‘London is blacker than lacquer’ Lao She remains revered as one of China’s great modern writers. His life and work have been the subject of volumes of critique, analysis and study. However, the four years the young aspiring writer spent in London between 1924 and 1929 have largely been overlooked. Dr Anne Witchard, a specialist in the modernist milieu of London between the wars, reveals Lao She’s encounter with British high modernism and literature from Dickens to Conrad to Joyce. Lao She arrived from his native Peking to the whirl of London’s West End scene—Bloomsburyites, Vorticists, avant-gardists of every stripe, Ezra Pound and the cabaret at the Cave of The Golden Calf. Immersed in the West End 1920s world of risqué flappers, the tabloid sensation of England’s ‘most infamous Chinaman Brilliant Chang’ and Anna May Wong’s scandalous film Piccadilly, simultaneously Lao She spent time in the notorious and much sensationalised East End Chinatown of Limehouse. Out of his experiences came his great novel of London Chinese life and tribulations—Mr Ma and Son: Two Chinese in London (Er Ma, 1929). However, as Witchard reveals, Lao She’s London years affected his writing and ultimately the course of Chinese modernism in far more profound ways.
London has taken a central role in urban Gothic, from key canonic texts like Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula through modern Gothic texts to the 'tourist gothic' of rebranded gastropubs and ghost tours.As a specific category, London Gothic is becoming as important for understanding ourselves today as it has been for thinking about the cultural productions of the late-nineteenth century. This is the first book to focus on Gothic representations of London, offering a range of essays from established and new scholars reading London Gothic as it is manifested in a variety of media and through varied critical approaches.
As England suffered heavy casualties at the front during World War One, the nation closed ranks against outsiders at home. England sought to reaffirm its racial dominance at the heart of the empire, and the Chinese in London became the principal scapegoat for anti-foreign sentiment. A combination of propaganda and popular culture, from the daily paper to the latest West End sensation, fanned the flames of national resentment into a raging Sinophobia. Opium eating, gambling and interracial romance became synonymous with London's Limehouse Chinatown, which was exoticised by Sax Rohmer's evil mastermind Fu Manchu and Thomas Burke's tales of lowlife love. England's Yellow Peril exploded in the midst of a catastrophic war and defined the representation of Chinese abroad in the decades to come.