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WORKING MEN'S SUNDAYS.
MORNING. - SUNDAY DINNER.
APART from its religious aspect or the question of its divine
origin, Sunday is to the great majority of civilized mankind a most blessed day.
To all classes of society its calm and quiet, and comparative relaxation from
the hustle and labour of the business of life - the clamour and weariness of
which penetrates beyond the immediate circle of the toilers and spinners - must
bring something of joy and contentment. It is a day on which many of the wicked
cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest-a day which brings happiness
alike to the truly religious, who regard it as a day more specially devoted to
the service of their Master to the dressily religious, who look upon it as a
day, and the church or chapel as the most fitting place, for the triumphal
inauguration of new bonnets or new dresses; and the church-courtshiply-religious,
who, in church or on the way to or from it, manage to exchange at least glances
and signals with the beloved beings from whom an unkind fate, in the shape of a
limited income or a stern parent, or something of that kind, wholly divides them
on other days; but to none does it bring greater happiness than to working men,
and by none is it more eagerly looked forward to, or keenly appreciated. To them
it is lite-[-205-]rally a day of rest-a day but for the existence of which the
portion of the primal curse that decreed that man should earn his bread by the
sweat of his brow would to them be a curse indeed! It is the greatest of all
boons to labouring humanity, the brightest of the flowers that has been left
them since the Fall, and is regarded by them as an inestimable treasure, even
though the trail of the serpent is over it, inasmuch as the joys of the day are
somewhat dimmed by the sad reflection that Sunday comes but once a week, and
that in this uncertain climate of ours, those disastrous events, wet Sundays,
are of frequent occurrence. But, taken with all its imperfections, the day is
still itself alone, and stands out in joyous pre-eminence from the other six
commonplace days of the week. It will naturally be supposed that those modern
working class institutions, the Saturday half-holiday and the holiday of Saint
Monday, have tended to dim the once all-exclusive glory of Sunday, and to a
limited extent and in certain senses this supposition may be correct, since,
much as they esteem the day, it is questionable whether the present generation
of working men are capable of feeling that intense consciousness of its joys,
and cheering and renovating influences, which must have been experienced
by their less privileged and less well-cared-for brethren of former generations,
to whom Sunday was the one sole break in the monotonous, wearying round of toil.
Still this is only supposition; and, so far as personal observation showeth, any
tendency which these and other modern holiday institutions may have to detract
from the high estimation in which Sunday is held, must have merely affected the
longing for and ideal contemplation of the day. Viewed merely in the commonplace
light of a weekly holiday, Sunday stands out superior to all others. The
Saturday [-206-] half-holiday is, as its name implies, only a partial holiday in
respect to time, and its benefits have as yet been only partially extended, and
its general effect among those who have benefited by it is chiefly to pave the
way to a more thorough enjoyment of the Sunday, as sundry little things, the
doing of which had at one time to be deferred to Sunday, can now be better and
more appropriately done on Saturday.
However radical may be their ideas and practices upon other points, working men are undoubtedly conservative with respect to the chief joys and observances of their Sunday. No man can remember, nor is there the slightest tradition pointing to a time when working men did not take a pride in having, and look upon as necessary to the proper enjoyment of the Sunday, that outward and visible sign of working class respectability and prosperity, a Sunday suit; and "Susan's Sunday out" was a recognised institution generations before it became the theme for doggrel music-hall song, and when "The Kitchen Miscellany" and " The Scullery Journal," which, in conjunction with the example of the let-us-be-genteel-or-die classes, have developed modern servantgalism into "a thing to shudder at, not to see," were yet in an unimagined future. And Sunday clothes and servants' Sundays out - on which latter depends a great deal of that "keeping company" which among the working classes is the preliminary to the formation of a matrimonial partnership - still continue, and seem likely to continue to be the principal features in working-class Sundays. The opportunity of indulging without self-reproach in the luxury of "a long lie in," is the earliest and most universal of the delights of a working man's Sunday. It is believed that there are working men who often, and especially in the summer months, rise as early [-207-] upon Sunday mornings as they do on other mornings, but such men are regarded as a sort of Wandering Jews - men of evil conscience or bad digestion. There are also well authenticated instances in which unfortunate men who have been brought wholly under "the wife's dominion," are habitually compelled to rise at a comparatively early hour on Sunday mornings and make the fire and tidy up the place before their hazy and masterful or lazy and lackadaisical wives come down, and it also occasionally happens that comparatively early Sunday rising becomes a necessary part of the arrangements for some special mode of observing the day. But these cases form the exception to the rule; and a "long lie in" in the morning is an almost universal feature of a working man's Sunday.
As the other standard and characteristic customs of the day are also, practically speaking, universal ones, a general idea of the manlier in which the day is passed among the working classes, and its influence upon them, will perhaps be best conveyed by recording in a somewhat dramatic form the Sunday life of an illustrative household - a household the Sunday life of which is a type of the Sunday life of tens of thousands of working class households in all parts of the country. We will take a family of the working class branch of the omnipresent Joneses. Some men of a Sybaritish or sleepy-headed turn of mind, and those who have not gone to bed till about the hour at which on other mornings they are thinking of getting up, indulge in the extravagance of breakfast in bed, and those worthies after breakfasting again address themselves to "lying in" till eleven or twelve o'clock in the day, just rising in time to have a leisurely wash and dress and enjoy a comfortable pipe, and otherwise get [-208-] themselves thoroughly awake before their one or two o'clock dinner. The breakfast in bed section is, however, a very small one, and the great majority, in which our friend Jones is included, begin to turn out between nine and ten o'clock. By that time the reactionary, too- much-of-a-good-thing kind of feeling begins to set in, and morning, considered from a sleeper's point of view, begins to be made hideous by the noise and bustle which even, or rather especially on Sunday mornings, characterizes the working man's household. Mrs. Jones will have been up some hour or so before to make the fire, and prepare an early breakfast for her younger children, who have then to he arrayed in all the glories of their Sunday clothes, and started off to Sunday school. These proceedings involve a considerable amount of running up and downstairs, and of other noises which are however as soothing music compared with the sleep-murdering roars of the itinerant purveyors of breakfast "relishes," who shout with redoubled energy on this, their greatest trading day; for extra relishes are a so universal amid well understood part of a working man's Sunday breakfast as on that day to be scarcely regarded as relishes. First comes the cries of those who are going round with the various mixtures called milk; this is immediately followed by "Watercresses all fresh-gathered watercresses ! two bundles for a ha'penny ;" while the watercress dealer pauses for a moment, the recitative of the shrimp man comes in. "Fine fresh Gravesend shrimps, fresh every day! penny a pint, shrimp O!" Then come "Fine Yarmouth bloaters, fine fresh Yarmouth! Prime smoked haddock!" and other cries, which only give way to be taken up by the yells of the costermongers who deal in dinner vegetables. But Jones, hardening himself against the disturbing influence of the cries of the relish merchants, [-209-] is preparing to have " another bit of a snooze " before tumbling out, when his preparations are arrested by a noise downstairs, of the cause of which he has from previous experience a pretty good general idea. His sons Harry and Tommy, aged respectively fourteen and twelve, though at work, have not altogether put away childish things, and have on the night before spent part of their weekly allowance of pocket-money in eatables, Harry bringing home two or three sausages, and Tommy a rasher of bacon, and they are now quarrelling for the right of precedence in cooking these, the relishes of their choice. Tommy founds his claim on the grounds of being already in possession, and having been downstairs first; Harry on the ground that he is the elder. "O ay," says Tommy, "wouldn't you like to! I shall shift when I'm done, and not before; I was here first, and I shall cook my bacon first, so I tell you." "Well," exclaims Harry, "it's a nice go this is, that you are to come it over me; if I'd been that cheeky when I was your age, I'd have known of it pretty quick. But I tell you what it is, our Tommy, if you don't shift with being told civil, I'll shift you in a way you wont like." "Will you, our Harry?" says Tommy, defiantly; "you wont though, and you'd better not try either. If you want to cook your old sausages, your best plan will be to leave me alone, for the more you don't get on with me, the more sooner I'll be done ;" and he doggedly goes on with his cooking. But presently he half shrieks, half cries, " Oh mother, just look here our Harry has been and sopped up all my bacon liquor with his bread." "Well, you should shift, then," says Harry, sulkily. "I'll shift your ear for you, my gentleman, if I come down to you," roars Jones from his bedroom, and this produces a brief silence, which is broken by a loud yell, the cause of which is explained [-210-] by Mrs. Jones calling upstairs, "You really must come down to these lads here's Harry made Tommy's nose bleed again!" "He shouldn't have bit a lump off my sausage, then," shouts Harry. "Only you wait till my nose stops bleeding," replies Tommy, who, attended by his mother, is bathing his nose. "You'd better stop where you are," says Harry, threateningly. "Ah! you think you can cock it over me," answers Tommy, "but Bill Smith is the boy for you, and he ain't yer size, either." "It's a lie ! " roars Harry, " I'll fight him one hand, any day." "Well, you'll see," shouts Tommy; and then there is a sound of rushing and scuffling, and Tommy is heard crying, "Let me get at him," and Harry replying, "Yes, let him come on, mother, and see what he'll get." Jones, hastily descending, is met by the sight of a tableau of Tommy armed with a soap-box, and affecting to be desperately struggling to break from his mother's restraining grasp, in order to rush upon and annihilate Harry, who, with the remains of his sausage in one hand, stands on the defensive in a Tom Sayers' attitude. The appearance of the father upon the scene at once restores order, and then Mrs. Jones completes the preparations for the substantial family breakfast. But just as she is chipping her egg, she bethinks her of her lodger, a young journeyman employed in the same establishment as her husband, and who has lodged with her ever since-on coming "out of his time," two years back-he came up to " the big city" to get the London polish and London wages; and for whom, as he is a civil easy-going young fellow, a pretty good sample of the rising generation of "intelligent artisans," she has something of a motherly regard. Besides - as is often the practice of lodgers of this class with their landladies - he calls her [-211-] mother; and he strikes her as being like what her first-born boy would have been had he lived to be three-and-twenty. "Do you know whether Charley came in last night ?" she asks her husband. " I don't know whether he came in this morning, replies the husband, smiling in a manner suggestive of there being very little danger of Charley having come in while it was yet night on a Saturday; "you'd better go up and see." Mrs. Jones accordingly goes upstairs, and will probably find either that Charley has not come in, or that he has not only come in himself, but brought some fellow-wanderer of the night with him. The latter happens to be the case in the present instance, and after a minute or two's hard knocking, Mrs. Jones succeeds in awakening the heavy-slumbering Charley, who calls out, "Holloa, mother, what time is it?" "Ten o'clock, Charley," replies Mrs. Jones; "will you come down to your breakfast, or shall I send it up? " "Oh, I'll come down; I've got a mate with me," he answers. "And mother," he calls, as he hears her turning away, "do us some herrings, and make the coffee strong, that's a good sort, and cut any quantity of bread, for the fellow that I have got with me is an awful character to eat. Just send Tommy up with about a bucket of water, for we are a couple of thirsty souls this morning, and no mistake." "Ah, Charley," replies his landlady, reproachfully, "merry nights make sorrowful days, remember." "No, upon my word, mother," he cries - but Mrs. Jones cuts short her lodger's defence by going downstairs. In a minute afterwards Tommy takes up a jug of water, which Charley eagerly seizes, and takes a long pull at, then giving his companion, who has by this time fallen asleep again, a dig in the ribs, hands it [-212-] over to him, saying, "Now sleepy-head, here's the water you've been making such a noise about." Then turning to Tommy, he asks, "How do I look this morning?" " Rather barmy," replies Tommy, smiling knowingly. "No, but do I, though," says Charley, in a dubious tone, which implies that he thinks and hopes that it is possible Tommy may he chaffing him. "Oh, you do, and no kid about it," Tommy repeats; "anybody could see you'd had your load on." "No, it ain't that," says Charley, "I didn't take what would have hurt anybody if it had been good; it's the quality not the quantity that's done it; we got some awful stuff, but we'll be all right when we've had a wash. What time was it when we came home, do you know?" Tommy replies that he does not know. "Oh, well, it don't matter," says Chanley; "just take our shoes down and give them a brush, will you, that's a good chap; I'll give you threepence." Upon hearing this, Tommy, who has been spending his week's pocket money with the prodigal rashness of youth, seizes the boots and hastens downstairs; where lie is heard telling Harry, to whom by this time he is perfectly reconciled, that Charley is going to give him threepence, and that now he will go in the raffle for Bill Smith's rabbits. When Charley and his companion, the latter looking rather sheepish, come down, Mrs. Jones, after good mornings, and the customary commonplaces respecting the weather have been exchanged between herself and husband and their lodger's guest, asks, "Will your friend wash in hot or cold water, Charley?" "Cold will suit you best, wont it Dick?" says Charley. "Rather!" replies Dick, and they go off to the wash-house, and come back looking considerably fresher. By this time the family breakfast has been concluded, and the breakfast table reset for Charley and [-213-] his friend, who now sit down to it, the former, as he takes his first herring, apostrophizing it in a frequently quoted line from a forgotten poem of some inglorious Milton of the realistic school,
"Oh, herring red,
Thou art good with 'tatoes or with bread."
"I feel all the better for that lot," says Charley, when he has finished his breakfast; "now I'll have a pipe, and then I'll be all right. We were at the theatre last night, mother," he continues, when he and his friend have got their pipes fairly going, and have joined Jones in literally blowing a cloud. " Oh, were you," says his landlady; "which one did you go to ?" "The Adelphi, to see this 'Rip Van Winkle,'" answers Charley. "What sort of a piece is it?" asks Jones. " Is it deep?" asks Mrs. Jones. "Yes, towards the end," answers Charley. "You know, mother," he goes on, seeing that she is interested, "Rip is a drunken happy-go-lucky sort of a fellow, that wont stick to his work, and is always getting on the spree, and, of course, his wife can't see the beauty of it, and is always jawing him, and one night she turns him out in a dreadful thunderstorm, and he wanders into the mountains, and there he meets with the spirits of a lot of pirates, and they give him a glass of drink that brings on the sleep of twenty years. Then, in the next act, you see him waking, an old white- headed man; but he doesn't know it, for he thinks he's only been out all night, and when he gets back to the village everything is changed, and nobody knows him, and they think he's some silly old fellow; but at last his daughter, that he had left a little girl, recognises him, and then comes the cutting part; don't it, Dick?" "Yes," answers Dick; "and he [-214-] does it splendid; you wont see many dry eyes in the house then, I can tell you." By the time Charley has finished his epitomized version of "Rip Van Winkle," his landlady has washed up and put away the breakfast things, and is commencing her preparations for dinner. For the Sunday dinner is by a long way the most important culinary affair of the week; and though its preparation and cooking is to the managing and industrious housewife a labour of love, it is also a labour of time, and must be started pretty soon after breakfast, if dinner is to be on the table at the fashionable working-class dining hour of half-past one. A good plate of meat and potatoes, with bread and cheese ad libitum to follow, is not a had "week day" dinner, even for so distinguished an individual as "the intelligent artisan," but it must not be compared with his Sunday one. The bill of fare for a working man's Sunday dinner, will often include a roast and a boil, three different dishes of vegetables, and two different puddings, or pudding and tart, with bread and cheese and celery, and plenty of beer. Nor is it merely in the greater variety of meats that warmly furnish forth the dinner table, that the Sunday dinner is an important affair; it is eminently important as a social institution, and as a means of beneficially influencing the manners and customs of the working classes generally, from the more or less elaborate and polite style in which it is laid out and conducted. It is set out in the best room, and on the best table, covered with the best table-cloth, and the family plate, consisting of a plated cruet-stand, a gravy-ladle, and pair of tablespoons, and a salt-cellar and salt-spoon, with, of course, the best set of knives and forks-the set which, save on Sundays and such high days as Christmas-day and [-215-] Good Friday, are wrapped in a cloth, and carefully put away among the family linen. The carving, the helping to the various dishes and passing round of the plates are gone through with all due forms and observances, which forms and observances, though trivial matters in the abstract, are, like most other things, useful in their place, and have undoubtedly a refining effect upon men who for six days in the week have neither the time, means, nor inclination for practising those ceremonies which pertain to dining as a fine art. Lastly, though by no means leastly, the Sunday dinner is, with the exception of "Christmas time," the sole vehicle for special family or friendly re-unions, and express interchange of social rites and courtesies. It is true that there is generally a larger number of guests at the Sunday tea than the Sunday dinner; but the gathering at tea-time is of a miscellaneous and accidental character, while the dinner visitors are strictly select, and join the family party by special invitation. Any friend who may be passing your house about teatime, may, without the least impropriety, "turn in," and any mere acquaintance who may call during the afternoon, is usually asked to stay and take a cup of tea. But any person who, without having some very sufficient reason, was to drop in about dinner-time, would be considered guilty of an impertinent intrusion; while no breach of hospitality is involved in allowing morning callers to depart without hinting at their staying to dinner, or even offering them that back-handed kind of invitation which is perfectly understood to be given only that it may he declined, and consists in coldly observing, as you are seeing your visitor to the door, that you suppose he wont stay to dinner. In short, the Sunday dinner, and the customs connected with it, are, socially considered, perhaps the [-216-] most important features, not only of the working man's Sunday, but of his household life generally; and if some of those "highly accomplished" middle-class ladies, whose accomplishments, however, unfortunately for their husbands, do not include any knowledge of housekeeping or the management of servants, could only see the style of Sunday dinner which "managing" wives of steady regularly employed mechanics, of whom our Mrs. Jones is an example, turn out, they would be very much, and not very agreeably surprised. Everything about the dinner is scrupulously neat and clean, the general arrangement of the table, as, with its equipment completed, it awaits the company, is harmoniously effective, and every dish is well dressed. For Mrs. Jones has been a gentleman's cook at a time when "flashing," "nobbling," and "milking," now unblushingly resorted to by many of the competitors in the race for wealth, were comparatively unknown, and when a really "good plain cook" was sufficient for all the culinary requirements of a moderate establishment; and Mrs. Jones "wont turn her back on any one at turning out a plain dinner, though she says it as shouldn't. None of your baker's dinners for her, thank you; meat burnt to a cinder outside, and red raw inside; and pies with scorched crusts and uncooked insides, may do for your thriftless, know-nothing, dressmaking bodies, that don't know how to boil a potato, but they wont suit her book, not to mention the toll. Bakers with five or six children are all very well, but when the mother doesn't lay in any meat of a Saturday, and the customers' joints come home on a Sunday with hardly any gravy, and the marks of slicing to be seen on 'em, for all the basting and browning, and the print of the knife that has been used in lifting [-217-] the tops of the pies, in order to toll the inside, are there to be seen, it looks suspicious to say the least of it. People may think it sharp to say that a baker who can't keep his family on toll, don't know his trade, but she don't believe in them keeping either themselves or their families at her expense; and, independent of that, she likes to do her own cooking, if you please. And the well-served, well-prepared, and abundant dinner, on the cooking of which Mrs. Jones thus discourses, costs, even with butcher's meat at cattle-plague prices, but ninepence per adult head; make a note of that, ye who are debating the marriage upon three hundred a year question. Of course the cost of the viands placed on the table would come to considerably more than ninepence a head per dinner; but then, after furnishing the Sunday dinner, these same "viands will serve for supper, and warmed up they will also supply Monday's dinner, while what still remains of them after that, will, with a little helping out, do for the cold washing-day dinner of the Tuesday. But that ninepence a head defrays the expenses of the Sunday dinner proper is shown by the fact that that is the price charged to the single young men lodgers, who, even when they "find themselves, generally dine with their landlady's family on Sunday, and that the lodgers conscientiously endeavour to eat the worth of their money is well known.
And now, as, on our illustrative Sunday morning, Mrs. Jones proceeds to carry out her principle of doing her own cooking, her sons kindly volunteer to assist her, by peeling the apples, and shelling the peas; but this apparently disinterested offer is promptly and significantly declined; for their mother has found, by unprofitable experience, that somehow or other such [-218-] things as apples and peas do not go as far as usual when they have undergone the preliminary preparations for cooking at the hands of Masters Tommy and Harry. These young gentlemen, finding their offers of service declined, and having been detected and defeated in a joint attempt to steal some of the apples, go out for a walk. Charley and his companion having smoked out their pipes, and finished dressing (in their "second best" or night suits), also prepare to go out. "Are you going to bring your friend back to dinner with you, Charley ?" asks his landlady as he is going; for Charley, forgetful of the proprieties, had on one or two occasions, without giving any previous notice, brought such friends as Dick with him to dinner, supposing, he said, that his landlady would have taken it for granted that he would do so. Such, however, is not his intention upon the present occasion, for he answers, "Bring him to dinner, oh! don't mention such a thing, I don't want to see you eaten out of house and home." "For shame, Charley," says the good-natured landlady; "but don't you mind him, sir; he gets on with everybody, but I dare say you know him." "What he says don't trouble me," replies Dick, whose looks, however, scarcely bear out his assertion; "the fact is, ma'am, he's chaffing you; he knows I'm a small eater, and he asked me to stay to dinner, but they'll be expecting me at my own place." "Oh, well," says Charley, "cheek is everything, but I wouldn't like to be a round of beef in his way all the same." "Get along with you, do," says Mrs. Jones, trying to get up a look of commiseration for Dick. As Charley is getting along, she calls after him, "Be sure you come in in time; Jones's nephew and his girl are coming, and dinner will be ready exactly at the half-[-219-] hour. "All right, mother," shouts Charley, "we are only going up to the barber's, and then for a bit of a turn round; I'll be home in lots of time."
Being now at full liberty, Mrs. Jones begins to bustle about in earnest, and Jones finding himself in the way in the kitchen, fills and lights his pipe afresh, and, taking The Banner of Freedom with him, retires to the parlour, and devotes himself to a second and more careful perusal of the weekly epistle of the terrific "EAGLE EYE;" who is constantly informing his readers, in a general way, that every beneficial measure passed by the Houses of Parliament, during the last quarter of a century, has been solely owing to his sleepless watchfulness of the various governments, and the awakening power of his letters. In his letter of this week he proves to demonstration that unless the working classes collect a sum of ten thousand pounds among themselves, and place it at the uncontrolled disposal of "The United Howlers Spouting League," of which "Eagle Eye" is treasurer, they (the working classes) will, in the course of a few months, be taken from their homes, and bought and sold as slaves by a bloated and bloodthirsty aristocracy.
When Charley and his friend get out of doors the latter is inclined to be sulky, but being, apart from his genteel notions, a good sort of a fellow, he is soon restored to good humour, when they get into a general conversation with some of their mutual friends whom they find in the barber's shop. Sunday morning is always an exceedingly busy time in a barber's shop in a working-class neighbourhood. Many of those who only shave once a week habitually choose Sunday for the operation; others, who usually undergo their weekly shave on Saturday, will sometimes, if they find the shop full when they call on that day, or are them-[-220-]selves very busy, or not going out till dark or something of that kind, defer the shaving till the next morning. Some again, who have been shaved on the Saturday, but who are rather particular about their personal appearance, have another "scrape" on the Sunday-morning, in order to be "all of a piece," when dressed in their Sunday clothes; while the swellish-inclined, who have already put on their Sunday suits, and are going out for the day, come to have their hair brushed and "done up." Again, numbers of men who do not care about dressing to go for a morning walk, and yet do not wish to be hanging about the house while the cooking operations are going on, take a shave or a brush-up as an excuse for joining in the lively conversation and newsmongering of the barber's shop. There is a supply of the cheap weekly papers on the seats, and those who are waiting their turn, actively discuss and comment upon things in general as recorded in these papers, local events and character as known among themselves, and the performances at the various places of amusement they have attended on the previous night. "Have you seen this 'ere new piece at 'The Vick?'" asks one of those who is waiting his turn, as the advertisement of that theatre meets his eye. The question is put to the company generally, and some one who has not seen the piece in question replies to that effect, and asks what sort of a piece it is. "Stunning," says the first speaker warmly. "I never see a better piece in my life. It's very deep all the way through. There's three or four murders in it, and Slogger's got a nobby part, 'Red-handed Ralph, the Bloodhound of the Seas.' He makes you shiver when he's doing the murders; he looks so gashly pale, and grinds his teeth so when he says, 'Now for the bloody deed.' And Miss Howard, she's got [-221-] a good part too-she's Lady Clara Loamland, and her father wants her to marry a villanous lord; but she wont have anything to do with him, because she's in love with Harry Lister, her father's gamekeeper, and so the lord, he gets a gang of poachers to carry her off to Red-handed Ralph's vessel. 'And now my young lady,' he says to her, when he'd got her aboard, 'I have ye in my power, and ye shall learn what it is to scorn a De Melville.' 'O spare me spare me!' she says. 'Never,' says he, a De Melville never spares.' 'Then my blood be on your head,' she says, and snatches up a dagger, and is just going to stab herself, when a voice calls out, 'Hold, Lady Clara, stay thy rash hand;' and down into the cabin jumps the gamekeeper, and them as De Melville had thought was poachers, but who were Harry's friends in reality, because he had got to know the lord's little game, and had took this way to put the double on him. And then there's a terrific combat, and Harry kills De Melville, and the pirates are taken prisoners, and then it comes out that Harry is the right Lord De Melville, only he had been stolen when he was a child; and so he marries Lady Clara, and gets the estate." "I'm blow'd if I don't wish I had gone there," says the gentleman to whom this description has been more especially addressed, "for the performance at the Borough was up to nothing. I could play better myself than the duffer they've got for the leading character. He's neither use nor ornament; for he can't act a little bit; and, as to the comic character, I'm blessed if I don't think he's off his head - he neither knows what to say or what to do with himself, and he goes wandering about the stage like a cat on hot bricks." Personal, very personal banter of some one or more of their number, is a usual mode among [-222-] the Sunday morning frequenters of barbers' shops of enlivening their proceedings; and a diversion in that direction taking place at this point, the severe strictures upon the company of "The Borough" are cut short. A young man of the would-be-if-they-could type of swelldom has just taken his seat in the operating-chair, and to the barber's question of, "a brush or a shave," replies, "A brush, and part it down the middle." "Well," observes a gentleman whose own personal appearance would be materially improved if there was a little more of the swell and less of the slouch about him, "Well, if I had such an October cabbage as yours, I'd try if I could'nt brush it at home." "Ah, now that's your nastiness, Bill," says another; "if his head is big there's nothing in it." "Now, you two fellows," says a third speaker, "are only crabbed because you see that he's been to 'The Lane' this morning, and got another seven-and-sixpenny coat." "Ay," adds a fourth, "and because he's got his gold guard from his uncle's, in Lombardy." "His uncle's?" says Bill, sarcastically; "you don't catch uncle taking in that sort of stuff; why you can buy them kind of guards in Birmingham at half-a-crown a bushel, and a basket in to carry them away." "Do you mean to say it's not gold ?" asks the previous speaker. " Gold!" repeats Bill, sneeringly, "ay, the same sort of gold as brass candlesticks are made of." "Now, you know, Bill, you are going on in that style, because he told Polly Roberts's father he was a draughtsman," says our friend Charley. "And so he is a draughtsman," replies Bill, who is great in stock witticisms, "a full-sized draughtsman - he draws a hand-cart." Each hit at the working swell is followed by a burst of laughter, and, amid the roar elicited by this last joke, he escapes, and the spirit [-223-] of chaff being now in the ascendant, another victim or two are tackled and discomfited. A rather sullen-looking personage, who comes in as the swell is going out, and who is known to pride himself upon the imperious manner in which he rules his very meek wife, is greeted with "Holloa! what makes you look so like two pen'orth of God-help-us this morning? has your wife been beating you again?" and the cue thus given, the chaffing goes on merrily.
But, "sweeter than this, than these, than all," than the discussion of general news or local events, the criticising of dramatic performances, the chaffing of acquaintances or the generally pleasant whiling away of an hour, is the Sunday morning attraction to some barbers' shops in the shape of various cunningly concocted "revivers," which are euphemistically styled medicines, and are privately retailed at threepence per dose to those with whom the barber is personally acquainted, or patients who are introduced by persons on whom he can rely. The disease for which these medicines are supposed to be specifics is that known as "Hot coppers," and it generally supervenes upon having had a drop too much overnight; or in the case of working men having, while in a state of thirst, drank even a moderate quantity of the "Saturday night particular," sold in and about cheap places of amusement. Its symptoms are a more or less violent headache and unusual thirst. The medicines dispensed by barbers on Sunday mornings, for the remedy of this complaint, really to a certain extent act as revivers, and instead of producing wry faces and exclamations of abhorrence from the sufferers, give rise to lip-smacking and sighs of pleasure. Patients will often, of their own accord, call for a second dose immediately after taking the first; a state [-224-] of things sufficiently accounted for by the fact, that in taste the medicines are curiously like sweetened and spiced rum or brandy; or should the patient prefer to have a colourless draught, gin or whisky. From some or all of these reasons Sunday morning is the busiest and most entertaining time in the establishments of those barbers who ply their craft on the chins and heads of "the working man." The proprietors of these establishments will do more trade between ten and three on a Sunday than they will do on any other day; and, with the exception of Saturday, more than they will do in any three days of the week. For five days in the week the barber will be able to do all his business himself, and have a considerable amount of time to spare for the making and repairing of such articles as fishing-rods and bird-cages; on Saturday, which is his busiest "week day," he will manage to get through his work with the aid of a boy to act as latherer; but the run of trade on Sunday morning is so great as to necessitate the employment of two or three assistant shavers.
Having, in the course of about three-quarters of an hour, had a shave and a "reviver" each, Charley and his friend leave the barber's to go for a "bit of a turn round," and have not got far when they come upon and join company with three of their shopmates, who are also going for a turn round. Presently one of these three, a well-known lushington, dolefully observes that he is almost dying for a glass of beer, and proposes that they should go to "The Bird in Hand," as he knows he can get in there. What do they say? Well, they don't care much about it, but still they don't mind, and so they direct their steps to the bye-street in which "The Bird in Hand" is situated. On reaching the back entrance of that not over-reputable hostelry the beer-[-225-]craving lushington gives a signal knock, and they are at once admitted into a dimly-lighted kitchen, in which about a score of men are already seated smoking and drinking, and conversing in a low tone. As soon as they are inside, the lushington calls for a pot of porter, which he and his companions empty in the first round; and, having thus had what the lushington styles a "squencher," a second pot is called for. They then seat themselves to drink at their leisure, as they listen to the narrative of a gentleman who is entertaining the company with a graphic account, plentifully illustrated by appropriate action, of sundry astonishing exploits that he professes to have performed when "tight" on the previous night, and which led to his getting those honourable scars, which, in the shape of a black eye, and broken nose, disfigure his not particularly handsome visage. But while he is yet in the midst of the description of the "terrific combat," in which single-handed he had defeated a band of fierce marauders from the slums, whom he believed to have entertained a felonious design upon his watch; his story is brought to an abrupt conclusion by the son of the landlord, who has been stationed at an upper window which commanded a view of the full length of the street, rushing downstairs with the alarming intelligence that a "bobby" is visible. In an instant all is confusion among the group of drinkers. "Drink up," cries the landlord, and pots and glasses are rapidly emptied and thrust into a closet, from the shelf of which the landlady takes down a large breakfast-tray, with a half- consumed breakfast artistically arranged upon it, and places it upon the table, which a minute before had been covered with pots and pipes. A number of the lushingtons, who know the "runs" of the house, [-226-] meanwhile betake themselves to places of concealment. These dispositions for the reception of an enemy completed, the landlord hastens upstairs to the look-out station to reconnoitre, and a pause of anxiety ensues. In about a minute, which seems to be at least ten, the landlord descends, and restores peace of mind to his alarmed customers by saying, "It's all right, there is a 'blue,' but he is one of the right sort," which latter phrase being interpreted means that this particular "blue" is one of that tolerably numerous sort, who, provided a publican tips them a "bob occasionally, and is liberal in the matter of drops of something short when they are on night duty, will not see any Sunday-drinking that may be carried on in his establishment, so long as it is done with a decent show of secrecy. Reassured by this information the drinkers resume their seats, and have their pots and glasses re-filled. But not being much used to, or caring about, this way of passing a portion of their Sunday morning, Charley and his friend leave the house.
Having arranged with Dick to meet him at three o'clock at a point at which those of the set of young fellows to which they belong are in the habit of assembling in the afternoon, Charley returns to his lodgings, where he arrives about one o'clock, so that he has time to change his clothes before dinner; "dress" for Sunday dinner consisting of the trousers and waistcoat of the Sunday suit, and shirt sleeves-coats being regarded as impediments to that freedom of action necessary for comfortably and profitably plying a knife and fork. On coming downstairs after dressing, Charley is informed by his landlady that "Bill and his girl are in the parlour;" and being very friendly with Bill, and in consideration of his being honoured with Bill's friendship a great favourite with "his girl," Nelly Edwards, Charley immediately enters the parlour, and warmly shakes hands with Bill and his sweetheart, asking the former how he is getting on, and how trade is with him, and telling the latter that she looks more killing than ever. To which Nelly replies, "If you get going on in that style, Master Charley, I shall have to tell Polly of you." "I don't suppose Polly cares anything about what I do," answers Charley, speaking with affected unconcern, but getting rather red in the face. "Well, no, I don't suppose she does much," says Nelly, smiling wickedly at her lover, who, seeing the hit, bursts out laughing, and says, "You had better leave her alone, Charley, she's one too many for you." "It's well she is, for it would be a bad job if a woman couldn't beat any fellow with her tongue; wouldn't it, Nelly?" "Well, as far as that goes, I daresay it would," replies Nelly ; "but you've no need to cry out, you can use your tongue pretty well." "I don't know about that." "If you don't," replies Nelly, promptly, "Jane Brown does." "Jane Brown!" echoes Charley, trying to look surprised. "Yes, Jane Brown, repeats Nelly; "you needn't try to look so innocent over it, you was making love to her the night that you saw her home, when she had been here with Bill and me, you know you was, Charley." "Make love to her," answers Charley, smiling, "why, of course I did; but you should have been the last to have told me about it, for it was seeing Bill cuddling you in the passage, when he was pretending to put your cloak on, that set me going." "Oh! after that, I'll be going," says Nelly, running out of the room, and tucking up her dress as she goes along, so as to be ready to assist "mother," as she too calls Mrs. Jones, [-228-] in serving up dinner. In a few minutes she returns bearing a leg of mutton, which she places in the centre of the table which has previously been laid out. Jones follows immediately afterwards with a large rabbit-pie, and is succeeded by Mrs. Jones with a large dish of potatoes, while Nelly, who has again been to the kitchen, returns a second time with the peas and early cabbages, which dishes complete the first course. While dinner is being brought in, the opening and shutting of the street door, and a cry of "Now just you drop it, our Harry, or else you'll be made, and pretty sharp too," proclaims the return of Harry and Tommy. These young gentlemen, on their mother putting it to them whether they will take their dinner with father, or in the kitchen with their younger brother and sister, immediately decide to go to the kitchen - the observance of dinner etiquette and the supervision of "father" not being conducive to their idea of comfortable dining. This point being settled, the parlour company seat themselves.
Bill Johnson, Jones's favourite nephew, is in his way a rising man, for though not yet thirty years of age, he is already under-foreman to the large building firm by whom he is employed, and has a salary of two- pound-ten a week, and being a stalwart, healthy, intelligent, and tolerably good-looking young fellow, is upon the whole an exceedingly good match for the plump, handsome Nelly Edwards, with whom he had fallen desperately in love some six months before, when supenintending some repairs in the West-end mansion in which she was in service as a housemaid. Indeed, when the Joneses, who are Bill's nearest living relatives, first heard of his engagement, they were inclined to think that he was "throwing himself away;" but when they came to know the merry, [-229-] kind-hearted, lovable Nelly, they soon altered their opinion, and assured Bill that he was lucky in meeting with such a girl, an opinion in which Mrs. Jones was further confirmed on finding that Nelly "was clever with her needle, a rare 'un at house-work, took up cooking wonderful, and had none of your faldaral notions about her." And Nelly being shortly to become one of the family, and being regarded by the members of it as though she were already one of themselves, and Charley being in more than a lodger-advertisement sense "treated as one of the family," the dinner party of the Joneses may upon this occasion be considered virtually a family one. For this reason some of the stricter and more melancholy of the formalities that would have been observed, had strangers been at table, are dispensed with. When dinner has fairly commenced there is not much conversation going on, and what does occur is of dinner dinnery. "That's a fine bit of mutton," says Jones. "It ought to be, too," says his wife, "it cost a fine price, I can tell you." " It's just done to a nicety, too," observes Charley. "Yes," chimes in Nelly, "you don't catch mother turning out any bad cookery, I shall come and take lessons from her when-" and then she hesitates and blushes; upon which Jones exclaims, "When you and Bill are married; out with it, we all know what you meant." At this they all laugh, and Bill getting confused knocks the treasured salt spoon off the table, upon which Charley calls out, with an air of mock concern, " Oh, hang it, Bill, mind the family plate, whatever you do." Presently Jones, who has in vain been trying to pick a rabbit-bone with his knife and fork, exclaims, "Well, excuse me, but fingers were made before knives," and putting aside the modern instruments as he speaks, he takes the bone [-230-] in his hand and falls to work to polish it with his teeth. "Oh, well, if that's it," says Charley, "I'm with you, or else I shall never be able to eat my ninepen'orth; and if that was to happen, I would never forgive myself," and he too puts down his knife and fork and takes a bone in his fingers. "They talk about this and that not paying the old woman her nine-pence," he goes on, " but it's very certain it'll never pay the lodger his ninepence to stop to use a knife and fork to his Sunday dinner while his landlord uses his fingers." Finding that they are falling behind, and seeing the example set them by their host, the other members of the party also betake themselves to their fingers; and then the first course is speedily finished. Mrs. Jones, assisted by Nelly, promptly and with very little bustle, clears away the remains of the first course, lays fresh plates and brings in an apple-pie and a rice-pudding. " Which will you take, Bill ?" asks Mrs. Jones when she is ready to serve. "I'll take a bit of apple," he answers. "And you, Nelly ?" "The same, please," says Nelly. " Apple for you too, Charley?" asks his landlady, when she has served Nelly. "No," answers Charley, "I'll have rice, it's nice and light, and I must think of my constitution." "And so must I," says Jones. "Yes, you're a couple of delicate creatures, I've no doubt," says Mrs.Jones, and having served them, eating and conversation are resumed. The third and last course, which consists of small preserve tarts, as a sort of dessert, is eaten in a much more leisurely manner than the two preceding ones, and the conversation over it becomes more general. While they are chatting and laughing and nibbling their tart, Harry and Tommy, who have finished their dinner, are heard going out, and negotiating a fifty per cent. loan transaction as they go through the passage. "Lend us a penny, will you, Tommy," [-231-] Harry is heard saving. "O-ay !" exclaims Tommy, in a tone intended to indicate that he is intensely astonished at the mere mention of, and utterly repudiates such an idea. " I'll give you three halfpence for it on Saturday if you will," urges Harry. "Yes so you say," returns Tommy, doubtfully. "Oh, I will upon my word," Harry assures him earnestly. " But then I want to go into the raffle for the rabbits," Tommy observes. "Well, Bill'll trust you a penny till Saturday, if you give him the other twopence," says Harry. "Do you think he will ?" asks Tommy, still doubtful. "I'm quite sure he will," replies Harry, emphatically. " And you're certain you'll give me the three halfpence on Saturday as soon as we're paid?" questions the unrelenting fifty per center. "Yes, upon my word and honour," replies his brother. "Say in double deed," persists the money lender in the tone of one administering some terribly binding oath. "In double deed," repeats Harry, solemnly. "Well, here you are then," says Tommy; "but mind you, if you don't pay me I'll tell father." "Oh, honour bright, what I say I'll do," answers Harry, pocketing the penny, and then they open the door and rush out whooping and yelling, and rattling on the railings as they pass.
While they have been listening to this, the party in the parlour have finished the tart, and Mrs. Jones and Nelly, after clearing the table, retire into the kitchen - a movement equivalent to the "society" one of the ladies retiring to the drawing-room, and leaving the gentlemen to their wine; which, seeing that they have neither drawing-rooms nor wine, is about as near an approach as people of the working classes can be expected to make to the observance of this the concluding part of the dinner ceremonial.
AFTER DINNER.-GENERAL OBSERVATIONS.
WHEN left to themselves after dinner, the men charge and
light their pipes, and enter into desultory conversation upon things in general,
and the all-pervading Reform question is naturally the first topic touched upon.
Jones refers in eulogistic terms to "Eagle Eye's" letter, and
expresses his opinion to the effect that Eagle Eye is the boy for them- them
being the supposed opponents to reform. Charley does not know so much about
that; men who knew Eagle Eye when he was at work, before he got to the delegate
and spouting business, tell him (Charley) that he was a mischief-making fellow
that could do nothing but talk. Bill believes that Eagle Eye is "the
boy" for his own pocket. But Jones falling asleep, as is his custom of a
Sunday afternoon, the subject is dropped, and Charley and Bill talk over the
past week's races, the progress of a workshop brass band, and other matters,
till Charley announces that he has to go out, and they then go into the kitchen,
leaving Jones to the enjoyment of his forty winks. Bill joins the ladies, while
Charley passes upstairs to get his coat and hat. "Will you be in to your
tea?" asks Mrs. Jones as he goes out. "I daresay I shall," he
replies. But as he passes Nelly, that young lady whispers to him, "You know
very well you'll be in; Polly's coming." In a few minutes after Mrs. Jones
goes upstairs to dress her hair and put her best cap on, and Bill embraces the
opportunity - and Nelly - to snatch a kiss. When Mrs. Jones returns to the
kitchen, Nelly praises her cap, and this leads to a rather technical
conversation be-[-233-]tween them upon the subject of fashion and dress, Bill
being occasionally appealed to as to how he likes some particular
fashion. While this talk is still going on, Jones, who has had his nap, joins
them, and being in his turn appealed to for an opinion upon the merits of some
of the fashions upon which his wife and Nelly are discoursing, expresses views
adverse to modern fashions generally, and begins to talk of the time when he was
a boy, and is still holding forth upon that delightful period when the
conversation is broken up by the arrival of his daughter Polly, the Polly to
whom Nelly had alluded when chaffing Charley, and who, it being her Sunday out,
has come, accompanied by one of her fellow servants, to take tea with her
parents. When Polly and her friend have been welcomed, and have taken their
things - that is, their bonnets and shawls - off, the whole of the party go into
the parlour, where comfortably seated they pass the interval till tea time, in
gossiping upon such subjects as chance or the conversational powers of the
company may bring on the carpet.
In the meantime Charley has reached the place of appointment, where he meets some half-dozen friends and acquaintances. Greetings are exchanged, and then the general body make one of their number unhappy by glancing meaningly at a new coat that he has got on, and telling him that it "fits him too much," that it is "like a ready-made shirt, fits where it touches," and much more to the same disheartening effect. Having got through these preliminaries they start for "a stroll down the road," (as we are supposed to be in London, let us say that "the road" is the Commercial or East India-road: a walk up or down those roads being a favourite Sunday afternoon stroll with work people of the East-end). As they go [-234-] sauntering leisurely along the road, they nod and are nodded to by passing acquaintances, and one or other of them occasionally drops behind for a minute or two to speak to some more intimate friend; and they have not gone far before one or two of their number meet their sweethearts, and turn back with them.
Further on they meet one of their shopmates, accompanied by his wife and two children, all looking cheery and comfortable. After acknowledging their respectful good afternoon, Mrs. Robinson passes on, leaving her husband with a child in each hand to exchange a few words with his friends, who assure him that he "looks all a father," and declare there is no mistake about the young 'uns being Rohinsons. Then Charley, addressing the eldest child, a bright- eyed four-year-old boy, as "Blacksmith," asks him if his mother has got any more like him, whether he thinks he could fight that chap (his father) if he would pull himself down to his weight, and finally, whether he thinks he could eat a cake, and gives him a penny; then seeing that Mrs. Robinson has come to a standstill, they say good afternoon to her husband and stroll on. "Well, I only hope that I shall be as comfortable as Bill when I'm married," observes one of them when Robinson is out of hearing; "there's no mistake about him having a tidy wife, and they are about one of the happiest couples in England, I should think. When that breakdown job came in last week, and Bill had to work till ten, he asked me to call and tell his wife as I went to my tea, and I'm blest if the house wasn't like a little palace, and there was his tea laid out and her nicely cleaned up, and everything regular first-rate; it was enough to make a fellow wish he was married." "Ay," observes another of the party, [-235-] on the conclusion of this rather rhapsodical speech, "Bill has got a different style of wife from poor Joe Thomas. Lord forbid that ever I should get such a trollop as Joe's for a wife." "Oh, so you say now," observes one of his companions, "but if you had her to deal with, and was spoony on her, as Joe is, you would very likely do pretty much as he does." " I shouldn't, though," answers the other; "if my meals were never ready for me when I went home, and the children were running about in the gutter, unwashed and in their night dresses, when the men were going home at dinner time, and remarks made about it afterwards in the shop, it would soon take the spooniness out of me, and I should say to myself, Joe, the best thing you can do is to slope."
The company now turn back and saunter homewards in the same leisurely way. As they near the point from which they started, they begin to drop away in ones and twos, and Charley goes home to tea. There he hopes to see, and does see, Polly, and with an affectation of off-handedness, shakes hands with her and asks her how she is getting on. To this she simply replies, "Oh! tidy, Charley, how are you?" but it does not require any particularly acute observation to perceive that their hand shaking is a meaning one, and that their eyes as they meet "look love to eyes that speak again." For Polly, with her rosy cheeks, ripe lips, soft brown eyes and hair, neat figure, and "winning ways," has palpably made a conquest of Charley, and knowing this she scarcely cares to conceal either from herself or others that "the smite" is mutual. Polly had been in the country when Charley had gone to lodge with her parents, but the family with whom she was in service having come to live in London a few months [-236-] since, Polly had of course become a frequent visitor to her parents, and always spent her Sundays out with them, and she had soon, as Charley confidentially expressed it to his friend Dick, "put the stunners on him." And though they were not as yet formally engaged, "the situation" was fully understood by all parties concerned, and the Joneses knew that Charley, although still given to going to the theatres occasionally, and coming home late on Saturday nights, has been "on the steady" almost from the first day of his meeting Polly, and is saving money as hard as he can.
When the slight bustle caused by the entrance of Charley has subsided, Mrs. Jones lays the tea tray, and the bread-and-butter having been previously cut and the tea made, they are soon seated at Sunday afternoon tea, the most formidable appliance of the match-maker of working-class society, and a really powerful means of promoting courtship and matrimony among the working classes. The gathering at tea-time is, as has already been noticed, a larger, more promiscuous, and less ceremonious one than the dinner party. Such eligible young men as may call in the course of the afternoon to see fathers or big brothers, or "our lodger," can be asked to remain to tea without giving rise to suspicions of any ulterior designs being entertained; at tea-time the women are dressed in their best, and in the preparation and dispensing of tea, female arts are supremely dominant. Then the meal itself is of such a light, cheerful, cosy character, and affords such unequalled opportunities for the display of prettiness of manner. Teetotallers talk of the victims to strong drink, and sing the praises of tea as being the cup that cheers but not inebriates, but could the number of "intelli-[237-]gent artisans" who annually fall matrimonial victims to Sunday afternoon tea be ascertained, the so-called statistics of the teetotallers would become insignificant beside them. "Do take another cup, now, Mr. Brown," says Susan to young Jack Brown, who had called to see her brother Tom, unconscious at the time that Tom's sister, of whose existence he had vaguely heard, had come home "out of place." "Half a cup now, come, just to keep me company," she continues, and without further parley she seizes his cup and fills it again, smilingly asking as she prepares to sweeten it, whether he is quite sure that the last cup was "to his liking." On being assured that it was beautiful, she hands the cup to him, and their hands accidentally touching, a thrill seizes Jack, and Susan blushes. Under such circumstances as these, a cup of tea becomes a cup that does inebriate. It sends Jack into the seventh heaven of delight, and causes him to be firmly impressed with the idea that if there is an elysium on earth, it is this! it is this! it is to drink tea on a Sunday afternoon in company with and under the guidance of Tom Stokes's neatly-dressed, and flatteringly and tenderly attentive sister.
As upon this occasion there is no one at Mrs. Jones's tea to be specially assailed, it serves principally as a means of promoting social small talk and those bantering allusions to love and matrimony which "in company" are indulged in by or at the expense of those who are known to be already engaged, or supposed to be progressing towards the engaged state. Although the Sunday tea is regarded less as a meal than as a vehicle for pleasant social reunions, Mrs. Jones places a plentiful supply of edibles, consisting of piled-up plates of toast and bread-and-butter upon the table, [-238-] while Jones tells his guests there is plenty more in the cupboard. Mrs. Jones fills the cups, and Polly gracefully hands them round. When Nelly has taken a few sips, she pronounces it to be beautiful, and asks Mrs. Jones how much per pound she might have paid for the tea. "Five shillings, my dear," replies Mrs. Jones. "I tried some of the cheap sorts as they talk so much about, but, bless you, I couldn't get a good cup out of it, however much I put in the pot." After the third cup, the men cry enough, and Jones and his nephew keep to their decision despite the entreaties of the ladies. Charley, however, shows signs of weakness, and the man who hesitates in refusing "another half-cup" at a Sunday afternoon tea-party is lost. "You can manage half a cup more,2 says Polly in reply to Charley's reiterated "I've done." "Well, I don't like to say no to a good thing," says Charley, "but really-" "But really you'll take another cup," says Polly, and he is martyred forthwith, and so the entertainment closes. Mrs. Jones and her daughter then clear the table, and prepare a second tea in the kitchen for Harry and Tommy, who come in soon afterwards, and as they have had a long walk, and regard tea in its merely material aspect, looking upon any unnecessary conversation during its progress as a culpable weakness, they soon make a happy despatch of basins of tea and large quantities of toast.
The boys being disposed of, Mrs. Jones and Polly return to the parlour, and that apartment being very small, and the centre table comparatively large, the party are compelled to take close order, and in carrying out this movement Charley contrives to get beside Polly on the sofa, and his love-making, which both he and Polly fondly imagine to be unperceived, becomes so manifest that Nelly believes she can see unmis-[-239-]takeable indications of Charley coming to a point that night. When they are all comfortably fixed, conversation sets in. Mrs. Jones remarks upon the smallness of her parlour, and this gives rise to Bill entering into a glowing description of a mansion which their firm are building for a City man, at the conclusion of which Nelly takes up the conversational ball by recounting some of the more notable incidents of a party that her master had given in the preceding week. Then the talk turning on amusements, Charley favours the company with a much more elaborate account of the plot of "Rip Van Winkle" than he had given in the morning, and the ladies generally agree that it must be a very nice play - Polly remarking that it just puts her in mind of a part iii "The Trials and Triumphs of a Young Domestic," which is coming out in the "Kitchen Miscellany." At seven o'clock, Bill Johnson and Nelly take their leave, as the latter has a considerable distance to go; and at eight o'clock Polly, who has to be in at nine, also takes her departure, Charley, of course, going to see her home. And the fact that Polly did not reach her master's house till a full half-hour after her time, and that Charley looked very solemn on returning to his lodgings, justify the supposition that Nelly's anticipations that Charley would wind up his proceedings on this particular Sunday by "coming to the point" have been fulfilled.
Thus, by chronicling the sayings and doings of a representative set of people, I have tried to picture the Sunday at home spent among the general run of the real working classes, the steady- going, regularly-employed artisans and labourers, and their wives and families. There are of course infinite variations in matters of detail. Au artisan who has a less efficient helpmate [-240-] than our friend Jones, may have his Sunday dinner badly cooked, and served at irregular hours, but even under these circumstances it will be an incomparably grander affair than his probably ill-cooked week-day dinner, and those intimates whom he invited to it will he welcomed as sincerely as though every dish were "done to a turn," and placed on the table with infallible punctuality. The labourer cannot of course afford so extensive a bill of fare for his Sunday dinner as the higher-paid mechanic (though there are both labourers and mechanics who adopt the feast and famine principle of living "high" during the two or three days for which their week's wages last them, and "hard" for the remainder of the week) ; but in his degree he duly observes the customs, ceremonies, and hospitalities incidental to the all-important institution of Sunday dinner. Again, the workman of the smaller provincial towns is a more subdued individual than the workman of great cities. Though he is substantially independent of the genteel powers that be, he scarcely cares about flying in the face of their social bye-laws, and would, for instance, be aghast at the idea of his being seen in the streets on a Sunday morning negligently dressed, and with a pipe in his mouth, while the gentility of Tattleborough was on its way to church. Such variations in details aw these are inevitable, but the substantial and characteristic observances of the day, the morning "lie in," the "extras" at meals, the gathering together of friends and acquaintances at dinner and tea, the servants' Sundays out, Sunday courtship, and most of the other customs noticed in the chronicle of the Sunday of the Jones household, are general.
"Outings" are a prominent feature in the working man's Sunday. Once or twice in the course of the [-241-] season - especially if he has been doing pretty well in the way of overtime or piecework-Jones may take his wife and children for a Sunday trip to Brighton and back, and sometimes him and his family are asked to go and spend the day, and more frequently the afternoon, with some friends, and occasionally he will dine early, and, starting out immediately after dinner, take "the missus" to one of the parks, on for a trip down the river. Then Charley sometimes "makes one in four" for hiring a boat or trap for the day, and on some of Polly's Sundays out he will take her down to Greenwich, and insist upon being extravagant in the matter of standing eighteenpenny "teas with whitebait," and sixpenny donkey rides round Blackheath; and these outings necessarily cause considerable alterations and modifications in the proceedings which characterize the Sunday at home. The arrangements for outings are generally made beforehand, and with the proviso "weather permitting," for a rainy day is fatal to "outing," and as "the rain it raineth every day," those by working people dreaded and objurgated events, wet Sundays, will occur. The worst case of all, however, is when, after a bright or comparatively fair morning - a morning that fully justifies the putting on of Sunday clothes - rain comes on in the afternoon, when the "outing" parties have reached their destination. Rain, under these circumstances, is a serious matter indeed, for then it not only breaks up parties and sours tempers, but also does material damage to the treasured Sunday clothes. At one fell sweep Jones' "superfine black," Mrs. Jones' new dress, and the bonnet and shawl on which Susan has expended the whole of her last quarter's wages, are made "not fit to be seen." The least disastrous form of wet Sunday is the very wet one, the one which begins before you rise [-242-] in the morning, and gives every indication of being "set in for the day." It is of course grievously disappointing, but still in this case you know the worst at once; and so, after giving vent to your disappointment by making the usual remarks, that it's always raining on a Sunday, and you're bless'd if ever you saw such weather, you quietly accept your fate. And out of the evil of these very wet Sundays there cometh good, for "on such a day as this" the working man generally works off some of his arrears of correspondence. "The working man" is not a good or regular correspondent, and thinks himself fortunate in not having much correspondence to do; nor is this to be wondered at, for, from the nature of his employment, his hands are often so hard and stiff, that the mere mechanical operation of writing is a laborious or even painful one to him, and then he chronically labours under the serious disadvantage of not knowing what to say, when his say has to be said on paper. If he thinks that by writing a letter he can help any friend or former shopmate who may be out of work to a job, or do them some substantial service of that kind, the working man will screw his courage to the writing-point with much promptitude; but in the way of general correspondence he is greatly given to procrastination. When experiencing a guilty consciousness of his remissness in this respect, he -will observe from time to time, in a tone of self accusation, that he ought to answer So-and-so's letter, and then, as time goes on, and he still "leaves undone that which he ought to have done," he adds to the observation that he ought to write, the statement that he will write-next week. But the next week comes and goes, and still So-and-so's letter remains unanswered, and the work of correspondence is finally deferred to some decidedly wet Sunday. He then gets [-243-] out the writing materials, resolutely dates his letter, and gets in one of the stock commencements about "these few lines leaving him well at present." Then comes a pause, during which he bites the head of his penholder, and scratches his head. These inspiration-producing proceedings not having "the desired effect," he presently observes to his wife, or whoever it else may be by, that he's blow'd if he knows what to say now that he has made a start, to which the person thus indirectly appealed to replies, in a careless tone, implying that writing a letter would be no trouble to them- "O, tell him how you are getting on, you know." This advice, though vague, produces a line to the effect that he, the writer, is "getting on like a house a-fire." Having said so much, he thinks he deserves to have a pipe. He then lights his pipe and gives himself up to smoking and contemplation till such time as he bethinks him of another item of news, when he again sets to work; and inspiration coming by degrees under the soothing influence of tobacco, he finishes the letter.
There are of course numbers of the better-educated men of the working classes, to whom writing a letter is little more trouble than it is to an educated man in the higher ranks of life-men who are capable of "knocking off" a well-written epistle in any style, from the rhapsodical, quotation-loaded love-letter, to the formal kind of document in which "Dear sir" is informed that his favour of yesterday's date is to hand, and in reply the writer has to inform him, &c. But these are the exceptions. Generally speaking "the working man" is a poor correspondent, and regards letter-writing as a soul-depressing business, fit only for the gloom and involuntary confinement of a wet Sunday.
With their mode of observing Sunday, the question [-244-] of the religion or irreligion of the working classes is intimately connected, and though any lengthened observations upon a religious question would be out of place in the present volume, a few remarks upon this subject may perhaps be permitted. Numbers of working men regularly attend some place of worship on Sundays, some in a spirit of true religion, and others because they are fanatics or hypocrites. But the greater bulk of the working classes do not attend places of worship, and hence those people who confound religion with the due observance of its outward forms and ceremonies, argue that the working classes are irreligious. This deduction is, in the main, as incorrect and inconclusive as it is uncharitable. It would be mere affectation to speak of the working classes as being actively religious, or as being religious at all in a ritualist's, or revivalist's, or Young Men's Christian Association sense of the word; but, on the other hand, neither are they actively or avowedly irreligious. They neither question nor deride the teaching of religion, and show no special lack of the charity, brotherly regard, and toleration which are prominent characteristics of · all true religion. There are many reasons to account for a working man's not attending a place of worship on Sundays. The day is to him literally a day of rest. It is the only day of the week on which he can enjoy social intercourse in the generally understood and civilizing sense of the term; and if lie does not feel disposed to attend a place of worship from some higher motive, his humble position frees him from the necessity of attending it merely as a sacrifice to the proprieties, while the church itself is calculated to repel rather than attract him. To a man who has witnessed an Alhambra ballet, or a magnificently-mounted burlesque, or sensation drama [-245-] overnight, the mummeries of ritualism have little attraction; and a working man suffers as severely as any other from the infliction of a dull, droning sermon, the greater part of which is to him often unintelligible into the bargain. And if a working man whose appearance makes it evident that he is a working man, does go into a church, he is put into a free sitting, where he probably finds himself in company with a lot of sniggering children, while any well- dressed individual who enters the church, and who has no greater claim upon it than the working man, is obsequiously shown into a pew. This, though in itself an insignificant thing, touches the working man on a tender chord - a chord that is always kept up to concert-pitch by the harping of his friends, the agitators who are never tired of telling him that recondite truth, that it is not the coat that makes the man, and that they never despise a man because he wears a ragged coat. And when these considerations are fairly weighed, I think it must be evident that it is doing an injustice to the working classes to take their non-attendance at places of worship as constructive evidence of any specially irreligious feeling existing among them. A favourite "notion" in tract literature, and among the Exeter Hall school of religionists, is, that the general body of working men are in the habit of scoffing at, and subjecting to social persecution any man of their class who may be religious in the ordinary sense of the term; but this notion is not only untrue, but it is directly opposed to the truth. Working men do not scoff at religion, either generally or as embodied in individuals. On the contrary, they entertain a high respect for any member of their own body who is truly religious, and whose actions bear out his pro-[-246-]fessions. The presence of such a man has a most beneficial influence in a workshop. His reproof or his advice is always listened to respectfully, and is frequently productive of good. His presence invariably acts as a check to ribald conversation; while any scruples in connexion with workshop affairs which his religious feelings may cause him to entertain, are strictly respected:- for instance, when a workman is known to have religious objections to working on Sundays, under any circumstances, both foremen and workmen will, generally speaking, do all in their power to save him from having to take any share in it, when a necessity for Sunday work arises. What working men do scoff at is not religion, but self- righteousness, fanaticism, or hypocrisy, calling itself religion. Men who tell every person who differs in opinion from themselves that they are going to hell, and who excuse themselves from giving a trifle to a workshop subscription for the benefit of the family of some distressed fellow-workman, on the ground that the man on whose behalf the subscription is being made is "one of the ungodly;" men who having been great drunkards or blackguards, are, from being brought "nigh unto death," or by the force of brimstoney admonition, suddenly converted, and then take to addressing their steady shopmates as their "sinful companions;" men who run about the workshop groaning out that they are so happy now they know the Lord, and throw off texts, and reply to questions respecting their work by singing snatches of hymns; men who are religious when working for religious masters, and irreligious when working for irreligious ones, or when they find that thrift does not follow fawning; -such men as these are scoffed at, and held in contempt in the workshop; and I can only say that [-247-] I sincerely hope that such will always continue to be the case.
With respect to the disposition at present existing for giving a more secular character to the Sunday, the working classes should be very careful - careful not only as to how far they go themselves, but also to watch that they are not used as tools by others who may have personal or party interests in the question. As music is generally to a certain extent a labour of love to the performers, and is seldom "discoursed" for more than two or three hours at a stretch, Sunday bands in parks may be regarded as a commendable institution, as they afford pleasure to thousands, and are the means of drawing them to places where they get the benefit of fresh air. At the same time it ought to be borne in mind that any material secularization of the Sunday, any movement that tends to detract from its general character as a day of rest, must ultimately tell against the working classes. Any movement of this kind must necessitate work, and the work will of course have to be done by people of the working classes; and of Sunday work there is already enough, and to spare. The employment upon Sundays of some classes of workmen, such as furnacemen in the iron trade, and railway servants, is an unavoidable necessity; but in working-class neighbourhoods there is at present-as numbers of shopmen know to their sorrow-a great deal of work on Sunday for which no real necessity exists, and which is occasioned solely by the improvident habits and want of consideration of a portion of the working classes. And, all things considered, I think it would, as the women say, "look a good deal better on 'em" if those of the working classes who have their Sundays free, would see about. getting the same privilege to their less fortunate [-248-] brethren, before joining "leagues" having for their object the opening of places of amusement on Sundays. Looking at the scope he already has in the way of "outings," I think the working man might very judiciously leave the day to be the day of comparative rest and quiet that it still is.
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