Sunday, 28 December 2008

London Ruminations

David is in reflective mood.

The subject of his ruminations? 

London, of course. What else? Where else? Over to David:

Conceptualising London ain’t easy. Here are some of the more heroic attempts:

‘It is not in the showy evolution of buildings but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together that the wonderful immensity of London lies.’ (Dr. Johnson 18th century)

‘The capital of the world… an aggregation of capitals.’
(Ralph Waldo Emerson 1848)

‘It is not a pleasant place… It is only magnificent…The fogs, the smoke, the dirt, the darkness, the wet, the distances, the ugliness, the brutal size of the place, the horrible numerosity of the people…all this you may expatiate upon…But…for one who takes it as I take it, London is on the whole the most possible form of life…the most complete compendium of the world.’ (Henry James 1881)”

‘A place where men and manners may be seen to the greatest advantage, [in particular] the variety of perfect and curious characters [and] the immense crowd and hurry and bustle of business…the great number of public places of entertainment, the noble churches [see illustration, left] and the superb buildings…[the] satisfaction of pursuing whatever plan is most agreeable, without being known or looked at.’
(James Boswell 1762)

‘If the world must consist of so many fools as it does, I choose to take them in the gross, and not made into separate pills, as they prepared in the country.’ (Horace Walpole 1743’

And finally, this:

‘Lots o’ houses and I found some pretty good pasture, only it were a bit scattered.’
(Sir Tatton Sykes’s bailiff, reporting on his trip to London from the Yorkshire Wolds, early 19th century.)

For the record, with the exception of Horace Walpole, this rum lot were all outsiders. Dr. J. was from Lichfield, Emerson (also yesterday) and James were Americans, Boswell was a Scot, and Sir Tatton’s man was, as you know, from the Texas of England!


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