Story Of London


Every November the new Lord Mayor of London holds his Show ” – a colourful procession of the City Guilds and dignitaries through the streets of the City. At the head of the procession are two enormous effigies of giants. These are Gog and Magog, the traditional guardians of the City of London and they have been carried in the Lord Mayor’s Show since the reign of Henry V. Their origins lie in the distant past and are quite unknown to us. Over the centuries, many people have produced various “explanations” of their origins. Perhaps the most entertaining was that of John Galt who published his History in 1819. In this series we will present his full text, Chapter by chapter.

CHAPTER I.SOME ACCOUNT OF THE DOMINIONS AND CHARACTER OF HUMBUG THE GIANT.The Title Page of John Galt's History of Gog and Magog.MANY disputes have arisen among the learned respecting the origin of the city of London; and it has hitherto never been very satisfactorily explained, why the two colossal statues of Gog and Magog were placed in the Guild-hall of that famous capital. What has been denied to antiquarian research, has been happily revealed to me, for the express purpose of being related to the rising generation; in order that future ages may have no doubt regarding two points of knowledge, in which so much of the happiness and prosperity of the citizens of the British metropolis is so deeply involved.In a rude age, long before the Roman legions, under the command of Julius Caesar, invaded the island of Britain, it appears, by the most authentic written chronicles of the time, that a huge giant inhabited a strong and dismal castle, situated where the Guild-hall of London now stands ; and that he ruled all the adjacent country with an iron sceptre. His dominions extended from the banks of the pleasant Brent on the west, were bounded by the majestic tides of the Thames on the south, on the east they were watered by the meandering Lea, and extended so far to the north, as to comprehend the breezy hills of Hampstead and Highgate. He was, in a word, the greatest monarch in the county of Middlesex; and, there is even reason to believe, that his territories actually embraced the whole extent of the shire. But, in a matter of this sort, it is unnecessary to be more particular, especially as his throne and sovereignty were utterly abolished by the events which it is my happy duty, as a faithful historian, to relate.At the period alluded to, no part of the island of Britain might have presented such a scene of rural and pastoral beauty, as the dominions of the giant. The soil was surprisingly fertile, particularly in those parts which are now occupied by the numerous buildings of the city; indeed, the very name of Cornhill, which exists to this day, indicates the amazing fertility of the spot: so that, but for the tyrant of the neighbouring castle, it would, in all human probability, have been an earthly paradise. Alas! his ruthless sway rendered it a solitude, compared to what it now is. The name of this monstrous giant was Humbug, and his dispositions were not more merciless than his appearance was dreadful to behold. His hair and beard were of a coal-black colour; his eyes sparkled with malignant ferocity towards the whole race of mankind ; and his complexion was of that pallid hue, which denotes hardness of heart. He set no bounds to his inordinate desires, but seized everything that he coveted, in the most lawless manner ; and the malice of his vengeance was chiefly directed against the defenceless, which is always the case with persons of evil inclinations : and giants are remarkably liable to have inclinations of the worst kind.In this manner Humbug had lived, or, more property speaking, had domineered, to the great terror and dismay of the country, for upwards of fifty years. That he was, in consequence, cordially hated, need not be told ; but he had the folly to think he was capable of inspiring a beautiful young lady with sentiments of the tender passion : so much does self-love blind even giants to their defects, as well as the sons of men. For Humbug was at this time old and corpulent ; and the natural badness of his temper was aggravated by the gout, a disease which he had brought upon himself by the liberties which he took with fish, flesh, and fowl.