During the nineteenth century, the grand hotel emerged as a vital part of London life. Originally catering to elite visitors needing a place to stay in the short term, they soon came to perform a variety of roles in the social and cultural life of the city.
In Hotel London: How Victorian Commercial Hospitality Shaped a Nation and Its Stories (The Ohio State University Press, 2019), Barbara Black describes what these majestic establishments represented to those who worked in them and those who patronized them. As she explains, hotels embodied a convergence of various trends, as steam locomotives brought an increasing number of affluent travelers to the capital. What the grand hotels offered them was a temporary fantasy of luxury in an environment that was neither public nor private but one that offered a mixture of the two. For some, hotels were a place of mystery and potential danger; for others, a destination where they could engage in behavior that would otherwise be restricted in public. Though many of these grand hotels have been demolished or repurposed, their legacy lives on in the literature of the era – an enduring testament to the impression they left upon their age.