Victorian London - The Life of a City 1840-1870

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 July, 2006, 12:00am

Victorian London - The Life of a City 1840-1870

by Liza Picard

Phoenix, $144

Smell has no vocabulary, writes Liza Picard in the opening paragraph of Victorian London - The Life of a City 1840-1870, the fourth and final volume of her marvellous story about the life of this great capital. Sounds can be reproduced and images reconstructed, but smell has only words. She asks the reader to 'think of the worst smell you have ever met', and then imagine living with it all day and all night, the air rendered fouler still by an open sewer called the Thames and streets buried under 90,000 tonnes of animal manure a year. The conditions of its two million inhabitants would have shocked those who lived there 150 years earlier and those who live there today. Picard has written an addictive book that describes the minutiae of everyday life - good and bad - for the poor, middling and rich, drawing in part on unpublished diaries of those who lived in London or visited the city and were appalled at the crime and destitution and poverty barely hidden beneath the soot. With more than 40 illustrations, this is a rewarding guide to the past.



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