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Charles Dickens in Louisville

Charles Dickens is considered on of the greatest writers in English literature.
William Powell Frith, R.A., My Autobiography and Reminiscences, Volume 1, 1887. Charles Dickens, oil painting, William Powell Frith, 1859. Museum no

Charles Dickens is considered on of the greatest writers of all time. His novels about the English working class and society in the 1800s have become classics over the centuries. What may surprise some people is that Mr. Dickens was briefly a guest to the city of Louisville. In 1842 Dickens took a tour of America for six months, travelling the East Coast and the Midwest. The trip became the basis for his travelogue, American Notes.

While still a young man at this time, Charles Dickens was already an international superstar. When he stayed at the famous Galt House hotel, fans gathered to hear him speak and read selections from his novels. He wrote of his travels from Cincinnati to Louisville, and about the local people, whom he found uniquely charming and friendly.

Dickens also wrote of his meeting with a local celebrity when visiting the Portland neighborhood. After hearing tales of the Kentucky Giant, Dickens met the famous Jim Porter. Their meeting was brief, but Porter left a lasting impression with Dickens, who wrote this about him as he walked away: When he had shown himself and talked a little while, he withdrew with his pocket-instrument, and went bobbing down the cabin, among men of six feet high and upwards, like a light-house walking among lamp-posts.

His visit to Louisville was not a long stay, but the city made an impression on him. Dickens and his wife would visit the city again on their way back to England. Dickens also inspired the alias for one of Louisville's more interesting residents. William F. Norton, Jr was a noted philanthropist but was also a noted local eccentric. He took as an alias the name of a villainous character from Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, using the name Daniel Quilp.

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