The London Scene: Five Essays - Virginia Woolf Ebook, read via Open Library.This is a very short (around 44 pgs) book of five essays - there's another version with an additional essay "Portrait of a Londoner," which was only discovered in 2004 at the University of Sussex. This essay can be read online here (Guardian, 10 August 2004). From that Guardian link: "In 1931, Virginia Woolf wrote six essays for Good Housekeeping magazine, which together paint a riveting picture of the capital she loved."It's especially fascinating to read descriptions of a 1931 London which doesn't necessarily exist anymore - or at least in part. For instance, the London docks have been redeveloped and thanks to the renovation the broken windows that Woolf remarks would stay broken wouldn't be seen on today's Docklands. (Well, hopefully.) (BBC video: Britain from Above: The London Docklands, 5 min, 1930s through present, rebuilding of "wasteland" into offices and flats.)Did I mention these essays were short? They're very short. I suppose that's not a bad thing, but at the end of each one I really wish Woolf had gone on, described more, and taken us into other streets and famous houses. (Though I do admit I wasn't as interested in the House of Commons.) But since this was for a magazine of the 1930s, so we get brevity. Somehow I'm pretty sure Woolf had much more to say about London.Contents:The Docks of LondonOxford Street TideGreat Men's HousesAbbeys and Cathedrals"This is the House of Commons"Quotes to give you an idea of Woolf's descriptions:The Docks of Londonp 8, ships docked in the Port of London:"A curious change takes place. They have no longer the proper perspective of sea and sky behind them, and no longer the proper space in which to stretch their limbs. They lie captive, like soaring and winged creatures who have got themselves caught by the leg and lie tethered on dry land."p 9, describing the view along the river Thames:"Further down, an inn with swelling bow windows still wears a strange air of dissipation and pleasure making. In the middle years of the nineteenth century it was a favourite resort of pleasure makers, and figured in some of the most famous divorce cases of the time. Now pleasure has gone and labour has come; and it stands derelict like some beauty in her midnight finery looking out over mud flats and candle works, while malodorous mounds of earth, upon which trucks are perpetually tipping fresh heaps, have entirely consumed the fields where, a hundred years ago, lovers wandered and picked violets."p 11, men unloading the cargo:"...a very few men in shirt-sleeves, who, working with the utmost organization in the common interest...are yet able to pause in their work and say to the casual visitor, "Would you like to see what sort of thing we sometimes find in sacks of cinnamon? Look at this snake!" "Oxford Street Tidep 16:"Oxford Street, it goes without saying, is not London's most distinguished thoroughfare. Moralists have been known to point the finger of scorn at those who buy there, and they have the support of the dandies. Fashion has secret crannies off Hanover Square, round about Bond Street, to which it withdraws discreetly to perform its more sublime rites. In Oxford Street there are too many bargains, too many sales, too many goods marked down to one and eleven three that only last week cost two and six."p 19-20:"The old cottage walls, with their oak beams and their layers of honest brick soundly cemented together still put up a stout resistance to the drills and bores that attempt to introduce the modern blessing of electricity. But any day of the week one may see Oxford Street vanishing at the tap of a workman's pick as he stands perilously balanced on a dusty pinnacle knocking down walls and facades as lightly as if they were made of yellow cardboard and sugar icing....The charm of modern London is that it is not built to last; it is built to pass....We do not build for our descendants, who may live up in the clouds or down in the earth, but for ourselves and our own needs. We knock down and rebuild as we expect to be knocked down and rebuilt. It is an impulse that makes for creation and fertility. Discovery is stimulated and invention on the alert."Great Men's Houses[Only two houses are discussed.]p 23-4:"Take the Carlyles, for instance. One hour spent in 5 Cheyne Row will tell us more about them and their lives than we can learn from all the biographies. Go down to the kitchen. ...Every drop [of water] that the Carlyles used - and they were Scots, fanatical in their cleanliness - had to be pumped by hand from a well in the kitchen....The high old house without water, without electric light, without gas fires, full of books and coal smoke and four-poster beds and mahogany cupboards, where two of the most nervous and exacting people of their time lived, year in year out, was served by one unfortunate maid....The voice of the house - and all houses have voices - is the voice of pumping and scrubbing, of coughing and groaning."Another Carlyle House link.The other house mentioned: Keats House, Hampstead, p. 27:"Its bow windows still look out upon vales and trees and ponds and barking dogs and couples sauntering arm in arm and pausing, here on the hill-top, to look at the distant domes and pinnacles of London, as they sauntered and paused and looked when Keats lived here....The rooms are small but shapely; downstairs the long windows are so large that half the wall seems made of light."Abbeys and Cathedrals [Only about four are mentioned, and two only in passing: St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey, St. Mary-le-Bow, St.Clement Danes.]p 30:"It is commonplace, but we cannot help repeating it, that St. Paul's dominates London. It swells like a great grey bubble from a distance; it looms over us, huge and menacing, as we approach. But suddenly St. Paul's vanishes. And behind St. Paul's, beneath St. Paul's, round St. Paul's when we cannot see St. Paul's, how London has shrunk! Once there were colleges and quadrangles and monasteries with fish ponds and cloisters; and sheep grazing on greensward; and inns where great poets stretched their legs and talked at their ease. Now all this space has shrivelled."Woolf refers to Donne's monument in St. Paul's, p 32: "Even the contorted and agonized figure of John Donne, wrapped in the marble twists of his grave clothes, looks as if it had left the stonemason's yard but yesterday. Yet it has stood here in its agony for three hundred years and has passed through the flames of the fire of London."So of course I had to look up some images of the sculpture: The John Donne Monument. (Donne's been a favorite of mine since college.) I've been to Saint Paul's but can't remember seeing this monument - and that's not a surprise since 1) statuary is crammed into every inch of the place (or so it seems) and 2) you can't take photos, and that's usually how I remember most travels.p 35-6:"The only peaceful places in the whole city are perhaps those old graveyards which have become gardens and playgrounds. The tombstones no longer serve to mark the graves, but line the walls with their white tablets. Here and there a finely sculptured tomb plays the part of garden ornament....Here mothers and nursemaids gossip; children play; and the old beggar, after eating his dinner from a paper bag, scatters crumbs to the sparrows. These garden graveyards are the most peaceful of our London sanctuaries and their dead the quietest.""This is the House of Commons"p 38-9:"Dipping and rising, moving and settling, the Commons remind one of a flock of birds settling on a stretch of ploughed land. They never alight for more than a few minutes; some are always flying off, others are always settling again. And from the flock rises the gabbling, the cawing, the croaking of a flock of birds, disputing merrily and with occasional vivacity over some seed, worm, or buried grain."Again, not in this copy, but here's the extra essay:Portrait of a Londoner, (Guardian, 10 August 2004)The first paragraph:"Nobody can be said to know London who does not know one true cockney - who cannot turn down a side street, away from the shops and the theatres, and knock at a private door in a street of private houses. Private houses in London are apt to be much of a muchness. The door opens on a dark hall; from the dark hall rises a narrow staircase; off the landing opens a double drawing-room, and in this double drawing-room are two sofas on each side of a blazing fire, six armchairs, and three long windows giving upon the street. What happens in the back half of the drawing-room which looks upon the gardens of other houses is often a matter of considerable conjecture. But it is with the front drawing-room that we are here concerned; for Mrs. Crowe always sat there in an armchair by the fire; it was there that she had her being; it was there that she poured out tea."