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One way I develop a a sense of place is by studying drawings, engraved illustrations, prints, and paintings. I see my early 19th century world, not through the eye of a camera but via an artist’s interpretation or a writer’s picture in words.
Vauxhall Royal Gardens, which no longer exist, except in some illustrations and a pair of photographs, is a case in point. Looking for images of the place, where important scenes of Vixen in Velvet are set, I came upon this illustration by Richard Doyle.
It’s fifteen years later than my story, but all one need do is mentally change the dress and allow for the artist’s humorous interpretation. Equally important for me, though was discovering this work of Richard Doyle’s, and his talent for drawing crowds in a comical way.
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Apparently, there isn’t as much of Doyle’s work as there ought to be because he was notoriously unreliable about completing his assignments. However, he did complete his job for Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe, a delightful little comic picture of London done in the style of Samuel Pepys’s Diary.
I was particularly struck with the interpretation of Regent’s Street, which in 1849 bears a strong resemblance to the Regent Street I experienced in the late spring of 2012. My experience didn’t include lions or horses, but the sidewalks were equally jammed, as were the shops.