One might fancy that day, the London day, was just beginning. Like a woman who had slipped off her print dress and white apron to array herself in blue and pearls, the day changed, put off stuff, took gauze, changed to evening, and with the same sigh of exhilaration that a woman breathes, tumbling petticoats on the floor, it too shed dust, heat, colour; the traffic thinned; motor cars, tinkling, darting, succeeded the lumber of vans; and here and there among the thick foliage of the squares an intense light hung. I resign, the evening seemed to say, as it paled and faded above the battlements and prominences, moulded, pointed, of hotel, flat, and block of shops, I fade, she was beginning. I disappear, but London would have none of it, and rushed her bayonets into the sky, pinioned her, constrained her to partnership in her revelry.
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
“The way was long and weary,
But gallantly they strode,
A country lad and lassie,
Along the heavy road!
The night was dark and stormy,
But blithe of heart were they,
For shining in the distance,
The lights of London lay!
O gleaming lights of London,
That gem of the city’s crown,
What fortunes be within you,
O Lights of London Town!”
— George Robert Sims, Lights of London
The best bribe which London offers to-day to the imagination, is, that, in such a vast variety of people and conditions, one can believe there is room for persons of romantic character to exist, and that the poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope to confront their counterparts.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Happy New Year!
Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.
-Samuel Johnson, Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson
London always reminds me of a brain. It is similarly convoluted and circuitous. A lot of cities, especially American ones like New York and Chicago, are laid out in straight lines. Like the circuits on computer chips, there are a lot of right angles in cities like this. But London is a glorious mess. It evolved from a score or so of distinct villages, that merged and meshed as their boundaries enlarged. As a result, London is a labyrinth, full of turnings and twistings just like a brain. Its intelligence is distributed, too, like a brain’s. Each of these little villages—Primrose Hill, Highgate, Clapham, the City—has its own specializations and expertise. They are self-sufficient, even as they are inextricably and essentially part of the whole metropolis.
–James Geary, On London
I’ve decided to start posting quotes about London as I find them. I’ve found so many fantastic quotes over the years that have served as inspiration or an insightful way to rethink the city. So, enjoy!
London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.
-Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography