No Brandy for Dickens

By Charlie Zimkus

At the top of The Golden Lamb’s list of famous visitors is Charles Dickens, the hotel’s harshest, most eloquent critics.

The British novelist and his wife, Catherine, arrived at The Bradley House, as the hotel was then called, at 1 p.m. on April 20, 1842. They had boarded a mail coach in Cincinnati at 8 a.m. and were one their way to Columbus.

Dickens was in the midst of a five-month tour of America which had started in Boston on January 22, 1842. His journal of the trip became the basis for his book American Notes, published that October. At the time, Dickens was less than 30 and, although some of his greatest works were yet to come, he was already famous in America. Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby had all been published before the end of 1839.

He wrote glowingly of the Ohio landscape, calling it “a beautiful country.” His opinion of Lebanon’s Bradley House was considerably lower. Dickens wrote:

“We dine soon afterwards with the boarders of the house, and have nothing to drink but tea and coffee. As they are both very bad and the water is worse, I ask for brandy; but this is a Temperance Hotel, and spirits are not to be had for love or money. This preposterous forcing of unpleasant drinks down the reluctant throats of travelers is not at all uncommon in America.”

Despite the sharp criticism, today The Golden Lamb honors Dickens’ visit with not one, but two rooms named for him: a guest room and a dining room.

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Golden Lamb Collection
A young Charles Dickens, around the time that he visited The Golden Lamb