Once more, London was to be destroyed by fire and there was a strange and poetic fitness in the time at which that destruction came.
The old city passed away in the flames of the Great Fire when those influences which had made her the head of England had just passed or were passing, and at the moment when she was ceasing to be the whole of London.
Until then, although she had long since spread beyond her walls, the city was London. After the Restoration the first part of what we now call the West End was rapidly built, and the new city, with Wren's cathedral and churches, rose to find that that Greater London had already begun of which-though keeping her own boundaries and government the city is now only a part.
What James I. proposed should be done, some prophesied would happen with the industrial growth of the north of England, the beginning of the end of London; and the end would be a new capital in the north-west.
That prophecy forgets two things. It remembers that the geographical position of London was the foundation of her greatness, hut it forgets all that more than a thousand years of unbroken history have built on that foundation. It remembers how decisive those geographical reasons had been in the past, but it forgets how profoundly all geography has been modified by the new means of communication in the present.
London still remains one of the world's greatest cities. She still draws to herself and holds the best in her own country. One might exhaust rhetoric in describing her place and power in the modern world, and yet say no more of what it is that keeps fresh her greatness than is said in those immortal words of Dr. Johnson:
"A man who is bored of London is bored of Life"