Blue Gate Fields (Final Project)

Blue Gate Fields in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray becomes the pivotal moment in the novel where Dorian’s soul is eternally damned with corruption. The essence of Blue Gate Fields is located in an area deriving of low middle class, poverty stricken people, and vicious criminals as depicted in the Booth Poverty online archive. An area where Basil would color as a place that vile creatures lived, and it becomes an area in which Dorian yearns for. The descent into Blue Gate Fields begins in Chapter 11 where the narrator explains Dorian’s affliction with becoming a denizen of the decrepit East London location: “Then, suddenly, some night he would creep out of the house, go down to dreadful places near Blue Gate Fields, and stay there, day after day, until he was driven away” (Wilde). The use of the word “suddenly” becomes a defining characteristic of the nature of Dorian’s descent into West London and the corruption affiliated with the area. For a man defined as “pure” on the outside stalking about in the most wretched of places “suddenly” exposes the ways in which Dorian himself can slip versatilely between aristocracy and the criminal squatters of Blue Gate Fields on a whim.

cabel streetLater on in the novel we find that Dorian frequents Blue Gate Fields for its opium dens. In Chapter 16, the corruption of Dorian’s soul becomes exploited through the means of obtaining opium to blissfully ebb away the insidious sins that he had committed over the years: “There were opium dens where one could buy oblivion, dens of horror where the memory of old sins could be destroyed by the madness of sins that were new” (Wilde). The area surrounding Cable street (the real name of the notorious Blue Gate Fields) that Dorian frequents for its opium dens harbored many violent thefts, sexual offences, and cases of deception. The narrator describes the area in which Dorian runs around as “a dark lane. Over the low roofs and jagged chimney-stacks of the houses rose the black masts of ships. Wreaths of white mist clung like ghostly sails to the yards” (Wilde). Despite the fact that the harbor is relatively further away than Wilde depicts, the area near water is the defining characteristic that brings the opium den’s realistic nature to fruition.

Blue Gate Field’s location in the story also allows for the altercation between Dorian and James Vane to take place with the gun and the threat to Dorian’s life. The violent nature of Dorian’s sins and James’s intent of murdering Dorian to avenge his departed sister is consumed within the Eastern part of London as a way to condemn these two characters who are corrupted: one with vengeance, the other with insatiable desire for beauty and a painting that encapsulates it.


Works Cited:

“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.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)/Chapter 11 and 16.” – Wikisource, the Free Online Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

“The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.” Browse. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015

The Bristol (Final Project)

We see the Bristol very briefly in The Picture of Dorian Gray , but it’s purpose is to serve the transformation of Dorian into the easily manipulated young man that he is. In Chapter 6 of Oscar Wilde’s novel, the evening at the high-end hotel Bristol where Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil talk about the marriage proposal between Dorian and Sybil: “Hallward was shown into a little private room at the Bristol where dinner had been laid for three” (Wilde). The motif exposed within this chapter surrounding beauty and sensibility that enamors Dorian. The dichotomy of the East versus the West in The Picture of Dorian Gray exposes the sinister hidden within the glamour of the posh and rich aesthetic of the West side of London in characters like Lord Henry, while later on in the novel, the East exposes the sinister side entering through Dorian and festering in the portrait. The manipulation from Lord Henry and the appeal of aestheticism begins Dorian’s journey into the evils of ugliness and the disgust of denying art.

From the map acquired from the Booth Poverty archive, the Brisol is located within Burlington Gardens. The red below exposes the upper middle class living that goes on in this area along with a select few of wealthy citizens of London in the area. This high class upbringing brings to life the reality in which Wilde’s characters experienced and gives a realistic appeal to his novel. The Bristol becomes a societal setting that encroaches and exposes the distaste and ugliness of the lower class.

burlington gardens

Within the sixth chapter, Basil expresses his contempt for the lower class: “‘I hope the girl is good, Harry. I don’t want to see Dorian tied to some vile creature, who might degrade his nature and ruin his intellect'” (Wilde). By painting Sybil as a “vile creature,” the reader is left to understand the distancing of social class. The upper class is considered human and much more, while the lower class is depicted as monstrous. This further exploits the way in which Dorian’s portrait and actions becomes horrendous and vile like that of a monster. The exact opposite is Sybil’s character. She is quite beautiful, naive, and infatuated with Dorian. Basil’s quote should be pointed at Dorian instead of poor Sybil Vane. While Sybil does not encompass the depiction that Basil paints of her, Dorian does quite literally through the portrait.

Even though the West side of London is filled with the rich patrons of the city, it is not devoid of crime. The Old Bailey claims to have documented various accounts of robbery and grand larceny within the area of Burlington Gardens. The act of evil deeds pour out across the area, as how Dorian’s evil acts of murder and manipulation proceed throughout the novel.


Works Cited:

“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.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)/Chapter 6.” – Wikisource, the Free Online Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

“The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.” Browse. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015

Blue Gate Fields

Having not read The Picture of Dorian Gray at all prior to this class, but only having a basic overview of the plot, I went in thinking that Blue Gate Fields would be a extremely fancy place. Well, I guess we all have those moments when our dreams are shattered. Just like Dorian. Blue Gate Fields happens to be one of the most notorious slums harboring many opium dens that Dorian frequents. Given the fact that we have read about opium dens in Sherlock Holmes, the geographical location of this “maybe real, maybe fantastical” area would be around a harbor or a dock so that the smuggling of opium by water could happen.

blue gate fields

In Chapter 11, there is only one part that specifically mentions the Fields, but it is a crucial moment where Dorian falls into corruption: “Then, suddenly, some night he would creep out of the house, go down to dreadful places near Blue Gate Fields, and stay there, day after day, until he was driven away” (Chpt. 11). Despite the fact that I could not find a specific place that was donned the name “Blue Gate Fields,” I was able to come up with an area that might have been given the notorious name. The dens symbolize Dorian’s inner turmoil. The need to smuggle himself away from his proper lifestyle and squander himself among the slums exploits the inner darkness he is harboring, just like the slums hidden behind closed doors.

In the Victorian Dictionary, an entry for Blue Gate Fields depicting the place as the following: “Generally, the name “Bluegate Fields” was used to refer to one of the worst slum areas that once existed at the east end of London (just north of the old London docks) during Victorian times” (Fisher, “Bluegate Fields”). Here we can see the sin and corruption seeping out of the painting into Dorian himself. The areas in which Dorian frequents becomes an external source to the corruption of the painting. Even though he may not age, there is still his reputation that can become damaged. The fact that Dorian would go to one of the worst slums in all of Victorian London explores the corruption of the inside leaking out of him as opposed to the painting which exploits the corruption physically.


Works Cited

Jackson, Lee. “Victorian London – Districts – Streets – Bluegate Fields” Dictionary of Victorian London. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)/Chapter 11.” – Wikisource, the Free Online Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.

Upper Swandam Lane

Swan Lane


In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short Sherlock Holmes story, “The Man with the Twisted Lip”, the reader is introduced to the eerie and narrow Upper Swandam Lane based on its realistic counterpart, Swan Lane.

Upper Swamdam Lane, according to Dr. Watson is “a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves which line the north side of the river to the east of London Bridge. Between a slop-shop and a gin-shop, approached by a steep flight of steps leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave, I found the den of which I was in search” (Doyle 128). East London, as we have consistently read about, is not a nest that the rich are wont to reside. Depicted on the map above, Swan Lane looks as though it is hidden, making it a back-alley to put the poor of London with only a single entrance from Thames Street. Because of Swan Lane’s location in London, being relatively near the Thames and surrounded by various wharves and piers, the incoming trafficking of opium made Swan Lane a perfect area for Doyle to fictionalize his pivotal plot point of the opium den.

swan poverty pic


From The Charles Booth Online Poverty Archive, Swan Lane, located inside the star on the above image, is light blue in color, indicating the impoverished living in the area. Due to the poor, seemingly closed off street, and its proximity to London Bridge and Cannon Street Station, Doyle’s character Neville St. Clair is able to embody a beggar and use the opium den as a changing room from one facet of life into another. The opium den reeling in the rich to a poverty-stricken area is a perfect place to cross one social class border into another. Especially when the rich are emptying their pockets to quell their opium addictions.

All in all, the historical data from the Booth Online Poverty Archive and the location of Swan Lane bring to life Doyle’s depiction of Upper Swandam Lane, as well as accurately expose a pocketed opium den. Through this, Doyle is able expose corruption of social class and addiction through a narrow port area.


Works Cited:

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Man with the Twisted Lip. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“Booth Poverty Map & Modern Map (Charles Booth Online Archive).” Booth Poverty Map & Modern Map (Charles Booth Online Archive). N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

Piccadilly Circus & class distinction


One of London’s lovely roundabouts, Piccadilly Circus connects an array of different streets together, including one of more famous streets–Regent Street. Yet, after coming up Piccadilly street, the circle homes many of London’s middle class as well as visitors from all around the city thanks to the omnibus chartering people around from place to place. As illustrated in In Dull Brown by Evelyn Sharp, the contrast in clothing displayed on the omnibus that Jean and Tom road around London “‘That comes of the simple russet gown,’ she thought ; ‘of
course he thinks I am a little shop-girl'” becomes a symbol of the middle class making up the Circus (182). The brown gown that Jean wears is one associated with the working class rather than the “monotony of black coats and umbrellas” of the upper class London citizens (185). The omnibus allows a mixing of classes where the rich and the less-than-rich ride around London with ease in order to get from place to place; converging rather than segregating the class systems. To further explore the class surrounding the massive circle, “Charles Booth Online Archive” provides maps with the layout of the impoverished.

piccdilly 1
Locals surrounding the Circus





piccdilly 2



As shown by the picture above, the red surrounding Piccadilly street and the Circus were well-off, middle class ladies and gents.

Upon further inspection of the Circus area of London, deep in “the  Proceedings of the Old Bailey” records online, many crimes of theft had been recorded during London’s history. According to various court recordings from various different men of working class vocation (typically carpenters, shoe makers, guilder, barmen, etc), many accounts of larceny and pick-pocketing had occurred within the Piccadilly area of Victorian London. From one of the pick-pocket accounts on the Bailey’s website archives, the defendant went on to elaborate about the crime:  “I felt a pull at my pocket; I turned and saw the prisoner drop my handkerchief; I laid hold of him,” and in turn the thief, a man of 18, pleaded guilty and had served fourteen years (Old Bailey). An astoundingly lengthy amount of time to serve for a handkerchief of only 5 shillings. Then again, better than losing one’s hands for pleading guilty to theft. The concentration of crime in the Circus, and even the pick-pocketing of cloth could have to do more-so with the sanitation problem striking London during this time. Thanks to the incorporation of omnibuses, the amount of pollution in the air and sickness running rapid could cause the need to steal personal items or money from those within the large area. That, or poverty from the surrounding streets brought out the need to reach into pockets of the rich despite the harsh, long sentences stapled to those found guilty.


Works Cited:

“The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.” Results. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2015

“The Charles Booth Online Archive.” Results. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2015

“In Dull Brown.” The Yellow Nineties Online – Search the Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2015.

#2: Victorian Burials

This actually came as a shock to me while I was searching through the vast list of The Victorian Dictionary website and spotted the headline: Death & Dying. From the previous blog post, I read about the overcrowded state that London was in during the Victorian Era due to the migration of citizens from all over England settling down in the modernizing, vast city. Frankly, I did not even think about what happened past all of the disease that would be transferred from close living quarters of people, especially in the impoverished districts of London. Let alone the devious nature surrounding burials that churches were trying to shove under the carpets.

Death was, and still is, a rather expensive investment. Only the rich could afford a singular plot of land for a grave and a headstone out in the spacious countryside, “Wealth in London helps a man after death” (Bartlett 94).  Rather than providing proper burials to those living in the city of London the churches would provide mass burials down in the basements of the churches. Tens of thousands of bodies lying to rot beneath the feet of worshipers. The church collected the money from grieving families, carted the bodies to the cellars, and collected donations from the worshipers whom contracted diseases from the bodies beneath the floorboards.

Victorian London thus brought overcrowded to an entirely new level in body count surrounding the living and the dead. With disease on the rise and not much room left in the basements of these churches, disposal of the older corpses were deposited into the Thames until quicklime was rendered a more practical method of disposing of older corpses under the noses of the House of Commons. And with whatever land was accessible by plots surrounding the church, the ground was used for mass graves. Quite a horrific way of burying the dead in one of the most famous modernizing cities in the entire world. Yet, the church capitalizing on the deaths of those in the impoverished class expresses the corruption slithering around during the Victorian Era. The lack of heath and safety regulations regarding the burying of human remains during this time period was slim-to-none, and allowed for the actions of the Church to get away with robbing the people of their money and the deceased of a plot of land. And those who could not even afford buy a coffin, let alone bury the dead, could only leave the deceased within the homes with family members, to decompose for days on end (Sims 1883). The collaboration of these numerous factors (overcrowded living, corruption, and poverty) played a key role in the eruption of disease and the widespread death and miasma surrounding the city of London. A shocking yet intriguing section to happen upon in The Victorian Dictionary, and an absolutely horrifying time to live, and die, in the history of London.


Works Cited:

Jackson, Lee. “Victorian London – Publications – Social Investigation/Journalism – London by Day and Night, by David W.Bartlett, 1852.” Dictionary of Victorian London. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.

—. “Victorian London – Publications – Social Investigation/Journalism – How the Poor Live, by George R. Sims, 1883.” Dictionary of Victorian London. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.

#1: Introductory Blog

My name is Courtney Kiesecker,  I am a senior graduating in December and am double majoring in English and Asian Studies. I was interesting in taking this class not just because it was one of the very limited English major electives that I haven’t already taken already, but because I absolutely enjoy the culture that had spawned out of Victorian London. I was torn between studying abroad in London and Japan last semester, but ultimately went ahead and studied in Tokyo to improve my Japanese language skills. After graduation I hope to go back to Japan to teach English to Japanese students ranging from primary to secondary education.

From the Robinson reading, I gathered many of the broad topics of poverty, expansionism, industrialism, the division between the social classes and so on that is typically taught in history classes and throughout readings of novels like Dickens, Doyle, the Bronte sisters, and the Brownings’ poetry. But what I happened to find interesting was the distinct separation of the social class through the massive body of water, the Thames River. That physical, geographical representation of social diversion is essential to the theme of space that we had talked about on the first day of class. But where poverty was, the industrialized Victorian Era’s bridges to connect the north and the south brought about industry and banks. But not only did poverty play a part in poor living conditions, but now with the introduction of industry, including heavy industrial industry creating poor health decisions that would cause harder living conditions. And because of the heavy concentration surrounding the Thames River, the overcrowded nature of London, the city that had a concentrated population boom, was another key part of Victorian London’s decline in living conditions. The great innovations that were brought about in London society to bring the city into the modern era also held a negative impact on the livelihood of London citizens.