Archive

19th century

 

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Botanist and mathematician Henry Fox Talbot produced his first successful photographic images in 1834, without a camera, by placing objects onto paper brushed with light-sensitive silver chloride, which he then exposed to sunlight. By 1840, Talbot had succeeded in producing photogenic drawings in a camera, with short exposures yielding an invisible or ‘latent’ image that could be developed to produce a usable negative. This made his process a practical tool for subjects such as portraiture and was patented as the ‘calotype’ in 1841. Talbot’s negative-positive process formed the basis of almost all photography on paper up to the digital age. His work was certainly not a solo effort. Major inventions rarely are.

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Nicolaas Henneman was born in Heemskerk in the Netherlands on 8 November 1813. Having worked in Paris for a while, he arrived in England around 1835. He was employed as valet to Fox Talbot at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, where he assisted the photographer in preparations and printing, and he took many photographs himself. He accompanied Talbot on expeditions around Britain, and in 1843 the pair ventured into France, securing important photographs later published in The Pencil of Nature (1844/6: the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs).

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Later that year, Henneman left Talbot’s employ to set up the world’s first dedicated photographic printing works at no. 8 Russell Terrace in Reading. Unable to sustain that operation he moved to London in 1847, this time in a business largely owned by Talbot, but called Nicolaas Henneman’s ‘Sun Picture Rooms’ at no. 122 Regent Street. In 1848 he was joined by the young chemist Thomas Augustine Malone, and by the next year Henneman & Malone were billing themselves as ‘Photographers to the Queen’. While Henneman taught many successful photographers, he never achieved true artistry himself. In the increasingly competitive world of the 1850s he lost out. By 1859 financial difficulties forced him to shut down his business.

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His lasting claim to fame is his involvement in the publication of the first photographically illustrated book on art. To the three volumes of text of William Stirling’s Annals of the Artists of Spain (1848) was added a limited edition volume of sixty-six photographic illustrations. These were the first photographs ever published of Spanish paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints, by artists including El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, Ribera and Goya, in addition to examples of architectural designs and book illustrations. The photographs were taken by Henneman who used the Calotype process invented by Talbot. The book has become extremely rare. Only fifty copies of the Annals were produced, and their deterioration, due to daylight, chemicals and other factors, began immediately.

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Henneman was not the only immigrant from Northern Europe who made an impact on the history of the photography book in Britain. Oscar Gustaf Rejlander was born in 1813 in Sweden, but nothing is known about his early life. He apparently studied art in Rome in the 1830s and supported himself there by working as a portrait painter and copyist of old masters. He was in England by 1841.

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In 1845 he had settled at no. 42 Darlington Street, Wolverhampton, where he opened a painter’s studio. He took up photography in 1853 and two years later began to exhibit his photographic compositions consisting of portraits, landscapes, nudes, anatomical studies, and subject pictures. His genre photographs earned him the reputation as one of Britain’s leading photographers. His ‘Night in Town’ (also known as ‘Homeless’), depicting a child in rags huddled on a doorstep, was used by the Shaftesbury Society for over a hundred years to highlight the plight of homeless children.

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In the spring of 1862 Rejlander moved to London and settled in Malden Road, Chalk Farm. On the relationship between photography and painting, he insisted that artists had as much to learn from photography about observation and draughtsmanship as photographers had to learn from painting about composition and expression. Contemporary critics described him as ‘the father of art photography’. As a portraitist Rejlander photographed several illustrious sitters, including Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Henry Taylor, Charles Darwin, Gustave Doré, and Prince Albert.

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In 1868 he opened a richly furnished studio opposite Victoria Station. It was soon after this move that Charles Darwin entered his shop and asked for his cooperation. Rejlander was commissioned to supply Darwin with nine illustrations depicting people in various emotional states for The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).

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The photograph illustrating ‘mental distress’, that of an agitated infant boy dubbed ‘Ginx’s Baby’ by critics, became a best-seller after Rejlander also created versions on cartes-de-visite and cabinet cards. The title for the photograph was taken from a popular satirical novel about an orphaned boy by radical Victorian author John Edward Jenkins. The striking image of this helpless working class child soon became part and parcel of the Victorian social and political debate on poverty, charity and social justice. Photography took on a new relevance. It suddenly dawned upon critics and observers that certain photographic images have the power to influence public opinion and determine or change its course. A single shot can strike deeper than a million words.

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01London has always attracted the weird and wonderful. Throughout its history, the city has known countless oddballs and fruitcakes. In the eighteenth century foreign visitors to the capital were often surprised by the frank, if not rude attitude of its population. Society celebrated eccentrics and social rebels. It ridiculed affectation. Hypocrisy was considered an evil. That seems to be a lasting legacy. Cities in general tend to breed conformity, but that encourages single individuals to stand out and be unusual. The passion to be different supplies the air and breath that are essential to the vitality of London life. Loonies are the lungs of an urban culture.

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One such characters was an Irish immigrant into London by the name of James Salter. He had formerly been a barber and a valet to Hans Sloane, before opening a coffee house at no. 59 Cheyne Walk, at the corner of Lawrence Street, in 1697. By 1715 he had moved his coffee house to the west side of Danvers Street, and then in 1718 to its final location at the newly-built no. 18 Cheyne Walk, close to Sloane’s manor house which stood at numbers 19-26 (the mansion was demolished in 1760). He named his Chelsea establishment Don Saltero’s Coffee House. The owner (most likely with a passion for Italian opera) was famous for his punch, he could play the fiddle, and would shave, bleed and draw teeth. He was an Irishman of all trades. Part of the attraction of the coffee house was the display of a large collection of unusual objects and curiosities.

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The modern museum was preceded by what was known as a cabinet of curiosities. These sixteenth century cabinets were gathered by collectors with different social backgrounds and their contents varied according to the means and interests of the owners: physicians collected anatomical specimens; merchants bought rarities from far-flung trading posts; artists gathered prints, drawings and casts of ancient sculpture. By the turn of the seventeenth century collecting became increasingly an obsession of the wealthy and the well-connected. They were hoarding objects into vast personal collections. Starfish, forked carrots, monkey teeth, alligator skins, phosphorescent minerals, Indian canoes, and unicorn tails were acquired eagerly and indiscriminately. Critical taxonomy was rarely in evidence. The curiosity cabinet performed an educational function, facilitating the dissemination of knowledge. Unlike the museum, the curiosity cabinet was not intended for a public audience, but rather for the educated few. The coffee house museum functioned as an intermediate. The collection was there to attract the paying public into the establishment. It was a business venture in which the craving for coffee was linked to the growing urban passion for collecting curiosities and exotics. The experiment proved tremendously popular.

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Saltero’s soon was frequented by Chelsea’s wealthy and fashionable residents, having received a special notice in the Tatler of June 1709. It was a favourite meeting-place for men like Hans Sloane, Richard Mead, and Nathaniel Oldham. As one of the local sights, the house was visited by antiquarian Ralph Thoresby in 1723 and by Benjamin Franklin about 1724. It also features in a passage of Fanny Burney’s novel Evelina (1778).

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Items on display at the coffee house were donated by Hans Sloane, John Munden, Richard Steele and other Chelsea residents. Salter’s museum was an assemblage of oddities, including a petrified crab from China; medals of William Laud, Gustavus Adolphus, and the seven bishops who resisted James II’s declaration of indulgence; William the Conqueror’s flaming sword; Henry VIII’s coat of mail; Job’s tears (of which anodyne necklaces were made); a bowl and ninepins in a box the size of a pea; Madagascar lances; and last but not least: a hat which had belonged to the sister of Pontius Pilate’s wife’s chambermaid.

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The curiosities were placed in glass cases in the front room of the first floor. Weapons, skeletons, and fishes covered the walls and ceiling. A poetical autobiography and account of his ‘Museum Coffee House’ appeared in the British Apollo and in Mist’s Journal (22 June 1723). Salter also published A Catalogue of the Rarities to be seen at Don Saltero’s Coffee House in Chelsea which he offered for sale to his customers (no less than forty-eight extant editions range from 1729 to 1795). This Irishman ran a roaring business. Salter died in 1728 and his daughter went on to run the premises as a tavern until 1758. It continued to attract considerable custom, but in 1799 the collection was sold in 121 lots at auction and dispersed.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the coffee house was described as a ‘quiet tavern’, and in 1867 the property was converted into a private residence. Salter’s ‘Chelsea Knackatory’ was not the only establishment that attracted a curious audience with his exhibition of rarities. He had in fact a rival which is evident from another published catalogue entitled A Catalogue of the Rarities to be seen at Adams’s, at the Royal Swan, in Kingsland-road, leading from Shoreditch Church, 1756. This catalogue lists some 500 rarities, including African artefacts. Visitors to the Royal Swan would be entertained by the sight of Walter Raleigh’s tobacco pipe; the Vicar of Bray’s clogs; an engine to shell green peas with; a set of teeth that grew in a fish’s belly; Wat Tyler’s spurs; Adam’s key of the fore and back door to the Garden of Eden, etc. There was fierce rivalry amongst the proprietors of coffee house museums to catch the public’s ear, eye and purse.

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Cheyne Walk, known as the ‘village of palaces’, is named after the Cheyne family who owned an estate on the site. They were Lords of the Manor of Chelsea from 1660 to 1712. The first houses to be built in the Walk were a row of grand Queen Anne houses. At its creation Cheyne Walk was a desirable place to live and remained so to this very day. It can list a long line of famous residents, including Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards (no. 3); novelists George Eliot (no. 4) and Henry James (no. 21); painter James McNeill Whistler (at various times at nos. 21, 72, 96, and 101); author and social critic Thomas Carlyle (no. 24); Dracula’s creator Bram Stoker (no. 27); Hungarian film producer and Jewish refugee Max Schach (no. 35); pop stars Mick Jagger and Marian Faithful (no. 48); novelist Elizabeth Gaskel (no. 93); engineer Marc Brunel (no. 98); prophet Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf of the Moravian Church (no. 99/100); Anglo-French poet Hillaire Belloc (no. 104); and painter J.M.W. Turner (no. 119).

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The life of poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti is an extraordinary success tale in the history of migration. His father, the scholar, poet and revolutionary Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti, was born on 28 February 1783 in Vasto, Kingdom of Naples. The original family name was Della Guardia. Probably the diminutive Rossetti was given to a red-haired ancestor and, for reasons unknown, stuck. The son of a blacksmith, he made an impressive early career. In 1807 he was librettist at the San Carlo opera house in Naples and was later appointed curator of ancient marbles and bronzes in the Capodimonte Museum. His political poetry caused him trouble. As a member of the revolutionary society Carbonari in Naples, he directed his anger against Ferdinand II who had revoked the Constitution in 1821. Gabriele was sentenced to death. He escaped to England via Malta in 1824 never to see his homeland again. In 1826 he married Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori, the daughter of another Italian man of letters, Gaetano Polidori, Tuscan by birth but Londoner by adoption. The couple lived at no. 38 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia.

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It was here that Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born. The Rossetti children, all born in London, would make a massive impact on British cultural and artistic life. Gabriele was appointed Professor of Italian at King’s College London in 1831, a post he held until 1847.
09 D.G. Rossetti moved into Tudor House at no. 16 Cheyne Walk soon after the death in February 1862 of his wife, the Pre-Raphaelite model Elizabeth Siddall, from an overdose of laudanum. He spent several bohemian years at the place. It was here that he began collecting a menagerie of exotic animals and developed a passion for hoarding antique furniture, blue-and-white china, and vast amounts of bric-a-brac. His former lover and model Fanny Cornforth became housekeeper of the male-dominated daily life at Tudor House.

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Rossetti shared the place with Algernon Charles Swinburne, the ‘demoniac boy’ of poetry. The latter contributed to the dissolute state of the place by drinking past excess to unconsciousness and getting into physical arguments with guests. Whistler, who lived nearby, was a regular visitor. Henry Treffry Dunn, who was Rossetti’s studio assistant and secretary between 1867 and 1880, has left a written account of life in Chelsea in his Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his Circle (Cheyne Walk Life). Dunn illustrated the book himself and his watercolours of Tudor House give a unique and intimate glimpse into the artist’s home – a Chelsea knackatory of chaos and creativity.

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The site of Tyburn Tree at the junction of Edgware Road and Oxford Street was for over 700 years a place of execution. Until 1783 Tyburn served as London’s primary place of hanging, burning and gibbeting. Public displays of executions were once a vital part of the criminal justice system which relied upon fear of retribution.

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The main purpose of severe penalties for even relatively minor crimes was that they would serve as a deterrent. After re-development in the mid-1800s the area became known as Tyburnia. It was laid out with grand squares and cream stuccoed terraces. Thackeray described this residential district as ‘the most respectable district of the habitable globe’. Not a place one would expect political radicalism to manifest itself – and yet, it did.

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On a left-hand corner in Westbourne Terrace one of the last of the original detached houses still stands (now turned into flats). The splendid mansion is named Orsett House. On the evening of 10 April 1861, the property was ablaze with light from thousands of gas-jets, and packed with celebrating Russians, Poles and other émigrés from the Slav nations, as well as a few English radical thinkers, and fellow exiles such as Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini and French socialist Louis Blanc.

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It was a grand occasion to celebrate the Emancipation Reform under Alexander II which effectively abolished serfdom throughout the Russian Empire. Over the portico of the house two banners flew in the wind with messages of The Free Russian Press on one, and Freedom of the Russian Peasant on the other. Host and organiser of this red hot European party was Alexander Herzen, the first self-proclaimed Russian socialist and the most significant of all the activists who spent years of political exile in nineteenth century London.

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Herzen was born in 1812 in Moscow at a time that the city was being evacuated in the wake of the defeat by Napoleon’s armies. He was the illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner and a German woman whom his father had met while in diplomatic service. In 1829 Herzen entered the University of Moscow to study natural sciences and became the leader of a small group of radical students. In 1834, he and his closest colleague, the poet Nikolai Ogarev, were arrested. He spent six years in prison. In January 1847 Herzen left Russia for Paris with his entourage (wife, three children, his mother, a tutor, and two female dependents) and most of his capital – hardly a stereotype case of revolutionary exile. None of them would see Russia again.

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After the disillusion of the failed 1848 revolution, Herzen moved to London and lived in the capital for some twelve years, first alone, and then with his family, accompanied by the German writer Malwida von Meysenbug, who acted as housekeeper and governess to his children from 1853. Malwida Rivalier von Meysenbug is an intriguing person in her own right. She was born on 28 October 1816 at Kassel in Hesse. Her father, Carl Rivalier descended from a family of French Huguenots and was the principal minister for two Archdukes of Hesse-Kassel. He was granted the vacant Meysenbug title and was later raised into the Habsburg aristocracy. The ninth of ten children, she broke with her family because of her political convictions. She was an avowed democrat and supported demands for constitutionalism in the German states. During the years preceding the 1848 revolutions in Europe, Malwida was more radical than many male revolutionaries in that she advocated equal opportunity for women in education and employment. When Meysenbug moved to Berlin she was placed under police surveillance for mixing in ‘suspicious’ company. Forewarned in May 1852 of her impending arrest she fled by way of Hamburg to London where she became a prominent member of the refugee community. She supported herself by writing romantic novels and short stories with underlying themes of egalitarian utopian societies. More significant are her Memoiren eines Idealistin, the first volume of which she published anonymously in 1869 (followed by two subsequent parts in 1875 and 1876).

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Throughout his stay in the capital, Herzen moved around between dozens of addresses, before settling at Orsett House in November 1860. His life in London was conducted mainly in Russian circles, but he remained a private figure who concentrated on intellectual and propaganda work. In the spring of 1853 he established the ‘Free Russian Press in London: to our Brothers in Russia’. Its printing press was initially housed alongside that of Democratic Poland published by the Polish Democratic Society at no. 38 Regent Square. The arrangement with this society of fellow exiles lasted almost eighteen months, until December 1854 when it was feared that the bailiffs might move in. The Free Russian Press moved to no. 82 Judd Street (in 1857 the office moved to no. 2 in the same street). It was here that the work of the Press took off. In 1855, he published the first volume of Poliarnaia zvezda (The Polar Star). Much of the first volume was written by Herzen himself, although it also contained letters by Michelet, Proudhon, Mazzini, and Hugo, and the correspondence between Belinsky and Gogol.
In April 1856 his former comrade Nikolai Ogarev arrived in London and joined Herzen in working on the Press. It was at no. 2 Judd Street that the Free Russian Press built its reputation with the publication of the weekly newspaper Kolokol (The Bell) which ran from 1865 to 1867 with a circulation of up to 2,500 copies.

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During Herzen’s residence at Westbourne Terrace numerous compatriots travelled to London to visit him, including Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nekrasov, Bakunin, Vasily Botkin, and others. On Sundays, Orsett House was the place to be. The family remained at the residence until June 1863, and then moved out again, this time to Elmfield House, Teddington. Herzen’s inability to settle in exile reflects the restlessness of his mind. He finally left England in 1864. Herzen is the author of a set of magnificent memoirs entitled My Past and Thoughts which are an irreplaceable time document for the European socio-political developments of the day. His presence in London does not take up a prominent part in these memoirs. What the metropolis offered him was anonymity. To him, London was ‘adapted for training one away from people and training one into solitude’. This suggestion implies a paradox of political exile: by its very condition it denies the here and now, it looks forward by always looking back, escaping into an almost Confucian dream. Exile and nostalgia are not synonymous, but they stem from similar experiences. They are stories of loss and memory. Nostalgic memory may bring some solace, but the sigh of separation from place, language and culture is forever present. This pain hits exile and newcomer alike. It weighs heavier on the former who lives in anticipation of an imminent return home. The exile is – psychologically at least – banished for the short term. He hates the past, despises the present, and dreams of the days ahead. He seeks consolation in futurity. Utopia is a dissociation from the here and now. Living in the present in order to effect social change is a more difficult task. Herzen was well aware of the challenge and this realisation gives his memoirs their lasting relevance.

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London has always been a heavy smoker. Complaints about air pollution in the city were raised at an early stage of urban development. In 1644 an anonymous pamphlet entitled Artificiall fire, or Coale for rich and poore (held at the British Library) seems to predate a longing for suburban greenery: ‘as some fine Nosed City Dames used to tell their Husbands: Husband! we shall never bee well, wee nor our Children, whilst wee live in the smell of this Cities Seacole smoke; Pray, a Countrey house for our health, that we may get out of this stinking Seacole Smell’.
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Like most old cities, London has experienced numerous serious fires in the course of its history. At times it was feared that the capital would literally go up in flames. Industrial use of burning coal deeply altered social and environmental history. The Industrial Revolution produced an endless suply of goods for consumption, but in the process natural resources were ruthlessly exploited. Waste and fumes polluted street, soil, and sky. Factories and chimneys blocked out most natural light in the towns. Steam was used to power the factory machines and the burning coal produced an ‘ink-sea of vapour, black, thick, and multifarious as Spartan broth’ (Thomas Carlyle). The streets of industrial cities were covered with thick greasy dirt. A dramatic rise in urban population exacerbated the effects of pollution. City life often was unbearable. Pollution remained (and remains) London’s main enemy. The Great Smog of 1952, a mixture of weather conditions and coal fires, created panic. Understanding the health impacts of London’s air pollution became an issue and for many city dwellers a priority.
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Visitors to taverns, clubs and other social gatherings in the capital experienced the smell of another fume in their nostrils. Tobacco was introduced in England in 1586 and placed under a duty in Elizabeth’s reign. It is said to have first been smoked at the Pied Bull tavern at Islington. Addiction to tobacco was reported from the early days of the habit of smoking (then termed ‘drinking’ tobacco, the smoke being inhaled and allowed to escape through the nose). Objections were raised from the outset.
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In 1604 James I published his ‘A Counterblaste to Tobacco’ in which he condemned smoking as ‘a branch of the sin of drunkenness, which is the root of all sins’. By 1614, the number of tobacconists in London was estimated at over 7,000. The weed was also sold by apothecaries and prescribed as a drug. Its medical use has long been advocated. Physician Tobias Venner spent time between his practice in North Petherton (Somerset) in the winter, and in Bath between spring and autumn.
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The annual influx of the sick provided a lucrative trade for visiting physicians in the city. The hot mineral springs in Bath enjoyed a reputation for the cure of skin problems, paralytic disorders, and other painful conditions. In 1620 he published The Bathes of Bathe, the first to book dedicated exclusively to the city’s spa. He successfully cultivated his image as a genuine balneologist in a world of quacks and charlatans. Venner also published A Briefe Treatise Concerning the Taking of the Fume of Tobacco (1621). Although he disliked the ‘detestable savour’ of tobacco and deplored its recreational use, he recommended smoking as a means of improving digestion and countering the malign effects of cold, misty weather and contagious air. Tobacco came into general medical use during the time and panic of the Great Plague.
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The production of tobacco was integral to the slave trade. The signs of tobacconists’ shops in the eighteenth century generally consisted of a large wooden figure of a black Indian, wearing a crown of tobacco leaves and a kilt of the same material. He was usually placed at the side of the door, above which hung three rolls, also cut in wood. The decorated cards or shop-bills of tradesmen at this period were often designed by artists of repute. Hogarth in his early days designed one for ‘Richard Lee at ye Golden Tobacco-Roll in Panton Street near Leicester Fields’.
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From early on, the import and production of tobacco in London has had a strong Jewish input. Portuguese-born merchant Dunstan [Gonsalvo] Anes took refuge in London late in 1540 having fled the inquisition in his home country. His son William carried on the family business as a London merchant. In 1626 he and Philip Burlamachi were the king’s factors for tobacco and licensed to import 50,000 pounds of tobacco free of duty for the king. The Anes family lived and traded in Tudor and Jacobean London for ninety years, publicly conforming to the established church, and privately practising Judaism in their homes.
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The initial manufacture of tobacco was concentrated in Hackney, East London, which at one time contained seventy-six factories for the production of tobacco, cigars, and snuff. The name of various taverns reminded its customers of the local tobacco industry, such as the Virginia Plant in Great Dover Street, Southwark, and a Virginia Planter in Virginia Road, Bethnal Green. Through the late 1800s the areas of Spitalfields, Whitechapel, and Bethnal Green became central to the tobacco industry. The raw material was imported from America and brought into warehouses at Pennington Street, alongside Tobacco Dock. Cigar makers worked long hours for a low wage – it was ‘slave labour’ on a leaf that had been produced by slavery. On the other side of the social scale, cigar lounges were established in London that were havens of sophistication and indulgence, places where time stood still in the midst of the relentless pace of the metropolis.

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In 1828, Samuel Reiss opened the Grand Cigar Divan, a coffee house on the Strand where gentlemen smoked in peace, browsed over the daily journals and newspapers, indulged in political conversations, and played chess, sitting on comfortable divans or sofas. It became the acknowledged Home of Chess in Britain. Many of the top players of the nineteenth century played here at some stage: Wilhelm Steinitz, Paul Morphy, Emmanuel Lasker, Johannes Zukertort (who had a fatal stroke whilst playing there), Siegnert Tarrasch, and many others. It also hosted the great tournaments of 1883 and 1899 and the first ever women’s international in 1897.

Before the arrival of Polish and other Eastern European Jews who tended to work in the rag trade, the tobacco industry was the chief employer of immigrants in the East End. The continuous decline of the Dutch economy during the first half of the nineteenth century prompted many Amsterdam Jews to settle in London. Arriving from the 1840s onwards, these immigrants established the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in London at Sandy Row, Spitalfields, in 1854. Amongst their particular skills were shoe, hat and cigar making. Many of them settled in a small system of local streets known as the Tenter ground.
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Formerly, this had been an enclosed area where Flemish weavers stretched and dried cloth on machines called tenters which were fitted with sharp hooks. The first use of the figurative phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ dates from 1748. By the nineteenth century, the site had been built upon with housing, but remained an enclave where the Dutch Chuts lived as a virtually separate community (the name is thought to be an approximation of the sound of the word ‘good’ in Dutch). During the second half of the century there was in Chicksand Street, off Brick Lane, a family business of cigar makers called Zeegen Brothers. This was one was of a number of similar factories that had mostly come from Amsterdam. Initially, the Zeegen Brothers prospered, expanding their business into addresses at no. 123 Commercial Street and no. 23 Lamb Street. However, the introduction of machinery for the mass-production of tobacco proved fatal and ultimately led to the collapse of the cigar-making economy on which many members of the Chuts community depended. In the London Gazette of 13 October 1896 Alexander, Louis and Israel Zeegen, together with Morris Isaacs, gave notice of the fact that the brothers had dissolved their partnership as cigar manufacturers.
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Bernhard Barron was born on 5 December 1850 in the Russian town of Brest Litovsk into a poor Jewish family. He was probably of French descent. In 1867 Baron emigrated to New York, where he worked in a tobacco factory. Soon he started to manufacture cigarettes himself. He then moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he found customers among the students of Yale University, before settling in Baltimore. In 1872 Barron took out his first patent for machine made cigarettes. In 1895 he visited England to sell the patent rights of his invention which could make 450 cigarettes a minute. Attracted by the business opportunities, he decided to settle in London at St James’ Place, Aldgate. There he established the Barron Cigarette Machine Company Limited. In 1903 he joined the board of Carreras Limited, becoming its managing director and chairman. He held both positions until his death in August 1929. Carreras’s cigarettes, notably their Black Cat brand, proved highly popular. The House of Carreras had been founded in the nineteenth century by Don José Carreras Ferrer, a Spanish nobleman who fought in the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington. After serving with distinction, he was forced to leave Spain on account of his political views. During the early years of the nineteenth century he began trading in London. Don José specialised in cigars, but his son José Joaquin expanded the business by concentrating on the blending of tobaccos and snuff. His reputation soon spread and by 1852 he had established himself at no. 61 Prince’s Street (near Leicester Square). The majority of his workforce had Iberian roots.
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Charles Dickens in Bleak House refers to poor Spanish immigrants clustered around Somers Town and census data reveals the presence of many of tobacco traders and workers in the area. This district, covering the railway termini of Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross, was originally granted by William III to his Lord Chancellor John Somers. In 1784, the first housing was built amid brick works and market gardens. The construction of New Road (now: Euston Road) improved access to the area and in 1793 Frenchman Jacob Leroux leased land from the Somers family for luxury building and development. His scheme failed. War and recession forced down property prices and the neigh¬bourhood lost its appeal. A number of houses were bought by exiles from the French Revolution and thirty years later a similar intake of Spanish political refugees gave Somers Town a strong Catholic tradition which remains to this day. Being the home of a substantial community of exiled liberals, the district developed into a sort of expatriate Spanish barrio.
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During the First World War smoking increased sharply and Carreras came to the fore in supplying cigarettes to the armed forces. Having outgrown its Arcadia cigarette factory in City Road, Bernard Baron decided that the Carreras Tobacco Company needed more adequate facilities. In 1926, he commissioned the new Arcadia Works to be built on Mornington Crescent’s communal garden – formerly a favourite residence of artists and writers – to a design by Collins (brothers) and Arthur George Porri which was inspired by the vogue for Egyptian-style building and decoration. Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun had made a huge impact on art and architecture. Egypt-o-mania was in full swing. The 1925 Paris Exhibition popularised the fashion even more, but the English passion for Egypt dated back to the mid eighteenth century. Orientalist John Montagu, future Earl of Sandwich and First Lord of the Admiralty, was among the early English travellers who sailed on from Italy to the Ottoman Empire (inspiring others to undertake the ‘Ottoman Grand Tour’). Back in London, under the assumed name of Sheikh Pyramidum, he founded both the Egyptian Society (December 1741), open to ‘any gentleman who has been in Egypt’, and under the different name of El Fakir Sandwich Pasha, the Divan Club open to gentlemen with the intention of going to Turkey.
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Egypt was also a globally successful manufacturer of cigarettes. Non-Egyptian tobacco companies adopted oriental motifs in their advertising to take advantage of this. English soldiers returning from the Crimean War had brought with them a taste for Turkish cigarettes and soon this more ‘sophisticated’ form of smoking was in vogue throughout the city of London. In 1913, American tobacco manufacturer R.J. Reynolds introduced the packaged smoke with a ‘new’ flavour, creating the Camel brand, so named because it used Turkish paper. All these different developments were brought together in the design of Baron’s factory. The white building’s distinctive Egyptian-style ornamentation originally included a solar disc to the Sun-god Ra, two gigantic effigies of black cats flanking the entrance, and colourful painted details. These versions of the Egyptian god Bastet stood guard over Arcadia Works until 1959 when Carreras merged with Rothmans of Pall Mall and moved to a new factory in Basildon. The Carreras factory was opened in style in 1928. The pavements in front of the building were covert with ‘desert’ sand. There was a procession of cast members from a contemporary production of Verdi’s Aida, a performance of actors in Egyptian costume, and a chariot race was held on Hampstead Road.

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When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian ornamentation was lost and its revolutionary concept, both in construction procedures and working conditions, became more evident. It was the first factory in Britain to make use of pre-stressed concrete technology, the first to contain air conditioning, and to install a dust extraction plant. Today the building is appreciated as one of the best Art Deco buildings in the capital and seen as an icon of modernist architecture. In his manifesto Ornament und Verbrechen (translated into English in 1913 as ‘Ornament and Crime’), Viennese architect Adolf Loos had declared that lack of decoration in new building is the sign of an advanced society. Progress in architecture, he argued, is aesthetic simplification (honest, simple, and pure) and the removal of ornament. The principle was brought in practise by Le Corbusier and Bauhaus. In the 1920s and 1930s lack of decorative detail became a hallmark of modern architecture. All this makes the design of the Arcadia Works intriguing. Its ornamentation reflected the early English interest in various manifestations of ancient Egyptian culture. At the same time, it offered a glimpse of future corporate branding in which the characteristic features of a building were to be sacrificed to the gleaming demands of advertisers and product-peddlers.

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During the late nineteenth century journal and newspaper articles that described artists’ homes or studios as demonstrations of their unique creative personalities became fashionable reading. Architectural and interior design were supposed to reflect the individuality of genius. The homes of the painters Frederic Leighton in Holland Park and Lawrence Alma-Tadema in St John’s Wood were described in glowing terms. These grandiose mansions created enormous curiosity. Their owners belonged to the elite of society (Leighton was the first painter to be given a peerage in the New Year Honours List of 1896; Alma-Tadema was knighted in 1899) and through their work they accumulated enormous wealth; they mixed with royalty and aristocracy and enjoyed a lifestyle of comfort, splendour and luxury. So much for our beloved notion of the ‘starving artist’, itself a creation of the nineteenth century.

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Lawrence [Lorenz] Alma-Tadema was born on 8 January 1836 in Dronrijp, Friesland, in the Netherlands. The son of a notary, he began his formal art training at the Academy of Art in Antwerp. Influenced by his friendship with the Egyptologist Georg Ebers, he first produced paintings on Merovingian and Egyptian subjects. On honeymoon in Italy he visited Pompeii. His visit coincided with the first systematic excavations of the site. Inspired by the spectacle, he embarked on depicting the classical world. The representation of Roman life started to dominate his oeuvre. In 1864 he secured a lucrative commission from Belgian-born art dealer Ernest Gambart for twenty-four pictures; in 1869 he received a second contract for another forty-eight paintings.
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Gambart exhibited Alma-Tadema’s work at his prestigious French Gallery in London. It was in December 1869 that Lawrence first met Laura Epps at the London home of Ford Madox Brown, some nine months after the death of his French wife Marie-Pauline Gressin de Boisgirard.
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Laura was half his age. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War made him decide to move to London. Arriving in the capital at the beginning of September 1870 with his two young daughters, Alma-Tadema rented the house and studio at no. 4 Camden Square which was owned by the orientalist painter Frederick Goodall who was then travelling in Egypt. He contacted Laura and proposed to her.

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Having married in July 1871, the couple settled at Townsend House, no. 17 Titchfield Terrace, North Gate, Regent’s Park, where Laura acted as stepmother to his daughters. She herself was a painter of sentimental domestic scenes in seventeenth century Dutch settings. A prolific artist who enjoyed enormous success in Britain, Alma-Tadema lived in extravagant style. He redesigned Townsend House to resemble a Roman villa, but in the early hours of 10 October 1874 an unfortunate accident happened. The barge ‘Tilbury’ was third in a train of vessels being towed by a steam tug westwards along the Regent’s Park Canal. It was laden with sugar, nuts, two or three barrels of petroleum, and five tons of gunpowder. The powder caught fire, causing a huge explosion, as the barge went under Macclesfield Bridge at North Gate. It was the greatest explosion in London up to the time of World War I. It could be heard thirty kilometres away and dead fish rained from the sky in the West End. The crew were killed and the bridge destroyed. The explosion also seriously damaged Alma-Tadema’s house. The catastrophe caused such havoc that a detachment of Horse Guards were brought in to help keep order and to ensure safety from wild animals at the nearby Zoological Gardens.

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The destruction caused by the explosion offered an opportunity to redecorate the villa all over again. Alma-Tadema invited George Aitchinson to join him in the design of the property. At the time this architect was at the height of popularity. Working in a family practice, he had specialised in wharves, warehouses, docks and railway architecture. In 1860 he was commissioned by painter Frederic Leighton to design a home and studio for him in Holland Park. Work on the house started in 1865. Aitchinson’s involvement with Leighton’s mansion extended over thirty years.

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Externally, the new house showed little ornament or embellishment. The south facade, facing the street, was given the appearance of an Italian palazzo. The north side overlooking the garden was dominated by the large studio window on the first floor. Internally the house was relatively modest at this early stage. Extensions followed later. Construction of the Arab Hall started in 1877 and created a sensation. The model was an interior contained in the twelfth-century Castello della Zisa at Palermo. Some outstanding craftsmen were involved in its construction, including the potter William De Morgan, the sculptor Edgar Boehm, and the artist and book-illustrator Walter Crane amongst others. Crane’s design for the gold mosaic frieze was made up in Venice and shipped to the site in sections. The early tiles used in the building of the Hall, mostly brought over from Damascus (antiquarian interest and art robbery were indistinguishable at the time), form a unique collection in itself. Through his work for Leighton, Aitchinson was engaged by a number of artistically-inclined clients to remodel their London homes. Alma-Tadema was one of them.

Drawing, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tademas Library in Townshend House, London, 1884

In the reconstruction of Townsend House each room was given a distinct theme, downstairs there were a Gothic library, Laura’s Japanese studio, a Spanish boudoir, and upstairs laid out a series of parlours in Moorish, Byzantine, and other styles. Lawrence’s own studio took on a Pompeian look. Anna Alma-Tadema followed in the footsteps of her parents and became an artist producing portraits, interior scenes, and flowers. She made a number of watercolours of the interior Townshend House, including The Drawing Room and The Gold Room. In 1884 she produced a watercolour of her father’s library. The room is furnished with Dutch oak cabinets, a fur-covered couch and a bronze chandelier, designed by Alma-Tadema himself; a Japanese lantern on the ceiling and Japanese matting on the floor; a palm leaf fan, peacock feathers, and batik fabric, all from the Dutch East Indies. The interior pointed to the artist’s native country. To contemporary critics it reflected the inventive genius of its creator. The working relationship between artist and architect in such undertakings underlines how much the balance of power in the arts had shifted. Traditionally, architecture had been considered the ‘mother of the arts’, because it had a maternal role in regard to sculpture, painting, and other decorative arts.
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Andrea Palladio presented Regina Virtus (Queen of Virtue) on the frontispiece to each of his four studies on the art of building. She sits there as mother of the arts. The moment that this nurturing relationship with the arts was broken, and each of the ‘children’ had gone out in the world to find his/her own way, architecture itself disintegrated. John Ruskin still upheld that position when, in The seven lamps of architecture, he argued that ‘architecture must be the beginning of arts, and that the others must follow her in their time and order […] the prosperity of our schools of painting and sculpture […] depends upon that of our architecture’. In the course of the nineteenth century the architect lost his prominent position. He was obliged to execute the whims and caprices of his employers. It is not surprising that Ruskin was appalled by Alma-Tadema’s work.

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As soon as the building work at Townsend House was finished, Alma-Tadema went out in search of a bigger property and a new project to mark his position as a trendsetter and arbiter of taste in Victorian society. It turned out to be a villa in St John’s Wood, once owned by a fellow painter of Continental descent. Jacques Joseph [James] Tissot was born on 15 October 1836 in Nantes, the son of a Roman Catholic linen merchant. He arrived in Paris at the time of the 1855 International Exhibition.
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A number of his early compositions centred on Marguerite, the heroine of Goethe’s Faust as interpreted in opera by Charles Gounod. One of Tissot’s first paintings on the theme, Marguerite in Church, was acquired in 1860 by art dealer Adolphe Goupil, who published a high-quality photograph thereby making the image available to a wide international audience. Tissot had a passion for oriental art. He collected Japanese prints, textiles, and porcelain, incorporating them as accessories in paintings, as well as depicting western-looking women dressed in kimonos. During bombardment in April and May 1871 of the Commune he volunteered as a stretcher-bearer. He sympathised with anti-government feelings and was appalled to see the brutality of the ‘bloody week’ in May when French troops suppressed the revolt, making sketches of what he witnessed.

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In June 1871 Tissot travelled to England for a private view of the official French contribution to the International Exhibition, not intending to stay long. He brought with him sketches made during the siege. Shocked by his eyewitness accounts his friends urged him to stay in London. After all, his work was admired in the metropolis and sales were phenomenal. Early in 1873 he settled at no. 17 (later: no. 44) Grove End Road, St John’s Wood, a detached residence that was built in 1825 with substantial grounds, a coach house and stables, and a formal pond ringed by an Ionic colonnade.
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He decorated the interior in a mixture of Empire and Victorian styles with a flavour of the Orient. In 1877, artist’s model Kathleen Newton [née Kelly] came to live with him. Of Irish descent, she was born in India where her marriage was arranged to an army surgeon in the Punjab. She soon left him and returned to England. As divorce was not recognised by the Catholic Church, their social sphere shrank to people to whom cohabitation was irrelevant. Kathleen became the main model in Tissot’s pictures from 1878. Their life of domesticity was short lived as his partner died of tuberculosis in November 1882. He left for Paris immediately after the funeral.

SAG65029 A Convalescent, c.1876 (oil on canvas) by Tissot, James Jacques Joseph (1836-1902); 76.7x99.2 cm; Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, UK; (add.info.: Tissot's garden in St John's Wood;); Photo © Museums Sheffield; French, out of copyright

The house stood empty for some time before it was acquired by Alma-Tadema. The property next door was owned by his good friend, the enormously successful historical genre painter (later keeper of the Royal Academy) Philip Hermogenes Calderon who was of mixed Spanish-French descent. Both became active members of the so-called St John’s Wood Clique. Calderon was a sociable man, and among his large circle of friends were members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, G. F. Watts, who painted his portrait, and many literary figures, notably George Du Maurier, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Dickens.

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His son Alfred Marigon Calderon was an architect. His first work after articling was the design of the Alma-Tadema residence. The house was extensively remodelled to an Italianate style. In fact, some 80% of Tissot’s dwelling was demolished for reconstruction. It was the owner’s ambition to create a temple of aestheticism. When it was finished critics described it as being more like an enchanted palace than a London house. A shady and tiled pergola led through the old garden from the gate to the front door which was made of carved wood and surrounded by deep bronze relief. The entrance to the hall was designed in a classic style, and the floors were laid with Persian tiles. It was known as the Hall of Panels, an ‘unending’ series (some fifty in total) of narrow vertical panels painted in brilliant colours against the white walls by friends and visiting artists (twenty six of the panels reappeared at a Sotheby’s auction in 1974; and four panels were sold in The Forbes Collection auction at Christie’s in 2003). Around the hall were various rooms, one of which was filled with choice treasures from China and Japan. Another room had leather-covered walls, old cabinets and highly-polished brasses of Dutch design and workmanship. The house had sixty-six rooms in total, including an atrium, a billiard room, and a large cellar just for mineral waters. Central to the structure was a balcony overlooking a marble basin with a babbling fountain. There were studios for Anna, Laura and Lawrence himself. For Laura’s Dutch-style studio a team of craftsmen were brought over from Holland to fabricate the oak-beamed ceiling and oak wall panelling with matching chimneypiece.
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The same team put together the adjoining bedroom from Dutch woodwork and Delft tileware. Lawrence himself occupied a three-story studio with walls of gray and green marble, magnificent stained-glass windows designed by American artist of French descent John La Farge, and capped with a semi-circular dome covered in aluminium which gave a silvery tone to his paintings. The family finally moved into the house in November 1886. The inscription above the door read ‘Where friends meet hearts warm’ and a stream of famous visitors did pass through the door, from Tchaikovsky, Rodin, Henry James, Sarah Bernardt, Ignacy Paderewski, Enrico Caruso, to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and young Winston Churchill. An Arab Hall in Holland Park or an Italianate villa with a Persian entrance in St John’s Wood – these artist’s mansions emphasise the stylistic confusion of the age. In art and architecture, it was an eclectic free for all, a carnival of styles. Eclecticism is the borrowing and combining of a variety of manners from different sources or periods. It does not constitute a specific style, but it fuses a variety of influences. A pluralistic society is by its very nature eclectic. Ignoring the wealth of our past would lead to collective amnesia.
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The problem with nineteenth century eclecticism however was identified as early as 1836 by Augustus Welby Pugin in his Contrasts (p.31): ‘Let us look around, and see whether the Architecture of this country is not entirely ruled by whim and caprice. Does locality, destination, or character of a building, form the basis of a design? No; surely not. We have Swiss cottages in a flat country; Italian villas in the coldest situations; a Turkish kremlin for a royal residence; Greek temples in crowded lanes; Egyptian auction rooms; and all kinds of absurdities and incongruities: and not only are separate edifices erected in these inappropriate and unsuitable styles, but we have only to look into those nests of monstrosities, the Regent’s Park and Regent Street, where all kind of styles are jumbled together to make up a mass’.

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London’s explosive urban and industrial expansion during the nineteenth century required functional planning. In order to build rapidly and extensively an attempt was made to perfect standard types. Mass construction created a sense of urban monotony because the individual building was less significant than the series to which it belonged. Architecture became standardised, regulated and quantified. Purpose and functionality became prime considerations and the question of style was relegated to secondary status. This is the paradox of the age. Never before had the variety of styles been so great and the tendency towards evenness so visible. Novelty itself was confused, a labyrinth of experiments. The Victorian brand of Classicism/Orientalism was essentially escapist, a vogue for the exotic, a craving for colour in an age dressed in black. Architecture deteriorated into a fancy-dress party. In an age of extraordinary scientific and technological progress, art and architecture were mesmerised by Antiquity and the Orient, by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It caused a dilemma of identity. Alma-Tadema’s painting is an expression of that muddle.

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Britain’s overseas expansion moreover stimulated grand comparisons. Roman dignity was claimed for British monarchs. In 1876 Disraeli introduced the Royal Titles Act which raised the status of the English queen to ‘Regina et Imperatrix’. British imperialists were keen to draw the historical parallel with Imperial Rome to justify their expansionist actions. Rome was seen as the most instructive of all histories to contemporary British ambitions. It was an appealing analogy: Rome had been a civilizing force in barbaric times and Britain’s mission was to play a similar role in the modern world. But it was also an ample warning: the decadence and degeneration of the eternal city should function as a continuous reminder to rulers and administrators. Alma-Tadema affirmed such historical comparisons in paint. In his depictions ancient Rome and modern London are on a par. His Roman citizen in front of the temple did not seem to differ from a business man on his way to the Stock Exchange with its imitation temple front. He was a Victorian city-dweller in toga. Modernism redirected art towards the present once again and re-formulated the axiom that architecture is fundamentally current speech, not a dictionary of classical quotation.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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