Victorian London - Districts - Streets - The New Cut 




    THIS delightful locality, forming a cut direct from Rowland Hill's Chapel in Blackfriars' Road, to Watchorn's Retail Establishment at the Marsh Gate, is a favourite resort of holiday makers. It can be approached from either of the three bridges, and offers one of the moat pleasing collections of the products of British industry and manufacture in London, far exceeding the Polytechnic Institution or Adelaide Gallery, more especially at night, when its hundreds of lanterns are illuminated, rivalling the dazzling splendour of the Chinese Exhibition.
    The current coin of the New Cut is halfpence - its principal traffic lies in marine stores. It is, moreover, the dominion of Ethiopian dolls; the theatrical district of persecuted maid-servants and acknowledged heroines, and the paradise of al fresco refreshments, both to eat and drink, the staple article being the celebrated kidney-puddings, which fashionable company come a great way to eat, in the same manner as the maids of honour at Richmond.
    The stalls for the sale of these delicious preparations may be easily discovered through the medium of the transparencies with which they are adorned, and the cartoons upon these lanterns form not the least interesting portion of- the things to be noticed. An elaborate one at present is four-sided, about nine inches high by six across. The front merely contains the announcement of "Beef, Eel, and Kidney Puddings, One Penny each" - the distinction being perfectly imaginary. On the north side is portrayed Mr. T. Mathews, as Clown, surreptitiously devouring a pudding, whilst the attention of the traveller is arrested by the inscription over his head, of "Halloo! halloo! halloo! the original inventor!! from which it is inferred that Mr.T. Mathews claims that honour. On the eastern face is a spirited representation of Mr. T. P. Cooke rescuing a kidney-pudding from the hands of smugglers; and the south aspect formerly contained portraits of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, in their robes, as patrons of kidney-puddings; but at some remote epoch the candle within the frame tumbled against the transparency and burnt it away, so that only the legs now remain.
    Near this spot may he encountered the celebrated alchemist, who turns half-pennies into half-crowns, and brass thimbles into silver ones, by means of a secret composition, whose merits he vaunts as follows:-
    "Now, it's as innocent as milk, and strong as brandy: everybody buys it, - what a sad thing! Now, it can be put in the mouth without harm, hurt, or hindrance. Now, it's made of calcined silver, sweet oil, saltpetre, and a secret chemical preparation. Now, everybody buys it - what a pity! Now, a penny lump is sufficient to plate a pair of candlesticks, six spoons, and a snuffer-tray. Now, if it makes a brass button look like this, what will it do upon a plated surface! Now, I purchase all my own silver, - and so I can afford to sell it cheap. Everybody buys it, - what a sad thing! Sold again! - who's the next lucky customer?"
    As Milan is celebrated with Damascus for its steel blades, so is the New Cut for its basket-hilted iron swords, which are made for terrific combats only, at one shilling a piece. They are chiefly used by British seamen, to protect females in distress; and have a charmed power, in trial by battle, of always giving the victory to rightful virtue, whilst they share the success with the author in any startling Surrey or Victoria melodrama, as the popular exclamation of "Bravo, Hughes!" at the former establishment fully testifies. It is worthy of notice, that if the interest of a piece is flagging, a desperate combat with New Cut swords will always pull it up again. They have the further advantage, after a few savage assaults, of being converted into very good saws.
    Science finds a home in the New Cut. At evening, a small temple, with coloured glass windows, placed upon a three-legged stand, contains a microscopic exhibition, to which the eye of the spectator is admitted for a halfpenny. The great gun of the objects is a flea, only equalled by the diamond beetle, who turns round upon a spit, and the insects in a drop of water, myriads of which are swallowed, upon the authority of the show man, every time we drink. Astronomical observations are also carried on at night, and the moon may be seen at the outlay also of a halfpenny, and whatever you chance to have in your pockets for the time being.
    The most fashionable period of the day in the New Cut is during the entr'actes of the Victoria Theatre, when the audience turn out for refreshment, and the promenade then presents a coup'doeil of gaiety, which must be witnessed to be appreciated. The Victoria enjoys a patent for performing the legitimate melodrama, but has no control over the small theatres in the immediate vicinity, where the most successful pieces are reproduced in cosmoramic boxes, capable of accommodating the heads of two people. The time occupied in these representations is usually half a minute an act. In conclusion, the traveller may bear in mind that provision and lodgings are equally cheap in the New Cut - that omnibuses leave the bridges every five minutes for its extremities - and that it is perfectly impossible to name any article, however uncommon or far-fetched, which may not be purchased second-hand in its wonderfully diversified sheds and stores - a great consideration with persons about to marry.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1843