A bit more about this project

The purpose of this website is to explore London in the Romantic period by using Richard Horwood’s ‘PLAN of the Cities of LONDON and WESTMINSTER the Borough of SOUTHWARK, and PARTS adjoining Shewing every HOUSE’ (1792-1799) both as a source of information in itself and as a means of locating and exploring other contemporary texts and images.  The site hosts a digital version of the Horwood plan which can be annotated with words and images, manipulated and laid over modern digital maps.  Over the course of this project, I plan on producing a series of annotated versions of Horwood’s Plan which will use it to examine the representations and realities of life in the metropolis, looking, for example, at Lord Byron’s ‘mighty mass of brick, and smoke, and shipping,/ Dirty and dusky, but wide as the eye’ (Don Juan, Canto X, Stanza 82), William Blake’s ‘charter’d streets/Near where the charter’d Thames does flow’ (‘London’, ll. 1-2) and William Wordsworth’s city which ‘doth, like a garment, wear/ the beauty of the morning; silent, bare’ (‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802′, ll. 4-5).  I’m interested in exploring the ways that poets and novelists interacted with the city in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries both in literature and in life, in mapping their works but also locating the places in London where they stayed, or visited friends, where they worked, or caroused, or laughed.  In addition, I’m keen to think about the stories which get left out in the most famous literary versions of London from the period, about the profusions of industries, workhouses, prisons and commercial spaces which Horwood’s Plan reveals, but which are often passed over in authors’ representations of the city.

At present, the site mainly puts Horwood’s Plan into conversation with other texts which seek to curate aspects of the city.  As I move forward, I’m planning to reflect a little more on these types of works in papers and articles, but I also hope to produce maps looking more at authors’ contacts with London and at the ways in which novels and poetry represent the city.  I’m particularly keen to think about Charles Lamb, but also have some ideas involving Byron, Frances Burney’s Evelina and the London book trade – I’ll update the blog as these develop.

I teach English Literature at the University of Glasgow – my staff profile, which details my other research projects and interests, can be viewed here.  I’d be very happy to correspond about this site and can be reached by email on matthew.sangster@glasgow.ac.uk.  Comments can also be left on various pages (including this one).

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