East London (London: Chatto & Windus, 1901), p. 49.by Joseph Pennell (1857-1926). 1899. Illustration for Walter Besant's
Besant deals with "The Pool and the Riverside" in his third chapter, explaining that East London's "riverside is cut up with docks; in and about among the houses and the streets around the docks rise forests of masts; there is no seaport in the country, not even Portsmouth, which is so charged and laden with the atmosphere of ocean and the suggestion of things far off as this port of London and its riverside" (41)
This aspect of the East End appealed hugely to Pennell, who included in his illustrations for the chapter several different scenes with plenty of ships' masts and barges, cranes and warehouses. The picturesque structures of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge often feature in the background. Although Besant stresses the buzz of work going on here, Pennell is generally more fascinated by the architectural variety of the docks, with their conglomeration of textures, heights, angles, lines and curves. Here, only two workman can be seen at the left, handling a piece of cargo. The stretch of tall warehouses on the wharf leads the eye towards the right of the picture, where the the river flows on towards Tower Bridge and the open sky, with, as Besant puts it, "the suggestion of things far off" (41).
Scanned image and text by Jacqueline Banerjee [This image may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Besant, Walter. East London. London: Chatto & Windus, 1901.
White, Jerry. London in the Nineteenth Century: "A Human Awful Wonder of God". London: Cape, 2007.