Manual The River of Death: A Tale of London In Peril (Doom of London)

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Then, it was a place of secrets. The French House, with its Gallic hauteur , continued to insist that beer should only be consumed in half-pint glasses and that sitting down was not really an option. Real rudeness, delivered with breathtaking verve by Muriel Belcher and her descendants, was always on tap at the Colony Room, an upstairs bar decorated in a noisome shade of green, which was periodically enlivened by the antics of Francis Bacon and his crowd of in vino veritas cronies.

Now that any old boozer can stay open all day, that cachet has been sorely diminished. So, too, has the expectation of bumping into a famous artist, or, more likely, of having him or her trip over you. The Soho of recent yesteryear was an egalitarian place, where the famous, notorious and mundane could freely mingle.

The pursuit of pleasure, however dubious its form, was the uniting factor. Soho continued to flourish in the s as the New Romantics sashayed into town in a colourful blizzard of cross-dressing and tons of make-up. Boy George was a notable figure, often engaged in some form of domestic row with his great friend Marilyn, of cheekbone fame. From the 80s also emerged the Groucho Club, a members-only establishment where media folk gathered to share gossip, snort cocaine and occasionally partake of a hamburger when energy was low.

Throughout all these years, the name of Paul Raymond was prominent. He was a substantial property owner in Soho and, like Peter Stringfellow, his main interest was in displaying female flesh to an avid audience. Raymond was also alive to the benefits of diversification. Alternative comedy found a home in the Revuebar, giving a chance for lucky punters to be shouted at by Alexei Sayle, or enigmatically entertained by Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson in their early incarnation of 20th Century Coyote.

Laughter and heckling were always part of the appeal.

Roman Britain when you least expect it

Since these golden years — admittedly, tarnished ones — Soho has been in decline. Among the much-trumpeted fleshpots and drinking dens sparkled a vast array of independent businesses, including coffee shops that sold the real thing, delicatessens and proper food shops. These have gradually disappeared, mostly because of rent hikes. The Groucho Club has been joined by Soho House, which makes the world a very cold place for those who have no time for braying monsters of self-importance. The days were not crowded, but they were enviably varied.

Fellow of New College though he was, he did things with his own hands, not merely with his own head. He lived in every room of the house — in the study he wrote sermons, in the dining-room he ate copiously; he cooked in the kitchen, he played cards in the parlour. And then he took his coat and stick and went coursing his greyhounds in the fields.

Year in, year out, the provisioning of the house and its defence against the cold of winter and the drought of summer fell upon him. Like a general he surveyed the seasons and took steps to make his own little camp safe with coal and wood and beef and beer against the enemy. His day thus had to accommodate a jumble of incongruous occupations. There is religion to be served, and the pig to be killed; the sick to be visited and dinner to be eaten; the dead to be buried and beer to be brewed; Convocation to be attended and the cow to be bolused.

Totally senseless with rattlings in his Throat. Dinner today boiled beef and Rabbit rosted. Surely, surely, then, here is one of the breathing-spaces in human affairs — here in Norfolk at the end of the eighteenth century at the Parsonage.

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For once man is content with his lot; harmony is achieved; his house fits him; a tree is a tree; a chair is a chair; each knows its office and fulfils it. Looking through the eyes of Parson Woodforde, the different lives of men seem orderly and settled. Far away guns roar; a King falls; but the sound is not loud enough to scare the rooks here in Norfolk.

The proportions of things are different. The Continent is so distant that it looks a mere blur; America scarcely exists; Australia is unknown.

Sinking of The Princess Alice, River Thames History

But a magnifying glass is laid upon the fields of Norfolk. Every blade of grass is visible there. Each house stands in its own breadth of meadow isolated and independent. No wires link village to village. No voices thread the air. The body also is more present and more real. It suffers more acutely. No anaesthetic deadens physical pain. Cold strikes unmitigated upon the house.

The milk freezes in the pans; the water is thick with ice in the basins. One can scarcely walk from one room to another in the parsonage in winter. Poor men and women are frozen to death upon the roads. Often no letters come and there are no visitors and no newspapers. The Parsonage stands alone in the midst of the frost-bound fields. At last, Heaven be praised, life circulates again; a man comes to the door with a Madagascar monkey; another brings a box containing a child with two distinct perfect heads; there is a rumour that a balloon is going to rise at Norwich.

Every little incident stands out sharp and clear. The drive to Norwich even is something of an adventure. One must trundle every step of the way behind a horse. But look how distinct the trees stand in the hedges; how slowly the cattle move their heads as the carriage trots by; how gradually the spires of Norwich raise themselves above the hill.

And then how clear-cut and familiar are the faces of the few people who are our friends — the Custances, Mr. Friendship has time to solidify, to become a lasting, a valuable possession. True, Nancy of the younger generation is visited now and then by a flighty notion that she is missing something, that she wants something. But Nancy has an answer to make us, to the effect that our past is her present. You, she says, think it a great privilege to be born in the eighteenth century, because one called cowslips pagles and rode in a curricle instead of driving in a car.

But you are utterly wrong, you fanatical lovers of memoirs, she goes on. I can assure you, my life was often intolerably dull. I did not laugh at the things that make you laugh. It did not amuse me when my uncle dreamt of a hat or saw bubbles in the beer, and said that meant a death in the family; I thought so too. Betsy Davy mourned young Walker with all her heart in spite of dressing in sprigged paduasoy.

There is a great deal of humbug talked of the eighteenth century. Your delight in old times and old diaries is half impure. You make up something that never had any existence. Our sober reality is only a dream to you — so Nancy grieves and complains, living through the eighteenth century day by day, hour by hour.

Still, if it is a dream, let us indulge it a moment longer. Let us believe that some things last, and some places and some people are not touched by change. On a fine May morning, with the rooks rising and the hares scampering and the plover calling among the long grass, there is much to encourage the illusion. It is we who change and perish. Parson Woodforde lives on. It is the kings and queens who lie in prison.

It is the great towns that are ravaged with anarchy and confusion. But the river Wensum still flows; Mrs. Custance is brought to bed of yet another baby; there is the first swallow of the year. The spring comes, and summer with its hay and strawberries; then autumn, when the walnuts are exceptionally fine though the pears are poor; so we lapse into winter, which is indeed boisterous, but the house, thank God, withstands the storm; and then again there is the first swallow, and Parson Woodforde takes his greyhounds out a-coursing. A whole world separates Woodforde, who was born in and died in , from Skinner, who was born in and died in For the few years that separated the two parsons are those momentous years that separate the eighteenth century from the nineteenth.

Camerton, it is true, lying in the heart of Somersetshire, was a village of the greatest antiquity; nevertheless, before five pages of the diary are turned we read of coal-works, and how there was a great shouting at the coal-works because a fresh vein of coal had been discovered, and the proprietors had given money to the workmen to celebrate an event which promised such prosperity to the village. Then, though the country gentlemen seemed set as firmly in their seats as ever, it happened that the manor house at Camerton, with all the rights and duties pertaining to it, was in the hands of the Jarretts, whose fortune was derived from the Jamaica trade.

This novelty, this incursion of an element quite unknown to Woodforde in his day, had its disturbing influence no doubt upon the character of Skinner himself.


Irritable, nervous, apprehensive, he seems to embody, even before the age itself had come into existence, all the strife and unrest of our distracted times. He stands, dressed in the prosaic and unbecoming stocks and pantaloons of the early nineteenth century, at the parting of the ways. Behind him lay order and discipline and all the virtues of the heroic past, but directly he left his study he was faced with drunkenness and immorality; with indiscipline and irreligion; with Methodism and Roman Catholicism; with the Reform Bill and the Catholic Emancipation Act, with a mob clamouring for freedom, with the overthrow of all that was decent and established and right.

Tormented and querulous, at the same time conscientious and able, he stands at the parting of the ways, unwilling to yield an inch, unable to concede a point, harsh, peremptory, apprehensive, and without hope. This unexpurgated edition contains the complete text with errors and omissions corrected. Get A Copy. Kindle Edition. Published January 26th by Halcyon Press Ltd. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 9. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Doom of London , please sign up.

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This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Dec 11, Shawn rated it it was ok Shelves: r-comp-sfth-dno. So I polished off five of Fred M. White's "Doom Of London" stories all in the public domain and easily available to read online. Seemingly, White decided it was his job to warn modern c. And he decided to do this warning in the form of concentrated little fictions. It's an odd kind of thing, really.

Science Fiction (Bookshelf)

Also, there's the expected "overcoming adversity" subtext and considering the Blitz was yet to come, that's oddly prescient. What White doesn't really have is any skills beyond the standard workmanlike fiction writing complement he needs to get his point across. He's not interested in characters, atmosphere, effective pacing or inventive plotting. In fact, his plotting is mechanical almost every story follows the same trajectory and his writing is, at times, oddly herky-jerky as it plods forward.

There's some vague interest to be had in these simply because what White is doing is a turn-of-the-century version of the kind of disaster thriller novels that get churned out up to this very day - his are just not as bloated with wooden characters and chain-jerking side plots. If he could have conceived of Zombies in , I'm sure he would have wrote one about zombies as well "The Four Dead Days" or something. So a newly built set of homes on what used to be wasteland is suddenly struck by the disease.