From the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author of The Invention of Murder, an extraordinary, revelatory portrait of everyday life on the streets of Dickens' London.
The nineteenth century was a time of unprecedented change, and nowhere was this more apparent than London. In only a few decades, the capital grew from a compact Regency town into a sprawling metropolis of 6.5 million inhabitants, the largest city the world had ever seen. Technology—railways, street-lighting, and sewers—transformed both the city and the experience of city-living, as London expanded in every direction. Now Judith Flanders, one of Britain's foremost social historians, explores the world portrayed so vividly in Dickens' novels, showing life on the streets of London in colorful, fascinating detail.From the moment Charles Dickens, the century's best-loved English novelist and London's greatest observer, arrived in the city in 1822, he obsessively walked its streets, recording its pleasures, curiosities and cruelties. Now, with him, Judith Flanders leads us through the markets, transport systems, sewers, rivers, slums, alleys, cemeteries, gin palaces, chop-houses and entertainment emporia of Dickens' London, to reveal the Victorian capital in all its variety, vibrancy, and squalor. From the colorful cries of street-sellers to the uncomfortable reality of travel by omnibus, to the many uses for the body parts of dead horses and the unimaginably grueling working days of hawker children, no detail is too small, or too strange. No one who reads Judith Flanders's meticulously researched, captivatingly written The Victorian City will ever view London in the same light again.
harles Dickens grimly portrayed Londoners as people resigned to hardscrabble living, ubiquitous filth, and prevalent violence, and Flanders (The Invention of Murder) successfully recreates the feel of London at Dickens's peak as she delves deep into the rhythms and architecture of particular neighborhoods. This information-packed profile of Victorian London offers renewed insight into Dickens's youth as an imprisoned debtor's working child; his love of walking the city's winding streets; and finally, the reality behind the traumatic adventures of such well-known characters as Oliver Twist. The book is divided into four comprehensive sections, covering topics like urban water and road transportation systems, affordable entertainment, and the wide range of linguistic dialects. Only the somewhat abrupt ending, after a segment on suicides, feels incomplete. While Dickens typically hewed close to reality in his work, Flanders's expertise shines when exposing Dickens's embellishments, particularly when his character Fagin faces execution rather than the less powerful but more realistic punishment of deportment. This well-researched sociological overview provides highly detailed context for cultural touchstones, while shattering the popular yet inauthentic image of a pristine Victorian age that never existed.