From rag-gatherers to royalty, from fish knives to Freemasons: everyday life in Victorian London.
Like its acclaimed companion volumes, Elizabeth's London, Restoration London and Dr Johnson's London, this book is the product of the author's passionate interest in the realities of everyday life so often left out of history books. This period of mid Victorian London covers a huge span:
Victoria's wedding and the place of the royals in popular esteem; how the very poor lived, the underworld, prostitution, crime, prisons and transportation; the public utilities - Bazalgette on sewers and road design, Chadwick on pollution and sanitation; private charities - Peabody, Burdett Coutts - and workhouses; new terraced housing and transport, trains, omnibuses and the Underground; furniture and decor; families and the position of women; the prosperous middle classes and their new shops, such as Peter Jones and Harrods; entertaining and servants, food and drink; unlimited liability and bankruptcy; the rich, the marriage market, taxes and anti-semitism; the Empire, recruitment and press-gangs.
The period begins with the closing of the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons and ends with the first (steam-operated) Underground trains and the first Gilbert & Sullivan.
Picard (Elizabeth's London) opens this entertaining study of London's modern transformation with the exemplary tale of engineering genius Joseph Bazalgette's new sewer complex, which relieved the city's stink from overflowing cesspits. She goes on to show how the rise of railways transformed Victorian urban planning, spurring the growth of commuter suburbs. Touching on philanthropic initiatives in public housing, Picard also describes the architectural quirks of the typical Victorian middle-class terraced house and the everyday workings of the city's police, fire, water, gas and refuse services. Picard uses the material details of working, middle and upper classes to tell the story of Victorian class difference, dwelling on the hardships of the domestic servant and the intricacies of some of London's more successful trades, from tanning to piano manufacture to sugar refining. She also provides a fascinating history of London hospitals and medical schools. Although Picard depends heavily on the writings of Jane Carlyle (wife of Thomas Carlyle) and the chronicler of Victorian poverty Thomas Mayhew, Picard's use of servant diaries, the journals of visiting French tourists and contemporary advice manuals is effective and often humorous. Arch and conversational in tone, Picard's history is an informative treat. 32 pages of color photos.