Autograph letter signed, Boston, 31 January 1842, to William Charles Macready
Acquired by Pierpont Morgan before 1913
Writing to Macready less than two weeks after his arrival in the United States, Dickens reported excitedly that, "It is impossible to tell you what a reception I have had here. They cheer me in the Theatres; in the streets; within doors; and without.... Deputations and Committees wait upon me every day—some have come 2,000 miles—it is nothing to say that they carry me through the country on their shoulders, or that they flock about me as if I were an Idol. Nothing will express their affectionate greeting—I only wish to God that you could see it." This attention and adulation was exhausting, however, and Dickens wrote to John Forster on 29 January that, "we are already weary, at times, past all expression."
Dickens visited the United States twice, first traveling extensively with his wife from 22 January to 7 June 1842. Twenty-five years later—from 19 November 1867 to 22 April 1868—he returned alone for an exhausting reading tour.
Prior to his first visit, he had "dreamed by day and night, for years, of setting foot upon this shore, and breathing this pure air." He received an unprecedented enthusiastic and extravagant welcome, as befitted the world's first literary superstar. But he soon grew tired of the intrusion resulting from his lionization. After making several vehement speeches in favor of an international copyright agreement that would protect his work from piracy in the United States, he was deeply hurt by the vitriolic response of the American press. His bitter disappointment is recorded in American Notes for General Circulation and his novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–44).
When Dickens returned in 1867, his fame, and the adulation it inspired, had intensified. In seventy-six public readings, he performed for more than one hundred thousand people and earned $95,000, equivalent to approximately $1.5 million in today's money.
up—now the halfprice is coming in—now they're calling for Macready'. We have agreed not to believe that there is any difference between the clocks here and those at home; and we find it a marvellous satisfaction.
My Dear Macready I won't thank you for the peace of mind you have given us, and the perfect confidence we have through you in our dear children being well cared-for, and thoroughly happy.—If I could but shake hands with you, on the penalty of not saying one word—as they shewed the figures of the absent, in the Magic Mirror of the Fairy Tale—I could express more in one squeeze than in a score of letters.
I thirst for news of Drury Lane. I don't know how we shall restrain ourselves when the time approaches for the arrival of the packet.
God bless you My Dear Macready!
Ever Your attached and most affectionate friend