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Dickens’ London and Mr. Darcy’s, Too by Mary Simonsen — 32 Comments

      • ooh, throw in a Jack The Ripper/Sherlock Holmes vibe, and Darcy and Fitzwilliam could hear the screams of Elizabeth and Jane and come rescue them from muggers Wickham and Willoughby .. lol

  1. I agree that it would make a good vignette. With all that pollution (besides those seeking mamas and daughters), no wonder Darcy preferred Pemberley….he could breathe.

    • I agree that Pemberley must have been like Eden when compared to foggy London. Even so, it must have been exciting to live in such a vibrant city with so many entertainment venues.

  2. Thank you for passage on the fog. I was in England near London as a child in 1959, and I remember those fogs. Cars had fog lights, but I still couldn’t see anything & couldn’t understand people daring to drive through those pea-soupers. It was creepy – you might catch a glimpse of a coat but not see a head on top of it.But maybe that was because I was then short enough that the invisible head would be far above me.

    • Very vivid description! I can just imagine what it would be like for someone who was only waist-high. When I was a girl in New Jersey, I desperately wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building so that I could see New Jersey. When I got up there in the mid 1960s, the scene was quite different: smog and haze. It’s so much better now. Much cleaner and the view is as good as you can get.

  3. We just have smog now, Mary! Loved the passage from Dickens-so enjoy his descriptive passages. It would make a good vignette, and I don’t think it’s too difficult to work out why the Austen family preferred the country to the town.

  4. I just cannot believe London is bad place to live in all this fog air pollution, how can they breathe, but the story about Elizabeth and Darcy meet in London fog day is very interesting scene, they may not reconnect each other, it is good vignette story.

    • Thanks, Linda. London did have its problems. Even so, it has been one of the world’s greatest cities for a long time.

  5. Thank you, Mary for this powerful description of the dreadful fog and air pollution in London at that time! It adds so much to understanding the regency attitudes about London and it’s “bad air” and gives real visual support to the stories we read. I loved the quote by Shelley and Dickens’s description… especially of the black snowflakes “gone into mourning … for the death of the sun.”
    And yes please, do give us a wonderful vignette of Elizabeth and Darcy meeting up in the fog! 🙂

    • Wasn’t that a great quote! I listened to that description on a CD. It was read by a man with a throaty voice. I could just picture Sherlock Holmes, with pipe in hand, walking around London in the fog.

  6. I wonder what reaction would be stronger to someone from back then to today to experience the smog/fog today (minor) to Dicken’s description and the 21st Century marvels! That opening paragraph was so oppressive and ‘bleak’! Never read the book but the PBS series of ‘Bleak House’ was amazing. Yes, Darcy and Elizabeth finding each other in that scenario would be interesting indeed.

    By the way, read your book ‘Becoming Mrs. Darcy’ while on vacation and I enjoyed how you developed that story. I really liked Beth and so enjoyed her HEA.

    • Carole, I deleted a lot of the most depressing stuff! Thanks for letting me know about Becoming Elizabeth Darcy. I really enjoy writing time travel novels.

  7. I just watched Bleak House for the second time recently. Truly a great story. Dickens always keeps you hanging on to the end! The descriptions above are so graphic – choking on the air – can’t imagine living in that pollution. I grew up in the country but had to live in Pittsburgh for 2 years in the 70’s and had an itchy throat as soon as we drove into the city plus developed some skin problems and an allergy while living there. The story of ODC trying to connect in the fog/smog sounds mysterious already. I love Sherlock Holmes also and try to watch all his TV stories on PBS.

    • If you had respiratory problems in the 1970s, you needed to avoid Elizabeth and Linden, NJ. Driving on the Turnpike could cause an asthma attack. It’s so different now. Still a long way to go, but people are moving back into Newark. I never thought that would happen.

  8. Even without the pollution, there’s the “freezing fog” in winter that is not only eerie but lives up to its name, hundreds of tiny freezing droplets clinging to any exposed surface, feels especially strong by the Thames.

    • Brrrr! I grew up in New Jersey, but have lived in the Southwest for 18 years. I can take cold, but not wet, damp cold. No wonder everyone in London wears scarves.

  9. That was fascinating – the atmosphere was truly sinister and depressing! How awful to live in those conditions, and such a relief things are better now. The scene actually made me think it would be a good description of a post-apocalyptic London as well, which could be another Darcy-Elizabeth setting.

    • Dickens does create a post-apocalyptic scene. Can you imagine what London looked like in WWII with the bombed buildings AND the fog?

  10. Thank you for this, Mary. My father used to tell me tales of the fog in London and how he once walked round and round circles trying to find his house for three whole hours. I always took that with a grain of salt but when I read about it later I realized it very likely wasn’t.

    It’s so funny how things have changed. I live south of London in Surrey and when my daughter was about seven she stared out of the window at the unfamiliar fog and asked: “What’s happening to my eyes? I can’t see very well.” She’d seen fog so infrequently she didn’t know what it was!!!

    • I’ve heard stories about people going into the wrong houses. In the 1960s, there was a one season show about exchange students. The American was always lost in the fog, and the Brit was always going on about having to wear sunglasses in L.A. It was such a cute show.

      I happen to love fog–maybe because I see so little of it. When I was in VA, where my daughter lives, there was fog every day. It was great for the time I was there.

  11. When I first went to London in 1974, I was shocked to discover it wasn’t foggy. London was synonymous with fog in my mind from all I’d heard and read. I imagine that pea-soup fog would strike us a terrible smog now, but it must have been completely normal to the people living in it since it built up so slowly.

    • Fortunately for literature, Dickens and Conan Doyle had the famous fog. I first went to London in 1982, and it looked as if it had seen better days. The next time I went back in the 1990s, everything looked spic and span–at least in the tourist areas.

      • We visited London in late March 2004 and, although cool, I don’t remember fog or smog! We took the double-decker bus tour and rode on the Thames as part of that tour. We stayed across from part of Hyde Park and walked there.

    • Thanks, Patty. Foggy London may be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Now, modern-day London? That’s another story.

  12. Thanks for the enlightening fact, Mary. I couldn’t imagine London had experienced the Great Smog of 1953 from watching modern films, TV series and documentaries. Now it is Beijing’s turn but I hope it will not be so bad as that.

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