Charles Dickens at 200

American scenes in Martin Chuzzlewit

illustration from Martin Chuzzlewit

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Some of Dickens' American experiences appear in his sixth novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, first printed in monthly parts in 1843-1844. However, the sublime scenery Dickens wrote about in letters to friends and in American Notes is transformed in the novel, replaced by swampy decay and corruption. Young Martin's journey to the U.S. is a story of greed and selfishness, depicted in exaggerated form on the American frontier.

The closing page of chapter 15 in part V (June 1843) ends with Young Martin's resolve to "go to America." Readers of the novel had to wait one month for chapter 16 in part VI, in order to continue the story. A summary of the chapter appears in small caps at the head of the page. The narrative includes Dickens' jibe at the preoccupation of the American press with gossip and scandal as he presents the yells of the news-boys as passengers disembark from the ship:

"Here's this morning's New York Sewer!" cried one.
"Here's this morning's New York Stabber! Here's the New York Family Spy! Here's the New York Private Listener! Here's the New York Peeper! Here's the New York Plunderer! Here's the New York Keyhole Reporter!
Here's the New York Rowdy Journal!"

Advertisements in the book were printed on yellow paper, and the illustrations are by H.K. Browne, also known as "Phiz."

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
London: Chapman & Hall, January 1843-July 1844


advertisements in Martin Chuzzlewit

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