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Victorian London

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"London is a modern Babylon."

In the Victorian era, from 1837 until Queen Victoria's death in 1901, Britain's capital was known as "Dirty Old London". Tens of thousands of horses plied the streets, leaving manure and urine everywhere; houses had reeking cesspools under them that filled the Thames with raw sewage; soot and smoke filled the air; and the pea soup makes it difficult to see, but please mind your step in Whitechapel...

London's population increased more than fivefold from the start of the century to the end, so it was overcrowded and congested. The poor lived in a Wretched Hive of slum tenements, pawnshops, taverns, brothels, and Opium Dens, amidst thieves, pickpockets, soot-faced urchins and Cockney flower girls. Merchants sold cheap gin and lurid penny-dreadful stories. The clank of steam-powered machinery from the shipbuilding yards and port echoed in the streets.

The power of the wealthy aristocracy was waning, as middle-class merchants became increasingly influential in London, which was Britain's financial center. For the well-off, sexual morals were prudish and pious (at least when they weren't discreetly visiting a member of The Oldest Profession). Men wore hats and suits and smoked pipes in parlor rooms. Women wore corsets and poofy dresses.

Fortunately, if you were in trouble (and the situation was suitably intriguing), Sherlock Holmes might take your case, especially if there is a hint that the evil Professor Moriarty was involved. Plebes can refer more mundane matters to the bobbies of Scotland Yard and no, being maimed by machinery in the workplace doesn't count.

Job prospects in the city's sooty factories increased since the Industrial Revolution, at least until 1872 note  and with late nineteenth century safety reforms, urban jobs, like chimney-sweeping, workhouses, and textile mills weren't so bad as the during the start of the industrial era (even when run by bitter old misers). Would you rather be in the poorhouse?

Be wary also of wispy men with capes and strangely pointy teeth, spiritualist cultist con-artists, escaped convicts, mad or mercurial scientists, boarding schools, wide-eyed waifs, serial killers, and suspect meat pies. Also, that strange man you saw might just be your secret uncle's best friend's sister's former roommate's dog. All of which is overseen by Queen Victoria, whose web of agents seemed to have some connection to every sinister conspiracy threading its way through London streets, assuming she's not in their cross hairs.

This is a trope that is disturbingly accurate at times. The Victorian Era also happened in the rest of the country, of course, but, as we all know, Britain Is Only London. It (suitably altered) is also the default setting for Steampunk stories or a Gaslamp Fantasy.

Popular tropes from this time period are:

The following characters from that period may make frequent cameos:


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    Anime & Manga 

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • The first series of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is largely (though not solely) set in the fictional version of late Victorian London.
  • From Hell, which is based on the Jack the Ripper case.
  • French comics Basil and Victoria (and the cartoon adaptation, renamed Orson and Olivia) follows two orphans making a living by rat-catching on the streets of Victorian London.
  • French comics Professor Bell, by Joann Sfar.
  • Predator Nemesis. Ex-British Army Captain Soames is enlisted by Mycroft Holmes and the Diogenes Club to investigate a grisly massacre in an opium den, the killer being identified as "Rakshasa" by the sole survivor. The killer is the same Predator Soames encountered in India years before. Sherlock Holmes is mentioned (Soames is enlisted mainly because Sherlock is "out of the country at the moment", and it's implied that Mycroft is aware of Soames' previous encounter) as well as Jack the Ripper, whom is initially thought to be the culprit by Soames, and is strongly implied by Mycroft to have been killed by the Diogenes Club, but the details of his identity and his exact fate are kept secret from the public.
  • Ruse: The city of Partington is almost exactly like Victorian London, except that it's on an alien planet because it's part of the Sigilverse. In the Marvel Comics version, Parlington is simply Victorian London with a No Communities Were Harmed name.

    Films Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 

  • The cello rock band Rasputina uses imagery from this period in their songs, and their website even claims that the band was created in 1891.

  • Radio comedy series Bleak Expectations parodies this trope up one side of the workhouse and down the other.
  • Audio fantasy-adventure series The Springheel Saga, based on the Victorian urban legend of Spring-Heeled Jack.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • One of the domains of Ravenloft, the city of Paridon, aptly enough for a Gothic setting, is Victorian London, including a Jack the Ripper Expy.
    • The Masque of the Red Death alternate setting is entirely set in the Victorian Era, and centers on London. One of Ravenloft's domains, Odiare, was taken from Gothic Earth.
  • In Kerberos Club this Victorian society of (super)heroes has its headquarters in London throughout the age. Towards the end of the 1800s it's them that saves the city from an Atlantean attack and a robot uprising.
  • The appropriately-titled Victoriana RPG, from Cubicle 7 Games, uses this setting (with a few fantasy modifications) as a jumping-off point.
  • Victorian Age: Vampire covers the era from 1880 to 1897. London in this era is the standard against which the Kindred measure all other cities—and also a deeply dangerous domain where only the savviest survive its politics.
  • Victorian Lost, a historical setting for Changeling: The Lost, focuses on Victorian England in the 1890s.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • minus.: This strip through time travel.
  • The main setting for Mayonaka Densha, though also through time travel.
  • Zatanna & the Ripper primarily takes place in 1888 London and follows time-traveling sorceress Zatanna as she attempts to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper.

    Western Animation 
  • Disenchantment: Steamland, with its entire Steampunk/Dieselpunk aesthetic, looks a lot like Victorian London (but with flying airships and other crazy advanced technology).
  • The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XV": The "Four Beheadings and a Funeral" story in this episode is this trope applied to the show.