Social History for Every Classroom


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Charles Dickens Visits Five Points

In 1841, English author Charles Dickens toured the United States. Dickens was known for his sympathetic depictions of the poor and working-class residents of English cities. However, American Notes, which he wrote about his time in the U.S., attacked nearly every aspect of American life.

Let us go on again...and...plunge into the Five Points.... We have seen no beggars in the street by night or day, but of other kinds of strollers plenty. Poverty, wretchedness, and vice are rife enough where we are going now. This is the place, these narrow ways, diverging to the right and left and reeking every where with dirt and filth.... Many of these pigs [wandering the streets foraging for food] live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright in lieu of going on all-fours? And why they talked instead of grunted?... Here, too, are lanes and alleys, paved with mud knee deep; underground chambers where they dance and game...hideous tenements which take the name from robbery and murder; all that is loathsome, drooping and decay are here. 

Source | Charles Dickens, American Notes for Circulation in Two Volumes, Vol. 1 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1842).
Creator | Charles Dickens
Item Type | Book (excerpt)
Cite This document | Charles Dickens, “Charles Dickens Visits Five Points,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 4, 2023,

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