Accentuating the Positive
According to my journal I first read Molly Hughes’s memoir A London Child of the 1870s in October 2005, ‘a record of Islington life so charming and droll I’m puzzled as to why I’d not come across it before’. I might not have come across it then either had my wife not given me a copy, just reissued by Persephone Books in its appealing dove-grey livery with William Morris endpapers. It was a perfect choice for someone obsessed by Victorian London in general and Victorian Islington in particular. To my delight the author and her family had lived at No. 1 Canonbury Park North, an address about five minutes’ walk from where I write this. Their house is no longer standing, though the references to Upper Street, Essex Road and Highbury New Park sound a welcoming refrain, and such is the peculiar immediacy of the writing that it takes no very great leap of imagination to see an organ-grinder on the pavement, or a child bowling a hoop, or a tram upon the Holloway Road.