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2012 Highlights

Alex Murray

1 May 2012

Alex Murray

Dr Alex Murray is lecturer in English at the University of Exeter. He has published widely on London literature including Recalling London (2007) and essays on contemporary London fiction (Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, Stewart Home and Michael Moorcock) and late-Victorians like George Moore and Arthur Symons. He is currently completing a book on space at the Fin de siècle entitled ‘Landscapes of Decadence’.

Abstract:

‘The London Sunday Faded Slow’: Writing the Sabbath in the Victorian Metropolis

Victorian London was, as many observed, a modern-day Babylon, its power, wealth and size unparalleled. In a city so full of movement, energy and money there was one day that many Victorian inhabitants dreaded among all others. The Victorian Sunday was notoriously tedious; shops, pubs and museums were often closed following parliamentary pressure from Sabbatarian groups such as the Lord’s Day Observance Society. So what did the people of London do on their day of rest? For many it was the day on which they turned their back on London and returned to the lives that so many of them, and their ancestors, had been forced to leave, that of the country. Venturing to the pleasure-grounds and parks on the outskirts of London they, had, by century’s end, followed the ideal that Dickens had mapped out in Sunday Under Three Heads (1836). This paper maps the ways in which numerous writers, from Dickens, to Marx, George Gissing, Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons attempted to negotiate the tension between weekday London and the Sundays that seemed so distant from the energy of modernity. It is an issue that still has great resonance today, as underscored by responses to the government’s attempt to extend Sunday Trading limitations for the Olympic Games.