Award for author who charted Victorian London’s ‘media street’

A book charting life on one of London’s most important streets in the Victorian media world has won its author a prestigious prize and the opportunity to present her findings at a high profile conference in America.

Posted: 4 April 2016

image for news story Award for author who charted Victorian London’s ‘media street’
Dr Mary Shannon and her book on Wellington Street which has won the Colby Prize.

Mary L. Shannon’s book Dickens, Reynolds, and Mayhew on Wellington Street focuses on how the physical proximity of so many newspapers and prolific authors - including Charles Dickens and his fierce rival GWM. Reynolds - in one street influenced their work and the print culture of the time. Dr Shannon is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University.

The book has won the annual Robert and Vineta Colby Prize, presented by the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals in the USA. As well as an award, Dr Shannon will give a keynote lecture at the society’s annual conference in Kansas later this year.

Her lecture will bring to life the experience of walking down Wellington Street in the 1850s as Dickens often did, to show who and what he might have seen: friends, rivals, and competitors like George Sala, John Forster and Henry Mayhew; bookshops, newspaper offices and the Lyceum Theatre. It will use this to explore the implications of this close-knit world for Dickens’s representation of connections and co-incidences in his fiction and his journalism.

The Colby Prize is intended to honour original book-length scholarship about Victorian periodicals and newspapers, of the kind that Robert and Vineta Colby produced during their careers. The annual prize is awarded to the book published during the preceding year that most advances our understanding of the 19th-century British press.

Wellington Street is just off the Strand near Somerset House and during the Victorian era was home to nearly 30 newspapers and periodicals, as well as a theatre and the musical and theatrical press. It was a hub of relationships, influences and connections between writers, booksellers, editors, publishers, theatre managers and audiences, and readers.

Dr Shannon argues in the book that physical proximity of so many key players at the time reinforced important 19th-century media networks, and even had an impact on the ways in which Dickens depicted London life in his novels and journalism. She explores Wellington Street at different times of the day and night to reveal how these networks fostered connections between the discourses of journalism, literature, and drama.

You can study Victorian literature as part of Roehampton’s English Literature BA degree. The Department of English and Creative Writing is ranked among the top 20 departments at UK universities by The Guardian University Guide 2016.

Dr Shannon's lecture 'Mornings on Wellington Street: The Print Culture of a Victorian Street' is available to watch here

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