By Jerry White
London within the eighteenth century was once a brand new urban, risen from the ashes of the good fireplace of 1666 that had destroyed part its houses and nice public constructions. The century that was once an period of full of life growth and large-scale initiatives, of speedily altering tradition and trade, as large numbers of individuals arrived within the shining urban, drawn by means of its significant wealth and gear and its many diversions. Borrowing a word from Daniel Defoe, Jerry White calls London “this nice and great thing,” the grandeur of its new structures and the glitter of its excessive existence shadowed by means of poverty and squalor.
A nice and large 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 awesome drama of existence in eighteenth-century London. What emerges is an image of a society fractured by means of geography, politics, faith, history—and specifically by means of category, for the divide among wealthy and bad in London used to be by no means larger or extra damaging within the smooth period than in those years.
regardless of this gulf, Jerry White indicates us Londoners going approximately their enterprise as bankers or beggars, reveling in an enlarging global of public pleasures, indulging in crimes either nice and small—amidst the tightening sinews of energy and legislation, and the hesitant beginnings of London democracy.
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Additional info for A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century
7 Burlington, just twenty-two yet an architect and patron of some renown and owner of a sizeable estate behind his mansion on the north side of Piccadilly (now home to the Royal Academy), was perhaps the most influential advocate for Palladianism as the fitting architecture of Hanoverian Whiggery. In fact, in the closet, he seems to have been a closely secretive supporter of the Jacobite cause. But in the troubled days of 1714–16 he maintained an entirely convincing pose as a loyal subject of George I.
All Londoners of the middling classes and above knew it and all visitors had to experience it. Mrs Percivall, a provincial English lady, breathlessly relayed her impressions to a friend in the country (whose name and whereabouts have not come down to us) around 1713: [St James’s Park] has many Deer in it, ’tis very large and two Canalls and a pond called Rosamonds Pond, here are many Swans, here are abundance of int ro duc t i o n: l o nd on 1 700– 1708 11 Lime Trees which makes many fine Walks, some close some open in the Spring this place is very Sweet .
In 1700 there was still open country between the town and Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens; building had just about come up to Green Park; and in the south, St James’s Park had houses on three sides. High brick walls enclosed the separate spaces to make them less continuous than later became the case. Smartest was St James’s, behind the royal palace in Pall Mall. When Londoners talked of ‘the Park’ in the eighteenth century, this is generally what they meant. It was ‘famed wellnigh throughout the world’, a German visitor recorded in 1710.