OF THE STREET STATIONERS, AND THE STREET CARD-SELLERS.
I have before mentioned that the street-stationers -the
sellers of writing-paper, envelopes, pens, and of the other articles which
constitute the stationery in the most general demand - were not to be confounded
with the pattering "paper-workers."
They are, indeed, a different class altogether. The majority of them have been
mechanics, or in the employ of tradesmen whose callings were not mechanical (as
regards handicraft labour), but what is best described perhaps as commercial; or
as selling but not producing; as in the instances of the large body of
"warehousemen" in the different departments of trade. One
street-stationer thought that of his entire body, not more than six had been
gentlemen's servants. He himself knew four who had been in such employment, and
one only as a boy -but there might be six.
The card-sellers are, in the instances I shall show, more akin to the class of patterers, and I shall, therefore, give them first. The more especially as I can so preserve the consecutiveness of the accounts, in the present number, by presenting the reader with a sketch of the life of an informant, in whose revelations I find that many have taken a strong interest.
OF THE SELLER OF THE PENNY SHORT-HAND CARDS.
All ladies and gentlemen who "take their walks abroad," must have seen, and of course heard, a little man in humble attire engaged in selling at one penny each a small card, containing a few sentences of letter-press, and fifteen stenographic characters, with an example, by which, it is asserted, anybody and everybody may "learn to write short-hand in a few hours." With the merits of the production, self-considered, this is not the place to meddle; suffice it that it is one of the many ways of getting a crust common to the great metropolis, and perhaps the most innocent of all the street performances. A kind of a street lecture is given by the vendor, in which the article is sufficiently puffed off. Of course this lecture is, so to speak, stereotyped, embracing the same ideas in nearly the same words over and over and over again. The exhibitor, however, pleads that the constant exchange and interchange of passengers, and his desire to give each and all a fair amount of information, makes the repetition admissible, and even necessary. It is here given as a specimen of the style of the educated "patterer."
"Here is an opportunity which has
seldom if ever been offered to the public before, whereby any person of common
intellect may learn to write short-hand in a few hours, without any aid from a
teacher. The system is entirely my own. It contains no vowels, no arbitrary
characters, no double consonants, and no terminations; it may therefore properly
be called 'stenography,' an expression which conveys its own meaning; it is
derived from two Greek words; stenos, short, and grapho, I write,or
graphi, the verb to write, and embraces all
that is necessary in fifteen characters. I know that a prejudice obtains to a
great extent against anything and everything said or done in the street, but I
have nothing to do with either the
majority or minority of street pretenders. I am an educated man, and not a mere
pretender, and if the justice or genuineness of a man's pretensions would always
lead him to success I had not been here to-day. But against the tide of human
disappointment, the worthy and the undeserving are so equally compelled to
struggle, and so equally liable to be overturned by competition, that till you
can prove that wealth is the gauge of character, it may be difficult to
determine the ability or morality of a man from his position. I was lately
reading an account of the closing life of that leviathan in literature, Dr.
Johnson, and an anecdote occurred, which I relate, conceiving that it applies to
one of the points at issue - I mean the ridicule with which my little publication
has sometimes been treated by passers-by, who have found it easier to speculate
on the texture of my coat, than on the character of my language. The Doctor had
a niece who had embraced the peculiarities of Quakerism; after he had scolded
her some time, and in rather unmeasured terms, her mother interfered and said,
'Doctor, don't scold the girl -you'll meet her in heaven, I hope.' - 'I hope
not,' said the Doctor, 'for I hate to meet fools anywhere.' I apply the
same observation to persons who bandy about the expressions 'gift of the gab,'
'catch-penny,' &c., &c., which in my case it is somewhat easier to
circulate than to support. At any rate they ought to be addressed to me
and not to the atmosphere. The man who meets a foe to the face, gives him an
equal chance of defence, and the sword openly suspended from the belt is a less
dangerous, because a less cowardly weapon than the one which, like that of
Harmodius, is concealed under the wreaths of a myrtle.
"If you imagine that professional disappointment is confined to people out of doors, you are very much mistaken. Look into some of the middle-class streets around where we are standing: you will find here and there, painted or engraved on a door, the words 'Mr. So-and-so, surgeon.' The man I am pre-supposing shall be qualified, - qualified in the technical sense of the expression, a Member of the College of Surgeons, a Licentiate of Apothecaries' Hall, and a Graduate of some University. He may possess the talent of Galen or Hippocrates; or, to come to more recent date, of Sir Astley Cooper himself, but he never becomes popular, and dies unrewarded because unknown: before he dies, he may crawl out of his concealed starvation into such a thoroughfare as this, and see Professor Morrison, or Professor Holloway, or the Proprietor of Parr's Life Pills, or some other quack, ride by in their carriage; wealth being brought them by the same waves that have wafted misfortune to himself; though that wealth has been procured by one undeviating system of Hypocrisy and Humbug, of Jesuitism and Pantomime, such as affords no parallel since the disgusting period of Oliverian ascendancy. Believe me, my friends, a man may form his plans for success with profound sagacity, and guard with caution against every approach to extravagance, but neither the boldness of enterprise nor the dexterity of stratagem will always secure the distinction they deserve. Else that policeman would have been an inspector!
"I have sometimes been told, that if I possessed the facilities I professedly exhibit, I might turn them to greater personal advantage: in coarse, unfettered, Saxon English, 'That's a lie;' for on the authority of a distinguished writer, there are 2,000 educated men in London and its suburbs, who rise every morning totally ignorant where to find a breakfast. Now I am not quite so bad as that, so that it appears I am an exception to the rule, and not the rule open to exception. However, it is beyond all controversy, that the best way to keep the fleas from biting you in bed is to 'get out of bed;' and by a parity of reasoning, the best way for you to sympathize with me for being on the street is to take me off, as an evidence of your sympathy. I remember that, some twenty years ago, a poor man of foreign name, but a native of this metropolis, made his appearance in Edinburgh, and advertised that he would lecture on mnemonics, or the art of memory. As he was poor, he had recourse to an humble lecture-room, situated up a dirty court. Its eligibility may be determined by the fact that sweeps' concerts were held in it, at ½d. per head, and the handbill mostly ended with the memorable words: `N. B. -No gentleman admitted without shoes and stockings.' At the close of his first lecture (the admission to which was 2d.), he was addressed by a scientific man, who gave him 5s. -(it will relieve the monotony of the present address if some of you follow his example) - and advised him to print and issue some cards about his design, which he did. I saw one of them - the ink on it scarcely dry - as he had got it back at the house of a physician, and on it was inscribed: '`Old birds are not caught with chaff. From Dr. M -, an old bird.' The suspicious doctor, however, was advised to hear the poor man's twopenny lecture, and was able, at the end of it, to display a great feat of memory himself. What was the result? The poor man no longer lectured for 2d. But it is tedious to follow him through a series of years. He was gradually patronised throughout the kingdom, and a few months ago he was lecturing in the Hanover-square Rooms, with the Earl of Harrowby in the chair. Was he not as clever a man when he lectured in the sweeps' concert-room? Yes; but he had not been brought under the shadow of a great name. Sometimes that 'great name' comes too late. You are familiar with the case of Chatterton. He had existed, rather than lived, three days on a penny loaf; then he committed suicide, and was charitably buried by strangers. Fifty years or more had elapsed, when people found out how clever he had been, and collected money for the erection of that monument which now stands to his memory by St. Mary Redcliff Church, in Bristol. Now, if you have any idea of doing that for me, please to collect some of it while I am alive!"
On occasions when the audience is not very liberal, the lecturer treats them to the following hint:
"When in my golden days -or at the least they were silver ones compared to these -I was in the habit of lecturing on scientific subjects, I always gave the introductory lecture free. I suppose this is an 'introductory lecture,' for it yields very little money at present. I have often thought, that if everybody a little richer than myself was half as conscientious, I should either make a rapid fortune, or have nobody to listen to me at all; for I never sanction long with my company anything I don't believe. Now, if what I say is untrue or grossly improbable, it does not deserve the sanction of an audience; if otherwise, it must be meritorious, and deserve more efficient sanction. As to any insults I receive, Christinity has taught me to forgive, and philosophy to despise them."
These very curious, and perhaps unique, specimens of street
elocution are of course interrupted by the occasional sale of a card, and
perhaps some conversation with the purchaser. The stenographic card-seller
states that he has sometimes been advised to use more commonplace language. His
reply is germane to the matter. He says that a street audience, like some other
audiences, is best pleased with what they least understand, and that the way to
appear sublime is to be incomprehensible. He can occasionally be a little
sarcastic. A gentleman informed me that he passed him at Bagnigge-wells on one
occasion, when he was interrupted by a "gent." fearfully disfigured by
the small-pox, who exclaimed: "It's a complete humbug." "No,
sir," retorted Mr. Shorthand, "but if any of the ladies present were
to call you handsome, that would be a humbug." On another occasion a
man (half-drunk) had been annoying him some time, and getting tired of the joke,
said: "Well -I see you are a learned man, you must pity my ignorance."
"No," was the reply, "but I pity your father." "Pity my
father! -why?" was the response. "Because Solomon says, 'He that
begetteth a fool shall have sorrow of him.' " This little jeu-d'ésprit,
I was told, brought forth loud acclamations from the crowd, and a
crown-piece from a lady who had been some minutes a listener. These statements
are among the most curious revelations of the history of the streets.
The short-hand card-seller, as has partly appeared in a report I gave of a meeting of street-folk, makes no secret of having been fined for obstructing a thoroughfare, - having been bound down to keep the peace, and several times imprisoned as a defaulter. He tells me that he once "got a month" in one of the metropolitan jails. It was the custom of the chaplain of the prison in which he was confined, to question the prisoners every Wednesday, from box to box (as they were arranged before him) on some portion of Holy Writ, and they were expected, if able, to answer. On one occasion, the subject being the Excellence of Prayer, the chaplain, remarked that, "even among the heathen, every author, without exception, had commended prayer to a real or supposed Deity." The card-seller, I am told, cried out "Question!" "Who is that?" said the chaplain. The turnkey pointed out the questioner. "Yes," said the card-seller, "you know what Seneca says: -'Quid opus votis? Fac teipsum felicem, vel bonum.' `What need of prayer? Make thou thyself happy and virtuous.' Does that recommend prayer?" The prisoners laughed, and to prevent a mutiny, the classical querist was locked up, and the chaplain closed the proceedings. It is but justice, however, to the worthy minister to state, his querist came out of durance vile better clothed than he went in.
The stenographic trade, of which the informant in question is the sole pursuer, was commenced eleven years ago. At that time 300 cards were sold in a day; but the average is now 24, and about 50 on a Saturday night. The card-seller tells me that he is more frequently than ever interrupted by the police, and his health being delicate, wet days are "nuisances" to him. He makes an annual visit to the country, he tells me, to see his children, who have been provided for by some kind friends. About two years ago he was returning to London and passed through Oxford. He was "hard up," he says, having left his coat for his previous night's lodging. He attended prayers (without a coat) at St. Mary's church, and when he came out, seated himself on the pavement beside the church, and wrote with chalk inside an oval border.
Lucam xv. 17. "I perish with hunger." [the Greek of this appears in original text, ed.]
He was not long unnoticed, he tells me, by the scholars; some of whom "rigged him out," and he left Oxford with 6l. 10s. in his pocket.
"Let us indulge the hope," writes one who knows this man well, "that whatever indiscretions may have brought a scholar, whom few behold without pity, or converse with without respect for his acquirements, to be a street-seller, nevertheless his last days will be his best days, and that, as his talents are beyond dispute and his habits strictly temperate, he may yet arise out of his degradation."
Of this gentleman's history I give an account derived from the only authentic source. It is, indeed, given in the words of the writer from whom it was received. -
"The Reverend Mr. Shorthand" [his real name is of no consequence -indeed, it would be contrary to the rule of this work to print it] "was born at Hackney, in the county of Middlesex, on Good Friday, the 15th of April, 1808; he is, therefore, now in his 43rd year. Of his parents very little is known; he was brought up by guardians, who were 'well to do,' and who gave him every indulgence and every good instruction and example. From the earliest dawn of reason he manifested a strong predilection for the church; and, before he was seven years old, he had preached to an infant audience, read prayers over a dead animal, and performed certain mimic ceremonies of the church among his schoolfellows.
"The directors of his youthful mind were strong Dissenters, of Antinomian sentiments. With half-a-dozen of the same denomination he went, before he was thirteen, to the anniversary meeting of the Countess of Huntingdon's College, at Cheshunt. Here, with a congregation of about forty persons, composed of the students and a few strangers, he adjourned, while the parsons were dining at the `Green Dragon,' to the College Chapel, where, with closed doors, the future proprietor of the `penny short-hand' delivered his first public sermon.
"Before he was quite fourteen, the stenographic card-seller was apprenticed to a draper in or near Smithfield. In this position he remained only a few months, when the indentures were cancelled by mutual consent, and he resumed his studies, first at his native place, and afterwards as a day-scholar at the Charterhouse. He was now sixteen, and it was deemed high time for him to settle to some useful calling. He became a junior clerk in the office of a stockbroker, and afterwards amanuensis to an 'M.D.,' who encouraged his thirst for learning, and gave him much leisure and many opportunities for improvement. While in this position he obtained two small prizes in the state lottery, gave up his situation, and went to Cambridge with a private tutor. As economy was never any part of his character, he there 'overrun the constable,' and to prevent," he says, "any constable running after him. He decamped in the middle of the night, and came to London by a waggon -all his property consisting of a Greek Prayer-book, Dodd's Beauties of Shakspere, two shirts, and two half-crowns.
"At this crisis a famous and worthy clergyman, forty years resident in Hackney (the Rev. H. H. N -, lately deceased), had issued from the press certain strictures against the Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews. The short-hand seller wrote an appendix to this work, under the title of the 'Church in Danger.' He took it to Mr. N -, who praised the performance and submitted to the publication. The impression cast off was limited, and the result unprofitable. It had, however, one favourable issue; it led to the engagement of its author as private and travelling tutor to the children of the celebrated Lady S -, who, though (for adultery) separated from her husband, retained the exclusive custody of her offspring. While in this employment, my informant resided chiefly at Clifton, sometimes in Bath, and sometimes on her ladyship's family property in Derbyshire. While here, he took deacon's orders, and became a popular preacher. In whatever virtues he might be deficient, his charities, at least, were unbounded. This profusion ill suited a limited income, and a forgery was the first step to suspension, disgrace, and poverty. In 1832 he married; the union was not felicitous.
"About this date my informant relates, that under disguise and change of name he supplied the pulpits of several episcopal chapels in Scotland with that which was most acceptable to them. Unable to maintain a locus standi in connexion with the Protestant church, he made a virtue of necessity, and avowed himself a seceder. In this new disguise he travelled and lectured, proving to a demonstration (always pecuniary) that 'the Church of England was the hospital of Incurables.'
"Always in delicate health, he found continued journeys inconvenient. The oversight of a home missionary station, comprising five or six villages, was advertised; the card-seller was the successful candidate, and for several years performed Divine service four times every Sunday, and opened and taught gratuitously a school for the children of the poor. Here report says he was much beloved, and here he ought to have remained; but with that restlessness of spirit which is so marked a characteristic of the class to which he now belongs, he thought otherwise, and removed to a similar sphere of labour near Edinburgh. The town, containing a population of 14,000, was visited to a dreadful extent with the pestilence of cholera. The future street-seller (to his honour be it spoken) was the only one among eight or ten ministers who was not afraid of the contagion. He visited many hundreds of cases, and, it is credibly asserted, added medicine, food, and nursing to his spiritual consolations. The people of his charge here embraced the Irving heresy; and unable, as he says, to determine the sense of 'the unknown tongues,' he resigned his charge, and returned to London in 1837. After living some time upon his money, books, and clothes, till all was expended, he tried his hand at the 'begging-letter trade.' About this time, the card-seller declares that a man, also from Scotland, and of similar history and personal appearance, lodged with him at a house in the Mint, and stole his coat, and with it his official and other papers. This person had been either a city missionary or scripture-reader, having been dismissed for intemperance. The street card-seller states that he has 'suffered much persecution from the officers of the Mendicity Society, and in the opinion of the public, by the blending of his own history with that of the man who robbed him.' Be the truth as it may, or let his past faults have been ever so glaring, still it furnishes no present reason why he should be maltreated in the streets, where he is now striving for an honest living. Since the card-seller's return to London, he has been five times elected and re-elected to a temporary engagement in the Hebrew School, Goodman's-fields; so that, at the worst, his habits of life cannot be very outrageous."
The "pomps and vanities of this wicked world," have, according to his own account, had very little share in the experience of the short-hand parson. He states, and there is no reason for doubting him, that he never witnessed any sort of public amusement in his life; that he was a hard student when he was young, and now keeps no company, living much in retirement. He "attends the ministry," he says, "of the Rev. Robert Montgomery, -reads the daily lessons at home, and receives the communion twice every month at the early service in Westminster Abbey."
Of course these are matters that appear utterly inconsistent with his present mode of life. One well-known peculiarity of this extraordinary character is his almost idolatrous love of children, to whom, if he "makes a good Saturday night," he is very liberal on his way home. This is, perhaps, his "ruling passion" (an acquaintance of his, without knowing why I inquired, fully confirmed this account); and it displays itself sometimes in strong emotion, of which the following anecdote may be cited as an instance: - One of his favourite spots for stenographic demonstration is the corner of Playhouse-yard, close to the Times office. Directly opposite lives a tobacconist, who has a young family. One of his little girls used to stand and listen to him; to her he was so strongly attached, that when he heard of her death (he had missed her several weeks), he went home much affected, and did not return to the spot for many months. At the death of the notorious Dr. Dillon, the card-seller offered himself to the congregation as a successor; they, however, declined the overture.
OF THE SELLERS OF RACE CARDS AND LISTS.
This trade is not carried on in town; but at the
neighbouring races of Epsom and Ascot Heath, and, though less numerously, at
Goodwood, it is pursued by persons concerned in the street paper-trade of
At Epsom I may state that the race-card sale is in the hands of two classes (the paper or sheet-lists sale being carried on by the same parties) -viz. those who confine themselves to "working" the races, and those who only resort to such work occasionally. The firstmentioned sellers usually live in the country, and the second in town.
Between these two classes, there is rather a strong distinction. The country race-card sellers are not unfrequently "sporting characters." The town professor of the same calling feels little interest in the intrigues or great "events" of the turf. Of the country traders in this line some act also as touters, or touts; they are for the most part men, who having been in some capacity or other, connected with racing or with race-horses, and having fallen from their position or lost their employment, resort to the selling of race-cards as one means of a livelihood, and to touting, or watching race-horses, and reporting anything concerning them to those interested, as another means. These men, I am assured, usually "make a book" (a record and calculation of their bets) with grooms, or such gentlemen's servants, as will bet with them, and sometimes one with another.
The most notorious of the race-card selling fraternity is known as Captain Carrot. He is the successor, I am told, of Gentleman Jerry, who was killed some time back at Goodwood races -having been run over. Gentleman Jerry's attire, twenty-five to thirty-five years ago, was an exaggeration of what was then accounted a gentleman's style. He wore a light snuff-coloured coat, a "washing" waistcoat of any colour, cloth trowsers, usually the same colour as his coat, and a white, or yellow white, and ample cravat of many folds. His successor wears a military uniform, always with a scarlet coat, Hessian boots, an old umbrella, and a tin eye-glass. Upon the card-sellers, however, who confine their traffic to races, I need not dwell, but proceed to the metropolitan dealers, who are often patterers when in town.
It is common, for the smarter traders in these cards to be liberal of titles, especially to those whom they address on the race-ground. "This is the sort of style, sir," said one racecard-seller to me, "and it tells best with cockneys from their shops. 'Ah, my lord. I hope your lordship's well. I've backed your horse, my lord. He'll win, he'll win. Card, my lord, correct card, only 6d. I'll drink your lordship's health after the race.' Perhaps this here `my lord,' may be a barber, you see, sir, and never had so much as a donkey in his life, and he forks out a bob; but before he can get his change, there always is somebody or other to call for a man like me from a little distance, so I'm forced to run off and cry, `Coming, sir, coming. Coming, your honour, coming.' "
The mass of these sellers, however, content themselves with the customary cry: "Here's Dorling's Correct Card of the Races. -Names, weights, and colours of the Riders. -Length of Bridle, and Weight of Saddle."
One intelligent man computed that there were 500 men, women, and children, of all descriptions of street-callings, who on a "Derby day" left London for Epsom. Another considered that there could not be fewer than 600, at the very lowest calculation. Of these, I am informed, the female sellers may number something short of a twentieth part from London, while a twelfth of the whole number of regular street-sellers attending the races vend at the races cards. But card selling is often a cloak, for the females -and especially those connected with men who depend solely on the races -vend improper publications (usually at 6d.), making the sale of cards or lists a pretext for the more profitable traffic. If a man sell from ten to twelve dozen cards on the "Derby day," it is accounted "a good day;" and so is the sale of three-fourths of that quantity on the Oaks day. On the other, or "off" days, 2s. is an average earning.
The cards are all bought of Mr. Dorling, the printer, at 2s. 6d. a dozen. The price asked is always 6d. each. "But those fourpenny bits," said one card-seller, "is the ruination of every thing. And now that they say that the threepenny bits is coming in more, things will be wuss and wuss." The lists vary from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. the dozen, according to size. To clear 10s. and 8s. on the two great days is accounted "tidy doings," but that is earned only by those who devote themselves to the sale of the race-cards, which all the sellers do not. Some, for instance, are ballad-singers, who sell cards immediately before a race comes off, as at that time they could obtain no auditory for their melodies. Ascot-heath races, I am told, are rather better for the card seller than Epsom, as "there's more of the nobs there," and fewer of the London vendors of cards. The sale of the "lists" is less than one-eighth that of the sale of cards. They are chiefly "return lists," (lists with a specification of the winning horses, &c., "returned" as they acquitted themselves in each race), and are sold in the evening, or immediately after the conclusion of the "sport," for the purpose of being posted or kept.
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF GELATINE, OF ENGRAVED, AND OF PLAYING CARDS, &c.
There are yet other cards, the sale of which is carried on
in the streets; of these, the principal traffic has lately been in "gelatines"
(gelatine cards). Those in the greatest demand contain representations of the
Crystal Palace, the outlines of the structure being given in gold delineation on
the deep purple, or mulberry, of the smooth and shining gelatine. These cards
are sold in blank envelopes, for the convenience of posting them as a present to
a country friend; or of keeping them unsoiled, if they are retained as a memento
of a visit to so memorable a building. The principal sale was on Sunday
mornings, in Hyde Park, and to the visitors who employed that day to enjoy the
sight of the "palace." But on the second Sunday in February -as well
as my informant could recollect, for almost all street-traders will tell you, if
not in the same words as one patterer used, that their recollections are
"not worth an old button without a neck" -the police "put
down" the sale of these Exhibition cards in the Park, as well as that of
cakes, tarts, gingerbread, and such like dainties. This was a bitter
disappointment to a host of street-sellers, who looked forward very sanguinely
to the profits they might realise when the Great Exhibition was in full
operation, and augured ill to their prospects from this interference. I am
inclined to think, that, on this occasion, the feelings of animosity entertained
by the card-sellers towards the police and the authorities were even bitterer
than I have described as affecting the costermongers. "Why," said one
man, "when I couldn't be let
sell my cards, I thrust my hands into my empty pockets, and went among the crowd
near the Great Exhibition place to look about me. There was plenty of ladies and
gentlemen -say about 12 o'clock at Sunday noon, and as many as could be. Plenty
of 'em had nice paper bags of biscuits, or cakes, that, of course, they'd bought
that morning at a pastrycook's, and they handed 'em to their party. Some had
newspapers they was reading -about the Exhibition, I dare say -papers which was
bought, and, perhaps, was printed that very blessed morning; but for us to offer
to earn a crust then -oh, it's agen the law. In course it is."
Some of the gelatine cards contain pieces of poetry, in letters of gold, always -at least, I could hear of no exceptions -of a religious or sentimental character. "A Hymn," "The Child's Prayer," "The Christian's Hope," "To Eliza," "To a Daisy," "Forget-me-not," and "Affection's Tribute," were among the titles. Some contained love-verses, and might be used for valentines, and some a sentimental song.
In the open-air sale, nearly all the traffic was in "Exhibition gelatines," and the great bulk were sold in and near Hyde Park. For two or three months, from as soon as the glass palace had been sufficiently elevated to command public attention, there were daily, I am told, 20 persons selling those cards in the Park and its vicinity, and more than twice that number on Sundays. One man told me, that, on one fine bright Sunday, the sale being principally in the morning, he had sold 10 dozen, with a profit of about 5s. On week-days three dozen was a good sale; but on wet, cold, or foggy days, none at all could be disposed of. If, therefore, we take as an average the sale of two dozen daily per each individual, and three dozen on a Sunday, we find that 180l. was expended on streetsold "gelatines." The price to the retailer is 5d. a dozen, with 1d. or 1¼d. for a dozen of the larger-sized envelopes, so leaving the usual profit -cent. per cent. The sellers were not a distinct class, but in the hands of the less enterprising of the paper-workers or patterers. The "poetry gelatines" were hardly offered at all in the streets, except by a few women and children, with whom it was a pretext for begging.
Of "engraved" Exhibition-cards, sold under similar circumstances, there might be one third as many sold as of the gelatines, or an expenditure of 60l.
The sale of playing-cards is only for a brief interval. It is most brisk for a couple of weeks before Christmas, and is hardly ever attempted in any season but the winter. The price varies from 1d. to 6d., but very rarely 6d.; and seldom more than 3d. the pack. The sellers for the most part announce their wares as "New cards. New playing-cards. Two-pence a pack." This subjects the sellers (the cards being unstamped) to a penalty of 10l., a matter of which the street-traders know and care nothing; but there is no penalty on the sale of second-hand cards. The best of the cards are generally sold by the street-sellers to the landlords of the public-houses and beer-shops where the customers are fond of a "hand at cribbage," a "cut-in at whist," or a "game at all fours," or "all fives." A man whose business led him to public-houses told me that for some years he had not observed any other games to be played there, but he had heard an old tailor say that in his youth, fifty years ago, "put" was a common public-house game. The cheaper cards are frequently imperfect packs. If there be the full number of fiftytwo, some perhaps are duplicates, and others are consequently wanting. If there be an ace of spades, it is unaccompanied by those flourishes which in the duly stamped cards set off the announcement, "Duty, One Shilling;" and sometimes a blank card supplies its place. The smaller shop-keepers usually prefer to sell playing-cards with a piece cut off each corner, so as to give them the character of being second-hand; but the street-sellers prefer vending them without this precaution. The cards - which are made up from the waste and spoiled cards of the makers -are bought chiefly, by the retailers, at the "swag shops."
Playing cards are more frequently sold with other articles -such as almanacks - than otherwise. From the information I obtained, it appears that if twenty dozen packs of cards are sold daily for fourteen days, it is about the quantity, but rather within it. The calculation was formed on the supposition that there might be twenty street playing-card sellers, each disposing (allowing for the hinderances of bad weather, &c.), of one dozen packs daily. Taking the average price at 3d. a pack, we find an outlay of 42l. The sale used to be far more considerable and at higher prices, and was "often a good spec. on a country round."
There is still another description of cards sold in the streets of London; viz., conversation cards; but the quantity disposed of is so trifling as to require no special comment.
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF STATIONERY.
Of this body of street-traders there are two descriptions,
the itinerant and the "pitching." There are some also who unite the
two qualities, so far as that they move a short distance, perhaps 200 yards,
along a thoroughfare, but preserve the same locality.
Of the itinerant again, there are some who, on an evening, and more especially a Saturday evening, take a stand in a street-market, and pursue their regular "rounds" the other portions of the day.
The itinerant trader carries a tray, and in no few cases, as respects the "display" of his wares, emulates the tradesman's zeal in " dressing" a window temptingly. The tray most in use is painted, or mahogany, with "ledges," front and sides; or, as one man described it, "an upright four-inch bordering, to keep things in their places." The back of the tray, which rests against the bearer's breast, is about twelve inches high. Narrow pink tapes are generally attached to the "ledges" and back, within which are "slipped" the articles for sale. At the bottom of the tray are often divisions, in which are deposited steel pens, wafers, wax, pencils, pen-holders, and, as one stationer expressed it, "packable things that you can't get much show out of." One man - who rather plumed himself on being a thorough master of his trade -said to me: "It's a grand point to display, sir. Now, just take it in this way. Suppose you yourself, sir, lived in my round. Werry good. You hear me cry as I'm a approaching your door, and suppose you was a customer, you says to yourself: `Here's Penny-a-quire,' as I'm called oft enough. And I'll soon be with you, and I gives a extra emphasis at a customer's door. Werry good, you buys the note. As you buys the note, you gives a look over my tray, and then you says, `O, I want some steel pens, and is your ink good?' and you buys some. But for the 'display,' you'd have sent to the shopkeeper's, and I should have lost custom, 'cause it wouldn't have struck you."* ( * I may here observe that I have rarely heard tradesmen dealing in the same wares as street-sellers, described by those street-sellers by any other term than that of "shopkeepers.")
The articles more regularly sold by the street-sellers of stationery are note-paper, letterpaper, envelopes, steel pens, pen-holders, sealing-wax, wafers, black-lead pencils, ink in stone bottles, memorandum-books, almanacks, and valentines. Occasionally, they sell India-rubber, slate-pencil, slates, copy-books, storybooks, and arithmetical tables.
The stationery is purchased, for the most part, in Budge-row and Drury-lane. The half-quires (sold at 1d.) contain, generally, 10 sheets; if the paper, however, be of superior quality, only 8 sheets. In the paper-warehouses it is known as "outsides," with no more than 10 sheets to the half quire, the price varying from 4s. to 6s. the ream (20 quires); or, if bought by weight, from 7d. to 9d. the pound. The envelopes are sold (wholesale) at from 6d. to 15d. the dozen; the higher-priced being adhesive, and with impressions -now, generally, the Crystal Palace -on the place of the seal. The commoner are retailed in the streets at 12, and the better at 6, a penny. Sometimes "a job-lot," soiled, is picked up by the street-stationer at 4d. a pound. The sealing, a pound, retailed at ½d. each; the "flat" wax, however, is 1s. 4d. per lb., containing from 30 to 36 sticks, retailed at 1d. each. Wafers (at the same swag shops) are 3d. or 4d. the lb. -in small boxes, 9d. the gross; ink, 4½d. or 5d. the dozen bottles; pencils, 7d. to 8s. a gross; and steel pens from 4d. (waste) to 3s. a gross; but the street-stationers do not go beyond 2s. the gross, which is for magnum bonums.
OF THE EXPERIENCE OF A STREET STATIONER.
A middle-aged man gave me the following
account. He had pursued the trade for upwards of twelve years. He was a stout,
cosey-looking man, wearing a loose great coat. The back of his tray rested
against his double-breasted waistcoat; the pattern of which had become rather
indistinct, but which was buttoned tightly up to his chin, as if to atone for
the looseness of his coat. The corner of his mouth, toward his left ear, was
slightly drawn down, for he seemed in "crying" to pitch his voice (so
that it could be heard a street off) out of the corner of his only
"Middlin', sir," he said, "times is middlin' with me; they might be better, but then they might be worse. I can manage to live. The times is changed since I was first in the business. There wasn't no 'velops (envelopes) then, and no note-paper -least I had none; but I made as good or a better living than I do now; a better indeed. When the penny-postage came in -I don't mind the year, but I hadn't been long in the trade [it was in 1840] -I cried some of the postage 'velops. They was big, figured things at first, with elephants and such like on them, and I called them at prime cost, if anything was bought with 'em. The very first time, a p'liceman says, `You mustn't sell them covers. What authority have you to do it?' `Why, the authority to earn a dinner,' says I; but it was no go. Another peeler came up and said I wasn't to cry them again, or he'd have me up; and so that spec. came to nothing. I sell to ladies and gentlemen, and to servant-maids, and mechanics, and their wives; and indeed all sorts of people. Some fine ladies, that call me to the door on the sly, do behave very shabby. Why, there was one who wanted five half-quire of note for 4d., and I told her I couldn't afford it, and so she said `that she knew the world, and never gave nobody the price they first asked.' `If that's it, ma'am,' says I, `people that knows your plan can 'commodate you.' That knowing card of a lady, sir, as she reckons herself, had as much velvet to her body -such a gown! - as would pay my tailor's bills for twenty year. But I don't employ a fashionable tailor, and can patch a bit myself, as I was two years with a saddler, and was set to work to make girths and horse-clothes. My master died, and all went wrong, and I had to turn out, without nobody to help me, -for I had no parents living; but I was a strong young fellow of sixteen. I first tried to sell a few pairs of girths, and a roller or two, to livery-stable keepers, and horsedealers, and job-masters. But I was next to starving. They wouldn't look at anything but what was good, and the stuff was too high, and the profit too little -for I couldn't get regular prices, in course -and so I dropped it. There's no men in the world so particular about good things as them as is about vallyable horses. I've often thought if rich people cared half as much about poor men's togs, that was working or them for next to nothing, as they cared for their horse-clothes, it would be a better world. I was dead beat at last; but I went down to Epsom and sold a few race-cards. I'd borrowed 1s. of a groom to start with, and he wouldn't take it back when I offered it; and that wax is bought at general warehouses, known as "swag shops" (of which I may speak hereafter), at 8d. the pound, there being 48 round sticks in, was my beginning in the paper trade. I felt queer at first, and queerer when I wasn't among horses, as at the races like -but one get's reconciled to anything, 'cept, to a man like me, a low lodging-house. A stable's a palace to it. I got into stationery at last, and it's respectable.
"I've heard people say how well they could read and write, and it was no good to them. It has been, and is still, a few pence to me; though I can only read and write middlin'. I write notes and letters for some as buys paper of me. Never anything in the beggin' way - never. It wouldn't do to have my name mixed up that way. I've often got extra pennies for directing and doing up valentines in nice 'velops. Why, I spoke to a servant girl the other day; she was at the door, and says I, `Any nice paper to-day, to answer your young man's last love-letter, or to write home and ask your mother's consent to your being wed next Monday week?' That's the way to get them to listen, sir. Well, I finds that she can't write, and so I offers to do it for a pint of beer, and she to pay for paper of course. And then there was so many orders what to say. Her love to no end of aunts, and all sorts of messages and inquiries about all sorts of things; and when I'd heard enough to fill a long 'letter' sheet, she calls me back and says, 'I'm afraid I've forgot uncle Thomas.' I makes it all short enough in the letter, sir. `My kind love to all inquiring friends,' takes in all uncle Thomases. I writes them when I gets a bite of dinner. Sometimes I posts them, if I'm paid beforehand; at other times I leaves them next time I pass the door. There's no mystery made about it. If a missus says, `What's that?' I've heard a girl answer, 'It's a letter I've got written home, ma'am. I haven't time myself,' or 'I'm no scholar, ma'am.' But that's only where I'm known. I don't write one a week the year round -perhaps forty in a year. I charge 1d. or 2d., or if it's a very poor body, and no gammon about it, nothing. Well, then, I think I never wrote a love-letter. Women does that one for another, I think, when the young housemaid can't write as well as she can talk. I jokes some as I knows, and says I writes all sorts of letters but love-letters, and for them, you see, says I, there's wanted the best gilt edge, and a fancy 'velop, and a Dictionary. I take more for note and 'velops than anything else, but far the most for note. Some has a sheet folded and fitted into a 'velop when they buys, as they can't fit it so well theirselves, they say. Perhaps I make 2s. a day, take it all round. Some days I may make as much as 3s. 6d.; at others, 'specially wet days, not 1s. But I call mine a tidy round, and better than an average. I've only myself, and pays 1s. 9d. a week for a tidy room, with a few of my own sticks in it. I buy sometimes in Budge-row, and sometimes in Drury-lane. Very seldom at a swag-shop ( Birmingham house), for I don't like them.
"Well, now, I've heard, sir, that poor men like me ain't to be allowed to sell anything in the Park at the Great Exhibition. How's that, sir?" I told him I could give no information on the subject.
"It's likely enough to be true," he resumed; "the nobs 'll want to keep it all to theirselves. I read Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper on a Sunday, and what murders and robberies there is now! What will there be when the Great Exhibition opens! for rogues is worst in a crowd, and they say they'll be plenty come to London from all arts and parts? Never mind; if I can see anything better to do in a fair way at the Exhibition, I'll cut the streets.
"Perhaps my earnings is half from working people and half from private houses; that's about it. But working people's easiest satisfied."
I have given this man's statement more fully than I should have thought necessary, that I might include his account of letter-writing. The letter-writer was at one period a regular street-labourer in London, as he is now in some continental cities -Naples, for instance. The vocation in London seems in some respects to have fallen into the hands of the street-stationer, but the majority of letters written for the uneducated -and their letter-receiving or answering is seldom arduous -is done, I believe, by those who are rather vaguely but emphatically described as - "friends."
I am told that there are 120 street-stationers in London, a small majority of whom may be itinerant, but chiefly on regular rounds. On a Sunday morning, in such places as the Brill, are two or three men, but not regularly, who sell stationery only on Sunday mornings. Taking the number, however, at 120, I am assured that their average profits may be taken at 8s. weekly, each stationer. On note-paper of the best sort the profit is sometimes only 50 per cent.; but, take the trade altogether, we may calculate it at cent. per cent. (on some things it is higher); and we find 4,992l. yearly expended in street-stationery.
OF A "REDUCED" GENTLEWOMAN, AND A "REDUCED " TRADESMAN, AS STREET-SELLERS OF STATIONERY.
I now give two statements, which show the correctness of my conclusion, that among the streetstationers were persons of education who had known prosperity, and that, as a body, those engaged in this traffic were a better class than the mass of the "paper-workers." They are also here cited as illustrations of the causes which lead, or rather force, many to a street-life.
The first statement is that of a lady: -
"My father," she said, "was an officer in the army, and related to the Pitt family. After his death, I supported myself by teaching music. I was considered very talented by my profession, both as teacher and composer." (I may here interrupt the course of the narrative by saying, that I myself have had printed proofs of the lady's talents in this branch of art.) "A few years ago, a painful and protracted illness totally incapacitated me from following my profession; consequently, I became reduced to a state of great destitution. For many weeks I remained ill in my own room. I often, during that time, went without nourishment the day through. I might have gone into an hospital; but I seemed to dread it so much, that it was not until I was obliged to give up my room that I could make up my mind to enter one. From that time, until within a few weeks ago, I have been an inmate of several hospitals: the last I was in was the Convalescent Establishment at Carshalton. On my coming to London, I found I had to begin the world again, as it were, in a very different manner from what I have been accustomed to. I had no head to teach -I felt that; and what to do I hardly knew. I had no home to go to, and not a halfpenny in the world. I had heard of the House of Charity, in Soho-square, and, as a last resource, I went there; but before I could have courage to ask admittance, I got a woman to go in and see what kind of a place it was -I seemed to fear it so much. I met with great kindness there, however; and, by the time I left, the care they had bestowed upon me had restored my health in a measure, but not my head. The doctors advised me to get some outdoor occupation (I am always better in the open air); but what to do I could not tell. At last I thought of a man I had known, who made fancy envelopes. I went to him, and asked him to allow me to go round to a few houses with some of them for a small per centage. This he did, and I am thereby enabled, by going along the streets and calling to offer my envelopes at any likely house, just to live. None but those who have suffered misfortunes (as I have done) can tell what my feelings were on first going to a house. I could not go where I was known; I had not the courage, nor would my pride allow me. My pupils had been very kind to me during my illnesses, but I could not bear the idea of going to them and offering articles for sale.
"My fear of strangers is so great, that I tremble when I knock at a door -lest I should meet with an angry word. How few have any idea of the privations and suffering that have been endured before a woman (brought up as I have been) can make up her mind to do as I am obliged to do! I am now endeavouring to raise a little money to take a room, and carry on the envelop business myself. I might do pretty well, I think; and, should my head get better, in time I might get pupils again. At present I could not teach, the distressed state of my mind would not allow me."
The tradesman's statement he forwarded to me in writing, supplying me with every facility to test the full accuracy of his assertions, which it is right I should add I have done, and found all as he has stated. I give the narrative in the writer's words (and his narrative will be found at once diffuse and minute), as a faithful representation of a "reduced" tradesman's struggles, thoughts, and endurances, before being forced into the streets.
"I was brought up," he writes, "as a linendraper. After filling every situation as an assistant, both in the wholesale and retail trade, I was for a considerable time in business. Endeavouring to save another from ruin, I advanced what little money I had at my banker's, and became security for more, as I thought I saw my way clear. But a bond of judgment was hanging over the concern (kept back from me of course) and the result was, I lost my money to the amount of some hundreds, of which I have not recovered one pound. Since that time I have endeavoured to gain a livelihood as a town traveller. In 1845 I became very much afflicted, and the affliction continued the greater part of the following year. At one time I had fifteen wounds on my body, and lost the use of one side. I was reduced by bodily disease, as well as in circumstances. My wife went to reside among her friends, and I, after my being an out-patient of Bartholomew's Hospital went, through necessity, to Clerkenwell Workhouse. When recovered, I made another effort to do something among my own trade, and thought, after about two years struggle, I should recover in a measure my position. In August, 1849, I sent for a few shillings-worth of light articles from London (being then at Dunstable). I received them, and sold one small part; I went the following day to the next village nearer London. There I had a violent attack of cholera; which once more defeated my plans, leaving me in a weak condition. I was obliged to seek the refuge of my parish, and consider that very harshly was I treated there. They refused me admittance, and suffered me to walk the street two days and two nights. I had no use of my arm, was ill and disabled. About half-past seven on the third night, a gentleman, hearing of my sufferings, knocked at the door of the Union, took me inside, and dared them to turn me thence. This was in October, 1849. I lay on my bed there for seven weeks nearly, and a few days before Christmas-day the parish authorities brought me before the Board, and turned me out, with one shilling and a loaf; one of the overseers telling me to go to h -ll and lodge anywhere. I came to lodge at the Model Lodging-house, King-street, Drury-lane; but being winter-time they were full. Although I remained there in the day-time, I was obliged to sleep at another house. At this domicile I saw how many ways there were of getting what the very poor call a living, and various suggestions were offered. I was promised a gift of 2s. 6d. by an individual, on a certain day, -but I had to live till that day, and many were the feelings of my mind, how to dispose of what might remain when I received the 2s. 6d., as I was getting a little into debt. My debt, when paid, left me but 9½d. out of the 2s. 6d. to trade with. I had never hawked an article before that time; to stand the streets was terrible to my mind, and how to invest this small sum sadly perplexed me. My mind was racked by painful anxiety; one moment almost desponding, the next finding so much sterling value in a shilling, that I saw in it the means of rescuing me from my degradation. Wanting many of the necessaries of life, but without suitable attire for my own business, and still weak from illness, I made up my mind. On the afternoon of 2nd Jan., 1850, I purchased 1½ doz. memorandum-books, of a stationer in Clerkenwell, telling him my capital. I obtained the name of 'Ninepence-halfpenny Man' (the amount of my funds) at that shop. The next step was how to dispose of my books. I thought I would go round to some coffee and public-houses, as I could not endure the streets. I went into one, where I was formerly known, and sold 6d.-worth, and meeting a person who was once in my own line, at another house, I sold 4d.-worth more. The first night, therefore, I got over well. The next day I did a little, but not so well, and I found out that what I had bought was not the most ready sale. My returns that week were only 6s. 2d. I found I must have something different, -one thing would not do alone; so I bought a few childrens' books and almanacks - sometimes going to market with as little as seven farthings. I could not rise to anything better in the way of provisions during this time than dry toast and coffee, as the rent must be looked to. I struggled on, hoping against hope. At one period I had a cold and lost my voice. Two or three wet days in a week made me a bankrupt. If I denied myself food, to increase my stock, and went out for a day or two to some near town, I found that with small stock and small returns I could not stem the tide.
"I always avoided associating with any but those a step higher in the grades of society -a circumstance that caused me not to know as much of the market for my cheap articles as I might have done. I am perhaps looked on as rather an `aristocrat,' as I am not often seen by the streetsellers at a stand. My difficulties have been of no ordinary kind; with a desire for more domestic comfort on one hand, and painful reflections from want of means on the other, I have had to call to my aid all the philosophy I possess, to keep up a proper equilibrium, lest I should be tempted to anything derogatory or dishonest. I am desirous of a rescue at the only time likely for it to take place with advantage, as I am persuaded when persons continue long in a course that endangers their principles and self-respect, a rescue becomes hopeless. Should I have one small start with health, the privations I have undergone show not what comforts I have had, or may hope ever to have, but what I can absolutely do without.
"I found the first six months not quite so good as the latter; March and May being the worst. The entire amount taken from January 2nd to December 31st, 1850; was 28l. 10s. 6d., - an average of about 11s. 4d. a week; say for cost of goods, 6s. per week; and rent, 1s. 9d.; leaving me but 3s. 7d. clear for living. This statement, sir, is strictly correct, as I do not get cent. per cent. on all the articles; and yet with so small a return I am not behind one single crown at the present time.
"On New Year's-day last, I had but the cost price of stock, 5d. Up to the evening of February 10th, I have taken 2l. 19s. 8d.; - having paid for goods, 1l. 10s. 5d.; and for rent, 8s. 10d.: leaving me 1l. 5d. to exist on during nearly six weeks. These facts and figures show that without a little assistance it is impossible to rise; and remember this circumstance -I have had to walk on some occasions as much as twenty or twenty-two miles in a day. If those whom Providence has blessed with a little more than their daily wants would only enter into the conflicts of the really reduced person, they would not be half so niggardly in spending a few coppers for useful articles, at least, nor overbearing in their requirements as to bulk, when purchasing of the itinerant vendor. Did they but reflect that they themselves might be in the same condition, or some of their families, I am sure they would not act as they do; for I would venture to say that the common street beggar does not get more rebuffs or insults than the educated and unfortunate reduced tradesmen in the streets. The past year has been one of the most trying and painful, yet I hope instructive, periods of my existence, and one of which I trust I never shall see the like again."
I subjoin one of the testimonies that have been furnished me, as to this man's character, and which I thought it right to procure before giving publicity to the above statement. It is from a minister of the gospel -the street-seller's father-in-law.
-I received a letter, last Tuesday, from Mr. Knight,
intimating that he was requested by you to inquire into the character of Mr. J
"It is quite correct, as he states, that his wife is my daughter. They lived together several years in London; but eventually, notwithstanding her efforts in the millinery and straw-work, they became so reduced that their circumstances obliged my daughter to take her two little girls with herself to us.
"This was in the summer, 1845. His wife and children have been of no expense to Mr. N. since that time. The sole cause of their separation was poverty.
"I consider him to have acted imprudently in giving up his situation to depend on an income arising from a small capital; whereas, if he had kept in a place, whilst she attended to her own business, they might have gone on comfortably; and should they, through the interposition of a kind Providence, gain that position again, it is to be hoped that they will improve the circumstance to the honour and glory of the Author of all our mercies, and with gratitude to the instrument who may be raised up for their good.
"I am, dear Sir, respectfully yours, "J. D."
Other vouchers have been received, and all equally satisfactory.
OF THE STREET-SALE OF MEMORANDUM-BOOKS AND ALMANACKS.
The memorandum-books in demand in street sale are used for weekly "rent-books." The payment of the rent
is entered by the landlord, and the production of one of these books, showing a
punctuality of payment, perhaps for years, is one of the best
"references" that can be given by any one in search of a new lodging.
They are bought also for the entrance of orders, and then of prices, in the
trade at chandler's shops, &c., where weekly or monthly accounts are run.
All, or nearly all, the street-stationers sell memorandum-books, and in addition
to them, there may be, I am told, sometimes as many as fifty poor persons,
including women and children, who sell memorandum-books with other trifling
articles, not necessarily stationery, but such things as stay-laces or tapes. If
a man sell memorandum-books alone it is because his means limit him to that
stock, he being at the time, what I heard a patterer describe as, a
"dry-bread cove." The price is 6d. the dozen, or 9d.
(with almanacks pasted inside the cover), and thirteen to the dozen. No more
than 1d. is obtained in the streets for any kind of memorandum-books.
The almanack street trade, I heard on all hands, had become a mere nothing. "What else can you expect, sir," said one street-seller, "when so many publicans sends almanacks round, or gives them away to their customers; and when the slop tailors' shilling-a-day men thrust one into people's hands at every corner? It was a capital trade once, before the duty was taken off -capital! The duty wasn't in our way so much as in the shop-keepers', though they did a good deal on the sly in unstamped almanacks. Why of a night in October I've many a time cleared 5s. and more by selling in the public-houses almanacks at 2d. and 3d. a-piece (they cost me 1s. and 1s. 2d. a dozen at that time). Anything that way, when Government's done, has a ready sale; people enjoys it; and I suppose no man, as ever was, thinks it much harm to do a tax-gatherer! I don't pay the income-tax myself (laughing). One evening I sold, just by Blackfriars-bridge, fourteen dozen of diamond almanacks to fit into hatcrowns. I was liable, in course, and ran a risk. I sold them mostly at 1d. a piece, but sometimes got 6d. for three. I cleared between 6s. and 7s. The `diamonds' cost me 8d. a dozen."
The street almanack trade is now carried on by the same parties as I have specified in my account of memorandum-books. Those sold are of any cheap kind, costing wholesale 6d. a dozen, but they are almost always announced as "Moore's."
OF THE STREET-SALE OF POCKET-BOOKS AND DIARIES.
The sale of pocket-books, in the
streets, is not, I was told by several persons, "a living for a man
now-a-days." Ten years ago it was common to find men in the streets
offering " halfcrown pocket-books" for 1s., and holding them
open so as to display the engravings, if there were any. The street-sale usually
takes place in March, when the demand for the regular trade has ceased, and the
publishers dispose of their unsold stock. The trade is now, I am assured, only
about a tenth of its former extent. The reason assigned for the decline is that
almanacks, diaries, &c., are so cheap that people look upon 1s. as an
enormous price, even for a "beautiful morocco-bound pocket-book," as
the street-seller proclaims it. The binding is roan (a dressed sheep-skin,
morocco being a goatskin), an imitation of morocco, but the pocketbooks are
really those which in the October preceding have been published in the regular
way of trade. Some few of them may, however, have been damaged, and these are
bought by the street-people as a "job lot," and at a lower price than
that paid in the regular way; which is 4s. 6d. to 5s. 6d.
the dozen, thirteen to the dozen. The "job lot" is sometimes bought
for 2s. 6d. a dozen, and sold at 6d. each, or as low as 4d.,
-for street-sellers generally bewail their having often to come down to "fourpenny-bits,
as they're going so much now." One man told me that he was four days last
March in selling a dozen pocket-books, though the weather was not unfavourable,
and that his profit was 5s. Engravings of the "fashions," the
same man told me, were "no go now." Even poorlydressed women (but they
might, he thought, be dress-makers) had said to him the last time he displayed a
pocket-book with fashions -"They're out now." The principal supplier
of pocketbooks, &c., to the street-trade is in Bride-lane, Fleet-street.
Commercial diaries are bought and sold at the same rate as pocket-books; but the
sale becomes smaller and smaller.
I am informed that "last season" there were twenty men, all street-traders in "paper," or "anything that was up," at other times, selling pocket-books and diaries. For this trade Leicester-square is a favourite place. Calculating, from the best data I can command, that each of those men took 15s. weekly for a month (half of it their profit), we find 60l. expended in the streets in this purchase. Ledgers are sometimes sold in the streets; but as the sale is more a hawker's than a regular street-seller's, an account of the traffic is not required by my present subject.