Victorian London - Directories - Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr., 1879 - "Streets"

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Streets.—It may by some be considered superfluous to give any directions for the guidance of foot passengers in the streets, but in city where the traffic is so large, and the press and hurry so great as is the case in London, a few words of caution will be found not to be without their use. The first thing to recollect is, that people who are only bent on pleasure should give way to those who clearly have some business object in view. What called in America mere “loafing” should always be avoided. Not only is the “loafer” always in everbody’s way, but he is invariably the favourite mark for the pickpocket. However attractive the shop-window of which the idler wishes to take stock, the watch and other pocket property must always be carefully guarded. Perhaps no custom contributes more to the support of London thieves than the practice which many ladies indulge of carrying their purses in their hands. Be very chary of strangers who accost you in the street. It is possible that they only wish to know the time or to ask the way. It is, however, quite as likely that they belong to the great fraternity of sharpers and swell mobsmen, and are only paving the way to the ultimate transaction of business. A street row or crowd should always be avoided. If there be really so difficulty on hand, private interference can do no good, and police intervention is sure not to be long delayed. But it very frequently happens that a disturbance created by street thieves solely with a view to their own profit. It is well to give houses building or under repair a wide berth. Bricks, lumps of plaster, paint, workmen’s tools, &c., are easily dropped from the ladder or scaffolding and may cause a lifelong injury. Visitors to London in the spring, when cleaning and repainting are the fashion, should be on their guard against wet paint. Coal-flaps and gratings of all kinds should be distrusted. A butcher with his tray, a sweep with his brush, a carpenter with his saw protruding from his basket, and a scavenger 1adling mud into his cart, must be treated with the greatest respect— they will treat you with none. Scarcely less dangerous are the ladies and gentlemen who persist in swinging umbrellas, parasols, and sticks about to the common danger, without the slightest idea of the damage they may do. It is desirable, where possible, for foot passengers to keep to the right. It is hardly necessary to add that any form of street altercation or quarrel should be most carefully avoided, and that in this, as most other matters, the man who knows how to give and take fairly will get through London with the least trouble and inconvenience to himself and others. Crossing, although a matter that has been lately much facilitated by the judicious erection of what may be called “refuges,” and by the stationing of police. constables at many of the more dangerous points, still requires care and circumspection. Many a general action is fought with a smaller list of killed than this class of accident annually supplies in London. One of the most fatal errors is to attempt the crossing in an undecided frame of mind, while hesitation, or a change of plan midway, is ruinous.—(For a description of some of the principal streets of London see under the respective names.)

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879