Waller, Maureen. 1700: Scenes from London Life. New York and London: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000.
Reviewed by Diana Solomon | March 12, 2001
Suitable for the eighteenth century scholar or the mainstream reader, 1700 answers many questions about London culture in an organized and lively fashion. The chapters are well defined and straightforwardly titled (what could be clearer than a chapter called “Death”?), and full of general statistics and individual examples. Waller is at her most compelling when she details the London underworld and the grotesque, from a jest that highwayman Philip Stafford made when riding in the cart to be executed, to a speculation on whether landowners did actually die of worms. (326; 99) Waller sometimes leaves large claims undefended, as when she claims that in general, wives “gave as good as they got” from their husbands (is every London wife Mrs. Peachum?), or neglects to include necessary clarification (in Oroonoko, Behn does not protest all forms of slavery). Nevertheless Waller’s book serves as a fine complement to the works of Roy Porter and others for the reader wishing to enhance cultural knowledge of the period.