Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Walter Besant
London, by Walter Besant (1892, New ed. 1894), is a comprehensive survey of the metropolis of the modern world from the Roman days to those of George the Second. The material is of course well worn, but the skill of the writer’s method and the freshness of his interest make it seem new. He begins his tale with the occupation of the Romans, who, appreciating the value of the river Thames, picked out a dry hillock in the great stretches of marsh along the stream, and founded the town of Augusta,—an isolated spot in the midst of fen and forest. After the Roman evacuation of Britain, no more is heard of Augusta; the town having been deserted or destroyed. It was a new settlement in the old spot that rose again to prosperity as Lud’s Town. From the sixth century onward, the city, though ravaged by plagues, and more often by fires, always its bane, has grown steadily in population, wealth and importance. Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman, Plantagenet, and at last English, it has always been a city of churches and palaces. Its burghers have always been free men, owning no lord but the king; and its mayors have rivaled great nobles in power and splendor. Dick Whittington may not have made his fortune by selling a cat; but it is certain that when, as mayor of London, he entertained King Henry V., he burned £60,000 worth of royal bonds, as a little attention to royalty. The city’s greatest mayor was Sir Thomas Gresham, who, in Elizabeth’s day, conceived the idea of transferring the center of the world’s commerce from Antwerp to London, and to that end built the Royal Exchange. The record of each century is full of incident, story, and social changes. Mr. Besant is writing on a subject he loves, and spares no pains to lay before the reader a brilliant picture of the streets and buildings, businesses, customs, and amusements of the ever-flourishing, ever-changing city, now the great center of the financial, economical, and social world.  1

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