01

The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on rationality and inquiry, and its belief in human ‘perfectibility’, disturbed the religious and cultural underpinning of the European socio-political order. Voltaire and Diderot in France, like David Hume and Jeremy Bentham in Britain, explored the human and secural bases of governmental power. These thinkers prepared the ground for the emergence of democracy as a viable system of government. Others rejected universal suffrage as a first step towards fragmentation. Awareness of disintegration in the workplace was raised when Adam Smith introduced the term and concept of division of labour in The Wealth of Nations (1776).

02
Adam Ferguson warned of the dangers implicit in the system. While Smith feared the effect of specialization on the individual, Ferguson argued that excessive division of labour would strain the social ties that bind society together. Progress would deteriorate into a process of atomization. Specialization also affected science and the arts. Already in his day, Goethe complained that the sciences were pigeon-holed. Universities created a multitude of disciplines without offering an integrated world-view. Too many specialisms caused the part to obscure the whole, and information to replace wisdom. Once divorced from architecture, the arts that were traditionally tied to building (sculpture, painting, and even music) developed into independent branches of creative endeavour. This particularization divorced them from their social purpose. The demand of originality dealt a final blow to stylistic unity or continuity within the creative domain that splintered into a plenitude of aggresively combative groups or -isms succeeding each other at an ever accelerating rate. Time and again critics applied phrases such as ‘cultural anarchy’ or ‘decadence’ to describe the perceived state of fragmentation into which the creative domain had fallen. Subjectivity was seen as the hallmark of disintegration.

03

These observations were made at the same time that an unstoppable process of centralization took place in Europe. All roads and railways led from the provinces to the capital. Napoleon was a key figure in pushing the development towards a single authority of law- and policymaking forward. The French Revolution had swept away most remaining medieval and feudal laws. A truly national law code was established. Paris is the cause of the destruction of all the old bounds of provinces and jurisdictions, ecclesiastical and secular, Edmund Burke observed in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). The ‘strength of Paris thus formed, will appear a system of general weakness’. Critics such as Mme de Staël or Alphonse de Lamartine claimed that centralization would be disastrous from a cultural perpective. They hailed the vibrancy of Italian or German cities competing to emulate and outdo each other in artistic achievements, or, as Hippolyte Taine put it in 1866, in Renaissance Italy, ‘[une] cité était une élite, et non, comme chez nous, une multitude’. It was widely feared that individual regions would forfeit their cultural traditions and the consequent loss of regional identities would undermine the nation’s strength as a whole.

04That is why George Eliot insisted in Middlemarch (1871/2) that an intelligent provincial man with a grain of public spirit, should do what he can ‘to resist the rush of everything that is a little better than common towards London. Any valid professional aims may often find a freer, if not a richer field, in the provinces’. Cities may be centres of innovation and knowledge transfer, but over-centralization or the coming together of all cultural facilities in one place, carries the dangers of homogenizing art (and language) and killing off diversity. Many of our standard handbooks of literature and art seem to suggest that outside the metropolis cultural life is stagnant or non-existent. The attitude is summarized by the figure of Sir Ernold in François de Neufchâteau’s comedy Pamela, ou La vertue recompense (1795): ‘Hors de Paris, vraiment, le goût n’existe pas’. That, of course, is an outrageous statement.

05

Like it was the case for a number of other European cities, Rouen’s modern history has been a painful one. During the nineteenth century its main industry was textile and cotton. Manufacturies were established in the Cailly and Robec valleys as well as on the left bank of the Seine. Endless rows of brick houses were built to lodge the influx of migrant workers. The poor living conditions of the working classes caused social unrest. In April 1848 the city was full of barricades although the insurrection was quickly and brutally put down. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Rouen was occupied by the Prussians. During the First World War the city was a support base for the front line and saw the arrival of many refugees from Northern France and Belgium, before the landing and stationing of British troops. World War ii brought serious suffering to the city. The Germans entered Rouen on the 9 June 1940. The area of the city most affected by combat was located between the cathedral and the river which burned for a week as the Germans refused to allow the fire service access. Rouen was to remain under Nazi control for four long years during which time the city was bombed regularly and recklessly. The worst Allied attack took place during the week from 30 May to 5 June 1944 when 400 bombs hit Rouen killing 1,500 people, damaging the Cathedral, Saint-Maclou and the Palais de Justice and completely destroying a large part of the left bank.

06When the Canadians liberated Rouen on the 30 August 1944 they entered a devastated city. Cityscapes and photographs now serve as a memory of old Rouen. One of the streets obliterated by bombing during the war was Rue de l’Épicerie, literally: street of grocery stores, a bustling market street near to the cathedral. French artist Marcel Augis (pseudonym of Henri Dupont) was one a number of First World War French and Belgian artists that trod the Western Front during the Great War. They recorded the devastation of the battlefields and the areas that contained Allied troops. Many of these etchings/aquatints would have been sold to soldiers returning home after the War or subsequently purchased on battlefield remembrance tours that took place in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1916/7 Augis produced five or six scenes of Rouen. The etching of ‘La Rue de l’Épicerie, Rouen’ dates from 1917 shows a street full of grocery speciality shops of spices from the Far East with the cathedral is in the background.

07

The city is associated with three major artistic movements, namely Realism in literature and Romanticism and Impressionism in painting. From a literary point of view, Rouen is first and foremost associated with novelist Gustave Flaubert. The author was born in the city on 12 December 1821 and educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille (the dramatist was also born in Rouen). In 1840 he went to Paris to study law, but hated the legal profession and found the city distasteful. From 1846 to 1854, Flaubert had a relationship with the poet Louise Colet. After leaving Paris, he returned to Croisset, near the Seine and close to Rouen, and lived with his mother in their home for the rest of his life. He never married. The affair with Louise was his only serious relationship.

08His 1856 novel Madame Bovary is set in the sleepy town of Tostes (now Tôtes), near Rouen, and focuses on a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the emptiness of provincial life. Trapped in a banal marriage to Charles Bovary, a man without drive or ambition, and living in provincial surroundings, infidelity and Rouen are her only means of escape. To her, Paris represents the culmination of all dreams. Her reality however is life in a dull town, an existence of bitterness and discontent. The town of Tôtes also figures in another classic of French literature, Guy de Maupassant’s Boule de Suif. Set during the Franco-Prussian War, the story tells the cowardly betrayal of prostitute Elisabeth Rousset by a group of upright citizens from Rouen in order to save their own skins. De Maupassant himself was educated at a boarding school in the city. 09 Nestling in a meander of the river, the capital of Normandy has always held a fascination for artists. A number of English painters found inspiration in the old town. Richard Parkes Bonington, an Anglo-French painter of coastal scenes with a fine handling of light and atmosphere, painted the famous Rue du Gros-Horloge. Critics consider this work a masterpiece of Romantic lithography.

Turner created a well-known watercolour of Rouen Cathedral and, like Pissarro would do many years later, he compared the city to Venice. Paul Huet painted his splendid ‘Vue générale de Rouen, prise du Mont-aux-Malades’ in 1831. During three trips to Normandy in 1829, 1830 and 1833, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot produced various views of and landscapes around the Seine as seen from Rouen. Théodore Géricault was born and educated in Rouen before settling in Paris. From a historical perspective, a dramatic moment in the turn from Neoclassicism to Romanticism was the exhibition of one of Géricault’s paintings at the Salon of 1819 in Paris. In June 1816, the French frigate ‘Méduse’ had departed from Rochefort bound for Senegal. The ship drifted off course and ran aground on a sandbank off the West African coast. Passengers and crew tried to travel the sixty miles to the African coast in the frigate’s six boats. Although she was carrying 400 people, there was space for just about 250 of them in the boats. The others were piled onto a hastily-built raft. For sustenance the crew had no more than a bag of ship’s biscuits and two casks of water. The journey carried the survivors to the edge of human experience. Crazed and starved, they slaughtered mutineers, ate their dead companions, and killed the weakest amongst them. After thirteen days at sea, the raft was rescued. Fifteen men were still alive. The others had been thrown overboard, died of starvation, or drowned themselves in despair.

11

The disaster inspired Théodore Géricault to create ‘Le radeau de la Méduse’. The painting depicts the moment that survivors view a ship approaching from a distance. The artist was obsessed by the subject-matter. He undertook extensive research, interviewed survivors, and constructed a scale model of the raft. His efforts took him to morgues and hospitals where he could view the dying and dead. He was said to be spellbound with the stiffness of corpses. He brought severed limbs back to his studio to investigate their decay, and stored a severed head borrowed from a lunatic asylum on his studio roof. Despite their drudging reputation, fixed routines are an indispensable tool to artists of all kinds. The creative process demands discipline. Géricault drove this awareness to the extreme. During the eight months of creation, the painter lived a monastic existence, working in methodical fashion and complete silence. The painting established the artist’s international reputation and the disturbing image became an icon of French Romanticism.

12

Johan Barthold Jongkind visited Paris in 1860 where his Dutch watercolours of land- and seascapes enjoyed enormous successs. He decided to stay and paintings such as a ‘Vue de Rouen’ or ‘La Seine près de Rouen’ (both paintings date from 1865) which record the mood and atmospherics of the moment became influential in the push towards new aesthetic ideals. The Impressionists were regular visitors to Rouen. In fact, it was in Normandy that Claude Monet in 1872 painted his famous ‘Impression, soleil levant’, a painting that gave the movement its name. It would, however, be another twenty years before the artist turned his attention to Rouen’s Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Painted from the first floor of a ladies’ lingerie shop, he worked on up to fourteen canvases at a time, determined to capture each and every atmospheric detail. The final result consists of twenty-eight views of the impressive facade which includes ‘La Rue de l’Épicerie à Rouen’ (1892).

13Monet finished the works in his studio at Giverny, carefully adjusting the pictures both independently and in relation to each other. In 1895, he successfully exhibited twenty of his cathedral pictures at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris. In the autumn of 1883, Paul Gauguin moved his family from Paris to Rouen. In desperate financial trouble, he combined painting with selling life insurances and other part-time jobs in order to survive before moving to Copenhagen where his Danish wife Mette tried to keep the family afloat by teaching French to Danish students. During his short spell in Rouen, Gauguin painted a number of street- and city-scenes which includes ‘Rue Jouvenet à Rouen’ (Rouen-born Jean Jouvenet was appointed to the post of Director of the Royal Acadamy in 1705).

14Léon-Jules Lemaître produced some stunning paintings of the area. In his oil painting ‘Palais de Justice de Rouen’ Lemaître masterly captures the atmosphere of the Law Courts’ Renaissance courtyard. His 1890 painting of the Rouen’s Gros Horloge, one of Europe’s oldest working medieval clocks, is an outstanding example of his interest in the cityscape. Lemaître is one of a handful of a group of artists that became known as the ‘École de Rouen’. The term was coined in 1902 by the French critic Arsène Alexandre and refers to a group of post-Impressionist artists who followed in the footsteps of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley. The members of the School of Rouen were drawn to the city as an escape from the strict academic attitudes found in the salons and galleries of Paris at the time. Their efforts culminated in two legendary exhibitions: the first, held in 1907, brought together works by Fauvist artists such as Dufy, Matisse and Braque; the second, organised on the Ile Lacroix in 1912, was addressed by Apollinaire who gave a lecture on ‘Orphic Cubism’.

15

Pissarro was famous for his portrayal of Rouen, a city he once described ‘as beautiful as Venice’. He first worked there in 1883. An admirer of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series, he painted several views of the quays along the Seine. He tended to work at the spot to capture the atmosphere and activity there and then. In 1893, following treatment on an eye, his doctor warned him not to expose himself to dusty conditions. He returned to Rouen in 1896 and in 1898 for three extended painting campaigns. By working from an elevated position, Pissarro found a perfect solution to the problem of capturing the hustle and bustle of the city, its linear and aerial perspectives, without the impracticalities of installing himself in the street. From the third floor of his room at the Hôtel de Paris which overlooked the Seine, he painted different views of the Pont Boïeldieu, at sunset, on an overcast day, in the fog. The bridge joined the old Gothic city in the north with the new southern industrial areas of Sainte-Sever. On the far bank we see boats docking and unloading cargo, with the urban landscape in the distance. It is this juxtaposition of mist and smoke, of the industrial and the historical, that gives his cityscapes its intriguing character. An exhibition of his work at Paul Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in April/May 1896 included eleven Rouen paintings which were critically appreciated and found buyers giving him financial security at last. It allowed him to return to Rouen in September 1896. This time he stayed at the Hôtel d’Angleterre on the other side of the bridge, where his fifth-floor room offered panoramas of the city’s three bridges. In 1898 he travelled to Rouen for a fourth time, painting more views of the bridges, as well as of the Gare d’Orléans and the Quai de la Bourse.

16On 19 August 1898, Pissarro wrote to his son Lucien that he had found an excellent place from which to paint the Rue de l’Épicerie and the Friday market in the Place de la Haute-Vieille-Tour. He made various paintings of the street under different atmospheric conditions, be it in bright sunshine or on a grey morning. Like fellow Impressionists he liked to experiment with the effects of light. Depicting light and the play of shadow has always been a challenge to painters. The Impressionists abolished the traditional use of neutral tones and black and grays for creating shadow by applying purples and yellows instead to suggest coloured shadows and reflected light. Pissarro’s paintings of the old street are a reminder of the cruel damage World War ii had inflicted on Europe’s heritage. His views of Rouen total a number of forty-seven. They vastly exceed the numbers of any other series he created. Cityscapes dominate his oeuvre. Rouen’s rich artistic history in the meantime shows that there is life outside the capital after all.

17

Image

Bishopsgate was anciently divided into Bishopsgate Street Within (i.e. within the walls of London) and Bishopsgate Street Without, and derives its name from an ancient gate in the city walls which is attributed to Erkenwald, elected Bishop of London in 675. Throughout its history this street in Camden has been one of the City’s main commercial centres. A specific nineteenth century addition to the history of city- and streetscapes is the dimension of industrial and commercial activity. This, the age in which religion was replaced by economics, opened up an urban imagery of ports, docks, industrial sites, smoke stacks, factories and shop fronts in painting, poetry and fiction.

Image

Walter Riddle may not be a household name in the annals of English painting, but the Guildhall Art Gallery holds a few interesting canvases by him. One of these paintings, created in 1872, is entitled ‘Bishopsgate in 1871’. The image shows a busy commercial street with in the centre the warehouse of Moore & Moore, pianoforte manufacturers. The firm started production in London in 1837 and was taken over by the Kemble group in 1933. Whatever the quality of their pianos may have been, the firm was part of a lively history of making musical instruments in the capital.

Image

Having arrived from Switzerland in 1718 as a simple journeyman joiner, Burkat Shudi set up his own workshop as a harpsichord maker in 1728. It was the foundation of the famous business now known as John Broadwood & Sons. Some time in the 1720s Burkat Shudi became apprenticed to Hermann Tabel, a Fleming who had learned the art of harpsichord making in the famous Antwerp house of the Ruckers dynasty of instrument makers. He was the first person who built harpsichords in London where he resided between 1680 and 1720. Little is known about Tabel, but a harpsichord made by him is in the possession of Helena, Countess of Radnor, and bears the inscription ‘Hermannus Tabel fecit Londini, 1721’. Another London pupil of Tabel was the German immigrant Jacob Kirkman, who set up a rival workshop producing harpsichords of equal quality to those of Shudi. Later, both Broadwood and Kirkman became leading manufacturers of pianos (between 1771 and 1851 no fewer than 103,750 pianos were produced by Broadwood, one of the main London employers at the time).

Image
The piano was first demonstrated in London by the multi-talented Charles Dibdin (composer, singer, actor, novelist), who is most famous for his sea songs. Between the acts of a performance of The Beggar’s Opera at Covent Garden, on 16 May 1767, he accompanied Miss Bricklet on the ‘new pianoforte’. Dibden lived in Arlington Road, Camden Town, and it was there that the piano industry blossomed. Camden was a suitable centre for its manufacture. Transport conditions by water and rail were ideal. By the middle of the century, London had over two hundred piano making firms, three quarters of them north of the river. Some firms made instruments on a mass production system, as Collard & Collard (originally established as Longman & Broderip in 1767) did in their famous circular factory in Oval Road. Others were merely small assembly shops. Besides manufacturers there were part makers, such as piano key makers; wrench pin makers; hammer coverers; truss carvers; gilders; marquetry workers; veneer, timber and ivory suppliers; makers of piano castors; piano stool makers, piano-back makers; piano tuners and others. All these professionals found a living in and around Bishopsgate.

Image

The London Tavern was once situated at the western side of Bishopsgate Street. The house was destroyed during a terrifying blaze that took place on 7 November 1765. The fire broke out at a peruque-maker’s shop opposite. The flames were carried by a high wind across the street to the property immediately adjoining the tavern, quickly spreading to other streets. Fifty houses and buildings were destroyed or damaged. The new London Tavern was designed by architect Richard Jupp and re-opened in September 1768. The size of the place was phenomenal. The dining room, known as the ‘Pillar Room’ for its Corinthian columns, was decorated with medallions and garlands. At the top of the building there was a ballroom that extended over the full length of the structure which, if laid out as a banqueting area, offered room to hundreds of people. The walls were covered with paintings. The cellars occupied the whole basement of the building. They were filled with barrels of porter, pipes of port, and butts of sherry. At any time some 1,200 bottles of champagne were kept in store, in addition to six or seven hundred bottles of claret and ‘floods’ of other wines. The original purpose of the tavern was not so much to create a venue for feasting, but to offer space for public meetings.

Image

In 1817, Robert Owen was determined to publicize his conversion from philanthropic cotton prince to socialist campaigner. He spent much of his time in London organizing public meetings. On 14 August he made his most notable address before an audience of hundreds of politicians, intellectuals, and followers at the London Tavern. The new religion of terrestrial paradise was promised in the tavern. In 1848, the London Chest Hospital was founded here at a meeting held by a group of nineteen City merchants and philanthropic bankers (which at the time was not a contradiction in terms), thirteen of whom were Quakers. Tuberculosis or consumption was then the major endemic killing disease, accounting for twenty per cent of all fatal illnesses. Charles Dickens presided here at the 1851 annual dinner for the General Theatrical Fund. Especially during the spring season meetings were numerous and these often concluded with a sumptuous dinner and entertainment. The London Tavern employed an army of sixty to seventy servants at any time. The majority of City companies held there banquets there; there were la large number of annual balls; Masonic Lodges met in the London Tavern, etc. Business was booming.

Image

The London Tavern holds a niche in the history of English late eighteenth century music. Dublin-born John Field was the eldest son of violinist Robert Field. He studied first with his father and his grandfather, John Field, a church organist. In 1793, the family moved to London where John Field entered an apprenticeship for seven years with Muzio Clementi, the Italian composer, pianist, and publisher who had settled in the capital. John’s first public appearance in England took place at the London Tavern on 12 December 1793, when he played a ‘Lesson on the new Grand Piano Forte’ at a benefit concert under the patronage of the Prince of Wales. In return for his instruction, Field had to work as a salesman-demonstrator in Clementi’s piano warehouse (the latter had created a successful association with the Collard family under the name of Clementi & Company; Munzio retired in 1815 after which the firm was called Collard & Collard). Field’s early talent as a composer was put to use by his Clementi who published several of young John’s piano pieces anonymously. Field’s professional career as a composer was launched on 7 February 1799 with the performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1 at the King’s Theatre. His apprenticeship expired shortly thereafter, and for the next two years he was in great demand as a concert pianist. Field’s Opus 1 Piano Sonatas was published in 1801. It was dedicated to Clementi. Field’s creation of the ‘Nocturne’ as a genre is his substantial contribution to music. Having experimented with titles such as Pastorale, Serenade, and Romance, he settled on the name when Nocturne No. 1 was published in 1812. In conception and style, Field anticipated Chopin by nearly two decades. Liszt, Mendelssohn, and other composers were influenced by the Nocturnes. These pieces strengthened the Romantic belief that music is the language of emotion that begins where words fail. They were the first ‘songs without words’. Celestial music for piano found its first expression in the London Tavern.

Image
A successful undertaking as the London Tavern depended heavily on master chefs and cooks. And management hired the best. John Farley is a figure about whom little is known apart from his best-selling book, The London Art of Cookery published in 1783 (it went into twelve editions by 1811). His claim to fame rests on this book, although ninety per cent of the text was compiled – ‘stolen’ – from two culinary best-sellers of the eighteenth century, Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747) and Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769). In 1792 Farley was listed as being cook at the London Tavern.

Image

What about the food at the famous tavern? The house was above all appreciated for its turtle soup. There were a number of London outlets where turtles were presented as a speciality. Of specific interest in this context is the Ship and Turtle tavern in Leadenhall Street. It has been claimed that the house dated back to 1377. The tavern was the meeting place of numerous Masonic lodges and a sought-after venue for corporation and companies’ livery dinners. Inevitably, management prided itself upon the quality of its turtle soup. Another house was the Queens Arms Tavern at St Paul’s Churchyard which was popular with City politicians and booksellers. Great numbers of turtles of differing sizes were being dressed at the tavern. In 1787, the New, Complete and Universal Body, or System, of Natural History describes three turtles being prepared at the tavern, ‘two of which together did not weigh three ounces, and the other exceeded nine hundred pounds in weight’. The London Tavern however enjoyed a supreme reputation when it came to turtles.

Image
For a long time turtle had been considered synonymous with filth. The word ‘tortoise’ (tartarus) means ‘resident of hell’. Turtle was not considered fit for food. The shell however was used for medicinal purposes and promoted as an aphrodisiac. At sea it was a different matter altogether. During the seventeenth century, the edibility of the giant sea turtle had been exploited by mariners and whalers. Turtles were stored on deck and would remain alive for up to a year without feeding, thus providing fresh meat for long voyages. During the nineteenth century however turtle meat developed into a delicacy wreaking havoc on the species from which it has never fully recovered. Soup was made from the green cartilage that lines the shell of the turtle. These reptiles were kept in massive tanks, which occupied a whole vault. Gastronomical wisdom at the time dictated that turtles will live well in cellars for three months as long as they were kept in the same water in which they had been transported. Changing the water would lessen the weight of the turtle and affect is flavour. An estimated 15,000 turtles were imported to London yearly. When, as a consequence, the turtle became rarer as a species, soup prices shot up dramatically to a level of imported luxuries like truffles or caviar today.

Image
Mock turtle soup was introduced by the early 1800s. This was a consommé with a calf’s head and maybe a calf’s foot, hooves or tail, and root vegetables like turnips and carrots. The non-muscular meat was used to imitate that of the turtle. This is why the John Tenniel’s illustration of ‘Alice with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon’ in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is depicted as a collection of creatures that make up the ingredients of mock turtle soup. The illustration shows the Mock Turtle with the body of a turtle, and the head, hooves, and tail of a calf. ’Turtle Soup’, as sung by the Mock Turtle in the story, makes it clear that special pots were created for this soup:

Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

A turtle soup tureen could hold up to six litres of soup in its body. Interestingly, ‘Mockturtlesuppe’ is a traditional meal in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). In 1714 the House of Hanover had succeeded the House of Stuart as monarchs of Great Britain and Ireland. Up to 1837 the Kingdom of Hanover and Britain were joined in a personal union, thus sharing the same person as their respective head of state. The union was ended when different succession laws resulted in Queen Victoria ascending the British throne and her uncle Ernest Augustus that of Hanover. During that period of close contact both the recipe and the name for the dish were transported from England to the northern part of Germany. Did mock turtle soup enhance the mutual understanding of the two nations? It certainly is a challenging question for socio-political researchers to answer. History is a lady with a wicked sense of humour.

Image

Image

A particular aspect of urban psychological history is a continuous fascination with crime. City dwellers are obsessed with acts of violence. Every age has expressed worries about escalating evil. The issue of law and order has always been a concern. Politicians make a career out of such anxieties. And yet, at the same time, we devour crime stories, real or fictional, in whatever form these are presented. Crime is a never-ceasing attraction to the public at large. It dominates television programming, ‘good stories’ sell newspapers, and the thriller remains the most popular literary genre. From early civilization onwards acts of cruelty have been recorded in the annals of mankind, be it the Celtic sacrificial ritual of head-hunting or the medieval visions of hell.

Image

Death in early history was violent – not a blissful transition from life to heaven, but an event of pain and horror, either through some form of epidemic disease or through the continuous evils of war and armed conflict. Murder and theft were rampant. Punishment was brutal, but did not stop villainy. Paradoxically, out of this mixture of fear and fascination a new figure arose – that of the criminal folk legend. Robin Hood is the best known outlaw in English folklore and the first criminal to be acclaimed a hero by poets and artists. Stories about crime during the seventeenth century seemed to address the insecurities of the age. Printed ballads, periodicals, reports of crimes, pamphlets taking the side of defendants or prosecutors, last dying speeches, accounts of executions, all became popular literature. By the early eighteenth century, these genres had contributed to the development of criminal biographies, the novel and satirical print. The market for criminal accounts was buoyant. It was not unusual for a condemned person to sell his biography to the highest-bidding prospective author. The expansion of detailed information about cases of wrongdoing meant that more sensationalist accounts became increasingly implausible as readers could compare these tales with more explicit accounts in newspapers and elsewhere. Changing standards of morality led to a toning down of the more lurid sexual details found in early publications and by the 1770s some of the more racy publications were in decline. Even so, throughout the nineteenth century terror continued to be an audience-puller. However, there was crime and there was the myth of crime and the two are often difficult to separate.

Image

‘The history of the world, my sweet – is who gets eaten and who get to eat’, is an often quoted line from Sweeney Todd in discussion with Mrs Lovett. Anxiety of crime was a dominant aspect of metropolitan life during the nineteenth century, but the red spectre of revolution was an almost obsessive fear. During the 1790s cannibal and eating imagery became part of the English artistic and literary iconography in response to the French Revolution. In Europe it was widely alleged that the Jacobins and the Terrors of the 1790s had plunged Europe into collective savagery. Rejecting Rousseau’s theory of natural man, critics declared that primitive man is a ferocious brute. The aim of civilization, contrary to all revolutionary beliefs, was not a return to the state of nature but to escape from it. The Jacobins had destroyed all social restraints and transformed society into a barbarian horde.

Image

After the massacres of September 1792, James Gillray portrayed a family of Paris ‘sansculottes’ feasting upon dismembered bodies. Radical Tory journalists associated with Fraser’s Magazine adopted this set of images and gave it new social meaning during the restless 1830s and 1840s. Thomas Carlyle was closely connected to the magazine. He made its imagery his own. Thomas Malthus had introduced the unnerving notion of food scarcity into contemporary thinking, but he did not project the spectre of cannibalism when he outlined imminent struggles for survival. In Sartor Resartus (1831) Carlyle introduces a character named Heuschrecke, an apostle of Malthus, who suggests the prospect of cannibalism. Carlyle depicts a world ‘by its too dense inhabitants, famished into delirium, universally eating one another’.

Image

The Rue de la Harpe is a quiet cobblestoned and residential street in the Latin Quarter of Paris, running in a south-easterly direction between the Rue de la Huchette and the Rue Saint-Séverin. Only a few buildings that date from before the Haussmann era have survived. During the nineteenth century the name of the street send shivers down people’s spine. It was associated with crime and cannibalism.
Image
In 1800, Minister of Police Joseph Fouché supposedly documented a series of murders undertaken in the street by a local barber and baker. The two are cited as the first serial killers. Becque would murder his victims for the contents of their pockets and Mornay disposed of the bodies by mincing and cooking them in his meat pies that were renowned throughout Paris for their flavour. The men were tried and found guilty at the Palais de Justice in 1801. In a punishment seen to fit the crime, they were torn to pieces on the rack rather than executed by guillotine. Their fate influenced the tale of barber Sweeney Todd of Fleet Street and his baker accomplice Mrs Lovett. In 1825, Tell-Tale Magazine published ‘A Terrible Story of the Rue de la Harpe’. In this tale, the barber murders a country gentleman and steals a string of pearls before delivering the corpse to his mistress, a chef renowned for her delicious ‘pâtés en croûte’. The duo are discovered when the victim’s dog leads the police to a cellar heaped with the skeletal remains of three hundred people. On 21 November 1846 The People’s Periodical and Family Library began serializing Edward Lloyd’s eight-part story entitled ‘The String of Pearls’ which was set in 1785 and concerned Sweeney Todd, a barber in Fleet Street who murdered wealthy clients for their valuables by throwing them through a trapdoor into a cellar. His neighbour Mrs Lovett cut up the bodies and turned them into tasty pies.
Image
Todd apparently tried to murder Mark Ingestre for a string of pearls, but the latter survived and Sweeney Todd confessed his crimes. Before the serial had ended, a stage version of the story dramatized by the playwright George Dibdin Pitt began a long run at the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton. In that version Todd gained his stage catchphrase: ‘I’ve polished him off’.The phrase has entered the English language. In 1850, Edward Lloyd published an enlarged The String of Pearls as a stand-alone ‘penny-blood’ serial. Both the preface to the 1850 edition and the bills for Pitt’s play insisted that the Todd story was based on fact. A further serial was published by Charles Fox in 1878, by which time Todd had become the ‘Demon Barber of Fleet Street’.
Image
The legend gained further embellishments. No. 186 Fleet Street became established as Todd’s residence, an identification encouraged by the discovery of human bones under the cellar during building work in the late nineteenth century, supposedly those of Todd’s victims. Todd remained part of popular culture in the twentieth century and was the subject of several films. By the 1930s ‘The Sweeney’ had become Cockney rhyming slang for the Metropolitan Police’s flying squad, and in the 1970s it provided the name for a famous television drama series. The original French story, however, smacks of being an urban myth and the supposed book by Fouché is impossible to trace.

Image

Rue de la Harpe has made its presence felt in the history of the Revolution, or more precisely: in the annals of the revolutionary press. Paris bookseller Antoine-François Momoro was thirty-three years old when the Revolution began. He had arrived in Paris from his native Besançon in 1780. He was one of many small Parisian book dealers with little hope of advancement under the restrictive Old Regime. With the declaration of the freedom of the press in August 1789, however, his prospects looked a lot brighter. Embracing the revolutionary movement, he opened a printing shop at no. 171 Rue de la Harpe and declared himself the ‘First Printer of National Liberty’. In 1793, he composed and published a treatise on printing, the Traité élémentaire de l’imprimerie, which was intended to put the practical knowledge of printing within the reach of a broad audience. To this day, it remains the most complete source of eighteenth-century printing shop slang. Momoro used his press to launch a career in radical revolutionary politics, soon becoming the official ‘Printer for the Cordeliers Club’. When he was arrested in February 1794, the police made an inventory of his stock which consisted exclusively of pamphlets, handbills and posters. His business was totally devoted to the printed ephemera that sustained the Revolution. Economically, he made a good living out of his activities. The Revolutionary Tribunal heard repeated depictions of Momoro as a greedy opportunist who was notorious for shady dealings. In the first four years of the Revolution his business in printing revolutionary propaganda expanded perhaps as much as twofold. His career, however, was not untypical.

Image

In 1789 Parisian printing exploded. The Revolution triggered an unprecedented political discourse throughout the country which was reflected in a substantial increase in published materials. During the first few years of the Revolution the industry was overrun by a new generation of little printers, most of them former printing-shop workers or small book dealers, amounting to something like a four-fold increase in the number of printers and a tripling of the number of booksellers and/or publishers. They seized the cultural space opened by the declaration of freedom of the press, and through the production of political ephemera took part in recording and shaping revolutionary events. Paris suddenly became the world’s largest centre of newspaper production. The Revolution was also a revolution of the press. Printing became an essential part in the struggle over public opinion which contributed to the formation of a new democratic political culture. Just as the press served as more than just a chronicle of events, the position of the journalist was transformed as well. He took up the role of critic, denouncer, and commentator. He was an engaged participant, actor, and witness, fuelling the course of events. The link between Revolution and the development towards democratization of the printed word is further emphasized by the career of typographer and encyclopaedist Pierre Leroux, who was the inventor of the term ‘socialism’.
Image
Born in 1797, Leroux attended the École Polytechnique, before joining a printshop and start a career in publishing. He founded the Globe newspaper in 1824 and, with George Sand, the Revue Indépendante in 1841. Moving to Boussac, he set up his own publishing house and attracted a small community of disciples and readers. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1848, and formally honoured by the Commune upon his death in 1871. To combat ignorance was one of the main aspirations of nineteenth century socialism to which general access to printing and publishing was of crucial importance. Socialism was born with a printers’ tag around its neck. Momoro had used his press as a call to arms and an instrument for the expression of subversive criticism. Pierre Leroux, using print as his medium, spoke words of liberation and spread ideas of democracy and social justice. Newspapers and pamphlets to him were a source for political education and instruction.

Image

John Baskerville came from a different angle, a non-conformist and atheist he was above all interested in the presentation of the text, the quality of the letter, and the layout of the page. Ironically, it was the French Revolution that safeguarded his legacy. He settled in Birmingham in 1726. Having made his fortune in the lucrative ‘japanning’ business (an early form of enamelling), he secured a lease on eight acres ground to the north-east of the city which he named Easy Hill, and built himself the house in which he lived for the rest of his life. At some point before 1757, he was joined there by Sarah Eaves (née Ruston), a married woman with a son and two daughters whose husband Richard had fled the country because of fraud. About 1750 Baskerville began his career as a printer and type-founder. Influenced by the work of Italian Renaissance printers, his guiding principles were simplicity and clarity. His page layouts were minimalist, they tended to be completely typographic, allowing his letterforms to stand on their own. Baskerville died at his house at Easy Hill in January 1775. Sarah Eaves was a resourceful character in her own right. For a number of years she managed the type-foundry herself. In December 1779 she concluded a sale of the printing firm with the cosmopolitan figure of Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, a principal participant in the Société Typographique et Littéraire which was established in order to produce the complete works of Voltaire at a printing office set up for this purpose at Kehl, a German town located on the right bank of the Rhine directly opposite the city of Strasbourg. To the edition of Voltaire in eighty-five volumes (issued in 1784/89) was added one of the works of Rousseau.
Image
The news that Baskerville’s types were being used at Kehl attracted the attention of Piedmont dramatist Vittorio Alfieri, the ‘founder’ of Italian tragedy. Alfieri, like Lord Byron, was both an aristocrat and a revolutionary. A friend of Beaumarchais, he was in many ways typical of the eighteenth century enlightened cosmopolitan European. His plays communicate an intense hatred of tyranny and despotism. Inevitably, he became a proponent of the French Revolution and enthusiastically embraced the American cause for independence. Baskerville would have been delighted to learn that Alfieri ordered from Beaumarchais the printing of several of his works.

Image

Charles-Joseph Panckoucke was one of the most successful newspaper editors and publishers of his age; among his authors were such distinguished figures as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Buffon. At the outbreak of the Revolution, Panckoucke’s newspapers were virtually the only ones with the privilege of publishing political news. On 24 November 1789, he founded the Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universal, a daily newspaper which became the official journal of the French Revolution. Baskerville’s association with Enlightenment radicalism is emphasized by the fact that his types were used to print the Moniteur. For some years the journal’s imprint read, ‘imprimé … avec les caractères de Baskerville’. From his base in Birmingham, Baskerville provided the Revolution with a letter of liberation.

Image

H01

In early modern Europe, prevention of large blazes engendered more municipal regulation than almost any other problem of urban habitation. Almost every major city has endured a ‘Great Fire’ at one time or another, starting with the Great Fire of Rome which took hold of the city on 19 July 64 AD for which Nero blamed and persecuted the Christians (it is not unusual to look for scapegoats after a disaster: Londoners blamed the Dutch or the French for their Great Fire of 1666).

H02

Fires occurred for a variety of reasons, most commonly human error or carelessness. Records show that their social and economic impact was often devastating. Regular fire-fighting forces did not appear until the creation of voluntary societies in the nineteenth century. However, urban rebirth in the aftermath of great fires offered a chance to shape the future and rebuild the city. Residents and planners created sweeping changes in the methods of constructing buildings, planning city streets, engineering water distribution systems, underwriting fire insurance, and fire-fighting itself. A key development in the modernization of fire-fighting in Europe occurred in seventeenth-century Amsterdam: the invention of the fire engine and fire hose.

03

Multi-talented Dutch painter Jan van der Heyden executed a number of landscapes and still lifes, but was chiefly a painter of townscapes, which stand out for their exceptionally detailed handling. Imaginary views, anticipating the capricci of eighteenth-century Venetian painters, are common among his works (in 1668 Cosimo II de’ Medici had bought one of his Amsterdam town hall views). Van der Heyden was a native of Gorinchem, though his family had moved to Amsterdam by 1650. He was trained as a glass painter. Before 1661 he travelled extensively in the southern Netherlands and in Germany, making drawings later used in his paintings. When he married in 1661, he lived on the most fashionable canal in Amsterdam, the Herengracht.
H04

His splendid oil on canvas ‘Gezicht op de [view of the] Herengracht’ dates from circa 1670. This, ‘Patricians Canal’, is the first of the three major canals in the city centre which were dug in the seventeenth century and form concentric belts around the city. It is named after the ‘Heren’ who governed the city at the time. As a skilled architectural draughtsman, Van der Heyden seldom turned his hand to the delineation of anything but brick houses and churches in streets and squares. A well-travelled artist he has painted urban scenes in a variety of cities, Utrecht, Veere, Delft, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Brussels, and London.

H05

However, Van der Heyden was the Amsterdam painter par excellence. His views of the city with its churches and canals are numerous, the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Martelaarsgracht, de Nieuwezijds and Oudezijds Voorburgwal, de Dam, de Westerkerk, the new town hall, etc. His reported inability to draw figures may have been tied to his lack of formal artistic schooling. He painted in partnership with Adriaen van de Velde, who populated his architectural scenes with figures and landscape effects. His most important works were painted in the years between 1660 and 1670, most notably views of the Amsterdam town hall, the Amsterdam exchange, the London exchange, and views of Cologne.

H06

After Van de Velde’s death in 1672 he received assistance from Johannes Lingelbach and Eglon van der Neer. Van der Heyden was a contemporary of the landscape painters Hobbema and Jacob van Ruysdael. This was a time in which artists competed in a market where too many paintings were produced. Many artists starved or were forced to take on additional activities. Van der Heyden was a practical and versatile mind who combined painting with the study of mechanics. From the late 1660s onwards he was engaged in projects to improve street lighting and fire-fighting in Amsterdam.
H07

As a youngster, Van der Heyden had witnessed the fire in the old city town-hall which made a deep impression on him. He later would describe or draw some eighty fires in almost any neighbourhood of Amsterdam. Together with his brother Nicolaes, a hydraulic engineer, he improved the fire-hose in 1672. He modified manual fire engines and re-organized the volunteer fire brigade. He wrote and illustrated the first fire-fighting manual, Brandspuiten-boek (The Fire Engine Book), published in 1690. His comprehensive scheme for street lighting which lasted from 1669 until 1840 was adopted as a model by many other towns. Van der Heyden’s impact was felt in London.

H07a
The psychological scars of the Great Fire were deep. Fire prevention was placed high on the political agenda. London desperately needed an organized and well-equipped fire brigade. Insurance companies were granted charters to provide fire assurances. It was in their interest to train professional fire fighters and make sure that the proper equipment was available to them. Assurance companies initially formed their own, often competing, fire brigades. It was not until 1833 that the London Fire Engine Establishment came into being. In 1689 a patent (no.263) was granted to a Dutch merchant and manufacturer of engines named John Lofting for the sole making and selling of an ‘engine for quenching fire, the like never seen before in this Kingdom’. Lofting’s fire engine was the first in England to use a wired suction hose to throw water as high as 400 feet and force the water ‘in a continued Stream into Alleys, Yards, Back houses, Stair-Cases; and other obscure places, where other Engines are useless’, according to a contemporary observer in 1694. The engines were employed at several palaces and their usefulness was praised by Christopher Wren himself. Lofting later recorded that he had lived for seven years in Amsterdam with one of the masters of the fire engines there. The master was Jan van der Heyden.

H08

Image

Over time great cities remain largely the same and are always changing. Streetscapes are continually remodelled. In architecture everything gives way and nothing stays fixed. Every new generation is eager to tinker with the aesthetics of urban space and to create its own city. At times, however, major change is forced upon an urban community by unforeseen circumstances. Many cities have suffered calamities such as fires, earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis, riots, revolutions, explosions, industrial accidents, suicide bombers – not to mention fashionable architects. Disasters fall into the two categories of man-made and natural calamities. Natural disasters, like the Lisbon earthquake, are ‘acts of God’. Man-made disasters happen as a result of negligence, error or hubris. Industrial society had to learn to cope with such catastrophes.

Image

On 12 January 1807, late in the afternoon, Leiden was hit by a calamity which became known as the gunpowder disaster. Early that morning a mercantile vessel had moored at the Rapenburg, not far removed from the University, carrying several thousand pounds of gunpowder. When a spark reached it inadvertently hell broke loose. The whole neighbourhood was shattered, 218 buildings ruined, and 151 citizens – among them a number of academics, including Jean Luzac, Professor in Greek and History, and editor of the highly influential Gazette de Leyde – had lost their lives. The scene of the disaster and was painted by Carel Lodewijk Hansen. This is a strange picture. A group of sightseers are gathered on the bridge to view the destruction. Further along, people are busy clearing the wreckage. Looking at this image is like reading a disaster novel, a genre that would become popular later in the century.

Image

Apocalyptic fiction is concerned with the end of civilization due to a man-made catastrophe. The genre gained in popularity after World War II when the possibility of global annihilation by nuclear weapons entered the public consciousness, but apocalyptic novels have existed at least since the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when Mary Shelley published The Last Man (1826). In 1885, Richard Jefferies published his novel After London. The story tells of an unspecified catastrophe that has depopulated England. The countryside reverts to nature, and the few survivors are forced back into a primitive way of life. London is turned into a poisonous swampland. The cataclysm genre was continued by H.G. Wells and would, in the twentieth century, be adopted by the film industry. In art, apocalypse is a city named London, but Hansen had set a precedent with his view of devastated Leiden.

Image

Man-made or natural disasters have scarred the face of numerous places, be it the Great Fire of London, the Great Lisbon Earthquake, or the Great Florence Flooding. Some streets have disappeared from the map altogether. Paternoster Row is one of those. An early claim to fame for the Row was Dolly’s Chop-house. It had Dolly the cook for its sign which was probably painted by Thomas Gainsborough who was a regular customer there. The original house was built on a site once owned by Elizabethan comic actor and innkeeper Richard Tarleton.

Image

Although details about his early life are scarce, it is certain that he arrived in London as a provincial immigrant. Dressed as a rustic clown in a russet suit and buttoned cap, he stamped his enduring image on the city. The role enabled him to speak for many uprooted countrymen who had to come to terms with the urban environment in which they found themselves. Landlords of public houses cashed in on his popularity by using his portrait as a sign. The main feature of Dolly’s establishment which succeeded Tarleton’s tavern was the excellence of its beef-steaks. These were enjoyed in combination with gill ale (flavoured with ground ivy which has a balsamic smell and bitter taste) and were served fresh from the grill, a fact which is accentuated by the allusion which Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett makes in one of Jery Melford’s letters to Sir Watkin Phillips in Humphry Clinker (1771).

Image

The Chop House had a literary clientèle which included Swift, Defoe, Fielding, Pope, and Dryden. Händel’s enormous appetite was also catered for at Dolly’s. From 1784 to 1789 Thomas Jefferson, author of the ‘Declaration of Independence’, who would later be elected the third President of the United States, had been posted in France. During a visit to London he spent Saturday night 25 March 1786 in the company of two American friends at this steak house. In the early hours of Sunday morning, in high spirits no doubt, they produced a fragment of doggerel (fourteen lines) that begins as follows: ‘One among our many follies / Was calling in for steaks at Dolly’s’.

Image

A regular client at Dolly’s was Aberdeen-born physician George Fordyce, a noted epicurean of the eighteenth century. He dined daily there at four o’clock in the afternoon. For starters, he consumed a dish of chicken or fish. This was followed by a solid prime steak accompanied by strong ale drunk from his personal silver tankard, a quarter pint of brandy and a bottle of port. Having enjoyed the meal, he slowly stumbled to his house in Essex Street where he received his pupils and gave a six o’clock lecture on chemistry. Fordyce has been described as a coarse man, a poor lecturer, a lousy doctor, and an alcoholic.

Image

Cooking, religious practice and printing are traditionally interconnected, so it is hardly surprising that these particular activities dominated the street-scene of Paternoster Row. The clergy of the medieval St Paul’s Cathedral would walk here while chanting the Lord’s Prayer. The Row was ecclesiastical in character. Stationers and publishers sold religious books there, as well as alphabets, paternosters, aves, creeds, and graces. Paternoster Row, to the north of the cathedral, and Paternoster Square to the west, became the literary heart of London. Its history was bound up with that of the great publishing firms and the great literary enterprises of that period. Here was issued, among a host of other well-known ventures, the London Magazine, the Annual Register, and the Encyclopaedia of Ephraim Chambers. Trübner & Co. was one of the publishing companies on Paternoster Row. Longmans had their immense offices there with its fourteen windows in front.

Image

The first Longman, born in Bristol in 1699, was the son of a soap and sugar merchant. Apprenticed in London, he purchased in the early 1720s the business of William Taylor, the publisher of Robinson Crusoe, and his first venture was the philosophical works of Robert Boyle. Later on Bristol bookseller Owen Rees was taken on as a partner. Before the close of the eighteenth century the house of Longman & Rees had become one of the largest in the City, both as publishers and book-merchants. The ‘lake poets’ proved a valuable acquisition. Wordsworth came first to them, then Coleridge, and lastly Southey.

Image

Next to Longmans were the premises of Whittaker & Co., extending half way down Ave Maria Lane which, since 1670, is home to the famous livery hall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers. By the mid-nineteenth century London was the greatest market for books in the world. Some 15,000 persons were employed in the printing, binding and the sale of books. Paternoster Row boasted that an edition of a thousand copies in octavo required no more than ten or twelve hours for the binding. Unfortunately, and in spite of its pious past, the Row was devastated by aerial bombardment during the Blitz in the night raid of 29/30 December 1940. It was later characterized as the Second Great Fire of London. In a period of twelve hours, more than 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary missiles were dropped.

Image

The raid and the subsequent fire destroyed many famous Livery Halls and gutted part of the medieval Guildhall. The area destroyed was greater than that of the 1666 Fire of London. Over 1,500 fires were started. A famous photograph ‘St Paul’s Survives’, taken by Herbert Mason from the roof of the former Daily Mail building, shows the dome of the Cathedral rising above clouds of black smoke. The editor of the paper cropped the photo to remove the destroyed houses from the foreground. During the war, Frederick C.W. Cook held the official position of fireman-artist. The Imperial War Museum later purchased nine of his oil paintings for the nation, including an image of the devastation at ‘Paternoster Row’ (oil on canvas, 1944). With the destruction of the Row an estimated five million books were lost in the fire.

Image

Paternoster Row was indirectly connected with another, less catastrophic loss of books. Early in 1780, Irish-born chemist and mineralogist Richard Kirwan became resident at no. 11 Newman Street, near Oxford Street. His home soon became a meeting place for scientists and prominent thinkers. From 1780, a philosophical society under his leadership started to meet regularly at the Chapter Coffee House in Paternoster Row.

Image

The Chapter Coffee House Society, officially nameless but called after is principal meeting place, met regularly for seven years. A set of rules of order established governance (chairman, secretary, dues, membership, and attendance), the appropriate topics of discussion (natural philosophy and technology), and the formal proceedings (for example, members were not required to stand up on the entry of a fellow member no matter his social position). Members chose topics of deliberation, papers were presented, and discussion followed. They brought to society meetings the fruits of correspondence and interactions with fellow philosophers and scientists, and they encouraged conversations about relevant news. Developments in the research of chemistry and pneumatics were regular subjects.

Image

Kirwan was somewhat of an awkward character. In later life he developed a morbid fear of catching a cold. Sidney, Lady Morgan (née Owenson), author of the controversial book The Wild Irish Girl, described how, one fine spring evening, she was received by the scientist dressed in a cloak, shawl, and slouch hat. He was sitting on a sofa, shivering, and surrounded by a large screen, while a red hot fire blazed on the hearth. He died at his home on 1 June 1812. His library was bequeathed to the Royal Irish Academy – or at least what was left of his library. What had happened to a large number of volumes he once owned, reads like an Irish short story.

Image

Beverly, in Essex County, Massachusetts, is a rival of Marblehead for the title of being the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. The place gained a reputation for the number of privateers it sent out to attack and capture enemy vessels during the last decades of the eighteenth century. A privateer is a person or vessel authorized by a government to attack foreign shipping during wartime. This authorization was made by a so-called ‘letter of marque’. For their lucrative efforts the crew was paid ‘prize money’. Cruising for prizes was considered a noble calling that combined patriotism and profit, in contrast to unlicensed piracy, which was universally reviled and severely punished. The advantage to the authorities was that they could mobilize armed ships and professional sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers. The goal of privateering was to capture ships rather than to destroy them.

Image

American privateers are thought to have seized up to three hundred British ships during the war. And many of them sailed from Beverly. Arguably the most successful privateer vessel departing from there was the Pilgrim. In September 1778 Hugh Hill was commissioned Commander of the ship. Born at Carrickfergus in Ireland, he had emigrated to Massachusetts and settled in Marblehead. A huge man, wild, courageous, and not burdened by too many scruples, he was the stereotype privateer captain. He had a number of encounters with English vessels. On 24 March 1780 Hill was succeeded by Joseph Robinson, a resident of Salem. Under his command the Pilgrim was as effective a fighting ship as it had been under Hugh Hill. In October 1782 she was finally chased down by the English frigate Chatham and destroyed. The Pilgrim is remembered as the most profitable ship of all Revolutionary privateers, capturing a total of some fifty prizes.

Image

One of those prizes was the English Duke of Gloucester. On 5 September 1781 the ship was captured in the Irish Channel by Robinson and his crew. Amongst its cargo they found Richard Kirwan’s personal collection of books. After his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society he had decided to re-locate indefinitely from his family estate Castle Cregg in County Galway to London. His library of 116 volumes was loaded aboard the Duke of Gloucester to make the journey through the Irish Channel from Galway to the English capital. Once captured, the books were transferred to the Pilgrim and subsequently sold at an auction in Salem on 12 April 1781. Reverend and academic Joseph Willard, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Beverly (and later President of Harvard University), learned of the Kirwan collection and organized the purchase of the lot. The Salem Philosophical Library was founded that same year. An earlier library, known as Salem’s Social Library had been founded in 1760. By 1810, the two bodies were merged to create the Salem Athenaeum. When the new institution was founded, the relatively small town counted more libraries than mighty Boston.

Image

Salem represented the American Enlightenment and, at the same time, was haunted by its past. The history of the town had been stained by the Salem witch trials, a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft that took place between June and September 1692. Nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided. The memory of these dark events motivated members of the Athenaeum to strive for the spread of knowledge and understanding.

Image

Nathaniel Hawthorne was one the most famous patrons of the institution. Today the Athenaeum’s core mission remains unchanged: to enrich the lives of the community by lending, preserving, and adding to its collection of books and documents. The survival of the Kirwan collection proves the argument that privateering was less harmful than other naval encounters. Privateers engaged in battle for prize and profit, for anything that could be sold or auctioned – the less destruction, the greater the prize. Even books were safe in their hands.

Image

Image

For considerable time almost every London church had its own cemetery. Before 1800 there were more than two hundred such graveyards in the capital. St George’s at Hanover Square, Mayfair, was built between 1721 and 1724 to the designs of John James (George Frederick Handel was a regular worshipper here). The church originally sat in open countryside in the middle of its own burying place . Paddington Street Gardens were originally formed as an additional burial ground for St George’s. Burials at St George’s included that of Ann Radcliffe and Laurence Sterne. The latter was born in 1713 in Clonmel, Ireland, into a military family, the second of seven children. Since the age of ten he lived in Yorkshire, away from his parents and by the age of twenty he entered Jesus College, Cambridge. His education prepared him for taking clerical orders, and in 1737 he accepted the assistant curacy of St Ives, Huntingdon. Four years later, he assumed the vicarage of Sutton on the Forest, a village eight miles north of York which remained his home until 1760. This cosmopolitan mind spent most of his adult life serving a rural parish. He lived his life in relative obscurity participating on occasion in local politics – until 1759. That year he offered bookseller and publisher Robert Dodsley a manuscript of what eventually became the first two volumes of Tristram Shandy. The book was an immediate success and Sterne became the literary toast of the day. He died in London on 18 March 1768. He was buried four days later at St George’s.

Image

Physician Charles Collignon was the son of Paul Collignon, a minister of the Dutch church in Austin Friars. Charles began lecturing at Cambridge University in 1754. He stressed the significance of anatomy, the desirability of a legal supply of bodies for dissection, and the importance of post-mortems to improve medical knowledge. His Compendium anatomico-medicum (1756) provided a general introduction to students of anatomy. When giving a seminar on dissection someone in the audience recognized the corpse waiting to be cut up. It was that of Sterne. It appeared that the body had been stolen by some of Collignon’s students and taken to Cambridge. Charles had it sent back to London to be reburied, but no marker was placed on the grave.

Image

Robbing graves in order to facilitate the study of bodies and bones has been a long standing tradition in art and medicine. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were known for stealing corpses from morgues in order to research human anatomy. In the early eighteenth century, when dissection became an integral part of medical studies, grave robbers prospered in Britain. They were feared and despised by the public at large. In the folklore of every culture interring the remains of the dead is heavy with rituals that must be observed if the souls of the deceased are to prosper and the living not troubled by their ghosts. A body should be buried in its complete state. If a limb is missing the deceased might risk spending eternity without an arm or leg. People preserved their lost teeth so that they might be buried with them. When it comes to interment yet more superstitions apply. Sites towards the eastern and southern boundaries of a graveyard were the most desirable. The cold and dark northern quarter was allocated to criminals and suicides. The opening of a new graveyard posed a serious challenge to undertakers. No caring person would volunteer a deceased relative to be interred first, because of the widespread belief that the Devil would claim the soul of that particular corpse for himself. The difficulty was overcome by the initial burying of an animal.

OL 06 66_030

The earliest recorded medieval anatomies were also carried out on animals. The beginning of modern surgery was held back by theologians who stressed the unlawfulness of meddling with a corpse. The human body was recognized as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Hence Tertullian denounced Greek physician Herophilus, deemed to be the first anatomist, as a butcher. In 1248, the Council of Le Mans forbade surgery to monks. During the Crusades a practice arose that when a nobleman was killed in battle far from home, the body would be defleshed and his bones transported back to his estate for burial. In response, Pope Boniface VIII promulgated a law in 1299 which excommunicated anyone who disemboweled bodies of the dead or boiled them to separate the flesh from the bones. He further decreed that bodies which had been so treated were to be denied a Christian burial. Such ideas were deeply rooted in the mind of the universal Church. For considerable time surgeonship was judged to be a dishonourable profession. However, from the thirteenth century onwards, the body became increasingly part of a theological discourse. The physicality of Christ was highlighted in works of art; stories of saints and martyrdom came to include gruesome details of physical mutilation; descriptions of mystical experience took on a physical form, the most spectacular manifestation of which was the reception of stigmata as in the case of Francis of Assisi. The change in focus also made the practice of anatomy acceptable and more widespread.

Image

The first dissection of a human body was performed around 1315 by Mondino de Liuzzi in Bologna, but the activity remained as yet relatively isolated elsewhere in Europe. In other countries, and especially in Britain, dissections occurred much later. Physician David Edwardes was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he was made a fellow in 1524. A year later he was in Venice where he helped to complete the Aldine version of Galen’s works in Greek and it is probable that he spent time studying in Padua, then a centre of medical excellence. In 1528 he moved to Cambridge. He is credited with being responsible for the first recorded dissection of the human body in England which took place in 1531. Anatomy teaching which included the dissection of a human corpse did not become standard practice until the middle years of the sixteenth century. Finding suitable corpses was one of the main problems. Usually, the bodies used were those of criminals or heretics – predominantly males in other words. The occasional dissection of a woman, it being a public event, attracted large numbers of spectators by the prospect of the exposure of female organs. A public dissection in those early days was both spectacle and instruction. It was a ritual attended by professionals, artists and the curious alike. A dissection was the highlight of the academic term. Within medical circles, the cutting up of a body was regarded a celebration of scientific progress.

Image

Medical schools in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries found it difficult to teach anatomy because the supply of bodies for dissection was limited. Legally only the corpses of convicted murderers might be used, and even those were hard to obtain because of public revulsion. Battles between family and friends with the authorities over the remains of the condemned had started to occur since the introduction of the ‘Murder Act’ of 1752 which established the public dissection of murderers following their execution. The underlying idea was the process would not only serve science, but also overwhelm the crowd with a graphic set of images that restored the deterrent element of the legal process. Dissection replaced the earlier punishment of hanging, drawing and quartering, in which the four quarters were exhibited on spikes in various parts of the city. A continuous shortage of bodies however meant that academics had to improvise their teaching methods. Some practitioners carved up the bodies of family members. Rondeler of the Montpellier Medical School dissected his own child before his students – the ultimate act of clinical detachment. William Harvey dissected the bodies of his father and sister. As a consequence of the shortage of bodies, a clandestine trade grew up of grave robbing. A dead body had cash value: it could be bought and sold – the corpse as commodity. Anatomists paid resurrectionists (the name given to those who were involved in body snatching or grave robbing) to go out at night, especially in winter when the cold would slow down putrefaction, to dig up freshly interred bodies and convey them to the medical schools. The authorities turned a blind eye to grave robbing because surgeons and students were working to advance medical knowledge. They kept publicity to a minimum in order to avoid public outrage. Moreover, body snatching was not an offence. The body was not regarded as property, and, once dead, could not be owned or stolen. Until the passing of the Anatomy Act of 1832 body snatchers were hard at work. The passing of this act allowed unclaimed bodies to be turned over to the medical profession, effectively substituting the poor and destitute for the executed.

Image

The public panic (often resulting in riots) created by the shenanigans of anatomists and grave robbers obscured the fact that at one time the study of anatomy was the sexiest of all scientific disciplines. Some of the most sumptuous books of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are studies on that particular academic subject. A spectacular example is the enlarged second edition of William Cowper’s Myotomia reformata, or A New Administration of the Muscles. The book was published in London in 1724, fourteen years after Cowper’s death, and is considered to be one of the best of anatomical atlases of the eighteenth century. The first edition of the book was published in 1694 as an octavo volume containing just ten plates after the author’s own drawings of subjects which he felt had previously not been properly illustrated. In addition, an appendix was added describing the anatomy of the penis and the mechanism of erection.

Image

On 18 April 1693, London-born physician Richard Mead registered at the University of Leiden. It is likely that he arrived there several months earlier because he became a close friend of Archibald Pitcairne, who had settled in the city as Professor of Medicine in the spring of 1692, leaving abruptly in the summer of 1693. Mead lived in Pitcairne’s house for a time, along with Herman Boerhaave, then also a student. He left Leiden early in 1695 without taking a degree, and went on a tour of Italy before returning to London in 1696 to set up a medical practice in Stepney. He made a spectacular career and was elected to the Royal Society in 1703. Henry Pemberton arrived in Leiden in August 1714. There he joined many other English students who had crossed the Channel to study medicine under Boerhaave. Back in London, he was appointed Gresham Professor of Physics which brought him in close contact with Isaac Newton who invited him to superintend the third edition of the Principia. Mead and Pemberton joined forces to prepare the second edition of Cowper’s Myotomia reformata. Cowper had worked until his death in 1710 on a revised and expanded edition of his famous study. The book was published under Mead’s supervision and sponsorship. This substantially enlarged version that includes sixty-six plates appeared with an introduction by Pemberton. Thomas Hearne, a Bodleian librarian at the time, called it the most beautiful book ever printed in England.
Image

The status and popularity of anatomy made it a highly competitive domain of academic research. Rivalry in art and science is an inherent part of the creative process and has produced many noble achievements. However, if the means applied are corrupt, competition is often the cause of controversy. A notorious case is the ugly conflict between Bidloo and Cowper. In 1685, physician and anatomist Govard Bidloo published his Anatomia humani corporis in Amsterdam, using 105 plates drawn by Gerard de Lairesse which were engraved by the talented Amsterdam-born artist Abraham Blooteling. Bidloo originally accompanied the plates with a brief Latin text. A Dutch version was printed in 1690, entitled Ontleding des menschelyken lichaams. The plates were magnificent. Liège-born De Lairesse was a prolific and popular Baroque artist working in a French style (he is sometimes referred to as the ‘Dutch Poussin’). In his anatomical illustrations, which include dissected pregnancies and prematurely born infants, he portrays his subjects in classical and dramatic poses without sacrificing the harsh realism of anatomic features. Tools of dissection are also represented, including the pins, ropes, and props used to position the body parts, thus effectively pairing aesthetic refinement with graphic detail. There is room for artistic licence as well: a fly perching on a cadaver, or a smiling skeleton holding an hour glass in a mausoleum.

Image

Neither of Bidloo’s editions sold many copies which enabled Oxford publishers Samuel Smith and Benjamin Walford to purchase plates of the Dutch edition from its publishers in Amsterdam. Cowper used these plates and published them in his 1698 Anatomy with new and more extensive accompanying texts based upon his own original research which are often critical of his Dutch predecessor. Lettering in (offensive?) red ink was added to the plates to accommodate Cowper’s observations which, by his own count, amount to above seven-hundred references. He also commissioned nine plates drawn by Henry Cook and engraved by Antwerp-born artist Michiel van der Gucht, among which were front and back views of the entire musculature. In 1698, the first edition of this large and weighty folio (nine kilograms) was published under Cowper’s name with a faint and almost ‘hidden’ reference to Bidloo. The original engraved title-page was amended with a piece of paper that reads: The Anatomy of Humane Bodies. It covers the Dutch title. Cowper also replaced Bidloo’s portrait with one of his own. At the time of publication, the study containing 114 illustrations was hailed as the most comprehensive atlas of human anatomy. Over time the book raised the standard British approach to the study of anatomy and the practice of surgery.

OL 06 66_013

A number of vitriolic exchanges took place between these two eminent scientists which serve as an illustration of an early intellectual property dispute. An outraged Bidloo claimed that Cowper published his plates without properly crediting him, but he had no legal recourse. He (in vain) petitioned the Royal Society to revoke Cowper’s member status and wrote a series of pamphlets admonishing his actions. Just how Cowper acquired the plates is a matter of dispute. Although the plates were purchased from Bidloo’s publishers, some accounts argue that Cowper had crossed the Channel on multiple occasions to secure them under false pretences. It was in fact a common practice in the history of anatomical publication that plates were used and re-used over and again. Critics nevertheless have called Cowper’s Anatomy a blatant act of plagiarism. Our legal understanding of plagiarism of course does not apply at a time when national – let alone international – copyright laws were not in operation. Historically, governments issued monopoly-rights to publishers for the sale of printed work. Great Britain was the first to change this in April 1710 with the passing of the ‘Statute of Anne’ which stated that authors and not publishers had the right to claim a monopoly on the work. It limited exclusive rights to twenty-eight years, after which a printed work would be released to the public domain. Moreover, the plates were legally purchased in a transaction between publishers. The ‘crime’ in a world of emerging academic pomposity was Cowper’s lack of respect for the research achievements of his Dutch rival. The bitter dispute between the two anatomists made an impact on the discussion of copyright law and academic integrity in the late seventeenth century in which Britain played a leading role.

OL 06 66_019

What in the meantime had happened to the remains of Laurence Sterne? When St John’s Wood burial ground opened in 1814, St George’s was officially closed leaving some 80,000 unattended graves behind. In 1886, the grounds were turned into a recreation area and in the process most of the tombs were swept away. During the First World War the land was covered with top soil and used for growing vegetables. In 1969 the area was completely cleared and sold off for redevelopment. Urban expansion does not acknowledge the past and even in death city-dwellers find no peace. Faced with the relentless demands of progress, history sinks into the abyss of oblivion. Just prior to the indiscriminate disposal of human remains from the site, Kenneth Monkman – a keen collector of Sterneana – recovered what is believed to be Sterne’s skull. The top had been sawn off, indicating the involvement of medical students. It was reburied in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in Coxwold, North Yorkshire, close to his former home at Shandy Hall.

Image

01kopie

Johan van Oldenbarneveldt – the powerful Secretary of the States who lost his head in 1618, accused of treason by prince Maurice of Orange. His dead ended the first great struggle between the princes of Orange and the Dutch regents. More were to follow.

Half way a biography of the Dutch pensionary Johan van Oldenbarneveldt  published in 1648, almost 30 years after his death on the scaffold, the text takes an unexpected turn. When you turn to page 3f-recto the text suddenly breaks off in mid-sentence and the publisher takes up the pen. A dramatic effect that was used two centuries later by the famous Dutch author Multatuli to shock his readers who thought they were reading a novel and now were confronted with the harsh realities of colonialism.

Multatuli’s 17th century forerunner wrote something like this: ‘Dear reader. We had come this far with the printing of this book when on 12 march 1648 at half past nine in the evening the bailiff and three of his henchmen kicked in the door of the printer’s office. They had blank cutlasses in their hands and they also carried blinded lanterns as if they were common burglars. One of them posted himself at the door, another at the stairs to the first floor. Then the bailiff went through the premises, turning over tables and type-cases, kicking at the type that was waiting to be printed and tearing up already printed paper.  They had been stumbling back and forth from the attic to the cellar for at least two hours when at last the bailiff called for the printer. He told him that they had come on on orders of the burgomasters for the book that was on the press Het leven en sterven van Johan van Olden-Barnevelt (Life and Death of Johan van Oldenbarneveldt). The printer remarked that it was an offense to break in a house like that to seize a book that was not even finished. The bailiff told him to shut up and to hand over the copy. The attic, where the printed paper was kept in parcels, was sealed and guarded. The next day the bailiff came back with a few helpers and carried of the copy and all printed matter he could lay his hand on.’

And so, the publisher continued, I took the decision to publish this book as soon as possible, even when it was not complete since it lacked the chapter the bailiff had found and taken with him.

This little anecdote is a rare description of Dutch censorship in action: the bailiff dropping in after dark, kicking in doors, making threats and creating havoc before taking the copy with him. It has indeed all the trappings of censorship in action. Except for one thing. Not only did the printer answer back to the bailiff but he also told him that he could expect legal action. Which is what he did.  And when the bailiff and his minions had left printing went on. That a chapter was missing was something the readers had to put up with. The publisher promised that in time a second, completed, edition – and indeed such a book would appear ten years later. It counted twelve extra pages so we can calculate the damage the bailiff had done. Since the print run of the first edition seems to have been about 1700 copies, it may have costed the publisher about 50 guilders in profits. Of course the printing shop had to be cleared and type reset, which might have taken a few days.  Still one cannot but wonder if this paltry sum was the reason to sue the bailiff for years on, even up to the High Court at The Hague. Probably the publisher felt that the insult and the desultory way in which his rights as a citizen were disregarded deserved to be punished. The little scene also shows another peculiarity of Dutch censorship. It was not only arbitrary, it was also personal in the sense that the people who were involved knew each other, if not personally, at least by face. Censorship was an affair of individuals. There were no set rules for publishing in the Dutch Republic, nor was there a secret police working for a distant and indifferent government, that locked people up and no questions asked, as in France. Nobody was tortured or died at the stake on a public square.

The Dutch historian Paul Valkema Blouw spend a major part of his life on the study of 16th century subversive printing. Apart from tracing most if not all these subversive publications and bringing together the scarce facts on the lives of their printers, Blouw showed that printing forbidden books was a dangerous affair in the 16th century. The government did it’s best to catch and punish subversive elements and printers who were caught lost everything, often including their lives. It is in fact surprising to see how few where actually caught, but also how tenacious they kept on printing, moving their presses from town to town and often abroad, probably under difficult circumstances. The difference with the seventeenth century is striking. We know of a printer that was whipped because he had offended a powerful member of the Amsterdam oligarchy and also of one author of subversive pamphlets who ended on the scaffold – but not because of what he had written. Two died in prison, Koerbagh, who was convicted to ten years in a workhouse because of his atheism while pamphletist Eric Walten was kept there without a trail because of pamphleteering but also for his shady political deals.

Image

The Rasphuys where Adriaen Koerbagh is often supposed to have been worked to death. In fact he was kept somewhere else where the work was light but the circumstances bad and there, after a year, he died of a disease.

The most striking characteristic of 17th century censorship – or it’s absence – is perhaps that on the one hand very few titles were forbidden but that bookshops also abounded with pamphlets that were illegal because the publisher had not printed his name and address on the title-page. In most years almost half of all published pamphlets did not carry the name of it’s publisher (nor that of the author of course) but in some years the percentage could climb as high as 80%. The standard fine for this kind of publication was 500 guilders, a substantial sum that was to be shared with the informer. The profit that a publisher made on his illegal pamphlet – most of them seem to have reached an edition of about 200-250 copies – was perhaps twenty guilders so it is obvious that the government did not spend much time maintaining their own placards. Nor was the promise of a substantial reward enough for the public to bring booksellers to justice. The avid readers seem instead to have run to the bookseller to ask for the latest pamphlet. Illegal publications were sought after and sometimes more expensive than their legal brothers. Thus they were the source of an interesting bit of extra income for the booksellers – if the publication had the succes they hoped. But that extra income would never have covered the costs of an arrest and condemnation so the risk must have been very small.

Image

Henricus Slatius, the only Dutch author to die on the scaffold. He was accused of plotting against the life of prince Maurice of Orange and confessed under torture. But the real reason was probably his virulent pen that he used to poke fun at the calvinists. 

In most cases nowadays scholars can trace these illegal publications to their makers without much effort. One only has to compare the ornaments and historiated initials to find out who printed a specific text. But there are publications that hide their origins very well. The differences between the traceable pamphlets and the untraceable ones are of course of the greatest interest if you want to know what was dangerous and what was not.

(to be continued …)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 586 other followers