The Thames was described by critic John Ruskin in a 1867 lecture as 'a disgrace to the Metropolis'. The river inspired the gritty urban realism drawn by American artist, James McNeill Whistler, when he visited London in 1859. He stayed in Wapping and drew a series of views later published in 1871 as the Thames Set.
Nathaniel Hawthorne confirmed this view of the Thames in 1863 passing Wapping, St Paul’s and key landmarks on a river trip:
It seems, indeed, as if the heart of London had been cleft open for the mere purpose of showing how rotten and drearily mean it had become…… .The surface, to be sure, displays no lack of activity, being fretted by the passage of a hundred steamers and covered with a good deal of shipping....’