London : the biography by Peter Ackroyd, 2000
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The text that I'm going to present you was written in 2000 by Peter Ackroyd: an English biographer, novelist and critic. In reality, this text is a biography about the city of London and here the author gives us his description, his vision of the London world.
I/ Firstly, a short summary on this biography:
In this description of London, the writer uses a process quite disconcerting. Indeed, this one has recourse to sea vocabulary in order to show us a detailed image of the capital of England.
From my point of view this biography of London is divided in four parts:
- In the first time part the author produces a portrait very oppresive of the city. In fact, we have the impression that London is a place where the crowd rushes up in the streets. We can say that people are omnipresent in the scenery.
- In the second part the author attaches importance to the atmosphere of the city. More especially, he is concentrated about its noises but also the decor.
- In the third part, the writer deals with the behaviour of people, more precisely in the trade.
- In the four part, Peter Ackroyd takes an interest to the birds: the starlings.
In this description there is nothing positive. It seems that this city is hostile because of the population who is invasive in the narrow thoroughfares of London, because of fog, because of silence...
II/ Now, a more extensive analysis of the text:
Firstly, we can notice the presence of some sounds like '' the roar '' / '' the murmur '' / '' the silence ''... Thanks to these words the author tends to show us that the city is quite mysterious and intriguing.
Secondly, we can see that there is also the presence of adverbs like '' simply or particularly ''. They define more explicitly the situation.
After, we can discern several adjectives such as '' dark '' / '' vast '' / '' luminous '' / '' dangerous ''. It is possible to say that they have the fonction to describe precisely the atmosphere of London. Here, the city appears huge and dull to us.
We can also discern several names like '' hopelessness '' / '' despondency '' which are used in order to show us that there is an oppressive ambiance.
Afterward, we can notice that the author uses much cultural references. For example: '' Arthur Morrison '' / '' Henry Peacham / '' Louis Simond ''. So, we can say that there is a wish to be the more authentic and real than possible. I believe that he also uses this process with the name of places such as '' London Bridge '' / '' Whitechapel ''... He has the same goal.
Then the author names every time people differently: for example '' the social workers '' / '' human '' / '' the denizens '' / '' founder ''... Therefore, we can deduce that the author would like to have a certain diversity in his description. I suppose that for him, people have an important place and that's why he varies his designations.
In this biography, there is also a considerable utilisation of sea vocabulary. For example '' stream '' / '' emerge '' / '' waves '' / '' sea '' / '' ship '' / '' the anchor '' / '' the starlings '' / '' the cliff ''. Presently, in his portrait of London Peter Ackroyd describes the city with a lot of words which make reference to sea '' dark stream people '' / '' emerge as torrent '' / '' a sea of roofs '' / '' buildings of the city are cliffs still... ''
I strongly believe,that the author trys to put in parallele the sea and London. It seems that he wishes by the intermediaire of metaphores to show us how London is today. From my point of view, it's a good way to people for having an idea of the city, its decors, its population... Personally, I completely adhere to this kind of representation.
Modern vision = Insecure
The author not insist on the misery, the dark present in the city. He only maintains an oppressive atmosphere.
Living condition of people were really difficult - Horrible place to living.
Some writers try to change the dream of a better city where people would be happy, equal.
A city beauty, equality and preogressively many writers and architects try to change this vision.
ÉMILE VERHAEREN (1855-1916)
(Recueil : Les soirs)
« Londres »
Et ce Londres de fonte et de bronze, mon âme,
Où des plaques de fer claquent sous des hangars,
Où des voiles s'en vont, sans Notre-Dame
Pour étoile, s'en vont, là-bas, vers les hasards.
Gares de suie et de fumée, où du gaz pleure
Ses spleens d'argent lointain vers des chemins d'éclair,
Où des bêtes d'ennui bâillent à l'heure
Dolente immensément, qui tinte à Westminster.
Et ces quais infinis de lanternes fatales,
Parques dont les fuseaux plongent aux profondeurs,
Et ces marins noyés, sous des pétales
De fleurs de boue où la flamme met des lueurs.
Et ces châles et ces gestes de femmes soûles,
Et ces alcools en lettres d'or jusques au toit,
Et tout à coup la mort parmi ces foules,
Ô mon âme du soir, ce Londres noir qui traîne en toi !
I / In this poem, the author give us a description quite detailed of the England capital . Indeed, he talks about the maritime trafic which evoques the harbour city that London is became; the railway station which evoques the invasive pollution, the Tamise and the quays of London and then the nightfall which does references to the debauchery of the most of the people.
Therefore, an image of modernity is transmitted to the readers. We can also say that the poet is in a malancholique state because he seems almost regret this transformation of London. He seems that to him isn't a good things because all these changing keep at bay, redirect the men in an another direction. It's strongly possible toward to the extravagance.
II/ To transmit us feelings the poet uses plenty of terms which are in link with the modernity. I believe that he would like that the readers realize through simple words that London changes, and that consequently that has repercussions on people.
Paint of London
Consignes: Search for a painting of London that sticks to the text description of A.Machen.
What elements can you find in the text and in the tableau ? Why have you choose this paint ?
Well, the paint that I've chosen represent a quay of London and I strongly believe that this one has a lot of similarities with the text '' The Hill of Dreams '' written by A.Machen.
So, when we compare the canvas and the tale we can immediately noticed that an heavy and dark atmosphere is present.
-Firstly, because of the essential color which is the black. Indeed, this one is like ubiquitous. It creates a strange but also scary impression to the reader.
-Also, we can guess that the action takes place during the night. Therefore, any shapes can't be perceived, or rather it's quite difficult : for example the vague shapes of houses...
-Afterward, we can noticed that there is the presence of fog. That prevent the character to discern the shapes.
-Then, I would like noticed another similarity between the two work, so that there are nobody in the streets of London, nobody on the quay. That's why, we can say the protagonist in the text and the one who consider the scene on the painting has the impression to be alone. It's a sort of ghost town. The town is deserted and empty.
-It also possible to say that the water of quay is like a fen. It is gloomy, and that accentuate the silence in the place.
-To finish, we distinctly have the impression that the character pervades deeper and deeer into a labyrinth. He gives the sensation that he will go lose oneself with himself.
Arthur MACHEN, The Hill of Dreams ( 1907 )
It's the story of a young man who dreams of a better life, he comes from a poor family in Ireland. He decides to emigrate and come in London.
Maybe he comes because it's an artist / politique reasons / to have a different way of living...
This young man is an idealist ( he goes because he believes that London is marvelous ). He has an idealistic image of the England capital.
They were a lot of deseaster; there was the lack of hygiene...
In this description there is nothing positive. It's quite violent. indeed, we have an impression of opression / ghost town / strange / desaster...
London in the XIXth Century
In groups we have realized presentations about the capital of England during the XIXth century. More precisely, we have developed some key points :
- The railway expansion
- The great exhibition
- The living conditions in the 19th century in London
- A tour in the city of London, at the end of the 19th century
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