Very glad to be able to write that I’ve recently co-signed a contract with Oxford University Press to produce the first modern affordable edition of Pierce Egan’s Life in London (previously mapped for this site) for Oxford World’s Classics. I’ve be working on this with John Gardner, Simon Kövesi and David Stewart for the past couple of years, and we’re very glad the OUP will be able to publish a version at a price that will make the book available again to general readers and for university teaching.
It was fun (if somewhat surreal) to see a slightly truncated version of my stitched-together version of Horwood’s Plan reproduced on a scale even larger than the paper originals on the wall of the Tate as part of the current William Blake exhibition. It was great to be able to help the curators out with this. There’s snapshot below, although this don’t really do justice to the scale.
Writing (rather belatedly) to note that a special issue of Romanticism on the Net, which I co-edited with Tim Fulford, has recently been published, featuring an article by me on the ways in which Southey engaged with (or disengaged from) the city. The abstract is below, and the full article is available open access.
This article explores Robert Southey’s attitudes to London, using his often negative reactions as a means of examining his construction of his identity while also employing his works as a prism through which to consider the social and representational problems that the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century city presented for literary writers. It places Southey’s handful of London-related poems in the context of his wider oeuvre by analysing his correspondence, his Letters from England (1807), and the Colloquies (1829). Through looking at consonances with works by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Edmund Burke, among others, the article shows how Southey constructed a vision of London as a place of perverted sublimity, where scale and repetition served to grind down confidence in one’s individual value, leading to sickness, disaffection and alienation. While examining fluctuations in Southey’s attitudes over time, it contends that his fear of the London mob, his distaste at urban pollution, and his disgust at the condition of the poor remained relatively constant over the course of his career, causing him to develop attitudes to the metropolis that shaped both his own later conservatism and larger Romantic ideologies that positioned cities as uncongenial environments for the comfortable operation of poetical minds.
As you’ll be able to see from the expanded header menu, I’ve recently added a series of new curations to the site, including plate series from John Thomas Smith’s Antiquities of London (1791-1800), Thomas Malton’s A Picturesque Tour Through the Cities of London and Westminster (1792-1801) and the 1816 collection of Select Views of London compiled and arranged by John B. Papworth. I’ve also mapped the passages from the seventh book of William Wordsworth’s Prelude that directly describe London. These marker layers have also been added to the All Curations page, which allows different visions of London to be compared. There’s still some work to be done with these new elements, particularly when it comes to introductions, but hopefully they’ll be of use. If you encounter any errors or mistakes while using the new parts of the site, it would be great if you could drop me an email so I can fix things.
A piece of mine called ‘Transformation and Specialization in London and its Topography’ has just been published by the Journal of Victorian Culture; this is part of a roundtable examining John Tallis’s London Street Views (1838-40). At the moment, not all of the contributions have appeared, but in a few days (and in the physical copy of the journal when it comes out later in the year), this will form part of a wider discussion of the Street Views superintended by Alison O’Byrne and Jon Stobart, arising out of a fun day of conversations at the Royal Institute of British Architects last year.
Romantic London’s map showing the locations of Tallis’s Street Views isn’t part of the main site interface as I don’t have copies of the images available at present, but it can be viewed here if you’re interested.
If you’d like to read more about the Street Views, the Museum of London has created a really interesting interface mapping the western streets that Tallis depicted. There’s also a great blog by the mysterious Baldwin Hamey that explores the Street Views in detail.
The British Library has recently launched Picturing Places, a new resource exploring its rich topographical holdings. Many of the images used on this site – including the Plan itself – were kindly provided by the library, so I was very glad to be able to give something back by contributing an article on ‘Accumulating London’ to the project. This article explores the interactions between a series of different publications from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that sought to claim particular niches through depicting the city. Some of these works are covered by Romantic London already, but a couple will form part of a major update to the site that I’ll be launching in stages over the next month or so.
The first part of this update is something that I’ve wanted to make a part of the site for a very long time – the revised fourth edition of Horwood’s Plan published by William Faden in 1819. I’ve now added this as a new tiled map layer for all the existing content, allowing visitors to explore the changes in the city over the course of the early nineteenth century by contrasting Horwood’s original with Faden’s final revision. I’ll be adding a fuller discussion of the additions that Faden and his cartographers made to the Plan at a later date, but if you’re keen to trace the development of the docks and the East End, examine the creation of Regent Street or look at what Regent’s Park might have looked like if the original designs had been followed more closely, a page for exploring the 1819 version can be seen here.
The first article that I wrote arising from this project, ‘Coherence and Inclusion in the Life Writing of Romantic-period London’, has just been published in a special issue of Life Writing edited by Felicity James and Julian North and showcasing papers from their Writing Lives Together conference (held in September 2015). The article is behind a paywall, but if anyone without appropriate library access is interested in reading it, I have a direct access link that I’d be happy to send by email.
I’ve been drawn away from this site for the past few months by the process of settling into Glasgow and because of exciting developments with the AHRC-funded ‘Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900’ network that I’m co-running, but I’ve now completed work on three additional curations that I’ll be linking in with the main body of the site shortly. I’m also hoping to have a bit more time over the summer to make some fairly substantial changes and updates.
I’ve been a bit delayed in moving forward with Romantic London due to my relocating to take up a new job at the University of Glasgow, but now that I’m beginning to settle in, I’m hoping to have the time to finish off work on the next phase of updates to the site, which will add a series of further topographical works, as well as some new literary texts. In the meantime, I’ve got a number of pieces of writing relating to the project coming out over the next few months, the first of which is a contribution to the Keats Letters Project on John Keats and urban time. The folks over there also put together a cool video showing off some of the ways that you can use Horwood’s Plan to help investigate the materials that they’re working on. The Keats Letters Project is republishing every surviving letter by Keats two hundred years after the date when it was written (or as close to this date as can be established), with commentary by a range of different scholars and creative writers. It’s a great idea and there’s a lot of really thought-provoking material already published, so it’s well worth checking out.
I’ve been having a bit to trouble with the back end of the site over the past month, but I’ve now resolved these issues, so over the next few weeks the site’s content will be almost doubling as I add further topographical plate series, courtesy of the British Library, and begin to work on mapping different literary versions of London. I’m currently updating the site with a second Ackermann publication to complement the Microcosm: the collection of Select Views of London that he issued in 1816 along with a text by the architect John Buonarotti Papworth (the first plate in the series, showing St James’s Palace, is above). I’ll also be adding Thomas Malton’s Picturesque Tour Through the Cities of London and Westminster (1792-1800), which is one of my personal favourites. I talked about both of these works at a conference on Transforming Topography a couple of weeks ago; the recordings of that event should be available in due course.
After these two curations have been added, I have plates from three other publications lined up. The continuing development of Maps Marker Pro also means that I’ll be able to improve the site’s flexibility by allowing users dynamically to control the markers shown on the various maps. I’ve put together a sneak preview of this feature on this page, which includes markers for the three guides to London currently on the site. I also now have access to the 1819 revision of Horwood’s Plan published by William Faden. Preparing this for the site will take a little while, but once this is done, I hope to make this available as an additional layer on all the existing maps; London expanded a great deal in the twenty years between 1799 and 1819, and juxtaposing the two maps should be very helpful for more fully understanding the changes that it underwent.
After a period of relative quiet, I should be able to make a number of updates to the site over the next few months. The British Library is currently in the process of scanning plates from a series of books which will allow me to more than double the amount of material presented here. In the meantime, though, I’ve added a map and a slideshow using the plates from Pierce Egan’s Life in London: Or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in Their Rambles and Sprees Through the Metropolis, which was first published in serial form in 1820 and 1821 before being collected in 1821. Egan’s book was an enormous popular success throughout the 1820s, spawning theatrical adaptations, pirate editions and a series of unauthorised spin-offs and continuations. I’ll add an introduction shortly providing contextual information about Egan and his work and reflecting on the idea of London that his book promotes. I’m also hoping to find a way of mapping the full text of Life in London, but this is a rather more complicated proposition, as it involves finding a way to deal with the woodcuts and other complex formatting constraints and a means for encoding small caps in a manner that the majority of browsers can decode.