The Emigrants by A. B. Frost (engraved by Edward G. Dalziel), in Charles Dickens's Pictures from Italy and American Notes (1880), Chapter XIII, "A Jaunt to the Looking-Glass Prairie and Back," facing p. 369. Wood-engraving, 4 inches high by 5 ⅜ inches wide (10.1 cm high by 13.9 cm wide), framed.

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Passage Illustrated: Dickens encounters a jingoistic patriot-immigrant

Whereupon Doctor Crocus and I shake hands; and Doctor Crocus looks as if I didn’t by any means realise his expectations, which, in a linen blouse, and a great straw hat, with a green ribbon, and no gloves, and my face and nose profusely ornamented with the stings of mosquitoes and the bites of bugs, it is very likely I did not.

"Long in these parts, sir?’ says I.

"Three or four months, sir,’ says the Doctor.

"Do you think of soon returning to the old country?" says I.

Doctor Crocus makes no verbal answer, but gives me an imploring look, which says so plainly "Will you ask me that again, a little louder, if you please?" that I repeat the question.

"Think of soon returning to the old country, sir!" repeats the Doctor.

"To the old country, sir," I rejoin.

Doctor Crocus looks round upon the crowd to observe the effect he produces, rubs his hands, and says, in a very loud voice:

"Not yet awhile, sir, not yet. You won’t catch me at that just yet, sir. I am a little too fond of freedom for that, sir. Ha, ha! It’s not so easy for a man to tear himself from a free country such as this is, sir. Ha, ha! No, no! Ha, ha! None of that till one’s obliged to do it, sir. No, no!" [Chapter XIII, "A Jaunt to the Looking-Glass Prairie and Back," page 366]

Commentary: Dickens, Dr. Crocus, and the "American Orginals"

Dickens joins a party of thirteen other young men (no ladies are permitted, apparently on account of the strenuous nature of the two-day outing) on a carriage-trip to the Looking-glass Prairie, thirty miles across the Mississippi from St. Louis, Missouri. Dickens transformed the jingoistic speech of the historical Dr. Crocus, a Scots immigrant, into the inflated rhetoric of the cast of original characters in the American Chapters of Martin Chuzzlewit.

Dr. Crocus has a established a medical practice, in Belleville, Missouri, not far from Lebanon and the Looking-glass Prairie. When he is introduced by the Colonel who acts as the tour-conductor for the two-day jaunt out of St. Louis, Dickens asks the Scottish physician if he plans to return to the Old Country any time soon, the canny Scot uses this dialogue as an opportunity to trumpet his new-found Republicanism to the party of tourists. So effective is his jingoistic profession of love of the land of Liberty, that many who had not thought much about the subject of phrenology decide to attend Dr. Crocus’s lecture on the pseudo-science that very evening at the Belleville Hotel. In his illustration, Frost conveys some notion of Crocus’s audience, including the young man with his back to the viewer. We may readily identify which figure represents Dickens since he describes himself as wearing a linen blouse and a great straw hat ornamented with a green ribbon — hardly as the physician or Dickens’s other readers would have imagined him, particularly those who had seen portraits of him such as Daniel Maclise’s at the beginning of Nicholas Nicklebyin volume form (October 1839).

Dickens describes the audience merely as a group who have just come out of the Bellevile courthouse, where they have been attending a murder trial. Frost attempts to particularize these bystanders, but envisages the discussion as occurring outside the hotel rather than, as Dickens stipulates, at the foot of the staircase on the ground floor, inside the building. Although he makes clear which man is Dickens and which the Scottish phrenologist, “a tall, fine-looking Scotchman” (366), we cannot identify the other characters whom Dickens identifies, the old traveller with the grisly beard and the Colonel.

Related Material


Dickens, Charles. Chapter XIII, "A Jaunt to the Looking-Glass Prairie and Back." American Notes, Sketches by Boz, and Pictures from Italy. Illustrated by A. B. Frost and Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1877. Pp. 354-57.

Dickens, Charles. Chapter XIII, "A Jaunt to the Looking-Glass Prairie and Back." American Notes and Pictures from Italy. Illustrated by A. B. Frost and Gordon Thomson. London: Chapman and Hall, 1880. Pp. 362-69.

Last modified 29 March 2019