A Man from the North edited by John Shapcott
There grows in the North Country a certain kind of youth of whom it may be said that he is born to be a Londoner. The metropolis, and everything that appertains to it, that comes down from it, that goes up into it, has for him an imperious fascination. Long before schooldays are over he learns to take a doleful pleasure in watching the exit of the London train from the railway station. He stands by the hot engine and envies the very stoker. Gazing curiously into the carriages, he wonders that men and women who in a few hours will be treading streets called Piccadilly and the Strand can contemplate the immediate future with so much apparent calmness; some of them even have the audacity to look bored. He finds it difficult to keep from throwing himself in the guard’s van as it glides past him; and not until the last coach is a speck upon the distance does he turn away and, nodding absently to the ticket-clerk, who knows him well, go home to nurse a vague ambition and dream of Town.
London is the place where newspapers are issued, books written, and plays performed. And this youth, who now sits in an office, reads all the newspapers. He knows exactly when a new work by a famous author should appear. He can tell you off-hand the names of the pieces in the bills of the twenty principal West-end theatres, what their quality is, and how long they may be expected to run; and on the production of a new play, the articles of the dramatic critics provide him with sensations almost as vivid as those of the most zealous first-nighter at the performance itself.
Sooner or later, perhaps by painful roads, he reaches the goal of his desire. London accepts him – on probation. Let him be bold and resolute, and she will make an obeisance, but her heel is all to ready to crush the coward and hesitant; and her victims, once underfoot, do not often rise again.