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The Uncommercial Traveller [xvi]

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Author Charles Dickens
Genre Prose: Travel-writing i
Subjects Crime; Criminals; Punishment; Capital Punishment; Prisons; Penal Transportation; Penal Colonies
Food; Cooking; Gastronomy; Alcohol; Bars (Drinking Establishments); Restaurants; Dinners and Dining
Italy—Description and Travel
Italy—History—War of 1859; Italy—History—War of 1860-1861 (Wars of Italian Unification); Italy—History—1849-70
Italy—Politics and Government
Italy—Social Life and Customs
Political Persecution; Authoritarianism; Despotism; Censorship; Political Prisoners; Refugees
Travel; Tourism; Hotels; Resorts; Seaside Resorts—Fiction; Passports;
Other Details
Printed : 13/10/1860
Journal : All the Year Round
Volume : Volume IV
Magazine : No. 77
Office Book Notes
Views : 829

Retitled 'The Italian Prisoner' in collected editions of the series

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–72), the radical leader of the Young Italy movement and joint-leader of the short-lived 'Roman Republic' in 1849, spent much of his life in exile, including many years in London where he ran a school for the sons of Italian exiles in the Tottenham Court Road district (see William Roberts, Prophet in Exile: Joseph Mazzini in England, 1837–1868, 1989, pp. 6–7). Dickens, as Forster records, was 'brought into contact with the great Italian by having given money to a begging imposter who made unauthorised use of his name' (Foster, Book 6, Ch. 6), and their subsequent friendship strengthened Dickens's support for the Italians in their struggle for freedom from what he saw as the twin evils of tyranny and priestcraft. In August 1849, on learning of Mazzini's safe escape after the re-taking of Rome, Dickens drafted an 'Appeal to the English People on Behalf of the Italian Refugees' for the national Italian Appeal Committee, which was published in various newspapers, and The Examiner of 8 September (see The Dickensian, Vol. 10 [1914], p. 320ff.).

Following the founding of HW, Dickens used the platform of his own journals to support Mazzini's cause: between June 1859 and the date of the present Item, for example, he published over thirty papers in ATYR concerning the latest stages of the fight for Unification, or illustrating aspects of Italian and Piedmontese national life and character (see Oppenlander, under Gallenga, A. and Fitzgerald, P.). In the present item, Dickens writes with strong feelings and seems to abandon the 'Uncommercial' persona in order to relate what is said to be 'strictly a true story' from the period of his Italian travels and residence in 1844–46. The 'gentle English nobleman' is Lord Dudley Coutts Stuart (1803–1854), MP, a cousin of Angela Burdett Coutts, whose wife, Christine Bonaparte, had grown up in the papal principate of Canino. The couple therefore had extensive connections in Italy. 'Giovanni Carlavero' is a certain Sanvanero, about whom little is known, but whose story generally resembles that of Carlo Poerio (1803–67), another political prisoner famously helped to freedom in 1859 through Gladstone's intercession. Dickens's correspondence shows that he did indeed carry a bottle of wine as a memento from Sanvanero to Lord Dudley, but reveals a certain amount of artistic licence taken with its dimensions in the present item:

My Dear Lord Dudley.
Behold Sanvanero's little Bottle of Wine! His whole heart is in it, I am certain. (Pilgrim, Vol. IV [24 July 1845], p. 335&n.)

Dickens seems to have completed this paper in late September 1860, writing to Wills on the 26th that '[t]he No. is made up, and the Uncommercial is in, and all is right' (Pilgrim, Vol. IX, p. 319; the Pilgrim editors take this to refer to the composition of Item 19, but this had already been printed on the day Dickens wrote).
      Fuller summaries of Dickens's engagement with, and public support for, the Italian uprisings can be found in Michael Hollington's 'Dickens and Italy', Journal of Anglo-Italian Studies, 1 (1991), pp. 126–36 and M. Gabriella Caponi-Doherty's 'Charles Dickens and the Italian Risorgimiento', Dickens Quarterly, 13 (September 1996), pp. 151–63.

Literary allusions

  • 'the Imp of the same name' (i.e. Bottle Imp): probably Asmodeus in Le Sage's The Devil on Two Sticks (1726), Ch. 1, described as enclosed in 'a plain glass bottle'; 
  • 'I might have served Mr. Cruikshank as a subject for a new illustration of the miseries of the Bottle': George Cruikshank's book of cautionary engravings The Bottle (1847; see [Dickens's 'Demoralisation and Total Abstinence', The Examiner, 27 October 1849] Vol 2 of [the Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens' Journalism], article 26); 
  • 'the apple pie in the child's book': alphabetical nursery rhyme of uncertain origin, beginning 'A was an Apple-pie' (current in the reign of Charles II, according to the editors of the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, 1951); 
  • 'fine old English gentleman, all of the olden time': C.H. Purday's popular song 'The Fine Old English Gentleman, All of the Olden Time'.

Textual note

  • Copytext has 'and I mention the name of': [The Uncommercial Traveller (The Charles Dickens Edition), (Chapman & Hall, 1868)] has '...and I mentioned the name of'; 
  • Copytext has 'If it continues to be neglected': [The Uncommercial Traveller (The Charles Dickens Edition), (Chapman & Hall, 1868)] has 'If he continues to be neglected'; 
  • Copytext has 'Giovanni Carlavero leaped into his room': [The Uncommercial Traveller (The Charles Dickens Edition), (Chapman & Hall, 1868)] has 'Giovanni Carlavero leaped into the room' 
Author: John Drew; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume IV: 'The Uncommercial Traveller' and Other Papers, 1859–70 (2000). DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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