After an opening declaration on the pleasures of detached, essayistic observation, or ‘spectating’, Steele describes coming from Richmond for a 24-hour ramble through central London.
He lands among boats delivering fruit to Covent Garden before dawn, observes the banter between chimney sweeps and fruit sellers, and then the different waves and classes of people who come through the streets at different hours. Steele launches a hackney coach chase after a sexy young woman, gets harried by a drunken beggar, visits the Royal Exchange and the literary coffeehouses. His final social-barrier-crossing curiosity concerns the personal finances of his evening lantern carrier.
Related recommendation: Walter Benjamin’s ‘A Berlin Chronicle’ (1932)
Themes: Walking, Familiar Examined Afresh