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 used to be an period of full of life enlargement and large-scale tasks, of speedily altering tradition and trade, as large numbers of individuals arrived within the shining urban, drawn via its titanic wealth and gear and its many diversions. Borrowing a word from Daniel Defoe, Jerry White calls London “this nice and large thing,” the grandeur of its new constructions and the glitter of its excessive lifestyles shadowed by means of poverty and squalor.
A nice and substantial 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 magnificent drama of existence in eighteenth-century London. What emerges is an image of a society fractured by means of geography, politics, faith, history—and particularly by means of type, for the divide among wealthy and bad in London was once by no means higher or extra harmful 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 global of public pleasures, indulging in crimes either nice and small—amidst the tightening sinews of strength and rules, and the hesitant beginnings of London democracy.
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Additional resources for A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century
Twenty-five years or so later and an extensive network of new ja me s gi b b s’s l ond on, 1708– 54 37 streets, courts and alleys had entirely reconfigured the area in a far more dense and complex pattern. 34 Inside the walls, much of Coleman Street Ward was destroyed in 1666 and redeveloped with little garden land left by 1720. But in thirty years what there was had sprouted courts to the east of Bassishaw Street and north of Bell Alley; and Brickington Court, just outside the fire-damaged area east of Coleman Street, had also extended into backland.
Building there probably went on into the 1770s, making a half-century or more before the estate was fully developed. The developers were a host of London builders, some eighty to a hundred, mostly carpenters and joiners and bricklayers, with a spattering of plasterers, plumbers, blacksmiths and others. Their take of the land varied greatly, from half a street and more to just one or two houses. As with the Harley Estate, it is worth stressing just how socially mixed this most aristocratic of London estates was at its beginning.
That proved more than over-optimistic but, recognising a sure thing, others would join him in the speculation during the next three or four years. Cavendish Square was to be the centrepiece of what was in effect a new town, self-sufficient with a range of house types from aristocratic to middling-class. 15 James Gibbs, who had carried out work for Harley’s famous Tory father at the Earl of Oxford’s country house, Wimpole in Cambridgeshire, was a natural choice as supervising architect. In fact, once the surveyors’ plan had been agreed, designs for houses and terraces in this very large development inevitably involved many hands, and there was no dictatorial style plan for Gibbs to enforce.
A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century by Jerry White