This page presents a summary of the plot and characters of Pictures From Italy, a a travelogue by Charles Dickens.
Pictures From Italy Summary
Pictures from Italy is an account of a journey by Charles Dickens and his family through Italy in 1844. The book was published in 1846.
Dickens is best known for his literary descriptions of the social conditions in Victorian England, particulary the great social inequalities created by rapid industrialization and capitalist exploitation of workers. However Dickens also applied his skills of social criticism and his keen observation of human behaviour, to describing the social life and customs of Italy. In some ways this work parallels his first book, Sketches by Boz, which described the social life and customs of England.
In 1844, Charles Dickens and his family undertook a European journey through France and Italy. They travelled by coach through France and then spent several months visiting the great cities of Italy: Rome, Venice, Florence and others. During the course of his travels, Dickens turned his novelist's eye for observing the human condition to analyzing the soul and character of Italy.
Italy in 1844 was very different from the bleak industrial wasteland of Victorian England. Partitioned between Austria, the Papal States, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and other petty kingdoms Italy was a region more than a country. Its reunification would not occur for more than twenty years in the future.
As a result of its political domination by foreign powers and its internal divisions, Italy had not yet advanced to the industrial revolution. Its cities, decaying ghosts of former glories, were decrepit; yet its people enjoyed a vibrancy of life and customs which shocked and tantalized Dickens, who was much impressed by the vivacious street carnivals, the costumes, and effusive personality of the ordinary Italian.
Dickens was much impressed by the colourful customs and personages that he encountered, and his book is generally sympathetic to the Italian people, which is remarkable considering that most Protestant Anglo-Saxons of his era looked down on the Roman Catholic Italians. In reading about his travels through Italy, we also gain insight to the character of Charles Dickens: his reaction to the Carnival, to the great works of art that he viewed. Theough not a biography, Pictures of Italy offers a view into the mind and personality of Charles Dickens.
Read the Online Text of Pictures From Italy