Lordship Road, London, N16. Photo ©RogerDean 2014
Adventures In London – James Douglas, 1900:
Our hansom jingles out of Piccadilly Circus, past the Haymarket, into Leicester Square through a maelstrom of feverish lights and tangled vehicles and hurrying faces. The pulse of pleasure is beating fast. Through the trees flames the many-windowed Alhambra, its Moorish façade soaring like a phantom palace into the sky, its pallid minarets and fiery crescent moons crowning ghostly walls of ivory and gold. The stars, peering through the violet gloom, seem to be a part of the delicate fabric. It is a torch brandished by London in the night, the torch of passion in the night of dreams.
We go through the alcoved corridors past the tall janissaries, into the promenade. It is a seraglio where man is a sultan and woman a houri. It is aglow with dim lamps, soft with the susurrus of silks, languorous with subtle perfumes. Miles away below us the ballet languishes in its golden frame. We are in Lotus-land. The world dissolves in a swoon of delight. Life is a sunshot cloud. Black care is forgotten. In a trance we descend the stairs and sink into a luxurious stall made for the postprandial Nirvana that muffles the soul. Lolling lazily in its depths, you let your charmed fancy float along the ballet’s voluptuous stream of living music and moving sound.
The vast theatre is tapestried with faces. The air is aromatic with the fragrance of innumerable cigars. It is a temple of fumes. The pungent odour saturates you. You are a leaf in the heart of a giant cheroot.