london: a pilgrimage

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Gustave Doré & Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage; Coffee Stall, early Morning. Westminster stairs, Over London by Rail, Warehousing in the City, A Chiswick Fête. Dudley Street, Seven Dials, Newgate Prison exercise yard, The Workmen’s Train, Wentworth Street, Applying for Admittance (Woodcut engravings), Grant & Co., London, England, 1872.

Gustave Doré - London: A Pilgrimage (1872).

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In 1869 the journalist Blanchard Jerrold joined forces with Gustave Doré to produce an illustrated record of the Victorian London.

They visited night refuges, cheap lodging houses and the opium den described by Charles Dickens in the sinister opening chapter of The Mystery of Edwin Drood; they travelled up and down the river and attended fashionable events at Lambeth Palace, the boat race and the Derby. The ambitious project, which took four years to complete, was eventually published as London: a pilgrimage with 180 engravings.

To quote Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, “I am weary; yea, my memory is tired. Have we no wine here?” It’s Shakespeare’s birthday today so here’s this pub I used to frequent when I was studying at King’s lol #shakespeare400 #london#vscocam (https://www.instagram.com/poor.yoricks/)

I have quite a few good memories and things to say about the role Shakespeare has played in my life, although I have to say that my fondest memories all come from my time spent as a student in London. Naturally, I’d made my pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon before, but it was living in London that actually made me feel that Shakespeare’s world was right at my fingertips. After all, this was the city where he had made a name for himself. I saw a number of Shakespeare’s plays performed in venues all throughout the city, from Richard III at Trafalgar Studios to The Comedy of Errors at The Globe and Othello at the National Theatre. Shakespeare was a celebrity of sorts during his time, having captivated London with his stories and unforgettable characters during times of tremendous change and progress. And one thing I came to realise while living in London was that the city is still in love with Shakespeare, and it has been for the past four centuries. (He’s even the namesake of a pub I used to spend too much time at.)

It’s been little more than a year since I left, and around 4 years since I started Daily Shakespeare, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s not just London - the whole world is still in love with Shakespeare, too. The man’s been dead for 400 years, yet his words and stories have endured all this time, regardless of time or place. That, I think, is the very definition of universality. Shakespeare is for everyone and that will always be what I love most about him.   

Happy 400th Birthday, Shakespeare!