BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON (1786–1846)
Extract from his Autobiography and Journal (1847)

     1806
I had now to part from my ladye-love, and I shall say nothing on the subject beyond confessing that on the road to London I cried for the first twenty miles as if my heart was quite broken. However, about the thirtieth mile, I caught myself laughing at a charming little creature at an inn where we changed horses. I dozed and dreamed of her pretty dimpled face until I scented the London smoke, when all these rustic whims and fancies gave way to deep reflection on High Art and a fearless confidence in my own ambition.

So far from the smoke of London being offensive to me, it has always been to my imagination the sublime canopy that shrouds the City of the World. Drifted by the wind or hanging in gloomy grandeur over the vastness of our Babylon, the sight of it always filled my mind with feelings of energy such as no other spectacle could inspire.

‘Be Gode,’ said Fuseli to me one day, ‘it’s like de smoke of de Israelites making bricks.’ ‘It is grander,’ said I, ‘for it is the smoke of a people who have made the Egyptians make bricks for them.’ ‘Well done, John Bull,’ replied Fuseli.

Often have I studied its peculiarities from the hills near London, whence in the midst of its drifted clouds you catch a glimpse of the great dome of St Paul’s, announcing at once civilisation and power.

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