Victorian Literature and Culture

Research Article

PAVEMENT, GUTTER, CARRIAGEWAY: SOCIAL ORDER AND URBAN SPACES IN THE WORK OF W. P. FRITH

Simon Knowlesa1

a1 University College Cork

In 1881 William Powell Frith (1819–1909) exhibited a painting at the Royal Academy in London titled For Better For Worse (1881; oil on canvas; Private Collection). It depicts a well-to-do wedding Frith had witnessed in Bayswater (Figure 3). The newly married couple are represented crossing the pavement on a red carpet, just about to step into a waiting carriage pulled close to the kerb. The audience for their departure comprises a broad mix of classes and types. In his own description of this work, Frith identified the bride and groom, the bride's family and friends arranged on the steps of the house, plus a crowd standing behind the red carpet that included street boys, a Jewish second-hand clothes seller, and a policeman. In the foreground, on the left, a family of beggars approach from the street, while on the right-hand side, with his back to the viewer, stands a figure identified by Frith as an Italian boy with a monkey (2: 209–10).

(Online publication May 18 2011)

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