Grammars of Space: The Language of London from Stow's 'Survey' to Defoe's 'Tour.' (John Stow, Daniel Defoe)
Wall, Cynthia, Philological Quarterly
But suppose a very large Map could be drawn, still the Inconveniency would be such, that the Inspector must have a magnifying Glass to read what he looke for, without such a Book as this, to direct in what part of the Town it lies.
There is no Place which (to the best of my Knowledge) I have escap'd.
William Stow, Remarks on London (1722)(1)
William Stow's words mark a new cultural sense of both the visual and the psychological uncontainability of London. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed four-fifths of the ancient commercial and topographic center of London within three days. All that had been familiar, settled, phenomenologically given, was suddenly and entirely swept away; Londoners of all ranks faced an emptiness that was not only physical and structural but also historical, social, financial, conceptual. In the decades that followed, the demands of rebuilding the city generated an intense and widespread interest in urban recovery and redefinition that shaped a new set of mapping technologies and a new set of descriptive literatures. Contemporary topographic, architectural, and cartographic texts began to share vocabularies, rhetorics, and assumptions in a citywide attempt to make the strange new spaces and structures of London comprehensible, familiar, navigable, containable. I want in this essay to explore the shift in narrative techniques and conceptual concerns of London topographies before and after the Fire as a shift in cultural perceptions of urban space.(2)
Before the Fire, the few descriptions of London (textual topographies) were modelled almost exclusively on John Stow's 1598 Survey of London, which conceptually presumes and narratively reflects a comparative sense of urban fixity, a recognizable correspondence between place-name and place-behavior or commercial function. Stow's Survey supplies narrative structures and grammatical paradigms of stasis, fixity, possession, containment, suggesting that the spaces and patterns of London's streets seemed more or less knowable, reliable, and relatively static. But as London was destroyed and rebuilt, recovered and remembered, reperceived and redefined, the experience of inhabiting its new spaces demanded new habits and new forms of expression. With a number of new maps of the city, for the first time consistently English-made, came a rush of guidebooks and topographies written expressly for Londoners.(3) Maps and topographies were designed and sold to meet the needs of "Gentlemen, Ladies, and others" for spatial reorientation.(4) They were made available in affordable, pocket-sized form, and became increasingly popular to a wide-ranging public.(5) As the ornamental bird's-eye-views and elevations of maps from the fifteenth through the early seventeenth centuries were replaced with two-dimensional groundplans that recorded the most obscure courts and alleys, so the narrativized antiquities of Stow disappeared under a welter of alphabetized and cross-referenced lists of street names designed to capture and make accessible the burgeoning new centers as well as the mystifying old corners of this swiftly changing space.
But as fast as the new spaces were mapped and described, they changed. Discernibly ambitious new building in the western suburbs, with discernibly different architectural assumptions,(6) added more of the new to the sense of shape, structure, and topography of the city, and effected even greater change in the city's social and commercial patterns. Shops, trades, neighbors, and social customs, dislodged from their medieval patterns, resettled in new places, and as London's hypertrophic trade economy increasingly governed shifting social as well as commercial trends, transience generally replaced stability.
The historical question of London's social, political, and topographic instability is much debated.(7) In the argument that follows I want to emphasize two different points. First, part of this great sense of changed urban space is perceptual and comparative: Londoners after the Fire perceived and described themselves in terms of drastic historical and cultural change, looking back nostalgically towards a nonexistent golden age of topographical reliability and fixity. But as Henri Lefebvre and Daniel Defoe have argued, the perception of spatial change was grounded in economic, social, and topographic reality. Urban space became in part a function of shifting spatial practices--to use Edward Soja's term(8)--based, as Defoe argues, on the abstractions of a credit economy: "By this very Article of publick Credit, of which the Parliament is the Foundation (and the City, are the Architectures, or Builders) all those great Things are now done with Ease, which, in the former Reigns, went on heavily, and were brought about with the utmost difficulty."(9) Descriptive texts changed their strategies in the 1680s from recovering the old city to navigating it. Methods were tried and abandoned; as the pace of change quickened, so did the tone and tempo of the topographies. Defoe's Tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, published in 1724-26, differs strikingly from earlier descriptions of London in its grammar, imagery, and implications, and the differences both depend on and reflect a new consciousness of space--topographical, commercial, and even structural--as fluid, shifting, unreliable, unpredictable. Borrowing the vocabulary of surveying and the grammar of motion, Defoe's Tour offers new generic strategies for a cultural and textual remapping of uncanny modern space.
Before the Fire, descriptions of London were rather few and relatively singleminded. William Camden's Britannia (1586) was of course widely read and admired (translated from Latin into English in 1610 and frequently reprinted through the seventeenth century), but its scope was both larger in territory and narrower in focus than would be expected or found in any specific topographies of London. Yet that scope--the antiquarian interest in the traces of the past defining the contours of the present--would characterize all specific topographies until after the Fire. Stow's Survey achieved immediate popular success, being reprinted in 1599, 1603, and 1633,(10) but then disappeared from print until John Strype's beautiful (but unwieldy) edition in 1720.(11) Though there had long been a tradition of London-centered literature in the drama, poetry, cony-catching pamphlets, ballads, and broadsides of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, nonliterary works centering on London in the 1640s and 50s tended to occupy themselves (not surprisingly) with papal plots, military strategies, and tax structures. For much of the early and mid-seventeenth century, Londoners had other things to worry about than their topographic profile.(12) Thus for its apparent ability to satisfy a minimalist contemporary need for self-description, Stow's Survey became a fixture of the genre. It furnished a literary and conceptual model to more than a hundred years of descendants who relied heavily (and often silently) on his information and mimicked his formal and grammatical patterns for a topography that in many ways defined and fixed the genre as something that defined a fixed space.
The phrase "defined a fixed space" in many ways oversimplifies the realities of the sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century London. Lawrence Manley, among others, has demonstrated the disturbing power, the "bewildering profusion of social roles," the "terror of deterritorialization," of the "increasingly mobile environment of London."(13) City literatures--in the forms of description, complaint, or celebration, generally accompany noticeable change, and Manley quotes an epigram by Thomas Freeman in which "the whole city becomes a monument to helter-skelter motion"(427). Both Elizabeth and James were actively concerned to limit the growth of the city, and both failed to contain its surging changes. But the argument that follows emphasizes textual trends that, while drawing on familiar tropes and tradition, also indicate change. The rapid development of the genre of textual topography, its sharp increase in numbers of publications and popularity of editions, and its rhetorical strategies, all testify to a post-Fire sense of change, and a change of interest, that in its own way includes, not surprisingly, a nostalgic oversimplification of its own past. The spaces of the past, from the point of view of the rebuilding-present, do in fact seem fixed, stable, known; and the grammar of the new texts reflects a different sense of motion.
The Survey describes a labyrinthine and congested set of streets and buildings that had for slow centuries settled into familiar social, commercial, and visual patterns. I have discussed elsewhere the denotative correspondence between place names and place meanings in pre-Fire London, and the variegated literary as well as cartographic and topographic attempts to reinvest street signs with functional significance after the Fire.(14) I want to focus here on what might be called the grammar of space in these topographies. The early verbal presentation of space is largely fixed and stable, contained by place: Stow surveys what pre-exists, reading London's history in its unchanging topography, its stable pattern of structures.
Henri Lefebvre argues that for medieval communities, ancient monumental buildings housed social meanings and fixed spatial relations; manors, monasteries, and cathedrals were the focal points anchoring a stable network of lanes and roads.(15) Spatial relations were in some sense visible, concrete, self-declarative. Richard Helgerson notes that Elizabethan England, in its efforts to identify and visualize itself as a nation, produced a series of works commonly called "surveys," "descriptions," and "chorographies."(16) These terms suggest a fixed object of vision, a territory waiting to be covered visually and verbally--contrasting noticeably with the proliferation of "tour" and "journeys" in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.(17) By the early seventeenth century, chorographies had generically settled into architectural and genealogical reference works, "where county gentry can find their manors, monuments, and pedigrees copiously set forth."(18) The manors and monuments confirm the significance and stability of a newly mapped nation. The spaces of early England are pinned in place by the physical structures and genealogies of the gentry.
There are exceptions, of course: Drayton's Poly-Olbion (1613), for example, is also grounded in the increasing urbanization and conspicuously active trade of Elizabethan London; John Leland in the mid sixteenth century gives an account of going round to monasteries to rescue old manuscripts; William Lambarde published a Perambulation of Kent (1570).(19) These works provide literary and historical contexts and traditions; but after the Fire is a change in quantity as well as in kind. There are in fact many more "tours" and "perambulations" than before, in addition to the increasing numbers of "views"; I want to suggest that the increase in numbers contributes to changes in genre.
Stow's Survey and its faithful followers describe the traditional emblems of the city in as much or more detail as they describe the streets and buildings, recording the manors and monuments, the pedigrees and anecdotes, of the city's past and present luminaries. The groundplan is defined in terms of its history as much as its geography; every house has its story, and such stories fix the structure within its historical and social context of past and present. For example, one small corner of Towerstreet Ward housed both a villain and a voyeur:
Then at the west ende of Towerstreet haue ye a little turning towardes the-North, to a fayre house sometime belonging to one named Grista, for he dwelled there in the yeare 1449. And lack Cade captaine of the rebels in Kent, being by him, in this his house feasted, when he had dined (like an unkind guest) robbed him of al that was there to be found worth the carriage. Next to this is one other fayre house, sometime builded by Angel Dune Grocer, since possessed by Sir John Champneis Alderman & Maior of London, he builded in this house an high Tower of Bricke, the first that ever I hearde of in any priuate mans house to ouerlooke his neighboures in this citie. But this delight of his ey was punished with blindnes, some yeres before his death. (p. 97)
Different fair houses hold different stories, but the houses and the stories are located in relation to each other, within this chronological and topographical continuum called London.
Of course the city changes, and of course Stow recognizes and records such change. But change is almost always slow, incremental, crustacean--one literal example in Stow also serves metaphorically:
In this old Fishstreete is one rowe of small houses.., but moueable boardes (or stalles) sette out on marketdayes, to shewe their fish there to be sold: but procuring license to set up sheads, they grewe to shops, and by litle and litle, to tall houses, of three or 4. stories in heigth [sic], and now are called Fishstreete. (Survey, pp. 280-81)
Houses and streets grow slowly into each other; the peculiar grammatical constructions almost suggest that the moveable boards themselves displayed fish, procured licenses, and in their conglomerate growth, became Fish Street. The growth itself is predominantly interior, organic, settled rather than unsettling. The fields of Whitechapel and Smithfield, the larger streets in Cheapside, the streets circling St. Paul's, have all gradually been "enclosed" and "encroached upon" by sheds and shops and tenements. Stow marks outward growth, but fastens on inner congestion. The very slowness of the change emphasizes what remains the same.
This emphasis on slow change is copied in Stow's pre-Fire successors. In his 1657 work Londinopolis, for example, James Howell discusses the "insensible augmentation" of the suburbs since Henry III, the "insensible Coalition" of Westminster and London, and the "insensible Coalitions" of people that have brought London to its world-class glory (Howell, 341, 346). Thus recordable change is of antiquarian more than contemporary interest: "What London hath beene of auncient time, men may here see, as what it is now euery man doth behold" (Survey, Epistle Dedicatory, sig. A3, my emphasis). The past may be covered over, like many of the old streams, but it is still present, immanent, accessible; the temporal present is physically present. London is available to behold and survey.
The structure of Stow's text reinforces its sense of fixity and stability. Each description of a ward begins with its bounds: "This Warde of Faringdon within the walles, is bounded thus: Beginning in the East, at the great Crosse in West Cheape, from whence it runneth West... and to Foster Lane..." (Survey, p. 249). Each street, lane, and alley is named and noted, the ichnography outlined. Once bounded, the ward can be entered and mined for its monuments, antiquities, stories, and histories. Interior streets narratively dead-end into buildings:
Nowe to turne up againe to the North ende of Aue Mary Lane, there is a short Lane which runneth West some small distance, and is there closed up with a gate into a great house: and this is called Amen lane... Further west in Pater Noster Rowe, is Iuie Lane, which runneth North to the west ende of Saint Nicholas Shambles. And then west Pater Noster Rowe, till ouer against the golden Lyon, where the Warde endeth for that streete. (Survey, pp. 250-51)
Stow records the changes within these boundaries, and ends each description with a brief, firm, factual account of the aldermen and the tax structure of the ward. Historical change remains narratively contained.
Social and commercial change seems equally as slow and, at least on Stow's construction, as self-contained. In a rather extended discussion of the London markets, Stow carefully tracks who moves, but balances that account with who remains:
Men of trades and sellers of wares in this City haue often times since chaunged their places, as they have found their best advantage. For whereas Mercers and Haberdashers used to keepe their shoppes in West Cheape, of later time they held them on London Bridg [sic], where partly they yet remayne. The Goldsmithes of Gutherons lane, and Old Exchaunge, are now for the most part remoued into the South side of west Cheape: the Peperers and Grocers of Sopers lane, are now in Bucklesberrie, & other places: the Drapers of Lombardstreete and of Cornehill, are seated in Candlewickstreets and Watheling streete: ... the Ironmongers of Ironmongers lane, and olde Jury, into Thames streete: the Vinteners from the Vinetree into divers places. But the Brewers for the more part remaine neere to the friendly water of Thames. (Survey, p. 62)
Nearly every instance of removal is stabilized by a counterexample, and the paragraph ends with the point that, though the "Patten makers of S. Margaret Pattens lane [are] cleane worne out," "horse coursers and Sellars of Oxen, Sheepe, Swine, and such like, remaine in their olde market of Smithfilde, &c." (Survey, p. 63).
Just as the generic scarcity of pre-Fire descriptions of London suggests a sense of topographical stability, if not stasis (why would anyone need new descriptions of very old ground?), so their narrative and grammatical structures share in suggesting a relative sense of containment?o The traditional vocabulary for topographies relies on a grammar of stasis. In John Fitzherbert's important The Boke of Improuements (1587), for example, "The cytie of the maner Dale standeth and lyethe betwene the Kynges hygheway leadynge from the towne of A, unto the towne of B. on ye southe part" (p. xxxvii). For Stow and his successors the topography of London is primarily fixed by verbs of stasis and by passive constructions of "to be"-- streets and structures are grammatically inert:
after that is Grubstreete, more then halfe thereof to the straightning of the streete, next is Whitecrosse streete, up to the end of Bech lane, and then Redcrosse street wholy, with a Parte of Goldinglane, even to the Posts there placed, as a bounder.
Then is Bech lane before spoken of, on the east side of the Red crosse, and the Barbican streete, more then half thereof, towarde Aldersgate street, and so haue you all the boundes of Criplegate warde without the walles. (Survey, pp. 231-32)
Each paragraph ends with a textual boundary that confirms the topographical: these be the lanes, there stand the posts, and here we have the bounds of the whole.
There has always been a generic convention of verbs of motion--boundaries running and stretching and extending themselves. A 1637 translation of Camden's Britannia notes that "at the West end of the City, other Suburbs runne a great way in length, with goodly rowes of houses orderly ranged .... At the North likewise there be Suburbs annexed to the City .... Neither lesse Suburbs runne out on the North-East and East" (pp. 432-33).(21) Yet these early uses of "run" rather straightforwardly apply for their meaning to "extend, be continuous" rather than to literal rapid motion--the sense it will assume with Defoe. (And anyway, these goodly houses are behaving themselves; something later writers want desperately to believe.) Stow's text also offers a few counter-examples of relatively energetic passages:
The Next warde is called of Criplesgate, and consisteth of diuers streetes and lanes, lying as well without the gate and wall of the citie as within .... Out of this Woodstreete be diuers lanes, namely on the east side is Lad lane, which runneth east to Milkestreete corner, down lower in Woodstreete is Loue lane, which lyeth by the south side of S. Albons church in Woodstreete, and runneth downe to the Conduite in Aldermanbury streete. Lower downe in Woodestreet is Addlestreet, out of the which runneth Phillippe lane downe to London wall. These be the lanes on the east side. (Survey, pp. 230-31)
But this passage is atypical in its number of active verbs, and in fact these lanes are only allowed to run around after they have been secured on either end by a "be" and an "is," with lots of sedentary streets "lying" around for stability.
In general in these early topographies, both grammar and imagery confidently imply possession and control, in spite of the patternless anarchy of the ancient streets. The language assumes possession. For John Fitzherbert, people "hold" places; even cottages, though situated in relation to lord's manor, are grammatically within the tenant's grasp:
P. Q. holdeth a cotage of the lord at his wyll and it lyeth bytwene the sayde hye way that leadeth to S. on the east syde, and a croste of R. X. on the west syde, and a felde called southfelde on the southe syde, and the tenemente of R. X. of the northe, and it conteyneth in brede by the hye way foure perches, and in length syxe perches, and a halfe and payeth &c. (xxxviii)
In Stow, we have the bounds of Cripplegate Ward; "Then haue yee Brodestreete, whereof the warde taketh name"; "Then haue you Baynards Castle, whereof this whole Ward taketh the name" (Survey, pp. 137, 297)--the shape of the whole belongs to us. Howell repeats (or rather, copies) the patterns: "Then have ye Bricklayers Hall" (p. 52; see Survey, p. 102); "Then have ye one other street, called Thread-needle street" (p. 71; see Survey, p. 137); "Then have ye Burchover Lane ... [where,] in the Reign of Henry the Sixth, had ye (for the most part) dwelling there, Frippers or Upholders" (p. 81; see Survey, p. 154). The observer is confidently in control, "[directing] our pace" (p. 87 -- not plagiarizing Stow here), and "[steering] our course" (p. 119), even managing to sidestep the fees of the city under his eye,(22) in his visual, verbal, and vehicular possession.
These passages express a phenomenological more than a political sense of possession. In some ways, of course, Stow et. al did their level best to reinscribe class boundaries, to delineate the wrong side of the tracks:
Also without the Barres, both the sides of the street be pestered with Cotages and Allies, euen up to white Chapple church: and almost halfe a myle beyond it, into the common field: all which ought to lye open & free for all men. But this common field, I say, being sometimes the beautie of this Citie on that part, is so incroched upon by building of filthy Cotages, and with other prepesterous like inclosures: and Laystalles, (that notwithstanding all Proclamations and Acts of Parliament made to the contrary) that in some places it scarce remaineth a sufficient highway for the meeting of Carriages and droves of Cattel, much lesse is there any faire, pleasant, or wholesome way for people to walk on foote: which is no small blemish to so famous a citie to haue so unsauery and unseemly an entry or passage therunto. (Survey, p. 348)
My interest here is with the way that all topographers try to make the space they are dealing with open, accessible, familiar, negotiable, and stable for the reader--the way they assume or create (given their historical contexts) the solid ground upon which people may "walk on foot."
Such sense of possession comes in part from the sense that whatever motion occurs is generated by the observer--the ground stays put. Such activity tends to increase as the genre develops. Stow himself stays fairly sedentary; he claims to "haue attempted the discouery of London" (Survey, sig. A2v), but his discovery is archival rather than experiential: in addition to having "seene sundrie antiquities," he has also found that "through search of Recordes to other purposes, dyuers written helpes are come to my handes, which few others haue fortuned to meete withall" (Survey, sig. A2v). When he appears in the first person, it is through his memories rather than as a physical presence in the streets. But later topographers quickly developed the trope of a guide, briskly leading the reader through the London maze. For example, Howell's Londinopolis, in a moment of daring originality, departs from Stow and insistently frames itself in terms of guide and guided, describing itself as "An Historicall Discourse or Perlustration of the City of London, the Imperial Chamber, and chief Emporium of Great Britain." The conflation of linguistic and physical acts (talking and walking), both attributes of description, centers entirely on the observer, the one who walks through and comments on (a fixed) London. Places stay firmly in place, although observer and reader are quite frisky:
[A]nd so [we will] lead you in at her Gates, whence you shall walk along her streets, and visit her Churches .... Then we shall bring you to refresh yourself at her Conduits, and Aqueducts, her brooks, bourns, and Wells; Afterwards, we shall gently lead you along over her Bridges, and so bring you to solace yourself upon the rare, and renowned River of Thames, which we shall derive from her very source, and accompany her Stream all along, till she comes to pay tribute to the Ocean; Then we shall make a perambulation in her severall Precincts, Divisions, and Wards. (Howell, 1)
The language remains consistent throughout the text: it is always we who move, covering the pre-existing territory briskly or leisurely, as our unquenchable guide directs. The topographical narrative spatializes actions; the observer and perambulator determine the spaces to be covered and assessed; the city waits to be entered, walked, discussed.(23)
Such a grammar of space changes as dramatically as the cartographic presentation of London's spaces after the Fire. Helgerson's claim for a rhetorical shift from surveys, descriptions, and pre-Fire maps to the motion-based tours and journeys of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries historicizes Michel de Certeau's distinction between verbal descriptions of place as "maps" which "see" -- presenting a tableau ("there are") that implies the knowledge of an order of places--and "tours" which "go," spatializing actions and organizing movements ("you enter, you go across, you turn").(24) Much as the post-Fire maps create a new visual schema of London, the post-Fire topographies change in formal, grammatical, and conceptual response to the instabilities and spatial disorientation of the rebuilding by inventing a new grammar of space. Things move.
Modern space, according to Defoe (as well as to Lefebvre and Soja), is produced; it is not a background for movement, a site for building, or an absolute Cartesian category, but a function of spatial practice. The cultural change in perceptions of space is in part the product of changed movements within a particular spatial world. Lefebvre locates a general European transition in the sixteenth century, in the military and economic wars of acquisition, during which space and time were urbanized as capitalism produced the abstract spaces of the world of commodities. It was then, he argues,
that the town recognized itself and found its image. It... began to represent itself graphically;.., plans proliferated, plans which as yet had no reductive function, which visualized urban reality .... These were true tableaux, bird's-eye views; the town was putting itself in perspective.(25)
But London only caught up with the rest of Europe in these moments of rebuilding after the Fire,(26) when the new groundplans and the new buildings proliferated, and the city--like the nation earlier--was forced to put itself into visual perspective, as Defoe chronicles:
It is ... a particular and remarkable Crisis, singular to those who write in this Age, and very much to our Advantage in Writing, that the great and more eminent Increase in Buildings, in, and about the City of London, and the vast Extent of Ground taken in, and now become Streets and Noble Squares of Houses, by which the Mass, or Body of the whole, is become so infinitely great, has been generally made in our Time, not only within our Memory, but even within a few Years. (Tour, 1.5.326)
Defoe appends A Brief Description of the New Buildings erected in and about the Cities of London and Westminster and Borough of Southwark, since the Year 1666, and carefully emphasizes the stark differences between his own account and that "described by Mr. Stow, or any other Author, who wrote before the Fire of London" (1.5.326) in terms of transformed and transforming space: "so many great Houses were converted into Streets and Courts, Alleys and Buildings, that there are, by Estimation, almost 4000 Houses now standing on the Ground which the Fire left desolate, more than stood on the same Ground before" (1.5.328). The houses of the past are converted into the four thousand houses of the present through a syntactically odd mediation--as if by their prior conversion into streets, courtyards, and alleys. But where Stow's grammatical conflation of buildings and streets (in Fish Street) intensifies the inward, upward incrementation, Defoe's suggests an implosion.
According to the Tour, the motions of trade produce the motions of space: "We see several Villages, formerly standing, as it were, in the Country, and at a great Distance, now joyn'd to the Streets by continued Buildings, and more making haste to meet in the like Manner" (1.5.317). The villages that "stood" at a diffident distance in the past now move spatially as well as temporally into the present, and move at a run, pushed and drawn by trade. In the disrupted and redistributed commercial patterns, trade no longer simply resides among the butchers in Eastcheap or the goldsmiths in their counting houses, but in the abstract spaces produced by public credit, the postal system, the new network of roads, and in the shifting spaces of a far more transient and commercially fluid series of neighborhoods. In The Complete English Tradesman, published the year after the first two volumes of the Tour, Defoe warns:
It is true, we have seen a kind of fate attend the very streets and rows where such trades have been gather'd together; and a street famous some years ago, shall, in a few years after, be quite forsaken; as Pater-noster-row for mercers, St. Paul's church yard for woollen-drapers, both the Eastcheaps for butchers; and now you see hardly any of those trades left in those places. (1:99-100)
The commercial space of London is fluid and can be treacherous: "When a shop is ill-chosen, the tradesman starves, he is out of the way, and business will not follow him who runs away from it" (Tradesman, 1:99; my emphasis). The meanings of place have changed and keep changing, and can no longer be found among the place names. Space no longer seems static, fixed, grounded, but runaway, and Londoners must pay attention to the shifts in spatial implication in order to survive. From the 1680s to the 1720s, descriptive topographies increasingly wrestle with the dimensions of the rebuilt city in ways that attempt to define and incorporate its new elements, first to retix it, to find and contain its invisible new boundaries, and eventually, through Defoe, to accommodate it rather than resist or overpower it.
The topographies of these decades express a growing sense of uneasiness at the increasing unknowability of metropolitan London.(27) Robert Burton (aka Nathaniel Crouch) claims in his Historical Remarques and Observations of the Ancient and Present State of London(1681) that "it would too much inlarge this small Volume to give an Exact Account of the City of Westminster, and other parts which now seem swallowed up in London" (p. 114). William Stow, in his Remarks on London (1722), accuses contemporary maps as "more for Ornament than Use" and "not [describing] a fourth part of the Places contain'd in `em: Moreover, was a Map 30 Foot long, and 20 deep to be projected, yet would it not comprehend the whole Town to an exact Scale of Feet" (sig. A4). He notes, "So large is the Extent of London, Westminster, and Southwark, with their Suburbs and Liberties, that no Coachman nor Porter knows every place in them; therefore this Book may also be a Guide for them, and prevent, as hath been too often done, their losing any more Portmanteaus, Trunks, Boxes, or Parcels" (sig. A5v). The spaces of London are in some sense even a threat to property. If the professional citymonger cannot be depended upon to negotiate the spatial confusion of London, what must be the fate of "all Gentlemen, Merchants, Tradesmen, Chapmen, [and] Country People?" (sig. A5v).
The new topographies attempt a cartographic comprehensiveness.(28) Hatton's A New View of London (1708) claims to contain "the Names of the Streets, Squares, Lanes, Markets, Courts, Alleys, Rows, Rents, Yards and Inns in London, Westminster, and Southwark"; William Stow's Remarks claims in its title page and again in its preface to "[shew] where every Street, Lane, Court, Alley, Yard, Green, Close, Square, or any other Place, by what Name soever call'd, is situated."(29) In that telling little grammatical moment that reverses the implications of topographic control from the topographer to his spaces, Stow adds: "There is no Place which (to the best of my Knowledge) I have escap'd" (sig. A5; my emphasis). The grammatical subtext suggests that the burden of place is inescapable. More straightforwardly, Burton's Remarques allows little to escape him: though following the general format of John Stow, with the description of each ward beginning with a list of streets and ending with a list of aldermen, the text then intensifies the language from stasis ("is," "are") to containment: "Farringdon Ward within, wherein are contained Foster lane, Mugwell street, Pentecost lane" (p. 106); "Queen Hythe Ward, which comprehends..." (p. 107); "Castle Baynard Ward, containing part..." (p. 108) "Bridge Ward without contains..." (p. 108), and so on. Many of the guides, including Hatton's New View, William Stow's Remarks, and the New Remarks of London are simply alphabetized, cross-referenced lists of streets and their relations to each other:
Love lane, between Wood str. W and Aldermanbury, near the Church E. Stow has it called so from the amorous and wanton Persons formerly here remarkable. (Hatton, p. 49)
Ropemaker's Alley, in little Moorfield by Moorfields, L. At the end of this Alley is an House, which has the Privilege to keep a Latch, or Door, which lets one into Grub Street, for which the Passenger is to pay the tenant thereof one Farthing; from which Custom it is called Farthing Latch. (William Stow, p. 66(30)
The common denominator in these descriptions is to find, catch, and tie together all the corners and pockets and replicated spaces; to have, in a pocket companion (as with the maps), the sense of having London in one's hand, as a bird's-eye view hands it to the eye.(31)
In some ways all of this is still old news, a bewilderment as old as London's oldest streets, in place for centuries and indeed losing as much as maintaining coherence over time. William Stow graphically reproduces an ancient confusion:
some People are so ignorant, especially in the Country, as to think London, Westminster, and Southwark, is all London, because contiguous to one another; which is a grand Mistake; for if you should send a Letter to a Friend in King-Street, which is in Westminster, but write at the bottom of the Superscription, London; how should the Postman know, whether you mean King-street by Guildhall, King-street on Great Tower-hill, King-street in Spittle Fields, King-street in Prince's street near St. Anne's Church, King-street near Golden Square, King-street in Deanstreet by Soho-square, King-street in Covent-garden, King-street by Hay's Court near Newport Market, King-street in Upper Moor-fields, King-street by Old-street Square, King-street by Bloomsbury Square, King-streetby St. James's Square, King-street near the Six Dials [sic], or King-street in the Mint? (sig. A5)(32)
But in fact postal urgency is itself a recent phenomenon, part of the modern sense of space, of distances acquiring new meanings, new dimensions, new relations to time; Stow capitalizes on the already baffling groundplan of London to market the necessity for his own meticulous reference work.(33) In the past--before the rebuilding of London, the explosion of trade, and the improvements in travel--the vast reduplication of streets would have mattered to few, since most people stayed neatly put in their neighborhoods(34) Presumably any city that expected much popular intercity movement would at least have hesitated before adding King Streets thirteen and fourteen. The overwhelming quality of the modern spaces of London lay in its new layers of Lefebvrean and Defoean abstractness that intensify the confusion of old space while dislodging its familiarity.
The cultural perception of London's spaces from the 1680s to the 1730s was that they refused to be fixed, and the topographies, for all their self-glorified comprehensiveness, simultaneously admit defeat:
For my own Part [writes the author of New Remarks of London (1732)], I Must declare... Courts within the Bills of Mortality, which are not inserted in this Work; but then I must beg Leave to observe, that they never had any Names given them, or, at least, that they are so far lost, that the ancientest Inhabitants in or near those Places, never heard of any particular Names by which they are known and distinguish'd, nor are they to be met with in any Parish-books, though the ancientest of them have been searched to find them out. (vii)
The oldest spaces keep their secrets; the newest spaces escape their bounds; neither maps nor alphabetized lists can comprehend them. Lists--as well as maps in Certeau's sense--are "constituted as proper places in which to exhibit the products of knowledge, [and] form tables of legible results".(35) But the fast-growing London is precisely not legible, and resists exhibition as a product of knowledge. Neither maps nor groundplans nor lists nor tables can represent with any adequacy or accuracy the protean urban space.
On the other hand, as Certeau suggests, "stories about space exhibit ... the operations that allow it."(36) The generic rumblings in London topographies mark a rough, erratic, inconsistent but discernible change from map to tour, from fixity to motion, from historical anecdote to comprehensive list to narrative story. Surveys and descriptions, while never entirely disappearing, increasingly find themselves in the company of "guides," "tours," and "journeys," and the insistent number of "new views" and "new reviews" are themselves marked by the new grammars of space.
The new journeys and tours narratively expand to explore and explain the new spaces they enter. A different sense of the place and power of "story" is part of it. Although Stow told endless stories about his London spaces--as in the unkind guest and unfortunate voyeur cited above--those stories are short and tied forever to their sites; they are anecdotes rather than narratives. Furthermore, Stow's stories are always past, completed, a form of document. Someone like John Macky, on the other hand, in A Journey through England (1722) describes in terms of scene, character, and present action the social as well as structural interiors of his territory, tracking the shifting variables of place: who inhabits what and where, and what goes on inside? For example, he sorts the coffee-houses according to their various social and political appropriations and then enters them:
The Scots go generally to the British, and Mixture of all sorts go to the Smyrna, there are other little Coffee-Houses much frequented in this Neighborhood, Young-Man's for officers, Old-Man's for Stock-Jobbers, Pay-Masters, and Courtiers, and Little-Man's for Sharpers: I never was so confounded in my Life, as when I enter'd into this last: I saw two or three Tables full at Faro, heard the Box and Dice rattling in the Rooms above the Stairs, and was surrounded by a Set of sharp Faces, that I was afraid would have devoured me with their Eyes. I was glad to drop two or three Half-Crowns at Faro; to get off with a clear Skin, and was overioy'd I was so got rid of them. (pp. 168-69)
Macky's story moves in the sense that he allows his sentences, although structured in the past tense, to retain the uncertainty of immediate experience: "When I enter'd into this last ... I was afraid." The narrator himself runs from place to place, pinning trades to place and faces to trades, describing the structures of buildings, the atmospheres of neighborhoods, the prevailing urban trade winds. The format of the work, which, like Defoe's, presents a series of familiar letters to "Dear Sir," anticipates a Richardsonian writing to the moment. The end is not necessarily contained in the beginning; things are changing as we speak.
Such is essentially the strategy adopted and perfected by Defoe in the Tour: his topography, particularly in the section on London (Letter 5), employs an open-ended generic form (the familiar letter) and a unique kind of narrative applied to the latest formal innovations of the post-Fire London surveyors.(37) As Pat Rogers has noted, the language and imagery of the Tour, unlike those of earlier descriptors of London, presume motion and change.(38) Geoffrey Sill objects that such an emphasis on Defoe's literary art has "the adverse effect of taking the Tour out of the social context in which it was written, and stripping from it the social and historical function it was written to serve."(39) But those rhetorical strategies that Rogers analyzes so thoroughly and persuasively are in fact precisely calculated to address and influence a specific cultural anxiety--a form of rhetoric that springs from the very material of its culture. The literary art of the Tour is steeped in its social and historical contexts.(40)
The Tour begins (disingenuously) by admitting its own futility as description. Like Macky's Journey, the formal structure of the Tour is letters, each describing a "circuit" or "journey" that, in the first two volumes, begins and ends in London. But places simply change too quickly to permit full incorporations. The introduction, which emphasizes the effort to record "the present State of Things," also confesses that the concept of a present state--of an identifiable and static situation that opens itself to description--is something of a polite fiction, since the material to be recorded escapes beyond the edges of text and tour moment by moment and step by step: "Even while the Sheets are in the Press, new Beauties appear in several Places" (1.1.4). Each volume of the Tour concludes with an appendix listing and occasionally describing the new building projects begun or completed in the interstices of the writing and printing of the book. And many of those addenda are left suspended, textually and imaginatively incomplete for every reader of the first edition: "Since the Closing this Volume there are several Great and Magnificent Buildings begun to be Erected, within the Circuit of these Letters, which however, not being finish'd, cannot now be fully describ'd" (1.3.250). What remains undescribed remains in some sense invisible, unknown, uncontained. The circuit of letters cannot expand enough to hold its chosen content.
Yet the admission of failure in some ways suggests a prescription for success. The central letter of the original two volumes, Letter 5, focuses entirely on London. Defoe's introduction to this letter outlines his methodology of description, its formal and thematic centrality, and its apparent limitations:
As I am now near the Center of this Work, so I am to describe the great Center of England, the City of London, and Parts adjacent. This great Work is infinitely difficult in its Particulars, though not in itself; not that the City is so difficult to be described, but to do it in the narrow Compass of a Letter, which we see so fully takes up Two large Volumes in Folio, and which, yet, if I may venture to give an Opinion of it, is done but by Halves neither. (1.5.316)
Nevertheless, the title of this narrow compass declares that it "contains" a description of London "as taking in the city of Westminster, Borough of Southwark, and the Buildings circumjacent." The narrator explains more precisely that "London, as a City only, and as its Walls and Liberties line it out, might, indeed, be viewed in a small Compass; but, when I speak of London, now in the Modern Acceptation, you expect that I shall take in all that vast Mass of Buildings" (1.5.316)--named, numbered, and wondered at in the rest of this long paragraph. That is, there are two Londons: the old city fixed within its medieval bounds, and the new city, with its "new Squares, and new Streets rising up every Day," restructuring its skyline and redefining its boundaries at each new moment. The structure of the letter and the journey--writing to the moment and travelling on apace--rhetorically move with the changing landscape, the circuits encircling their objects and rhetorically accommodating their true nature, their real difference.
Defoe's narrative also shapes as it describes, and suggests a different strategy of spatial management that borrows from the new language and techniques of post-Fire surveying. Defoe's language of motion translates into a language of control:
I have, as near as I could, caused a Measure to be taken of this mighty, I cannot say uniform, Body; and... have given as accurate a description of it, as I can do in so narrow a Compass, as that of a Letter, or as I could do without drawing a Plan, or Map of the Places. (1.5.318)
Defoe could, of course, have appended a plan or map; each letter is already prefaced by one of Herman Moll's maps. But a map or a plan has lines that, once drawn, do not move; change eludes and makes obsolete the contours of a graphic text. Defoe instead chooses narrative to create lines that move with the movement of their objects. He causes a measure to be taken, which he then redefines in the title of the preliminary section: "A LINE of Measurement, drawn about all the continued Buildings of the City of London" (1.5.318). This Line begins a description of the topographical boundaries of the city.
A topographical line, as defined by the London surveyor William Leybourn in The Compleat Surveyor (5th ed., 1722), "is created or made by the moving or drawing out of a Point from one place to another... and according as this motion is, so is the Line created, whether streight or crooked" (p. 3). Who controls the motion controls the shape of the line--and also its power:
The Ends or Bounds of a Line, are Points. This is to be understood of a finite Line only .... But in a Circular Line, it is otherwise, for there, the Point in its motion returneth again to the place where it first began, and so maketh the Line infinite, and the ends or bounds thereof undeterminate .... As the motion of a point produceth a line, the first kind of Magnitude; so the motion of a Line produceth a Superficies, which is the second kind of Magnitude, and is capable of two dimensions. (pp. 3-4)
A moving, circling Line not only defines boundaries but also creates space, reserving infinity and indeterminacy for itself rather than for the space it contains.
Defoe's Line as description verbally and textually encloses the city, defining and following a topographic and narrative line that threads together structures and places with verbs of motion:
The Line begins... at Peterborough House, the farther House West upon the River Thames, and runs N.W. by W., by the Marshes to Tutthill Fields, and passing by the Neat Houses, and Arnold's Brewhouse ... goes North behind the Stable-Buildings ... then crossing the Road ... holds on East till the New streets formed out of Hide House Garden, cause it to turn away ....[S]loping North East, it passes by Pimlico ... inclosing the Garden Walls ... it takes in a Burying Ground and some Buildings ... but then turning short South, it goes towards White Chapel Mount, but being intercepted by New Streets, it goes quite up to the South End of the Dog-Row at Mile End .... (1.5.320)
(There are about nine pages of this.) The Line itself takes on the energy of travel: 'far more athletic than those old Stowean streets that run and stretch, this Line runs and goes and crosses and takes in and leaves; it turns and turns short and turns away; it meets buildings, encloses gardens, and dodges interceptions. Occasionally the Line reacts, but more often it acts, becoming a marker and even an agent of change as its identity merges into the narrator's. It becomes almost a living thing, its patterns of movement recalling the swift, precise, and complicated escapes of Defoe's fictional characters. In Colonel Jack (1722), for example, the young and newly minted criminal Jack sprints after his comrade with a desperately accurate topographical memory:
I [ran] after him, never resting or scarce looking about me, till we got quite up into Fenchurch-street, thro' Lime-street, into Leadenhall street, down St. Mary Axe, to London-Wall, then thro' Bishop gate, and down old edlam, into Moorfields .... so away he had me through Long-alley, and Cross Hog lane, and Holloway lane, into the middle of the great Field, which since that, has been call'd the Farthing pye-house-field... so we went on, cross'd the Road at Anniseed Cleer, and went into the Field where now the Great Hospital stands ....(41)
Like Jack, Defoe's London Line marks spaces and changes; it establishes, records, and crosses boundaries. As in the novels, the Tour's line of topography merges with the line of narrative; the Line of boundary merges with the author or agent who defines the boundaries:
N.B. The Town of Greenwich, which may, indeed, be said to be contiguous to Deptford, might be also called a Part of this Measurement; but I omit it, as I have the Towns of Chelsea and Knights Bridge on the other Side, tho' both ma3; be said to joyn the Town, and in a very few Years will certainly do so. (1.5.323)
The Line and its author combine to define and contain the slippery city: "by London, as I shall discourse of it, I mean, all the Buildings, Places, Hamlets, and Villages contain'd in the Line of Circumvallation ... by which I have computed the Length of its Circumference above" (1.5.325-26). The narrator omits and predicts, defining the Line of Circumvallation; the Line (which the narrator creates and authorizes) crosses and intercepts streets, it bypasses some houses and connects others, it slips behind and marches before the recognizable structures of London.
Defoe's Line, an improvement in energy and ingenuity on its few post-Fire predecessors' such as Brydall's (1676), Hatton's (1708), and Strype's (1720), would become the generic model for later topographic Lines of distinction, such as Burton's New View ... Continued by an Able Hand (1730) and the anonymous New Remarks of London (1732). The formal structures of these topographies loosened themselves to narratively accommodate as well as descriptively incorporate the rapidly expanding and radically changing urban contours of London, elastically but firmly tying them all together in a narrative that combines a tour with a view, and moves from map into story. The grammar of space suggests a grammar of motion.
(1) William Stow was apparently not a descendant of John Stow.
(2) This essay is part of a larger work in progress (The Literary and Cultural Spaces of Restoration London, forthcoming from Cambridge U. Press) that explores the relationship between the literal remapping and rebuilding of London and its literary remapping. Much of Restoration and early eighteenth-century drama, poetry, and prose fiction topographically reconceptualizes as weft as describes and replaces London. But that describing and mapping generally have been considered metaphorical, the preoccupation with present time and local space a function primarily of the new political and social milieu of the restored Court. I argue that the larger cultural attempts of urban planners, cartographers, and architects to define and negotiate the newly rebuilt and rapidly expanding city specifically shape the literary concerns in their similar attempts to reinvest streetnames with meanings, topography with social significance, the unfamiliar present with the late lamented past.
(3) I discuss in chapter 3 of Literary and Cultural Spaces the technological, visual, and ideological changes in cartographic representations of London after the Fire. I particularly mark the change from the comprehensive, orderly, and topographically inaccurate bird's-eye-views of Wenceslaus Hollar, Cornelius Dankert, the "Copperplate Map,' and others of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, to the two-dimensional groundplans of John Ogilby and William Morgan's map (1687), shorn of the rich elevations but comprehensive in their reclaiming of the smallest, darkest courts and alleys, with declarations of comprehensiveness that echo (or are echoed by) the topographers.
(4) William Stow's preface to Remarks on London (1722). The "others" include chapmen, coachmen, porters, country visitors and foreign tourists.
(5) See, for example, Bernard Adams, London Illustrated 1604-1851 (London: Library Assn., 1983); Felix Barker and Peter Jackson, The History of London in Maps (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1990); Michael Harris, "London Guidebooks before 1800" in Maps and Prints: Aspects of the English Booktrade, ed. Robin Myers and Michael Harris (Oxford: Polytechnic Press, 1984) pp. 31-66; Stanley Rubinstein, Historians of London: An Account of the Many Surveys, Histories, Perambulations, Maps and Engravings made about the City and its Environs, and of the dedicated Londoners who made them (Hamden, Ct.: Archon Books, 1968); Sarah Tyacke, "Map-sellers and the London Map Trade c. 1650-1710'" in My Head is a Map: Essays and Memoirs in Honour of R.V. Tooley, ed. Helen Wallis and Sarah Tyacke (London: Francis Edwards, 1973).
(6) Although idealistic plans for the rebuilding of London immediately after the Fire included the beautiful baroque, geometricized visions of John Evelyn and Christopher Wren, among others, the City in fact rebuilt almost precisely along its old tangled medieval lines; the baroque squares and piazzas envisioned by Inigo Jones in the early seventeenth century were displaced from the city's center into its wealthier western suburbs. For differing accounts of such displacement, see George Walter Bell, The Great Fire of London in 1666, 3rd ed. (London: John Lane, 1923); Spiro Kostof, The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings through History (London: Thames and Hudson, 1991); T. F. Reddaway, The Rebuilding of London after the Great Fire (London: Jonathan Cope, 1940); Christopner Wren (Jr.), Parentalia; or Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens (London, 1750).
(7) For various historical perspectives on the actual economic and social stability of London in medieval and renaissance times, see, for example, lan Archer, The Pursuit of Stability.' Social Relations in Elizabethan England (Cambridge U. Press, 1991); A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay, eds., The Making of the Metropolis: London 1500-1700 (London: Longman, 1986); Peter Borsay, ed., The Eighteenth-Century Town.' A Reader in English Urban History 1699-1820 (London: Longman, 1990); Jeremy Boulton, Neighborhood and Society.' A London Suburb in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge U. Press, 1987); Norman Brett-James, The Growth Of Stuart London (London: Allen & Unwin, 1935); Christopher Brooke and Gillian Keir, London 800-1216: The Shaping of a City (U. of California Press, 1975); Peter Clark and Paul Slack, English Towns in Transition (Oxford U. Press, 1976)' Frank Freeman Foster, The Politics of Stability: A Portrait of the Rulers in Elizabethan London (London: Royal Historical Soc., 1977); J. R. Hale, Renaissance Europe 1480-1520, 2nd ed. (U. of California Press, 1977); J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction (New York: Norton, 1990); A. E. J. Morris, History of Urban Form: Before the Industrial Revolution (2nd ed., New York: Wiley, 1979); Valerie Pearl, "Change and Stability in Early Modern London,' London Journal 5 (1979): 3-34); M. J. Power, "The Social Topography of Restoration London," in London 1500-1700.' The Making of the Metropolis, ed. A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay (London: Longman, 1986); Steven Rappaport, Worlds within Worlds.' Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London (Cambridge U. Press, 1989).
(8) See Edward Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London: Verso, 1989).
(9) Daniel Defoe, A Tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, 3 vols. (London, 1724-26), 2.2.32-33. Further citations will be included in the text as Tour, with the numbers referring respectively to volume, letter, page(s).
(10) John Stow, A Survay of London. Contayning the Originall, Antiquity, Increase, Moderne estate, and description of that Citie, written in the yeare 1598. By Iohn Stow Citizen of London (London, 1599); further references will be cited Survey.
(11) John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster... By John Stow, Citizen and Native of London. Since Reprinted and Augmented by the Author; And afterwards by A.M.H.D. and others. Now lastly, Corrected, Improved, and very much Enlarged.' And the Survey and History brought down from the Year 1633, (being near Fourscore Years since it was last printed) to the present Time; By John Strype, M.A. a Native also of the said City. Printed for A. Churchill, J. Knapton, R. Knaplock,J. Wathoe, E. Horne, B. Tooke, D. Midwinter, B. Course, R. Robinson, and T. Ward. MDCCXX. (2 folio volumes)
(12) Works such as Dekker's The Bellman of London (1608) and By Lanthorne and Candlelight (1608), which prefigured Ned Ward's London Spy (1698), tended to feature city types or characters who roamed the streets' post-Fire guides of whatever form--topographical, satirical, poetic--began to look more at the streets themselves.
(13) Lawrence Manley, Literature and Culture in Early Modern London (Cambridge U. Press, 1995), p. 77. See also pp. 80-88, 315-20, 394, 422-27.
(14) See Literary and Cultural Spaces, chapter 1. Stow makes abundantly clear that place names are reliable indices of place identities: "Iuie lane, so called of Iuie growing on the walles of the Prebend almes houses" (p. 277); "Loue lane, so called of wantons" (p. 236); in Bladder Street they