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This is number 64 of 585 Primary Sources.

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City Problems: Poverty and Slums

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Charles Dickens on the Five Points

Primary source: Charles Dickens, American Notes for General Circulation, 1842.
Caption: The famed British writer Charles Dickens published his account of his 1842 visit to America, where he found evidence of England's superior class system in the squalor of New York's Five Points slum.

This is the place [Five Points], these narrow ways, diverging to the right and left, and reeking everywhere with dirt and filth. Such lives as are led here, bear the same fruits here as elsewhere. The coarse and bloated faces at the doors have counterparts at home, and all the wide world over. Debauchery has made the very houses prematurely old. See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes that have been hurt in drunken frays. Many of those pigs live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright in lieu of going on all-fours? and why they talk instead of grunting?

Charles Dickens, American Notes for General Circulation (London: Chapman and Hall, 1842), 101, at Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library.

Courtesy of the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library.



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