The following notes are adapted from John S. Whitley and Arnold Goldman's Penguin edition of American Notes ( New York: Penguin, 1972).
            Consult this edition for more detailed and more comprehensive notes on the places, names, events, and customs referred to in American Notes.

Chapter 1

1. George Henry Robins (1778-1847), an auctioneer famous for writing his own high-flown advertisements for property. Return

2. William Cecil, Lord Burleigh (1520-1598) was chief minister of Elizabeth I. In Sheridan's play, The Critic, he enters, preoccupied by affairs of state, shakes his head and exits. This shake gave rise to the expression, "Burleigh's nod." Return

3. The steamship President sank in 1840. Return

Chapter 2

1. Mr. Willet is a character in Barnaby Rudge (1841). Return

2. Though some were skeptical of his descriptions, Dickens is not exaggerating here -- even the officers agreed this crossing was one of the worst in many years. Return

3. The "newsmen" are newspaper sellers. Return

4. The satire on editors and the press continues in Martin Chuzzlewit, with Colonel Diver and Mr. Jefferson Brick. Return

Chapter 3

1. Harvard College. Return

2. "That one man" is Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, mentioned by name later (p. 46). Return

3. Madge Wildfire is a character in Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian (1818). Return

4. Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773). His Letters to his (natural) son were designed for instruction in manners and good breeding. Return

5. "Blue" here means "learned" or "pedantic," presumably derived from The Blue Stocking Society, which met (c.1750) to discuss literature and art. Return

6. Opposing eighteenth-century rationalism, the Transcendentalists believed that intuition surpassed reason as a guide to truth; that God coexisted in the universe and the individual; and that the mind was a microcosm of the Oversoul of the universe. From this followed the Transcendentalists' stress on self-reliance. Return

7. John Balfour of Burley is a character in Sir Walter Scott's Old Mortality (1816). Return

8. George, Duke of Clarence (1449-1478)-- brother of King Edward IV--is supposed (in a popular version of his death) to have been drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. Return

Chapter 4

1. An adventure from Book II of Gulliver's Travels. Return

2. Other travellers noted the fondness of American woman for British sentimental novels and the names found there . Return

Chapter 5

1. According to tradition, the tree was a hiding place for the Connecticut Charter of 1662 (issued by Charles II), when in 1686 Governor Andros demanded it in the name of James II. Under William of Orange, the government of Connecticut was restored (1688). Return

2. The Burlington Arcade of Burlington House (home of the Royal Society) is more than 200 yards long. Return

3. Diedrich Knickerbocker is the narrator of Washington Irving's humorous History of New York (1809). Hell Gate is a narrow channel of the East River, dangerous because of rocks, shelves, and whirlpools which are known by various names, including Hog's Back and Frying Pan. Return

Chapter 6

1. Lombard Street is the financial center of London. Return

2. Packet ships carried dispatches, mail, passengers, and freight at fixed sailing days. Return

3. In Le Sage's Gil Blas (1735), Gil's strange master in Madrid--a suspected thief and spy--turns out to be a nobleman who professes "philosophical indolence," and simply walks about all day, doing nothing. Return

4. The Dutch brought nine-pin bowling to America in the seventeenth century. Because of intense betting on the game, it was banned by Connecticut and New York in 1841. Ten-pin bowling was invented to defeat the law. Return

5. Cornelius Conway Felton (1807-1862), Professor of Greek at Harvard, and a friend of Dickens. Return

6. Fantoccini are marionettes. Return

7. In Le Sage's Le Diable Boiteux (1707), a devil amuses his master by lifting the roofs off houses in Madrid, giving rise to various satiric views of society. Return

8. "Sweet William's Farewell to Black-Ey'd Susan: A Ballad," by John Gay (1685-1732). Return

9. "Will Watch The Smuggler," a ballad by John Davy (1763-1824). Return

10. John Paul Jones (1747-1792), Scottish- born adventurer, and American naval hero during the Revolutionary War ("I have not yet begun to fight") . Return

11. Almack's was later renamed "Dickens' Place," in honor of his visit and its appearance in the Notes. Return

12. "Juba" (William Henry Lane, 1825-53) was "the greatest dancer" at that time. He was one of the few black entertainers to appear on the same bill with white men. Return

13. A "simoom" is a hot, dry wind of the desert of North Africa. Return

Chapter 7

1. Probably a reference to the statue of the Commendatore which drags Don Giovanni into Hell. Return

2. Benjamin West (1738-1820), born near Philadelphia, painter of historical and biblical scenes, became the President of the Royal Academy in 1792. Return

3. Thomas Sully (1783-1872), a pupil of West, and a successful portrait painter. Return

4. "The Lady of the Lake" (1810), a poem by Sir Walter Scott. Scott was very popular in America at this time. Return

Chapter 8

1. In the Arabian Nights, Prince Barmecide of Baghdad serves an imaginary feast in empty dishes to a beggar. Return

2. John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), arguing in the House of Representatives for the right to present petitions against slavery. It has been observed that Dickens--intentionally or unintentionally--obscures the fact that Adams was less an abolitionist than an opponent of the "gag rule" (instituted 1836, overturned 1844). Return

3. James Crichton (1560-1582?) was an able Scottish scholar and soldier. Sir Thomas Urquhart called him "The Admirable Crichton" in his biography (1652). (The appellation may also be familiar to those who know the butler-hero in J.M. Barrie's 1914 comedy, The Admirable Crichton). Return

4. Dickens admired Washington Irving (1783- 1859), author of comic works such as History of New York (1809) and Sketch Book (1819-20). The two became friends during Dickens' American stay, but Irving disapproved of American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit, and refused to meet Dickens in London. Return

Chapter 9

1. Andrew Ducrow (1793-1842), celebrated horseman at Astley's circus, London. Return

2. Colonel Jack (1722), by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). (Part of Moll Flanders [1722] is also set in Virginia). Return

3. An episode from Book IV of Gulliver's Travels. Return

4. The British failed to capture Fort McHenry and Baltimore at the Battle of North Point (September 12, 1814). Return

5. "The Parish Register" (1807), by The Rev. George Crabbe (1754-1832). Return

Chapter 10

1. Caleb Quotem, a character in The Review by George Colman, was a loquacious jack-of-all-trades. Return

2. "Down Easters" are men from Maine. "Johnny Cake" is a slang term for a New Englander. Return

Chapter 12

1. The novelist James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851). Return

2. The Yahoos are the bestial humans in Book IV of Gulliver's Travels. Return

3. Cairo is the real-life analogue of the town of Eden, visited by Martin Chuzzlewit. Return

Chapter 14

1. A quack physician in Le Sage's Gil Blas (1735), whose knowledge of medicine was limited to prescribing bleeding and intakes of water. Return

2. Alexander Baring, first Baron Ashburton (1774-1848). In 1842, he met with Daniel Webster (1782-1852) to negotiate the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which settled disputes over the U.S.-Canadian border. Return

Chapter 15

1. Sir Isaac Brock (1769-1812), who in the War of 1812 defeated the Americans at Queenston Heights near Niagara, in which battle he was killed. Return

2. The flag of the Orangemen, a political party formed in 1795 to ensure Protestant ascendency in Ireland and named after William of Orange, who succeeded to the English throne in 1688 on the deposition of the Catholic James II. Return

3. In December 1837, William Lyon Mackenzie gathered a rebel force and attacked Toronto. Defeated, he escaped to Navy Island in the Niagara River and set up a provisional government. When compelled to retire to the United States, he was imprisoned for breach of the neutrality laws. Return

4. During the French and Indian War, James Wolfe (1727-1759) led the British army to victory on the Plains of Abraham, in which battle he was killed. Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint Véran (1712-1759), commanded the French forces and was also killed in the battle. Return

5. The Shakers were a millenarian group who called themselves "The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing." They originated in England and came to America in 1774. Return

6. The Catskill Mountains, just west of the Hudson River, inspired the "Hudson River School" of artists and writers. "Rip Van Winkle" is a tale in Washington Irving's Sketchbook (1820). With a nagging wife, Van Winkle lives on the Hudson before the Revolution. On a walk in the Catskills, he meets a party of strange, silent men dressed in old-fashioned Dutch costume. They play nine-pins and then he falls asleep for twenty years. He returns--having missed the Revolution--to his home, where he lives happily with his daughter and her family. Return

Chapter 17

1. Dickens took most of the accounts of slavery in this chapter from a pamphlet entitled American Slavery As It Is (1839), compiled by Theodore D. Weld. Ten years later, Harriet Beecher Stowe consulted the pamphlet while writing Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Return

Chapter 18

1. Joanna Southcott (1750-1814) claimed to be the woman mentioned in the Book of Revelations. Mary Toft or Tofts (1701?-1763) claimed in 1726 to have given birth to rabbits; she fooled quite a number of people for some time, though she was eventually shown to be a fraud. John Nichols Tom or Thom (1799- 1838) claimed to be the Messiah; he was shot to death near Canterbury. Return

2. Sir Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), an important member of the reform movement, wrote reports on the condition of child labor, police forces, and sanitation. Return


1. This "Postscript" was printed in a journal edited by Dickens, All the Year Round, on June 6, 1868. Return

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