Bill Tregoning’s collection of art books covers a wall in the office of his gallery. One dark red volume, The Charm of London: An Anthology, was smaller than the rest, modest and easily overlooked among its oversized cousins. Edited by Alfred H. Hyatt, the collection was published in 1912 by Chatto & Windus, and includes twelve atmospheric watercolors by Yoshio Markino. In his editor’s note, Hyatt expresses the hope that his anthology will help readers acquire “a still greater appreciation of London, whose every street is `holy, haunted ground,’ and whose every byway is fragrant with the spirit of the past.” The tag Hyatt cites is from “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”: “Where’er we tread ’t is holy, haunted ground.”
Browsing Hyatt’s book is humbling. Many of the writers included, judging by their online scarcity, are forgotten though some were once prominent and influential. I had never heard of A. St. John Adcock, author of the first selection in the book, “The City That I Love.” This is misleading, as Hyatt includes the fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas of Adcock’s seven-stanza “Charles Lamb at Enfield,” and retitles it.
My youngest son and I leave Cleveland today and return to Houston. I was born and raised in Cleveland, and though I last lived here in 1977, it remains home. Cleveland is smaller and shabbier than the city I remember, and my internal map is not always reliable. Most of the people I remember are dead or scattered. The bookstore where I worked is now a store selling Superfly-style men’s clothing. The theater where I first saw The Godfather in 1972 is the International House of Prayer. Adcock’s sentimental little poem seems fitting:
“I tread no more the city that I love,
And though its far-off streets be peopled yet
And roofed with their grey slips of sky above
For me they only live in my regret—”