American Notes for General Circulation
So wrote an exuberant Dickens shortly before his voyage to America in 1842. He was the most famous of many travellers of his time who journeyed to the New World, curious to find out about the revolutionary new civilization which had captured the English imagination. His frank, often humorous descriptions cover everything from his comically uncomfortable sea voyage to his wonder at the Niagara Falls. In general Dickens is critical of what he saw as a society ruled by money and partly built on slavery, with unsavoury manners and a corrupt press. His unfavourable account provoked a hostile response in America and Britain, although he was to change his opinion later.
American Notes can be read as a journey in the long-established tradition of Chaucer, Bunyan or Swift -- as a progress to knowledge through varied experiences. Above all, it is a fascinating account of what was for Dickens an illuminating encounter with the New World.