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Dickens's London

Dickens's London: Perception, Subjectivity and Phenomenal Urban Multiplicity

Julian Wolfreys
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Dickens's London
    Book Description:

    Taking Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project as its model, Dickens's City offers an exciting and original project that opens a dialogue between phenomenology, philosophy and the Dickensian representation of the city in all its forms.Julian Wolfreys suggests that in their representations of London - its streets, buildings, public institutions, domestic residences, rooms and phenomena that constitute such space - Dickens's novels and journalism can be seen as forerunners of urban and material phenomenology. While also addressing those aspects of the urban that are developed from Dickens's interpretations of other literary forms, styles and genres, Dickens's City presents in twenty-six episodes (from Bells, Bridges and Butlers via Inns and Interiors and Public Houses, the Police and the Post to Todgers and the Thames) a radical reorientation to London in the nineteenth century, the development of Dickens as a writer, and the ways in which readers today receive and perceive both.Key Features: Major reassessment of Dickens's writing on the cityDual focus on methodology and the historicity of Dickensian urban consciousnessPhilosophical reflections on urban tropologies through key passages from Dickens's texts recreate the experience of Victorian LondonInventive structure offers the reader an experience of the disordered multiplicity of LondonIllustrated with 19 maps and photographs

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-5603-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. viii-ix)
    Julian Wolfreys
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. Advertisement
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  7. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xv)
  8. Preface
    (pp. xvi-xx)
  9. Dickens’s London: Enargia

    • A Arrivals (and Returns): London, Whitechapel, Blackheath, Blackfriars, Windsor Terrace, City Road, The Strand, Drury Lane, Fleet Street, Buckingham Street, the Adelphi, Custom House [Lower Thames Street], the Monument, Fish-Street Hill, Saint Paul’s Cathedral
      (pp. 3-31)

      They rattled on through the noisy, bustling, crowded street of London, now displaying long double rows of brightly-burning lamps, dotted here and there with the chemists’ glaring lights, and illuminated besides with the brilliant flood that streamed from the windows of the shops, where sparkling jewellery, silks and velvets of the richest colours, the most inviting delicacies, and most sumptuous articles of luxurious ornament, succeeded each other in rich and glittering profusion. Streams of people apparently without end poured on and on, jostling each other in the crowd and hurrying forward, scarcely seeming to notice the riches that surrounded them...

    • B Banking and Breakfast: Gray’s Inn Square, Temple Bar, Strand Lane
      (pp. 32-47)

      Tellson’s Bank by Temple Bar was an old-fashioned place, even in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty. It was very small, very dark, very ugly, very incommodious. It was an old-fashioned place moreover, in the moral attribute that the partners in the House were proud of its smallness, proud of its darkness, proud of its ugliness, proud of its incommodiousness. They were even boastful of its eminence in those particulars, and were fired by an express conviction that, if it were less objectionable, it would be less respectable. This was no passive belief, but an active weapon which...

    • C Chambers: Holborn, Staple Inn, Furnival’s Inn
      (pp. 48-55)

      Behind the most ancient part of Holborn, London, where certain gabled houses some centuries of age still stand looking on the public way, as if disconsolately looking for the Old Bourne that has long run dry, is a little nook composed of two irregular quadrangles, called Staple Inn. It is one of those nooks, the turning into which out of the clashing street, imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears, and velvet soles on his boots. It is one of those nooks where a few smoky sparrows twitter in smoky trees, as though...

    • D Dismal: Little Britain, Smithfields, Saint Paul’s Cathedral
      (pp. 56-59)

      Mr Jaggers’s room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a most dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically patched like a broken head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down at me through it. There were not so many papers about, as I should have expected to see; and there were some rusty old objects about, that I should not have expected to see—such as an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several strange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on a shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and...

    • E Exteriors: Golden Square, Portland Place, Bryanston Square
      (pp. 60-62)

      Although a few members of the graver professions live about Golden Square, it is not exactly in anybody’s way to or from anywhere. It is one of the squares that have been; a quarter of the town that has gone down in the world, and taken to letting lodgings. Many of its first and second floors are let, furnished, to single gentlemen; and it takes boarders besides. It is a great resort of foreigners. The dark-complexioned men who wear large rings, and heavy watch-guards, and bushy whiskers, and who congregate under the Opera Colonnade, and about the box-office in the...

    • F Faded Gentility: Camden Town
      (pp. 63-66)

      It may have been . . . for no better reason than because there was a certain similarity in the sound of the words skittles and Traddles, that it came into my head, next day, to go and look after Traddles. The time he had mentioned was more than out, and he lived in a little street, near the Veterinary College at Camden Town, which was principally tenanted, as one of our clerks who lived in that direction informed me, by gentlemen students, who bought live donkeys, and made experiments on those quadrupeds in their private apartments. Having obtained from...

    • G Gothic: Seven Dials, Walworth, Covent Garden, India House, Aldgate Pump, Whitechapel Church, Commercial Road, Wapping Old Stairs, St George’s in the East, Snow Hill, Newgate
      (pp. 67-96)

      But what involutions can compare with those of Seven Dials? Where is there such another maze of streets, courts, lanes, and alleys? Where such a pure mixture of Englishmen and Irishmen, as in this complicated part of London? . . .

      The stranger who finds himself in ‘The Dials’ for the first time, and stands Belzoni like, at the entrance of seven obscure passages, uncertain which to take, will see enough around him to keep his curiosity and attention awake for no inconsiderable time. From the irregular square into which he has plunged, the streets and courts dart in all...

    • H Heart: St Paul’s Cathedral
      (pp. 97-99)

      We lingered so long over the leaves from which I had read, that as I consigned them to their former resting-place, the hand of my trusty clock pointed to twelve, and there came towards us upon the wind the voice of the deep and distant bell of St. Paul’s as it struck the hour of midnight.

      ‘This,’ said I, returning with a manuscript I had taken at the moment from the same repository, ‘to be opened to such music, should be a tale where London’s face by night is darkly seen, and where some deed of such a time as...

    • I Insolvent Court: Portugal Street, Lincoln’s Inn, Houndsditch, Tyburn, Whitechapel, St George’s Fields, Southwark
      (pp. 100-108)

      In a lofty room, badly lighted and worse ventilated, situate in Portugal Street, Lincoln’s Inn-fields, there sit nearly the whole year round, one, two, three, or four gentlemen in wigs, as the case may be, with little writing-desks before them, constructed after the fashion of those used by the judges of the land, barring the French polish; a box of barristers on their right hand; an inclosure of insolvent debtors on their left; and an inclined plane of most especially dirty faces in their front. These gentlemen are the Commissioners of the Insolvent Court, and the place in which they...

    • J Jaggers’s House: Gerrard Street, Soho
      (pp. 109-113)

      [Mr Jaggers] conducted us to Gerrard-street, Soho, to a house on the south side of that street. Rather a stately house of its kind, but dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows. He took out his key and opened the door, and we all went in to a stone hall, bare, gloomy and little used. So, up a dark brown staircase into a series of three dark brown rooms on the first floor. There were carved garlands on the panelled walls, and as he stood among them giving us welcome, I know what kind of loops I thought...

    • K Krook’s: by Lincoln’s Inn
      (pp. 114-119)

      I was . . . sufficiently curious about London, to think it a good idea on the part of Miss Jellyby when she proposed that we should go out for a walk.

      [. . .]

      . . . I admired the long successions and varieties of streets, the quantity of people already going to and fro, the number of vehicles passing and repassing, the busy preparations in the setting forth of shop windows and the sweeping out of shops, and the extraordinary creatures in rags, secretly groping among the swept-out rubbish for pins and other refuse.

      [. . .]


    • L Life and Death: Snow Hill, the Saracen’s Head, Smithfield, Saint James’s Parish, Saint Sepulchre’s Church
      (pp. 120-121)

      Snow Hill! What kind of place can the quiet town’s-people who see the words emblazoned in all the legibility of gilt letters and dark shading on the north-country coaches, take Snow Hill to be? All people have some undefined and shadowy notion of a place whose name is frequently before their eyes or often in their ears, and what a vast number of random ideas there must be perpetually floating about, regarding this same Snow Hill. The name is such a good one. Snow Hill—Snow Hill too, coupled with a Saracen’s Head: picturing to us a double association of...

    • M Melancholy: Leadenhall Street, Newgate, Lant Street, Borough, St George the Martyr
      (pp. 122-128)

      A grey dusty withered evening in London city has not a hopeful aspect. The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death about them, and the national dread of colour has an air of mourning. The towers and steeples of the many house-encompassed churches, dark and dingy as the sky that seems descending on them, are no relief to the general gloom; a sun-dial on a church-wall has the look, in its useless black shade, of having failed in its business enterprise and stopped payment for ever; housekeepers and porters sweep melancholy waifs and strays of papers and pins...

    • N Nocturnal: Millbank
      (pp. 129-130)

      We were now down in Westminster. We had turned back to follow her [Martha], having encountered her coming towards us, and Westminster Abbey was the point at which she passed from the lights and noise of the leading streets. She proceeded so quickly, when she got free of the two currents of passengers setting towards and from the bridge, that, between this and the advance she had of us when she struck off, we were in the narrow water-side street by Millbank before we came up with her. At that moment she crossed the road, as if to avoid the...

    • O Obstructive: Tower Street Ward
      (pp. 131-131)

      In a court-yard in the City of London, which was No Thoroughfare either for vehicles or foot-passengers; a court-yard diverging from a steep, a slippery, and a winding street connecting Tower Street with the Middlesex shore of the Thames; stood the place of business of Wilding & Co., Wine Merchants. Probably as a jocose acknowledgment of the obstructive character of this main approach, the point nearest to its base at which one could take the river (if so inodorously minded) bore the appellation Break-Neck-Stairs. The court-yard itself had likewise been descriptively entitled in old time, Cripple Corner.

      Years before the...

    • P Poverty: Angel, Islington, St John’s Road, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Exmouth Street, Coppice Row, Hockley-in-the-Hole, Saffron Hill, Field Lane
      (pp. 132-136)

      They crossed from the Angel into St John’s Road; struck down the small street which terminates at Sadler’s Wells Theatre; through Exmouth Street and Coppice Row; down the little court by the side of the workhouse; across the classic ground which once bore the name of Hockley-in-the-Hole; then into Little Saffron Hill; and so into Saffron Hill the Great, along which the Dodger scudded at a rapid pace, directing Oliver to follow close at his heels.

      Although Oliver had enough to occupy his attention in keeping sight of his leader, he could not help bestowing a few hasty glances on...

    • Q Quiet: Soho Square, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Old Square
      (pp. 137-146)

      At last we came to Soho Square, where Caddy Jellyby had appointed to wait for me, as a quiet place in the neighbourhood of Newman Street. (BH 373)

      We drove slowly through the dirtiest and darkest streets that were ever seen in the world (I thought) and in such a distracting state of confusion that I wondered how people kept their senses, until we passed into sudden quietude under an old gateway and drove on through a silent square until we came to an odd nook in a corner, where there was an entrance up a steep, broad flight of...

    • R Resignation: Todgers’s, somewhere adjacent to the Monument
      (pp. 147-172)

      Surely there never was, in any other borough, city, or hamlet in the world, such a singular sort of place as Todgers’s. And surely London, to judge from that part of it which hemmed Todgers’s round, and hustled it, and crushed it, and stuck its brick-and-mortar elbows into it, and kept the air from it, and stood perpetually between it and the light, was worthy of Todgers’s, and qualified to be on terms of close relationship and alliance with hundreds and thousands of the odd family to which Todgers’s belonged.

      You couldn’t walk about in Todgers’s neighbourhood, as you could...

    • S Spring Evenings: London
      (pp. 173-181)

      That mysterious paper currency which circulates in London when the wind blows, gyrated here and there and everywhere. Whence can it come, whither can it go? It hangs on every bush, flutters in every tree, is caught flying by the electric wires, haunts every enclosure, drinks at every pump, cowers at every grating, shudders upon every plot of grass, seeks rest in vain behind the legions of iron rails. [. . .]

      The wind sawed, and the sawdust whirled. The shrubs wrung their many hands, bemoaning that they had been over-persuaded by the sun to bud; the young leaves pined;...

    • T Time: The City, Coram’s Fields
      (pp. 182-186)

      Day of the month and year, November the thirtieth, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five. London Time by the great clock of Saint Paul’s, ten at night. All the lesser London churches strain their metallic throats. Some, flippantly begin before the heavy bell of the great cathedral; some, tardily begin three, four, half a dozen, strokes behind it; all are in sufficiently near accord, to leave a resonance in the air, as if the winged father who devours his children, had made a sounding sweep with his gigantic scythe in flying over the city.

      What is this clock lower than...

    • U Unfinished: Stagg’s Gardens, Camden Town
      (pp. 187-187)

      Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were undermined and shaking, propped by great beams of wood. Here, a chaos of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a steep unnatural hill; there, confused treasures of iron soaked and rusted in something that had accidentally become a pond. Everywhere were bridges that led nowhere; thoroughfares that were wholly impassable; Babel towers of chimneys, wanting half their height; temporary wooden houses and enclosures, in the most unlikely...

    • V Voice: Brentford, the Borough
      (pp. 188-191)

      ‘For I ain’t, you must know,’ said Betty, ‘much of a hand at reading writing-hand, though I can read my Bible and most print. And I do love a newspaper. You mightn’t think it, but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different voices.’ (OMF Ch. 16)

      ‘Don’t call me Valker; my name’s Veller; you know that vell enough. What have you got to say to me?’ (PP Ch. 23)

      V is for voice and for . . .

      . . . Weller, pronounced Veller, Sam or Samuel – Samivel to his father – Weller. We...

    • W Walking: St Martin’s Court, Covent Garden
      (pp. 192-194)

      Night is generally my time for walking . . . I have fallen insensibly into this habit, both because it favours my infirmity and because it affords me greater opportunity of speculating on the characters and occupations of those who fill the streets. The glare and hurry of broad noon are not adapted to idle pursuits like mine; a glimpse of passing faces caught by the light of a street lamp or a shop window is often better for my purpose than their full revelation in the daylight, and, if I must add the truth, night is kinder in this...

    • X X Marks the Spot: St Mary Axe
      (pp. 195-200)

      It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible, and so being wholly neither. Gaslights flared in the shops with a haggard and unblest air, as knowing themselves to be night-creatures that had no business abroad under the sun; while the sun itself when it was for a few moments dimly indicated through circling eddies of fog, showed as if it had gone out and were collapsing flat...

  10. Dickens, Our Contemporary
    (pp. 201-233)

    Before Benjamin; before Kafka; before Proust; before Husserl; before Joyce: there was Dickens; and before Dickens, before Boz (before there could be a ‘Boz’), so, as a consequence, before the reader, always before the reader and remaining to come – there was London. London, Londres, London (OMF 135).

    London (BH 13). But it was London (NN 489). What might the priority I assign Dickens, with regard to how we are invited to see a city, suggest, not least about notions of modernity, the subject and, of course, Dickens? What are the senses of modernity to be read, what perceptions are re-presented,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 234-243)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 244-249)
  13. Index of Proper Names
    (pp. 250-252)