Dickens in Ohio

“Ohio – all that America had been, is and would be”.
First seen at the international Dickens Fellowship Conference in Cleveland, in 2009, this program offers a rare experience for all those who study or are interested in the history of Ohio, as portrayed by the most famous writer in the world in 1842. Based on “American Notes for General Circulation” by Charles Dickens, the presentation offers unique descriptions of many early American features and habits, highlighted by character impersonations and contemporary music that Dickens would have heard.

This was Dickens’ first visit to the United States and he traveled with eager anticipation: “No visitor can ever have set foot upon these shores with a stronger faith in the Republic than I had, when I landed in America”.

For over two months in early 1842, Dickens was fêted and honored in the Eastern towns of Boston, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond.

Then, on April 1st, he embarked on a trip down the full length of the Ohio River and beyond. He returned to Cincinnati, journeyed by coach to Columbus via Lebanon, then on to Lake Erie via Delaware and Upper Sandusky. A train took him from Tiffin to Sandusky City. He traveled to Cleveland, on the lakeboat “Constitution” before going on to Canada. Thus, he traversed almost three sides of Ohio as well as much of the hinterland, in a variety of vehicles.

All of this he described, in notes and letters, with the journalistic skill he had developed as a fledgeling writer in London. He had a sharp eye for detail, a strong sense of social justice and, perhaps, an impatience with certain drawbacks of life on the developing frontier of America.

He was amused and irritated by the Temperance movement, impressed by the Indian mounds, disgusted by tobacco-chewing and spitting, vehement in his criticism of slavery and puzzled by the Shaker settlements. He responded positively to anti-English sentiments he found in the newspapers. Dickens was moved by the bravery and determination of new settlers he encountered. He was pleased with Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Overall, he applied a keen eye and sense of absurdity—a salient feature of his novels—to the New World that was in the making.

This program includes impersonations of ten people that Dickens encountered in Ohio, including the Choctaw Chief Pitchlynn, the manager of “The Golden Lamb”, Colonel John Johnston and Mayor Joshua Mills. An added bonus is the collection of nineteen pieces of early American music. As a lover of popular music, Dickens would have responded happily to the tunes, airs and songs of the time.

Roger Jerome has performed hundreds of shows as Charles Dickens since 1993 and is sure that all students of Ohio history, and all Ohioans interested in their state’s past will find much to enjoy and remember in “Dickens in Ohio.”

50 minutes.