John Wilmot's A Ramble in St. James's Park

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The Geography of "A Ramble in St. James's Park:" Geometric Places Creating Female Spaces.

Joel E. Salt

St. James's Park is an incurably mappable place. It can be seen as both pastoral enclosure,

Whores of the bulk, and the alcove,
Great ladies, chambermaids, and drudges,
The rag-picker, and heiress trudges:
Car-men, divines, Great Lords, and tailors,
Prentices, pimps, poets, and gaolers;
Footmen, fine fops, do here arrive,
And here promiscuously they swive.
Along these hallowed walks it was, (93).

because of the lack of class distinctions and (for Libertines) the liberty of the space, and as Mona Narain suggests, a heterotopia (as it is quite obviously profane). As previously discussed, the utopian/heterotopian distinction is common for 18th century writers. Gay, however, has the juxtaposition between a place's multivalent spaces (i.e. the Lincoln's Inn Beggar/Thief) because of some sort of catalyst: in this instance it is time.

For Wilmot the distinction is problematised, however, by the blurring of ideology: pastoral and profane; "unto this all-sin-sheltering grove" (93), he writes. The language used tells us that this enclosure is reversed: it is an amoral pastoral (subverting the normal original sense of the pastoral enclosure as a morally high place). Dichotomy becomes dialectic.

What causes this? Certainly night (similarly to Gay) must play a part (as does the wine), but what can the geography of the park tell us? We have covered the ideological (and temporal) aspects of mapping spaces; yet it seems that ideological space is perhaps not always constructed before human topography takes over. The urban pastoral polygon, for instance, is only co-incidental, i.e. the specific shape is not important (just that there is a shape, which supplies information). The urban pastoral was not designed by city planners for London, but merely the shape of London became, for Gay, an urban paradise between certain boundaries. Let us investigate the phsyical geography of place (i.e. only the physicalities) and see if that can engender space (and ideological framework).

"Th[e] realignment [of London] was more importantly a method to instill civic self-respect and refashion the characters of the whole populace. Many planners had considered London’s medieval geography outdated and obsolete for contemporary use well before the fire" (Narain 557). The city planners re-constructed the phsyical place of London in order to re-align (and modernise) the ideological space of London. Thus, spaces are constructed knowingly. But for what purpose? How do the physical places we construct - i.e. their geometrical attributes - alter or establish how we view those spaces?

Narain says "one can see a utopian London in their cartographic images. This is a metropolis, not just a city, with its spaces restored, reconstructed into wide boulevards and grand piazzas, suitable for a great European monarch" (557): the geography, the geometry, is changing and as it does so, the space of London changes: from city to metropolis. The people now view London differently based on its physical topography: the geometric spaces of the constructs (while consciously built for a purpose) can alter how we VIEW the spaces:

Evelyn is quite clear about how the streets and buildings of London were a concrete manifestation of the ideas of their human occupants: "In general the buildings are as deformed as the minds and confusions of the people, for if a whole street be fired (an accident not unfrequent in this wooden city) the Magistrate has either no power, or no care to make them build with any uniformity, which renders it, though a large, yet a very ugly Town." For planners like Evelyn, the fire presented an opportunity to redesign both the spatial and ideational configuration of London society itself (Narain 557).

The people of London (and Charles II specifically, who opened St. James's Park and himself took advantage of the Libertine aspects of it) were cognisant of the altering ideology based on topographical re-construction. Inside this "new" urban, more open space was necessary, though (as previously mentioned) it becomes dialectical:

"the garden offered one possible way of maintaining a foot in both camps, particularly for city dwellers," writes Nichola Johnson. Johnson argues that in the eighteenth century, London parks and gardens acquired acute significance as substitutes for an ordered, aestheticized, and fast receding, ultimately unattainable, countryside (Narain 558).

The garden, i.e. St. James's Park, becomes a liminal space: part pastoral, part urban, and creates a unique space. So why all the shagging? One possibility is the very geography of the park engenders the sexual ideology on St. James's Park. Sigmund Freud would classify it as a feminine symbol (more overt than many):

St James Park - Feminine Space
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The geography of the park has created such a feminine symbol: it was not specifically created to look like a vagina. Through mapping techniques it may be possible to understand if we, humans, socially or literarily construct our own ideological spaces out of geographical places. Certainly Wilmot sexualises St. James's Park, and his metaphor works because the physical space is:

a) a place where people have sex
b) shaped like a female sex organ

Wilmot's Corinna is sexualised in the female space, "the locale, the space, allows an excessively sexualized feminine subject to develop" (Narain 561). The geography of the feminine symbol allows this to happen. Narain also comments that she is de-/re-gendered when she leaves the space:

but that she too has become a roving agent as she passes from park to hackney coach seeking the “amorous rout” (“[Ramble]” [line] 84). The roving female instead of being threatened by open public places that are traditionally inaccessible to women challenges this sexing of space and appropriates these spaces in a reversal of power. Corinna’s appropriation of public spaces for her amorous pleasure now threatens the narrator but also helps denote her sexuality (561-62).

The geography / topography of the London streets are male symbols: by entering the male space she assumes a form of masculinity herself. The geography of place engenders an ideological engendered space. If we map similar places will we find similar places? What can we learn about the spaces of London by mapping them? Is this another useful "tag" - open/not open, public/private, etc. - in the juxtapositioning of spatial attributes? Is the space characterised by its physicality? What about each actual SHAPE can tell us something? Streets are narrow as compared to buildings, but which streets are narrower than others? Charing Cross is an open space, as is St. Paul's churchyard and City Squares and markets. Is there anything to learn from mapping these spaces and viewing them as feminine spaces? Can we see differences between open and non-open buildings, between suburbs and down-town?

St Pauls
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We are approaching a Freudian / Sexualised / Genderised Ecocriticism here: is this useful?
Is a 2-d modeling approach of any use? Do we need three dimensions to properly see the three-dimensional topography or geography of a place/space to understand fully how it might be ideologically constructed from its geometery?

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