London Street, Limehouse

London Street, Limehouse

Joseph Pennell (1857-1926)


Illustration for Walter Besant's East London (London: Chatto & Windus, 1901), p. 11.

This is Pennell's first illustration for the book, unsigned but in his inimitable style (easily distinguishable from the styles of the other two illustrators, Phil May and Leonard Raven-Hill). Interestingly, it seems to belie Besant's remarks in the first chapter ("What East London Is"), to the effect that East London is an "aggregation of mean streets" (10), unparalleled in "its meanness and monotony" (15). Even Pennell's next illustration in this chapter, of a more typical and uniform street in Bethnal Green, shows one house quite distinct from the rest, its first floor apparently painted white, with a neat boot-scraper beside the front door. Pennell's compositions fit better with Besant's more general acknowledgement of the "strange effects of beauty" in the East End, and his stated intention "to show some of the aspects of this city which may redeem it from the charges of monotony and unloveliness" (17).

Scanned image and text by Jacqueline Banerjee

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