London under The secret history beneath the streets

Peter Ackroyd, 1949-

Book - 2011

A short study of everything that goes on under London--from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Nan A. Talese c2011.
Edition
1st United States ed
Language
English
Item Description
"Originally published in Great Britain by Chatto & Windus"--T.p. verso.
Physical Description
228 p. : ill. ; 19 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. [207]-209) and index.
ISBN
9780385531504
0385531508
Main Author
Peter Ackroyd, 1949- (-)
  • Darkness visible
  • Rising up
  • Holy water
  • Forgotten streams
  • Old man river
  • The heart of darkness
  • The pipes of London
  • The mole men
  • The deep lines
  • Far under ground
  • Buried secrets
  • The war below
  • Deep fantasies.
Review by Booklist Reviews

"What enormous hosts of dead belong to one old great city!" Dickens marveled in 1861. Ackroyd here invades the ghostly realm under Britain's greatest old city. Visits to crypts, catacombs, and cemeteries draw the reader deep into the hidden world where prehistoric mastodons, Roman soldiers, medieval monks, and Victorian burghers mingle in sepulchral gloom. But that gloom also pulses with the energy of life: the crowded underground railroads still running on routes carved out by intrepid nineteenth-century tunnelers, the black filth flowing through a thousand miles of sewer lines still performing the inglorious function of medieval cesspools, and the intricate modern matrix of conduits and pipes carrying electricity, natural gas, and drinking water. Nonhuman life also scurries through the shadows: cockroaches, rats, and even mysterious white crabs. But Ackroyd fuses dead and living, human and animal, technological and natural in the final chapter, where underground geography becomes imaginative metaphor in the Eloi-Morlock fantasy of Wells' Time Machine. As a sequel to London: The Biography, this is an enthralling step down! Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Ackroyd's investigation into the heated depths lurking under London—the Victorian sewers, tube stations, underground springs, that terrain that is "home of the devil and of holy water"— fascinates in conception and falters in execution. The journalist and biographer relies too heavily on his theme of the underground as an underworld, hooking his scrupulous research into it as he digs down through London's gault clay and chalk into the "portals" of "dark matter." Ackroyd (London) offers a brisk geological, historical, and cultural survey of buried Roman roads, wells from the fourth century, canals filled with fetid gases, rivers with 48 skulls excavated, and "dead tunnels" of mole men; his take is whimsical, vibrant, and lurid, but occasionally lacking in sufficient direction and tension. Still, with characteristic obsession and stellar accompanying images, the book does home in on the breathing vitality of London's underworld—"If you put your ear close to it, you can still hear the sound of the river pulsing underneath—and is a "votive offering to the gods who lie beneath London." (Nov.) [Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A short study of everything that goes on under London--from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Presents a chronicle of London's underground network of rivers, labyrinths, and chambers and how they have been used in various time periods, from sewers and amphitheaters to crypts and tube stations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The author of London: The Biography presents a chronicle of London's underground network of rivers, labyrinths and chambers and how they have been used in various time periods, from sewers and amphitheaters to crypts and tube stations.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

London Under is a wonderful, atmospheric, imagina­tive, oozing short study of everything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations. The depths below are hot, warmer than the surface, and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures, real and fictional, that dwell in darkness—rats and eels, mon­sters and ghosts. When the Underground’s Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864, the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulfurous fumes, and named their engines after tyrants—Czar, Kaiser, Mogul—and even Pluto, god of the underworld. To go under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hid­den world. As Ackroyd puts it, “The vastness of the space, a second earth, elicits sensations of wonder and of terror. It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure.”