A Symposium on Writing About Walking in London, 1500-1950: Simon King


Not walking but mostly sitting, I attended ‘A symposium on writing about walking in London, 1500 – 1950’ hosted by PASSAGE at the Senate House Library, University of London. This is an exciting project that will have a blog up and running sometime in November.  In the afternoon we looked at some early examples of writing about walking in London including this example of a pocket guidebook for the C18th century equivalent of the gentleman flâneur that is more familiar in relation to Paris through the writings of Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin.

Published in 1794, the title – A MODERN SABBATH, OR, A SUNDAY RAMBLE, AND SABBATH-DAY JOURNEY, CIRCUITOUS AND DESCRIPTIVE, In and about the Cities of LONDON AND WESTMINSTER AND BOROUGH OF SOUTHWARK alludes to the leisure a certain class of male walker would have.

I like this earnest summary – a nice parallel to our Monday ramble through Battersea and Rotherhithe yesterday in which we considered the ‘follies’ of London’s present age:

‘Exhibiting a true Account of the Manner in which that Day is generally employed by all Ranks and Degrees of People, from the common Beggar to the dignified Peer.

The Whole illustrated with a great Variety of Original Characters, Anecdotes, and Memoirs, of Persons in real Life; with pleasing Remarks thereupon.  Intended to shew, in their proper Light, the Follies of the present Age; without the Severity of a CYNIC, or the Indulgence of a SENSUALIST.

-Simon King