03 February 2015

#125 Shepherd Market

As I reached the outskirts of Shepherd Market, at that period scarcely touched by rebuilding, I regained once more some small sense of exultation, enjoyed whenever crossing the perimeter of that sinister little village, that I lived within an enchanted precinct. Inconvenient, at moments, as a locality: noisy and uncomfortable: stuffy, depressing, unsavoury: yet the ancient houses still retained some vestige of the dignity of another age; while the inhabitants, many of them existing precariously on their bridge earnings, or hire of their bodies, were — as more than one novelist had, even in those days, already remarked — not without their own seedy glory.

Now, touched almost mystically, like another Stonehenge, by the first rays of the morning sun, the spot seemed one of those clusters of tumble-down dwellings depicted by Canaletto or Piranesi, habitations from amongst which arches, obelisks and viaducts, ruined and overgrown with ivy, arise from the mean houses huddled together below them. Here, too, such massive structures might, one felt, at any moment come into existence by some latent sorcery, for the place was scarcely of this world, and anything was to be surmised.

Anthony Powell, A Buyer's Market
Contributed by Keith Marshall