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Friday, December 7, 1849
I shall in this letter conclude my remarks on the hucksters
or street-dealers of the metropolis. The classes of whom I have still to treat
include the hucksters of street literature and arts - such as the "flying
stationers" or dealers in last dying speeches and three yards of new and
popular songs, the umbrella print-sellers, the wall-song men, the play-bill
sellers, and the vendors of four sheets of note-paper for a penny. All these are
included under the term "street paper-sellers," and they constitute a
large body of individuals. Those that remain are difficult to classify. They may
be enumerated under the titles of dog-dealers, flower-girls, vendors of corn
salve and compositions for removing grease spots from cloth, sellers of small
coins and jewellery, purchasers of hareskins, hawkers of hearthstones, sand, and
gravel; and lastly, the most degraded of all, viz., the street pickers-up, or
"bone-grubbers," and "mud-larks." These, with a few
exceptions, exhaust the class of hucksters. It is true there are varieties that
are still undescribed - such as the donkey-boys (but these belong to the suburbs
of London itself); then there are the street vendors of gold fish, of cutlery,
of hardware, of tea-trays, of slippers, of wash-leathers and sponges, of
sheeting and table-covers, and of pretended smuggled goods; but these varieties
of the order are far too limited in numbers to be worthy of special description.
When first treating of the class, I gave a statement as to the criminality of the calling, as compared with other occupations. According to deductions made from the last census, in 1841, one in every 86 hawkers, hucksters, and pedlars was a prisoner in some gaol, and one in every 100 seamstresses; the average number of prisoners being, for the entire population, one in 718 individuals. Resorting to this mode of estimating the poverty of the class, I find that in the same year one in 179 hawkers, hucksters, and pedlars were paupers or inmates of some parish union; whereas One in every 36 seamsters and seamstresses were in the same condition; the average number of paupers for the entire population being one in every 159. Hence it is evident that the class of hucksters, compared with the people generally, are considerably above the average in crime, and below it in poverty; whereas the seamstresses are comparatively but little above the average in crime, and greatly above it in poverty. It may therefore be said of the hucksters generally, that while they are highly criminal, they are not particularly poor; and of the seamstresses, that while they are very poor, they are not near so criminal as their poverty would lead us to expect. These calculations I have found fully borne out during my investigation into the conditions and habits of the two classes. The one are toiling day and night to earn 2s. 10½d. a week (these were the average earnings of the 1,200 individuals who were present at the British school-room in Shadwell on last Monday evening), while the others are clearing their 15s. to £1 weekly. The hucksters, we have seen, are habitually dishonest, whereas we have found the seamstresses working day and night in the summer to repay the inevitable debts of the winter. From all I have witnessed, the criminality of the one seems to be a natural result of "the roving disposition" which the hucksters themselves say is the characteristic of the class; whereas the errors of the others appear to me to be the necessary consequence of the wretched price paid for their labour. The wages of the needlewomen generally are so far below subsistence point, that, in order to support life, it is almost a physical necessity that they must either steal, pawn, or prostitute themselves. The amount of goods in pawn among the needlewomen present at the meeting on Monday night last was stated at £1,200; and this I am assured is far below the truth, many having mistaken the question, and believed it to refer to the work given out to them, instead of to their own property.
The Flying Stationers are divisible into four classes - the running and the standing patterers, the long-song sellers, the song-book dealers, and the ballad-singers. Besides these, there are others who can turn their hands to any one of the different branches of the calling, and are termed general paper-sellers. The whole class are called "paper workers." There are several printers at the east and west end of London who are generally engaged in supplying the paper workers. The principal of these printers and publishers are Mrs. Ryall (late Jemmy Catnach), Miss Hodges (late Tommy Pitt, of the toy and marble warehouse), G. Birt, Little Jack Powell (formerly of Lloyd's), Jim Paul (from Catnach's), and Good, of Clerkenwell. The leading man in the "paper trade was the late "Jemmy Catnach," who is said to have amassed upwards of £10,000 in the business. He is reported to have made the greater part of this sum during the trial of Queen Caroline, by the sale of whole-sheet "papers," descriptive of the trial, and embellished with "splendid illustrations." The next to Catnach stood Pitt, of the noted toy and marble warehouse. These two parties were the Colburn and Bentley of the "paper" trade. In connection with these printers and publishers are a certain number of flying stationers, ready to publish by word of mouth anything that they may produce. These parties are technically called "the school," and are "at the Dials" altogether from 80 to 100 in number. The running patterers are those that describe the contents of their papers as they go. They seldom or ever stand still, and generally visit a neighbourhood in bands of two or three at a time. The more noise they make, they say, the better the "papers" sell. They usually deal in murders, seductions, crim. cons., explosions, alarming accidents, assassinations, deaths of public characters, duels, and love-letters. The standing patterers are men who remain in one place - until removed by the police - and who endeavour to attract attention to their papers, either by means of a board with pictures daubed upon it, descriptive of the contents of what they sell, or else by gathering a crowd round about them, and giving a lively or horrible description of the papers or books they are "working." Some of this class give street recitations or dialogues. The long-song sellers, who form another class, are those who parade the streets with three yards of new and popular songs for a penny. The songs are generally fixed to the top of a long pole, and the party cries the different titles as he goes. This part of "the profession" is confined solely to the summer; the hands in winter usually take to the sale of song-books instead, it being impossible to exhibit "the three yards" in wet weather. The last class are ballad singers, who perambulate the streets, singing the songs they sell. Included in these classes are several well-known London characters. These parties are chiefly what are called "death-hunters," from whom you may always expect a "full, true, and particular account" of the last "diabolical murder." These full, true, and particular accounts are either real or fictitious tragedies. The fictitious ones are called "cocks," and usually kept stereotyped. The most popular of these are the murder at Chigwell-row - "that's a trump," says my informant, "to this present day. Why, I'd go out now, sir, with a dozen of Chigwell-rows, and earn my supper in half an hour off of 'em. The murder of Sarah Holmes at Lincoln is good, too - that there has been worked for the last five year successively every winter," said my informant. "Poor Sarah Holmes! Bless her, she has saved me from walking the streets all night many a time! Some of the best of these have been in work twenty years - the Scarborough murder has full twenty years. It's called, 'THE SCARBOROUGH TRAGEDY.' I've worked it myself. It's about a noble and rich young naval officer seducing a poor clergyman's daughter. She is confined in a ditch, and destroys the child. She is taken up for it, tried, and executed. This has had a great run. It sells all round the country places, and would sell now if they had it out. Mostly all our customers is females. They are the chief dependence we have. The Scarborough Tragedy is very attractive. It draws tears to the women's eyes, to think that a poor clergyman's daughter, who is remarkably beautiful, should murder her own child; it's very touching to every feeling heart. There's a copy of verses with it too. Then there's the Liverpool Tragedy - that's very attractive. It's a mother murdering her own son, through gold. He had come from the East Indies, and married a rich planter's daughter. He came back to England to see his parents after an absence of thirty years. They kept a lodging-house in Liverpool for sailors; the son went there to lodge, and meant to tell his parents who he was in the morning. His mother saw the gold he had got in his boxes, and cut his throat severed his head from his body; the old man, upwards of seventy years of age holding the candle. They had put a washing-tub under the bed to catch his blood. The morning after the murder the old man's daughter calls and inquires for a young man. The old man denies that they have had any such person in the house. She says he had a mole on his arm in the shape of a strawberry. The old couple go upstairs to examine the corpse, and find they have murdered their own son, and then they both put an end to their existence. This is a deeper tragedy than the Scarborough Murder. That suits young people better; they like to hear about the young woman being seduced by the naval officer; but the mothers take more to the Liverpool Tragedy - it suits them better. Some of the 'cocks' were in existence," he says, "before ever I was born or thought of." The "Great and important battle between the two young ladies of fortune" is what he calls a ripper. "I should like to have that there put down correct," he says, " cause I've taken a tidy lot of money out of it." My informant, who had been upwards of twenty years in the running patter line, tells me that he commenced his career with the "Last Dying Speech and Full Confession of William Corder." He was sixteen years of age, and had run away from his parents. "I worked that there," he says, "down in the very town (at Bury) where he was executed. I got a whole hatful of halfpence at that. Why, I wouldn't even give 'em seven for sixpence - no, that I wouldn't. A gentleman's servant come out, and wanted half a dozen for his master, and one for himself in, and I wouldn't let him have no such thing. We often sells more than that at once. Why, I sold six at one go to the railway clerks at Norwich, about the Manning affair, only a fortnight back. But Steinburgh's little job - you know, he murdered his wife and family, and committed suicide after - that sold as well as any 'die.' Pegsworth was an out-an-out lot. I did tremendous with him, because it happened in London, down Ratcliff-highway - that's a splendid quarter for working - there's plenty of feelings; but, bless you, some places you go to you can't move no how - they've hearts like paving-stones. They wouldn't have the papers if you'd give them to 'em - especially when they knows you. Greenacre didn't sell so well as might have been expected, for such a diabolical out-and-out crime as he committed; but you see, he came close after Pegsworth, and that took the beauty off him. Two murderers together is never no good to nobody. Why, there was Wilson Gleeson, as great a villain as ever lived - went and murdered a whole family at noon-day; but Rush coopered him - and likewise that girl at Bristol - made it no draw to anyone. Dan'el Good, though, was a firstrater; and would have been much better if it hadn't been for that there Madame Toosow. You see. she went down to Roehampton, and guv £2 for the werry clogs as he used to wash his master's carriage in; so, in course, when the harrystocracy could go and see the real things - the werry identical clogs - in the Chamber of Orrors, why, the people wouldn't look at our authentic portraits of the fiend in human form. Hocker wasn't any particular great shakes. There was a deal expected from him, but he didn't turn out well. Courvoisier was much better - he sold werry well; but nothing to Blakesley. Why, I worked him for six weeks. The wife of the murdered man kept the King's Head that he was landlord on open on the morning of the execution, and the place was like a fair. I even went and sold papers outside the door myself. I thought if she war'nt ashamed, why should I be? After that we had a fine 'fake' - that was the fire of the Tower of London - it sold rattling. Why, we had about forty apprehended for that - first we said two soldiers was taken ip that couldn't obtain their discharge; and then we declared it was a well-known sporting nobleman who did it for a spree. The boy Jones in the Palace wasn't much more of an affair for the running patterer; the ballad-singers - or street screamers, as we calls 'em - had the pull out of that. The patter wouldn't take; they had read it all in the newspapers before. Oxford, and Francis and Bean were a little better, but nothing to crack about. The people doesn't care about such things as them. There's nothing beats a stunning good murder after all. Why, there was Rush - lived on him for a month or more. When I commenced with Rush I was 14s. in debt for rent, and in less than ten days I astonished the wise men in the East by paying my landlord all 1 owed him. Since Dan'el Good there had been little or nothing doing in the murder line - no one could cap him - till Rush turned up a regular trump for us. Why, I went down to Norwich expressly to work the execution. 1 worked my way down there with 'a sorrowful lamentation' of his own composing, which I'd got written by the blind man, expressly for the occasion. On the morning of the execution we beat all the regular newspapers out of the field; for we had the full, true, and particular account down, you see. by our own express, and that can beat anything that ever they can publish; for we gets it printed several days afore it comes off, and goes and stands with it right under the drop; and many's the penny I've turned away when I've been asked for an account of the whole business before it happened. So you see, for herly and correct hinformation, we can beat the Sun - aye, or the Moon either, for the matter of that. Irish Jem, the Ambassador, never goes to bed but he blesses Rush, the farmer; and many's the time he's told me we should never have such another windfall as that. But I told him not to despair; 'there's a good time coming, boys,' says 1; and sure enough, up comes the Bermondsey tragedy. We might have done very well, indeed, out of the Mannings, but there was too many examinations for it to be any great account to us. I've been away with the Mannings in the country ever since. I've been through Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Suffolk, along with George Frederick Manning and his wife - travelled from 800 to 1,000 miles with 'em; but I could have done much better if I had stopped in London. Every day I was anxiously looking for a confession from Mrs. Manning. All I wanted was for her to clear her conscience afore she left this here whale of tears (that's what I always calls it in the patter); and when I read in the papers (mind, they was none of my own) that her last words on the brink of eternity was, 'I've nothing to say to you, Mr. Rowe, but to thank you for your kindness,' I guv her up entirely - had completely done with her. In course the public looks to us for the last words of all monsters in human form; and as for Mrs. Manning's, they were not worth the printing. The papers are paid for," continued the man, "according to their size. The quarter-sheets are 3d. a quire of twenty-six, half-sheets are 6d., whole sheets 1s. Those that are illustrated are 2d. more per quire than those that are plain. The books - which never exceed eight pages (unless ordered) - are 4s. a gross. The long-songs are 1s. per quire, and they are so arranged that a single sheet may be cut into three. The song-books are all prices, from 3d. a dozen up to 8d. a dozen, and the latter price alone is demanded for Henry Russell's pieces. The papers and books are sold at ½d. or ld. each, according to the locality. The average earnings of the class are, taking dull and brisk, about 10s. The best hand can make 12s. a week through the whole year, but to do this he must be a "general man," ready to turn his hands to the whole of the branches. If a murder is up, he must work either a "cock" or a conundrum book, or almanacs, according to the season; and when the time for these is past, he must take either to "Sarah Simple" ("she that lived upon the raw potato peelings," says my informant), or the highly amusing legend of the "Fish and the Ring at Stepney;" or else he must work "Anselmo; or the Accursed Hand."
I then sought out a Standing Patterer, and found one in a low threepenny lodging-house in Mint-street, in the Borough. Some standing patterers are brought up to the business from childhood. Some take to it through loss of character, or through their inability to obtain a situation from intemperate habits. "It was distress that first drove me to it," said my informant. "I had learnt to make willow bonnets, and that branch of trade went entirely out. So, having a wife and children, I was drove to write out a paper that I called 'The People's Address to the King on the Present State of the Nation.' I got it printed, and took it into the streets and sold it. I did very well with this, and made about 5s. a day at it while it lasted. I never was brought up to any mechanical trade. My father was a clergyman [here the man burst out crying]. It breaks my heart when I think of it. I have as good a wife as ever lived, and I would give the world to get out of my present life. It would be Heaven to get away from the place where I am. I am obliged to cheer up my spirits. If I was to give way to it, I shouldn't live long. It's like a little hell to be in the place where we live [crying], associated with the ruffians that we are. If I had a friend to help me out of my present situation, I should be a new man, and lead a new life. My distress of mind is awful, but it won't do to show it at my lodgings; they'd only laugh to see me down-hearted; so I keep my trouble all to myself. Oh, I am heartily sick of this street work - the insults I have to put up with - the drunken men swearing at me. Yes, indeed, I am heartily sick of it."
The standing patterers are generally a very drunken and disorderly set. Their earnings are quite uncertain. It depends all upon their gift, I am told: to attract attention is half the business. "The more lies they tell, the more cheek they have got, the better they do." A good day's work is about 1s. "I have taken my 5s. (said my informant); but 'paper' selling now isn't half so good as it used to be. People haven't got the money to lay out; for it all depends with the working man. The least we make in a day is upon an average sixpence; but taking the good and bad together, I should say we take about 2s. a day, or 10s. a week. I know there's some get more than that, but then there's many take less. Lately, I know, I haven't taken 9s. a week myself, and people reckon me one of the best patterers in the trade. I'm reckoned to have the gift - that is, the gift of the gab. I never works a last dying speech on any other than the day of the execution - all the edge is taken off of it after that. The last dying speeches and executions are all printed the day before. They're always done on the Sunday, if the murderers are to be hung on the Monday. I've been and got them myself on the Sunday night, over and over again. The flying stationers goes with the papers in their pockets, and stand under the drop, and as soon as ever it falls, and long before the breath is out of the body, they begin bawling out, 'Here is printed and published the last dying speech and confession of George Frederick Manning, who was executed this morning at Horsemonger-lane Gaol, for the murder of Mr. Patrick O'Connor, at Minver-place, Bermondsey,' and they dress it up just as they think will tell best - tell the biggest lies," says my informant, "that they think of - say the man made a full confession, when may be he never said a word; and there is not a syllable in the paper. 'Here you have also an exact likeness,' they say, of the murderer, 'taken at the bar of the Old Bailey!' when all the time it is an old wood-cut that's been used for every criminal for the last forty years. I know the likeness that was given of Hocker was the one that was given for Fauntleroy; and the woodcut of Tawell was one that was given for the Quaker that had been hanged for forgery twenty years before. Thurtell's likeness was done expressly for the 'papers;' and the Mannings' and Rush's likeness too. The murders are bought by men, women, and children. Many of the tradespeople bought a great many of this last affair of the Mannings. I went down to Deptford with mine, and did uncommonly well with 'em. I sold all off. Gentlefolks won't have anything to do with murders sold in the street; they've got other ways of seeing all about it. We lay on the horrors, and picture them in the highest colours we can. We don't care what's in the 'papers' in our hands. All we want to do is to sell 'em; and the more horrible we make the affairs, the more sale we have. We do very well with 'love-letters.' They are 'cocks;' that is, they are all fictitious. We give it out that they are from a tradesman in the neighbourhood, not a hundred yards from where we are a-standing. Sometimes we say it's a well-known sporting butcher; sometimes it's a highly respectable publican - just as it will suit the tastes of the neighbourhood. I got my living round Cornwall for one twelvemonth with nothing else than a love-letter. It was headed, 'A curious and laughable love-letter and puzzle, sent by a sporting gentleman to Miss H-s-m, in this neighbourhood;' that suits any place that I may chance to be in; but I always patter the name of the street or village where I may be. This letter, I say, is so worded, that had it fallen into the hands of her mamma or papa, they could not have told what it meant; but the young lady, having so much wit, found out its true meaning, and sent him an answer in the same manner. You have here, we say, the number of the house, the name of the place where she lives (there is nothing of the kind, of course), and the initials of all the parties concerned. We dare not give the real names in full, we tell them; indeed, we do all we can to get up the people's curiosity. I did very well with the 'Burning of the House of Commons.' I happened by accident to put my pipe into my pocket amongst some of my papers, and burnt them. Then, not knowing how to get rid of them, I got a few straws. I told the people that my burnt papers were parliamentary documents that had been rescued from the flames, and that, as I dare not sell them, I would let them have a straw for a penny, and give them one of the papers. By this trick I got rid of my stock twice as fast, and got double the price that I should have done. The papers had nothing at all to do with the House of Commons. Some was 'Death and the Lady,' and 'Death and the Gentleman,' and others were the 'Political Catechism,' and 365 lies, Scotch, English, and Irish, and each lie as big round as St. Paul's. We don't care what there is in the papers, so long as we can sell them. I remember a party named Jack Straw, who laid a wager, for half a gallon of beer, that he'd bring home the money for two dozen blank papers in one hour's time. He went out into the Old-street-road, and began a patter about the political affairs of the nation, and Sir Robert Peel, and the Duke of Wellington, telling the public that he dared not sell his papers, they were treasonable; so he gave them with a straw - that he sold for one penny. In less than the hour he was sold clean out, and returned and drank the beer. The chief things that I work are quarter-sheets of recitations and dialogues. One is 'Good Advice to Young Men on Choosing their Wives.' I have done exceedingly well with that - it's a good moral thing. Another is the 'Drunkard's Catechism;' another is 'The Rent-day, or the Landlord gathering his Rents.' This is a dialogue between the landlord and his tenant, beginning with 'Good morning, Mrs. Longface; have you got my rent ready ma'am?' The next one is 'The Adventures of Larry O'Flinn.' This is a comic story, and a very good got-up thing. Another is 'A Hint to Husbands and Wives;' and 'a pack of cards turned into a Bible, a Prayer-book, and an almanac.' These cards belonged to Richard Middleton, of the 60th regiment of foot, who was taken a prisoner for playing at cards in church during divine service. But the best I do is the 'remarkable dream of a young man of loose character, who had made an agreement to break into a gentleman's house at twelve at night on Whitsun Monday, but, owing to a little drink that he took, he had a remarkable dream, and dreamt he was in hell. The dream had such influence on his mind that he refused to meet his comrade. His comrade was taken up for the burglary, found guilty, and executed for it. This made such an impression on the young man's mind that he became a reformed character.' There is a very beautiful description of hell in this paper," said my informant, "that makes it sell very well among the old women and the apprentice lads, for the young man was an apprentice himself. It's all in very pretty poetry, and a regular 'cock.' The papers that I work chiefly are what are called the 'standing patters;' they're all of 'em stereotype, and some of them a hundred years old. We consider the 'death hunters' are the lowest grade in the trade. We can make most money of the murders while they last, but they don't last, and they merely want a good pair of lungs to get them off. But it's not everyone can work the standing patters. I believe there's only another man in London can do 'em beside me. It's too much for the common sort of flying stationers - it requires the gift of the gab. Many persons I've seen try at it and fail. One old man I knew tried the 'Drunkard's Catechism' and the 'Soldier's Prayer-book and Bible.' He could manage to patter these because they'll almost work themselves; but 'Old Mother Clifton' he broke down in. I heard him do it in Sun-street and in the Blackfriars-road; but it was such a dreadful failure - he couldn't humour it a bit - that, thinks I to myself, you'll soon have to give up, and sure enough he's never been to the printer's since. He'd a very poor audience, chiefly boys and girls, and they were laughing at him because he made so many blunders in it. A man that's never been to school an hour can go and patter a dying speech or a battle between two ladies of fortune - they're what we call running-patters - you're obliged to keep moving on with them. They require no scholarship at all. All you want is to stick a picture on your hat to attract attention, and to make all the noise you can. It's all the same when they does an 'Assassination of Louis Philippe' or a 'Diabolical Attempt on the Life of the Queen' - a good stout pair of lungs and plenty of impudence is all that is required. But to patter 'Bounce, the workhouse beadle, and the examination of the paupers before the Poor-law Commissioners,' takes a good head-piece and great gift of the gab, let me tell you. It's just the same as a play-actor. I can assure you I often feel very nervous. I begin it, and walk miles before I can get confidence in myself to make the attempt. Without confidence, you know, you can't do anything. We buy the papers at 3d. a quire of 26 the quarter-sheets, and 6d. a quire the half-sheets. Those we sell in the streets at ld. the half-sheets and ½d. the, quarter-ones. I got rid of two quire last night. I was up among the gentlemen's servants in Crawford-street, Baker-street, and I had a very good haul out of the grown-up people. Boys won't buy anything but 'Mother Clifton,' and all comical things. But the 'Good Advice to Young Men and Young Women in Choosing Husbands and Wives' tickles the grown-up folks. I cleared 1s. 8d. altogether. I did that from seven o'clock till nine in the evening. It's all chance-work. If it's fine, and I can get a crowd of grown-up people round me, I can do very well, but I can't do anything amongst the boys. There's very little to be done in the daytime. I begin at ten in the day, and stop out till one. After that I starts off again at five, and leaves off about ten at night. Marylebone, Paddington, and Westminster I find the best places. The West-end is very good the early part of the week for anything that's genteel, such as the 'Rich Man and his Wife quarrelling because they have no family.' Our customers there are principally the footmen, the grooms, and the maid-servants. The east end of the town is the best on Friday and Saturday evenings. I very often go to Limehouse on Friday evening. Most part of the dock-men are paid then, and anything comic goes off well among them. On Saturdays I go to the New-cut, Ratcliff-highway, the Brill, and such places. I make mostly 2s. clear on a Saturday night. After nineteen years' experience of the patter and paper line in the streets, I find that a foolish nonsensical thing will sell twice as fast as a good moral sentimental one; and, while it lasts, a good exciting murder will cut out the whole of them. It's the best selling thing of any. I used at one time to patter religious tracts in the street, but I found no encouragement. I did the 'Infidel Blacksmith' - that would not sell. 'What is Happiness? a Dialogue between Ellen and Mary' - that was no go. No more was the 'Sorrows of Seduction.' So I was driven into the comic standing patters.
The Sellers of Play-bills require a few more words in the way of description than might be thought necessary. The sellers of play-bills purchase their stock of the wholesale dealers, at 3s. 4d. the hundred. They are the poorest of the poor: after they have had one meal, they do not know how to get another. They reside in the lowest localities. There are as many as 400 engaged in this calling on this side of the water alone. They consist of boys, girls, men, and women. Taking the average of this class, they are the most abandoned and profligate in character. They get, upon the average, cent. per cent. They reckon it a good night to earn 1s. clear. They can earn, upon an average, 3s. per week. They lose sometimes by not selling out their nightly stock. What they have left, they sell for waste paper at 2d. per pound. Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide are generally their best times - they will then make 9d. per night clear. Their customers are the pit and box gentry. The printer of the play-bills prints but a certain number, the demand being pretty closely ascertained week by week. These are all sold (by the printer or some person appointed) to the regular customers. If, however, by any contrivance, any "new hand" venture upon the sale of play-bills, he is scouted by the fraternity as an intruder; he is not "free of the company." A lame woman of sixty-eight, who for twelve years has sold play-bills, gave me the following information:-
She commenced selling play-bills at Astley's, and then realised a profit of 4s. per week. When the old Amphitheatre was burnt down, she went to the Victoria, but "business was not what it was." The Victoria is considered one of the most profitable stations for the play-bill seller, the box-keeper there seldom selling any bill in the theatre. "The boxes" more frequently buy them outside. Another reason why "business" is better at the Victoria than elsewhere was represented to me, by a person familiar with the theatres, to be this: Many go to the Victoria who cannot read, or who can read but imperfectly, and they love to parade the consulting of a play-bill! The bills cost the vendors 6d. for 13, the general decline in prices having affected them, for they used to be but 12 for 6d. The profits of play-bill selling, according to concurrent testimony, are 3s. a week now that the theatres are open generally. When some are closed, these dealers are driven to other theatres, and as the demand is necessarily limited, a super-flux of sellers affects the profits, and 2s. 6d. is then considered a good week's work. At the Victoria, the sellers are two old women (each a widow for many years), two young men, and from two to four and sometimes six children. The old women "fell into the business" - to use the words of one of them - as successors by virtue of their predecessors' leave, who had to relinquish their post from sickness. The children are generally connected with the older dealers. The young men had been in this business from boyhood; some sticking to the practice of their childhood unto manhood, or towards old age. The number at the Victoria is about the average at the other theatres. The youths who have been in the trade from childhood are generally those who run recklessly by the side of cabs and carriages. One of these youths said to me, when I spoke of the danger incurred, "The cabman knows how to do it, sir, when I runs and patters; and so does his hoss." I did not bear of one person who had been in any way connected with the stage. even as a supernumerary, resorting to play-bill selling when he did not earn a shilling a week within the walls of a theatre. These bill sellers confine themselves, as far as I could ascertain, to that particular trade. The youths say that they sometimes get a job in errand-going in the daytime, and the old men and women generally say they can do nothing else. As a body, these people know and care little or nothing of the contents of the bill they sell. Not one of all I talked to was familiar with the names of actors or authors, and many could not read. I have spoken hitherto of the dealers on the Surrey side of the water. I found their statements, however, fully confirmed by the Middlesex play-bill sellers, but they complained more of encroachments by people "who had no business there." Sometimes even, if the demand seemed to justify it, an unauthorised bill has been printed, and sold by newcomers; but this happens rarely.
The Wall Song-sellers (displaying their stock against any dead wall, but attached to boards, and sometimes on a sort of stall) so far form a class that they are not migratory. Some continue many years on the same spot, and as they are diminishing - for the alterations in the streets sweep away many of the old stands, and new ones are rarely allowed - these people may be classed among the disappearing street-aborigines. I should rank the average earnings of those at the best stands, who unite the sale of a few old books, etc., with their ballads, at 10s. weekly; some inferior stations earn no more than 5s. Among the best-accustomed stands are some in Tottenham-court-road, the New-road, the City-road near the Vinegar-works, Oxford-street, the Westminster-road, Shoreditch, near the Eastern Counties station, and other places. I give the information as closely as possible, which was supplied to me by one of the most communicative I met with: - "I'm 49. I've no children, thank God, but a daughter, who is 18, and no incumbrance to me, as she is in a 'house of business;' and as she has been there nine years, her character can't be so very bad. (This was said heartily.) I worked 22 years with a great sculptor as a marble polisher, and besides that I used to run errands for him, and was a sort of porter, like, to him. I couldn't get any more work, because he hadn't no more marble work to do, so I went in this line. It cost me £2 10s. to stock my stall, and get all together comfortable. I got leave to stand here (against the wall) from the landlord. The policemen can't touch us if we don't hawk things about the streets. I sell ballads and manuscript music (beautifully done these music sheets were), which is 'transposed' (so he worded it) from the nigger songs. There's two does them for me. They're transposed for the violin. One that does them is a musicianer, who plays outside public-houses, and makes half his living by this; but I think his daughter does most of it. I don't know what she is, nor what she can make a week by it. I buy my ballads for 2d. a dozen; but them that buys them by the dozen quires gets 'em for l½d. - and, yes, as low as ld. a dozen; that's 2d. a quire. I don't buy 'em all of one man. I has to go sometimes of a morning from Clerkenwell to Hoxton, and from Hoxton to Holywell-street. Then to 'The Dials.' Most of the printers live there. Business is not good. I don't make sometimes 9d. or 10d. all day. The most I have ever taken of a day was 5s.; of this, perhaps, half was profit. I sell my ballads at a halfpenny, and, when I can get it, a penny a piece. But then I sell books when I pick 'em up cheap, and prints - not in an umbrella, to be sure not. The best time for my trade is a month before and a month after Christmas. I sometimes get a job in my own line - that's the marble polishing - but that's very seldom. But I've got a good karacter, thank God; and if there was work to do I should get employment; but there ain't no marble work done now. Do I yarn a pound a week? Lor' bless you, no. Nor 15s. nor 12s. I don't yarn, one week with another, nor 10s. My wife don't yarn nothing. She used to go out charring, but she can't now. I am at my stall at nine in the morning, and sometimes I have walked five or six miles to buy my 'pubs' before it. I stop till ten at night. But the wet days is the ruin of us. Such a day as yesterday I didn't take (not make) as much as would pay for a pint of beer and a mouthful of bread and cheese. My rent's 2s. 3d. a week for one room, and I've got my own bits of sticks there. I've always kept them, thank God!" "Do you know anything about those who sing their songs as well as sell them?" I asked. "No, sir, not I. I ain't got nothing to do with that lot. They're travellers, or anythink. Those are the ones that cry the murders about, and sing the flash songs in the 'publics.' They're all travellers. You may see a many of 'em in the Dials a-selling onions, and some goes in Tottenham-court-road on a Saturday night - but they're all travellers." For "travellers" he seemed to entertain a thorough scorn. Generally, they know nothing of the character of the songs they sell, taking the printer's word, when they lay in a new stock, as to "what was going." These wall song- sellers consider that they have a property in their stands, to be sold or bequeathed. A few have sold ballads all their lives. Some, like my informant, have adopted the business on the failure of others. None could tell me of any especial ballad having had a very great and continued sale. The most popular comic songs are not sold so abundantly as some others, because, as I was told, boys soon picked them up by heart, hearing them so often; and so don't buy them. Neither was the best demand for nigger songs, nor for what they called "flash ditties," but for ballads, such as "A Life on the Ocean Wave," "I'm Afloat," "There's a Good Time Coming," "Farewell to the Mountain," etc., etc. Three- fourths of the customers of the man whose statements I have given were, he told me, boys, who cut them out, stick them with paste into books, and sing them at sing-songs. As a rule, the ballads are wretchedly printed, and some of them are adorned with head or tail pieces, which are, with the rarest exception, singularly inappropriate. One old man calculated that there were not fifty of those street stores of songs now in London. He could remember three times as many.
The Hare and Rabbit Skin Buyers are the class who go round purchasing the skins of those animals from the servants of the wealthy, and - but to a small extent - from the wives of little tradesmen or artisans. With some of these tradesmen or artisans, rabbits, I am told, have become a more frequent fare than they were; but they are generally bought skinned, or, if bought whole, the shopkeeper will skin the animal, receiving the skin for his trouble. These tradesmen of course dispose of the skins wholesale, and were described to me by a very old man, who hobbles about buying hare-skins, as "spoiling business - it was different in his time." I will now give the narrative of a woman upwards of fifty, who has been from her childhood in this trade, as was her mother. Her husband - who seemed uncertain about his age, except that he was rather older than his wife - had been all his life a street seller of hearthstones, and a field catcher of birds. They have been married thirty-one years, and reside in the garret of a house in a street off Drury-lane - a small room, not by any means to be called filthy, but with a close smell about it. The room cannot be described as unfurnished - it is, in fact, crowded. There are birdcages, with and without birds (the birds looked brisk and healthy), over what was a bed; but the bed had been sold to pay the rent, and a month's rent was again in arrear; and there were bird-cages on the wall by the door, and bird-cages over the mantelshelf. There was furniture, too, and crockery; and a vile oil painting of "still life;" but an eye used to the furniture in the rooms of the poor could at once perceive that there was not one article which could be sold to a broker or marine-store dealer, or pledged at a pawnshop. I will, in her own words, give the account I received from the wife: - "I've sold hare-skins all my life, sir, and was born in London; but when hare-skins isn't in, I sells flowers. I goes about now for my skins every day, wet or dry, and all day long - that is, till it's dark. Today (Wednesday) I've not laid out a penny. but then it's such a day for rain. I reckon that if I gets hold of eighteen hare and rabbit skins in a day, that is my greatest day's work. I gives 2d. for good hare's, what's not riddled much, and sells them all for 2½d. I sells them to a Jew, sir. Oh, yes, Jews gives us better prices than Christians, and buys readier. Last week I sold all I bought for 3s. 6d. I have taken some weeks as much as 8s. for what I picked up, and if I could get that every week I should think myself a lady. The profit left me a clear half-crown. There's no difference in any perticler year - only that things gets worse. The game laws hasn't made no difference in my trade. Indeed, I can't say I know anything about the game laws, or hears anything consarning 'em. I goes along the squares and streets. I buys most at gentlemen's houses. We never calls at hotels. The servants, and the women that chars, and washes, and jobs, manages it there. Hare-skins is in - leastways I c'lects them - from September to the end of March, when hares, they says, goes mad. I can't say what I makes one week with another - perhaps eighteen-pence may be clear. In the summer I sells flowers. My customers knows good flowers, and so I doesn't buy them at Common-garden, but goes and gets them fresh from the gardens they're grown in. On my best days I takes 12s. I have taken 15s.; that (15s) leaves a profit of 5s. I sells them in the squares; goes only two days a week, and has a connection. The summer helps the winter. The flowers is made up in 6d. and 1s. posies. I dares say they're taken to the theatre by the ladies. I've heard so; but I never was in the theatre in my life myself. My flowers is wiolets - no, sir, not primroses, them's reckoned wulgar - hellitrops, carnations, pinks, and roses. After flowers, I goes a-hopping: can then earn 1s. or 1s. 6d. a day, according to crops and times; but that only for a short time; and there's goings and comings back to pay. Thank God, I've no children - only a nephew what strives as we strives.
The Flower Girls are not a very numerous class. It is supposed that they do not exceed 200. They are generally young girls from 14 to 20 years old. Some of them are orphans, and some are the children of poor parents, who send them out into the streets to earn a few pence by the sale of flowers. The flower season is principally in the spring and summer time. it commences mostly with wall-flowers, and ends with lavender. Some few of the street vendors continue the business through the winter, when they sell violets and dry flowers. The flowers are purchased principally at Covent-garden market. The girls visit the market about six o'clock, and buy generally from 6d. to 1s. worth of whatever may be in season. On Saturday they frequently lay out 2s. 6d. if they have so much. Sometimes the "stock-money" is given to them by their parents; and those who cannot obtain it in this way borrow "a trifle" of some friend. One girl whom I saw told me that whenever her father was unable to give her any money to buy her flowers with, she got her stock-money of a washerwoman, who lived next door to her parents; but the woman never expected anything for the loan of the sum, which was generally either nine-pence or a shilling. This money she used to return when she came home from her day's work, and if the woman had as much still in her possession she used to re-lend it to her the next morning. The fathers of the flower girls are mostly labouring men, frequently porters in the market, and the mothers take in needlework. They are in general persons of large families. The parents of my informant, who was a young girl 18 years of age, had as many as seven children, five being younger than herself. The flowers are bought in large bunches, or else (as in the case of dry flowers) by the ounce. For wall-flowers, heartsease, and violets they usually pay ld. the bunch; for sweet peas, l½d.; For forget-me-nots the cost price is from 1½d. to 2½d. the bunch; dahlias are 2d. and 2½d.; pinks are 3d.; China roses from ld. to 2d.; and moss roses from 2½d. to 4d.; while lavender costs 3d. and 4d. Dry flowers are 2d. the ounce. The bunches, after they are bought by the girls, are by some taken home, and, being untied, are made up into smaller lots. One market bunch they usually convert into six of such a size as they sell in the streets at ld. or ½d. each. They generally regulate the size of the bunches so that they can clear about 9d. out of every shilling they take. Many girls sit on the step of a door, and tie up their bunches in the street. They generally go towards the West-end to sell them. A few go to the City, but not many. Their customers are mostly ladies and gentlemen passing by in the Street. The working classes seldom or never buy of them; nor do the girls frequently dispose of their flowers to the inmates of houses. The best places for the sale of flowers are the public fashionable thoroughfares, such as Regent-street, Portland-place, Oxford-street, Piccadilly, Bond-street, and Pall-mall. A few are sold in the Strand, and some through the other parts of London. The flower girl commences business about ten o'clock in the morning. The bunches having been tied up, and occasionally done round with paper, are placed in an arm-basket, and carried into some public thoroughfare, the girl crying as she goes, "Handsome flowers, a penny a paper!" or "Two bunches a penny, sweet wall-flowers!" or "Four bunches a penny, blooming lavender!" or "Handsome moss roses, ½d. each! " according to the description of flower in season. They return home about three in the afternoon. If the girls have any of their stock remaining, they go out again in the evening about six, and come back at ten, and occasionally as late as twelve o'clock at night. The best business days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, these being market-days. On these occasions the flower girls will earn sometimes as much as 2s. and 2s. 6d. clear, and sometimes only 9d. On a wet day, I am told, they seldom earn more than 6d. On the Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they take scarcely any money at all. Occasionally they clear from 7d. to 8d., and sometimes only 3d. or 4d. But Saturday, they say, is the best day of all; then they frequently gain from 3s. to 4s., and sometimes their profit is as much as 5s. But they get thus much only in the summer-time. in the winter they can earn scarcely anything by the sale of the dry flowers. They do a little better, I am told, with their violets, but even these will not afford them a subsistence. Most of the flower girls take to selling other articles after the summer. Some deal in apples and oranges, and others in combs, or stay-laces, or cedar pencils. Upon an average the earnings of the girls appear to be about 5s. a week in the summer and 2s. 6d. a week in the winter time from the sale of flowers.
The girls are generally of an immoral character. Several of them are sent out by their parents to make out a livelihood by prostitution: indeed from all I can learn, the sale of flowers in the streets is frequently, if not generally, resorted to merely as a cover for purposes of the vilest kind. One of this class, whom I saw, had lately come out of prison. She is not nineteen years old, and was sentenced about a twelvemonth ago to three months' imprisonment with hard labour, "for heaving her shoe," as she says, "at the Lord Mayor." This she did, she tells me, to get a comfortable lodging, for she was tired of being about the streets. After this she was locked up for breaking the lamps in the street. Her motive for this was a belief that by committing some such act she might be able to get into an asylum for females. She was sent out into the streets by her father and mother, at the age of nine, to sell flowers. Her father used to supply her with the money to buy the flowers, and she used to take the proceeds of the day's work home to her parents. She used to be out in the streets frequently till past midnight, and seldom or never got home before nine at night. She used to associate only with flower-girls of loose character. The result may be imagined. At length she made a regular habit of always remaining from home till twelve at night, and giving the money that she got by prostitution to her mother, and occasionally to her father. She cannot state positively that her parents were aware of the manner in which she got the money that she took home to them. She supposes that they must have imagined what her practices were, because the sums she used to give them every night were much larger than she could possibly have got by the sale of flowers. "When I was thirteen years of age," she says, "a young girl that used to keep company with me told my father what I was in the habit of doing. He scolded me for it a little, but he did not take me away from the streets. He sent me out the next day as usual, and didn't say anything to me about coming home early." A few months after this he used to tell her to go into the streets at night and meet with gentlemen, and sent her out regularly every evening at dusk to do so. He used to give her no supper if she didn't bring home a good bit of money. Her father and mother used to do little or no work all this while. They lived on what she brought home. At 13 years old she was sent to orison for selling combs in the street (it was winter, and there were no flowers to be had). She was incarcerated fourteen days, and when liberated she returned to her former practices. The very night that she came home from gaol her father sent her out in the streets again. She continued in this state, her father and mother living upon her prostitution, until about nine months ago, when her father turned her out of his house because she couldn't bring home money enough to him. She then went into Kent, hop-picking, and there she fell in with a beggar, who accosted her while she was sitting under a tree. He said, "You have got a very bad pair of shoes on; come with me, and you shall have some better ones." She consented, and walked with him into the village close by, where they stood out in the middle of the streets, and the man began addressing the people, saying, "My kind good Christians, me and my poor wife here is ashamed to appear before you in the state we are." She remained with this person all the winter, and travelled with him through the country, begging their way. He was a regular beggar by trade. In the spring she returned to the flower-selling, but scarcely got any money either by that or other means. At last she grew desperate, and wanted to get back to prison. She broke the lamps outside the Mansion-house, and was sentenced to fourteen days' imprisonment. She has been out of prison nearly three weeks, and is now in training to go into an asylum. She is sick and tired, she says, of her life.
The Rag-Gatherers and Bone-Pickers, and "Pure" Collectors. are different names for one and the same class. Of bone-pickers, rag-gatherers, and pure collectors, it is considered that there are 800 to 1,000 resident in London. My informant judges, he says, from the number he sees about the streets every morning. One-half of the above number he thinks are to be found in the low lodging- houses of London, and the rest dwell in wretched, half-furnished rooms. In no case has a bone-grubber ever been known to rent even the smallest house for himself. Upon an average, he thinks there must be at least two of the class living at each of the low lodging-houses. This would give 442 as the number there located (the Government returns estimate the number of mendicants' lodging-houses in London at 221); so that, doubling this, we have 884 as the gross number of individuals engaged in this calling - a conclusion which agrees closely with my informant's previous statement. The "pure" collectors have generally been country labourers that have come up to London in the winter time to avail themselves of the shelter of the night asylums or refuges for the destitute (these places are usually called "straw-yards" by the poor). They walk up to London, not to look for work, but because they hear that they can have a nightly lodging, and bread night and morning, for nothing, during the winter months; and they know that if they remain in the country they must go from one union to another; and so travel from ten to fifteen miles per day, for they cannot sleep in the casual wards more than one night at a time. There is scarcely any work to be obtained in the country during the winter by the labourers who have gone there to get employment in the summer, so that as soon as the harvest and potato-getting is over, the country labourers make their way back to the metropolis. The country labourers here alluded to belong especially to the class called "trampers." They have no fixed place of residence, and are wandering about the whole of the summer, in small bands of two or three, through the country. They start off, I am told, as soon as the "straw-yards" close, which is generally at the beginning of April, and either beg or work their way through the villages, sleeping in the casual wards of the unions on their way. The bone-pickers belong mostly to this class. The "pure" pickers, however (or those who make a living by collecting dogs' dung in the streets), are generally to be found in London all the year round, with the exception of the hay season. the corn harvest, and hop-picking time, when a very large portion leave London. The bone-pickers who do not belong to the class of country labourers have been either navvies, or men that have not been able to obtain employment, and have been driven to it by necessity, like myself (said my informant), merely as a means of obtaining a little bread for the time being, without any intention of pursuing the calling regularly. When they once begin it they cannot leave it, for at least they can make certain of getting a few halfpence by it, and they cannot afford the time to look after other employment. There is no class of men getting their living in the streets that work half so hard as the bone-pickers. They walk from twenty to thirty miles each day, with a quarter to a half hundred-weight on their backs. A few of the bone-pickers and rag- gatherers are old men and women, or very young children, who have no other means of living. In the summer time the bone- pickers rise at two in the morning, and sometimes earlier. It is not quite light at this hour, but bones and rags they can discover before daybreak. They go to different parts of London. In the neighbourhood of Petticoat-lane and Rag-fair they are more numerous than elsewhere, the Jews having so many rags to throw out. But they abound in every part of London and the suburbs. The bone-picker, immediately on quitting the lodging-house, starts off to his particular district. This will sometimes be from four to five miles distant. Some districts will lie as far as Peckham, Clapham, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Bow, Stratford, and indeed all parts within about five miles of London. The bone-grubber strives to reach his district, wherever it may lie, before any others of the same class can go over the ground. It is important that he should be first of all on the spot. Here he generally seeks out the narrow back streets, where dust and refuse are thrown, or where any dustbins are accessible. The bone-picker has generally a bag on his back, and a stick in his hand. With this stick he turns over the different heaps of ashes or dust that are thrown out of the houses, and rakes among the dustbins to see if they contain anything that is saleable to the rag and bone shop, or marine-store dealer. The articles for which he chiefly searches are rags and bones - rags he prefers of the two; but waste metal, such as bits of lead, pewter, copper, brass, or old iron, he prizes above all. Whatever he meets with that he knows to be any way saleable, he puts into the bag at his back. He often finds large lumps of bread, which have been thrown out as waste by the servants. These constitute the morning meal of most of the class. Occasionally the housekeepers on their way will give them a few bones, upon which there is a little meat remaining. My informant a few days ago had a large rump-of-beef bone given to him, upon which there was not less than one pound of good meat. Sometimes they will pick up a stray sixpence or a shilling that has been dropped in the street. "The handkerchief I have round my neck," said my informant, "I picked up, with a shilling in the corner. The greatest prize I ever picked up was the brass cap of the nave of a coach-wheel, and I did once find a quarter of a pound of tobacco in Sun-street, Bishopsgate. The best bit of luck of all that I ever had was finding a cheque for £12 15s., lying in the gateway of the mourning-coachyard in Titchborne-street, Haymarket. I was going to light my pipe with it; indeed I picked it up for that purpose, and then saw it was a cheque. It was on the London and County Bank, 21 Lombard-street. I took it there, and got 10s. for finding it. I went there in my rags, as I am now, and the cashier stared a bit at me. The cheque was drawn by a Mr. Knill, and payable to a Mr. Cox. I did think I should have got the odd 15s." It generally takes the bone-picker from seven to nine hours to go over his rounds. In the summer he gets home about eleven in the day, and in the winter about one or two. On his return home he proceeds to sort the contents of his bag. He separates the rags from the bones, and these again from the old metal (if he is lucky enough to have found any). He divides the rags into various lots, according as they are white or coloured; and if he has picked up any pieces of canvas or sacking, this he makes up into a separate parcel. When he has done this, he takes them all to the marine-store shop, and realises upon them whatever they may be worth. For the white rags he gets from 2d. to 3d. per pound, according as they are clean or soiled. The white rags are very difficult to be found; they are mostly very dirty, and are sold with the coloured ones, at the rate of about five pounds for 2d. The bones are usually sold with the coloured rags at one and the same price. For fragments of canvas or sacking he gets about ¾d. a pound, and old brass, copper, and pewter about 4d., and old iron ¾d. per pound. The bone-grubber thinks he has done an excellent day's work if he can earn 8d., and some of them, especially the very old and very young, do not get more than 2d. to 4d. a day. To get 10d. in the day, at the present price of rags and bones, he must be remarkably active - and lucky too - adds my informant. He must be out two hours at least before broad daylight, and not return till two in the afternoon. The average amount of earnings, I am told. varies from about 4d. to 6d. per day, or from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a week. The highest price that a man, the most active and persevering at the business, can earn in one week is about 5s. But this could only be done with great good fortune and industry, and the usual amount is about half that sum. In bad weather they cannot do so well, because the rags are wet, and then they can't sell them. Some take them home and wash and dry them, but the generality pick up only bones in wet weather. The state of the shoes of the rag and bone-picker is most important to the pursuit of his calling. If he is well shod, he can get quickly over the ground; but he is frequently lamed and unable to make any progress from the blisters or gashes on his feet, occasioned by the want of proper shoes.
Some of the class above described collect only bones and rags, but others pick up bones, rags, and what is called "pure" - or dogs' dung - as well. Their habits and mode of proceeding are nearly similar to the rag and bone-pickers proper, with the exception that the latter is a regular trade. The parties following it pick up but few rags or bones, and only such as are of the best quality. What they look for most is the "pure." Some of the regular collectors of this article have been mechanics, and others small tradesmen. They are a superior class of persons to the mere rag and bonepickers, and those who have a good connection and the right of cleansing certain kennels obtain a very fair living at it, earning from 10s. to l5s. a week. These, however, are very few. The majority have to seek the article solely in the streets, and by such means they can obtain only from 6s. to 10s. a week. The average weekly earnings of this class are thought to be between 7s. and 8s. The "pure" gatherer, after he has been his rounds, makes the best of his way to some tanner in Bermondsey, to whom he is in the habit of selling the article. He sells it to the tanner by the stable bucketful, and gets from 8d. to 10d. per bucket for it. It is used for the purpose of cleansing sheep and calf skins after they are taken out of the "lime-pits." A man generally picks up about a bucketful in the course of the day. My informant earned last week 5s. 2d., and the week before about 6s.; and these he believes to be a fair sample of the earnings of the class. He has been at the calling about four years. He was originally in the Manchester cotton trade, and held a lucrative situation in a large country establishment. His salary one year exceeded £250, and his regular income was £150. This, he says, he lost through drink and neglect. His master was exceedingly kind to him, and has even assisted him since he left his employ. He bore with him patiently for many years; but the love of drink was so strong upon him that it was impossible for his master to keep him any longer. He has often been drunk for three months together, and he is now so reduced that he is ashamed to be seen. When at his master's, he tells me that it was his duty to carve and help the other assistants belonging to the establishment, and that his hand used to shake so violently that he has been ashamed to lift the gravy spoon. At breakfast he has frequently waited till all the young men had left the table, before he ventured to taste his tea; and immediately, when he was alone, he has bent his head down to his cup to drink, being utterly incapable of raising it to his lips. He says he is a living example of the degrading influence of drink. All his friends have deserted him. He has suffered enough, he tells me, to make him give it up.
Mudlarks are boys who roam about the sides of the river at low tide, to pick up coals, bits of iron, rope, bones, and copper nails that fall while a ship is being repaired. They are at work sometimes early in the morning, and sometimes late in the afternoon, according to tide. They usually work from six to seven hours per day. My informant, a quick intelligent little fellow, who has been at the business three years, tells me the reason they take to mudlarking, is that their clothes are too bad to look for anything better, and that they are nearly all fatherless, and their mothers are too poor to keep them; so they take to it because they have nothing else to do. This boy works with about twenty to thirty mudlarks every day, and they may be seen, he tell me, at daybreak, very often, with their trousers tucked up, groping about, and picking out the pieces of coal from the mud. They go into the river up to their knees, and in searching the mud they very often run pieces of glass and long nails into their feet. When this is the case, they go home and dress the wounds, and return directly, for, should the tide come up without their finding anything, they must starve that day· At first it is a difficult matter to stand in the mud, and he has known many young beginners fall in. The coals the mudlark finds he sells to the poor people in the neighbourhood at a penny the "pot," the weight of which is 14 lb. The iron, bones, rope, and copper nails he sells to the rag shops. They sell the iron 5 lb. for a penny, the bones 3 lb. for one penny, rope a halfpenny per pound wet, and three farthings dry. The copper nails fetch four-pence per pounds but they are very difficult to find, for the mudlark is not allowed to go near a vessel that is being coppered (for fear of their stealing the copper), and it is only when a ship has left the docks that the nails are to be had. They often pick up tools - such as saws, hammers, etc. - in the mud; these they either give to the seamen for biscuits and beef, or sell to the shops for a few halfpence. They earn from 2½d. to 8d. per day, but 8d. they consider a very good day's work, and they seldom make it; their average earnings are three-pence a day. After they leave the river they go home and scrape their trousers, and make themselves as tidy as possible they then go into the streets and make a little by holding gentlemen's horses, or opening cab-doors. In the evening they mostly go to the ragged schools. My informant and his sister keep their mother - the boy by mudlarking, the girl by selling fish. The poor little fellow owes 5s. rent; he has a suit of clothes and a pair of boots in pawn for 4s.; if he could get them out he would be enabled to find something better to do.