Dickens and Victorian Prostitution

The Bishopsgate Institute opposite Liverpool Street station hosts some great talks. Wow have I been to some corkers here over the years. Their audience is pretty mono and blue rinse so it’s time to mix it up a bit. I went to the drugs in London series ages ago – gin in the 1700s, opium in the Victorian era and cocaine in the 20s – now I know why all those society flapper girls were so skinny, they were boxed out of their minds! Oh and how could I ever forget Brilliant Chang the Chinese kid who started life as a runner between the opium dens in Limehouse and ended up as London’s biggest coke dealer in the high deco period – peddling to all and sundry with his big fur coat and blingy chains. My god – he set the fash aesthetic for every rap artist forever more. P Diddy eat your heart out, you were way behind.

Anyway, they curate talks focused on East London and next up is Dickens’ painted ladies. Dickens consistently challenged the orthodoxy that prostitutes were to be regarded as ‘no longer women’. This talk explores Dickens’s portrayal of prostitutes in his novels, in particular Nancy in Oliver Twist and Martha in David Copperfield, both of whom are offered a new life, and a new identity, by enlightened benefactors.

Dr Jane Jordan is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Kingston University and co-founder of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association. Her books include a biography of the Victorian social reformer, Josephine Butler, who, like Dickens, opened a Home for Fallen Women.

26th April 7:30 £6-£8

Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4QH Tel: 020 7392 9200

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