Learn more about Charles Dickens, who toured America in 1842
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was the son of John Dickens, a naval clerk, and Elizabeth
Barrow, who aspired to be a teacher. In 1824, when he was just 12 years old, his father was sent to debtor’s prison. The family was living in a poor neighborhood
in London. Charles left school to work in a rundown boot-blacking factory.
In 1827, he found work as an office boy, and in a couple years began
freelance reporting at the law courts of London and later for two London
newspapers. He also submitted sketches to magazines and newspapers,
which in 1836 were compiled in a book.
His experiences left him with a concern for impoverished children and influenced his writing, as seen in Oliver Twist (published 1838) and A Christmas Carol (published 1843), among many of his short stories, novels and plays.
In 1842, Dickens embarked on a tour of America.
His arrival was heralded in the Baltimore newspapers and others. He and his wife Catherine spent two days in Baltimore, and stayed at Barnum’s City Hotel, located in the business district at the intersection of Calvert and Fayette Streets. Here’s an excerpt of a news report:
Excerpt: March 23, 1842 – The Baltimore Patriot and Commercial Gazette
The distinguished author has been in Baltimore for the last two days, and left this morning in the Susquehanna Railroad line for Columbia. Mr. and Mrs. Dickens received at their room at the City Hotel the ladies and gentlemen who extended to them the courtesies of social intercourse, and were entertained privately, as far as their limited sojourn with us would permit.
Washington Irving was also in Baltimore, and left this morning for New York, whence he sails for Madrid early in April. It was very pleasant to meet in the social circles these distinguished representatives of American and English and literature.
Mr. Dickens made a visit yesterday to the Maryland Hospital and Penitentiary, as he takes a deep interest in studying human nature in such receptacles of misfortune and crime. The civilities extended to him in Baltimore were very quiet and unostentatious, as such as must have been gratifying to himself as a man.
Dickens returned to London in June 1842.
The following year, he wrote A Christmas Carol, which was an immediate hit and sold 6,000 copies.
SOURCES: Baltimore Dickens Society, a branch of the international Dickens Fellowship; the BBC; news article excerpted from Dave Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page, a private Web compilation of news coverage about Dickens and his visit to America; image of Dickens by James Gurney, courtesy of Wikimedia.
Click here to visit the Christmas Carol trivia page at website Charles Dickens Info.com, authored and published by literature enthusiast Marsha Perry of Perry Internet Consulting.