If London is endless and illimitable, so are the books and essays devoted to it. The Bibliography of Printed Works on London History, edited by Heather Creaton (London, 1994), lists 21,778 separate publications from London History Periodicals to Service War Memorials. No scholar of the city, however eager or ambitious, can hope to assimilate all this material. My own thread through the labyrinth has been twined out of enthusiasm and curiosity, coarse enough in the circumstances but serviceable.
Of the general studies I can recommend The Future of London’s Past by M. Biddle and D. Hudson (London, 1977); The Stones of London by J.V. Elsden and J.A. Howe (London, 1923); The Soul of London by F.M. Ford (London, 1905); Street Names of the City of London by E. Ekwall (Oxford, 1954); The Lost Language of London by H. Bayley (London, 1935); London in Song by W. Whitten (London, 1898); London Echoing and The London Perambulator, both by James Bone (London, 1948 and 1931); Historians of London by S. Rubinstein (London, 1968); Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions by C. Mackay (London, 1841); The Synfulle Citie by E.J. Burford (London, 1990); London Mystery and Mythology by W. Kent (London, 1952). Note that these books are in no particular order, chronological or thematic, and in that sense they act as an image of the city itself where stray impressions leave their mark. In turn we have The Streets of London Through The Centuries by T. Burke (London, 1940); They Saw it Happen edited in four volumes by W.O. Hassall, C.R.N. Routh, T. Charles-Edwards, B. Richardson and A. Briggs (Oxford, 1956–1960); The Ghosts of London by J.A. Brooks (Norwich, 1982); Characters of Bygone London by W. Stewart (London, 1960); The Quack Doctors of Old London by C.J. Thompson (London, 1928); London As It Might Have Been by F. Barker and R. Hyde (London, 1982); Queer Things About London by C. Harper (London, 1923). The Geology of London and South-East England by G.M. Davies (London, 1939) is matched by London Illustrated Geological Walks by E. Robinson (Edinburgh, 1985); The Curiosities of London by J. Timbs (London, 1855) can similarly be placed beside Literary and Historical Memorials of London by J.H. Jesse (London, 1847), London Rediscoveries by W.G. Bell (London, 1929), and Old Customs and Ceremonies of London by M. Brentnall (London, 1975).
The Londoner’s Almanac by R. Ash (London, 1985) contains peculiar and sometimes interesting facts such as “Twenty Slang Words Used by London Taxi-Drivers”; W. Kent’s London in The News Through Three Centuries (London, 1954) contains astonishing stories of hauntings, body-snatchings and deaths by lightning. The Aquarian Guide to Legendary London edited by J.M. Matthews and C. Potter (Wellingborough, 1990) is indispensable reading for those who are interested in the occluded aspects of the city’s history, while London Bodies by A. Werner (London, 1998) is a fascinating exercise in comparative physiology. The Building of London by J. Schofield (London, 1984) offers many valuable perceptions into the fabric and texture of the developing city while The City of London by C.H. Holden and W.G. Holford (London, 1947) is concerned with the task of reconstruction after the Second World War. Lost London by H. Hobhouse (London, 1971) is necessary if poignant reading on all that has been destroyed or vandalised by generations of London’s builders, and it is complemented by G. Stamp’s The Changing Metropolis (London, 1984) which contains many fascinating photographs of the vanished or forgotten city. Studies in London History edited by A.E.J. Hollaender and W. Kellaway (London, 1969) is a collection of essays which has the virtue of appealing to every literate Londoner, with articles ranging from the real Richard Whittington to the pre-Norman London Bridge. Invaluable, too, is London in Paintedited by M. Gallinou and J. Hayes (London, 1996) which moves from the earliest oil painting of London to the latest emanation of what might loosely be termed “The School of London.” In a similar spirit The Image of London: Views by Travellers and Emigrés 1550–1920 edited by M. Warner (London, 1987) collects the compositions of, among others, Whistler, Monet and Canaletto to provide a pictorial synopsis of the city. London on Film by C. Sorensen (London, 1996) performs a similar feat with the cinema. Curious London by R. Cross (London, 1966) is filled with, well, curiosities; and with a sigh we may finish this intricate selection with Where London Sleeps by W.G. Bell (London, 1926).
It would be out of place here to list the literature of London, simply because to a large extent it also represents the literature of England; few novelists, poets or dramatists have not been touched or moved by London. I might also name Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope, Dryden, Johnson and the myriad other writers who comprise a distinct and distinctive London world. That is the matter for another book. All I can do here is list specific debts and allegiances, especially to those writers and books which emerge in the course of my narrative. I feel of course an obligation to T.S. Eliot, Thomas More, William Blake and Charles Dickens who have helped to fashion my vision of London; to Thomas De Quincey, Charles Lamb, George Gissing, Arthur Machen, and the other urban pilgrims, I owe an especial debt. I have alluded in this biography particularly to Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Aldous Huxley, Joseph Conrad, George Orwell, H.G. Wells and G.K. Chesterton; from other centuries, the urban works of Tobias Smollett, Daniel Defoe, Ben Jonson and Henry Fielding have been a perpetual comfort and reward. Specific references are made to Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (London, 1955), Michael Moorcock’s Mother London (London, 1988), Iain Sinclair’s Downriver (London, 1991), Arthur Morrison’s A Child of the Jago (London, 1896) and Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (London, 1949). Certain literary studies have also been immensely helpful. There are many general works, such as W. Kent’s London for the Literary Pilgrim (London, 1949), Andrew Davies’s Literary London (London, 1988), W.B. Thresshing’s The London Muse (Georgia, 1982) and The Book Lover’s London by A. St. John Adcock (London, 1913). Of more specific import are Henry James and London by J. Kimmey (New York, 1991) and Virginia Woolf’s London by D. Brewster (London, 1959). London Transformed by M. Byrd deals primarily with the literary territory of the eighteenth century. I owe an especial debt to J. Wolfreys’s Writing London (London, 1998), particularly for his perceptive remarks on Carlyle and Engels.
The early history of London is marked by speculation and controversy. Much of it is veiled in myth or legend, and the enchantment can be glimpsed in Legendary London: Early London in Tradition and History by L. Spence (London, 1937) and Prehistoric London: Its Mounds and Circles by E.O. Gordon (London, 1914). The Holy Groves of Britainby F.J. Stuckey (London, 1995) is also of absorbing interest. A more sober account is provided by N. Merriman in Prehistoric London (London, 1990) which is complemented by F.G. Parsons’s The Earlier Inhabitants of London (London, 1927). The great antiquarian and scholar, Laurence Gomme, a true successor of John Stow, has written The Governance of London (London, 1907) and The Making of London (London, 1912) as well as The Topography of London (London, 1904). For the deeper background I recommend Celtic Britain by C. Thomas (London, 1986) and The Druids by S. Piggott (London, 1968). For the city of later date, London: City of the Romans by R. Merrifield (London, 1983) is essential reading together with a shorter study by R. Merrifield and J. Hally entitled Roman London(London, 1986); a more speculative account can be found in The London That Was Rome by M. Harrison (London, 1971). Then, later still, The Anglo-Saxons edited by J. Campbell (London, 1982) is the best general account. The essays and articles in The Journal of the London Society are of great importance in the study of early London, but the major source of archaeological information remains The London Archaeologist. The articles and site reports in that periodical are invaluable.
The medieval city has been the object of much study, and all general histories of England survey its conditions. Contemporary documents sometimes provide haunting detail, and they can be found in The Chronicles of London edited by C.L. Kingsford (Oxford, 1905), The Chronicles of Richard of Devizes edited by J.T. Appleby (London, 1963), Fifty Early English Wills edited by F.J. Furnivall (London, 1882), The London Eyre of 1244 edited by H.M. Chew and M. Weinbaum (London, 1970), Calendar of Pleas and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London edited by A.H. Thomas and P.E. Jones, (London, 1924–1961) and Liber Albus of 1417 edited by H.T. Riley (London, 1861). Later historical studies include G.A. Williams’s indispensable Medieval London: From Commune to Capital (London, 1963), E. Ekwall’s Studies on the Population of Medieval London (Stockholm, 1956), S. Thrupp’s The Merchant Class of Medieval London (London, 1948), London 800–1216: The Shaping of a City by C.N.L. Brooke (London, 1975), London Life in the Fourteenth Century by C. Pendrill (London, 1925) and G. Home’s Medieval London (London, 1927). Especial mention must be made of L. Wright’s Sources of London English: Medieval Thames Vocabulary (Oxford, 1996) which brings the reader right down to the reeking waterside.
Accounts of sixteenth-century London are of course dominated by Stow’s A Survey of London; the edition by C.L. Kingsford (London, 1908) is still the most authoritative. More recent studies include Elizabethan London by M. Holmes (London, 1969), Worlds Within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London by S. Rappaport (Cambridge, 1989), Trade, Government and Economy in pre-Industrial England edited by D.C. Coleman and A.H. John (London, 1976), London and the Reformation by S. Brigden (Oxford, 1989) and The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London by I.W. Archer (Cambridge, 1991).
The diaries of John Evelyn, and of Samuel Pepys, are of course essential for any understanding of seventeenth-century London. And Macaulay’s History of England from the Accession of James II is still immensely readable. But there are specific volumes of great interest, among them London and the Civil War edited by S. Porter (London, 1996), and The Rebuilding of London After the Great Fire by T.F. Reddaway (London, 1940). P. Earle’s A City Full of People: Men and Women of London, 1650–1750 (London, 1994) is a fascinating quarry. L. Picard’s Restoration London (London, 1997) provides a detailed synopsis of daily living; it is complemented by the images within The Cries and Hawkers of London: The Engravings of Marcellus Laroon, edited by S. Shesgreen (Aldershot, 1990), which provide direct access to the streets and people of the late seventeenth century. I have also made use of Wenceslaus Hollar by R. Godfrey (New Haven, 1994) which provides different, but no less interesting, images. E. Ward’s The London Spy (London, 1697–1703) comes at the end of the century, but not at the end of a rich tradition of London “low life” sketches.
Eighteenth-century London is replete with source material, from the poems and plays of John Gay to the engravings of William Hogarth. Any biography of Samuel Johnson or William Blake will provide a vision of the city in its general and particular circumstances. Specific mention, however, might be made of J. Boswell’s London Journal 1762–1763edited by F.A. Pottle (London, 1950). The world of Addison and Steele can be discovered within the pages of Selections from the Tatler and the Spectator edited by A. Ross (London, 1982). The best general survey of the period is M.D. George’s London Life in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1925) while J. Summerson’s Georgian London (London, 1945) will clarify the reader’s mind on architectural matters. George Rudé’s Hanoverian London, 1714–1808 (London, 1971) remains a very important study. Of more specific interest is London in the Age of Industrialisation by L.D. Schwarz (Cambridge, 1992), while M. Waller’s 1700: Scenes from London Life (London, 2000) provides an intimate picture of ordinary life. Crime, death and punishment seem to emerge as objects of attention in eighteenth-century London; among the books devoted to them are P. Linebaugh’s The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in Eighteenth-Century London (London, 1991), and Death and the Metropolis by J. Landers (Cambridge, 1993); of related interest is I. McCalman’s Radical Underworld (Cambridge, 1988). John Gay’s London by W.H. Irving (Cambridge, 1923) is precise and informative, as is J. Uglow’s Hogarth: A Life and a World (London, 1997). The latter biography can be read alongside the edition of Hogarth’s Graphic Works edited with a commentary by R. Paulson (London, 1989). The Godwins and the Shelleys by W. St. Clair (London, 1989) provides more interesting source material on radical London, and S. Gardner’s The Tyger, the Lamb and the Terrible Desart (London, 1998) provides an approximation of the Blakean vision.
The nineteenth-century city has been the object of fascinated enquiry ever since the nineteenth century itself. Major texts are of course those of Henry Mayhew and Charles Booth. Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, taken from articles in the Morning Chronicle and published in four volumes between 1851 and 1862, mingles anecdote with statistic in a characteristically mid-nineteenth century style. Yet it remains the single most important source for the manner and speech of the nineteenth-century poor, enlivened by Mayhew’s eye for detail which can truly be described as Dickensian. The seventeen volumes of Booth’s Life and Labour of the People of London (1891–1902) are perhaps less colourful but no less sympathetic. This was also the century for the great compilations of London’s history by enthusiasts and antiquarians. Principal among them are the six volumes of Old and New London edited by W. Thornbury and E. Walford (London, 1883–1885), which moves from area to area like some great eagle-eyed observer, and C. Knight’s London in six volumes (London, 1841) which provides a series of long essays ranging in subject from prisons to beer-making to advertisements. London: A Pilgrimage by Blanchard Jerrold and Gustave Doré (London, 1872) contains haunting images of the savagery and industry of imperial London. An edition of George Scharf’s London, with a text by P. Jackson (London, 1987), offers images of early nineteenth-century London in a different tone and mode from those of Doré. There are many books upon the Victorian poor, but those I have found most useful include The Rookeries of London by T. Beames (London, 1850), People of the Rookery by D.M. Green (London, 1986) and J. Hollingshead’s Ragged London in 1861 (London, 1986). F. Sheppard’s London 1808–1870: The Infernal Wen (London, 1971) is also highly instructive in this context. For a more romantic picture of the city, it is worth looking at Grandfather’s London by O.J. Morris (London, 1960) while Dickens’s London: An Imaginative Vision (London, 1991) contains many rare and distinctive photographs of the period. More can be discovered in Old London by G. Bush (London, 1975), part of the Archive Photograph Series. There are also general histories. The Victorian City, edited by H.J. Dyos and M. Wolff (London, 1973) is invaluable, together with D.J. Olsen’s The Growth of Victorian London(London, 1976); the latter is particularly interesting for its account of the building work of the period, culminating in the partial destruction of Georgian London and the growth of the great new estates. Tallis’s London Street Views, 1838–1840, (London, 1969) helps to complete the picture. London World City 1800–1840, edited by Celina Fox (London, 1992), contains a valuable series of essays from science to architecture. The Making of Modern London, 1815–1914 by G. Weightman and S. Humphries (London, 1983) should also be studied.
There are also many nineteenth- and early twentieth-century memoirs, now practically forgotten but still an impressive and comprehensive account of the city known and unknown. There are anecdotes, and walks, and rambles, with titles like H.V. Morton’s The Spell of London (London, 1926), C.W. Heckthorne’s London Memories and London Souvenirs (London, 1900 and 1891), Bygone London Life by E.L. Apperson (London, 1903) and London Revisited by E.V. Lucas (London, 1916). The two volumes of A. Hare’s Walks in London (London, 1883) are charming as well as erudite while W.G. Bell’s Unknown London (London, 1919) is a repository of secret urban knowledge. From an earlier date come C.M. Smith’s The Little World of London (London, 1857) and Aleph’s London Scenes and London People (London, 1863); E.T. Cook’s Highways and Byways in London (London, 1906) affords similar nostalgic pleasures. A.T. Camden-Pratt’s Unknown London (London, 1897) covers among other subjects Newgate and the Wool Exchange, while The West End of Yesterday and Today by E.B. Chancellor (London, 1926) speaks for itself. R. Nevill’s Night Life in London and Paris (London, 1926) is in a similar category. A.V. Compton-Rickett’s The London Life of Yesterday (London, 1909) covers many centuries with a very light touch. But particular mention should be made of another great London historian, Walter Besant, who published a number of volumes on the life and history of the city. His South London (London, 1899), East London (London, 1901), London (London, 1904), Medieval London (London, 1906) and London North of the Thames (London, 1911) provide a diorama of urban history; his bust is to be found beside the Thames opposite Northumberland Avenue.
It is perhaps appropriate that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, there should also be a concentration of books on the occluded or darker aspects of the city. London in Shadow by B. Kennedy (London, 1902) is complemented by London’s Underworld by T. Holmes (London, 1912), one of the many studies devoted to the vagrant and the dispossessed at the turn of the century. The atmosphere is deepened by S. Graham’s London Nights (London, 1925), a highly evocative study, and rendered poignant by P. Norman’s London Vanished and Vanishing (London, 1905). C.H. Rolph’s London Particulars (London, 1980) provides a detailed and not at all nostalgic memoir of the early decades, while J. Schneer’s London 1900 (New Haven, 1999) offers an “over-view” of social and cultural developments at that time of transition. A more optimistic version of urban commentary emerged in The Face of London by H.P. Clunn (London, 1932), The Wonderful Story of London edited by H. Wheeler (London, 1949), and A. Bush’s Portrait of London (London, 1950). One of the greatest of twentieth-century accounts, however, remains London: The Unique Cityby S.E. Rasmussen (London, 1934) which seems to prove the familiar adage that foreign observers view London matters with a clear eye. A Guide to the Structure of London by M. Ash (Bath, 1972) is good on the intricacies of post-War planning. Docklands in the Making by A. Cox (London, 1995) is a lively introduction to the phenomenon of the resurgent banks of the Thames, and takes its rightful place as part of the great Survey of London which has been compiled over a period of one hundred years. In a similar spirit Focus on London 97 (London, 1996), published by the Office of National Statistics, is a source of reliable information. The Making of Modern London by S. Humphries and J. Taylor (London, 1986) is required reading, and is particularly good on the growth of the suburbs. London by S. Harding (London, 1993) can be recommended together with London: a New Metropolitan Geography edited by K. Hoggart and D.R. Green (London, 1991). H. Marshall’s Twilight London (Plymouth, 1971) is one of a number of studies devoted to the problems of contemporary poverty and homelessness; others include B. Mahony’s A Capital Offence(London, 1988) and No Way Home by G. Randall (London, 1988). The London Nobody Knows by G. Fletcher (London, 1962) is a highly readable account of the more arcane aspects of London life, and P. Wright’s A Journey Through Ruins: The Last Days of London (London, 1991) opens up the purlieus of Dalston and Hackney to public gaze. V.S. Pritchett’s urban memoir, London Perceived (London, 1974) is recommended, together with J. Raban’s Soft City(London, 1974).
There are several late twentieth-century studies of London, among the best of which are S. Inwood’s A History of London (London, 1998), a truly comprehensive and scholarly account of the city from its earliest times, and R. Porter’s London: A Social History (London, 1994) which is more polemical in intent but no less readable. Landlords to London: the Story of a Capital and its Growth and The Selling of Mary Davies by S. Jenkins (London, 1975 and 1993) are invaluable. F. Sheppard’s London: A Social History (Oxford, 1998) is concise and serious, while M. Hebbert’s London (Chichester, 1998) is colourful and idiosyncratic. The most important guide to City architecture remains the Pevsner series; London 1: The City of London, edited by Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner (London, 1997) has brought it up to date. And then of course there is The London Encyclopaedia, edited by B. Weinreb and C. Hibbert (London, 1983), which is a prodigy of research and reference. There are also urban anthologies, among them The Oxford Book of London edited by P. Bailey (Oxford, 1995) and The Faber Book of London, edited by A.N. Wilson (London, 1993) in which appear passages of prose and verse which might otherwise have languished in obscure and forgotten places. The Pride of London, edited by W. and S. Scott (London, 1947) is also useful. An especial mention must be made of the three volumes, London 1066–1914, Literary Sources and Documents, edited by X. Baron (London, 1997). Here are Lamb and De Quincey, Engels and Dostoyevsky, Dekker and Gay, together with a hundred other observers and chroniclers of the city; these volumes are an important and indeed indispensable guide to London through the centuries.
I have devoted some space in this biography to the observations of foreign travellers, some of which are derived from secondary sources. Since it would be laborious and otiose to keep on creating footnotes for the same material, I include it here. There are the three volumes, London 1066–1914, which have already been mentioned. Together with these come England as Seen by Foreigners edited by J.W.B. Rye (London, 1865), Strange Island: Britain Seen through Foreign Eyes, 1395–1940, edited by F.M. Wilson (London, 1955), Mine Host London by W. Kent (London, 1948), As The Foreigners Saw Us by M. Letts (London, 1935) and Coming to London by various hands (London, 1957). English Interludes by C. Mackworth (London, 1956) is primarily concerned with the residence of nineteenth-century French poets in London, and can be compared with Voltaire: Letters Concerning the English Nation, edited by N. Cronk (Oxford, 1994). There is Tolstoy in London by V. Lucas (London, 1979), Monet in London by G. Sieberling (Seattle, 1988), Berlioz in London by A.W. Gaaz (London, 1950), Arthur Rimbaud by E. Starkie (London, 1938), Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Winter Notes on Summer Impressions translated by R.L. Renfield (London, 1985), The Life of Olaudah Equino (New York, 1971), A Japanese Artist in London by Yoshio Markino (London, 1911), The Letters of Henry James, edited by L. Edel (London, 1987) and Revolutionists in London by J.W. Hulse (Oxford, 1970). The memoirs of earlier travellers are collected in The Diary of Baron Waldstein translated and edited by G.W. Groos (London, 1981), The Journals of Two Travellers in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England edited by P. Razzell (London, 1995), A Tour of London by P.J. Grosley (Dublin, 1772), German Travellers in England 1400–1800 by W.D. Robson-Scott (Oxford, 1953), London in 1710 from the Travels of Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, edited by W.H. Quarrell and M. Mare (London, 1934), A Foreign View of England in the Reigns of George I and George II: The Letters of Cesar De Saussure, edited by Madame van Muyden (London, 1902). So is unrolled a wealth of comment.