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Tuesday, November 27, 1849
When first treating of the poor who will work in
contradistinction to those who either cannot or will not work - I
said that they appeared to be divisible into three classes: - 1. THE ARTISANS,
or those who make something. 2. THE LABOURERS,, or those who do something;
and, 3. THE HUCKSTERS, or those who sell something in order to obtain a
living. The vocation of the latter is to exchange certain commodities, either
for money or for certain other commodities particularly old clothes. This latter
characteristic is peculiar to the hawkers of crockeryware, and to a few other
wandering dealers, and it is generally adopted as a means of evading the act of
Parliament which requires them to obtain a license to follow such a calling.
I shall deal with the bartering of the itinerant crockerywaremen and other travelling tradesmen, when I come to treat specially of the hawkers of china and the like. At present I propose devoting my attention to the hucksters, or out-of-door tradesmen. I do this, not because I pretend to have yet exhausted either the artisans or the labourers of the metropolis, but for the same reason that led me to pass from the Spitalfields weavers to the dock labourers - from the dock labourers to the slopworkers - and from the slop-workers to the needlewomen of the metropolis. This unsystematic mode of treating the subject is almost a necessary evil attendant upon the nature of the investigation. In the course of my inquiries into the earnings and condition of one class of people, sources of information respecting the habits and incomings of another are opened up to me, of which, for several reasons, I am glad to avail myself at the immediate moment, rather than defer making use of them till a more fitting and orderly occasion. With this brief apology, then, for the erratic and immethodic nature of my communications, I shall now pass to the consideration of the habits and gains of
THE HUCKSTERS, OR OUT-OF-DOOR TRADESMEN OF THE METROPOLIS
The huckster is distinguished from the regular tradesman by the fact that the latter disposes of his goods within doors, and the former in the open air. Again, the amount of capital and the extent of their respective dealings are striking points of difference between the street wareman and the warehouse-man - the stall keeper and the shopkeeper. Further, the in-door is distinguished from the out-of-door tradesman by the character and means of his customers. The shopkeeper supplies principally the noblemen and gentry with the necessaries and luxuries of life, but the huckster is the purveyor in general to the poor. He brings the greengrocery, the fruit, the fish, the watercresses, the shrimps, the pies and puddings, the sweet-meats, the pineapples, the stationery, the linen-drapery, and the jewellery, such as it is, to the very door of the working classes; indeed, the poor man's food and clothing are mainly supplied to him in this manner. Hence the class of hucksters are important, not only as forming a large portion of the poor themselves, but as being the persons through whom the working people obtain a considerable part of their provisions and raiment. Now I propose, when I shall have ascertained the incomings of the operatives throughout London, to endeavour to find out the prices they pay for the different articles upon which their earnings are spent; it being quite as important, in an inquiry into the condition of the poor generally, to know whether they are overcharged for their food, and clothing, and lodging, as it is to learn whether they are underpaid for their labour. Consequently, the information derived from the class of people in question will be doubly serviceable to those who take an interest in the subject; and I am anxious that my readers should bear this in mind, so that when I come to the second part of my inquiry, I may be able to state the results rather than the details of the present investigations.
If we wish to take a comprehensive survey of the class of hucksters - that is, to view the class in the mass rather than individually - we should visit the different street-markets of the metropolis on a Saturday night or Sunday morning. The sight is as strange as it is instructive. The same struggle as that which I recently described as going on among the dock labourers for a day's, or indeed an hour's, employment, may here be seen in full force among the hucksters striving to dispose of their wares. Of these street-markets there are fifteen held throughout London every Saturday night and Sunday morning. The largest, or rather the most crowded of these, are held in that part of Lambeth called the New-cut, and in that part of Somers Town known by the name of the "Brill. These are both about half a mile in length, and each of them is frequented by as nearly as possible 300 hucksters. The congregation of costermongers and others in the Bethnal-green-road averages about the same in number; but, being spread over twice the distance, the crowd is not so dense as at the two first-mentioned places. The street-markets in Whitecross-street, Cripplegate, and Leather-lane, Holborn, are the next in importance. At these places 150 itinerant dealers assemble every Saturday night. After these come the street-markets held in the Brompton-road, Tottenham-court-road, High-street (Shoreditch), Oxford-street, and Whitechapel. Here about 100 hucksters are to be found on a Saturday night; and then there are Newport and dare markets, Camden Town, Paddington, and Rosemary-lane markets, which are usually attended by about fifty costermongers and others on the last night of the week. Hence there are, in all, fifteen markets in the streets of London held every Saturday night and Sunday morning, to which 1,950 hucksters resort to dispose of their different wares. But besides the concourse of itinerant dealers who are assembled in the places above enumerated, there are a large quantity of stragglers distributed at the same times throughout the metropolis; so that the number of hucksters in London may be said to be between two and three thousand. In order to arrive at the above estimate, the principal part of the localities abovementioned have been visited, at the busiest time, with the express purpose of ascertaining the precise number and character of the itinerant dealers frequenting them. At the New-cut there were, between the hours of eight and ten last Saturday evening, ranged along the kerb-stone on the north side of the road, beginning at Broadwall to the Marsh, a distance of nearly half a mile, a dense line of itinerant tradesmen - 77 of whom had vegetables for sale, 40 fruit, 25 fish, 22 boots and shoes, 14 eatables, consisting of cakes and pies, hot eels, baked potatoes, and boiled whelks; 10 dealt in nightcaps, lace, ladies' collars, artificial flowers, silk and straw bonnets; 10 in tin ware, such as saucepans, tea-kettles, and Dutch-ovens; nine in crockery and glass, seven in brooms and brushes, five in poultry and rabbits, six in paper, books, songs, and almanacs; three in baskets, three in toys, three in chickweed and watercresses, three in plants and flowers, two in boxes, and about 50 more in sundries, such as pigs' chaps, black lead, jewellery, marine stores, side combs, sheep's trotters, peep-shows, and the like. The generality of these street- markets are perfectly free, any party being at liberty to stand there with his goods, and "the pitch or stand being secured simply by setting the wares down upon the most desirable spot that may be vacant. In order to select this the hucksters usually arrive at the market at four o'clock in the afternoon, and having chosen their "pitch," they leave the articles they have for sale in the custody of a boy until six o'clock, when the market begins. At some of the localities, such as the Brill, Clare, and other markets, no parties, I am informed, are allowed to stand and offer their goods for sale unless their names are previously inserted in the book of the street-keeper of the neighbourhood. The class of customers at these places are mostly the wives of mechanics and labourers. Here, and in the shops immediately adjoining, the working classes mostly purchase their Sunday's dinner, and after pay-time on Saturday night, or early on Sunday morning, the crowd in the New-cut, and the Brill in particular, is almost impassable. Indeed, the scene in these parts has more of the character of a fair than a market. There are hundreds of stalls, and every stall has its light. Either it is illuminated by the bright white light of the new self-generating gas-lamp, or else it is lighted by the red smoky flame of the old-fashioned grease lamp. The goods of some stalls are shown off by the more primitive means of a candle stuck in a turnip, and others have merely the old horn lantern. Some stalls are crimson with the fire shining through the holes beneath the baked chestnut stove, others have handsome octohedral lamps, while a few have a candle shinrng through a sieve - these, with the sparkling ground-glass globes of the tea dealers' shops, and the butchers' gaslights, streaming and fluttering in the wind like flags of flame, pour forth such a flood of light, that at a distance the atmosphere immediately above the spot is as lurid as if the street were on fire. Then the tumult of the thousand different cries of the eager dealers, all shouting at the top of their voices, at one and the same time, is almost bewildering. "Sold again!" roars one. "Chestnuts all hot, a penny a score!" bawls another. "A halfpenny a skin, blacking! squeaks a boy. "Buy, buy, buy!" cries the butcher. "Half-quire o' paper for a penny!" bellows the street stationer. "A halfpenny a lot, inguns!" "Twopence a pound, grapes!" "Three a penny, Yarmouth bloaters! "Who'll buy a bonnet for fourpence?" "Pick 'em out cheap here, three pair for a halfpenny, bootlaces!" "Now's your time! beautiful whelks, a penny a lot." "Here's ha'p'orths!" shouts the perambulating confectioner. "Come and look at 'em; here's toasters!" bellows one with a Yarmouth bloater stuck on a toasting- fork. "Penny a lot, fine russets!" calls the applewoman; and the Babel goes on. Then the sights, as you elbow through the crowd, are equally multifarious. Here is a stall glittering with new tin saucepans; there another, bright with its blue and yellow crockery, and sparkling with white glass. Now you come to a row of old shoes, arranged along the pavement, now to a stand of gaudy tea- trays; then to a shop with red handkerchiefs and blue checked shirts, fluttering backwards and forwards, and a counter built up outside on the kerb, behind which are boys beseeching custom. At the door of this tea-shop, with many globes of light, stands a man delivering bills, thanking the public for past favours, and defying competition. Here, alongside the road, stand some half- dozen headless tailors' dummies, dressed in Chesterfields and fustian jackets, each labelled "look at the prices" or "observe the quality." After this is a butcher's shop, red and white with the meat piled up to the first floor. A little further on stands the clean family begging, the father with his head down, as if in shame, and a box of lucifers held forth in his hand - the boys in newly-washed pinafores, and the tidy mother with a child at her breast. This stall is green and white with bunches of turnips; that is red with apples. One minute you pass a man with an umbrella turned up inside and full of prints; the next you hear a man with a peep-show of Mazeppa, and Paul Jones the Pirate, describing the pictures to the boys looking in at the little round windows; and the moment afterwards you see either a black man clad in white, shivering in the cold with tracts in his hand; or else you hear a band, the sounds of music from the circus on the other side of the road, and the man outside the door beseeching you to be in time, as Mr. Somebody is just about to sing his favourite song of the "Knife Grinder!" Such, indeed, is the riot, the struggle, and the scramble for a living, that, wild as the scene of the London Docks appeared, the confusion and uproar of the New-cut on Saturday night overwhelms the thoughtful mind. Until it is seen and heard, we have no sense of the scramble that is going on throughout London for a living. The same scene takes place at the Brill - the same in Leather-lane - the same in Tottenham-court-road - the same in Whitecross-street. Go to whatever corner of the metropolis you please, either on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning, and there is the same shouting to get the penny profit out of the poor man's Sunday dinner.
Having described the main characteristics of the places where the hucksters of the metropolis may be seen in large numbers, let me now proceed to give the reader an idea of the earnings and habits of people coming under that denomination.
A large class of hucksters are street fishmongers. They deal in all kinds of fish, "wet" and "dry." The fish they purchase at Billingsgate; they get herrings and sprats on board the fishing-smacks lying off the stairs. Live eels they purchase out of the Dutch vessels at 8s. to 10s. the draught of 20 lbs. weight, the price of the best; but the general dealers buy "seconds," and pay about 5s. the draught for them. They are usually sold in sand; some say it is to keep them alive, and some say to dry them, and make them easy to be caught hold of; but the real reason is to increase the weight of them. There is generally about 3lbs. weight of sand added to 20lbs. of eels. They also deal in shellfish. These they sell by measure. The wet fish is sold by the hucksters, either by the pound or singly. The fish that they sell by the pound is generally codfish, and sometimes salmon. The weighing-machine and weights, by which these fish are weighed out, admit of being used according to the generosity or meanness of the purchaser. If the customer is liberal, he is generally pretty fairly treated; but, if he is "scaly," as the dealers call it, the weight is regulated according to the reduction in the price. They have generally two kinds of weights, the one fair and the other "light. They are both the same in size, but the light one is hollowed at the bottom, and kept with the fair one in the barrow, ready for use; so that if the purchaser attempts to screw them down in price, they always make a rule of taking it out in weight, by substituting the light weight for the other. The difference between the weights that I saw was generally one-half. The The weighing-machines which they use generally have a draught of two ounces in the pound, arising from the weight of the pan; and this admits of being increased to three or four ounces by placing the fish at the extreme end of the pan. The measures by which they sell the winkles, and cockles, and muscles, have all false bottoms, and some of these are made so that a smaller tin measure will fit exactly within another, and can be inserted or slid out dexterously, according as the customer is a "jonnock," or a "scaly cove" - that is, a liberal or mean person. Indeed, their rule, they say, is to be "level chalks" with their customers, be they what they may, and they always take care to have the laugh on their side. In fact, they usually manage, let the price offered be as low as it may - and they seldom refuse an offer - to get at least cent. per cent. out of their customers. They generally reckon to get as much out of an article, they say, as it cost them. They generally buy the fish that the fishmongers object to furnish. It is mostly "rough," as they call it. If it blows hard, mackerel especially will change their colour or "go dark," when exposed to the air. When they do this, the hucksters are obliged to get them off cheap, and to sell to the best advantage after daylight. A candle helps to brighten the fish up. In such cases they generally manage to get their own money back. Mackerel is as perishable an article as they deal in. When they buy fish by measure, they always reckon up the cost of each, and then, if they sell singly, they ask the same price for the large and the small ones all round. This is usually double what they cost. If the customer offers a little less than the sum asked, they usually consent to take it, and make up the deficiency out of the next customer by putting off one of the small fish upon him at the price of the large ones. In selling live eels a cloth is used to weigh them in, and as this bag absorbs the moisture of the fish, so it increases in weight. By this means about one-quarter part of every pound of eels weighed out is due to the "wet" sucked up by the bag, another quarter of the pound to light weight; so that the pound of fish seldom weighs much more than 8 oz. The dealers, if the day is rainy and the stones are wet, frequently place the bag on the pavement while serving a customer. By this means the cloth bag will often increase a quarter of a pound in weight. Small eels are sold by the hucksters at 3d. to 4d. a pound. Salmon they often call at 6d., when it cost them as much as 6½d. per lb. The profit is made up in deficient weight. I was shown pound weights varying from 12 to 8 oz., which are used according to the liberality or meanness of the purchaser. This, with the 2 oz. draught of the weighing machine, and the other ounce that is gained by the dealer placing the article at the extremity of the weighing pan, will reduce the huckster's pound to 9 or 5 oz., according as he pleases. A rough cod, weighing 10 lbs., will be bought often for 1s. 6d., and sold by the huckster at 3d. or 4d. per huckster's pound: the head and shoulders are disposed of in the "lump." So that, taking the huckster's pound on an average at 8 oz. - it is frequently only 6 oz. - the cod would weigh 20 lbs.; and this at 3d. would yield 5s., or 200 per cent. profit. People have got almost too knowing, they say, to stand their touching the tongue of the beam scale with their little finger, so they generally now manage matters by the weights. Sprats they generally sell by the pound. They call them two pounds for a penny, and there is usually, they tell me, but one. Periwinkles they sell 3d. a quart, and if they cannot get that sum for them, they call them at ld. per pint, and serve them out in a short measure. The measure is a pewter pint pot, with a tin lining made like a funnel. This is called a short pint, and is less than half the proper quantity. The street fishmongers have sometimes a truck or barrow. Those who have regular customers occasionally have a cart and horse. These are of the highest class. Many of the street fishmongers use a tray or small board, which they carry on their head; but the generality of them use a head basket, about the size of a clothes basket; fitting on the top of his is a shallow basket, in which a few of the fish are placed, and the greater part kept below. Generally these baskets are their own. They are made expressly for the class at 3s. 6d. the pair (i.e., the head basket and "shallow "), and with care they will last about two years. Few borrow these baskets; when they do so they pay ld. a day for the use of them; but they seldom borrow any basket but the "show shallows," which are used for shrimps. These baskets have the bottom made to bulge upwards, so as to make the stock look extensive. The barrows are almost always borrowed, and for these they pay 2s. a week, or 4d. a day in summer, and in winter from 1s. 6d. to 1s. a week, or 3d. a day. The barrows are branded all over with the initials of the proprietor, so that it is difficult for the party borrowing them, they say, "to make a bolt with them." The cost of a barrow when new is 25s. to 30s., and l4s. second-hand. The street fishmongers generally borrow the money with which they purchase their stock, as well as their barrow. Some, especially in the summer time, will get the loan of £1. For this they have to pay 2s. 6d. per week; or for the loan of a sovereign and a barrow they pay 4s. at the end of the week. If they borrow 15s., they pay 2s. for the loan of the money; and if they hire a barrow as well, the price for the accommodation is 3s. 3d. If they want only 10s., they have to give 1s. 6d. per week for it, or with a barrow 3s. Some require only 8s. to be lent them, and for this they have to pay 1s. a week for the loan; if a barrow is wanted as well, the charge is 2s. 6d. per week for the two. The barrow they are allowed to keep on their premises if they think proper; but the money they are expected to show to the lender when they go to pay for the loan in the course of the Sunday evening. This is often done week after week for years; the hucksters frequently paying, in the course of the twelvemonth, £10 for the loan of £1 and a barrow, that cost 30s. when new, and which will wear four years well. For the loan of l5s. and a barrow, they pay as much as £8 10s. in the year; for 10s. and a barrow, they pay about £7; and for the loan of 8s. and a barrow, they have to give about £6 per annum. If the hucksters neglect to show the money to the lender on the Sunday evening, he sends to them on the Monday to learn the cause of their non-appearance, and if he finds they have broken into the stock-money, he will never lend to them again. He knows, from the interest he takes, that it is useless summoning the defaulters, and consequently threatens, if the stock- money be not produced, that he will never help them again. The money and barrow lenders are very well to do, and make large sums of money. One man is the proprietor of upwards of 100 harrows. The costermongers and hucksters generally borrow their stock-money and barrows of these people, and pay for them after the above rates. The barrow proprietor above referred to charges more for the money he lends than others, and gives the borrowers a shilling a week, under the belief that by so doing he makes servants of them, and can therefore proceed against them for embezzlement if they "decamp" with the money. Sometimes the street fishmonger will take fish instead of money of the barrow proprietor. If this should be a pad of mackerel, for which he has paid perhaps 15s., he will let the street fishmonger have it upon the understanding that he will bring him £1 when he has sold it all off. If the street fishmonger cannot sell the fish, the lender still requires the money. "If you didn't know you could sell it," he says, "you shouldn't have had it." To start in the street fishmongering line about £1 is required for a barrow, and about 10s. for stock- money to trade upon. Some people are brought up to the business from their childhood; others take to it because they cannot find employment at their regular trade. Many prefer it, because they like what is called a "roving life," and prefer to be their own masters. When any one of the class is in distress - that is to say, without stock-money, and unable to borrow it, or sick - a raffle for some article of his is called at a public-house in the neighbourhood. Cards are printed, and distributed among his mates. The article, let it be whatever it may - perhaps a handkerchief - is put up at 6d. a member, and from twenty to forty members are got, according as the man is liked by his "mates," or as he has assisted others similarly situated. The paper of every raffle to the list of subscribers to his raffle before he puts his name down to a raffle for another party, in order to see if the person ever assisted him. Raffles are very "critical things, the pint pots fly about wonderful sometimes" - to use the word of one of my informants. The party is expected to take the chair, if he can write down the subscribers' names. One who had been chairman at one of these meetings assured me that on a particular occasion, having called a general dealer to order, the party very nearly split his head open with a quart measure. If the hucksters know that the person calling the raffle is "down," and that it is necessity that has made him call it, they will not allow the property put up to be thrown for. The people in the street-fishmongering line mostly live in King-street, Drury-lane, or in Duck-lane, Westminster, in the courts and alleys out of Brick-lane, Shoreditch, or in Baldwin's-gardens, Gray's-inn- lane, and in the alleys about Portpool-lane and Leather-lane; those about the New-cut live in Artichoke-place and Webber-street, Lambeth; those frequenting Somers Town live in the courts and alleys out of Brill-court; those frequenting Tottenham-court-road, in the low courts and alleys round about Fitzroy-square. In three streets about Drury-lane there are twenty-two street-fishmongers and general dealers. There are said to be thousands of general dealers, street-fishmongers, and costermongers in London. One person assured me he had seen in Billingsgate market in the fish season, at the end of January, from 700 to 800 hucksters of fish; and in Covent-garden-market, in the strawberry season, at four in the morning, he has seen full 600 costermongers.
Men and women are the parties chiefly engaged in selling fish in the streets, but the principal part are men. Children are occasionally sent out by their parents to call the fish; and often boys are engaged to push the harrows through the streets, while the women walk beside the barrow, and serve the fish, and take the money. The generality of the class are disposed to drink. Being exposed to all weathers, they say that a little drop keeps out the cold. Taking one with another - those who drink violently and those who take only a little - it is thought they spend on an average 5s. a week each in liquor. They are generally honest one to the other; but I am told by one of the class that they are always dishonest to the public, because their customers will not allow them to be otherwise. They frequently, when money is given them to change, walk off with the whole amount, and don't reappear in the same street for some time afterwards. It is seldom that they go off with the hired barrows - these being branded all over. It is believed by one who has belonged to the class for sixteen years, that one-third of the hucksters of London are living with females in an unmarried state. Out of fourteen persons living in his immediate neighbourhood, he himself knew seven couples who were cohabiting, and one man who lived in incestuous intercourse with his own daughter. Hence it is considered by their own body, that a fair estimate would be that one-half who live together as man and wife are unmarried. They lose very little by dealing in perishable commodities, for they have a way, they say, which prevents that. When the fish gets a little high, they fly to the poor quarters of London, where there are many Irish, and they being of a "strong nature" - to use the words of an old street fishmonger - they are no ways particular as to what they eat. The man said he could assure me that he had sold them some pretty high before now - some that people would have to put in pickle for some hours before they could touch them. In cold weather they often keep fish for four days after they have bought it, and in summer for 36 hours. Those who have any left after the day's business, if they live in an attic, generally put the residue outside their window, in a basket on the parapet, and having covered it with a wet blanket, place a heavy weight upon the lid to prevent the cats getting at it. If there is any cellar to the house, they generally keep the remainder of their stock there; and if there is not, they keep it in their own sleeping room. They begin work at about six in the morning, generally. They go to market, get home with their goods about nine o'clock, have their breakfast, and get out with their goods about ten. Those who have no stall call their fish round the streets, "Plaice alive - four for sixpence!" They cry, "Soles alive - twopence a pair!" "It makes no matter to us whether they are alive or dead - we call them all alive," said one to me; and so on, whatever the article may be. The continual calling of the goods is very distressing to the voice. One man told me that it had broken his, and that very often while out he loses his voice altogether. They seem to have no breath, they say, after calling for a little while. The continual calling brings on a hoarseness, which is one of the peculiar characteristics of the hucksters in general. They have mostly their little bit of a "round;" that is, they go only to certain places; and if they don't sell their goods, they "work back" the same way again. They generally prefer the poorer neighbourhoods. If they visit a respectable quarter they confine themselves to the mews near the gentlemen's houses. They go down or through mostly all the courts and alleys, and avoid all the better kind of streets. If they have anything inferior, they visit the low Irish districts - for the Irish people, they say, want only quantity, and care nothing about quality - that they don't study, they say; but if they have anything they wish to make a price of, they seek out the mews, and try to get it off among the gentlemen's coachmen, for they will have what is good; or they go among the residences of mechanics, for their wives, they say, like what is good as well as the coachmen. Wednesdays and Fridays are the best days, because they are regular fish days. These two days are considered to be those on which the poorer classes generally run short of money. Wednesday night is called "draw-night" among the mechanics and labourers; that is, they then get a portion of their wages in advance, and on Friday they run short as well as on the Wednesday, and have to make shift for their dinner with the few halfpence they have left. They are glad to pick up anything cheap, and the street-fishmonger never refuses an offer. Besides, he can supply them with a cheaper dinner than any other person. In the herring season the poor generally dine upon them. The poorer classes live mostly upon fish, and the "dropped" and "rough" fish is bought chiefly for the poor. The fish-huckster has no respect for persons; however, one assured me that if Prince Halbert was to stop him in the street to buy a pair of soles of him, he'd as soon sell him a "rough pair as any other man; indeed, I'd take in my own father," he added, "if he wanted to deal with me." Saturday is the worst day of all for fish, for then the poor people have scarcely anything at all to spend. The best season for the street- fishmonger begins about October and ends in May. In October they generally deal in fresh herrings, and these last up to about the middle or end of November. This is about his best season. The herrings he sells to the poor, upon an average, at eight or ten a groat, or from 4s. to 5s. the hundred. After November the sprat and plaice season begins. The regular street-fishmonger seldom deals in sprats. He "works" these only when there is no other fish to be got. He considers this trade generally beneath him, and more fit for the women than the men. The plaice season continues to the first or second week of May. During May the casualty season is on, and there is little fish certain from that time till salmoon comes in, and this is about the end of the month. The salmon season lasts till about the middle of June. There is not much to be made at this work, because they say it is only halfpence and pence profit. At first-hand he will pay about from 5d. to 5½d., and sell it 6d. to 6½d. per pound. The profit he would make up in short weight. While I was obtaining this information, a man went past the window of the house in which I was seated, with a barrow drawn by a donkey. He was calling "Fresh; cod, oh! - l½d. a pound, cod alive, oh!" My informant called me to the window, saying, "Now, here is what we call rough cod. He told me they were three days old. He thought it was eatable now, he said. The eyes were thick and heavy and sunken, and the limp tails of the fish dangled over the ends of the barrow. He said it was a hanging market today; that is, things had been dear, and the hucksters couldn't pay the price for them. He said he should fancy the man had probably paid for the fish from 9d. to 1s. each, which was at the rate of ld. per lb. He was calling them at l½d. He would not take less than this, until he had "got his own money in;" and then, probably, if he had one or two left, he would put up with ld. per lb. The weight he was "working" was 12 oz. to the pound. My informant told me he knew this, because he had borrowed his 12 oz. pound weight that morning. This, with the draught of two ounces in the weighing machine, and the ounce gained by placing the fish at the end of the pan, would bring the actual weight given to nine ounces per pound, and probably he had even a lighter pound weight ready for a "scaly" customer. "The salmon season," continued my informant, "is the worst season for the street fishmonger. The profits are small per pound, and it is a very delicate fish. If kept at all 'over,' it loses its colour, and turns to a pale red, which is seen immediately the knife goes into the fish. After he has done his morning's work, he generally goes out with his tub of pickled salmon on a barrow or stall, and sells it in saucers at ld. each, or by the piece. It is generally bought for 7s. a kit, a little bit "pricked." ["We're in no ways particular to that," said my candid friend. "We don't have the eating of it ourselves, and people a'n't always got their taste."] Towards the end of June the street fishmonger looks for mackerel, and he is generally employed in selling this fish up to the end of July. After July the Billingsgate season is said to be finished. From this time to the middle of October, when the herrings return, he is generally engaged selling dried haddocks and red herrings, and other casualty fish that may come across him. Many of the street fishmongers object to deal in periwinkles, or stewed muscles, or boiled whelks, because, being accustomed to take their money in sixpences at a time, they do not like to traffic in halfpenny-worths. These dealers are generally looked upon as an inferior class. One old woman that my informant knew earned from 3s. to 4s. out of boiled whelks, stewed muscles, and hot eels, on a Saturday night. There are during the day two periods for the sale of street fish, the one beginning about ten in the morning and lasting till one in the day - this is the end of the morning trade; the night trade begins from six in the evening up to the hour of ten at night. What is left in the forenoon is generally disposed of cheap at night. What is sold at the latter time is generally used by the working class for supper, or kept by them with a little salt, in a cool place, if it will last as long, for the next day's dinner. Several articles are sold by the street fishmonger chiefly by night. These are oysters, lobsters, pickled salmon, hot eels, stewed muscles, and the like. The reason why the latter articles sell better by night is, my informant says, "because people are loftly-minded, and don't like to be seen eating on 'em in the street in the daytime." Shrimps and winkles are the staple commodities of the afternoon trade, which lasts from three to half-past five in the evening. These articles are generally bought by the working classes for their tea. "Taking it upon an average," says my informant, "one with another, bad and good, rough and smooth, I say a man may earn about 16s. a week right through the year. With a stock of 10s., a man can earn £1 a week for many weeks in the season; but when the casualty time comes on, his earnings are seldom more than a dozen shillings. This year the street fish trade has been very bad, owing to the cholera, and the distress among the dealers has been very great. If they bought fish they could not sell their goods, and were obliged to lose money by them. This has broken into the stock-money of many, and they can't do anything. Their customers, they say, are great "screws," and beat them down terribly. Such is the state of the working classes, they have little or no money to spend. "Why, I can assure you," said one of the parties from whom I obtained the above information, "there's my missis; she sits at the corner of the street with fruit. Eight years ago she would have taken 8s. out of that Street on a Saturday, and last Saturday week she had one bushel of apples, cost 1s. 6d. She was out from ten in the morning till ten at night, and all she took that day was 1s. 7½d." Go to whoever you will, you will hear much upon the same thing. Another told me, "The hucksters are often obliged to sell the things for what they gave for them. The people haven't got money to lay out with them - they tell us so; and if they are poor, we must be poor too. If we can't get a profit upon what goods we buy with our stock-money, let it be our own or anybody's else, we are compelled to live upon it, and when that's broken into we must either go to the workhouse or starve. If we go to the workhouse, they'll give us a piece of dry bread, and abuse us worse than dogs. They all assured me they had never heard of any huckster keeping any accounts, and they one and all were convinced I should not find such a thing in the trade. The hucksters generally go out with a boy to cry their goods for them. If they come to have two or three hallooing together, it makes more noise than one could do, and the boys can shout better and louder than the men. They have found the trade so bad lately that many have been obliged to have a drum for their "bloaters," to drum the fish off, as they call it. The more noise they can make in a place the better they find the trade. "There are a great many of us altogether, sir," said one to me. "The men could get a living, but the hucksters now make a practice of sending boys out with the goods, and the young'uns sell 'em for a mere song. These boys are about twelve years of age, and generally get "2d. and a bit of victuals" a day for their services. The parties who employ these boys do a little better than others, but those who sell for themselves are greatly injured by them. The boys are employed because they enable the huckster to undersell the others. "We're all trying," they told me "to cut one another down, because we all want a livelihood, and unless we did cut one another down we couldn't get it. If you go down into Clare-market, you'll see that one butcher is a-striving, like us all, to cut his neighbour's throat, by selling cheaper than him. And the shopkeeper won't let us sell near him, because we can sell cheaper than them." "Ten out of twelve," said one to me, in answer to my inquiry as to the state of education among the class, "can't read a hay from a bull's foot. I thinks costermongers generally the worst scholars a-going." "If you take the generality of costermongers," I was told by another, "you will find them mostly of the lowest class - generally a reprobate set of people - that is, abusive and vulgar in their language. We all know one another all over London, by sight if not by name, by meeting one another at the markets, and by being continually about the streets selling. Their amusements generally of an evening are dancing and singing. They meet at some public-house in the neighbourhood - men and women, and occasionally a few youths. They have a regular fiddler, and they dance four-handed reels; frequently they have a "clog-hornpipe," in which the men dance in wooden shoes. Sometimes they do the "pipe dance." For this a number of tobacco-pipes, about a dozen, are laid close together on the floor, and the dancer places the toe of his boot between the different pipes, keeping time with the music. Two of the pipes are ranged as a cross, and the toe has to be inserted between each of the angles, without breaking them. Sometimes one of the party does the hornpipe in fetters. The songs on such occasions are generally sentimental, and a few "flash." "They like something, sir, that is worth hearing," said my informant, "such as the 'Soldier's Dream,' or the 'Dream of Napoleon.'" Their usual style of dress on a working day is a long dark green corduroy jacket, with long sleeves and large buttons, what they call the "cable-cord" trousers, and high lace-up boots with heavy nails; they have a yellow Belcher handkerchief round the neck; and most have caps, on account of carrying their load out of market. The knee-breeches are not so common as they formerly were; and I am assured that the long corduroy jacket and cable-cord trousers is the last new fashion among them. The fishmongers have always a blue serge apron, either hanging down or tucked up round their hips. They seldom make any alteration in their dress on a Sunday. If they have another coat for Sundays, it is generally a brown velvet Petersham, with the pockets in the front, and large brass stag's-head buttons. Their wives are usually in the same line. The women mostly have a stall at the corner of some street, or otherwise opposite some housekeeper's door from whom they can obtain the right of standing. They sell sprats, fish, fruit, and vegetables. "If you was to go to the raffle tonight, sir," said one of them to me, "they'd say to one another directly you come in, Who's this here swell? What's he want?' And they'd think you were a 'cad,' or otherwise a spy, come from the police. But they'd treat you civilly, I'm sure. Some, very likely, would fancy you was a fast kind of a gentleman, come there for a lark. But you need have no fear, though the pint pots does fly about sometimes.
A costermonger is, strictly speaking, a man who takes fruit and vegetables about the streets in a cart or barrow for sale. The people who carry oranges, chestnuts, or walnuts, or Spanish nuts about the town, are not considered as costermongers, but are generally classed by the regular men with the water-cress women, the sprat women, the winkle dealer, and such others, whom they generally consider beneath them. The hucksters of oranges and nuts are generally Irish; indeed, the orange season is said by the costermonger to be the poor Irishman's harvest. The regular costermonger deals in all kinds of green and dry fruit, excepting oranges and chestnuts. If they sell walnuts, they reserve these, they say, for their Sunday afternoon's pastime. The usual kinds of fruit they deal in are strawberries, raspberries (plain and stalked), cherries, apricots, plums, greengages, currants, apples, pears, damsons, green and ripe gooseberries, and pineapples. They also deal in vegetables, such as turnips, greens, broccoli, carrots, onions, celery, rhubarb, new potatoes, peas, beans (French and scarlet, broad and Windsor), asparagus, vegetable marrow, seakale, spinach, lettuces, small salads, etc. Their fruit they usually buy at Covent-garden, Spitalfields, or the Borough markets. Occasionally they may buy some at Farringdon, but that they reckon to be very little better than a haggler's market. A haggler is a middle-man who attends in the fruit and vegetable markets, and buys off the salesmen to sell to the retail dealer or costermonger. The costermongers generally prefer Covent-garden market, and in the strawberry season, at four in the morning, they frequently attend there to the number of from 700 to 1,000. The strawberry season begins about June, and continues till about the middle of July. During this time they make about 5s. a day, and even more when they first come in. From the middle to the end of July they "work" raspberries. During July cherries are "in" as well as raspberries; but many "costers" prefer working raspberries, because "they're a quicker sixpence." The cherries are sold by them, they tell me, at 2d. per lb. of 12 oz. generally; and if at ld., they give but eight ounces to the pound, which, with the draught of the scales and mode of weighing, brings the pound weight to about 5oz. The costermonger working cherries generally earns about 5s. a day. After the cherries they go to work upon plums, which they have about the end of August. They sell them by the quart, at from 2d. to 3d. the quart with the false bottom. At this they generally make 4s. a day. Apples and pears come in after the plums, in the month of September, and the apples last them all through the winter till the month of May. The pears last only till Christmas. Currants they work about the latter end of July, or beginning of August. They sell them at 10d. to 1s. the gallon (short measure, the coster's quart being only a pint-and-a-half, and very often not that). "There are some 'pots' in this street," said one to me, "don't hold a pint;" and besides this, to use the words of my informant, "the mode of dropping them in light, instead of letting them fall in heavy and fair, makes a great difference in the measure." [While I was receiving this information the same dealer in cod who had passed the window in the morning was heard at the bottom of the street, still shouting, "Live cod here, a penny a pound!" I said to the costermonger with whom I was that he had come down a halfpenny since the morning. "Yes," said his wife, "and that's at the rate of 2d. a pound - now he's only working eight ounces, if that." "It's very nasty fish," said the wife, "all bruised."] Pineapples, when they were first introduced, were a rich harvest to the costermonger. They made more money "working" these than any other article. They cost them about 4d. each, one with the other, good and bad together, and were sold by the costermonger at from 1s. to 1s. 6d. The public were not aware then that the pines they sold were "salt-water touched," and the people bought them as fast as they could sell, not only by the whole one, but at ld. a slice - for those who could not afford to give ls. would have a slice as a taste for ld. They were a novelty when they first came up. The costermongers used to have flags flying at the head of their barrows, and gentlefolks used to stop them in the street; indeed, the sale for them was chiefly among "the gentry." The poorer people - sweeps, dustmen, cab- men - used to have pennyworths, but gentlepeople used to buy a whole one to take home, so that all the family might have a taste. This was four years ago, but since then there has not been such a call for them. The vessel in which they first came over was exposed to very bad weather, and the salt-water damaged them so as to make them unsaleable by the regular fruiterer. They were bought cheap by the costermonger, and he made a great deal of money out of them. One costermonger assured me he had taken as much as 22s. a day out of them during the rage when they first came up; but since then they have been too dear for the costermongers to do much at them. In the vegetable line the costermonger "works" greens during the winter months up to about the month of March; from that time they are getting "leathery," the leaves become foxy, and they eat tough when boiled; consequently he is obliged to apply inside the market to see what he can make a penny out of. The greens they consider very heavy luggage, like turnips, for little money. There is a poor living got out of greens. Upon an average they can make 2s. a day out of them. The costermongers generally do not like dealing either in greens or turnips. They would sooner "work" green peas and new potatoes. They can get a very tidy living, they say, out of these. Their measure is about one-third short. They will sell mostly a sack of peas in the morning. Many people will not take the costermonger's measure, but insist upon being served in their own. Some costermongers take their goods round in a pony and barrow. For the hire of this they would pay about 4s., and have to keep the pony. The costermonger does more with a pony, because he can go a further distance. Many of them have a donkey and barrow. For the hire of this they pay 6d. a day, and give the animal one feed of corn. The costermonger does the best at fruit; but this he can work, with the exception of apples, only about four months in the year. During that time he makes upon an average 4s. a day, taking one day with another. They lose but little from the fruit spoiling. If it doesn't fetch a good price, it must fetch a bad one, they say. They are never at a great loss by fruit. At vegetables and apples the costermonger makes about 2s. a day on an average, for five months in the year; but when lettuces and radishes come in he can make about 3s. 6d. Taking one week with another all the year, he will earn about 16s. a week. They have often to wait for articles coming into season. They find the women the hardest or "scaliest" customers. They say that , whatever price they ask, the women will always try to save the market or gin penny out of it; and this they do that they may have a "glass of something short" before they go home.
The "general dealer" is a kind of costermonger and street fishmonger. He is a man who "works" everything through the season. He generally begins the year with sprats or plaice; then he deals in soles until the month of May; after this he takes to mackerel, haddocks, or red herrings. Next he trades in strawberries or raspberries; from this he would take to green and ripe gooseberries; thence he would go to cherries; from cherries he would change to red or white currants; from them to plums or greengages, and from them to apples and pears, and damsons. After these he mostly works a few vegetables, and he continues with these until the fish begins again. Some general dealers occasionally trade in sweet- meats, but this is not usual, and is looked down upon by "the trade."
"I am a general dealer," said one of the latter class; "my missis is in the same line as myself, and sells everything that I do (barring greenstuff). She follows me always in what I sell. She has a stall, and sits at the corner of the street. I have got three children. The eldest is ten, and goes out with me to call my goods for me. I have had an inflammation in the lungs, and when I call my goods for a little while my voice leaves me. My missis is lame. She fell down a cellar, when a child, and injured her hip. Last October twelve- month I was laid up with cold, which settled on my lungs, and kept to my bed for a month. My missis kept me all this time. She was 'working' fresh herrings; and if it hadn't been for her we must have gone into the workhouse. We are doing very badly now. I have no work to do. I have no stock-money to work with, and I object to pay 1s. 6d. a week for the loan of 10s. Once I gave a man 1s. 6d. a week for ten months for the loan of 10s., and that nearly did me up. I have had 8s. of the same party since, and paid 1s. a week for eight weeks for the loan of it. I consider it most extortionate to have to pay 2d. a day for the loan of 8s., and won't do it. When the season gets a bit better I shall borrow a shilling of one friend and a shilling of another, and then muddle on with as much stock-money as I can scrape together. My missis is at home now, doing nothing. Last week it's impossible to say what she took, for we're obliged to buy victuals and firing with it as we take it. She can't go out charing on account of her hip. When she is out, and I am out, the children play about in the streets. Only last Saturday week she was obligated to take the shoes off her feet to get the children some victuals. We owe two weeks' rent, and the landlord, though I've lived in the house five years, is as sharp as if I was a stranger.
The "pea-soup," and "hot eels," and pickled whelk dealers are another class of the street provision merchants. In the warm weather they deal only in "hot eels," for then the soup will not sell. These dealers are stationary, having stalls or stands in the street. They seldom move about, but generally frequent the same place. A celebrated dealer in this class of street provisions has a stand in Clare-street, Clare-market, opposite the cat's-meat shop - and this man has been heard to boast that he wouldn't soil his hands at the business if he didn't get his 30s. a day, and his £2 10s. of a Saturday. Half this amount is considered to be about the truth. This person has mostly all the trade for hot eels that there is in the Clare-market district. The other dealers in the same district do but very little. There is another "hot eel" purveyor, who stands up at the end of Windmill-street, in Tottenham-court-road, that does a very good trade. It is thought that he makes about 5s. a day at the business, and about 10s. on Saturday. There is another man that comes out about five o'clock every afternoon, and stands in the New-cut, nearly opposite the Victoria Theatre. He has two or three lamps with "hot eels" painted upon them, and a handsome stall. He is considered to make about 7s. a day by the sale of eels alone, but he deals in fried fish and pickled whelks as well, and often he has a pile of fried fish a foot high. But the dealer in Clare-market does the largest trade of all in the hot eel line. He is the head man. On one Saturday he was known to sell 100 lbs. of eels, and on most Saturdays he will get rid of his four "draughts" of eels (a draught being 20 lbs.). These are principally eaten at the stall, and there is generally a large crowd gathered round his stall. He and his son are dressed in Jenny Lind hats, bound with blue velvet, and both dispense the provisions, while the daughter attends to wash up the cups. "On a Sunday, anybody," said my informant, "would think him the first nobleman or squire in the land, to see him dressed in his white hat, with black crape round it, and his drab paletot and mother-o'-pearl buttons and black kid gloves, with the fingers too long for him. The eels and whelks are all purchased at Billingsgate. They are purchased early in the morning, about six or seven o'clock. The parties themselves, or their sons or daughters, go down to Billingsgate for the eels, and the watermen there row them to the Dutch vessels moored off the market. The fare paid to the watermen is 1d. for every 10 lbs. purchased and brought back in the boat, the passenger being gratis. The dealers generally trade on their own capital. But when some have been having "a flare up," and broke down for stock - to use the words of my informant - they go and borrow £1, and pay it back in a week or a fortnight at the outside, and give 2s. for the loan of it. The money is usually borrowed of the barrow, truck, and basket lenders. The amount of capital required for carrying on the business depends on the trade done. Even in a small way the utensils for the business would cost £1. These utensils consist of one fish-kettle and one soup-kettle, holding upon an average three gallons each; besides these, five basins and five cups and ten spoons would be required. Then there is a washhand basin to wash the cups and basins and spoons in. and there is also a board and trestle on which the whole stand. In a large way it would require from £3 to £4 to fit up a handsome stall. For this the party would have "two fine kettles," holding about four gallons each, and two patent cast-iron fireplaces (the £1 outfit only admits of the bottoms of two tin saucepans being used as fireplaces, in which charcoal is always burning to keep the eels and soup hot; the whelks are always eaten cold). The crockery and spoons would be in no way superior. A small dealer requires, over and above this sum, 10s. to go to market with and purchase stock, and the large dealer would require about 30s. The class of persons belonging to the business have either been bred to it, or taken to it through being out of work. Some have been disabled during their work, and have resorted to it to save themselves from the workhouse. The price of the hot eels are five or seven pieces and three parts of a cup-full of liquor for a halfpenny. The charge for a half- pint of pea-soup is a halfpenny, and the whelks are sold, according to the size, from ½d. each to three or four for the same sum. These are put out in saucers. The hot eels consist of Dutch eels, cleaned and washed, and cut in small pieces of about an inch each. [The daughter of my informant was busily engaged at a blood-stained board, with a pile of pieces on one side and a heap of entrails on the other.] They are then boiled, and the liquor is thickened with flour and flavoured with chopped parsley. This is kept hot in the streets, and is served out in halfpenny cup-fulls, with a small quantity of vinegar and pepper. To dress a draught of eels it will take three hours to clean and cut them up and cook them, and the cost will be 5s. 2d. for the draught of eels (the 2d. being the expense of "shoring "), 8d. for 4 lbs. of flour to thicken the liquor, 2d. for the parsley to flavour it, and 1s. 6d. for the vinegar and pepper (about three quarts of vinegar and two ounces of pepper will be used). This quantity of eels, when dressed and seasoned, will fetch in halfpennyworths about 15s. The profit upon this would be from 5s. to 5s. 6d.; but the cost of the charcoal has to be deducted from this, as well as the salt used while cooking. These two come to about 5d.; so that the clear gain upon selling a draught of twenty pounds of eels is from 4s. 6d. to 5s. The pea-soup consists of split peas, carrots, celery, and beef bones. Five pints, at 3½d., are used to every three gallons, two pennyworth of bones, ld. of carrots, and ½d. of celery - these cost 1s. 0½d.; and the pepper, salt, and mint, to season it, costs about 2d. This, when served in halfpenny basin-fulls, will fetch from 2s. 3d. to 2s. 4d., leaving 1s. ld. profit. But from this the expenses of cooking must be taken; so that the clear gain upon three gallons of this article comes to about 11d. In a large trade, three kettles, or twelve gallons, of pea-soup will be disposed of in the day, and about four draughts, or 80 lbs., of hot eels on every day but Saturday, when the quantity of eels disposed of would be about five draughts, or 100 lbs. weight, and about fifteen gallons of pea-soup on a Saturday. The profits per draught on the eels is 5s., which would give £1 a day for the profit on the hot eels for five days, and £1 5s. on Saturdays; and upon the pea-soup the profit would be about 3s. 8d. for the first five days of the week, and about 4s. 7d. for Saturdays. Hence the profits of a good business in the hot eel and pea-soup line will be from £7 to £7 10s. per week. But there is no man in London does this amount of business, or makes this amount of money at it, but one. A small business will do about 15 lbs. of eels in the week, including Saturday, and about 12 gallons of soup, which will give from 7s. to 7s. 6d. a week clear. Sometimes credit is given for a halfpennyworth, or a penny-worth, at the outside; but very little is lost from bad debts. Some of the boys who are partaking of the articles will occasionally say to the proprietor of the stall, "Well, master, they are very nice; trust us another halfpennyworth, and I'll pay you when I comes again;" but they are seldom credited, for they know well they would never see them again. Very often the stock cooked is not disposed of, and then it is brought home and eaten by the family. The pea-soup will seldom keep a night, but what is left the family generally use for supper.
The dealers generally go out about half-past ten o'clock in the morning, and stop out till about ten at night, and on Saturdays till twelve. Saturday is the best day of all, and Monday the next best to that. The generality of the customers are boys from 12 to 16 years of age. Newsboys are very partial to hot eels - women prefer the pea-soup; and on Saturdays and Mondays people are generally "flush of money." Some of the boys will have as many as six halfpenny cups-full consecutively on a Saturday night; and some women will have three halfpenny basins-full of pea-soup. Many persons in the cold weather prefer the hot soup to beer. On wet, raw, chilly days, the pea-soup goes off better than usual, and in fine weather there is a greater demand for the hot eels. One dealer assures me that he once did serve two gentlemen's servants with twenty-eight halfpenny cup-fulls of hot eels one after another. One servant had sixteen, and the other twelve cup-fulls, which they ate all at one standing; and one of these was so partial to hot eels, that he used to come twice a day every day for six months after that, and have eight cup-fulls each day, four at noon and four in the evening. These two persons were the best customers the party ever had. Servants are not generally partial to the commodity. Hot eels are not usually taken for dinner, nor is the peasoup, but throughout the whole day, just as the fancy of the passersby may take them. There are no shops for the sale of these articles. The dealers never keep any accounts of what their receipts and expenditure are. The best time of the year for the hot eels is from the middle of June to the latter end of August. On some days during that time a person in a small way of business will receive upon an average 1s. 6d. a day, on other days 1s.; on some days, during the month of August, as much as 2s. 6d. a day. Some persons cry out "Nice hot eels - nice hot eels!" as the people are passing; but the general rule is to be silent, and merely expose the articles for sale. They pay nothing for the right of standing where they do. They get permission from the housekeepers in front of whose door they fix their stalls, and then they claim a right during the housekeepers' pleasure; that is to say, they will not allow any other stall-keeper to take their place. There are a great many persons in the trade - almost more than can get a living at it. The earnings of the dealers are less now than they were formerly. One party attributes this to the opening of a couple of penny-pie shops in his neighbourhood. Before then he could get 2s. 6d. a day clear, take one day with another; but since they have begun business in the penny-pie line he cannot take above 1s. 6d. a day clear. On the day the first of these pie-shops opened it made as much as 10 lbs., or half a draught of eels, difference to him. There was a band of music and an illumination at the pie-shop, and it was impossible to stand against that. The fashionable dress of the trade is the "Jenny Lind" or "wide-awake" hat, with a broad black ribbon tied round it, and a white apron and sleeves. They usually go to Hampton-court or Greenwich on a Sunday. They are partial to the pit of Astley's. Indeed, one was heard telling the waterman at Billingsgate the other morning that "he and his good lady had been werry amused with the osses at Hashley's last night."
"I was a coalheaver," said one of the above class to me, as I sat in his attic up a close court, watching his wife "thicken the liquor;" "I was going along the plank, from one barge to another, when the swell of some steamers throwed the plank off the 'horse,' and chucked me down, and broke my knee agin the side of the barge. Before that I was earning upon an average my 20s. to 30s. a week. I was seven months and four days in King's College Hospital after this. I found they was doing me no good there, so I come out and went over to Bartholemy's Hospital. I was in there nineteen months altogether, and after that I was a month in Middlesex Hospital, and all on 'em turned me out oncurable. You see, the bone's decayed - four bits of bone have been taken from it. The doctor turned me out three times cause I wouldn't have it off. He asked my wife if she would give consent, but neither she nor my daughter would listen to it, so I was turned out on 'em all. How my family lived all this time it is hard to tell. My eldest boy did a little - got 3s. 6d. a week as an errand boy, and my daughter was in service, and did a little for me; but that was all we had to live upon. There was six children on my hands, and however they did manage I can't say. After I came out of the hospital I applied to the parish, and I was allowed 2s. 6d. a week and four loaves. But I was anxious to do something, so a master butcher, as I knowed, said he would get me a 'pitch' (i.e., the right to fix a stall), if I thought I could sit at a stall and sell a few things. I told him I thought I could, and would be very thankful for it. Well, I had heard how the man up in the market was making a fortune at the hot-eel and pea-soup line. (A paviour as left his barrow and two shovels with me told me today, said the man, by way of parenthesis - 'that he knowed for a fact he was clearing £6 a week regular.'] So I thought I'd have a touch at the same thing. But you see, I never could rise money enough to get sufficient stock to make a do of it, and never shall, I expect - it don't seem like it, however. I ought to have 5s. to go to market with tomorrow, and I ain't got above 1s. 6d.; and what's that for stock-money, I'd like to know? Well, as I was saying, the master butcher lent me 10s. to start in the line. He was the best friend I ever had. But I've never been able to do anything at it - not to say to get a living." "He can't carry anything now, sir," said his wife, as the old man strove to get the bellows to warm up the large kettle of pea-soup that was on the fire. "Aye, I can't go without my crutch. My daughter goes to Billingsgate for me. I've got nobody else; and she cuts up the eels. If it wasn't for her I must give it up altogether, and go into the workhouse outright. I couldn't fetch 'em. I ought to have been out tonight by rights till ten o'clock, if I'd had anything to have sold. My wife can't do much; she's troubled with the rheumatics in her head and limbs. "Yes," said the old body, with a sigh, "I'm never well, and never shall be again, I know." "Would you accept on a drop of soup, sir?" asked the man; "you're very welcome, I can assure you. You'll find it very good, sir." I told him I had just dined, and the poor old fellow proceeded with his tale. "Last week I earned clear about 8s., and that's to keep six on us. I didn't pay no rent last week nor yet this, and I don't know when I shall again, if things goes on in this way. The week before there was a fast-day, and I didn't earn above 6s. that week, if I did that. My boy can't go to school. He's got no shoes nor nothing to go in. The girls go to the ragged school, but we can't send them of a Sunday nowhere." "Other people can go," said one of the young girls nestling round the fire, and with a piece of sacking over her shoulders for a shawl - "them as has got things to go in; but mother don't like to let us go as we are." "She slips her mother's shoes on when she goes out. It would take £1 to start me well. With that I could go to market, and buy my draught of eels a shilling cheaper, and I could afford to cut my pieces a little bigger; and people where they gets used well comes again - don't you see? I could have sold more eels if I'd had 'em today, and soup too. Why, there's four hours of about the best time tonight that I'm losing now cause I've nothing to sell. The man in the market can give more than we can. He gives what is called the lumping ha'p'orth - that is, seven or eight pieces; ah, that I dare say he does; indeed, some of the boys has told me he gives as many as eight pieces. And then the more eels you biles up, you see, the richer the liquor is, and in our little tin-pot way it's like biling up a great jint of meat in a hocean of water. In course we can't compete agin the man in the market, and so we're being ruined entirely. The boys very often comes and asks me if I've got a farden's-worth of heads. The woman at Broadway, they tells me, sells 'em at four a farden and a drop of liquor, but we chucks 'em away, there's nothing to eat on them; but the boys will eat anything."