The Orleans Club (King St)

The phrase “country club” immediately connotes the utmost pretention and affluence; to the average person, this is the location where men in nine-hundred dollar suits go to play golf and talk about their money in posh accents. While the stereotypes associated with these places are certainly not true for every member, they certainly are for Lord Henry Wotton. He says: “I can sympathise with everything except suffering…I cannot sympathise with that. It is too ugly, too horrible, too distressing” (Chapter 3). His credo is hedonistic at best and a direct result of his wealth; he especially does not sympathize with the suffering of the lower classes because they cannot afford the same self-indulgences and thus, they are deemed ugly. For Lord Henry, the “country club stereotype” holds true—he is, in fact, linked with the Orleans Club in the text. This elite club, based out of Twickenham, provided a town house on King St. (near Covent Garden) for both members as well as a non-members (for a fee).

We are not given any evidence to support whether or not Lord Henry is a member, only that he must “meet a man at the Orleans.” Either way, money is involved. If one was a member of the Twickenham Orleans Club, then the annual fee for the London Orleans Club was £8.8 (not including the £15.15 entrance fee and the £10.10 annual fee necessary for membership to Twickenham). In the year 2000, that roughly translates to £3,042 which, in 2015, is approximately $6,388. If he was not a member of the Twickenham branch but was only a member of the London branch, then he would have to pay the same annual fee of $6,388 plus the cost for each additional visit of $3,992. According to “Golf Digest,” the average cost of American country clubs is $6,245, so it follows that The Orleans Club has very high standards.

Because of the amount of money that is required to visit the Orleans club, one would imagine that it would be located in a wealthy district. According to the Charles Booth Poverty Map however, if the Orleans Club is located on King St. near Covent Gardens, it is surrounded by predominantly middle-class citizens with few poor districts interspersed throughout.

Orleans Club

This inconsistency could mean one of two things: either 1) that it could be located on a different King St. in London or 2) that it would account for the Orleans Club rule that “No person is eligible for admission who is not received in general society.” If the surrounding area was of a lower class, then rules are already in place to keep them out—coinciding completely with Lord Henry’s belief system and the classist disposition of many aristocrats. Either way, wealth is praised and poverty is admonished.


Avery, Brett. “Golf & Money: How To Join A Private Club.” Golf Digest. N.p., 12 Aug. 1012. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

“Booth Poverty Map & Modern Map (Charles Booth Online Archive).” Booth Poverty Map & Modern Map (Charles Booth Online Archive). N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

Gaskins, Robert, and Randall C. Merris. “Calculate Modern Values Of Historic Concertina Prices.” Concertina. N.p., 1 June 2005. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

“Orleans Club.” The Dictionary of Victorian London. Victorian Web. Web. Dec. 2015.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Chapter 2.” – Wikisource, the Free Online Library. N.p. 1891. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

Holborn Theatre Royal

Not much research can be found if a location has gone through three name changes and had burned down 135 years ago; however, it is not the significance of the Holborn Theatre as it relates to the grand scheme of history that makes it important, but rather its importance lies in its personal history’s relation to the characters in The Picture of Dorian Grey. The theatre opened in 1866 and was built in a yard that had previously held mail-carts and post-office omnibuses. It was the first playhouse built after the Theatres Act 1843 which stated that the Lord Chamberlin could only terminate a production if he believed it to be “fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace so to do”—greatly limiting the ultimate power over London theatres that he had previously possessed. Fortunately, this meant that the Lord Chamberlain was unable to close theatres for any reason concerning classism (as would occur before the Theatres Act 1843); this was especially favorable for the Holborn Theatre as it was located amongst a very poor to middle class section of London. The theatre burned down in 1880 but was never rebuilt.

It is the fire that interests me most—fire that destroyed a place of art. But for Dorian Grey, it was not a home of art; it was in a lower class neighborhood that was not rich with aesthetic beauty—he describes it as “a wretched hole of a place” (Chapter 4).

Holborn Theatre

The art for him in the Holborn Theatre was Sibyl Vane. Dorian first see Sibyl in the role of Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but the reader soon find out that she has played many a Shakespearean tragic heroin: Ophelia, Desdemona, Cordelia, etc. And like each of these characters, Sibyl dies because of a man in her life. Wilde writes, “They felt that the true test of any Juliet is the balcony scene…if she failed there, there was nothing in her” (Chapter 7). Unfortunately, her acting ability faltered and she did fail this crucial moment. Thus, Dorian falls in love with her for her art and falls out of love because of her lack of art; this causes her to commit suicide. The significance of the Holborn Theatre in all of this is that, like Sibyl, a vessel of Shakespearean drama and art is ultimately destroyed; the location most intimately linked with her also shares her fate. This poetic end (while not necessarily intentional) does add another layer of analysis to the novel and gives location a profound significance within the story.

“Booth Poverty Map & Modern Map (Charles Booth Online Archive).” Booth Poverty Map & Modern Map (Charles Booth Online Archive). N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

“Holborn Theatre Royal – The Theatres Trust.” The Theatres Trust. The National Advisory Public Body for Theatres, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

Walford, Edward. ‘Red Lion Square and neighbourhood.’ Old and New London: Volume 4. London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878. 545-553. British History Online. Web. 17 December 2015.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Chapter 2. – Wikisource, the Free Online Library. N.p. 1891. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.


Charing Cross: The Center of the City

Charing Cross

While Charing Cross is not exactly the central point of The Sherlock Holmes story The Man with a Twisted Lip, it is (as some would say) the central point in London and specifically refers to a junction of interconnecting streets. Here, the Strand, Whitehall, The Mall, Cockspur Street, and a few other smaller roads all flow into a roundabout that is located due south of Trafalgar Square. If you were to look at a zoomed out map (like the one seen below), this roundabout seems to be the geographical center of London and though the center could refer to many locations around the same area, it stands to be said that Charing Cross is has been used as a primary indicator of how far one is from the city since the early 1600s. For example, if you were to live in Brighton, one would measure the distance between the two cities by each’s midpoint: London’s being Charing Cross. In fact, because it was so central, coaches could be taken from here to many major cities in England such as Brighton in the south, Dover in the east, Cambridge in the north, and Bath in the west.

Charing Cross modern

As indicated by the Booth Poverty Archive, Charing Cross and the surrounding area is primarily middle class with few wealthy citizens and fewer in the low class. Because of this I assumed that the primary type of criminal activity would be petty larceny—those without money coming to take from those with—but I forgot about the main purpose for Charing Cross: the roadway. I have seen murder and theft time and time again but this was the first time I ever saw any accounts of vehicular manslaughter. Interestingly enough, some were deemed guilty and some were not even though I could not figure out why.

In the Sherlock Holmes story we read, the duo was out in the country (in an area called Lee) and Watson makes a note that they have already been through three other counties. Later on, Sherlock says: “I think, Watson, that you are now standing in the presence of one of the most absolute fools in Europe. I deserve to be kicked from here to Charing Cross.” This is the only mention of Charing Cross in the story, however it explains the importance of location. According to himself, Sherlock’s stupidity should send him walking straight back to London—referred to by its geographical center because they are out in the country.

London Bridge in “A Lost Masterpiece”

London Bridge


Bridges in Victorian London were not just a method of travel and a way to improve commerce; they were a path that led to assimilation between the north and south and one of the biggest factors in the expansion of the city. London Bridge itself happens to be almost directly in the center of London and therefore, both auto traffic as well as foot traffic are extremely plentiful. In fact, according to The Victorian Web’s London Bridge section, it states that approximately 22,000 vehicles and 110,000 pedestrians cross the bridge every day.

With the amount of traffic the bridge sees every day and the fact that it is located in the heart of the city, it is not difficult to surmise that there is quite a bit of criminal activity to be found on or near this landmark. When a search is done on the Old Bailey crime website, 102 matches pop up as opposed to the ten that can be found when searching a less treacherous location such as Green Park. Of the 102 matches, 99 of them are theft—most of which are small pickpocketing crimes but still plenty more are much worse. One account told the story of Sarah Arnold and Margret Atkins who were both attacked and carried from the bridge to a nearby tavern, where the attackers told the tavern owner that they were taking the women to a Justice of the Peace for treason. The article also states: “[Mrs. Arnold] declares, that they used her in a very uncivil manner, and gave abundance of ill names.” Now I may be imposing my own modern perspective, but the implications of that sentence seem to point to more than just theft. I personally believe that a lot more than just 102 accounts of criminal activity occurred on this bridge, just not all of it might be written down.

A huge factor in the fact that there is a lot more crime that happens on London Bridge as opposed to other places is the fact that there is a diverse economic standing among the residents that live nearby. As you can see on the map below, Borough High Street—the road just before you would reach London Bridge—is marked red for middle class, well-to-do, and is second on the Booth Poverty website in terms of wealth. Surrounding these wealthy citizens however (shown in light blue, blue, and black respectively), are the poor, the very poor, and the lowest class. The mix of these socioeconomic backgrounds on one main bridge might be the reason so much crime takes place as well as the fact that it is mostly theft.

Economic map of street leading to London Bridge
Economic map of street leading to London Bridge

In “A Lost Masterpiece” the narrator is the picture of conversion from country life to city life—full of optimism for a bright and better future. On their five mile steamboat ride up the Thames from Chelsea to London Bridge, they comment on their surroundings: “The river was wrapped in a delicate grey haze with a golden sub-tone, like a beautiful bright thought struggling for utterance through a mist of obscure words.” Even enveloped by greyness, the narrator still sees a golden hope shining through the fog. Throughout the text, they use words such as “drowned creatures,” “monster chimneys,” “murky depths,” and “hideous green.” Yet in the end they still say, “But what cared I? Was I not happy, absurdly happy?” I think there is a deep naivety in all immigration—be it to a foreign country or just to a city. But just as people from all over the world believe that immigrating to America will open up a new and better life for themselves, moving from country to city is just as much a fantasy. Their steamboat ride symbolizes this move perfectly: riding on a giant piece of industry into the very heart of industry. And perhaps the end of the story is a falling from on high—that in the same way that their bright optimism and inspiration is dashed by a rushing city girl, the hope of a brave new world, a beautiful world, is taken into perspective and mellowed.

The Victorian Dictionary from a Police Investigator

While the article that I had read in The Victorian Dictionary was rather confusing and the author was extremely longwinded—I feel as though I was able to glean a bit of information regarding Victorian London lifestyle. Written in 1895 by a social investigator/ journalist named George Augustus, this article primarily focused on the first person point-of-view of specific cases that the police force worked on. Augustus begins the section by telling the story of a repeat offender they have nicknamed “Baby Bronzeboots.” In describing her, he paints a picture of a low-class citizen whose face and hands are “innocent of soap and water” and who wears “imitation jewelry,” “a dreadful discoloured, rumpled old dress,” “a muff of fur, possibly once pertaining to the necessary harmless cat or the cheerful rabbit,” and a shoes “one of which has lost a heel.” Needless to say, she wasn’t exactly the picture of nobility; however, it does stand to mention that all we see of this woman is through Augustus’s eyes. We get the impression from reading George Augustus’ account that he is—at best—a middle to upper class man who does not look too favorably upon the lower class, and—at worst—a man who finds the lower class barbaric and filthy. Of all that I had read in this article, what stood out to me most was the extreme class separation.

Because the police force has just been invented during this century, things they do are almost comical in juxtaposition to 21st century police. First: it seems as though not much has changed as far as propaganda is considered. In modern day America (especially in regards to current events), police are condemned by many but put on a pedestal by others. Augustus—because he works for the force—is one of those who could find no fault with it. When “Baby Bronzeboots” is taken in for drunken assault, he comments on the reaction time by the police, saying: “where on earth do the people come from who, at two in the morning in London, at a minute’s notice, are always on hand when any trouble arises; do they come up from the sewer gratings, or down from the moon?” When I read this line I actually rolled my eyes because of the self-masturbatory way he describes this job. Second: the way they conduct hearings is unconventional to say the least. There is no jury, unfair punishment, and they provide the woman (convicted of drunken assault) with a glass of wine. The entire operation was a fiasco by modern standards.

Lastly, I learned from Augustus’ article a little bit about school systems and their use of corporal punishment. That being said, it is still unclear to me whether or not it was truly accepted (as I believe most 21st century people would assume it was in Victorian London). The bit of article that focuses on this topic spoke of Sarah Ann: a student who was the victim of a caning on her knuckles by the headmistress. However, when she told her mother, her mother went down to the school to respond physically. Augustus writes:

Mrs. Knobstick went down to the Board School, and, after firing several broadsides of unreportable language at the head of the schoolmistress, fell upon her, tooth and nail; tore out her hair by handfuls; pummelled and kicked her, and otherwise maltreated her; expressing at the same time a lively desire to throw a kettle of boiling water over Miss Trimmer, and to tear out her heart-strings, and use them as stay- laces.

On the first day of class, someone noted that Victorian London seemed quite violent and after reading the above passage, I am tempted to agree with them. I am still unsure as to whether or not corporal punishment was considered acceptable though, due to the fact that Mrs. Knobstick had such an adverse reaction to discovering her daughter was victim to it. That said, her response does feel a little over the top to me so it is possible that corporal punishment is considered acceptable and Mrs. Knobstick is just a little on the unstable side. I will just have to look further into it.

Introductions and The Class System

Hi everyone, my name is Ryan Lavoie and I am a senior majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing. Last semester, when I looked at the list of classes I could choose from for the upcoming fall, this one immediately caught my attention. At the time, I was actually studying abroad in London and looked forward to this class as almost a continuation of the experience.

After reading the Robinson article, I was most interested in the extreme class separation across the Thames. Modern London still sees a bit of distinction—despite landmarks such as the Shard, the Globe, and the Eye residing on the south-bank—but you will always find the ritzier apartments in the north and the lesser quality ones in the south. In Victorian London, however, the dissimilarity between the North and the South seems night and day. Robinson describes the south as the place where asylums and prisons are built, and with words like “smelly,” “dodgy,” and even “factories making vinegar,” we get the sense that the south-bank was a dirty, almost uninhabitable place to live in by our standards. Meanwhile the north (and East) sported places such as Regents Street, Piccadilly Circus, and the parks. Fortunately, with the building of the bridges that spanned the Thames, the differences between the two banks were able to blur a little—but all in all, the differences are still there.