Columbia Road, London, E2. Photo ©RogerDean 2015
Curiosities of London Life, or Phases, Physiological and Social of the Great Metropolis – Charles Manby Smith, 1853:
WHILE occasionally threading our way through the great routes of traffic intersecting London in all directions, and contemplating the miles of shops which form the most attractive feature that commerce condescends to exhibit to the world, we have often compared them, in imagination, to the human face divine. Such a comparison may be a fanciful conceit on our part, which, it may be, will hardly hold good in all respects; yet are there some points of resemblance worthy, perhaps, of a passing notice, and suggestive too of reflections not absolutely devoid of a moral significance. Look, for instance, at yonder jeweller’s shop, with its window of one clear and solid crystal, behind which, all arranged with exquisite taste, the gold, the silver, and the precious gems, of which a curious art has more than doubled the value, are glittering with a splendour that dazzles the eye, and accumulated with a profusion that defies calculation. What a favoured shop it is! how it might roll in riches, if it were given to rolling! what a smiling face it bares to the public view! and how it laughs at everything, and how it ignores in toto the rise and fall in the price of the four-pound loaf! Then, look again at that remarkable contrast over the way, which sells – no, which wants to sell – a few wretched daubs of worthless pictures that nobody is simple enough to buy; see what a dirty face it has, and how the grimy tears trickle down its unwashed cheeks of bulging crown-glass; with what a moody, desperate, half-suicidal look it confronts the passers-by, who will not stop to make its acquaintance; and note how it despairs of ever making its way in the world, and is fast dying out drearily and dirtily, and vanishing into oblivion.