Posted by: oliviajane16 | November 9, 2011

The Lost Text Of Doré’s “London: A Pilgrimage”

So Professor Martin briefly mentioned a couple weeks ago that Doré’s London: A
was originally published with text to accompany the
illustrations. I found a link to the Tufts’ online library which has the
complete version of the text as well as the images and where they would have
been inserted on each page. It’s a really interesting read if you have some
time to spare.

So much of our reading of Thompson’s Victorian Street Life
focused on the way he would tell the stories of his subjects and then use the
photography to highlight certain aspects of their lives from the information he
was able to write about. For example, we keep bringing up in class the way that
the crawler was lit with this angelic halo as she looked after another woman’s
baby. This greatly influences the viewer’s level of sympathy towards her and whether
or not we see her as someone who made bad decisions or someone who just had a
string of bad luck beyond her control. However, with Doré’s illustrations we
only had one side of the story, if you will. In the Tufts text it’s really
interesting to look at the way that the text changes how the reader feels about
the images and how it informs any interpretations that can be made. Take a look
and see how your views are either changed or solidified!


  1. I think what’s particularly interesting about this additional text (which I will admit to having just skimmed, at this moment, but will definitely look at more in-depth later, with Dore’s illustrations in front of me) is that there are no interviews. There is very little text that is not just observational, and all of it is from Blanchard’s observations, none is from Dore’s (though whether he had input on the final published text, I do not know). There are quotes from other men (Wordsworth, Isaac Disraeli), and later on, there are suggestions of how this work has “thrown new lights upon the pages of Milton, of Cervantes, of Dante, of Hood, of Tennyson,” but there is no material from the citizens who have been sketched or described.

    Much of our reaction to Thomson’s work does come from the stories that accompany the photos, but it is specifically the personal narratives that inform our interpretations and turn them away from the stereotypical. Particularly, it is those personal narratives that prevent us from viewing a photo of someone on hard times and assuming he or she has brought this situation upon his or herself. This personal connection is lacking in Dore’s images and the additional text.

  2. I have a copy of the original and the difference in the quality of the prints compared to all the reproductions I have seen is amazing. The text is interesting from a “tourist” point of view and it seems to me that it was written mainly for that purpose. Blanchard Jerrold was the writer, Dore was illustrating the Victorian equivalent of a travel show. The most famous prints are the ones which would be classed as Social Realism but there are far more views of more affluent society in the book.

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