chapter  2
18 Pages

Smog at the Garden Party

Atmospheric Pollution in Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove (1902)
WithRebecca Barnes

'Smog' itself was an Edwardian invention: this portmanteau term, first coined in 1904, echoed the frequent conflation of smoke and fog in popular discourse. Historian Morna O'Neill has traced how the perception of the Edwardian period as one long garden party is indebted to the Edwardians' own self-fashioning. It is fascinating to observe the extent to which antismoke rhetoric in the Edwardian era makes recourse to the image of the garden party, both in a literal sense, and in terms of the 'Edwardian garden party' as a constellation of class privilege, material luxury and polite sociability. Although late nineteenth-century gardeners had reported the damaging effect of smoky fogs on plant life, these Edwardian commentators are also concerned with maintaining spaces for privileged leisure and preserving the integrity of private property. The Edwardian era experienced the 'smoke nuisance' coming increasingly close to home.