In “The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century” John Ruskin (1908: 10, 31) makes a startling meteorological proposal: “In the entire system of the Firmament there appeared . . . the incontrovertible and unmistakable evidence of a Divine Power in creation. . . . [Then came] the plague-wind of the eighth decade of years in the nineteenth century; a period which will assuredly be recognized in future meteorological history as one of phenomena hitherto unrecorded in the courses of nature.” Ruskin’s conclusion—not simply that the moral fabric of England is affected by the weather but also that present-day moral decay made the weather worse—has struck me as a feeble recourse to magical thinking. However, Jesse Oak Taylor’s remarkable monograph (his first single-authored work) serves as a salutary reminder that if Ruskin had only substituted the words London Fog for Storm-Cloud,...
The Sky of Our Manufacture: The London Fog in British Fiction from Dickens to Woolf
John Plotz, professor of Victorian literature at Brandeis University, is author of The Crowd (2000), Portable Property (2008), and a young-adult novel, Time and the Tapestry: A William Morris Adventure (2014). His Semi-detached: The Aesthetics of Partial Absorption is forthcoming.
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John Plotz; The Sky of Our Manufacture: The London Fog in British Fiction from Dickens to Woolf. Modern Language Quarterly 1 March 2017; 78 (1): 128–131. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-3699823
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