unlike any I’d ever encountered. Probably because, as it turns out, Americans liked Dickens's social commentary about stuff like Oliver Twist not getting a little more, but didn’t so much want to hear critiques about themselves. Typical. And so the book hasn’t come d
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Curious folk
Recommended to Katie by: It was at the end of Oliver Twist
Amazing, and screamingly funny sometimes, especially the part about hogs touring Broadway, and tobacco chewing in Washington, D.C. Very touching, too. His portrait of the enlightened Perkins Institute for the Blind is fascinating, especially the part about Laura Bridgman, one of the first deaf-blind students, who was about 13 at the time he visited. He contrasts this with the institutions for paupers in New York, which were at least as squalid and cruel as those in England. His exposure of the i ...more
Tom Lowe
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
American Notes, by the wonderful Charles Dickens, is one of the best books I ever read. Top 10? No. Top 20? Definitely! In 1842, the 30 year-old Dickens spent a few months in the United States, and even visited President Tyler in the White House. Dickens’ very honest opinions on what he saw and experienced were a bit too much for some Americans , who didn’t like Dickens’ views on slavery, which he rightfully could not compromise with. Dickens visited Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Wa ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The famous quarrel between Charles Dickens and America. Can't say he didn't take on a worthy opponent...I mean, a whole country? Dickens, as usual, is larger than the life he portrays.

Though Dickens primarily made his views known through works of fiction, and many of his arguments with America were laid out similarly in Martin Chuzzlewit, it seems he couldn't keep from expounding upon those ideas in a full-blown work. As a whole, Dickens admires America and knows that America's brand of democrac
David Rackowitz
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History Buffs
Recommended to David by: Kindle search
A really interesting book written by Charles Dickens about his visit to the U.S. in the late 1840's early 1850's. An outsider's view of the good and the bad about the U.S. a few years before the beginning of the Great Civil War. Many surprising facts. Dickens had especially strong views about slavery in America.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Amusing humane travelogue. Focuses on journeys and public institutions. Denounces slavery.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
After enjoying the scrumptious meal of a Dickens novel, I rise from the table sighing with content, full to the brim and happy. However, I go on to other things and seem to forget in the meantime, how wonderful that meal was.

So it is with American Notes. I had forgotten how superb Dickens' writing is, how lush the prose, how subtle the hints, how witty the criticisms. Now I remember.

In 1842 Dickens spent 6 months touring the United States. This was not a reading tour, just a visit to see the cou
Ray Campbell
Sep 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
This is a travelogue recorded on a trip Dickens took to the United States. Interestingly, after a lighthearted and exaggerated story of the adventure of crossing, the visit focuses on hospitals, homes for deaf, blind and finally, prisons. This seemed like he was traveling as a journalist writing for serialized publication - which he may have been. Never the less, he describes where he stays and the people he meets which is delightful. The last quarter of the book is less focused as he travels we ...more
Feb 14, 2013 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book and was quite taken by the fact that Charles Dickens traveled through the United States of the early 1840s. It provided an interesting picture of our country during this period and his commentary was engaging. I cannot deny I have had a certain affection for Dickens ever since my first encounter with his writings in high school, but also after seeing a myriad of adaptations of his work for television and film. It is also important to note his impact upon the Victorian ...more
John Harder
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
In American Notes for General Circulation, Charles Dickens travels the northeastern seaboard, the Midwest and Canada. Dickens was interested in American institutions and apparently the most interesting item a city might possess is a prison and an insane asylum. I am not sure why this would be the case. Perhaps since America was still young and our cultural development was still in its infancy the most notable public building housed the criminal and crazy.

Dickens seems impressed with the decently
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
It has some consistency problems but the observations are still very relevant. Dickens worried about American violence, distrust of politicians, uncivil political discourse, boom and bust financial schemes, devotion to money making over ethics... Sound familiar? which is both depressing and as well as comforting. We've been slogging along with these boat anchors around our neck for a long time and we still seem to make substantial forward progress. His observation of small details is delightful. ...more
Notable mostly for its insightful discussion of the torture inherent in solitary confinement. (Dickens visited numerous prisons and asylums, presumably as part of the purpose of the voyage.) Uneven in the quality of its descriptive passages, some small number of which sing with wit and vivid depiction but others of which drag. The description of the workings of Washington, D.C. is not to be missed, particularly by those patriots who tend to forget that the country was forged by tobacco-chewing k ...more
Nathan Albright
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge2017
[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Net Gallery/Dover Publications.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I must admit that I did not come to this book without some sort of expectation.  I have heard before that Charles Dickens [1] had written a fierce and harsh travel book about his time in the United States, but I did not find this book to deserve its fierce reputation.  To be sure, the author had some criticisms to make about the United States, especially concerning the horrors
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a terrific book, both funny and insightful. In the 1840s, Charles Dickens took a journey to the United States. It was not the easiest of ocean journeys back in those days, and the constant concern of the ocean, the battle against seasickness, and the angst for a quicker arrival make for a delightful way to start this story. His descriptions of what he witnessed, including a chapter on slavery, make for an interesting look at the country from someone born in England.

I would recommend thi
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: victorian, classics
No obvious beginning comes to mind, so I’ll start with me laughing out loud. I’m always tempted, in reading anything by Dickens, to start a list of quotes, but it’s becoming equally irresistible to compile the truly cathartic moments. There were passages in American Notes that set me laughing and kept me going. Here’s one in reference to sleeping arrangements on a canal-boat:

“I found it [the bunk], on after-measurement, just the width of an ordinary sheet of Bath post letter-paper; and I was at
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a very intersting book to read. I have always loved Charles Dickens. There are so many thoughts going through my head about this book, I do not know where to begin. This was a very interesting read, as I previously stated, in the sense that he brings to light America in a very different mannor than what history books portray. This is a book about a trip he made to America from November 1842-June 1843. In a broad sense he compares and contrasts England to America. Overall he is impressed ...more
Aug 01, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike Wood
Jun 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Gives a good feel of what travel around America was like at the time, so there are great passages with Dickensian descriptions of America that are priceless.

On slavery, he found it so disturbing an institution that he changed his travel plans after spending a few days in the South. His very interesting observation was that, at that time, in that place, even if you found slavery despicable, there was no practical way to avoid it as you were served by slaves when entering restaurants, hotels, whi
May 26, 2012 rated it liked it
This months-long travelogue wasn't initially intended for an American audience, but the America of 170 years ago was so vastly different than what it is today that it doesn't at all feel as redundant as reading a Lonely Planet or Frommer's guide for your own hometown. There are some genuinely interesting parts to this book--such as the description of a pre-Mall Washington, D.C., as it was still being built. And some borderline hilarious moments as well, such as his disgust with the amount of tob ...more
This was the last book I needed to read to complete the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 hosted at the blog Books and Chocolate. The category in this case was a Non-Fiction Classic. I am a big fan of Dickens’ fiction and I know that much of this U.S. visit served as an inspiration for part of Martin Chuzzelwit, which was the first Dickens’ novel I ever read, so I was keen to check this title out. Generally I liked it, but I still prefer his fiction. Famously American Notes engendered quite a ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
American Notes what can you say about Charles Dickens but the man is incredible, awesome, abiding in abounding in Faith, abundant in love, addictive, deceitfully enjoyable, fabulously decadent in stories that are out of this world if you love Charles Dickens. Getting to see a glimpse into his life and love is full of humility for me. He was immensely talented. I have a Christmas Carol that I read every Christmas. What a talent that He knows where the gift comes from. I love his other books as we ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic, memoir
Get this as an ebook so you can search for what interests you most--Dickens's descriptions of Congress? Niagara Falls? Prisons? Institutes for the blind? Trains? Ferries? New York? Columbus? The Mississippi? Slavery? The Shakers? I did read it cover to cover as I slowly make my way through all of Dickens's works but it struck me that everyone might benefit from a dose of seeing how something they are familiar with was described 160 years ago by a celebrity of the times who made it his business t ...more
Dave T
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm not a fan of adventure diaries (be they travel or otherwise) but as this author is guilty of being a genius I can take two incredible memories away from this. The first being the amazing and inspiring true story of Laura Bridgeman (who was the first deaf, dumb and blind American). The second is the horrific insight in to the dark world of slavery (which is discribed in all it's awful detail)

Dickens is not afraid of offending any one by the writing of this travel diary, nor does he find any r
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a travelogue documenting Dickens' experiences in America. I can see why this book lost him some friends. He is pretty brutal in his criticism of American customs, manners and ambitions. I do have to say, though, that there are parts of the book that I found extremely amusing- laugh-out-loud funny. So I enjoyed it. I think any fan of Dickens would enjoy this book, although I wouldn't read this first before his other, more famous novels, because part of the charm is recognizing his tradema ...more
Michelle Atno-hall
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating piece of research for Dickens Fair, a humorous read, a fascinating window on the United States of 170 years ago...and a scathing diatribe on slavery and human rights. This little-read and atypical Dickens outing is a hidden gem.
Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this book because Dickens refers to St. Louis and Belleville and Lebanon, IL, all places I know. His view of us, even in 1850, probably still has much truth to it. I was particularly interested in his comments about slavery and his decision not to travel South so he would not encounter it.
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Charles John Huffam Dickens was a writer and social critic who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

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