Pictures from Italy and American Notes (1880), Chapter X, "Some Further Account of the Canal Boat, its Domestic Economy, and its Passengers. Journey to Pittsburg across the Alleghany Mountains. Pittsburg," facing p. 335. Wood-engraving, 3 ⅞ by 5 ⅜ inches (9.8 cm high by 13.8 cm wide), framed.by A. B. Frost (engraved by Edward G. Dalziel), in Charles Dickens's
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Passage Elaborated Upon
We had another odd specimen on board, of a different kind. This was a thin-faced, spare-figured man of middle age and stature, dressed in a dusty drabbish-coloured suit, such as I never saw before. He was perfectly quiet during the first part of the journey: indeed I don’t remember having so much as seen him until he was brought out by circumstances, as great men often are. The conjunction of events which made him famous, happened, briefly, thus.
The canal extends to the foot of the mountain, and there, of course, it stops; the passengers being conveyed across it by land carriage, and taken on afterwards by another canal boat, the counterpart of the first, which awaits them on the other side. There are two canal lines of passage-boats; one is called The Express, and one (a cheaper one) The Pioneer. The Pioneer gets first to the mountain, and waits for the Express people to come up; both sets of passengers being conveyed across it at the same time. We were the Express company; but when we had crossed the mountain, and had come to the second boat, the proprietors took it into their beads to draft all the Pioneers into it likewise, so that we were five-and-forty at least, and the accession of passengers was not at all of that kind which improved the prospect of sleeping at night. Our people grumbled at this, as people do in such cases; but suffered the boat to be towed off with the whole freight aboard nevertheless; and away we went down the canal. At home, I should have protested lustily, but being a foreigner here, I held my peace. Not so this passenger. He cleft a path among the people on deck (we were nearly all on deck), and without addressing anybody whomsoever, soliloquised as follows:
"This may suit you, this may, but it don’t suit me. [Chapter X, "Some Further Account of the Canal Boat, its Domestic Economy, and its Passengers. Journey to Pittsburg across the Alleghany Mountains. Pittsburg," page 332]
Commentary: The Canal Boat and The Brown Forester
Whereas Sol Eytinge, Junior, for the Diamond Edition (1867) depicted the sketch's principal speaker, "The Brown Forester" from Mississippi, A. B. Frost has elected to depict a scene with eight men (the majority of them smoking cigars) in the cabin of the canal boat. Dickens specifically mentions forty-five passengers from the two lines, the Express and the Pioneer, as being accommodated on the deck of a single canal boat after both groups of travellers have crossed the mountain by carriage: "we were nearly all on deck" (335). However, Frost has chosen for his illustration a subject which Dickens does not address: the poorly-lit cabin. With a large stove, it must have been stiflingly hot, and five smokers would have produced a hazy atmosphere of stale, pungent cigar-smoke in the small cabin with a small stairwell for the ladder and little external ventilation. Again, as in scene, Frost distinguishes six of the nine figures by their hats. Three of the travellers, those who are better dressed and have top-hats, are likely middle-class. And, indeed, Frost does suggest that this is hardly the "classless" society that Dickens envisaged before he set out across the Atlantic in January, 1842. Curiously, none of these nine figures corresponds to young Dickens, who was wearing a fur great-coat.
- Charles Dickens, the traveler — places he visited
- Charles Dickens, 1843 daguerrotype by Unbek in America; the earliest known photographic portrait of the author
Dickens, Charles. Chapter X, "Some Further Account of the Canal Boat, its Domestic Economy, and its Passengers. Journey to Pittsburg across the Alleghany Mountains. Pittsburg." American Notes. Illustrated by A. B. Frost; engraved by Edward G. Dalziel. London: Chapman and Hall, 1880. Pp. 330-49.
Last modified 27 March 2019