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SYMHC Classics: Charles Dickens Takes America

2018-12-22 | 🔗

This episode revisits the story of Charles Dickens on tour, featuring previous hosts Sarah and Deblina. Dickens is best known for chronicling life in London, but he also wrote about the United States - and not in a flattering light. When touring the U.S. and Canada with his wife, Dickens found many American customs repugnant. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Happy Saturday, everybody this week we have an episode coming up on, show that's connected to Charles Dickens, and we specifically mentioned that he went on a tour of the United States. He also went to Canada are that's where he was really treated like a celebrity not come home with a lot of money to show for any of it, and so some thought came up in this forthcoming. Episode. We thought we would share the previous episode that we conveniently already had about that or- and this episode is previous hosts. Sarah into Billina and originally published back in March of twenty twelve enjoying will continue stuff. You missed in history class from how support dot. Com yeah
and welcome to the podcast. I'm feared Audi and I'm going to talk about it, and lately we ve been of a literary band covering everybody from the new to us: Ottoman travel writer, evilly cello, be too old british literature friend like the brontes or the brownings, but there's one name. It keeps popping up and that's Charles and then of course, he's a natural when you're already thinking about the likes of the brontes cause, he's a contemporary they're, both staples of any literature class, but Dickens also fits in. with cello, be, albeit in a lesser known, can away. He was ass, though a travel writer and, of course, Dickens is best known for dramatizing the cruelty of London slums and finding Kommeni in victorian hypocrisy. Ensure most of you have read some dickens along the way he also will essay
is he covered. Parliamentary new is and produce travel, including a very memorable account of his first trip to the United States and Canada and said Two thousand twelve marks the two hundredth anniversary of Dickens. Birth will be focusing on a few aspects of his life over the next couple weeks, but this seems like a natural placed, start for one Dickens. First, american tour came early in his career right when he achieved great fame, but not yet great wealth. Second, it shook him up both in his beliefs and in his right in America was not all he had hoped and not. Disillusionment is believed to have greatly affected his later most famous works. And, finally, it gives us a peek at something which eighteen forties was really just beginning in earnest. Celebrity culture with all the barber cells, your hair,
trimmings, Hooty Venus. That's involved with that and will not will explain a little while away little tantalizing clue for what lies ahead at first we're gonna give you a brief background on Charles Dickens, and today I think most people know about Dickens childhood at the boot blacking factory. This really deeply scarring period during which his father was in debtors, prison and little Charles had to go to work and retrospectively. Of course, it's a critical experience for the man who on to create characters like Joe and Oliver twist. Her tiny TIM, even though I find this so interesting, his general public and even his own kids didn't know about that factory work or his father's prison time until after Dickens Vista. What made that period really horrifying was that Dickens had come out of a comfortable home. He was born February, seventh, eighteen, twelve, and he grew up in Chad on his father, working
The Navy pay office his earlier years were heavy on games, magic, lantern shows and performances of comic songs with his sister, sometimes even at a near by tavern. He was, the katydid, and he had a large library it as disposal filled with titles like they re being nights, Robinson, Crusoe and Don Quixote. So is a very happy comfortable childhood, but as fathers fortune decline, the family moved Camden town London gave up education's for the children. I think, except fur dickens, older sister, who still had music lessons and rock bottom. Finally, came in eighteen, twenty four debtors, prison and factory work for by then twelve year old, Charles than he later road of this of this time. In the shock of such a huge change, in whose circumstances quote, I felt my early hopes of growing up to be a learned and distinguish man crushed in my breast
So, after a spell, you know about nine or ten months working in the factory key continue to work here. Unfortunately, after his father got out of debtors prison, but after the family got back on its feet again, Dickens had a little bit more schooling and at age fifteen. He went to work this time as a solicitor's clerk. It wasn't the most interesting work, but at least it gave him a little bit of legal background which influence some of his later novels by one thousand eight hundred and twenty. Eight though he started picking up extra work as a freelance journalist in by one thousand, eight hundred and thirty two. He was taken on as a regular parliamentary reporter and spent his whole career as a journalist. He was popular. He was very good at it, but he was really itching to write more than just the news, and so he started publishing stories in eighteen. Thirty, three in writing. Under the name bows, which was kind of a version of his brothers childhood nickname, he started contributing these street sketches to his pipe.
burn in eighteen, thirty, four, he really been walking round London for most of his life though he knew all types of people. He knew all neighbourhoods and he could paint them really vividly. In these newspaper sketch these popular vignettes caught the attention of the house sellers and were Chapman and William Hall, who commissioned him to write text for a series of illustrations done by a popular earnest of the day, but when the artist committed suicide shortly after the project started, Dickens became the creative led himself shifting the as to the text portion of it. The result was the name making Pickwick papers. A smash but how to run a forty thousand copies and, in his son success dick and signed up for a multitude of projects and stepped up as the editor of a new magazine he'd. Also by this point, married Catherine Hogarth and started a family His hits came out one after another, cereal ized, of course, Oliver twist Nicholas Nickleby, the old curiosity shop and Barnaby rug,
and Dick and still has a reputation of being a shockingly prodigious writer. Some say me he too much so, but even here, was getting worn down by doing so much work. So with all of these Post Pickwick promises around by the early eighteen forties he talked to his publishers and talk them. and to giving him a lengthy sabbatical paid in advance on future work what was he going to do with this really long vacation travel of core? Then dickens are really only had one destination in mind, that was America land of liberty, this nation an unburden by a bunch of old world, hang ups or so Dickens hoped he very much hoped has heard earnestly later. He wanted to see the great frontier he wanted to see the democratic experiment and
Niagara falls all the things you can kind of. Imagine somebody like Dickens wanting to to see in person, but Dickens being Dickens. He also wanted to see the factories and prisons and mad houses. Having spent so much of his time investigating his own country's institutions. He was really ready to see other examples around the world see what other people were up to. Catherine, of course, wasn't too keen on leaving their foreheads by this quaint. Eventually they had ten, but it was decided that they would tour the United States and Canada for just six months to a pretty long time, but they would leave their kids with the actor William Greedy, who is a good family friend, and to speed up the deal for the publishers, who were, of course pang in advance. For this long sabbatical, Dickens would still be working the whole time and upon his return, he'd have a publisher, able,
notebook filled with all of his travel. Impressions turned out to be a pretty fateful decision so January. Third, one thousand eight hundred and forty two, a twenty nine year old Dickens left Liverpool in the steamship Brittania with Katherine and her aid and brown, it was the worst start you could possibly imagine, though they were seasick. The cabin was tiny and cramps that he joked their luggage had about as much of a chance of fitting in the door as a giraffe had of getting into a flower pot and the weather was bad. Actually, some of the war whether that had been around in near it spent most of the trip thinking that they were gonna capsize, though not very far, and they finally landed in Nova, Scotia and then went right on to Boston, which was the first stop of the trap and they got their January twenty second and really at First Dickens, was in Heaven he supposedly would
Herr through the Boston snow, reading off shot signs. He just loved everything he saw, but that elation didn't last very long in one problem. With being dickens, who is, of course, an incredibly fast
miss and cut a surprisingly recognisable celebrity in the United States. This episode is brought you buy office depot offers Debo as supplies and services for businesses of any size. I you speak to this personally. As a college student, when I was a business, the size of one office Debo provides twenty four seven tech support. It lets you print your own marketing materials and it can help you design your office with a bunch of furniture solutions. They also have exactly the supplies. Your office needs from your home office to a commercial set up. They ve got the ink. They ve got the paper that got the cleaning they ve got the brig room supplies. So when I was setting up my home office, I went straight to office Debo because I had a ton of stuff I needed to get, and I wanted to get it all in one.
Place, but don't take my word for it see for yourself office depots, ready to help your business with knowledgeable associates in over one thousand three hundred stores or online at office depot dot com, though maybe it's not too surprising. Dickens wasn't known as an eccentric. Dresser prick clearly in his youth, one Massachusetts onlooker called him a genteel rowdy though once he got pointed out. Maybe it now, oh, that, stick and that the remaining eighty two three or four as little as half a century. Earlier, though, authors had really been very famous as individuals, at least at least not in a stop and stare at them kind. Where they were known mostly for their work, but with better disseminate
of news more gossip spreading around. I mean think of our old, very old. By now, Lord Byron episode, these famous personalities, whether they were authors or actors, are singers started to get as big as anything they were producing. They started to become name than recognisable people, but four dickens fame, wasn't a very fine thing to acquire. No, I mean it involves fancy parties and being icons. But it also involves a lot of the unpleasantness that we associate with modern day celebrity culture which shocked, Dickens and really sturbed him. Crowds would follow him, where he wrote quote. If I turn into the street and followed by a multitude, and I can't drink, glass of water without having one hundred people. Looking down my throat when I open my mouth to swallow on a boat stop over near Cleveland, he caught a coup party of gentlemen staring at his sleeping wife through a cabin window. People on the docks would actually rip handfuls of fur from his coat.
when he came by, and then I mean, if that's not bad enough. There was this profit driven side of a lot of these celebrity craze to the barber re mention he tried to sell his hair Tiffany than company apparently made copies of Dickens. Boston offered those at first they'll think this really bothered him all of this money making surrounding his name and is another aspect of this fame that really bother dickens, and that was wherever he went. Withers Boston, Philadelphia, Saint Louis Washington DC, rich men, New York City Louisville. He met Two of american fans who had obviously red and enjoyed his books. Ok, that's a good thing. Presumably they ve all been buying those books, which is true only problem with that due to a lack of international copyright laws, Dickens New haven't made any money off of these many fan fence. Yours publishers could rip off his work. So, on the one hand, he thing these busts of himself that people are trying to sell
so he's not making any money for the actual books that have made him so famous in the first place. So he started peppering. His speeches with dissatisfaction about the law but he wasn't oblivious. He didn't try to centres argued on his own personal finances. Instead, he chose to focus on that all writers, Americans included, would benefit from a change and that, at the end of the day, he'd quote rather have the affectionate regard of my fellow men as I would have heaps of gold heaps and minds of gold. So he tried to catch it in terms like just looking out for all writers and gradually, though, that sort of spin on his argument changed and got a little more intense than While many average Americans would have agreed with him that there needed to be some kind of copyright changes, the press really pounced on this copyright obsession index an indelicate an improper avenue of public discussion, something and honoured guests shouldn't be
going around talking to everybody about in. It was really the first strike in what became known as the Dickens Quarrel with America, because, as the press escalated thinks so too Dickens ok, but before we get into more particular, is about what really? is going to sound like the ultimate FED vacation. It's worth no But there were some high points to this. There were some good times sometimes, being celebrated author meant parties, as we mentioned and mingling with fellow famous people on Valentine's day. Eighteen, forty two, for example, Dickens was the of Honour at one of the biggest parties to that date and New York City Park Theatre, which was according to Simon Watson, see magazine decorated with wreaths paintings and a bust of dickens, with an eagle soaring over his head, which
I'm a little strange and I can't help but wonder if that had anything to do with Dickens request in as well that no monuments be ADA them thing that Eagle flying over his head and you, like you just mentioned. He also did get to meet a lot of fellow writers. He met EDGAR, Allan POE Washington, Irving, Longfellow Oliver Window HOMES, Harriet Beecher, Stowe, Lotta, fuck soup, pop up in the past year and and Catherine had some fun too. I mean I know there later relationship is not characterize very well, so we're going to talk about in another episode, but during this time they seem to have a pretty good time. They acted in a play together on the last leg of their trip. Was a witch was a jaunt through Canada that included a stop in Montreal. They really enjoyed that and then, whenever he could, he broke away from all of the hubbub all of the fancier people who were flocking around him to do what he like to do more.
It was just wander. Tour of these new towns he was visiting here he toward that some of the worst neighborhoods in fact of New York City. At the time it was five points in the Bowery he visited the mills at low and ass. She sets and was impressed defined a model industrial community. place where the women workers only stay A few years they lived in comfy boarding, house, and they had access to things like lecture series. A house run period article and pianos, so it was really different from what he knew of similar situations in England, and I think that's an important thing to consider when we get to some of the later particulars in this episode that he did see thumb, he did compare some things in the United States positively compare tat to what he saw in England He also toward prisons, and insane asylums might seem a lot strange to us now to do that on your vacation, but a court two Natalie midnight, a professor of Boston University interviewed on the world. It wasn't that weird for British
writers to include investigative travel on their trips to the U S and go their major high point, four dickens was a trip to the Perkins Institute, which was well and is a school for the blind in Massachusetts, and I think it really speaks for dick and sincere interest in social issues that the top items on his to see in the United States, less were Niagara falls, as we already mentioned, and then Laura Bridgman. Who was a little girl who was deaf blind but had been educated with language and Bridgman. Who, incidentally, is believed to be the first deaf blind person to be educated had been written about by Perkins Director Doktor, Samuel Gridley? How and he was the man who had also come up with the system for teaching her language in the first place he had written this publication, which
pretty popular internationally and Dickens had heard of it. So Dickens was so impressed by meeting Laura that he included quite a bit of the meeting in his later publish notes on America and according to Jan Seymour Ford, whose research librarian Perkins Schools for people with disabilities were really just starting to, as she said, get traction during this time and his work, help spread the word a little bit about, but what an institution like this could do for people who had disability situated on the beautiful cable beach by Hamas is a spectacular news or destination in the Bahamas. Would choice of three ocean front? Hotels, the grand high it s less rosewood. This is the place to find your perfect Glinda luxury relaxation and a lot of fun whatever you're looking for you can find it at Baja, MAR the Bahamas most exciting, culinary destination, the resort
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also led directly to the education of none other than Helen Keller. Decades. After Dickens visit, Kellers parents read his american notes and came across the story of Laura Bridge. They went to Perkins and we're connected with the graduate and teacher who is Anne Sullivan, a miracle worker who taught Keller Language and that this little sub story here is just so interesting to me. It makes me almost want to maybe do a a future upset on Helen Keller, but it wasn't, of course, all pleasant trips like trips to Lowell trips, to Perkins, for Dick in peach, visited Washington DC in March, and he met President John Tyler HEAT or the capital, but the trip was kind of defined by the disregard for spittoons that he witnessed in the nation's capital. He later wrote. Washington may be called the orders of tobacco tinctured saliva. The thing itself is an exaggeration of nastiness, which cannot be outdone, and he went on to warn readers that if they were gonna tour,
the capital, and I mean the capital building, if in case they dropped anything, be careful not to pick it up without love hands, because you're probably going run into a bunch of tobacco sped. Other issues around the country involved. What he saw as poor. table manners, overheated homes, arrogance, hypocrisy and a tendency towards violence that was illustrated by a gun, between two kids who are using real gun, so a kind of ran the home from the whole ungloved hands to Poor table manners and went up from their meriting. It got more serious than that to enrichment. He saw slavery which he was very outspoken against, and then some of it was just disappointment in Saint Louis, for instance, he was disappointed by a trip to see the look. glass Prairie, which is something he had really wanted to do, go see the prairie. According to Professor Jerome Messier who's, the author of Dickens and innocent abroad quote the longer
Dickens rubbing shoulders with Americans the more he realized that the Americans are simply not english enough and Dickens himself wrote to his friend greedy was take care of his kids. This is not the republic I came to see. This is not the republic of my imagination there, those harsh words, but after he got home Dickens Did one better he started polishing up has travelled journals than he ended up, publishing them, as promised as american notes for general circulation, and he stepped up again in the following year. He started a new book called Martin Chuzzlewit and when the first issues, what really thought? that well, he decided to pack off his here. oh to America and in did a lot of his own kind of experiences he had seen in the Midwest. So both has travel. Log and has novel painted quite and unflattering picture of America seems folks, wouldn't have expect.
the man famous for tearing apart policies of british life, to be entirely kind, but in fact they have new friends like Washington, Irving, were heard even outraged. People in New York, burned, copies of Martin Chuzzlewit Papers, denounced american notes, the trip very likely change, Dickens, to some scholars, see his work getting less optimistic after his american journey, and I can kind of see this from several different perspectives. One it does seem like people overreacted, quite a bit, they travel notes do include kind of unfavourable comparisons to british things. You know where we are talking about the law, the law of factories and how its England that comes across as
and now the situation. There is a lot of stuff like that, but if people were over reacting Abed will then maybe also Dickens kind of had unrealistic expectations. If you go into a trap and your expectations are that it will be a land of innocent people were everything's perfect, you no kind of a utopia, it seemed he was expecting you're, probably gonna, be a little bit too, any especially people ripping four out of your coat and had strew. So it's not that we have. This really affected Dickens popularity as an author in the U S twenty years later Dickens who, by this point, had multiple households to support measures to hint for it spawn asked regulation where he decided it might be I am to revisit America and this time as a part of his smash lecture series in which he'd act rather than red portions, of his own works from special gaslight lectern. So after sending reconnaissance scout on a
he arrived in Boston in MID November of eighteen, sixty seven during his northeastern tore. Quite a few things happened. He meant Mark TWAIN, Mark TWAIN, saw him and, of course, Mark TWAIN is also known for his his public readings, which were apparently just as good as Dickens. And a twelve year old girl chatted with him on a train telling him that she'd read all his books but skipped the quote: link Then, don't hearts and She in fact grew up to write Rebecca of Sunnybrook book Varville Popular Children's book there and then Doktor Samuel greatly. How of Perkins, who we mention, contacted Dickens about publishing the old curiosity shop in Braille and Dickens actually
Not only gave his approval, he put up one thousand seven hundred dollars to have two hundred fifty copies printed, which were in turn distributed to all of the blind schools in America, something that was pretty cool. The lectures themselves were a huge had. I mean, of course, that was why he was back in the United States in the first place. He may nineteen thousand pounds in many folks couldn't remember the first tourists. Are there weren't any hard feelings there, and even the press took dickens return as a sign of goodwill. For instance, the New York Tribune wrote can second coming was needed to disperse every cloud and every doubt into place his name undimmed and the silver Sunshine of american admiration kind of an overblown welcome. Welcome back again and Dickinson self felt differently to. In his farewell speech. He spoke of the quote. Gigantic changes he'd seen in country changes moral changes, physical, changes in the amount of land subdued and people
just in the rise of vast new cities, changes in the growth of older cities, almost out of recognition changes in the cases and amenities of life changes in the press without whose advice no advancement can take place anywhere, and he asked statement, be added to every copy of american notes and Morton Chuzzlewit, and it still is there to day kind of. I take it back you guys of myths. A year ago, though, It was really interesting to learn about an author, so associated with England or really so associated with London in a different context, see him out of his element a little bit. That was what appealed to me the story here I think, in the way, it's actually of quite a testament to travel itself that you can broad and open your eyes, and you just see things Different way, I mean he obviously didn't work out so well, the first time because he had a bad experience. He was disappointed and, like you said that was probably at equal parts, his fault in
The fault is waiting, as are exactly of people spitting tobacco, on the floor, but when he came back the next time it seemed like a sort of a different point of view, while here Definitely learned kind of a lesson about maybe being careful when travelling to keep some of your opinion, although it's kind of nice to have honesty, Andreotti. Looking back on it now. Thank you so much for joining us on this Saturday. If you have heard an email address or a facebook url or something similar over the course of today's episode, since it is from the archive that might be out of date, now you can email us at history, podcast at how stuff works, dot, com and you can and it's all over social media at missed in history, and you can subscribe to arson
on Apple podcast, Google, podcast, the Iheart Radio APP and wherever else he listened upon gown Furthermore, on this and thousands of other topics visit how stuff works, dot com, this episode brought to you by office, Debo Office Depot, has supplies and services for businesses, any size, and they have a wide range of services. They provide twenty four seven tech support print your marketing materials and even help you design your office with a variety of furniture solutions. They also have all of the supplies your office needs from ink and paper to cleaning and break room supplies. I'll tell you one thing that I never want to have to mess with again is figuring out what
donor or in cartridges. My particular brand of printer needs office depot. Has you cover whether you're running a home office like I do or work in a larger corporate setting? They have you cover office depots, ready to help your business with knowledgeable associates in over thirteen hundred stores or online and honesty, boat outcome.