Britannia, the first steamship of the British and North American Royal Steam Packet Co. (Cunard Line), was launched on 5 February 1840.

Voyage on the Britannia

James Hart and his wife Jane sailed on the Britannia to the United States in June of 1842. It is also possible Jane was 7 months pregnant with Samuel at the time.This is an article about how that voyage may have been.

In January 1842 Charles Dickens traveled to the US on Britannia. He was seasick for most of the voyage. Dickens was dismayed by his stateroom’s compact size. “I do verily believe that … nothing smaller for sleeping in was ever made except coffins,” he wrote later.

…an excerpt from his book American Notes detailing his account of the journey. In 1842, he travelled to America on board Cunard Line’s first paddle-steamer, the Britannia. It left New Year’s Day from Liverpool and arrived in Boston 21 days later.

A Steward passes. “Steward!”, “Sir?” “What is the matter? What do you call this?” “Rather a heavy sea on, Sir, and a head-wind.”

‘I say nothing of what may be called the domestic noises of the ship: such as breaking of glass and crockery, the tumbling down of stewards, the gambols overhead of loose casks and truant dozens of bottled porter, and the very remarkable and far from exhilarating sounds raised in their various state-rooms by the seventy passengers who were too ill to get up to breakfast. I say nothing of them: for although I lay listening to this concert for three or four days, I don’t think I heard it for more that a quarter of a minute, at the expiration of which time, I lay down again, excessively sea-sick. A description of one day will serve for all the rest.

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