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Portrait of Charles Dickens by Francis Alexander (1800-1880). Used per the James T. Fields Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass.

Dickens Visits Lowell

UMass Lowell Image

Take a virtual tour of Dickens' Lowell

Or visit the Lowell National Historical Park and pick up a self-guided Dickens Walking Tour brochure to explore the city—past and present—yourself!

Charles Dickens has been called the greatest English writer of his age, second only to Shakespeare in the sweep of his imagination and the power of his language. His sprawling, richly entertaining novels—some 15 in all, including Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, and Hard Times—continue to speak directly to our own times, and to inspire new generations of readers and writers, filmmakers and playwrights. 

Lowell's love for Dickens goes way back—to 1842, when Dickens, already a literary sensation, visited the city as part of his American tour

Not yet 30 when he first traveled to America, Dickens cut a romantic figure: long-haired and clean-shaven, with a taste for flashy clothing and jewelry, he looked like a Victorian rock star—and Americans quickly caught Dickensmania. Crowds lined the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of him and snip off a lock of his hair or piece of bearskin jacket.

Feted at fancy dress balls and formal dinners, Dickens also made a point of touring American prisons, hospitals, mental institutions, orphanages—and, on a memorable February day, the model textile mills that had recently opened in Lowell, which offered a powerful contrast to the harsh conditions found in most English factories.

While Dickens knew before arriving in the New World that he had become a famous literary man, it was the American trip that showed him the full extent of his power. And of all the places he visited on this trip, Massachusetts was his favorite, with his day in the city of Lowell "the happiest he had passed in America."

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