"What's the odds, so long as we're happy?" by Thomas Nast, in Charles Dickens's Pictures from Italy and American Notes (1877), Chapter III, "Boston," p. 306. Wood-engraving, 4 ¼ by 5 ¼ inches (10.9 cm high by 13.4 cm wide), vignetted. Descriptive headline: "Lectures — Transcendentalism" (307).

Passage Illustrated: Dickens's Comparison of British and American Courts

To an Englishman, accustomed to the paraphernalia of Westminster Hall, an American Court of Law is as odd a sight as, I suppose, an English Court of Law would be to an American. Except in the Supreme Court at Washington (where the judges wear a plain black robe), there is no such thing as a wig or gown connected with the administration of justice. The gentlemen of the bar being barristers and attorneys too (for there is no division of those functions as in England) are no more removed from their clients than attorneys in our Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors are, from theirs. The jury are quite at home, and make themselves as comfortable as circumstances will permit. The witness is so little elevated above, or put aloof from, the crowd in the court, that a stranger entering during a pause in the proceedings would find it difficult to pick him out from the rest. And if it chanced to be a criminal trial, his eyes, in nine cases out of ten, would wander to the dock in search of the prisoner, in vain; for that gentleman would most likely be lounging among the most distinguished ornaments of the legal profession, whispering suggestions in his counsel’s ear, or making a toothpick out of an old quill with his penknife.

I could not but notice these differences, when I visited the courts at Boston. I was much surprised at first, too, to observe that the counsel who interrogated the witness under examination at the time, did so sitting. But seeing that he was also occupied in writing down the answers, and remembering that he was alone and had no ‘junior,’ I quickly consoled myself with the reflection that law was not quite so expensive an article here, as at home; and that the absence of sundry formalities which we regard as indispensable, had doubtless a very favourable influence upon the bill of costs. [Chapter III: "Boston," 305-6]

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Dickens, Charles. Chapter III, "Boston." 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). 294-309.

__________. Chapter III, "Boston."American Notes for General Circulation and Pictures from Italy. Illustrated by J. Gordon Thomson and A. B. Frost. London: Chapman and Hall, 1880. 208-44.

Created 20 May 2019

Last modified 11 June 2020