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Picturing a World

Tower of London

This etching of the Tower of London, ca. 1884, appears in a recent post, Ernest George's Old London, at Spitalsfield Life. It's one of those images helpful to an historical novelist in imagining a monument that felt old in Victorian times but not spic-and-span touristy. The steps up from the water are a reminder of how the River Thames was used for transportation, and the trees hint at a more dishevelled place than the Tower today. They are even a faint echo of the fruit orchard that grew on the hillside in the Middle Ages. Teresa McLean, in her Medieval English Gardens (1980), reports that in 1275, the royal gardener there planted 100 cherry trees, 500 osier willows, 4 quince trees, 3 peach trees, gooseberry bushes, and a quart of lily bulbs (pp, 235–236). Check out Ernest George's other etchings and see what they suggest to you.

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