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Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London

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There are city people who have never seen the stars or known the comfort of being wrapped by night's soft wings. Es ist ein kleines, aber sehr feines Buch, bei dem es um viel mehr geht als nur das Unterwegssein in der Nacht. Given its tone, this is probably a book more for readers used to perusing heavier, academic texts than those looking for a light non-fiction read along the lines of Peter Ackroyd. I struggled to get into this book, then I struggled to get through it and I struggled to absorb the information within it. The author should have given a special mention in the acknowledgments to Walter Benjamin as he seemed to crib so much of his work esp on Baudelaire.

Which is about as relevant to nightwalking as including a definition of pulling a moonie, being over the moon etc etc. However, in actuality, the criminalisation of nightwalking was only applied to the poor and homeless, whilst the prosperous were free to walk the dark streets at will.And all this with a heavy slant towards men of letters, when Beaumont doesn't switch to his other mode: a general description of London's social history, policing or analyzing specific words connected to walking. The most surprising revelation of Beaumont’s book is how recently we have come to regard nightwalking with anything other than suspicion and alarm. Beaumont’s book is an ecstatic celebration of our tendency to invest the night with all our fears, guilt, and desires. So this book is essentially a literary review of all things nocturnal in written form from around the 1300's or so through to the 19th century.

If nightwalking is a matter of going astray in the streets of the metropolis after dark, then nightwalkers represent some of the most suggestive and revealing guides to the neglected and forgotten aspects of the city. Part literary criticism, part social history, part polemic, this is a haunting addition to the canon of psychogeography.Similarly, this book’s own title and Beaumont’s discussion personify the night as it haunts London in perpetuity.

There just wasn't enough of this book to give it 5 stars; the writing is beautiful and accomplished and conveys a true love of the countryside and natural world, I also enjoyed the author's choice of poems.

Having to look up terminology every few sentences breaks any immersion I may have with a book and therefor this failed fundamentaly for me. In this brilliant work of literary investigation, Beaumont shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers: Chaucer and Shakespeare; William Blake and his ecstatic peregrinations and the feverish ramblings of opium addict Thomas De Quincey; and, among the lamp-lit literary throng, the supreme nightwalker Charles Dickens. Before the age of the gas lamp, the city at night was a different place, home to the lost, the vagrant and the noctiambulators. It doesn't help that in his gushing here he seems not to know what 'onomatopoeia' means, which is worrying in a literature academic).

A historical guide to the capital, Beaumont details everything including the 'villainous' common nightwalkers and prostitutes of the middle ages and Charles Dickens’s time as an insomniac. He shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers: Chaucer and Shakespeare; William Blake and his ecstatic peregrinations and the feverish ramblings of opium addict Thomas De Quincey; and, among the lamp-lit literary throng, the supreme nightwalker Charles Dickens.Rich in imagery and idea, this is the kind of book that makes readers ask questions and explore further.

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