Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Review of the State of (London) Society in 1807

In 1808, James Peller Malcolm published a substantial--490 pages--tome about London.
Mr. Malcolm, born in America, was more artist than author. He lived for many years in England, and produced several books of topographical studies. As a writer he was thorough, didactic, and more than a little boring. The engravings in this book about London, however, more than make up for the deficiencies of his prose. And the last section of the book titled "Sketch of the Present State of Society in London" is worth a closer look.

Malcolm opens the section with a harsh indictment of the labouring classes. His words are needlessly unkind, and sneering. Rather than reproduce his tirade, I offer you his jaundiced view of the city:
After four pages of description of the flaws of the lowest classes, Malcolm proceeds to the class he considers one step above, the journeyman:

In Goswell Street--Antient inconvenience contrasted with modern convenience
Mr. Malcolm continues up the social ladder, as he sees it:

The ladies are not quite neglected. Fashion is of course mentioned in the same breath as the female sex.
The aristocracy and nobility occupy the last of Malcolm's treatise. They are excoriated for their excesses, but in all receive kinder treatment than the labourers.

And finally he bids London adieu:
 Though long, this post is only an excerpting of Malcolm's "Sketch". To view and/or download his entire book go here. The 'Sketch' is at page 481.

'Til next time,