Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Article excerpt

When George Eliot wrote 'The tube-journey can never lend much to picture and narrative,' she was not making an observant remark about commuting on the Underground. She was developing a thought she'd had of travellers of the future being 'shot, like a bullet through a tube, by atmospheric pressure from Winchester to Newcastle'. She was writing in 1861, and the world's first Underground, the Metropolitan Railway, opened in 1863.

Two years before her musings (in her introduction to Felix Holt, the Radical), the London Pneumatic Despatch Company was founded to send packages and mailbags from Holborn to Gresham Street.

The Central London Railway, from Bank to Shepherd's Bush opened in 1900. From its fixed fare, it gained the nickname the Twopenny Tube. Unlike the original Metropolitan Railway (built by the cut-and-cover method) it was a true tube-railway, like the world's first electric underground, the City and South London Railway, opened in 1890. Its tubes had a diameter of 10ft 6in, and its small upholstered carriages were nicknamed padded cells.

I'm always annoyed when people use tube for underground lines that are not deep-tunnelled. …

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