chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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months had elapsed since the events just related.
It was now the end of January, 1843.
Haply the reader may begin to imagine that our subject
is well-nigh exhausted — that the mysteries of London are nearly all
He errs; for London is a city containing such a variety
of strange institutions, private as well as public, and presenting so many
remarkable phases to the contemplation of the acute observer, that the writer
who is resolved to avail himself fully of the heterogeneous materials thus
supplied him, cannot readily lack food for comment and narrative.
The dwellers in the country, and even the inhabitants of
the great provincial cities and manufacturing towns, can form no just estimate
of the wondrous features of the sovereign metropolis by the local scenes with
which they are familiar.
Who can judge of the splendour of the West End of London
by even the most fashionable quarters of Edinburgh or Dublin?
Who can conceive the amount of revolting squalor and
hideous penury existing in the poor districts of London, by a knowledge of the
worst portions of Liverpool or Manchester!
Who can form a conjecture of the dreadful immorality and
shocking vice of the low neighbourhoods of London, judging by the scenes
presented to view in the great mining or manufacturing counties!
No: — for all that is most gorgeous and
beautiful, as well as all that is most filthy and revolting, — all
that is best of talents or most degraded of ignorance, — all that is
most admirable for virtue, or most detestable for crime, — all that
is most refined in elegance, or most strange in barbarism, — all,
all these wondrous phases are to be found, greatest in glory, or lowest in
infamy, in the imperial city of the British Isles!
And shall we be charged with vanity, if we declare that
never until now has the veil been so rudely torn aside, nor the corruptions of
London been so boldly laid bare?
But, in undertaking this work, we were determined at the
outset to be daunted by no fear of offending the high and the powerful: we were
resolved to misrepresent nothing for the purpose of securing to ourselves the
favour of those whom so many sycophants delight to bespatter with their sickly
In the same independent spirit do we now pursue our
On the left-hand side of Brydges Street, as you proceed
from the Strand towards Russell Street, Covent Garden, you may perceive a lamp
projecting over the door of an establishment which, viewed externally, appears
to be a modest eating-house; but which in reality is one of the most remarkable
places of nocturnal entertainment in London.
Upon the lamp alluded to are painted these words — "THE
It was past midnight, towards the end of January, 1843,
when two gentlemen, wearing fashionable Taglioni coats over their elegant
attire, and impregnating the fine frosty air with the vapour of their cigars,
strolled into this establishment.
Proceeding down a passage, they pushed open a door with
a painted ground-glass window, and entered a spacious supper-room.
This apartment was lofty, handsomely fitted up, well
furnished, and provided with boxes containing little tables, like the
coffee-room of an hotel.
A cheerful fire burnt in the grate, and the numerous
lights suspended around the apartment were reflected in a handsome mirror over
Above the door leading into the room was a species of
gallery, forming a grotto-like opening into a suite of upper apartments, which
were reached by a flight of stairs leading from the passage just now mentioned.
All was gaiety and bustle both in the coffee-room below
and the chambers above. Numerous suppers were in progress, the partakers thereof
consisting of gentlemen of various descriptions and gay ladies of only one
particular class. Oysters, lobsters, cold fowls, ham, and kidneys, constituted
the principal edibles; while liquor flowed copiously and in all gradations of
luxury, from humble porter in pewter pots to sparkling champagne in green
The male portion of the guests was composed of those
various specimens of "gentlemen" who either turn night into day, or
who make up for the toils of the day by the dissipated enjoyments of the night.
There was an attorney's clerk, who, having picked up a
stray guinea in a manner for which he would not perhaps have liked to account,
was doing the liberal, in the shape of oysters, stout, and hot brandy-and-water,
to some fair Cyprian whom he had never seen before, and whom he would perhaps
never see again, but with whom he was on the very best possible terms for the
time being; the only trifling damper to his enjoyment being her
constant anxiety lest "her friend" should happen to come in and catch
her at supper with the said attorney's clerk.
There was a notorious black-leg, who was regaling a
couple of frail ones with champagne and looking out for flats as well; while his
accomplice was doing precisely the same in the next box, — both
these respectable gentlemen affecting to be total strangers to each other.
There also was a handsome young man, who, having just
come of age, and stepped into the possession of a good property, was commencing
his career of waste and extravagance at the Paradise. Proud of the nauseating
flattery of the three or four abandoned women who had him in tow, he was
literally throwing about his money in all directions, and staring around him
with the vacant air of semi-intoxication, as much as to say, "Don't you
think me a very fine dashing fellow indeed?"
[-348-] In another box was
an old man, who had reached the wrong side of sixty, but who was endeavouring to
make a young girl of seventeen believe that he was but forty-four last
birthday, — a tale which she had too much tact to appear to doubt
for a moment, as the antiquated beau supplied her with copious draughts of
champagne to enable her to swallow the lie the more easily.
A little farther on was a dandified, stiff-necked,
coxcomical individual of about six-and-twenty, sipping sherry with a fair
friend, and endeavouring to render himself as polite and agreeable as possible.
But, at every word he spoke, he drew out the edge of the table-cloth to
precisely the extent of a yard between his fore-fingers and thumbs; — whereby
it was easy to perceive that, although he assured his companion he was a captain
in the Guards, he in reality exercised the less conspicuous but more active
employment of a linen-draper's assistant.
Crowding near the fire were several Cyprians, who had
not as yet obtained cavaliers, and were therefore hovering between the
alternatives of "supper" or "no supper," the odds being, to
all appearances, in favour of the latter. They did not, however, seem very
unhappy while their fate, as to oysters and stout, was pending in the balance of
suspense; but laughed, chattered, and larked amongst themselves; and then, by
way of avoiding any thing like monotony or sameness in their recreation, two of
them got up a pleasant little quarrel which terminated in a brisk exchange of
blows and scratches.
Leaning over the side of the grotto-like gallery before
referred to, were two individuals, whose appearance was something between that
of dissipated actors and broken down tradesmen; and who were so disguised in
liquor that their own mothers could scarcely have recognised them. Being most
probably wearied of their own conversation, they diverted themselves by
addressing their remarks to the people in the coffee-room below, whom they
invited in the most condescending manner possible to "flare up,"
"mind their eyes," "form a union," and enact various other
little social civilities of the same ambiguous nature.
Within the upper rooms were several gay ladies and
jovially disposed gentlemen, all mainly intent upon the pleasures of eating or
drinking, which occupations were however relieved by boisterous shouts of
laughter and practical jokes of all kinds.
In justice to the proprietor of this establishment it
must be observed that he conducted it upon as orderly a system as could be
possibly maintained when the characters of his patrons and patronesses are taken
into consideration; and the moment a disturbance occurred, either himself or his
waiters adopted the most efficient means of putting an end to it, by bundling
the offenders neck-and-crop into the street.
The two gentlemen who lounged, as before stated, into
this celebrated night-house on the occasion alluded to, took possession of a
vacant box, and throwing down their cigars, summoned the waiter.
"Yes, sir — coming, sir — di-rectly,
sir," cried the chief functionary thus adjured, and who was busy at the
moment in disputing the items of the score with the linen-draper's
assistant: — but, when that little matter was duly settled to the
satisfaction of the waiter and the discomfiture of the assistant aforesaid, he
hurried up to the table occupied by the new comers.
Well, what shall we have, Harborough? asked one of the
gentlemen, appealing to his companion.
"'Pon my honour, I don't care a rap," was the
reply. "Order what you like, old fellow."
Thus encouraged, Mr. Chichester (for it was he) desired
the waiter to bring "no end of oysters," and to follow with a cold
"Yes, sir — certainly, sir," said
the domestic, hastily transferring a pepper-box from one side of the table to
the other, and smoothing down the cloth: "please to order any thing to
"A bottle of champagne," returned Mr.
Chichester; "and make haste about it."
"Yes, sir — this minute,
sir:" — and the waiter glided away with that kind of shuffling,
shambling motion which no living beings save waiters can ever accomplish.
When the provender was duly supplied, and the first
glass of champagne was quaffed, Chichester leant across the table, and said to
the baronet in a low tone of chuckling triumph, "Well, old chap I don't
think we can complain of Fortune during the last three or four months?"
"No — far from it," returned Sir
Rupert Harborough. "But we musn't be idle because we happen to have a few
five pound notes in our pocket. However, things will turn up, I dare say."
"Yes — if we look out for them,"
said Chichester; "but not unless. By the bye, who do you think I met this
afternoon, as I was strolling along the Strand?"
"Can't say at all," replied the baronet.
"Greenwood," added Chichester.
"The deuce you did! And how was he looking?"
"Not so slap-up as he used to be: — no
jewellery — toggery not quite new — hat showing marks of
the late rain — boots patched at the sides — and cotton
"The scoundrel! Do you remember how he served me
about that bill which I accepted in Lord Tremordyn's name? Ah! shouldn't I like
to pay him out for it!" said the baronet. "But how he has fallen
within the last two years! Turned out of his seat for Rottenborough at the last
election — obliged to give up his splendid house in Spring
Gardens — "
"Well, well — we know all about
that," interrupted Chichester, impatiently. "Don't speak so loud; but
look into the next box — the one behind me, I mean — and
tell me if you think that young fellow who is treating those girls to champagne
would prove a flat or not."
The baronet glanced in the direction indicated; and
immediately afterwards gave an affirmative nod of the heed to his companion:
then, leaning across the table he whispered, "To be sure he would; and I
know who he is. It's young Egerton — the son of the great outfitter,
who died a few years ago, leaving a large fortune in trust for this lad. I'll be
bound to say he has just come of age, and is launching out."
"Does he know you?" inquired Chichester, also
speaking in a subdued tone.
"I am almost certain he does not," replied the
baronet. "But sit up — we will soon see what he is made of. I
will touch him on the cross that we have got up together."
[-349-] The two friends
resumed the discussion of their supper, and in a few minutes began to converse
with each other in a tone loud enough to be heard — and intended
also to be so heard — in the next box.
"And so you really think the Haggerstone Pet will
beat the Birmingham Bruiser, Mr. Chichester?" observed the baronet5 in a
tone of mere friendly courtesy.
"I am convinced of it, Sir Rupert, in spite of the
odds," was the answer, delivered in the same punctilious manner. "Will
you take my four ponies upon the Haggerstone Pet to five?"
"Done, Mr. Chichester!" cried the baronet:
then drawing out a betting-book from the breast-pocket of his coat, he proceeded
to enter the wager, saying aloud and in a measured tone as be did so, "Back
Birmingham Bruiser against Haggerstone Pet — five ponies to
four — Honourable — Arthur — Chichester.
There it is!"
This ceremony was followed on the part of Mr. Chichester,
who, having produced his book, wrote down the wager, saying, "Back
Haggerstone Pet against Birmingham Bruiser — four ponies to
five — Sir — Rupert — — Harborough — baronet."
"And now," exclaimed the baronet, "before
we put up our books, I'll give you another chance. Will you take three hundred
to one that the favourites for the fight and the Derby don't both
"Stop, Sir Rupert!" cried Chichester.
"Let me first see how I stand for the Derby" — then,
as if speaking to himself, he continued, "Taken even five hundred, four
horses against the field, from Lord Dunstable; — seven hundred to
one against Eagle-Wing, from the Honourable Colonel Cholmondeley; — betted
even five hundred, Skyscraper to Moonraker, with the Honourable
Augustus Smicksmack. Well, Sir Rupert," he exclaimed, raising his head from
the contemplation of the leaf on which these sham bets were entered, "I
don't mind if I take you."
"It's a bargain," said the baronet; and the
wager was accordingly inscribed in the little books.
The two gentlemen then refreshed themselves each with
another draught of champagne; and Sir Rupert Harborough, as he drank, glanced
over the edge of the glass into the next box, to ascertain the effect produced
upon Mr. Egerton by the previous little display of sporting spirit.
That effect was precisely the one which had been
anticipated. Mr. Egerton was not so tipsy but that he was struck with the
aristocratic names of the two gentlemen in the next box; and he raised his head
from the bosom of a Cyprian to take a view of Sir Rupert Harborough, Bart., and
the Honourable Arthur Chichester.
So satisfactory was the result of the survey — at
least to himself — that he determined not only to show off a little
of his own "dashing spirit," but also, if possible, form the
acquaintance of the two gentlemen; for, like many young fellows similarly
circumstanced, he was foolish enough to believe that the possession of money
must prove a passport to the best society, if he could only obtain an opening.
Therefore, having greedily devoured every word of the
dialogue just detailed, and taking it for granted that nothing in this world was
ever more sincere than the betting of Sir Rupert Harborough, Bart., and the
Honourable Arthur Chichester, Mr. Egerton exclaimed, "Beg pardon,
gentlemen, for intruding upon you; but I think I heard you staking some heavy
sums on the coming fight?"
"Really, sir," said the baronet, gravely,
"I was not aware that any thing which took place between me and this
gentleman could he overheard; — and yet, after all," he added
with a gracious smile, "I do not know that there is the least harm in a
little quiet bet."
"Harm, no — and be damned to it!"
ejaculated Mr. Egerton. "All I can say is, that I admire sporting men — I
honour them: they're an ornament to the country. What would Old England — hic — be
without her Turf — her hunting — her prize-fighting? For
my part, I have a great idea of this fight — a very great — hic — idea.
But I back the Birmingham Bruiser — I do."
"So do I, sir," answered the baronet. "My
friend here, however — the Honourable Mr. Chichester — fancies
the Haggerstone Pet."
"I heard him say so," returned the young man.
"But, if he hasn't made up his book, I don't mind betting him five hundred
pounds — hic — to his four — that's the
odds, I believe — "
"Yes — those are the odds,"
observed Mr. Chichester, carelessly: then, taking out his book, he said,
"But I am already so deep in this fight, that I really am afraid — however,
if you wish it, I don't mind — "
"Is it a bet, then, sir?" asked the young
gentleman, looking round the room with an air of importance, as if he were quite
accustomed to the thing although it was in reality the first wager he had ever
laid in his life.
"It shall be so, if you choose, sir," returned
Chichester: then, glancing in an inquiring manner towards his new acquaintance,
he said with a bland smile, "I really beg your pardon — but I
have not the pleasure — "
"Oh! truly — you don't know me from
Adam!" interrupted the other. "But you shall know me, sir — and
I hope we shall know each other better too — hic."
He then produced his card; and Mr. Chichester, of
course, affected not to have been previously aware of the young gentleman's
The bet between them was duly recorded — by
Mr. Chichester in his little book, and by Mr. Albert Egerton on the back of a
The latter gentleman then called for his bill, and
having glanced at the amount, paid it without a murmur, adding a munificent
donation for the waiter. Having effected this arrangement, by means of which he
got rid of the women who had fastened themselves on him, he coolly passed round
to the table at which his new acquaintances were seated, and called for another
bottle of champagne.
When it was brought, he was about to pay for it but Sir
Rupert interrupted him, saying, "No — that would be too bad. If
you sit at our table, you are our guest; — and here's to a better
The bottle went round rapidly; and Mr. Egerton became
quite enchanted with the agreeable manners of Sir Rupert Harborough, Bart., and
the off-hand pleasant conversation of the Honourable Arthur Chichester.
It was now past one o'clock; and the baronet proposed to
"Which way do you — hic — go?"
"Oh! westward, of course," returned Har[-350-]borough,
in a tone of gentle remonstrance, as much as to say that there could have been
no doubt upon the subject. "Will you walk with us?"
"Certainly," was the answer: "and we will
smoke a — hic — cigar as we go along."
The baronet called for the bill, paid it, and led the
way from the room, followed by Egerton and Chichester, the former of whom
insisted upon stopping at the bar to take some soda water, as he declared
himself to be "half-seas — — hic — over."
While the three gentlemen were engaged in partaking each
of a bottle of the refreshing beverage, Sir Rupert felt his coat-sleeve gently
pulled from behind; and, turning round, he perceived a man whom he had noticed
in the coffee-room. Indeed, this was one of the black-legs already alluded to as
having been engaged in treating Cyprians to supper and champagne.
The baronet instantly comprehended the nature of the
business which this individual had to address him upon; and making him a
significant sign, he said to Chichester, "Do you and Mr. Egerton go very
slowly along the Strand; and I will follow you in a few minutes. I have a word
to say to this gentleman."
Gentleman indeed! — one of the most
astounding knaves in London! But vice and roguery compel the haughty aristocrat
to address the lowest ruffian as an equal.
Chichester took Egerton's arm, and sauntered out of the
house, attended to the door by the obsequious master of the establishment — an
honour shown only to those who drink champagne or claret.
"Well, sir, what is it?" asked the baronet,
taking the black-leg aside, and speaking to him in a whisper.
"Only this, Sir Rupert," returned the man:
"you've got that youngster in tow, and he'll turn out profitable, no doubt.
Me and my pal, which is inside the room there, meant to have had him somehow or
another; and we planted our vimen on him to-night: — but we thought
he wasn't drunk enough; and then you come in and take him from us. Your friend
has nailed him for a bet of five hundred, which he's safe to pay; so you must
stand someot for my disappointment."
"I understand you, sir," said the baronet.
"Here are twenty pounds: and if the bet be paid, you shall have thirty
more. Will that do?"
"Thank'ee for the twenty, which is ready,"
answered the black-leg, consigning the notes to his pocket. "Now never mind
the other thirty; but make the best you can out of that young chap; and all I
ask in return is just a word or two about the mill that 's coming off."
"I don't understand you," said the baronet
"Come, come — that won't do,"
continued the man. "But don't be afeard — it 'a all in the way
of business that I'm speaking. I see you and Mr. Chichester at a public about
three veeks ago along with the Birmingham Bruiser; and therefore I knowed you
was the friends which deposited the money for him, but which kept in the
back-ground. So all I want is the office — just a single word: is
the Bruiser to win or to make a cross of it?"
"Really, my good fellow — "
stammered the baronet.
"Only just one word, so that I may know how to lay
my money," persisted the black-leg, "and your secret is safe with me.
For my own interest it will be so, if you tell me which way it is to be."
"Can I rely on you?" said Sir Rupert.
"But of course I may, if you really mean to bet. Now keep the thing
dark — and you may win plenty of money. The Bruiser is to lose:
the odds are five to four on him now — and they will be seven to
four in his favour before the fight comes off. No one suspects that it is to be
a cross; and the reports of the Bruiser's training are glorious."
"Enough — and as mum as a dead man, Sir
Rupert," whispered the black-leg.
He then returned to the supper-room; and the baronet
hastened after his friends.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >