The Soul of London: A Survey of a Modern City

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A. Rivers, 1905 - London (England) - 175 pages
Ford's evocation of the growth of London, of the bewildering variety of the city scene by day and night, of the glamour and frivolity of its 'high' life and the hardship of its working people is a work of imaginative literature, not a guide book. Other writers had explored the 'facts' of London, but for Ford impressions take the place of information and argument. Part history, part personal reminiscence, and part prose poem which renders 'the moods of many individuals' in relation to the urban landscape, The Soul of London reads at times like fiction where the scene is set for characters who never appear. But it is also a journey of discovery into the nature of modern city life and our ways of coming to terms with it.

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Page 68 - The other sees his London of elbow room extend from say Purfleet to say Blackwall. He is conscious of having, as it were at his back, the very green and very black stretches of the Essex Marshes dotted with large solitary factories and small solitary farms. His dense London, his city, lies along the line from Blackwall to Fenchurch Street. Beyond that the City proper, the City of the Bank and the Mansion House, is already a place rather of dilettante trifling.
Page 16 - One may easily sail round England, or circumnavigate the globe. But not the most enthusiastic geographer — one must of course qualify these generalisations with 'as a rule' — ever memorised a map of London. Certainly no one ever walks round it. For England is a small island, the world is infinitesimal amongst the planets. But London is illimitable.
Page 120 - ... pockets, or listless on your watch-chain, you stand, unthinking, speculating on nothing, looking down on the unceasing, hushed, and constantly changing defile of traffic below your club windows. The vaguest thoughts flit through your brain: the knot on a whip, the cockade on a coachman's hat, the sprawl of a large woman in a victoria, the windshield in front of an automobile. You live only with your eyes, and they lull you. So Time becomes manifest like a slow pulse, the world stands still; a...
Page xii - A really ideal book of the kind would not contain 'writing about' a town: it would throw a personal image of the place on to the paper. It would not contain such a sentence as: 'There are in the city of ... 720 firms of hat manufacturers employing 19,000 operatives.
Page 163 - And indeed this picture of an immense Town, shut off from the rest of the world, black, walled in, peopled by gibbering neurasthenics, a prey to hysterias, useless for work, getting no pleasures from horrible selfindulgences — this image of a City of dreadful Night is appalling enough.
Page 119 - It takes a good deal out of you,' this leisured life of display. You rush more or less feverishly, gathering scalps of one sort or another [ . . . ] But each of these things sinks back into the mere background of your you. You are, on the relentless current of your life, whirled past them as, in a train, you are whirled past a succession of beautiful landscapes [ . . . ] You...
Page 40 - We gliding by, the timbers swinging up without any visible human action beneath their motion. No doubt men were at work in the enginebelly of the crane, just as others were very far away among the dynamos that kept us moving. But they were sweating invisible. That too is the Modern Spirit: great...
Page 137 - London at leisure, go down Piccadilly to Hyde Park Corner on a pleasant summer day. On the right of you you have all those clubs with all those lounging and luxuriating men. On the left there is a stretch of green park, hidden and rendered hideous by recumbent forms. They lie like corpses, or like soldiers in a stealthy attack, a great multitude of broken men and women, they, too, eternally at leisure. They lie, soles of boots to crowns of heads, just out of arm's reach one from the other for fear...
Page 16 - A brilliant, wind-swept, sunny day, with the fountains like hay-cocks of prismatic glitter in the shadow of Nelson's column, with the paving stones almost opalescent, with colour everywhere, the green of the orange trees in tubs along the facade of the National Gallery, the vivid blue of the paper used by flower-sellers to wrap poet's narcissi, the glint of straws blown from horses...
Page 156 - ... are cloudlike too. They seem unnatural, all these things, and London itself is apt at times to seem unreal. So that when we come across a park with sharp folds in the land, sharp dips, sudden rises, it is almost astonishing that anything so natural and real should remain in the heart of this cloud beneath a cloud. For, little by little, the Londoner comes to forget that his London is built upon real earth: he forgets that under the pavements there are hills, forgotten water courses, springs and...

About the author (1905)

Born Ford Hermann Madox Hueffer in England in 1873, Ford Madox Ford came from a family of artists and writers that included his grandfather, the pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown, and his uncles Gabriel Dante Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti. Ford's early works were published under the name Ford Madox Hueffer, but in 1919 he legally changed his name to Ford Madox Ford due to legal complications that arose when he left his wife, Elsie Martindale, and their two daughters. He also used the pen names Daniel Chaucer and Fenil Haig. Ford's early works include The Brown Owl, a fairy tale, children's stories, romances, and The Fifth Queen, a historical trilogy about Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII. He also collaborated with Joseph Conrad, whom he first met in 1898, on three novels: The Nature of Crime, The Inheritors, and Romance. Ford is best known for his novels The Good Soldier, which he considered both his first serious effort at a novel and his best work, and Parade's End, a tetralogy set during World War I. Both of these books explore a theme that appears often in Ford's writing, that of a good man whose old-fashioned, gentlemanly code is in conflict with modern industrial society. Ford also published several volumes of autobiography and reminiscences, including Return to Yesterday and It Was the Nightengale, as well as numerous works of biography, history, poetry, essays, travel writing, and criticism of literature and art. Although Ford and Martindale never divorced, Ford had significant, long-term relationships with three other women, all of whom took his name; he had another daughter by one of them. He died in Deauville, France, in 1939.

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