Magazine article The Spectator

Now and Then

Magazine article The Spectator

Now and Then

Article excerpt

H.V. MORTON'S collection of essays The Heart of London was published in 1925. Morton's London is compared with that of today:

Down in the crypt of St Martin's Church, the church whose doors never close, I saw a remarkable sight... Lying, sitting upright, and huddled in every position of which the human body is capable, were men and women, homeless wanderers over the hard face of the earth.

The poor are always with us. But the crypt has now been converted into a stylish cafe, subtly lit by minimalist lighting. In a separate room, St Martin's still offer daytime food and drink to the homeless. But H.V. Morton's midnight scene is no longer played out; for sleep, today's wanderers must seek the doorways of the nearby Strand.

There was a grey-haired woman sleeping upright in a pew . [men] lay huddled with their tousled heads on hassocks. Today an American tourist reruns the morning on her digital video camera. A businessman drinks Chablis as he scans the Financial Times.

A church warden explained to Morton why they never judged anyone a scrounger before feeding them: `You can't expect to hear the truth on an empty stomach. …

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