Of the Thames estuary Joseph Conrad wrote, in "The Mirror of the Sea," that it has never lost its romance, for the Thames is the only one of the rivers of commerce in this island where the sight and sounds of human industry do not come down its shores to the sea.
"It is not beautiful," he said; "it has no noble features, no romantic grandeur of aspect, no smiling geniality; but it is wide open, spacious, inviting, hospitable at the first glance, with a strange air of mysteriousness which lingers about it to this very day."
What Conrad wrote of the Thames, might be written, almost unchanged, of London herself. Her charm is as enigmatical, with the same strange mixture of ugliness and beauty, with the same mystery; and that mystery has hung over her from the beginning.
We do not even know for certain the original meaning of "London". All we know is that she appears suddenly in history, like Pallas Athene, full grown.Next page: Origins