Charles Dickens and Massachusetts: A Tale of Power and Transformation
University of Massachusetts Lowell
In 1842, Dickens and his wife Catherine came to the United States for the first time, providing Dickens opportunities to explore the nation's growing cities, experience the culture and lifestyle of the young nation, interact with fellow authors, and examine innovations seen in science and industry.
Dickens was impressed by what he saw in Boston, Worcester, Lowell, and other Massachusetts communities. He marveled at the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, the House of Industry, Boston's prison, Harvard University, and the mills of Lowell. One of the greatest visual legacies of his Boston visit is the portrait painted by Francis Alexander. Dickens also had a phrenological exam performed by Worcester's L. N. Fowler during his visit. Dickens met numerous writers and community leaders while in Massachusetts and traveled to the state's largest cities. Dickens also traveled through Connecticut and Rhode Island as he journeyed south to New York. The young Dickens was already considered a celebrity, an international superstar of literature, and attracted huge crowds wherever he went. His visit was celebrated with a Boz Ball in New York City, and like events around the nation. Twenty-five years following his first trip, Dickens made his second and final trip to the United States in 1867. The itinerary was more robust than the first, with readings scheduled in multiple cities. The second trip had a very different purpose and dynamic-he was not a tourist but a performer. Unfortunately, Dickens health was poor, made worse with his travel. Upon his return to England, he continued writing but died in 1870.
Walking tour: 'In the Footsteps of Charles Dickens': this tour was a great success in 2002 when the Dickens and American conference was hosted in Lowell. The tour would be resurrected and revised to compliment the exhibit. The tour would provide a visitor an opportunity to follow Dickens's itinerary while exploring Lowell and understand his thoughts concerning industrialized labor. The staff providing the tour would use American Notes as source material, with the liberal use of quotes throughout the tour. Following the end of the exhibit's run, the tour would be made a permanent offering at LNHP.
Did You Know?
The factory bells dominated daily life in Lowell. They woke the workers at 4:30 a.m., called them into the mill at 4:50, rang them out for breakfast and back in, out and in for dinner, out again at 7 p.m. at the day's close. The whole city, it seemed, moved together and did the mills' bidding.