EN5831 Victorian London Coursebook

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MA in Victorian Literature, Art, and Culture 2017-18:

EN5831 Victorian London


Gustav Dore, ‘Ludgate Hill – A Block in the Road’

for Douglas Jerrold ed., A London Pilgrimage (1872)
Autumn Term, Thursdays 1-3pm. Room: tbc.

Course convenor.

Dr Vicky Greenaway

IN203, office hours: Thursdays 12-1, 3-4.

Email: v.l.greenaway@rhul.ac.uk


This course is taught by a variety of experts across the range of expertise of the MA. Subject specific queries should be addressed to specific tutors; more general issues or questions taken to the course convenor.


This course seeks to introduce students to the study of Victorian culture at MA level via an interdisciplinary series of seminars focusing on the developing cultural representations and presences of London in the nineteenth-century.

Aims of the Course:

This course aims to act as a hub for the various other courses on the MA, providing a point of coherence for the interdisciplinary study of Victorian Culture. It aims to introduce students to the theories and methods of a variety of humanities disciplines through the medium of an in-depth study of the literature, history, geography, and visual culture of nineteenth-century London. It invites students to reflect critically on their own approaches to the material studied through an engagement with both primary materials and a variety of recent secondary material. The ten weeks of the course cover specific texts and genres in seminar discussion and/or lectures. Students will be invited to deliver presentations and expected to contribute to seminar discussion.

Learning Outcomes:

On completing this course students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced knowledge of the literatures, cultures and history of nineteenth-century London.

  • Interpret a variety of nineteenth-century novels, documents of social exploration, works of art and other representations of nineteenth-century London in a well-informed manner and with some originality.

  • Evaluate critically current research and scholarship on nineteenth-century London from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

  • Apply such complex knowledge with independent judgement in the process of research, essay writing and oral presentations.

  • Understand the necessity of critical self-reflection and orientation in preparation for completing a Masters thesis.

Teaching and Learning Methods:
Teaching involves ten 2 hour seminars, two formal tutorial sessions advising on essay planning and giving feedback on draft submissions. Students will be expected to offer seminar presentations and will be invited to schedule an appointment with the tutor concerned to receive feedback on these.
Method of Assessment:
The course is weighted at 30 credits. The course essay is 5,000-6,500 words and is due for submission on the first day of the fourth week of Summer Term. On this course you also have the option to submit your essay in draft on the first day of the Spring Term: a course tutor will then read your essay and return it to you with a mark and feedback. Your essay can then be revised for final submission on the Summer Term deadline.

Coursework essays may be based on seminar presentations, or be other work related to the course. All students are advised to confirm essay titles and subjects with the course leader towards the end of the term. Some possible suggestions for questions and topics are listed later in this booklet.

Victorian London Seminar Schedule Autumn Term 2017-18


2. Introduction: London and Cultural Topographies; the Illustrated London News (1857). (Dr Sophie Gilmartin)
Preparation: A facsimile of an issue of the Illustrated London News will be distributed at your Welcome Week induction. Please read this issue in advance of the class.
Discussion Topics:

  • Writing and Empire

  • Reading in the Nineteenth-Century

  • Literacy and Journalism

  • Research Skills: Accessing C19th Periodicals and Newspapers Online

  • Planning seminar presentations this term.

3. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1837-1839) (Prof. Juliet John)
Preparation: In the seminar we are going to discuss the novel’s topography, and in particular its representation of London. When you read Oliver Twist, pay particular attention to its locations, the movement of characters and the descriptions of land- and cityscapes.

4. Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (1851). (Dr Sophie Gilmartin)
Preparation: For this week’s class on Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, please read as much as possible of that text, but make sure you have read for class the following sections: the ‘Watercress Girl’ (p. 64 and following in the Penguin edition); ‘Statement of a Photographic Man’ (p. 335 and following in the Penguin edition); ‘The Doll’s-Eye maker’ (p. 344 and following in the Penguin edition). Please also read Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Man of the Crowd’ (available online), the opening of Bleak House, and the interview with ‘Charley’ in the ‘Bell Yard’ chapter of Bleak House. Two essays of interest are E.P. Thompson’s ‘The Political Education of Henry Mayhew’ Victorian Studies, September 1967, and Christopher Herbert’s ‘Rat Worship and Taboo in Mayhew’s London’, Representations 23 (Summer 1988).
5. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (Prof. Juliet John)
Preparation: please read Bleak House.
Discussion Topics:

  • London; mud; geology.

  • Gender, the city, and the double narrative

  • Research Skills: developing research questions; how to identify further reading using MLA, JSTOR; good research and citations practices.

6. Gender and the Poetics of Urban Space  (Dr Vicky Greenaway)

Please read:

  1. The anthology of London poems by a selection of poets provided on the course Moodle site.

  2. Charles Baudelaire, 'The Flaneur' - .pdf on the course Moodle site.

  3. Supplemental works by Amy Levy: 'A London Plane Tree' and Other Poems pp. 1-35 entire via Victorian Women Writers Project.

Topics for discussion:

  • The pastoral tradition in poetry

  • self and the street

  • writing the city

  • space and place 

Further Reading:

Deborah Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets (Cornell, 1995)

Deborah Parsons, Streetwalking the Victorian Metropolis (OUP, 2000)

Janet Wolff, ‘The Invisible Flaneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity’ Theory, Culture and Society 2 (1985) 37-61

Susan Buck Morss, ‘The Flaneur, the Sandwichman, and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering’ New German Critique 39 (1986) 99-142

Lynda Nead, Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in C19th London (2000).

Ana Parejo Vadillo, Women Poets and Urban Aestheticism: Passengers of Modernity (Palgrave, 2005)

Walkowitz, Judith. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London. London: Virago, 1992.


8. Death in London: Nineteenth-Century Cemeteries. (Dr Sophie Gilmartin)

In this class we will be looking at some Victorian paintings of the village churchyard and considering these depictions in light of contemporary concerns over the overcrowding of, and the health and sanitation issues surrounding, the city churchyard. 

Preparation: Please read Chapter 33 of Oliver Twist; Chapters 45 and 46 of Hardy's  Far From the Madding Crowd; Chapter 16 of Bleak House; Thomas Gray's 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'; a selection of poems by Thomas Hardy: from the 'Poems of 1912-1913', 'I Found Her Out There' and 'Rain on a Grave'; 'In Death Divided', 'The Levelled Churchyard'; 'In the Cemetery'; 'The Inscription (A Tale)'.

Suggested secondary reading:

G.A. Walker's Gatherings from Graveyards (1839) is a much-cited work on the need for graveyard reform. It is a very long history of the cemetery from ancient times, but the chapter sections are clear, and you can turn to relevant sections on Victorian graveyards easily. Available on GoogleBooks.

Tim Armstrong, Haunted Hardy: Poetry, History, Memory, 2000.

Rod Edmond, 'Death Sequences: Patmore, Hardy, and the New Domestic Elegy' , Victorian Poetry (Summer 1981)

Sophie Gilmartin, Ancestry and Narrative in Nineteenth-Century British Literature: Blood Relations from Edgeworth to Hardy, 1998. See esp. chapter 6.

Catherine Robson, '"Where Heaves the Turf": Thomas Hardy and the Boundaries of the Earth', Victorian Literature and Culture, Vol, 32, No. 2 (2004).

Catherine Waters, '"Trading in Death": Contested Commodities in Household Words', Victorian Periodicals Review, (Winter 2003)

9. The city and the country: Thomas Hardy's The Hand of Ethelberta (1875-1876).


Please make sure you have read Hardy's The Hand of Ethelberta (1875-76)

Topics for discussion:

In this session we will consider the significance of the relationship between city and country: both in Hardy's writing and also in Victorian literature and culture more broadly. In particular, we will look at the interrelation between rural and urban epistemologies, representations, and forms.

  • Urbanisation and the spread of London

  • Writing London as an outsider

  • Returning to the country from the city

Suggestions for further reading:

John Barrell, 'Geographies of Hardy's Wessex', Journal of Historical Geography 8 (1982), 347-61

Mark Ford, Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner (Cambridge, Mas.: Belknap Press, 2016)

Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900 (London: Verso, 1999)

Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973)

10. The suburbs: London at its peripheries. (James Cutler)

  • Please read George and Weedon Grossmith, The Diary of a Nobody (1888-89, any edition).

  • Read Dion Georgiou, ‘Leisure in London's Suburbs, 1880 –1939’ in The London Journal, 39:3 (2014) pp. 175-186. A .pdf of this article is available on the course Moodle site.

Discussion Topics:

  • Suburbia: how it evolved, and what it means: geographically and culturally.

  • Leisure activities and commodity culture in The Diary of a Nobody.

  • Masculinity and class.

  • Past ‘tradition’ and the new: father vs. son, and the futures of Lupin Pooter.

Further Reading:
Andrew Saint ed., London Suburbs (London: Merrell Holberton and English Heritage, 1999) Chapters 1 & 2.
B. I. Coleman, ‘The Idea of the Suburb: Surburbanisation and suburbanism in Victorian England’ in Peter Weston, Neil Taylor and Simon Edwards eds., London in Literature (London: Roehampton Institute, 1979) pp. 73-90.
Royce MacGillivray & Paul Beam, ‘Acceptance in Holloway: The Diary of a Nobody’, Queen’s Quarterly 1970; 77, pp. 600-13.

Brent Shannon, The Cut of His Coat: Men, Dress, and Consumer Culture in Britain, 1860-1914, (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2007)

Roger B. Henkle, Comedy and Culture: England 1820-1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980)

11. Visual representations of the Thames (Dr Vicky Greenaway)


Please view the following artworks by James Abbot MacNeill Whistler. Pick some images for further thought and study, and we’ll discuss your responses in class:

  1. The Thames Set etchings 1859-71. Click here for a Catalogue raisonee and a useful Introduction to the series.

  2. Nocturnes: ‘Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Chelsea’ (1872); ‘Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights’ (1872); ‘Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge’ (c.1872-75); ‘Nocturne in Gray and Gold: Westminster Bridge’ (c. 1871-74); ‘Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket’ (c. 1872-77).

Please also read in advance Oscar Wilde’s ‘Impression du Matin’ and ‘Symphony in Yellow’.

Topics for discussion:

To begin this session, I’ll show a slideshow of a variety of visual representations of the Thames up to Whistler and we’ll discuss the developing historical narrative of London’s relationship with its arterial river. We’ll cover:

  • Cartography: the first maps of London

  • Canaletto and the civilized riverine Thames of the 18thC and early 19thC

  • Maritime Thames

  • Whistler

  • Impressionists in London: Monet and the Thames/ (cf. Impressionist poetry and the city – Wilde and others from Week 6.)

Suggestions for further reading:

Peter Ackroyd, Thames: Sacred River (London: Chatto & Windus, 2008) esp. Ch. 37 ‘The river of art’ pp. 309-320.

Vicky Greenaway ‘The Edge of Reason? Dockside and Riverbank in James Abbott MacNeill Whistler’s The Thames Set (1859-71) and James Tissot’s paintings of the Thames’ in Tricia Cusack ed., Art and Identity at the Water’s Edge (Ashgate, 2012) pp. 177 – 192.

Search the resources and articles on: National Maritime Museum website and the online archive of the Literary London journal.

12. Interior and exterior landscapes: the urban and the fin-de-siecle pathology of mind (James Cutler)


  1. James Thomson, City of Dreadful Night (1874)

  2. Georg Simmel, 'The Metropolis and Modern Life'. .pdf provided on the course Moodle site.


Topics for discussion:

  • mapping the interior

  • masculinity and the city

  • Decadence and the urban

  • Which literary form best represents the Victorian city?



Campbell, Ian, ‘‘And I Burn Too’: Thomson’s City of Dreadful Night’ in Victorian Poetry 16 (1978), pp.123-33.

Leonard, Tom, Places of the Mind: the life and work of James Thomson (‘B.V.’) (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993)

McGann, Jerome J., ‘James Thomson (‘B.V.’): The Woven Hymns of Night and Day’ in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol.3, no.4 Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 1963) pp.493-507.

Schaefer, William David, Beyond ‘The City’ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965)

Scott, Mary Jane W., James Thomson, Anglo-Scot (Athens, Georgia & London: University of Georgia Press, 1988)

Seed, David, ‘Hell is a City: Symbolic Systems and Epistemological Scepticism in The City of Dreadful Night’ in Glennis Byron and David Punter eds., Spectral Readings: towards a Gothic Geography (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999) pp.88-107.

Sharpe, William, ‘Learning to Read The City’ in Victorian Poetry 22, no.1 (Spring 1984) pp.65-84.

Tinkler-Villani, Valeria, ‘‘Ruins of an Unremembered Past’: Poetic strategies in James Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night’ in Valeria Tinkler-Villani ed., Babylon or New Jerusalem?: perceptions of the city in literature (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005) pp.125-34. 

Books you need to buy and which it is advised you read in advance of the course are as follows:

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist and Bleak House (any Penguin or Oxford World’s Classic editions)
Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (ed. by Victor E. Neuburg; Penguin 1985)
Thomas Hardy, The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (Penguin, 1997 but any Penguin or Oxford World’s Classics edition)
George and Weedon Grossmith, The Diary of a Nobody (1888-89: available in print or Kindle editions. If using the latter please ensure you have some method for making notes or annotations as you read, in order that you can navigate the text in seminar.)
James Thomson, City of Dreadful Night (1874: any edition - Kindle and online editions are available, and copies available in RHUL library.)

For detailed suggestions for further reading week-by-week with links to the required articles and online versions of primary texts, please access your Moodle site for this course.
These books can be found in Royal Holloway Library, Senate House Library or (for some of the rarer texts) The British Library.


Altick, Richard, The Shows of London (1978)

Baedeker, Karl, Baedeker's London and Its Environs: Handbook for Travellers (1898).
Bayley, Stephen The Albert Memorial: the Monument in its Social and Architectural Context (1981).
Black’s Guide to London and its Environs (1873)
Booth, Charles, Life and Labour of the People of London (1889-91).
Bratton, J.S., ed. Music Hall: Performance and Style (1986).
Briggs, Asa, Victorian Cities (1963).

Cannadine, David, and David Reeder, eds. Exploring the Urban Past: Essays in Urban History (1982).

Clifton, Gloria C., Professionalism, patronage, and public service in Victorian London (1992).
Mary Cowling, Victorian Figurative Painting, Domestic Life and the Victorian Social Scene, A. Papadakis, 2000
Mary Cowling, The Artist as Anthropologist, Cambridge U.P., 1989
Creaton, Heather, Bibliography of Printed Works on London History to 1939 (1993)

Croad, Stephen, London’s Bridges (1983)

Cunningham, Peter, Handbook of London: Past and Present (1850)
Daunton, M.J., House and Home in the Victorian City: Working-Class Housing 1850-1914 (1983).
de Mare, Eric, London’s Riverside (1958)
Dexter, Walter, The London of Dickens (1923)
Dore Gustave, and Blanchard, Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage (1851. Available online at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu:1851/london/texts/dore/@Generic__BookView)
Dyos, H.J. and Woolf, Michael eds. The Victorian City: Images and Realities (1973).
Egan, Pierce, Life in London (1869).
Feldman, David, and Gareth Stedman Jones, (eds) Metropolis London: Histories and Representations Since 1800 (1989).
Fraser, Derek and Sutcliffe, A. eds., The Pursuit of Urban History (1983).
Freeman, Nicholas. Conceiving the City: London, Literature, and Art, 1870-1914. Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 2007.

Mireille Galinou and John Hayes, London in Paint, Museum of London, 1988

Garside, Patricia L. and Young, Ken, Metropolitan London: Politics and Urban Change 1837-1981 (1982).

George, M. Dorothy, Hogarth to Cruikshank: Social Change in Graphic Satire (1967).
Gilmartin, Sophie. Ancestry and Narrative in Nineteenth-Century British Literature, (see Chapter 6 on Victorian city and village churchyards) (1998)

Gomme, G. Laurence, London in the Reign of Victoria (1898)

Herbert, Christopher, Culture and Anomie: Ethnographic Imagination in the Nineteenth Century (1991).
Hibbert, Christopher, ‘Dickens’s London’, in E W F Tomlin (ed), Charles Dickens: a Centennial Volume (1969)
Hollingshead, John, Ragged London in 1861 (1861)
Humpherys, Anne. Travels into the Poor Man’s Country: the Work of Henry Mayhew. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1977.
Hyde, Ralph, Printed Maps of Victorian London, 1851-1900 (1975).
John, Juliet, Dickens and Mass Culture (OUP, 2010).
John, Juliet, Dickens’s Villains: Melodrama, Character, Popular Culture (OUP, 2011)
E.D.H. Johnson, paintings of the British Social Scene, New York, Rizzoli, 1986.
Jones, Gareth Stedman. Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship between the Classes

in Victorian Society. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.
Joyce, Simon. Capital Offenses: Geographies of Class and Crime in Victorian London.

Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2003.

Keating, Peter. The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction. London: Routledge, 1971.
Kellett, J.R., The Impact of Railways on Victorian Cities (1969).
Korg, Jacob, London in Dickens’s Day (1960)
Koven, Seth. Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London. Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 2004.

Lees, L.H., Exiles of Erin: the Irish in Victorian London (1979).
Leonard, Tom, Places of the Mind: the life and work of James Thomson (‘B.V.’) (London:

Jonathan Cape, 1993)

Lillywhite, B, London Coffee Houses (1963).
Livesey, Ruth. ‘Reading for Character: Women Social Reformers and Narratives of the

Urban Poor in Late Victorian and Edwardian London.’ Journal of Victorian Culture

9 (2004): 45-57.
Livesey, Ruth. Socialism, Sex, and the Culture of Aestheticism in Britain, 1880-1914.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Maltz, Diana. British Aestheticism and the Urban Working Classes, 1870-1900: Beauty for

the People. New York: Palgrave, 2005.
Marcus, Steven, The Other Victorians (1974).
Mayhew, Henry, London Labour and the London Poor (4 vols, 1861-2) [Available online at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu:1851/london/texts/mayhew/@Generic__BookView]
McCalman, Iain. Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries, and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840 (1988)
McLeod, Hugh, Class and Religion in Late-Victorian London (1974).
Nead, Lynda. Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London (2000)
Nord, Deborah. Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representations, and the City.

Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Olsen, Donald J, The Growth of Victorian London (1976)
Owen, D. The Government of Victorian London (1982).
Phillipps, Evelyn March, ‘The Working Lady in London’ Fortnightly Review 52 (August 1892).
Porter, Roy, London: a Social History (1994)
Schaefer, William David, Beyond ‘The City’ (Berkeley: University of California Press,

Schaefer, William, ‘The Two Cities of Dreadful Night’, PMLA 77:5 (1962), 609-612

Schlicke, Paul, Dickens and Popular Entertainment (1985)
Schneer, Jonathan, London 1900: Imperial Metropolis (Yale UP, 1999)
Scott, Mary Jane W., James Thomson, Anglo-Scot (Athens, Georgia & London: University

of Georgia Press, 1988)

Seed, David, ‘Hell is a City: Symbolic Systems and Epistemological Scepticism in The City

of Dreadful Night’ in Glennis Byron and David Punter eds., Spectral Readings:

towards a Gothic Geography (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999) pp.88-107.
Sharpe, William, ‘Learning to Read The City’ in Victorian Poetry 22, no.1 (Spring 1984)


Soja, Edward J., ‘History: Geography: Modernity,’ in Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (1989).
Stamp, Gavin, The Changing Metropolis: Earliest Photographs of London 1839-1879 (1984)
Steadman-Jones, Gareth, Outcast London (1971)
Summerson, John, The Architecture of Victorian London (1976).

---------- The London Building World of the Eighteen-Sixties (1973)

Tallis, John, London Street Views 1838-40 (reprinted 1969)
The Pictoral Handbook of London (1854, 1862)
Timbs, John, Curiosities of London (new edn., 1868)
Tinkler-Villani, Valeria, ‘‘Ruins of an Unremembered Past’: Poetic strategies in James

Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night’ in Valeria Tinkler-Villani ed., Babylon or

New Jerusalem?: perceptions of the city in literature (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005)


Julian Treuherz, Hard Times: Social realism in Victorian art, Lund Humphries, 1987
Julian Treuherz, Victorian Painting, Thames & Hudson, 1993
Walkowitz, Judith. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian

London. London: Virago, 1992.

------, Prostitution and Victorian Society (1980)

Weinreb, Ben and Hibbert, Christopher, The London Encyclopedia (1983; 2nd ed, 1993)
Welsh, Alexander, The City of Dickens (1971).
Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City (1973).
Winter, James, London’s Teeming Streets 1830-1914 (1993)
Christopher Wood, Victorian Panorama, Faber, 1990 (1976)
Christopher Wood, Victorian Painting, Weidenfeld, 1999



Monuments and Dust: the Culture of Victorian London. An online project out of the Universities of Virginia and UCL that ‘seeks to extend both the terms and forms of the study of London’. It sets out to construct ‘an archive of primary materials--journalism, literary works, paintings, census data, maps, tracts, cartoons, sermons-- open to scholars and teachers in a wide range of disciplines.’

Genealogy Research Tools: contains a wide range of links to resources on Victorian London, including: Victorian London Street Index; Victorian London Churches; Victorian London Cemeteries; Victorian London Lodging Houses; Irish Nests in Victorian London; London Metropolitan Police Divisions; Victorian London Institutions; Victorian London Inns, Taverns & Public Houses; Victorian London Census Surname Indexes; Middlesex Parish Churches (Diocese of London)


Some pictures of Victorian London


A mid-century London map, Cruchley's New Plan of London.

London Lowlife http://www.amdigital.co.uk/collections/London-Low-Life/Default.aspx

A subscription resource that can be accessed via Senate House Library remote electronic resources once you have your library card. The site has digitised material from the Lilly Library, Indiana and elsewhere with excellent primary materials for the study of late nineteenth-century London, including George Gissing’s scrapbooks from the Pforzheimer collection and interactive searchable maps of the city. It was also managed by a former graduate of this MA programme and one of our MA interns helped develop text for the site in 2010!

Sample Questions
These are offered by way of suggesting the sorts of question students may wish to attempt for their essays.

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