One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858

by Rosemary Ashton


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One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858 by Rosemary Ashton

A unique, colorful view of Victorian London when residents both famous and now-forgotten endured “the Great Stink” across one hot summer​

While 1858 in London may have been noteworthy for its broiling summer months and the related stench of the sewage-filled Thames River, the year is otherwise little remembered. And yet, historian Rosemary Ashton reveals in this compelling microhistory, 1858 was marked by significant, if unrecognized, turning points. For ordinary people, and also for the rich, famous, and powerful, the months from May to August turned out to be a summer of consequence.
Ashton mines Victorian letters and gossip, diaries, court records, newspapers, and other contemporary sources to uncover historically crucial moments in the lives of three protagonists—Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Disraeli. She also introduces others who gained renown in the headlines of the day, among them George Eliot, Karl Marx, William Thackeray, and Edward Bulwer Lytton. Ashton reveals invisible threads of connection among Londoners at every social level in 1858, bringing the celebrated city and its citizens vibrantly to life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300238662
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 08/28/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 511,762
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Rosemary Ashton is Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature, University College London. She is the author of ten previous books and a fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London.

Table of Contents

List of illustrations vii

Prologue 1

1 1858 in history 8

Moments of consequence

The rise of Disraeli

Medicine and marriage

Literature and art

2 May 1858 46

Dickens in distress

Derby Day

Marriage mischief

3 June 1858, part I 84

Darwin and the pursuit of science

Dickens dissolves his marriage

Midsummer madness

Meltdown in Clubland

4 June 1858, part II 121

The silver Thames

Queen Victoria, Cruiser, and the Great Eastern


More marriage troubles

Darwin's dilemma

5 July 1858 158

Darwin in distress

'Mad' wives and vengeful husbands

Disraeli tames the Thames

Rothschild enters the Commons at last

6 July-August 1858 195

Hot heads at the Garrick Club

Dickens on tour

The exploits of Dickens's Mr Stryver

Disraeli's whitebait dinner

7 The aftermath of the hot summer 235

The fallout from the Garrick Club affair

Success and embarrassment for Dickens

The end of the Robinson case

Darwin triumphant

Epilogue 275

The year in pantomime

One hot summer's consequences

Endnotes 287

Select bibliography 314

Index 321

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