By Nicholas Freeman
Conceiving the town is an cutting edge research of the ways that a new release of late-Victorian novelists, poets, painters, and theoreticians tried to symbolize London in literature and artwork. Breaking clear of the language and elegance of Dickens and the static landscape work of William Powell Frith, significant figures reminiscent of Henry James and J. M. Whistler, and, crucially, less-celebrated authors equivalent to Arthur Machen, Edwin Pugh, and George Egerton bent realism into interesting new shapes. within the naturalism of George Gissing and Arthur Morrison, the fragmentary impressions of Ford Madox Ford, and the brooding secret of Alvin Langdon Coburn's photogravures, London emerged as a spotlight for dynamic, explicitly smooth paintings. even if a lot of those insights will be brushed off or at the least downplayed by way of next generations, the information developed throughout the interval from 1870 to 1914 count on not just the paintings of excessive modernists corresponding to Eliot and Woolf, but additionally that of later city theorists reminiscent of Foucault and de Certeau, and the novels and travelogues of up to date London writers Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair. Nicholas Freeman recovers a feeling of late-Victorian London as a subject matter for dynamic theoretical and aesthetic experiments, and indicates, in stimulating analyses of Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Arthur Symons, and others how a lot of our knowing of city house we owe to eminent (and no longer so eminent) Victorian figures. Written in a transparent and available kind, the publication restores a much-needed historic standpoint to our engagement with the city.
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Extra info for Conceiving the City: London, Literature, and Art 1870-1914
The metropolis was a ﬁlthy and dehumanizing environment, and poor soil for sensitive plants such as Philips. Its population was rocketing, and, as it did so, the capital city ‘spread’ even faster than in the nightmares of its opponents. According to H. J. ⁷² By The Law and the Lady (1875), the situation had deteriorated further, acquiring disturbing Gothic overtones perhaps informed by the appearance of James Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night the previous year. ‘Boards and bricks were scattered about us,’ recalls Collins’s heroine.
Amy Levy’s ‘Ballade of a Special Edition’ (1889) pictures the newsvendor as ⁶ P. J. Keating, The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 94. ⁷ D. Englander, ‘Booth’s Jews: The Presentations of Jews and Judaism in Life and Labour of the People in London’, Victorian Studies, 32(4) (summer 1989), 551–71. ’⁹ London’s press responded to the Jack the Ripper panic of autumn 1888 with grotesque depictions of Whitechapel and its residents that overwhelmed any efforts to uncover everyday realities.
Miltoun used photographs of actual London sites to give geographical legitimacy to Dickensian settings, anticipating the ways in which Henry James and Alvin Coburn would experiment with placing the real at the service of the ﬁctional in their series of photogravure frontispieces to James’s New York edition. Arthur Compton Rickett’s The ⁸⁶ B. Pike, The Image of the City in Modern Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 13. ⁸⁷ Collins, ‘Dickens and the City’, in Visions of the Modern City, 118.