Discuss how social forces (for example, industrialisation) influence representations of the city in William Wordsworth's 'Residence in London' from The Prelude and Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

Essay by robynniUniversity, Bachelor'sA, January 2009

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The expansion and development of cities in the Romantic and Victorian periods brought about many social changes, such as increase in trade, industrialisation, and population which began to change the way people had lived for centuries. In the following essay I will study how these social forces are represented in literary material of that era and also from critical sources. I will begin by examining William Wordsworth’s ‘Residence in London’ from The Prelude, alongside Raymond William’s ‘Change in the City’, which are significant in regards to the Romantic era. I will also examine Hard Times by Charles Dickens with relevant contextual essays, which are significant when looking at the Victorian City.

In writing ‘Residence in London’, William Wordsworth presents himself as a flâneur-like figure. He carefully observes the goings-on which are happening around him, and he depicts London society in all ‘the wealth, the bustle and the eagerness’ (Wordsworth: 161: 109) it had begun to accumulate.

London had quickly become the place for trading and earning money. By 1800, ‘with nearly a million inhabitants, no European capital surpassed London’s size.’ (Chandler: 2) This increase in population and increase in trade alike meant that the city was full of ‘strangers’ (Wordsworth: 120: 108) of all kinds. He claims seeing people of many different cultures, Italian, Jewish, Turkish, Swedish and French, to name but a few. The prospect of work and the increase of ‘shop after shop’ (Wordsworth: 174: 109) in London, in the Romantic city, had attracted people looking to earn a living from all over Europe and this shows the beginnings of a multi-cultural city emerging. Measures were ultimately taken to try and decrease the city’s population. Raymond Williams asserted that although ‘a Bill against new houses was attempted’ (Williams: 145), this inevitably led to ‘a long-continued wave of...