Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London

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Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London

Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London

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I appreciated the Marxist analysis of both the history and literature included in the book and I thought it contributed to his argument. In Nightwalking, Matthew Beaumont rubs shoulders with the deviants, dissidents and dispossessed who lurk in the shadows of Shakespeare, Johnson, Blake and De Quincey.

He is the only person to have won the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing twice, with Meadowland and Where Poppies Blow. Studies of walking, in particular in its nocturnal form, are pretty thin on the ground and Beaumont has built a fantastic foundation for future academics to build upon. The books concludes in Dickens’ insomniac walks to his country home, tortured as he was by some pre-Freudian psychology that would only be drawn out by the noirs and crime novels of the mid-20th century (outside Beaumont’s purview).

When one thinks of the London night in the present age, iconic images of Westminster, Piccadilly and the Thames Skyline are usually the first to emerge. A mostly very enjoyable and readable account of nightwalking in London from the eleventh century to the 19th, as mediated by literature. The author does an outstanding job of tracing how the simple act of walking after sunset has been viewed as morally suspect. I enjoyed his style of writing, a combination of first hand experience, and a wealth of knowledge all mixed with historical knowledge and quotations.

Before the age of electricity, the nighttime city was a very different place to the one we know today home to the lost, the vagrant and the noctambulant. There just wasn't enough of this book to give it 5 stars; the writing is beautiful and accomplished and conveys a true love of the countryside and natural world, I also enjoyed the author's choice of poems. He shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers: Chaucer and Shakespeare; William Blake and his ecstatic peregrinations and the feverish ramblings of opium addict Thomas De Quincey; and, among the lamp-lit literary throng, the supreme nightwalker Charles Dickens. Rich in imagery and idea, this is the kind of book that makes readers ask questions and explore further. Announced by the ringing of church bells, the London curfew required the closing of the city gates from sunset to sunrise and the arrest by the city’s watchmen of those found on the streets after dark without sufficient justification.Things don't always have to be linked up scrupulously, and enthusiasm is allowed to stand in for argument: we get the usual assortment of Benjamin and Adorno references, and a perfunctory passing reference to Louis Aragon and the Surrealists, that serves mainly to permit the odd wild inclusion of continental examples that may have significantly different cultural backstories. but I learned a lot about literature and london - didn't know marble arch was the site of tyburn tree, a public gallows. The night walks are separated into each season, and are roughly around 15 pages for each, which makes this book a quick and easy read. His writing is overly literary and self important - seeing the Forward was written by Will Self was fair warning, I suppose - making large chunks of the book almost unreadable. The illuminations that we take for granted today are, of course, a modern innovation; in centuries past, traversing the streets of London at night was a perilous undertaking.

Matthew Beaumont offers an alternative account of the city streets through the prism of its historical ‘nightwalkers’, uncovering hidden topographies of nocturnal London. I’m not a great nature fan or walker but the sights and sounds (and sometimes smells) are wonderfully evocative. Having to look up terminology every few sentences breaks any immersion I may have with a book and therefor this failed fundamentaly for me. In accordance with The Post Office, the last recommended date for Christmas posting is 18th December (2nd Class) and 20th December (First class).And all this with a heavy slant towards men of letters, when Beaumont doesn't switch to his other mode: a general description of London's social history, policing or analyzing specific words connected to walking. I Thoroughly enjoyed listening to the authors nocturnal adventures and his excellent descriptions of all of the creatures who venture out at night. A book which envelops you in a dark, velvety embrace, full of the wonders of night in the British countryside. Its exploration of London’s nightwalkers begins in Shakespeare’s walled city, in which there was no good reason for anyone but the night watch to be out; it proceeds through the bohemian period, in which the noctavagant are actively resisting the strictures of clock-watching artisans.

Most women would not feel safe walking alone at night, and he doesn't even acknowledge that in being able to have this freedom he has something many people don't.Although for citizens living away from the main thoroughfares the nights remained “nasty, brutish, and all too long”, as Beaumont neatly observes, for others street lighting completely transformed London. This is my first experience reading John Lewis-Stempel and though I did have to slow down and reread some lines, to really 'get it', I found him stimulating and enjoyable company. The belief that nightwalking was a precursor to deviancy precipitated the establishment of laws against nightwalking in England in 1285, aiming to reduce rising crime levels in town and cities, to regulate the lives of the general public and to restrict the movements of itinerants and vagrants. Photograph: Alan Thornton/Getty Images View image in fullscreen ‘Like a monster holding its breath’ … London after dark.



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