This opening from the Handy Reference Atlas of London, and Suburbs (1908) features Shakespeare Road in Brixton, south London. Critics suggest that Angela Carter, who lived in nearby Clapham, may have used the street as the inspiration for Bard Road in her last novel, Wise Children (Shakespeare is also known as ‘the bard’). Shakespeare and London are at the heart of the novel, which appropriately opens and closes at ‘49 Bard Road, Brixton, London, South West Two’ (p. 1), the home of twins and protagonists Nora and Dora Chance.
Wise Children is also a novel of opposites, and Dora, our narrator, begins her story with an account of the north/south, rich/poor London divide. ‘Welcome to the wrong side of the tracks’, she writes, ‘the left-hand side, the side the tourist rarely sees, the bastard side of Old Father Thames’ (p. 1). This geographical polarity complements the contrasts between low and high culture (music hall and Shakespeare), and illegitimacy and legitimacy (the Chance twins and the Hazards).
It’s perhaps a fitting tribute that there is now an Angela Carter Close in Brixton.