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Dickens Minor Works
American Notes | Pictures From Italy | The Life of Our Lord | A Child's History of England

American Notes - 1843
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Dickens in America - 1842Chronicle of Dickens' first American visit in 1842. Written largely from letters that Dickens sent home to his friend John Forster, American Notes sold well but received negative reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. American readers were put off by Dickens' criticism of the American press, American manners, slavery, and his preoccupation with international copyright laws. English readers saw nothing novel in his matter-of-fact observations. Today American Notes offers an interesting glimpse of an America experiencing the growing pains that would eventually lead to civil war. Many of Dickens' observations of the time are hilariously quaint today, particularly his view of the American habit of tobacco chewing.

Pictures From Italy - 1846
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The Colosseum of Rome by Samual Palmer Dickens, his wife Kate, her sister Georgina, and the Dickens' five children, along with several servants, left London in a very large coach on July 2, 1844 bound for Italy. Dickens had employed Louis Roche, whom he referred to as "the brave courier" to be their guide and make travel arrangements. Louis was a native of Avignon and proved to be invaluable.

On the advice of a friend Dickens had rented a house outside Genoa in Albaro which proved to be unsatisfactory. After three months the family moved to Genoa and into the beautiful Palazzo Peschiere. Dickens became enchanted with Genoa and the manner of the people which he described as The Street of the Tombs: Pompeii by Samuel Palmer"exceedingly animated and pantomimic; so that two friends of the lower class conversing pleasantly in the street, always seem on the eve of stabbing each other forthwith. And a stranger is immensely astonished at their not doing it."

Early during their one-year stay in Genoa Dickens wrote the Christmas book The Chimes, getting the idea for the title from the incessant ringing of bells in Genoa. On completion of the book he dashed back to England, by way of Venice, Milan (where he reported that clumsy attempts by 'bunglers' to patch Da Vinci's The Last Supper had virtually destroyed it), and Switzerland, to read it to friends. He returned to his family in Genoa just before Christmas 1844.

Early in 1845 Dickens and Kate left the children with Georgina and traveled through southern Italy visiting Pisa with its leaning tower ("like most things connected in their first associations with school-books and school-times, it was too small"). Initially disappointed with Rome, which he reported looking, at a distance, like London, he was soon captivated by the ruins. He reported to his friend John Forster that he had never in his life been so moved or overcome by any sight as by that of the Coliseum, except perhaps by the Falls of Niagara. They visited the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii, made a very dangerous trip to the top of Vesuvius, even climbing to the very rim and peering into the "Hell of boiling fire below" and coming away with his clothes alight in a dozen places.

Coming back to Rome to observe Pope Gregory XVI conduct Holy Week, Dickens could not hide his disdain for the Catholic Church whose empty rituals seem to him a farce, and whose power he blamed for the oppression and poverty of the people. This anti-Catholic slant found its way into Pictures From Italy to the point that his friend, artist Clarkson Stanfield, who had agreed to illustrate the book, later refused.

The family returned from Italy in June of 1845. Initially Dickens published reports of his journey in the Daily News as a series of eight "Travelling Letters." Pictures From Italy was published in book form in May 1846 with four woodcuts by Samuel Palmer.

Map of Dickens' travels 1844-45

The Life of Our Lord - written 1846, published 1934
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The Life of Our Lord Cover Dickens wrote The Children's New Testament, a simplified version of the life of Christ, for the instruction of his children and was never meant for publication. With the death of Dickens' last surviving child, Henry Fielding Dickens, in 1933, the rights to the work were sold to the Daily Mail and published with the new title The Life of Our Lord.

A Child's History of England - Published serially in Household Words from Jan 1851 to Dec 1853
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Joan of Arc Dickens' history of England from the Roman conquest in 55 BC to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when Protestant William of Orange wrested the throne from Catholic James II. Written for children with a decidedly Protestant slant, Dickens, no historian himself, relied on previously written histories including Thomas Keightley's History of England and David Hume's History of Great Britain.

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