CHARLES JOHN HUFFAM DICKENS (1812–70)
Extract from American Notes (1842)

[Washington] is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent Intentions; for it is only on taking a bird’s-eye view of it from the top of the Capitol that one can at all comprehend the vast designs of its projector, an aspiring Frenchman. Spacious avenues that begin in nothing, and lead nowhere; streets, mile-long, that only want houses, roads, and inhabitants; public buildings that need but a public to be complete; and ornaments of great thoroughfares, which only lack great thoroughfares to ornament—are its leading features. One might fancy the season over, and most of the houses gone out of town for ever with their masters. To the admirers of cities it is a Barmecide Feast: a pleasant field for the imagination to rove in; a monument raised to a deceased project, with no even a legible inscription to record its departed.

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