Death and the Tourist: Dark Encounters in Mid-Nineteenth-Century London via the Paris Morgue

  • John Edmondson


The Paris Morgue was open to the public for most of the nineteenth century and constitutes an extreme example of death-related tourism. This chapter begins with an analysis of the Morgue as a tourist attraction through journalism, travel narratives, novels and guidebooks. The texts examined suggest several motivations for Morgue visiting, arising both from the nature of tourism and from the relationship of the living to the dead. Bearing in mind these motivations, the focus then shifts to manifestations of death-related tourism in mid-nineteenth-century London: the popularization of murder cases and murderers, the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s, the touristic attractions of murder trials, prison visits and murder sites, the portrayals of violent death in such entertainments as peep shows and panoramas, and the popularity of anatomical museums and mummy unrolling. While all these examples situate the corpse, or things and places associated with it, as spectacle, and essentially derive their power of attraction from the perception of the corpse as an Other, an alternative form of death-related tourism appears to be driven by the desire to establish an emotional connection with the dead. The chapter therefore concludes with a discussion of grave visiting and the associated significance of place, thing and memory.


  1. Altick, R. D. (1978). The shows of London. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Anon. (1845). Another instance has just occurred which shows that the degrading appetite for horrors has an undiminished hold upon the public. Illustrated London News, 8 March 1845, 150.Google Scholar
  3. Anon. (1849). The Bermondsey murder. Illustrated London News, 1 September 1849, 3.Google Scholar
  4. Anon. (1851a). Guide Chaix: Nouveau guide à Londres pour l’Exposition de 1851. Paris: Librarie Centrale des Chemins de Fer de Napoléon Chaix et Cie.Google Scholar
  5. Anon. (1851b). Murray’s handbook for modern London; or, London as it is. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  6. Anon. (1852). Galignani’s new Paris guide. Paris: A. and W. Galignani & Co.Google Scholar
  7. Anon. (1853a). Dead reckoning at the morgue. Household Words, 1 October 1853, 112–116. [Published anonymously, author subsequently identified as Dudley Costello.]Google Scholar
  8. Anon. (1853b). In the presence of the sword. Household Words, 23 July 1853, 492–498. [Published anonymously, author subsequently identified as Henry Morley.]Google Scholar
  9. Anon. (1856). Madame Tussaud’s. The Times, 27 December 1856, 8. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 26 September 2015.Google Scholar
  10. Anon. (1857). My Rambles in Paris, Versailles, St. Cloud, &c., &c., 1856. Greenwich.Google Scholar
  11. Anon. (1858). Goldsmith tells people to console themselves. The Times, 24 August 1858, 6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 August 2015.Google Scholar
  12. Anon. (1859). The Buckinghamshire man. All the Year Round, 17 September 1859, 500–504.Google Scholar
  13. Anon. (1860a). Murray’s modern London 1860: A visitor’s guide. Moretonhampstead: Old House Books, 2003 (facsimile edition).Google Scholar
  14. Anon. (1860b). Our eye-witness in great company. All the Year Round, 7 January 1860, 249–253. [Published anonymously, author subsequently identified as Charles Allston Collins.]Google Scholar
  15. Anon. (1864). A handbook for visitors to Paris. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  16. Balzer, R. (1998). Peepshows: A visual history. New York: Henry N. Abrams.Google Scholar
  17. Barnes, J. (1984). Flaubert’s parrot. London: Picador, 1985.Google Scholar
  18. Bates, A. W. (2006). Dr Kahn’s museum: Obscene anatomy in Victorian London. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 99, 618–624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Berridge, K. (2006). Waxing mythical: The life and legend of Madame Tussaud. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  20. Brake, L., & Demoor, M. (Eds.). (2009). DNCJ: Dictionary of nineteenth-century journalism. Gent/London: Academia Press and the British Library.Google Scholar
  21. Collins, C. A. (1860). The eye-witness: Evidence about many wonderful things. London: Sampson Low, Son, and Co.Google Scholar
  22. Crone, R. (2012). Violent Victorians: Popular entertainment in nineteenth century London. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Daly, N. (1999). Modernism, romance and the Fin de Siècle: Popular fiction and British culture, 1880–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. De Amicis, E. (1873). Memories of London. (trans. Stephen Parkin). Richmond: Alma Classics, 2014.Google Scholar
  25. Dickens, C. (1851). A monument of French folly. In Michael Slater (Ed.), The amusements of the people and other papers, The Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens’ Journalism, Vol 2, 329–338. London: J.M. Dent, 1996.Google Scholar
  26. Dickens, C. (1852–53). Bleak House. London: Penguin, 1996.Google Scholar
  27. Dickens, C. (1856). Railway dreaming. In Michael Slater (Ed.), ‘Gone astray’ and other papers from Household Words. The Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens’ Journalism,Vol 3, 369–376. London: J.M. Dent, 1998. Google Scholar
  28. Dickens, C. (1860). Travelling abroad. In Michael Slater and John Drew (Ed.), ‘The Uncommercial Traveller’ and other papers, 1859–70. The Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens’ Journalism, Vol. 4, 83–96. London: J.M. Dent, 2000. Google Scholar
  29. Dickens, C. (1860–61). Great expectations. London: Penguin, 1996.Google Scholar
  30. Dickens, C. (1863). Some recollections of mortality. In Michael Slater and John Drew (Ed.), ‘The Uncommercial Traveller’ and other papers, 1859–70. The Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens’ Journalism,Vol. 4, 218–228. London: J.M. Dent, 2000.Google Scholar
  31. Dickens, C. (1864–65). Our mutual friend. London: Penguin, 1997.Google Scholar
  32. Drew, J. (2003). Dickens the journalist. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Edmondson, J. (2006). Dickens on France. Oxford: Signal Books.Google Scholar
  34. Edmondson, J. (2014). Making sense of place: A short walk in Paris with the Uncommercial Traveller. Dickens Quarterly, 31(2), 127–154.Google Scholar
  35. Flanders, J. (2011). The invention of murder: How the Victorians revelled in death and detection and created modern crime. London: Harper Press.Google Scholar
  36. Fonblanque, A. (1837). England under seven administrations (Vol. II). London: Richard Bentley.Google Scholar
  37. Garrison, L. (Ed.). (2013). Panoramas, 1787–1900: Texts and contexts (Vol. 1–5). London: Pickering & Chatto.Google Scholar
  38. Head, F. B. (1852). A faggot of French sticks (Vol. 2). London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  39. Hugo, V. (1862). Les Misérables. Paris: Éditions Garnier Frères, 1963.Google Scholar
  40. Jesse, J. H. (1847). Literary and historical memorials of London (Vol. 1). London: Richard Bentley.Google Scholar
  41. Leslie, A., & Chapman, P. (1978). Madame Tussaud: Waxworker extraordinary. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  42. Lohrli, A. (1973). Household Words: A weekly journal 1850–1859 conducted by Charles Dickens. Table of contents, list of contributors and their contributions based on the Household Words office book. Toronto/Buffalo: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  43. Madame Tussaud & Sons. (1876). Exhibition catalogue. London: Madame Tussaud & Sons.Google Scholar
  44. Maillard, F. (1860). Recherches historiques et critiques sur la Morgue. Paris: Adolphe Delahays.Google Scholar
  45. Mayhew, H. (1861). London labour and the London poor (Vol. III). London: Charles Griffin and Company.Google Scholar
  46. Moreau-Christophe, M. L. (1839). Rapport sur les prisons de l’Angleterre, de l’Écosse, de la Hollande, de la Belgique et de la Suisse. Paris: Imprimerie Royale.Google Scholar
  47. Pilbeam, P. (2003). Madame Tussaud and the history of waxworks. London/New York: Hambledon and London.Google Scholar
  48. Rousselet, L. (1874). Londres et ses environs. Paris: Collection des Guides Joanne, Librarie Hachette et Cie.Google Scholar
  49. S.G.O. (1849). A new exhibition. Letter to the Editor. The Times, 5 February 1849, 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 26 September 2015.Google Scholar
  50. Seaton, A. V. (2001). In the footsteps of Acerbi: Metempsychosis and the repeated journey. In E. Jarva, M. Mäkivuoti, & T. Sironen (Eds.), Tutkimusmatkalla Pohjoisseen, Acta Universitatis Ouliensis. B40, 121–138. Oulu: Oulu University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Seaton, A. V. (2002). Tourism as metempsychosis and metensomatosis: The personae of eternal recurrence. In G. M. S. Dann (Ed.), The tourist as a metaphor of the social world, 135–168. Wallingford: CABI.Google Scholar
  52. Seaton, A. V. (2013). Cultivated pursuits: Cultural tourism as metempsychosis and metensomatosis. In M. Smith & G. Richards (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of cultural tourism, 19–27. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  53. Seaton, A. V. (2014). The unknown mother: Thanatourism and metempsychotic remembrance after World War I. In L. Sikorska (Ed.), Of what is past, or passing, or to come: Travelling in time and space in literature in English, Studies in Literature in English, Vol. 5. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  54. Storey, G. (Ed.). (1997). The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume Nine, 1859 –1861. The British Academy Pilgrim Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  55. Thackeray, W. M. (1847–48). Vanity fair. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1890.Google Scholar
  56. Timbs, J. (1867). Curiosities of London. London: John Camden Hotten.Google Scholar
  57. Trollope, F. (1836). Paris and the Parisians in 1835 (Vol. I). London: Richard Bentley.Google Scholar
  58. Veyriras, P. (1982). Visiteurs Brittaniques à la Morgue de Paris au dix-neuvième siècle. Cahiers Victoriens & Edouardiens, No. 15 (Avril 1982), 51–61.Google Scholar
  59. Vita, P. (2003). Returning the look: Victorian writers and the Paris Morgue. Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 25(3), 241–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Watson, N. J. (2008). The literary tourist. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  61. Westover, P. (2012). Necromanticism: Traveling to meet the dead, 1750–1860. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. White, J. (2007). London in the nineteenth century. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
  63. Zola, É. (1867). Thérèse Raquin. Paris: Fasquelle, 1984.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Edmondson
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarLondonUK

Personalised recommendations