In a London Drawingroom Analysis: AQA Worlds and Lives

Travel back in time with George Eliot’s In a London Drawingroom, a poem that remained unpublished for 90 years.

In a London Drawingroom

The sky is cloudy, yellowed by the smoke.

George Eliot


The poem describes the speaker’s view from their drawingroom, which is an incessantly gloomy sight: first they observe the cloudy, polluted sky, then the monotonous row of houses, before commenting on the darkness that obscures the natural world and the people too busy to pay heed to their environment. It concludes with the opinion that ‘the world seems one huge prison-house’ in which the lack of ‘colour, warmth and joy’ is the punishment for some unspecified sin.


George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), adopted so that her writing would be taken seriously by a patriarchal society.

Eliot grew up in rural Warwickshire but relocated to the city in adult life, first to care for her ailing father in Coventry and then to pursue her literary ambitions in London. This displacement from country to city was reflected by the industrialisation that took the working-class masses out of agricultural employment and into factory labour. The 19th century explosion in urbanisation changed the nature of communities as well as having a negative impact on the natural environment.

Eliot, however, might have cared for the relative anonymity of city life when a scandalous affair with the married George Henry Lewes saw her temporarily ostracised from formal society.

In a London Drawingroom was written in 1869 but remained unpublished until 1959.


19 lines of iambic pentameter written in a single stanza is deliberately designed to reflect the ‘monotony of surface and of form’ in the city skyline, the unbroken rhythm giving expression to the tedium felt by the speaker.


The natural world: Nature barely gets a look in in Eliot’s London. Even though she chose city living to work as editor of Westminster Review, the environment appears to be oppressive to her intellectualism, her hungry eye longing instead for a clear vista.

Urbanisation and alienation: The numbing effect of the urban environment means that people are not interacting with one another and have become faceless. The poem adopts a personal perspective but its tone and what it describes is highly impersonal.

Work/life balance: Everyone in the speaker’s eyeline is preoccupied and inattentive to the world around them, ensnared by industrialisation, physically and mentally incapable of finding the ‘colour, warmth and joy’ that only the poet appears aware of.

Linking to other Poems

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