Leslie Mitchell

Capital Gains

London in the Eighteenth Century: A Great and Monstrous Thing


The Bodley Head 682pp £25 order from our bookshop

In January 1758, the publisher Robert Dodsley had a problem with one of the more promising poets on his list. For some inexplicable reason, his client affected to find life in the country more agreeable than life in London. In order to coax him back to a saner view, Dodsley set out the capital’s attractions:

Come to Town, therefore, if not for our sakes at least for your own. The Piazzas of Covent Garden afford in January a better shelter than any Grove in Christendom; and what are your mossy banks and purling streams in the Country, to a sparkling bowl & a downy bed at the Hummums? Your Naiads, your dryads & your Hamadryads are enough to starve a man to death; but with ye Nymphs of Drury [Lane] you may be as warm as your heart can wish.

Dodsley’s message was clear. He agreed with Dr Johnson that ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,