Novel Tourism: Web 2.0

February 13, 2009

Methodologies change over time in relation to descriptions of haunts and scenes of novels and film productions based on them. Easily identified Parisian settings for Marcel Proust novels evolved into a thriving tourist industry. Web 2.0 Virtual Tourism is yet another way in which we can engage with our favourite stories from the classics and popular culture, situating them in the liminal space between the fictional and real.

In the 1980s television series were filmed in spots that were already booming tourist attractions expanding interest to include geographical features, archaeological sites and objects, architecture, pubs, gardens, estates, colleges, etc. The Inspector Morse series was filmed in the Thames Valley area, mainly in Oxford. The charming countryside along the Thames River has attracted tourists following in the carriage wheels of London aristocracy who built fine and stately country homes like Blenheim around which picturesque villages developed. The Inspector Morse series filled with bodies found floating in the Isis, the Cherwell or the Thames, also overflows with culture-rich references. In every episode there are many photo opportunities for local tourist venues and even tour buses and guides make appearances as memorable “objects.”

Charles Dickens stage was modern with its “lime-lights, trapdoors and elaborate sets (Rideing 1885).” There is a much greater opportunity for readers to identify specific locations through Charles Dickens’ powerful word painting in which he elaborates with great fidelity, minute descriptive details (that would be boring if not humourous) of the furnishings, everyday objects and the haunts of his characters making the settings as memorable as the people who inhabited them. Rideing compared Dickens’ methodology to Thackerey’s. Thackerey’s stage for Vanity Fair (1847-8), for example, was classic “with a dais of drapery of green baize before the time of scenery (Rideing 1885). Dickens localized his characters, Thackerey did not.

Using a gaggle of Web 2.0 technologies, including customized Google Maps, I began to map some of these references as yet another way to engage with nonlinear space and time. Possibilities are virtually infinite.

Webliography and Bibliography

Rideing, William Henry. 1885. Thackeray’s London: Description of his Haunts and the Scenes of his Novels. London: J. W. Jarvis and Son. King William Street, Strand, W. C./ Boston, U.S. CUPJ-Les, Upham and Co. Isaac Foot Library. Copyright, 1885. Washington, D. C.

Thackeray, William. 1847-8. Vanity Fair.

Thackeray, William. 1847-8. A Roundabout Chapter between London and Hampshire.” Vanity Fair.

to be summarized and edited out . . .

Rideing (1885) explains,
“Thackeray does not give the same opportunities for the identification of his scenes as Dickens. The elaboration with which the latter localizes his characters, and the descriptive minutiae with which he makes their haunts no less memorable than themselves, are not to be found in the works of the author of Vanity Fair. No faculty was stronger in Dickens, or of more service to him, than his power of word-painting. He reproduces the objects by which the persons he describes are surrounded with a fidelity which would be tedious, if it were not relieved by the humor which humanizes bricks, and imparts a grotesque sort of sensibility to articles of furniture; and it is not easy to think of any of his leading characters without being reminded of the neighborhoods in which they played their parts. Thackeray, on the contrary, is not topographical. The briefest mention of a street suffices with him, and it is the character, not the locality, which has permanence in the reader’s mind. Every feature of Becky Sharp is remembered with a vividness which disassociates her with fiction; but the situation of the little house in which the unfortunate Rawdon finally discovers her duplicity, in the famous scene with the Marquis of Steyne, escapes the memory. When the book is no longer fresh to him, the reader may recollect that after her marriage she went to live in Mayfair, and may picture to himself a small, fashionable
dwelling in that aristocratic neighbourhood; but he cannot remember that the author places it in Curzon street, nor that the Sedleys lived in Russell Square, Philip in Old Parr street, and Colonel Newcome in Fitzroy Square. We have one example in Thackeray of the grotesquely humorous descriptive power of which Dickens was a master. It hits at the absurd nomenclature of modern London suburbs, where every box of a house has some high-sounding name of the sort which ornaments the fiction of the ” Chambermaid’s Companion,” and it describes the neighbourhood into which the Sedleys moved after their failure — ” St. Adelaide Villa, Anna Maria Road, West, where the houses look like baby houses; where the people looking out of the first floor windows must infallibly, as you think, sit with their feet in the parlors below; where the shrubs in the little gardens in front bloom with a perennial display of little children’s pinafores, little red socks, caps, etc. (polyandria polygenia); whence you hear the sound of jingling spinets and women singing ; and whither, of an evening, you see city clerks plodding wearily.” The fanciful supposition that persons in the upper stories must have their legs on the lower floor is richly characteristic of the manner in which Dickens would have indicated the smallness of the houses. It is a touch of that kind of humour which distinguishes all the work of that author, and which was one of his most serviceable resources; it gives facial expression to inanimate objects, and, as we have said, it individualizes the haunts of his characters no less than the characters themselves. But it is so rare in Thackeray that the exhibition of it in this fragment strikes us, as the lurid style of the earlier writings of Lord Lytton would do if we were to find a passage from them interpolated among the confiding garrulities of Vanity Fair.” (Rideing 1885).”

“It was not that Thackeray lacked the power of observation in the direction of externals, — though he certainly did not possess it in the same degree as Dickens — nor that his characters were airy visions to him, requiring no other habitation than the chambers of his brain; they were indeed flesh and blood to him, and Miss Thackeray has told a friend of the writer’s (Mr. R. R. Bowker), how, in her walks with her father, he would point out the very houses in which they lived. The difference was principally one of method. Thackeray’s was the classic stage — a dais with a drapery of green baize, before the time of scenery. Dickens’s was the modern stage, with lime-lights, trapdoors, and elaborate ” sets.” (Rideing 1885).”

11. “Though his other scenes are misty, no reader of Thackeray who engages in a search for the places which he describes is likely, however, to overlook the Charterhouse, the ancient foundation to which he refers again and again, dwelling on it with many fond reminiscences. It is the school in which he himself was educated, and he has associated three generations of his characters with it. Thomas Newcome received instruction here, also his son Clive, with Pendennis, Osborne, and Philip of the second generation, after whom came Rawdon Crawley’s little son and young George Osborne ; and, finally, the dear old Colonel, when broken down and weary, joined the poor brethren who are pensioners of the institution, and within its monastic walls cried Adsiim as he heard a voice summoning him to the everlasting peace. Occasionally it is called Slaughter-house, once or twice ” Smiffle” (after the boys’ way of pronouncing Smithfield, where it is situated); but in Thackeray’s later works he generally speaks of it as Grayfriars or Whitefriars (Rideing 1885).”

“It had been,” he says in Vanity Fair, “a Cistercian convent in old days when the Smith field, which is contiguous to it, was a tournament ground. Obstinate heretics used to be brought thither, convenient for burning hard by. Henry the Eighth seized upon the monastery and its possessions, and hanged and tortured some of the monks who would not accommodate themselves to the pace of his reform. Finally, a great merchant bought the house and land adjoining, in which, with the help of other wealthy endowments of land and money, he established a famous foundation hospital for old men and children. An extra school grew round the old, almost monastic foundation, which subsists still with its middle-age costume and usages; and all Christians pray that it may flourish (Rideing 1885).”

“Of this famous house some of the greatest noblemen, prelates and dignitaries in England, are governors ; and as the boys are very comfortably lodged, fed and educated, and subsequently inducted to good scholarships at the University, and livings in the Church, many little gentlemen are devoted to the ecclesiastical profession from their tenderest years, and there is considerable emulation to procure nominations for the foundation. It was originally intended for the sons of poor and deserving clerics and laics; but many of the noble governors of the institution, with an enlarged and rather capricious benevolence, selected all sorts of objects for their bounty. To get an education for nothing, and a livelihood and profession assured, was so excellent a scheme, that some of the richest people did not disdain it ; and not only the great men’s relations, but great men themselves, sent their sons to profit by the chance. Right reverend prelates sent their own kinsmen as the sons of their clergy, while on the other hand some great noble
men did not disdain to patronize the children of their confidential servants, so that a lad entering this establishment had every variety of youthful society where-with to mingle (Rideing 1885).”

“As a rule, however, the boys belong to the upper classes, and an education obtained at Charterhouse is scarcely less of a social distinction than the much coveted and costly preparation of Eton, Harrow, or Winchester. The history of the school is full of brilliant names, and among its scholars have been Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Isaac Barrow, General Havelock, Sir William Blackstone, Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough, Lord Liverpool, John Wesley and George Grote. It is possible that one may know London intimately, and yet be ignorant of the situation of the Charterhouse. Smithfield is out of the way of the main lines of traffic: it is a squalid neighbourhood, north of Ludgate Hill, and it retains its ancient characteristics more than almost all other parts of the great city, — which has been so modernized that Cheapside looks like a slice of Broadway, and once shabby Fleet Street is showing all sorts of ornamental fronts. It has in it many solemn brick houses of a blackish purple, with glowing roofs of red tiles; smaller buildings of an earlier period, with high peaked gables and overlapping second stories; sequestred alleys, and courts bearing queer names, and many curious little shops (Rideing 1885).”

“One of the most direct approaches to it is through the Old Bailey from Ludgate Hill. On this route we pass the austere granite of Newgate Prison and also Pye Corner, where as the sign-board of a public house tells us, the great fire of 1666 ended, after burning from the 2nd to the loth of September; we also pass Cock Lane, famous for its ghost, and the quaintest of old London churches, St. Bartholomew the Great, which is hemmed in and partly extinguished by the surrounding houses, that hide all but its smoked and patched tower, and a few square feet of grass, which is justifiably discouraged in its want of sunshine and space; thence our path is by the extensive buildings of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, about which there is a morbid activity in the flow of officials and visitors, most of the latter being slatternly and anxious-looking women, with babies and baskets on their arms, and from the Hospital we cross the street, and so through the new cattle market, which fills the space once occupied by the pens, and covers the spot whence the souls of many martyrs have passed in flame from the stake to heaven (Rideing 1885).”

III. “The buildings form an irregular cluster spread over a prodigal area, and isolated by a wall of brick and stone which many London fogs and long days of yellow weather have reduced to the dismalest of colors. None of them are lofty ; some of them are of granite, and others of brick, upon which age has cast a smoky mantle. They are separated by wide courts and winding passages ; and when I was there in the Easter vacation these open spaces were vacant, and the brisk twittering of the sparrows was the only sound that came from them. The quiet seemed all the greater, inasmuch as all around the walls is a busy neighbourhood, full of traffic and voices. The courts are for the most part paved with small cobblestones, and are cleanly swept; but some of them are grassy — grassy in the dingy and feeble way of London vegetation. These buildings look as sad as they are old; to the juvenile imagination the high walls and the severe architecture must be sharply distressing, and many a boy has felt his heart sink with misgiving
as, for the first time, he has been driven through the old gate-way, to be placed as a scholar on Thomas Sutton’s* famous foundation (The school was founded by Thomas Sutton, a rich merchant, in 1611. The buildings which are mostly of the i6th Century, had been used until the Reformation, as a monastery of Carthusian monks. “Charterhouse ” is a corruption of Chartreuse, and the scholars still call themselves Carthusians.) At this old gate-way, one day, I saw a very feeble old gentleman, strangely dressed in a scarlet waistcoat and bright blue trowsers, a brass-buttoned coat, and a high silk hat. He was very small and very weak, moving slowly with the help of a stick, and coughing painfully behind his pocket handkerchief. To my question as to the admission of strangers, he said, quaveringly: “If you are a patron, you may see the buildings, but you had better ask the janitor; there he is. I,” he added, with some hesitation,” I am one of the poor brethren.” The old head bowed dovv’n with years and sorrow, the white hair, the troublesome cough, the courteous amiability of manner, reminded me of Colonel Newcome — Codd Newcome, as the boys began to call him; and, indeed, this old gentleman had been a captain in the Queen’s service, as the janitor afterward told us, though he was not as stately nor as handsome as the dear old Colonel was. None of the celebrities of Charterhouse possesses the same vivid interest, the same hold upon our sympathies, the same command of the affections, as the brave, high-minded, large-hearted old soldier, who sacrificed all he had in the world to keep his honour spotless, and to shield others from misery (Rideing 1885).”

“As the janitor took us from hall to hall in the dark, monastic buildings, Colonel Newcome was constantly before us, and his figure, even more than that of Thackeray himself, filled our minds, and made us feel kindly to the old pensioners who were sunning themselves at the doors of their rooms, or were gathered in a quiet corner of one of the courts, chatting or reading. The pensioners, of whom there are eighty, remain in the old buildings, in which each of them has a sitting-room and a bed-room, with a servant to wait upon him. Their table is a common one, in a grand old dining-hall, and twice a day they don their gowns to go to service in the little chapel, to thank God for his manifold blessings and mercies. But the boys have been removed since 1870 to a magnificent new school at Godalming, Surrey, thirty-four miles away from London fogs and the crowds of Smithfield, and they have taken nearly all the relics of Thackeray with them, including the little bed in which he slept while a scholar. Their part of the buildings is now occupied by the Merchant Taylors’ School, which has added a large new schoolroom to the square. The ground is immensely valuable, and from an economic point of view it seems a waste to devote it to the obsolete buildings which fill the greater part of it. Soon, no doubt, another home will be found for the poor brethren, and when commerce takes possession of Charterhouse Square, one of the most interesting piles in London town will disappear (Rideing 1885).”

“The cleanliness and orderliness which leave no scrap of waste or wisp of straw or ridge of dust visible in the approach have also swept up every part of the interior; and though the smoke and dust have taken a tenacious hold, the charwoman’s (Several relics of Thackeray are preserved in the new school at Godalming, including some pen and ink sketches made by him, and five volumes containing all the existing MS. of The Newcomes. The MS. is written partly in his own hand, partly in the hand of Miss Anne Thackeray (now Mrs. Ritchie), and partly in another hand. Several stones on which some of the old scholars, including Thackeray, carved their names, have also been removed from the old school in London to the new one. besom and scrubbing-brush have been vigorously apphed. The buildings look quite as old as they are. The oaken wainscoting is the deepest brown; the balusters and groining are massive and carved; the tapestries are indistinct and phantasmal, like faded pictures, and the walls are like those of a
fortress. It is easy in these surroundings to conjure up visions of the middle ages (Rideing 1885).”

“The site of the dormitories of the Charterhouse boys is now occupied by the new school-room of the Merchant Taylors; but looking upon it is a dusky cloister, once given to the prayerful meditations of the friars, which in Thackeray’s time and later was used for games of ball; the gloom is everywhere. The ghosts of the silent brothers seem fitter tenants than the boys with shining faces and ringing voices. There are narrow, suspicious-looking passages, and heavily-barred, irresistible oaken doors. But these corridors and barriers against the unwelcome lead into several apartments of truly magnificent size and faded splendour. The dining-hall of the poor brethren has wainscoting from twelve to twenty feet high, a massively groined roof, a musicians’ gallery with a carved balustrade, and a large fire-place framed in ornamental oak, over which the Sutton arms are emblazoned; while at the end of the room is a portrait of the founder, dressed in a flowing gown and the suffocatingly frilled collar of his time. Parallel to this, and accessible by a low door, is the dining-hall of the gown boys, a long, narrow room, with a very low ceiling, high wainscoting, a knotty floor, insufficient windows, and another large fire-place inclosed by an elaborate mantel-piece of oak. Here almost side by side, these boys with life untried before them and the old men well-nigh at their journey’s end, ate the bread provided for them by their common benefactor, and joined voices in thanksgiving; here still the old pensioners assemble, and in trembling voices murmur grace over the provision made for them. Upstairs there is a banqueting-hall, which is not inferior in sombre grandeur to that of the poor brothers, and was once honoured by the presence of Queen Elizabeth. It also is wainscoted and groined, and hung with tapestries, out of which the pictures have nearly vanished. The fire-place is the finest of all, and above it some hazy paintings are lost in the shadow (Rideing 1885).”

“Thackeray was one of the foundation scholars, and lived in the school, and wore a gown. He was, from all accounts, an average boy, undistinguished by industry or precocious ability. He was very much like many of Dr. Birch’s little friends: a simple honest, and sometimes mischievous lad. Though he was never elected orator or poet, he wrote parodies, and was clever with a pencil, which he used with no little fancy and humour. The margins of books and scraps of paper of all kinds were covered with sketches, most of them caricatures; and it is said to have been a familiar thing to see the artist surrounded by an admiring crowd of his school-fellows, while he developed, with grotesque extravagance and never-failing effect, the outlines of some juvenile hero or some notability of history. The head master of the school was severe, and as Thackeray was very sensitive, it is supposed that his school days were not of the happiest. But he bore the . . . (Rideing 1885).”

“The family home of our friends the Crawleys, in Great Gaunt Street . . . (Thackeray 1847-8:44-1). “A Roundabout Chapter between London and Hampshire.” Vanity Fair. “The family home of our friends the Crawleys, in Great Gaunt Street


Webliography and Bibliography

Rideing, William Henry. 1885. Thackeray’s London: Description of his Haunts and the Scenes of his Novels. London: J. W. Jarvis and Son. King William Street, Strand, W. C./ Boston, U.S. CUPJ-Les, Upham and Co. Isaac Foot Library. Copyright, 1885. Washington, D. C.

Thackeray, William. 1847-8. Vanity Fair. “The family home of our friends the Crawleys, in Great Gaunt Street http://thackeray.thefreelibrary.com/Vanity-Fair/44-1

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