Saturday, 26 January 2019

London Life in Postcards

Street life was a popular subject with postcard publishers in the early decades of the last century. In London, as elsewhere, the streets teemed with indigents from the lower orders, desperate to scrabble a living from commerce or deceit. Street entertainers, news vendors, dangerous and exotic animals, musicians and escapologists had their images reproduced on thousands of cheap postcards and offered for sale to customers who could take comfort from the fact that their station in life, however modest, was at least superior to this gallery of rogues and miscreants. The status of the Sandwich Man was not to be envied. The bowler hatted musicians may have perched a little higher in the social order but their talent for engaging the higher faculties with melodious serenading on flute and harp can only be guessed at. The enduring fascination with this subject extended to the post-war years, although by this time Britain could only be shown in black and white. The resolutely monochrome spectators of Charing Cross Road tell us as much as we need to know about that lugubrious period in our national life. I like to think of the figure in chains as that of Roger Stone but, of course it represents the great Brexit Warrior struggling to regain sovereignty.

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