Street atlas showing possible inspiration for settings in Wise Children


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.

Full title:
Handy Reference Atlas of London, and Suburbs, by J.G. Bartholomew, F.R.G.S., etc. (General Index to Streets, etc)
1908, The Geographical Institute, Edinburgh
John Bartholomew & Co.
Map / Ephemera / Image
J G Bartholomew
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Maps 31.a.55.

Full catalogue details

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‘What a joy it is to dance and sing!’: Angela Carter and Wise Children

Article by:
Greg Buzwell
Literature 1950–2000, Art, music and popular culture

Legitimacy and illegitimacy, high and low culture, north versus south London, everything in Wise Children has duality at its heart. Greg Buzwell examines Angela Carter’s last novel, the story of Dora and Nora Chance, the Hazard acting dynasty, and a life lived in the public gaze.

Shakespeare and carnival in Angela Carter’s Wise Children

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Wise Children

Created by: Angela Carter

The story revolves around the twin Chance girls, music hall performers and illegitimate daughters of the great ...