Nov 1, 2010
by Emily May
What I'm reading: Tempting the Negotiator by Zana Bell
Listening to: Salmonella Dub
Watching: Outback Wildlife Rescue
Making me smile: the snowball tree is flowering!
This month my third Regency romance, The Unmasking of a Lady, is out in the UK and North America. This is what I call my 'slum' book. Yes, there are glittering ballrooms, but my hero and heroine also venture into London's slums on several occasions.
To research the slums, I turned to Charles Dickens. He's a little after my time period, but he had personal experience of the slums. I thought I'd share some of his truly flavoursome descriptions, ones you can taste on your tongue!
From Bleak House:
...a black, dilapidated street, avoided by all decent people ... these tumbling tenements contain, by night, a swarm of misery. As on the ruined human wretch, vermin parasites appear, so, these ruined shelters have bred a crowd of foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps in walls and boards; and coils itself to sleep, in maggot numbers, where the rain drips in; and comes and goes, fetching and carrying fever...
Also from Bleak House:
...Mr Snagsby passes along the middle of a villainous street, undrained, unventilated, deep in black mud and corrupt water--though the roads are dry elsewhere--and reeking of such smells and sights that he, who has lived in London all his life, can scarce believe his senses. Branching from this street and its heaps of ruins, are other streets and courts so infamous that Mr Snagsby sickens in body and mind, and feels as if he were going, every moment deeper down, into the infernal gulf.
And from Oliver Twist:
The kennel was stagnant and filthy. The very rats, which here and there lay putrfying in its rottenness, were hideous with famine.
Can't you just smell that rat? Fabulous stuff! I had a lot of fun writing the slums scenes. Thank you, Dickens, for painting such vivid word-pictures!
Any Dickens fans out there? Or not? I have to confess that I find him rather wordy and a bit over the top at times, but he's great for dipping into for descriptions like those above. And there have been some marvellous BBC adaptations of his books!