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Unsentimental traveller: the London novels of Albert Smith

White, Jerry (2007) Unsentimental traveller: the London novels of Albert Smith. The London Journal 32 (1), pp. 29-51. ISSN 0305-8034.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/174963207X172920

Abstract

Albert Smith was one of the best-known men in Europe in the 1850s. His exploits as an alpine explorer, and his long-running shows in Piccadilly based on his 'conquest' of Mont Blanc, provided one of the great entertainments of Victorian London. But in the decade before, his reputation was based on his writings as a miscellaneous journalist and novelist. His four novels of London life date from the 1840s. They are highly autobiographical, taking scenes and characters from Smith's varied experiences as a London schoolboy, as a medical student and practitioner, as a showman, as a Grub-Street writer, and as author and arranger for the stage. They are overlayed, too, by Smith's chirpy optimism, more attuned to London's brighter side in the 'hungry Forties' than contemporaries like Dickens, Jerrold and Thackeray, all of whom he knew well. Smith provides fresh insights into the vulgar aspirational world of lower middle-class London. And he has a distinct political tone of voice — a Tory democrat who abhorred snobbery, poked fun at artistic pretensions, and defended the suburbs, while despising the poor for their 'love of dirt' and attacking those 'writers with a purpose' who agitated for reform. This paper introduces the reader to Albert Smith and his fiction and the London they inhabit and describe. And it suggests that Smith throws fresh light on metropolitan life and manners in a decade that we thought we knew well from other hands.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2012 15:48
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:26
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/5744

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