London in the 18th Century, By Jerry White
A century – and city – of duels, dung and gin cocktails
After surveying the metropolis in the 20th and 19th centuries, Jerry White's mighty Tardis concludes its backwards journey with a vast, endlessly fascinating panorama of a city both familiar and alien.
The 18th century saw the start of modern London. Street lights illuminated the West End from 1709 while property prices rocketed – a small patch off Piccadilly bought as a barrel store for £30 sold for £2,500 a few years later.
The unbroken avenue of shops that extended from Charing Cross to Leadenhall Market was "the finest in Europe" according to a French visitor. The mercers (fabric shops) drew gasps from a German woman, "Such an abundance of choice as to almost make one greedy." She was also taken by "brilliantly lit" lamp shops, while "spirit booths" (gin merchants) were "particularly tempting".
The origins of the cocktail date from around 1720 when gin was "made more palatable through the addition of cordials and flavourings". The series of "moral panics" about gin are echoed by the increasingly strident prohibitionists of our own time. White notes that "the effects of gin on bishops, magistrates, moralists and reformers seem to have been more maddening than on any sot in Pissing Alley."
In other respects, Johnson's beloved city is deeply alien. Slaves were still sold ("a beautiful negro boy about eight years of age… to be dispos'd of") and duels fought – the land now occupied by the British Museum was a favourite spot. The swarms of rats on the riverbank and "hidden decrepitude" of old London come as no surprise, though White points out, "No Londoner… was more than a mile or two from open countryside." Later in the book, we learn this was not necessarily a peaceful retreat. Footpads and highwaymen infested "the fields around London".
"Street dung, dead dogs and cats, rotten fish and vegetables... were the staple ammunition of the London crowd" for those condemned to the pillory but a few of those pilloried attracted sympathy. Daniel Defoe was cheered while friends sold his books.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners