Atlantic Archive Fiction Issue 2005

Charles Dickens on Stardom

In 1842 Charles Dickens, who was by then an international literary celebrity, made a highly publicized visit to the United States. In a letter to a friend, the British author John Forster, Dickens complained of being overwhelmed by the attentions of his fans.

If I turn into the street, I am followed by a multitude. If I stay at home, the house becomes, with callers, like a fair. If I visit a public institution with only one friend, the directors come down incontinently, waylay me in the yard, and address me in a long speech. I go to a party in the evening, and am so inclosed and hemmed about with people, stand where I will, that I am exhausted from want of air. I dine out, and have to talk about everything, to everybody. I go to church for quiet, and there is a violent rush to the neighborhood of the pew I sit in, and the clergyman preaches at me. I take my seat in a railroad car, and the very conductor won't leave me alone. I get out at a station, and can't drink a glass of water without having a hundred people looking down my throat when I open my mouth to swallow.

From a review of Dickens's American Notes, by Edwin P. Whipple, April 1877

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