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Americans are by nature. Frank brave called draw hospitable and affectionate. These qualities are natural I implicitly believe to the whole people. One great blame is however is universal distrust. Yet the American citizen himself upon this spirit as an instance of the great sagacity and acuteness of the people and their superior shrewdness and independence. They bend our ear travelers to America. From the 1820s to the teeth of the Civil War. You are not in a steady flow. They travel through the United States driven by an irresistible curiosity. Many of them wrote books and. They're trying to tell Europe what they had seen in the new world of Jacksonian democracy.
Some were friendly. Some were highly critical or were meticulous observers of detail. In they bend our ear written by Perry Miller professor of American literature a Harvard University. You will meet some of the travelers to America bend our ear with their criticism via their praise or their philosophy. You already know others are new acquaintances at all times. The travellers speak in their own words quoted directly from their writing. They vent how air is produced and recorded by the Lao Institute cooperative broadcasting Council under a grant from the educational television and radio center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Today's encounter is with Charles Dickens who had a few things to say about the United States after his first visit here in 1840 to Professor Perry
Miller as your host and now a writer. On the afternoon of Saturday January 22nd break came a party where Charles Dickens stood on his back in the clear. Driver lost the air as the British steam back timing out of Liverpool Boston Harbor. His amazement began at once but it doesn't matter. He came leaping on board at the peril of their lives with great bundles of newspapers under that says I this is like our London Bridge but even of course that these visits is when he was a boy. But what do you think of their being edited and what do you think of their tearing violently up to me and beginning to shake hands like madmen. If you could have seen how I wrung their wrists and you would have hated one man in a very dirty gator ism with
protruding deep who said to all comers off at him. So you've been introduced. I thought I was going to get away I don't care I don't think a party of welcoming dignitaries conveyed him by Kerry's to Tremont Rollo in the Tremont House already bounded into the lobby shouting Oh not since the stately American Progress of Lafayette in 1824 had any visitor to the shores received so tumultuous a welcome Louis Barajas was Nicholas Nickleby it was at that very moment the drama dies the Drama Theatre. Dickens was no Dunder by invitation. Mayor Jonathan Chapman saw his company's Mr. Dickens where you dine with me. I'm sorry I mean gauge when you're sup with me but I mean gauged. Will you have breakfast with me then. I am engaged Well will you sleep with me. Thank you with the greatest pleasure. Nothing could gratify me more than to accept an invitation to sleep thus exhaustingly began Charles Dickens first visit to
America his journey was to take him as far west to St. Louis and was to furnish the stuff not only for countless letters to friends at home but for the American no published 942. I don't for an extended sanction of Martin Chuzzlewit published in 1843. His American hosts everywhere greeted him with rapture as a result were the more outraged when the publication of these volumes as goes the vase had not found them universally admirable. At the outset however and in Boston I review found almost every prospect pleasing you not Mr. Bacon. Well indeed this is a beautiful one. On the morning after our arrival which was Sunday and not being able in the absence of any change of clothes to go to church I went out into the streets. The air was so clear. The houses were so bright and gay the sign boards were painted in such gaudy colors the gilded letters were so very golden
bricks whistled that he read the stones were so very white but the blinds and aerial readings were so very green the knobs and plates upon the street doors so marvelously bright and twinkling and also says its light and insubstantial in appearance that every thought of Fed in the city looked exactly like a sea in a pantomime. I never turned a corner suddenly without looking out for the clown and Pantaloon as to Harlequin and Columbine. I discovered them immediately they had lodged at a very small clockmakers one storey high near the hotel so we can see the beginnings of Charles Dickens American tour were indeed all specious and agreeable to both guests and hosts. To be sure of our work is like comfortable. At a dinner given him by Governor Davis on his last night in Massachusetts. Dickens noted that he had found brusque in pronunciation and sometimes odd
Did they sound a hash. I beg your pardon what did you say. Did the Boston pronunciation sound a hash to you. Excuse me but I do not understand your excellences question I asked if those peculiarities sounded hash to your ear rings to ask you to greet you telling you they were disagreeable to you. I'm from Boston to New York was more than a passage down the Connecticut Valley and across Long Island Sound. It was a translation to a different world. They had least stretched out before us confused heaps of buildings a forest of massed ships steam ferry boats laden with people coaches horses wagons baskets boxes clinking of capstan as the ringing of bells the barking of dogs the clattering of wheedles Wall Street the stock exchange and Lombard street of New York. I don't want to side with the Bow Street the ships stretch across the footway and almost thrust themselves into the windows of the noble
American vessels which have made their packets serve as the finest in the world. The beautiful metropolis of America but by no means so clean a city as Boston. I have been introduced to Dickens that you were astounded by the press of people in the street. Heaven save elate is how they dress and the man the young gentleman are fond of turning down their collars and cultivating their whiskers Byron's of the desk and come to how you remained long enough in New York to determine what are the amusements of all those humanity. Yes that is a lecture room across the way from the hotel ladies who have a passion for attending lectures as are to be found among all classes and all conditions. The lecture has at least the merit of always being new one to tread so quickly on the heels of another that none are remembered in the course of this month may be safely repeated next to the charm of novelty unbroken. Indeed my young friend Martin Chuzzlewit almost at once upon his arrival in New York encountered one of these blue ladies over the
teacups set in Mrs. Jefferson Brick who was clearly devoted to the more exalted philosophers. What course of lectures are you attending now and the philosophy of the soon to be on Mondays or the philosophy of crying on Fridays. Must be they get to know you for going through the day is the philosophy of government why do you do that. Q So what is the philosophy of the matter on Thursdays of course. Obviously the ladies are fully employed but one of the gentleman the young gentleman there is the counting house the store in the bar room the latter pretty for amusements. What are these suckers of cigars and swallowers of strong drinks whose hats and legs we see in every possible rising of twist doing. But I mean losing themselves was one of the 50 newspapers which those precious things are boiling down the streets
want amusements. Not that good water is sure amusements but good strong stuff. Dealing in round and black out names pulling off the roofs of houses private houses pimping and pandering for all degrees of vicious taste imputing to every man in public life costliest and violence motives only attend to this gentleman Colonel dive editor of The New York Journal an acquaintance of young total wits. It is in such an enlightened me that the bubbling passions of my country find a vent. How do you like our country. I'm hardly prepared to answer that question hence where I should expect you were not prepared to be signs of national prosperity. We want to grow the journal is as I expect you know you're going to vote out a stock or a C in this city. There use an aristocracy. Then what is it can you tell
your own intelligence. And but you know they're necessary consequence in this republic dollars. Oh you are already aware of truth whose words are black from being composed of printer's ink. Quite clear enough for my country to behold the shadow of destiny and what Mr Dickens is your impression of that destiny. I feared it is not everywhere glorious in this city there are many by streets almost as positive in dirty colors as by streets in London and it is one quarter commonly called the Five Points which in respect of filth and wretchedness may be safely backed against Seven Dials or any other part of themes and dials. But come with me the five points I believe on the east side a few blocks up Chatham street from the city hall. If one would go there. It is needful first to take an escort of two heads of the
police. These narrow way he's diverging to the right and left wreak everywhere with tears in fuel costs and bloated faces at the Dawes he has made that any house is prematurely old. This squalid street conducts us to a kind of square out of leprous Hoess attendees pitch dark stairs heat from the folds putting on the trembling boards and grope your way into this warm fish. Dan and I had a ray of light in our breath of air out appears to come. A negro lad startled from his sleep disturbed himself to light a candle a match because for a moment and shows great mounds of dusty rags on the floor the mounds of rags seemed to be assessed. And rise slowly up from every corner. Something got crow's Hoffer weakened as if the judgment hour near at hand and
every obscene grave were giving up its dead. But dogs would home to lie women and men and boys slink off to sleep forcing the dislodged rats to move away in quest of that lodging until should we move away from this place the vice and deviltry becomes. I trust your impressions of New York has not all been black. There are in New York excellent hospitals and schools literary institutions and libraries. The Park and bowery theaters are large elegant and Henson buildings the country New York is a passingly exquisite and picturesque. The tone of the best society in the city is like that of Boston here and there it may be with a greater infusion of the mercantile spirit but generally polished and refined and always most hospitable. The houses and tables are elegant. I was later than more rakish and there is perhaps a greater spirit of contention in reference to appearances and a
display of welcome costly living. That lady's singularly beautiful wherever his travels took him Mr. Dickens continued his visits to public establishments to prison hospital school work houses. His observation of that chiefest of American institutions the federal government brought him to Washington in the middle of March. He was not impressed by the city's aspect when he was shown about by an acquaintance from New England. It is sometimes called the City of magnificent distances. Good mornings with great propriety but turned the city of magnificent intentions spacious avenues that begin in nothing and leave no streets mine along it only want houses roads and inhabitants. Hell of course it's going to be much larger. So I'm told of almost every town and village I've hospital and it was a recently chosen for the seat of government as a means of averting the conflicting jealousies and interests of the different
states and very probably towards being remote from mobs. A consideration I believe not to be slighted even in America. Truly I think it probable that such as it is it is likely to remain. It has no trade or commerce of its own and it is very unhealthy. The tides of emigration and speculation likely to flow at any time toward such dull and sluggish waters. But the principal features of the capital are of course the two houses of assembly. I have visited both houses nearly every day. During my stay in Washington did I recognize in this assembly a body of men who were applying themselves in a new world to correct some of the false words and vices of the old purified the avenues to public life. Debated and made laws for the common good and I had no party but their country. I saw in them the wheels that move the meanest perversion of virtuous political machinery of despicable treachery. It's
underhanded tampering with public officers cowardly attacks upon opponents with scurrilous newspapers by shields and hired pens by daggers train boat truck clings to misname knaves aiding and abetting is a bad inclination in the popular mind in a word dishonest faction. In its most deprived the most unblushing form stare out from every corner of the crowded horse it is not the republic I came to see this is not the republic of my imagination but the most part it is the game of these men and of their profit organs to make the stripe of politics so fierce and brutal and so destructive of all so for a suspect in the man that sensitive and delicate minded person should be kept aloof and they and such as they be left to battle out their selfish views unchecked. Do not I must insist that there are among the representatives of people in both houses some men of high character and great abilities. The gentleman whom I
presented to you as we left your quote of the Willard Hotel. That is one of the most remarkable men in our country our own so I have scarcely met a man since my arrival who wasn't one of the most remarkable men in the country. I may be pardoned I hope you have on such a theme as the general character of the American people and the general character of the social system as presented to a stranger's eye as I express my own opinions. The Americans are by nature Frank brave cordial hospitable and affectionate. These qualities are natural I implicitly believe to the whole people that they are however sadly sapped and blighted in their growth among the mass is a truth that ought to be told and pray you give me particular one great blemish and a prolific parent of an innumerable brood of evils is universal distrust. Yet the American citizen plumes himself upon the spirit. That's freedom of opinion.
You know every man thinks for himself. We are not easily to be overreached. That's all people came to be suspicious about are you not often overreached because of your love of smot dealing which goes over many a swindle on both occasions. You know by passing that ill fated to Cairo on the Mississippi. I recall remarking on the bad effects such gross the seats must of had when they exploded in generating a want of confidence. But I was given to understand that this was a very smart scheme by which so and so had made a deal of money. Is it not a very distasteful circumstance that such time and should be tolerated and abetted by all citizens as a public nuisance is he not. Yes sir you're a convicted. Yes sir. And he was utterly dishonorable debased and profit. Yes sir. In the name of wonder then what is his merit. Well. He's a smart man.
There is a further evil work by such dishonest usage is the pitiful betrayal of the hopes of many wretched emigrants. In Ohio we encountered a solitary broken down wagon full of some new settlers goods it was a pitiful sight to see this vehicle deep in the mire. The axle tree broken the wheel lying idle by its side. The man gone miles away to look for assistance. The woman seated among their wandering household gods with a baby at her breast. A picture of four law and ject in patience the team of oxen crouching down mournfully in the mud and breathing for such clouds of vapor from their mouths and nostrils that all the dead mist and fog around seemed to have. Come direct from them. Yes but still Mr. Dickens not all the hardships of the Pioneer caused by the land agents. These are inescapable accompaniments of opening a new territory. You have travelled through these rough distances and know the
discomforts. Indeed coach travel in those parts is exceedingly painful. You also proceeded by canal and river about. Then they did packets are unlike anything we are in the habit of seeing on water. Except that they are out in the water and display a couple of paddle boxes that might be intended for anything that appears to the contrary to perform some unknown service high and dry upon a mountaintop causing one of these boats at night and seen the great body of fire exposed to that rages and roars beneath the frail pile of painted wood. The machinery not whirled it off in any way but doing its work in the midst of a crowd of idlers and emigrants and children. One feels the wonder it is not that there should be so many fatal accidents but that any journey should be made safely. What impression did you receive of your fellow travelers. The people are all alike. There is no diversity of character. They travel about on the
same Adams say the same things in exactly the same manner and following the same cheerless round. A dinner that is no conversation no laughter no cheerfulness no sociality. But no man sits down until the lady is seated. Nor did I even once on any occasion anywhere see a woman exposed to the slightest act of rudeness. What do you attribute the defects in our national manners to the prevailing seriousness and melancholy out of business. It would be well. There can be no doubt what the American people as a whole. If they loved the real less and the ideal somewhat more and received greater encouragement to likeness of heart and gayety. It is one other head on which I wish to offer to remark what yet another. The one great blemish to the stranger's eyes and that from which most of the others take
their fall growth is as I have remarked in the past a licentious press among the herd of journals which are published in the states that are some of character and credit but the name of the use is a few. And the others are legion. While that press has its evil in every house and its black hand in every appointment in the state from a president to a postman. Why with rebel slander for its only stock in trade it is the standard literature out of an enormous class who must find their reading in a newspaper or they will not read it or so long must its odium be upon the country's head. And so long must the evil it works be plainly visible in the Republic. Mr. Dickens embark for home on a sailing vessel GEORGE WASHINGTON June 7. New York brands noted only that he had sailed VOZ left quietly quietness was soon shot when a lady in 1842 advance
sheets of the American Notes reached this country denunciations from his erstwhile host what immediate car do you see that your Captain Marriott and Mrs. trollop praised the book. It was 24 years later here in 1868 the dickens returned to America as you know 1840 to when he was tendered many elegant dinners. The most elegant the most distinguished of which was given on April 18th at Delmonico's in New York by the American press. But this was not the licentious press he had excoriated this was Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune room William Curtis of Harper's monthly. GEORGE H broker of Philadelphia author of fun just going to Rimini violent resentment of the American notes had been assuaged but its strictures were not entirely forgotten. Mr. Curtis if in the pursuit of his calling he came to us who loved and
all of him. He still faithfully and frankly reported his observations fidelity through his own observations is all we can ask of any reporter. Naturally we did not find every part of his report very entertaining but neither I suppose did so Leicester Dedlock find Bleak House very amusing. This debacle has been said by many of our critical writers that Mr. Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewit in the American Notes was not altogether just to us but I can only say whenever he comes in however he comes we will welcome to the old Mr. Dickens. I have been astounded by the amazing changes that I have seen around me on every side. Changes in the graces and amenities of life changes in the press. Without whose advancement no advancement can take place anywhere. Nor am I so arrogant as to suppose that in a five and twenty years that have been no changes in me and that I have nothing to learn and no
extreme impressions to correct. When I was here first. What I have resolved upon is my return to England by the book of my countryman to bear such testimony to the gigantic changes in this country as I have hinted at tonight. Also to record that I have been received with possible politeness delicacy sweet tempered consideration is testimony. So long as I live and so long as my descendants have any legal right in my books I shall cause to be republished as an appendix to every copy of those two books of mine in which I have referred to America. And if so I will cause it to be done. Not in love and thankfulness but because I regard it as an act of plain
justice and honor. Oh thank you. Bravo indeed Mr. Dickens. But was anything for their need for after all. Then Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley his farewell to America. If I was screwed up on debate make it a go so how should I do it. Painted just like any good records I suppose. No that wouldn't do for me. I should want to draw it like a bat but it shortsightedness like a band name for its bragging like a magpie put it on the stage like a peacock for its vanity like an ostrich. But it's 8 in the mud and thinking nobody sees it. And like the phoenix thought it's poet of springing from the ashes of its faults and vices and soaring up the new into the sky.
Travelers to America they then are you. You have been listening to Charles Dickens impressions of this country as reported in his American notes and Martin Chuzzlewit and adapted by Perry Miller master of American literature on Harvard University. The cast included Thomas Ponce Edward Robert Evans Director John Peters Edward Finnegan and Fred Warren. As Dickens. Professor Miller was the narrator original theme music by Raymond Wilding. Mike this has been the night broadcasting live and out here the stories told by the host of travelers to America during the period from the 1820s to 1850. And subsequent broadcasts you will meet more such travelers at all times they speak in their own words quoted directly from their writing.
Next week we meet a Scotsman came to this country as correspondent for a London newspaper during the Mexican War. Alexander Mikhail they bend our ear is produced and directed by Allison Ridley for the Lowell Institute co-operative broadcasting Council production supervisor Lawrence Prescott. This series has been recorded in the studios of station WGBH FM and produced under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the enemy network.
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They bent our ear
Charles Dickens
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the writings of Charles Dickens and his experiences in the United States.
Series Description
Dramatic readings of 14 travelers who came to the United States in 1820-1850 and wrote of what they saw.
Broadcast Date
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870--Travel--United States.
Media type
Host: Van Dusen, Henry P. (Henry Pitney), 1897-1975
Producer: Lowell Institute
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Writer: Miller, Perry, 1905-1963
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-6-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:50
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Chicago: “They bent our ear; Charles Dickens,” 1964-02-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023,
MLA: “They bent our ear; Charles Dickens.” 1964-02-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <>.
APA: They bent our ear; Charles Dickens. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from