"Preface" [The British Lion hands the American Eagle a copy of American Notes by C. D.] by Thomas Nast, in Charles Dickens's American Notes, "Preface," 283. 1877. Wood-engraving, 4 ⅛ by 5 ¼ inches (10.5 cm high by 13.5 cm wide), vignetted.

Passage Illustrated: "Preface" for American Notes by C. D.

My readers have opportunities of judging for themselves whether the influences and tendencies which I distrusted in America had, at that time, any existence but in my imagination. They can examine for themselves whether there has been any thing in the public career of that country since, at home or abroad, which suggests that those influences and tendencies really did exist. As they find the fact, they will judge me. If they discern any evidences of wrong-going, in any direction that I have indicated, they will acknowledge that I had reason in what I wrote. If they discern no such indications, they will consider me altogether mistaken — but not willfully.

Prejudiced I am not, and never have been, otherwise than in favor of the United States. I have many friends in America; I feel a grateful interest in the country; I hope and believe it will successfully work out a problem of the highest importance to the whole human race. To represent me as viewing AMERICA with ill-nature, coldness, animosity, or partisanship, is merely to do a very foolish thing: which is always a very easy one. [283]

Commentary: Ironic Detailism — "The Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free"

Right: Nast's imaginative frontispiece of the British Lion, dressed as John Bull, accompanying himself on the organ to the tune of "The Land of the Brave and The Home of the Free," Household Edition: Uncaptioned Frontispiece.

Nast employs the two nations' iconic beasts, the Lion (dressed as John Bull) and the Eagle (dressed as Uncle Sam) to show the degree of amity that has developed between the United Kingdom and the United States over the course of the nineteenth century, after the open hostilities of the War of 1812, and after Dickens's sometimes rocky, sometimes adulatory initial American reading tour of 1842. The two chief irritants of Dickens's first visit to American shores, international copyright and slavery, were resolved by President Lincoln's signing the Emancipation Proclamation and by American publishers' gradually making "trade courtesy" arrangements with their British counterparts in order to remunerate British authors — and acquire rush proofs.

The British Lion and American Eagle: Jolly Companions

Above: Nast's imaginative tailpiece of the British Lion and American Eagle amicably drinking together as the bird completes reading the book, All's Well That Ends Well.

A. B. Frost's Illustrations for American Notes for General Circulation (1880)

Marcus Stone illustrations for American Notes

Related Material

Scanned image, colour correction, sizing, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose, as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.] Click on the image to enlarge it.


Dickens, Charles. American Notes. Works, New York: Peter Fenelon Collier & Son, 1890.

__________. Pictures from Italy, Sketches by Boz and American Notes. Illustrated by Thomas Nast and Arthur B. Frost. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1877 (copyrighted in 1876).

__________. American Notes for General Circulation and Pictures from Italy. Illustrated by J. Gordon Thomson and A. B. Frost. London: Chapman and Hall, 1880.

Created 21 May 2019

Last modified 8 June 2020