A Wrap up of Victorian London (and Other Adventures)

Wow! Today’s Victorian London tour was excellent and extremely informative! Our tour guide did a wonderful job at painting the landscape of the underbelly of London, and told us plenty of stories that really reinforced how awful conditions were for women and children during that time period. I got to hear stories about Victorians that I haven’t ever heard before—stories that are too gruesome to make it into our history books. It made our readings come to life and showed how gruesome the time period really was.

The Unsanitary & Dangerous Jobs of Children Workers

In Oliver Twist and A Child of the Jago, both Fagin’s boys and Dicky Perrott (respectively) made the decision to be pickpockets. After today’s tour, it was easy to understand why. I most certainly would rather be a pickpocket than any of the other occupations I have learned about. The unfortunate thing about child labor is that children oftentimes did not have the choice, and some children wanted to work. This happened a lot as a result parental injuries or death, and sometimes children were the only providers for their families (or they were orphans). Before this tour, I certainly heard about children laborers being utilized during the industrial revolution in London. The child jobs I have learned about before included:

Chimney Sweeps.

This was even mentioned in Oliver Twist, when a suspicious man named Mr. Gamfield wanders into the parish wanting to “hire” Oliver as an apprentice for his chimney sweep business.

Mr. Gamfield, knowing what the dietary of the workhouse was, well knew he would be a nice small pattern, just the very thing for register stoves.

Luckily enough for Oliver, the men at the parish decided against letting Oliver leave with Mr. Gamfield. Chimney Sweeping was a dirty and dangerous business, as one would have to constantly breathe in soot from the chimneys. Another risk for the children that worked as chimney sweeps was falling, which (since they were often poor and frail) would oftentimes lead to death.

Coal Miners.

A lot of people during this time valued the small and short stature of a child, and that is what made them so valuable as workers—children also cost less money. Another “suitable” job for children was to work in the coal mines. This did not go unnoticed as a problem by all Victorians; Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a poem about this issue.

(If you liked this video, the other ones are as exceptionally informative! There are two other parts)

Textile Workers

Again, children were convenient due to their stature. This was helpful in the textile mills because it allowed them to move in between (or beneath) the machines and clean them throughout the day. If you watch the video, you will see that this job was not exempt from danger either. Inhaling textile fibers isn’t too good for the lungs either.


This was something I learned from today. “Mudlark” is a term used to describe a child that goes sifting around in the mud during the low-tide of the River Thames. Our tour guide detailed why this sort of job was dangerous like the occupations above. For one, the river was beyond disgusting during these times. London did not have a developed sewage system, and as a result, all the waste and pollution would return to the river. This means that these children were wading in filth and excrement on a daily basis. It also means that these children were constantly being exposed to water-borne diseases. This would include infectious diseases like cholera and typhoid, both of which rapidly spread through the fecal-oral route as well. Children that got these diseases could potentially (and probably did) spread them to their family when they went back home. Mudlarks also ran the risk of drowning, as there probably weren’t any formal swimming classes available for such a member of the lower class.


Poo-collectors, or Locally Known as “Pure Collectors”

This was another job that I learned about during our tour today. This probably has to be the most disgusting job when compared to all others. Children would go around and pick up animal excrement with their bare hands (because it was easier to pick up). Even more unsettling, these children would sometimes use these excrement bags as pillowcases. Handling any sort of excrement with your bare hands is definitely not recommended today, and in those times they did not have proper sanitation or any real knowledge of how infectious diseases were transmitted.

The Forgotten Class



Unlike the grandiose tombs, enclosures, and monuments we got to see at the Westminster Abbey, today we saw the Crossbones Graveyard, or an example of an unconsecrated burial site. This graveyard represents one of (probably) many sites where the poor, the prostitutes, and unbaptized infants would be buried. I have never seen anything like this before, or even considered the logistics of lower-class Victorian death. It was touching that the people in this community had spent time researching into the history of the people that were buried there. The ribbons placed on the railing commemorate the people that were once forgotten by the church (and every one else).

The Hypocrisy of the Church

In the works by Dickens that we read, it was obvious to see that he was craftily using satire to call out how hypocritical the church, or parish workers truly were. That really came to life after seeing the Crossbones Graveyard. As we looked at the graveyard, our tour guide told us how the church on the block was the rent collector (that was charging women ridiculously high rents), and the people that worked there knew what women had to do to make ends meet (so they would have know they were prostituting themselves). Even though they knew this, they kept collecting their money … and when the women died they weren’t able to be buried with all the other people that went to the church … because they were prostitutes.

Another way this sort of disparity was presented during the tour was when our guide was telling us about the public service/charitable organizations throughout the area. It was apparent that the people in these organizations did not really try that hard to help out the lower classes.

More on Death & Disease

A lot of death was mentioned during today’s tour, and a lot of death happened within the books that we read. Our guide told us that there was a 50% mortality rate among children less than five. In the readings, there are a couple of death scenes that stick out for me.

Mrs. Perrott had begun to think Looey was ailing for something; thought it might be meases or whooping-cough coming [.]

Children were often frail as a result of poor nourishment, and Looey in Jago was no exception. It was sad to read her die as an infant because her death was largely meaningless to all of her family members except Dicky; however, her death was not meaningless in the story. Morrison illustrated that death was a common occurrence during infancy because the adults in the novel were not too taken aback by the death.

Phyllis Lorimer also met died from infectious disease. Although the Lorimers were no where near as poor as the Perrotts, they were not exempt from acquiring disease. Arguably, Phyllis got the beautiful disease when compared to what Looey had. Many artists were known as having (and dying from) consumption at a young age, John Keats being an example. (Hey, being pale and thin was desirable at that time.) The disease also parallels her fallen innocence, as she becomes most afflicted (and soon after dies) after Gertrude removes her from Darrell’s house.

The Royal Albert Hall


I am SO glad that I got to visit the Royal Albert Hall during this trip. It was phenomenal. I ended up doing a one-hour tour of the hall. I got to walk through the “royal rooms” where the Queen or Royal family comes through whenever they watch a performance. Additionally, I got to see “the Queen’s box” which is where the Queen sits whenever she watches a show. The best part about the tour was being able to sit in the boxes and the rausing circle (which holds the second highest level of seats in the hall). During these parts, I got to hear a rehearsal going on for “Classical Spectacular.” It was amazing! When we walked into the rausing circle, the orchestra was starting to play Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra (or what plays at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey) and that part was surreal. During that song, I got to hear the hall’s 9,999 pipe organ (known as “the voice of Jupiter”) which might have been the loudest and most impressive thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

Albert Memorial


This memorial definitely cost more money than the Royal Albert Hall, and it is plated with real gold.


Royal Life & Theatre Life

Beginning with Westminster Abbey

Today was a day of strange mishaps … two of our group members unfortunately received the falling gift of pigeon excrement, but luckily they were able to clean it up.

As for our tours, even though today didn’t have a direct link to our readings like all of our other days have, I still found it to be extremely enjoyable! The tour of Westminster Abbey allowed us a look into the life of the Royal families that have reigned throughout time. Royal life is always mentioned throughout history courses because oftentimes the rich and wealthy have the best access to record what is going on in their life through their eyes. And what we say today was certainly representative of that. The crypts and the chapels within Westminster were ornately decorated with golds, bright reds, and blues. The outside of Westminster was just as ornately designed with high windows, but certainly not with as much color as the inside.


The views we saw today were certainly amazing, and St. James’ park (what you see in the featured image) was no exception. It was beautiful and full of color. Also, today had superb weather which meant it was a perfect day to stroll through  the park.


After our tour through Westminster Abbey, we walked around to see other royal places such as Buckingham palace. We weren’t able to go inside of these places but were able to enjoy and admire them from outside. Much like our Dickens Tour on March 12 we learned a lot about London’s history. We continued living the “high life” (of Victorian social life) by going out to dinner and a theatre show.

Dinner, It Was an Experience

Specifically another strange mishap. Dr. McLeod made reservations at this really nice restaurant. We went there and made our reservation on time (early), and ten or so minutes after we sat down the power cut off. Our dinner quickly turned into a candle-lit wine night. We waited for about 10-20 more minutes for it to come back on, but it never did. It was quite unfortunate, but some of us got some free wine out of it (I unfortunately missed the opportunity).

After dinner complication number one, we were tasked with finding a restaurant that would accommodate our ten-person group. This was slightly anxiety inducing (the wine might have helped others over come this), but fortunately we found another nice restaurant that speedily took us in. The name “Spaghetti House” sounded kind of dinky, but it was actually delicious. I chose to have chicken and mushroom pasta. A little after we ordered our food, dinner complication number three happened: someone set off an alarm. At first we thought it was a fire alarm, but luckily enough the alarm was a result of some klutz bloke that went out the emergency door. After that mishap, we were finally able to dig into our meal and enjoy the night.


Much Ado About Nothing

This Shakespeare play was phenomenal! I greatly enjoyed it. It was definitely my favorite performance of the play I have ever seen live or through a movie. The actor and actress that played Benedick and Beatrice were my favorite. They made many of the humorous moments of the show really come to life, and basically every time they were on stage I was laughing. I especially liked the scene where Benedick was listening to Leonato and Claudio conversing over “Beatrice’s love.” On the contrary, the actor and actress that played Claudio and Hero made the dramatic portions of the play really stand out. The interesting thing about this performance was that it was re-imagined or modernized (sort of) in design; I think the costumes and music used illustrated a time period of somewhere in the 1920s, or the “roaring 20s.” (I’m not actually sure, but the military and police uniforms seemed to be fitting of this time, and Hero’s masquerade dress was flapper-like in nature; regardless, it certainly was a more modernized version of the play.) As a final note, I thought it was excellent how the cast gave a full acting/singing/dancing performance.

The intermission curtain



Getting a Grasp of All Classes in Victorian Society


It was my fate to encounter a place in Shoreditch, where children were born and reared in circumstances which gave them no reasonable chance of living decent lives: where they were born fore-damned to a criminal or semi-criminal career.

The quote above is taken from Arthur Morrison’s preface from A Child of the Jago. We learned previously in class, and again in our tour today, that the Jago was based on the slums of Old Nichol. Today, we walked through the streets of the East End, which would have been the poverty center during the Victorian Era; however, today the streets of the East End are very different. Even though the looks of many places were different, it was nice to see where scenes from A Child of the Jago and Oliver Twist occurred. I really enjoyed walking through Shoreditch High Street and what is now known as The Boundary Estate (which was Old Nichol). Even though the streets look different, there were a couple of things that felt the same.

  1. There is a scene in A Child of the Jago where Dicky Perrott sees a cake shop on Shoreditch High Street where the shop keeper prohibits him from tasting the cake that is on window display; actually, there are many scenes in which Dicky seeks out cake (which makes sense because he is a child, and children oftentimes want sweet treats). I thought this was interesting because as we walked through the East End, we passed many “posh” bakeries with fancy cakes and chocolates (and our tour guide kept pointing them out).
  2. Spitalfields Market is still functioning as a market, and still very busy during lunch hours! I liked that we were able to spend an hour or two here. I was able to eat and shop around, which is what people would have been coming to the market for in Victorian days as well. I was also able to people watch, and it was obvious that this location in the East End is a multicultural niche. There were people from many different ethnic backgrounds, people that spoke different languages, and places that sold different foods (from different countries).
  3. In general the East End is still a heavily immigrant-based town. I think this is the clearest connection with the past. The interesting and sort-of-beautiful part of this is that the immigrant culture finds its way into the culture of the East End. Many of these immigrants came to Great Britain for a better life and to be close to the city (during Victorian times, they were not allowed in the city limits/not monetarily able to enter the city). In the tour, we learned that the Huguenots were one of the first immigrants to come into the area. After the Hugeunots, Jewish people settled within the area, and currently the area is primarily inhabited by Bangladeshi people.
  4. We may or may not have witnessed some sketch drug deal going on in the gazebo (from the picture below).

old nichols.jpg


[T]here the Jago, for one hundred years the blackest pit in London, lay and festered[.]

A Note on the River Thames Cruise

This was fun, because it was my first time completing a river cruise! I really liked that we were able to see many of the famous sites of London from the River Thames (which is an essential part of London itself). Though, I must say, I am glad that we do not live in the Victorian Era because the cruise would certainly not have been so appealing. The River Thames would have been smelly as a result of pollution. Also, it would have probably been associated with trade-jobs which I assume would probably be middle-to-lower class (so probably looked down upon). This would certainly would have been the case with the part of the river that wraps around the East End. The East End docklands would have been a very nasty place.









Gender & Class as Observed at Tate Britain and a Note about the Victoria & Albert Museum

George Elgar Hicks, “Woman’s Mission: Companion of Manhood”1863

Roles of the Victorian Woman: Tate Britain

In my past readings of Victorian poetry and prose, the role(s) of women during the Victorian period were a must to consider and deliberate on. At the Tate Britain, our tour guide also mentioned the public’s perception of women. With lectures at GSU and the tour at Tate, there are two defined ends of the spectrum when it comes to Victorian women: the ideal woman and the fallen woman.

The ideal: a woman that conforms with society’s standards of a respectable, married woman Ambiguous to Society (depends on who is considering the woman) The fallen: a woman that is grossly out of line with societal norms.
Domestic, works at home or at a job that supports the husband’s needs (or works alongside him).

If not domestic, a woman of noble birth.

  • Holds good moral values
  • Knows not to give way to lust
  • Knows and supports the idea that the man is the “stronger sex”
The most complicated: somewhere between domestic and adulterous, but probably aligns closer to the domestic woman. This type of woman has a greater sense of independence, and may seek to be an “entrepreneur” or have a job that does not align with that of an Ideal woman. Older unmarried woman would also fall into this category.

  • Values knowledge & independency
  • Does not see herself as the “weaker sex”
Adulterous, works oftentimes as a prostitute.

  • Holds questionable moral values
  • Succumbs (in some way) to the dangers of lust
George Elgar Hicks’ Woman’s Mission Series

Any portrait of Queen Victoria, even though she was an extremely strong leader throughout her reign, I would argue that any woman of noble birth would fall into this realm of societal perspective.

??? I can’t think of any painting that we saw today that would fall into this category, but I am sure one exists some where.

Perhaps John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott (?)

John Everett Millias’ Ophelia

Augustus Leopold Egg’s Past and Present no. 1, 2, & 3

Works with this theme:

Coventry Patmore’s The Angel in the House (ew)

Marriage Manuals


Works with this theme:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh 

Amy Levy’s The Romance of a Shop


Works with this theme:

George Meredith’s Modern Love

Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market”

  • Rose Maylie, Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist
  • Fanny, The Romance of a Shop
  • Gertrude & Lucy Lorimer, The Romance of a Shop
  • Irene Adler, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • Nancy, Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist
  • The youngest Lorimer, Phyllis in The Romance of a Shop
  • The wives of the jago, who engaged in “coshing” (even though they were oftentimes doing this with their husbands).

Some of the women characters that we have seen do not fall into either end of the spectrum, and there were probably many women in the era that wouldn’t have either. I think the most interesting character (within our reading) that fell into the “fallen” category was Phyllis Lorimer. Throughout the reading, I felt that Phyllis belonged to this category. She was the prettiest of her sisters, and men were always looking at her to comment on her beauty. Her fall, or break of innocence comes when she engages in a relationship with Mr. Darrell, who as it turns out, is married. As we know, she ends up dying as a result of consumption, or tuberculosis. I also think it is interesting to mention that disease is often times associated with the fallen woman. Sickness or disease is a physical decline that parallels the decline in morals that these types of women have. Some other examples of disease with the fallen woman include Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “The Leper” and the symptoms that Laura experiences in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”

I really enjoyed the Tate Britain, and it was probably the largest art museum I have ever been to so far. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings were more stunning than I had imagined, and they were my favorite part about the museum. I’m not sure what the secret skills this group of men had going on, but to me, their paintings are some of the most realistic paintings I have seen from any time period. William Holman Hunt’s “Strayed Sheep” (which I had not seen until today) looks more like a photograph than a painting.


Victoria & Albert Museum

At Georgia State I have taken two world history classes: Survey of World History to 1500, and Survey of World History since 1500. The second course centered around Empire and Imperialism, which helped to give me a frame of reference for our tour through the Victoria and Albert museum. Oftentimes, history is framed by the victors and the wealthy. I didn’t really connect with this idea (specifically with Britain) until our tour today; Britain’s strength as an empire was apparent throughout the tour. I knew that Britain did a lot of trading with India (even during the time of the East India Company), but it was nice to see actual artifacts that were associated with this phenomenon. Indian textiles impacted British fashion during the time, and Indian jewels increased the demand for lavish items in the home.


Unfortunately, there weren’t that many photographs, and we did not get to see the museum’s photography collection. We did see a couple of photographs (and lithographs?) from around the Victorian time period, and it was cool to see the way pictures would have looked like in Levy’s The Romance of a Shop. 


Walking Like Dickens


As they approached the City, the noise and traffic gradually increased; when they threaded the streets between Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelled into a roar of sound and bustle. It was as light as it was likely to be, till night came on again, and the busy morning of half the London population had begun.

The Walking Tour

The great thing about this tour was getting to see (and hear) not only about Dickens’ history, but London’s history as well. I think our tour guide did a nice job at providing context on both; Dr. McLeod also helped bring some understanding to some of the Dickensian aspects that we didn’t explicitly cover in class. It was nice to have the opportunity to tie together what we read in class with what we were doing in real life. One thing I really liked about this connection was being able to see St. Paul’s Cathedral at a distance. Yesterday was my first time seeing the Cathedral, and I really only paid attention to it when I was at the entrance of the building (or in the building). Today I was able to see it from a distance (and many different vantage points), which gave it a more Dickens-centric perspective and the perspective of how it was mentioned in Oliver Twist. Back in Dickens’ time it was the tallest building around, and today that was a more believable thought. Even looking at the horizon in the picture below, St. Paul’s stands tall relative to the business skyscrapers that stand near it.

~Notice you can see the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the left~

It is unfortunate to look back and think about all of the buildings and landmarks in London that were destroyed due to the World War II bombings; however, I think it is remarkable that many buildings survived the war and other disasters like the Great Fire of London.




I don’t think this tour would have been as enjoyable if it was not a guided walking tour. Although to some it may seem tiresome, walking around was necessary to understand the purpose of the tour. Dickens would have done a lot of walking to get around London, and his characters did the same. It’s comparable to walking in some one else’s shoes, as we were sort of walking some one else’s path (or really walking the path that many people would have walked centuries ago). I think this tour added a historical connection that allowed me to understand the two novels Oliver Twist and Great Expectations on a deeper level. It was meaningful to me because I was able to experience the streets of London (not in that way!) and connect them with people, places, and passages within Dickens’ texts.

The Dickens Museum & His Relationships with Things

I actually enjoyed this museum even though it wasn’t a large or encompassing as other museums we can find in London. It was interesting to me because I am currently taking an Exposition course that focuses on material culture, specifically our relationship(s) with objects. A lot of people here shallowness when they think of material objects, but that isn’t always the case. Objects certainly do showcase one’s wealth and place in society. I would say that many of the objects in the Dickens museum illustrated different levels of social hierarchy.Objects can also define our relationships that we have with our friends and family,  and I feel that many of the artifacts displayed at the Dickens museum served that purpose.

Prison Grille From Marshalsea Prison

This object illustrates what would be the prison “society” of the time. Marshalsea was known to be a debtor prison, and would imprison people (whether or not they were wealthy or poor). Another way this object is significant in regards to Dickens’ life is that it serves as a placeholder in time for when his father was in debtor prison. As we have learned, this time period significantly impacted Dickens’ life and works, including Oliver Twist.

“The Wash House Copper”

As mentioned a little bit in the previous picture, objects can also define our relationships that we have with our friends and family. The image to the right here is an example of this (specifically in relation to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). It’s true that the wash house copper was mostly used for washing clothes, but it held a more sentimental value over the holiday season. During the tour today, I learned that one of the Christmas-time traditions for Victorians in this era was to clean the copper out to make pudding for the holiday celebration. In the Cratchit house, although of a lower class, they still celebrate this tradition of cooking pudding the copper.

A Journey through St. Paul’s Cathedral

Brandy Williams & Alexis Campbell



St. Paul’s Cathedral is regarded as a significant place of worship in the Church of England. Its history of destruction—by the Great Fire of London and a large bomb which destroyed the High Altar during WWI—followed by reconstruction and re-erection each time serves as a strong metaphor for Christianity as well as mimicking the stories of various people who lived troubled lives before rededicating themselves to the Church. By the time that Dickens writes Oliver Twist, St. Paul’s Cathedral had been standing for around 200 years, and it was the tallest building in London from 1710-1967, so Dickens undeniably would have been very familiar with the building solely because of its distinction.

In the novel

Because of the prominence of St. Paul’s Cathedral within the Church of England, it is strongly analogous to the religion, which comes under fire in Oliver Twist. Dickens critiques the Church as an institution, rather than the ideology itself, which reflected in his personal life as well.

The sun […] burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.

One of the recurring themes in Oliver Twist is the contrast between high-class Londoners and lower-class Londoners. High-class Londoners viewed lower-class Londoners with disdain, because they were impoverished and the morally unjust members of society (through their perspective); they were thieves and prostitutes, and they were leeching off of the government as a result of their poverty. This ideology is known as moral absolutism, or the idea that poor people will act like citizens with low moral values (such as theft and prostitution), while higher class citizens will continue to do good unto society. This leads to Dickens’ critique of moral absolutism, for many of the characters in Oliver Twist challenge the ideals that moral absolutism presents. Once instance is when Mr. Bumble misappropriates a quote directly from the Bible—in which Jesus speaks of honoring children—using it to describe a child as a burden.

Dickens also shows this in the way that unsavory characters such as Mr. Bumble rely on cruel measures and mistreatment of the poor in order to establish and maintain his power over them, despite doing it all in the name of the Church. Also, Oliver (an impoverished child) finds himself unable to do a bad deed without feeling immense guilt.



Our Journey Outside of the Cathedral

Before going inside, we took a leisurely walk around the outside of the Cathedral, taking in the gardens and external architecture. There were lots of people in and around the gardens, resting, watching their small children run around, or just people-watching. On our walk around the property, we saw pigeons with what we thought were unique coloring–black and white, sable and white … Basically anything besides the usual gray and green. One of the pigeons we saw was absolutely enormous. Around the front (West Entrance), there were lots of groups of people gathered on the steps. Today, the Cathedral was also hosting a disabled access day, so there were a lot of signs and balloons and volunteers helping with that event. One thing we found puzzling, which Alexis noticed first, was the fact that on the north side of the building, there were several little nooks that were empty, which was weird to us because it seemed like they should have had statues there. Once inside with our multimedia guides (included in the price of admission), we found out the reasoning behind those little nooks.

Our Journey Through the Cathedral

We spent a long time at St.Paul’s. There were endless amounts of statues and memorials to read and ruminate upon. It wasn’t a surprise because the Cathedral is so rich in history. We walked throughout the cathedral floor, the crypt, and one of the top levels. Tl;dr it was intense. The cathedral floor and crypt were not too bad, but getting to the Whispering Gallery was a bit of a hike. Unfortunately, the highest parts of St. Paul’s (the Stone Gallery and the Golden Gallery) were closed for renovation; however, we were still able to walk through the Whispering Gallery. To get there, you have to walk up 257 narrow winding steps. Brandy has a fear of heights, and you definitely know how high up you are when you climb those seemingly million steps, but it was 100% worth it. We weren’t able to experience the whispering effect ourselves (although we heard other people whispering, just not each other), but the view of the Dome from the top was breathtaking.

Alexis’ favorite part: seeing William Holman Hunt’s “The Light of the World” in real life. It was much larger than I expected and just as unbelievable as I thought it would be. The lantern that Jesus holds in the painting looks like it is emitting true light. I am still in disbelief with how realistic the painting looks.

Brandy’s favorite part: seeing the intricate details of the work on the interior. I love small details, so seeing such fine work in the limestone carvings, the gold in the ceilings, the mosaics and paintings in the ceilings, and the woodworking near the choir seats was amazing. Bill Viola’s performance art piece was intriguing–kind of cool, but definitely kind of weird, but not really a bad weird.