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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 growth and large-scale tasks, of quickly altering tradition and trade, as large numbers of individuals arrived within the shining urban, drawn through its massive wealth and tool and its many diversions. Borrowing a word from Daniel Defoe, Jerry White calls London “this nice and mammoth thing,” the grandeur of its new structures and the glitter of its excessive lifestyles shadowed through poverty and squalor.

A nice and immense Thing bargains 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 favor and genius, street-robbers and thief-takers, as they play out the superb drama of existence in eighteenth-century London. What emerges is an image of a society fractured through geography, politics, faith, history—and particularly through type, for the divide among wealthy and bad in London used to be by no means better or extra harmful within the glossy period than in those years.

regardless of this gulf, Jerry White exhibits 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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Extra resources for A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century

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The condition of the roads in the first two decades or so of the eighteenth century was quite astonishingly bad. Some, through ancient use, were sunk deep into the ground and filled with mud in heavy rains. The ‘slough’ or ‘hole’ ‘in the way to Hampstead’ put men and horses in fear of their lives around 1715. The ‘High Road at Kingsland’ north of Shoreditch ‘is full of Quicksands’ that needed ‘extraordinary Brick-drains, and Bridges over them’.  . and several Passengers on Horseback thrown off their Horses .

From 1728 he was architect of the great rebuilding scheme that substantially remains at the heart of the hospital to this day. A charitable man, Gibbs gave his services free to the hospital. His quadrangle of four Palladian four-storey blocks kept separate to prevent the spread of fire included an administrative building with a court room or great hall, the staircase leading to it embellished by William Hogarth’s giant canvases depicting scenes of charity. Construction long outlived him, not being finished till 1769.

Int ro duc t i o n: l o nd on 1 700– 1708 7 narrow filthy congested way, an affront and obstruction to the Queen and her burgesses. This whole wretched area around the Abbey was known as ‘the desert of Westminster’. 10 Throughout this old London, some obscure places had no name at all, outliving any claim to inheritance or title. They were run as fiefdoms by the occupiers until so knocked about they were abandoned altogether, the odd ‘backward Place, which now, thro’ Time, or other Casualties, is come to Desolation, and has at this Day nothing but Ruins, to shew it was once the Possession of poor Inhabitants’.

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