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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: September 2011

9 - London in Victorian visual culture

Summary

Over 150 years separate Hogarth's etching and engraving of Gin Lane (see Figure 9.1) from Walter Richard Sickert's painting The Camden Town Murder; or, What Shall We Do about the Rent? (Figure 9.2). However, a particular view of London, one that is geographically and socially specific, as well as morally charged, envelops both of these representations. Gin Lane, normally paired with the more prosperous and cheerful London of Beer Street, was Hogarth's attempt to influence the passage of the Gin Act to regulate the sale of spirits that was driving the London poor to theft, murder, and suicidal despair. His grim satirical engraving, set in the notorious district of St Giles, with Hawksmoor's St George's Church peeping up behind the decrepit scrim of tenements, reduces social life to the pawn shop, the distillers, and the undertakers. The gin-sodden poor gnaw bones with the animals, while the negligent mother at the perspectival heart of the composition commits careless infanticide.