George Gissing and the smoking mill-chimneys at Piraeus [1889, 1895]

George Gissing and the smoking mill-chimneys at Piraeus [1889, 1895] 2560 1827 REVICTO

Langley roused himself from oppressive abstraction, and put into better words this common sense of mirage due to the air and light of Greece. He spoke deliberately, and as if his thoughts were still half occupied with things remote. The frown imprinted on his features conveyed an impression of gloom; which was rarely its effect.
“How do you like the smoking mill-chimneys at Piraeus?” he asked suddenly.
“Oh, of course that’s abomination.”
“Ah, I thought you would perhaps defend it. The Greeklings of to-day would be only too glad if their whole country blackened with such fumes.”
“Well, they have their lives to live. They can’t feed on the past.”
Louis apologised with a smile for his matter-of-fact remark; but Langley surprised him by saying abruptly:
“You’re quite right. They have their lives to live; and if they want mill-chimneys, let them be built from Olympus to Tænarum.”

From George Gissing, Sleeping Fires (1895)

Deadly tired, walked down the station and took train for Athens; stops at Phaleron. –
Piraeus is growing to be a very large and busy town. Already some dozen high mill-chimneys are belching black fumes.

From The Diary of George Gissing: Sat. Nov.23 [1889]

Featured image: The works in the Piraeus-Monastiraki railway line, c.1893. From an album that belonged to the contractor in charge of the project, Stefanos Psychas. Courtesy of ELIA-MIET.

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