(2012). Shaping the city, shaping the subject: honour, affect and agency in John Gwynn's London and Westminster improved (1766).
In: O'Brien, Gillian and O'Kane, Finola eds.
Portraits of the City: Dublin and the Wider World.
Dublin: Four Courts Press.
This chapter explores John Gwynn's well known text 'London and Westminster Improved', which has been seen as both encapsulating eighteenth century ideas of improvement and acting as a driver for practices of improvement into the nineteenth century. Gwynn's text has been seen as encapsulating the principles of mercantilism and the concept of abstract space, with Gwynn marketing hismself as a specialist of space. Here I draw out the ways in which Gwynn sought to realise his argument, focusing attention on the fact that Gwynn's text contains not one portrait of the city, but two: the city of the future, marked by mercantilist principles and abstraction; but also the city of the present, the dirty, crowded and irregular metropolis of the present. Gwynn sought to generate a sense of shame in the reader about contemporary London by encouraging the potential patron to see the city through his eyes. He also sought to create a sense of agency and mission for the patron by making the shameful city appear capable of reform and liable to produce positive moral effects, if these reforms were realised.
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