By DAVID COLLARD
Ian Nairn is regarded by his many admirers as Britain's greatest topographical writer, and Nairn's London (published in 1966 and recently reissued by Penguin Books in an edition reviewed in this week’s TLS) is his masterpiece. It is (Nairn says, modestly, in his introduction) “simply my personal list of the best things in London”. There are around 450 of these, between Uxbridge and Dagenham.
Nairn had astonishing powers of evocation and taught his readers not only how to look at buildings but how to feel about what they saw. He was interested not only in buildings but, as Gavin Stamp points out in his afterword to this edition, in the character of places.
Nairn was also the exemplary outsider. . . .