By Jerry White
London within the eighteenth century was once a brand new urban, risen from the ashes of the nice fireplace of 1666 that had destroyed part its houses and nice public constructions. The century that used to be an period of lively growth and large-scale tasks, of quickly altering tradition and trade, as large numbers of individuals arrived within the shining urban, drawn by way of its massive wealth and gear and its many diversions. Borrowing a word from Daniel Defoe, Jerry White calls London “this nice and immense thing,” the grandeur of its new structures and the glitter of its excessive existence shadowed by way of poverty and squalor.
A nice and enormous Thing deals a street-level view of town: its public gardens and prisons, its banks and brothels, its workshops and warehouses—and its bustling, jostling crowds. White introduces us to shopkeepers and prostitutes, women and men of style and genius, street-robbers and thief-takers, as they play out the astounding drama of lifestyles in eighteenth-century London. What emerges is an image of a society fractured via geography, politics, faith, history—and specially via type, for the divide among wealthy and terrible in London used to be by no means larger or extra damaging within the sleek period than in those years.
regardless of this gulf, Jerry White indicates us Londoners going approximately their company as bankers or beggars, reveling in an enlarging international of public pleasures, indulging in crimes either nice and small—amidst the tightening sinews of energy and law, and the hesitant beginnings of London democracy.
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Extra resources for A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century
It would make a brick and stone peninsula that struck out into open countryside on three sides. To the north, on the other side of Oxford Street, lay the fields of Marylebone, untouched by the Harley Estate, which lay further east; to the south were the Berkeley Fields, as yet still pasture and brickfield; on the west was Tyburn (later Park) Lane, with Hyde Park beyond. The estate’s centrepiece, on what by now was the expected model, was to be a great square. In keeping with the domineering ambition of the scheme, this would be a far more magnificent affair than anything the west end of the town had so far offered.
To spread the risk of a large speculation, a landowner would lease parcels of land to other players, often experienced middlemen who acted as developer or main contractor. Besides the freeholders, it was these men who made most money from the suburbs. Their parcels would be subdivided in turn into sites for one, two or three houses, sometimes a few more. A small contractor would then purchase a building lease of these plots and undertake to put up a house of a certain type and size, detailed in a building agreement.
There were three in the East End: Christ Church, Spitalfields (1714–29), St George in the East in Ratcliff Highway (also 1714–29) and St Anne’s, Limehouse (1714–30), all by Nicholas Hawksmoor and all properly suburban. Three were south of the river: St Alfege’s, Greenwich (1712–18, Hawksmoor), St Paul’s, Deptford (1713–30, Thomas Archer) and St John Horsleydown, Bermondsey (1727–33, John James). Two were in the City: a new church 20 A GREAT AND MONSTROUS THING on the northern edge, St Luke’s, Old Street (1727–33, Hawksmoor and James), and the rebuilt St Mary Woolnoth (1716–24, Hawksmoor).
A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century by Jerry White