IELTS Reading Exercise 11
Choose the correct answer, A, B, C or D for each question.
Sights, Sounds, and Smells
When the skyline of eighteenth-century London was not enveloped in the smoke from sea-coal fires, certain still-familiar structures were visible: the Abbey, the Tower, the dome of St. Paul's. But there were striking differences. Chief among them was the predominance of church steeples, which were not yet dwarfed or concealed by modern buildings. London is a city of churches. By the later eighteenth century there were over three hundred of them. Approximately half were Anglican parish churches and chapels. There were three Jewish synagogues and nearly twenty Catholic chapels. There were churches, chapels, and meetinghouses for French Protestants, for the Germans, the Dutch, and the Danes, for Independents, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Quakers. "This is the country of sects," Voltaire proclaimed; "an Englishman, as a free man, goes to Heaven by whatever road he pleases".
The skyline was also notable in the number of its high, round chimneys, standing amidst the steeples of its churches. Beneath the smoke issuing from them were over a dozen hospitals, several colleges, over two dozen public prisons, dozens of schools and charity schools, some forty markets, fifteen inns of court, as well as fairs, artillery grounds, pesthouses, royal palaces, and bishops' palaces. The city's width from Hyde Park corner to Limehouse was about five miles, its north-south measure, some two to three miles depending on the points of measurement.
Victoria Embankment was not yet built, and the Thames of the eighteenth century was both wider and more shallow than its modern counterpart. When it froze, frost fairs were held upon it. The river was dense with vessels, particularly below London Bridge. By the latter part of the century, new bridges disposed of the need for the old horse-ferry at Westminster. Traffic upon the Thames was slow and sometimes perilous. The smell of sewage was apparent even though the river remained the city's chief source for its supply of water. The city's streets were covered with hackney coaches (nearly a thousand of them) and sedan chairs, as well as innumerable carts and wagons. The wooden houses swept away by the great fire had been replaced with structures of brick and stone, structures which would inhibit both the spread of flames and the gnawing of flea-infested, potentially plague-carrying rats.
The streets were filled with people. Their numbers, however, are difficult to estimate. Although an official census had been proposed as early as 1753, it was not finally taken until 1801. At that time, allowing for a certain level of non-resident population, London had 900,000 of the country's nearly ten million people. As a rough rule of thumb, the greater London of Johnson's time contained approximately one-tenth of the total population and over half of the country's urban population. Prior to the census, the chief sources of statistics are parish registers and bills of mortality, but the records are ecclesiastical rather than civil. They register baptisms, not births, and interments rather than deaths. Individual recordkeeping was very uneven. The Jews and Catholics had their own burial grounds; the Jews and Quakers were not christened and Catholic christenings were not registered, so the statistics are unreliable, particularly for the city of London with its mixed population, multiple faiths, travellers, itinerant wealthy, and large number of disconnected, drifting poor. Dorothy Georges estimate would place the city's population at approximately 675,000 at the beginning of the eighteenth century, with the figure increasing markedly by the beginning of the nineteenth. Some estimate it to be lower at the beginning of the century, at, for example, 500,000, but estimates are perforce rough. The Birmingham to which the young Johnson walked was perhaps a city of 20,000-25,000, probably larger than Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, or Leeds, but smaller than Bristol, Norwich, Manchester, or Liverpool.
The concentration of activity in the city of London is striking. It is the centre of government, of trade, of entertainment, of communications, of finance, of intellectual life, and of fashion. Educationally, Oxford and Cambridge are each but fifty miles away. The city serves functions which, in the United States for example, are divided among such cities as Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, and New York. All were concentrated in eighteenth-century London, a city comparable in its population to modern Edinburgh, or in the United States to Cincinnati or Milwaukee. The combination of concentration of activity and comparative smallness of population is worth remarking. The pattern of life and intellectual interchange which resulted from this circumstance is significant, particularly for students of literature.
For example, the literary traditions in which a writer in the eighteenth century found himself were coupled with neighbourhood traditions and associations. Being near St. Bride's Church and having lived in Fetter Lane, Johnson was close to the ghosts of Milton and Dryden. When he celebrated Charlotte Lennox's literary activities, it was at a tavern once frequented by Ben Jonson. Contemporary writers often lived in close proximity to one another and in close proximity to their publishers. One of the reasons Johnson rented the Gough Square residence was the fact that it was near his printer, Strahan, in New Street Square. If one remembers that perhaps 75 percent of Londons population consisted of the faceless poor, we have a literary and intellectual environment which is very small and often interlaced. We can expect literary relationships and literary influence of a much different nature from those which we know today.
Source: Daily Life in Johnson's London, 1983
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