[Image: An otherwise unrelated engraving of ships in London by William Miller (1832)].
Last week, we looked at the new book London Under by Peter Ackroyd, a very readable, if not quite path-breaking, introduction to the world beneath the streets of London. Roughly halfway through, while describing the Islington tunnel, Ackroyd makes a brief comment that seems worth repeating here.
The Islington tunnel, which is open to tours, is explorable, Ackroyd explains, by means of a very long boat that takes you beneath the sidewalks, heading up-river into darkness. “The voyage takes approximately twenty minutes,” he specifies, “during which the voyager, on a barge or a small boat, has the uncanny sensation of sailing beneath the city.”
Sailing beneath the city! With the sense of an urban legend, someone lost on a skiff amidst the roots of churches and skyscrapers, passing through the domes and arches of an inland sea, fishing in cisterns, forever unable to dock, forgotten, ageless, and afloat on buried rivers.