London - The Centre of Good and Evil
And now, London, I must bid thee 'Farewell.' Thou art the centre of Good and Evil, of Virtue and Vice! How many and how various are the characters which inhabit thy walls! How magnificent thy palaces? How mean thy cottages! How miserable some, how happy others! Some fatten on the spoils of poverty, others starve in the midst of plenty. How many thousands are insufficient to supply the luxury of some, while others want a crust of bread to satiate the calls of hunger!
(Thomas Asline Ward - Diary - August 1804)
The Advantages of London
But you must not think I am a discontented person and grumble all day at being in London. There are many advantages here, as I say to myself whenever it is particularly disagreeable; and if we can't see even a leaf or a sparrow without soot on it, there are the parrots at the Zoological Gardens and the paintings at the Royal Academy; and real live poets above all, with their heads full of the trees and birds and sunshine of paradise.
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Letter to Miss Commeline – August 1837)
London is the Place for Me
Poets may talk of the beauties of nature, the enjoyments of a country life, and rural innocence, but there is another kind of life which, though unsung by bards, is yet to me infinitely superior to the dull uniformity of country life. London is the place for me. Its smoky atmosphere, and its muddy river, charm me more than the pure air of Hertfordshire, and the crystal currents of the river Rib. Nothing is equal to the splendid varieties of London life, 'the fine flow of London talk', and the dazzling brilliancy of London spectacles. Such are my sentiments, and, if I ever publish poetry, it shall not be pastoral.
(Thomas Macaulay - Letter to a friend - August 1815)
London Has Let Me Go
London has let me go. I felt the moment quite clearly. I was walking down Bermondsey Street overwhelmed by the difference between how I remembered the place and what it has become - greasy caffs turned into chi-chi coffee bars; smoky old boozers into gastropubs; Barry into Torquil. Of course, what did I expect? Moniza, and Sharon and all the others I taught, were gone, gone girls long ago. But the change hasn't happened slowly over the last three decades, it's swept through in the few years we've been in Shropshire. And, of course, some of the old still lurks in the shadows. I tried to reach out and touch it, tried to turn it into poetry, but failed. As I walked back towards Tooley Street I passed The Garrison and in its clear glass window caught sight of London walking behind me. He tapped me on the shoulder. 'You don’t belong here any more' he whispered.