October 11th, 2015

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Yesterday's Smoke

In my last entry I asked about a Story of the Amulet reference (thanks for all the suggestions!). In the course of writing a lecture on that book, I've been tracking down some of the places it mentions, and I thought it might be fun to share a few of these sights of old London town.

In the book's final chapter, Nurse suggests the children visit the "Egyptian Hall, England's Home of Mystery." She gives directions - superfluously for the children, but usefully for the posterior reader (which is I suppose what we who live in posterity must be):

"It's in Piccadilly, [...] not so very far down on the left from the Circus. There's big pillars outside, something like Carter's seed place in Holborn, as used to be Day and Martin's blacking when I was a gell. And something like Euston Station, only not so big."

"Yes, I know," said everybody.


Except that they don't know, because when they get to the Egyptian Hall they find it's been torn down, and that "England's Mysteries are now appropriately enough enacted at St George's Hall", in Langham Place. This is a very topical reference: the Egyptian Hall became defunct only in 1905, just a year before the book was published. Was it a late edit, necessitated by that news? Or was Nesbit making an Ozymandian point about the transience of earthly magnificence - which would certainly fit the theme of the book, which has shown the destruction of Atlantis only a couple of chapters earlier?

Luckily, however, photographers and artists haves preserved these rather Egyptian-looking buildings for our pleasure:

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