America was a source of fascination to Europeans arriving there during the course of the nineteenth century. At first glance, the New World was very similar to the societies they left behind in their native countries, but in many aspects of politics, culture, and society, the American experience was vastly different—almost unrecognizably so—from Old World Europe. Europeans were astounded that America could survive without a monarch, a standing army, and the hierarchical society which still dominated Europe. Many prominent visitors to the United States recorded their responses to this emerging society in their diaries, letters and journals.
They provide an insight into an America which is barely recognizable today while their writings set down a diverse and lively assortment of personal travel accounts.
This book compares the impressions of a group of discerning and prominent Europeans from the cultural sphere—from the writers Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Oscar Wilde to luminaries of music and ballet such as Tchaikovsky and Nijinsky. Their reactions to the New World are as revealing of the European and American worlds as they are colorful and varied, providing a unique insight into the experiences of nineteenth-century travelers to America.