Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, July 24, 2020

Edward Grey's Lamps Are Still There

The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.

On Horse Guards Road

It was on 3 August 1914 that Sir Edward Grey made his famous quote. He was speaking to his friend, the journalist John Alfred Spender, editor of the Westminster Gazette, in Grey’s room in the Foreign Office. Looking out from his window, across St. James’s Park, it was dusk and the first of the gaslights along the Mall were being lit. The next day Grey would have to face the Cabinet and to persuade them that the time had now come to declare war on Germany. Those lamps that inspired Grey's thought are still present and operating along the Mall adjacent to St. James's Palace and Horse Guards Road immediately in front of the Foreign Office.

On the Mall Near St. James Palace


  1. As a high school student studying the First World War (more decades ago than I care to imagine), these famous words were ingrained in my brain.

  2. A more interesting question is whether the metaphorical lamps in Europe can be said to have been re-lit. This would imply a prolonged period of peace and prosperity with no tensions or disputes that could not be resolved peacefully. This never happened between the wars or during the Cold War period. In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, for a short while it seemed as though there were no enemies and Europe was at last at peace. But then came the Balkan Wars, and then the increasing paranoia brought on by 9/11 and then the 2008 economic collapse which led to the rise of Putin in Russian and the tensions of migration from poor countries; and then Brexit threatening to undo years of progress to a United Europe, and the rise of Right-Wing nationalism and racism and intolerance of LGBT and other liberal values. No, the lights have flickered occasionally but mostly stayed out.

  3. This metaphor has been over baked. I always wondered why they were still using lamps. The lamps became obsolete and were replaced with kleig lights.

  4. When I first read this quote in the book I was taken by a deep emotion. What time must be those days... My God!