JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
There is almost nothing in this image except for bricks--a few people are in their tiny gardens, and there's a tiny bit of sky visible just above the train on the railway bridge. But the medium of the image is brick. And smoke, and soot. Sooty red bricks rendered in black-and-white in this homage to the working classes of London, a temple of bricks for the second-generation members and cogs of the industrial revolution, packed together in a neat and orderly and tight way. By this point, in 1872, there were strong differentiations between the lower middle class and the working poor, and these people below--with their own houses and yards--are the lower middle class and the very backbone of the British Empire.
This is the work of Gustave Dore from 1872, "Over London by Rail", as it appeared in Blanchard Jerrold's London, a Pilgrimage (1872). It seems that in this collaborative expedition into the city of London that the Frenchman-_Dore--gives us the best view of what life was like then. The pair set out to document, to record, to observe--Blanchard provides the text, and he does a very good job at seeing and responding to it,m doing so with almost no interior thoughts about causes or reasons. Dore responds with pictures, and for the most part is a devastating chronicler.
Some of the 180 illustrations can be seen here.
"The massing of the poor – the density increasing with the poverty – is at the root of the evils which afflict most of the great cities of Europe. It is the striking and affecting feature of London especially, where in the lanes and alleys the houses are so full of children that, to use wit’s illustration, you can hardly shut the street door for them. In the poorest of London’s districts the men, women, and children appear, on entering, to have abandoned all hope. There is a desperate, ferocious levity in the air: and the thin, wan, woe-begone faces laugh and jeer at you as you pass by. They are the workless of work-a-day London – born in idleness to die in the workhouse, or upon bare boards."
Blanchard Jerrold; London: A Pilgrimage, 1