Metropolitan History
26 October 2011
Joseph de Sapio (Oxford)
Worse than Cimmerian Darkness: fog and the representation of Victorian London

What do tourists say about London in the nineteenth century?  Representations of the London fog are common in the nineteenth century especially amongst visitors to the city.  This helps us to explore the relationship between the citizen/visitor and the city itself.  Joseph de Sapio looks at how the fog challenged the visual understanding of the city; transforming the urban landscape into something other worldly.  De Sapio goes as far as to suggest that the fog inverted the urban modernity of the landscape creating a distortion of the modern system.  In one respect the fog became part of London’s character and when serious attempts were made to reduce the fog a feeling of loss comes through in the literature.  A certain ‘romance’ was held for the fog entirely separated from its presence as a nuisance and health threat.  The practical difficulties are, however, not ignored in the paper – deep fog could obscure landmarks making it very hard to work out where you were going in the city, especially if you were a visitor.  Joseph de Sapio describes Victorian London in terms of character but also in terms of the visual and of movement within the urban setting.

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