Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"So then, Oxford-street," or, A Week of Blogging about London, Part II

From Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821), by Thomas De Quincey
So then, Oxford-street, stony-hearted step-mother! thou that listenest to the sighs of orphans and drinkest the tears of children, at length I was dismissed from thee; the time was come at last that I no more should pace in anguish thy never-ending terraces, no more should dream and wake in captivity to the pangs of hunger. Successors too many, to myself and Ann, have doubtless since then trodden in our footsteps, inheritors of our calamities; other orphans than Ann have sighed; tears have been shed by other children; and thou, Oxford-street, hast since doubtless echoed to the groans of innumerable hearts. For myself, however, the storm which I had outlived seemed to have been the pledge of a long fair-weather—the premature sufferings which I had paid down to have been accepted as a ransom for many years to come, as a price of long immunity from sorrow; and if again I walked in London a solitary and contemplative man (as oftentimes I did), I walked for the most part in serenity and peace of mind.

From Dickens's Dictionary of London (1893)
Oxford Street
De Quincey's stony-hearted stepmother--ought to be, if it be not, the finest as well as the longest and straightest of the main arteries of London. With one end reaching through its extensions--Holborn, Newgate-st, and Cheapside--to the City, with the other continued by the Bayswater-rd by the side of Hyde-Park, through Notting-hill, and out, with scarce a curve, to the far west, it ought to be the finest thoroughfare in the world. As a matter of fact it is not so by any means, and though it is, like all the other thoroughfares, improving, it still contains many houses which even in a third-rate street would be considered mean.

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