[-128-] ONE P.M.-DOCK LONDON AND DINING LONDON.
This modest series of papers brought me, at the time of their composition, into great trouble, which was very nearly resulting in my
complete discomfiture. Perhaps the severest of my trials was having
to write the book at all, possessing, as is my misfortune, of course, a
constitutional disinclination for the avocation to which I have devoted
myself (as a gagne pain, or bread-winning mean). I didn't so much
mind the ladies and gentlemen, who, since the commencement of the
periodical in which these articles were originally published - ladies and
gentlemen personally quite unknown to me - who overwhelmed me with
correspondence; some denouncing, others upbraiding, many ridiculing,
and a few - a very few - eulogising yours to command. I didn't so
much object to the attentions of those professional begging-letter
writers, who are good enough to include authors in their list of possible
contributaries, and who were profuse lately in passionate appeals (in
bold, clerkly hands) for pecuniary assistance; for though, like Bardolph,
I have nothing, and cannot even coin my nose for guineas, or my blood
for drachmas, it is not the less flattering to a man's minor vanities to
receive a begging letter. I can imagine an old pauper out for a holiday,
coming home to the workhouse, quite elated at having been accosted in
the street by a mendicant, and asked for a halfpenny. I could bear
with equanimity - nay, could afford to smile at - the people who went
about saying things (who are the people who go about saying things, I
wonder!) who ingeniously circulated reports that I was dead; that I wrote these papers under a
pseudonym; that they were plagiarisms from
some others written twenty years ago; and that I never wrote them at
all. I disregarded such insinuations serenely; for who among us is exempt from such
bald chat The very stupidest have their Boswells - the very meanest have those to envy them, as well as the Great and
Learned! There are people at this very moment, who are going
about saying that Jones has pawned his plate, that the bailiffs are
in Thompson's country house, that Robinson has written himself
out, that Brown has run away with Jenkins's wife, that Muggins [-129-] has taken to brandy-and-water, that Simpkins murdered Eliza Grim
wood, that Larkins cut Thistlewood's head off; and that Podgers was
tried at the Old Bailey, in the year thirty-five, for an attempt to set
the Thames on fire. But I was infinitely harassed while the clock was
ticking periodically - the efforts I had to make to keep it from
running down altogether ! - by the great plague of "Suggesters'.
From the metropolitan and suburban postal districts, from all parts of
the United Kingdom - the United Kingdom, pshaw! from the Continent
generally, and from across the broad Atlantic (fortunately, the return
mail from Australia was not yet due) - suggestions poured in as thickly
as letters of congratulation on one who has just inherited a vast fortune.
If there had been five hundred in lieu of four-and-twenty hours in
"Twice Round the Clock,' the Great Suggestions I received had stomach
for them all. The Suggesters would take no denial I was bound
under terrific penalties to adopt, endorse, carry out, their hints,- else
would they play the dickens with me. I must have a sing-song meeting
for nine p.m. ; the committee of a burial club at ten ; the dissecting-room of an hospital at eleven; a postal receiving-house, a lawyer's
office, a rag, bones, and bottle shop, the tollgate of Waterloo Bridge,
and the interior of a Hammersmith bus, at some hour or other of the
day or night. The Suggestions were oral as well as written. Strange
men darted up on me from by-streets, caught at my button with
trembling fingers, told me in husky tones of their vast metropolitan
experience, and impressed on me the necessity of a graphic tableau of
Joe Perks, the sporting barber's, at one o'clock in the morning. Lowbrowed merchants popped from shady shell-fish shops, and, pointing to
huge lobsters, asked where they could send the crustaceous delicacies with
their compliments, and how excellent a thing it would be to give a view
of the aristocracy supping at Whelks's celebrated oyster and kippered
salmon warehouse after the play. And, finally, a shy acquaintance of
mine, with a face like an over-ripe Stilton cheese, and remotely connected
with the Corporation of London - he may be, for aught I know, a ticket-porter in Doctors' Commons, or a hanger-on to the water
favoured me with an occult inuendo that a word-picture of the Court of
Common Council will be the very thing for four p.m., fluttering before
my dazzled eyes a phantom ticket for the Guildhall banquet. In vain
I endeavoured to convince these respectable Suggesters, that the papers
in question were not commenced without a definite plan of action; that
such plan, sketched forth years since, duly weighed, adjusted, and [-130-] settled, after mature study and deliberation, not only so far as I am concerned, but by "parties" deeply learned in the mysteries of London
Life, and versed in the recondite secret of pleasing the public taste, had
at length been put into operation, and was no more capable of alteration
than were the laws of the Medes and Persians. But all to no purpose
did I make these representations. The Suggesters wouldn't be convinced; their letters continued to flow in. They found out my address
at last (they have lost it now, ha, ha !), and knocked my door down
bringing me peremptory letters of introduction from people I didn't
know, or didn't care five farthings about, or else introducing themselves
boldly, in the "Bottle Imp" manner, with an implied " You must learn
to love me ;" they nosed me in the lobby, and saw me dancing in the hall, and my only refuge at last was to go away. Yes; the pulsations
of time had to beat behind the dial of a clock in the rural districts; and
these lines were written among the hay and the ripening corn, laughing
a bitter laugh to think that the postman was toiling up the quiet street
in London with piles of additional suggestions, and that the Suggesters
themselves were waiting for me in my usual haunts, in the fond expectation of a button to hold, or an ear to gloze suggestions within.
I tried the sea-shore; but found London-super-Mare sweltering, stewing, broiling, frying, fizzing, panting, in the sun-like Marseilles, minus the evil odours-to such an extent, and so utterly destitute of shade, that I was compelled to leave it. The paint was blistering on the bright green doors; the shingly pavement seemed to cry out "Come and grill steaks on me!" the pitch oozed from the seams of the fishing-boats; the surf hissed as it came to kiss the pebbles on the beach; the dial on the pier-head blazed with concentric rays; the chains of the suspension bridge were red hot ; the camera obscura glared white in the sunshine; the turf on the Steyne was brown and parched, like a forgotten oasis in a desert ; the leaves on the trees in the pavilion gardens glittered and chinked in the summer breeze, like new bright guineas; the fly-horses hung their heads, their poor tongues protruding, their limbs flaccid, and their scanty tails almost powerless to flap away the swarms of flies, which alone were riotous and active of living creation, inebriating themselves with saccharine suction in the grocers' shops, and noisily buzzing their scanmag in private parlours; the flymen dozed on their boxes ; the pushers of invalid perambulators slumbered peacefully beneath the hoods of their own Bath chairs ; the ladies in the round hats found it too hot to promenade the cliff, and lolled instead [-131-] at verandahed windows, arrayed in the most ravishing of muslin morning wrappers, and conversed languidly with exquisites, whose moustaches were dank with moisture, and who had scarcely energy enough to yawn. The captivating amazons abandoned for the day their plumed hats, their coquettish gauntlets, their wash-leather sub-fusk garments with the straps and patent-leather boots, and deferred their cavalcades on the skittish mares till the cool of the evening; the showy dragoon officers confined themselves, of their own free will, to the mess-room of their barracks on the Lewes road, where they sipped sangaree, smoked fragrancias, read "Bell's Life," and made bets on every imaginable topic. The hair of the little Skye terriers no longer curled, but hung supine in wiry banks; the little children made piteous appeals to their parents and guardians to be permitted to run about without anything on; the two clerks at the branch bank, who are sleepy enough in the coldest weather, nodded at each other over the ledgers which had no entries in them. The only sound that disturbed the drowsy stillness of the streets was the popping of ginger-beer corks; and the very fleas in the lodging-houses lost all their agility and vivacity. No longer did they playfully leap-no longer archly gyrate ; they crawled and crept, like their low relatives the bugs, and were caught and crushed without affording the slightest opportunity for sport. It was mortally hot at London-super-Mare, and I left it. Then I tried that English paradise of the west, Clifton ; but woe is me! the Downs were so delightful ; the prospect so exquisitely lovely; the Avon winding hundreds of feet beneath me, like a silver skein, yet bearing big three-masted ships on its bosom; the rocks and underwood so full of matter for pleasant, lazy cogitation, that I felt the only exertion of which I was capable, to be writing sonnets on the Avon and its sedgy banks, or making lame attempts at pre-Raphaelite sketches in water-colours; or thinking about doing either, which amounts to pretty nearly the same thing. So I came away from Clifton too, and hung out my sign HERE. (It is THERE now: swallows have come and gone, snows have gathered and melted, babies prattle now who were unborn and unthought of then.) Ye shall not know where Here was situated, oh, ye incorrigible Suggesters. No more particular indices of its whereabouts will I give, even to the general public, than that close to my study was a dry skittle-ground, where every day - the hotter the better - I exercised myself with the wooden "cheese" against the seven and a-half pins which were all that the dry skittle-ground could furnish forth towards [-132-] the ordinary nine; that over-against this gymnastic course was an étable, a "shippon, as they call it in the north, where seven cows gravely ruminated; and that, at the end of a yard crowded with agricultural implements which old Pyne alone could draw, there was a Stye, from which, looking over its palings,
"All start, like boys who, unaware,
Ranging the woods to find a hare,
Come to the mouth of some dark lair:
Where, growling low, a fierce old hear
Lies amid bones and blood.
Not that any fierce or ancient member of the ursine tribe resided therein; but that it was the residence of a horrific-looking old sow, a dreadful creature, that farrowed unheard-of families of pigs, that lay on her broadside starboard the live-long day, winking her cruel eye, and grunting with a persistent sullenness. The chief swineherd proudly declared her to be "the viciousest beast as ever was," and hinted darkly that she had killed a Man. The chief swineherd and I were friends. He was my "putter-up" at skittles, and did me the honour to report among the neighbouring peasantry, that "barrin' the gent as cum here last autumn, and was off his head" (insane, I presume); I was "the very wust hand at knock-'em.downs he ever see." It is something to be popular in the rural districts; and yet I was not three miles distant from the Regent Circus.
My eyes are once again turned to the clock face. It is One o'Clock
in the Afternoon, and I must think of London. Come back, ye memories open Sesame, ye secret chambers of the brain, and let me transport myself away from the dry skittle-ground, the seven grave cows
and the vicious sow, to plunge once more into the toil and trouble of
the seething, eddying Mistress City of the world.
There are so many things going on at one o'clock in the day; the steam of life is by that time so thoroughly "up," that I am embarrassed somewhat to know which scenes would be the best to select from the plethora of tableaux I find among my stereoscopic slides. One o'clock is the great time for making business appointments. You meet your lawyer at one; you walk down to the office of the newspaper you may happen to write for, and settle the subject of your leading article, at one. One o'clock is a capital hour to step round to your stockbroker, [-133-] in Pope's Head Alley, Cornhill, and do a little business in stocks or shares. At one o'clock the Prime Minister, or his colleagues, have resignation enough to listen (with tolerable patience) to some half dozen deputations who come to harangue them about nothing in particular; at one o'clock obliging noblemen take the chair at public meetings at the Freemasons', or the London Tavern. At one o'clock- from one to two rather-the aristocracy indulge in the sumptuous meal known as "lunch. At one o'clock that vast, yet to thousands unknown and unrecked of city, which I may call Dock London, is in full activity after some twenty minutes' suspension while the workmen take their lunch.
The ingenious and persevering artist who constructed that grand model of Liverpool, which we all remember in the Exhibition of 1851, and which is now in the Derby Museum of the city of the Liver, did very wisely in making the Docks the most prominent feature in his model, and treating the thoroughfares of the town merely as secondary adjuncts. For the Docks are in reality Liverpool, even as the poet has said that love is of man's life a part, but woman's whole existence. Our interest in the Queen of the Mersey commences at Birkenhead, and ends at Bramley Moore Dock, on the other side. I say Bramley Moore Dock, because that was the last constructed when I was in Liverpool. Some dozens more may have been built since I was there. Docks are like jealousy, and grow continually by what they feed on. We can ill afford to surrender so noble a public building as St. George's Hall, so thronged and interesting a thoroughfare as Dale Street ; yet it must be confessed that the attention of the visitor to Liverpool is concentrated and absorbed by the unrivalled and magnificent docks. So he who visits Venice, ardent lover of art and architecture as he may be, gives on his first sojourn but a cursory glance at the churches and palaces; lie is fascinated and engrossed by the canals and the gondolas. So the stranger in Petersburg and Moscow has at first but scant attention to bestow on the superb monuments, the picturesque costumes; his Senses are riveted upon the golden domes of Tzaaks and the Kremlin. Liverpool is one huge dock; and from the landing-stage to West Derby island, everything is of the docks and docky. The only wonder seems to be that the ships do not sail up the streets, and discharge their cargoes at the doors of the merchants' counting-houses. But in London, in the suburbs, in the West-end, in the heart of the city ofttimes, what do we know or care about the docks? There are scores [-134-] of members of the Stock Exchange, I will be bound, who never entered the dock gates, and those few who have paid a visit to Dock London, may merely have gone there with a tasting-order for wine. When we consider that in certain aristocratic circles it is reckoned to be rather a breach of etiquette than otherwise to know anything about the manners and customs of the dwellers on the other side of Temple Bar, even as the by-gone snob-cynic of fashion and literature professed entire ignorance as to the locality of Russell Square, and wanted to know "where you changed horses" in a journey to Bloomsbury - unless, indeed, my Lord Duke or my Lady Marchioness happen to be a partner in a great brewing and banking firm, under which circumstances he or she may roll down in her chariot to the city to glance over the quarterly balance sheet of profit ; when we consider that this world of a town has cities upon cities within its bosom, that in the course of a long life may never be visited; when we think of Bermondsey, Bethnal Green, Somers Town, Clerkenwell, Hoxton, Hackney, Stepney, Bow, Rotherhithe, Horsleydown-places of which the great and titled may read every day in a newspaper, and ask, languidly, where they are,-we need no longer be surprised if the Docks are ignored by thousands, and if old men die every day who have never beheld their marvels.
Coming home from abroad often, with an intelligent foreigner, I persuade him to renounce the Calais route and the South-Eastern Railway, and even to abjure the expeditious run from Newhaven. I decoy him on board one of the General Steam Navigation vessels at Boulogne, and when his agonies of sea-sickness have, in the course of half a dozen hours or so, subsided - when we have passed Margate, Gravesend, Erith, Woolwich, Greenwich even - when I have got him past the Isle of Dogs, and we are bearing swiftly on our way towards the Pool - I clap my intelligent foreigner on the back, and cry, " Now look around (Eugene or Alphonse, as the case may be) ; now look around, and see the glory of England. Not in huge armies, bristling with bayonets, and followed by monstrous guns; not in granite forts, grinning from the waters like ghoules from graves; not in lines of circumvallation, miles and miles in extent; not in earthworks, counterscarps, bastions, ravelins, mamelons, casemates, and gunpowder magazines - shall be found our pride and our strength. Behold them, O intelligent person of foreign extraction! in yonder forest of masts, in the flags of every nation that fly from those tapering spars on the ships, in the great argosies of commerce that from every port in the [-135-] world have congregated to do honour to the monarch of marts, London, and pour out the riches of the universe at her proud feet. After this flourishing exordium-the sense of which you may have heard on a former occasion, for it forms part of my peroration on the grandeur of England, and, if my friends and acquaintances are to be believed, I bore them terribly with it sometimes-I enter into some rapid details concerning the tonnage and import dues of the port of London; and then permit the intelligent foreigner to dive down below again to his berth. Sometimes the foreign fellow turns out to be a cynic, and (leclares that he cannot see the forest of masts for the fog, if it be winter-for the smoke, if it be summer.
But the docks of London - by which, let me be perfectly understood, (I do not, by any means, intend to confine myself to the London Docks) I speak of Dock London in its entirety of the London and St. Katherine's, of the East and West India, and the Victoria Docks - what huge reservoirs are they of wealth, and energy, and industry! See those bonding warehouses, apoplectic with the produce of three worlds, congested with bales of tobacco and barrels of spices ; with serons of cochineal, and dusky, vapid-smelling chests of opium from Turkey or India; with casks of palm-oil, and packages of vile chemicals, ill-smelling oxides and alkalis, dug from the bowels of mountains thousands of miles away, and which, ere long, will be transformed into glowing pigments and exquisite perfumes; with shapeless masses of india rubber, looking inconceivable dirty and nasty, yet from which shall come delicate little cubes with which ladies shall eraze faulty pencil marks from their landscape copies after Rout and Harding-india rubber that shall be spread over our coats and moulded into shoes, yea, and drawn out in elastic ductility, to form little filaments in pink silk ligatures - I dare not mention their English appellation, but in Italian they are called "legaccie "-which shall encircle the bases of the femurs of the fairest creatures in creation; with bags of rice and pepper, with ingots of chocolate and nuggets and nibs of cocoa, and sacks of roasted chicory. The great hide warehouses, where are packed the skins of South American cattle, of which the horns, being left on the hides, distil anything but pleasant odours, and which lie, prone to each other, thirsting for the tan-pit. See the sugar warehouses, dripping, perspiring, crystallising with sugar in casks, and bags, and boxes.* (* Free-grown sugar in the first two: slave-grown sugar in boxes.) How many million cups of tea [-136-] will be sweetened with these cases when the sugar is refined! how many tomesful of gossiping scandal will be talked to the relish of those saccharine dainties ! what stores of barley-sugar temples and Chantilly baskets for the rich, of brandyballs and hardbake for the poor, will come from those coarse canvas bags, those stained and sticky casks! And the huge tea warehouses, where the other element of scandal, the flowery Pekoe or the family Souchong, slumbers in tinfoiled chests. And the coffee warehouses, redolent of bags of Mocha and Mountain, Texan and Barbadian berries. And the multitudinous, almost uncataloguable, mass of other produce shellac, sulphur, gumbenzoin, ardebs of beans and pulse from Egypt, yokes of copper from Asia Minor; sponge, gum-arabic, silk and muslin from Smyrna; flour from the United States; hides, hams, hemp, rags, and especially tallow in teeming casks, from Russia and the Baltic provinces mountains of timber from Canada and Sweden; fruit, Florence oil, tinder, raw cotton (though the vast majority of that staple goes to Liverpool), indigo, saffron, magnesia, leeches, basket-work, and wash- leather! The ships vomit these on the dock quays, and the warehouses swallow them up again like ogres. But there is in one dock, the London, an underground store, that is the Aaron's rod of dock warehouses, and devours all the rest. For there, in a vast succession of vaults, roofed with cobwebs many years old, are stored in pipes and hogsheads the wines that thirsty London - thirsty England, Ireland, and Scotland - must needs drink. What throats they have, these consumers! what oceans of good liquor their Garagantuan appetites demand! Strange stories have been told about these docks, and the thirsty souls who visit them with tasting-orders; how the brawny coopers stride about with candles in cleft sticks, and, piercing casks with gimlets, pour out the rich contents, upon the sawdust that covers the floor, like water ; how cases of champagne are treated as of as little account as though they were cases of small beer; how plates of cheese- crumbs are handed round to amateurs that they may chasten their palates and keep them in good tone of taste ; how the coopers are well nigh infallible in detecting who are the tasters that visit these "wine vaults" with a genuine intention of buying, and who the epicureans, whose only object in visiting the London Docks is to drink, gratuitously on the premises, as much good wine as they can conveniently carry. Strange, very strange stories, too, are told of the occasional inconvenience into which the "convenient carriage" degenerates; of respect-[-137-]
ONE O'CLOCK P.M. : DOCK-LABOURERS RETURNING TO WORK
[-138-]able fathers of families appearing in the open street, after they have
run the tether of the tasting-order, staggering and dishevelled, and
with bloodshot eyes, their cravats twisted round to the backs of their
necks like bagwigs, and incoherently declaring that cheese always
disagreed with them. I am candidly of opinion, however, that the
majority of these legends are apocryphal, or, in the rare cases when
they have a foundation in fact, belong to the history of the past, and
that commercial sobriety, in the highest order, is the rule in the wine
vaults of the London Docks.
But the Ships ! Who shall describe those white-sailed camels? who shall tell in graphic words of the fantastic interlacing of their masts and rigging, of the pitchy burliness of their bulging sides ; of the hives of human ants who in barges and lighters surround them, or swarm about their cargo-cumbered decks? Strange sight to see, these mariners from every quarter of the globe ; of every variety of stature and complexion, from the swarthy Malay to the almost albino Finn in every various phase of picturesque costume, from the Suliote of the fruitship, in his camise and capote, to the Yankee foremast-man in his red shirt, tarry trousers, and case-knife hung by a strand of lanyards to his girdle. But not alone of the maritime genus are the crowds who throng the docks. There are lightermen, stevedores, bargees, and lumpers; there are passengers flocking to their narrow berths on board emigrant ships ; there are entering and wharfingers' clerks traveling about in ambulatory counting-houses mounted on wheels; there are land rats and water rats, ay, and some that may be called pirates of the long-shore, and over whom it behoves the dock policemen and the dock watchmen to exercise a somewhat rigid supervision-for they will pick and steal, these piratical ne'er-do-weels, any trifle, unconsidered or not, that comes handy to their knavish digits; and as they emerge from the dock-gates, it is considered by no means a breach of etiquette for an official to satisfy himse1f~ by a personal inspection of their garments, that they don't happen to have concealed about them, of course by accident, such waifs and strays as a bottle of Jamaica rum, a lump of gutta percha, a roll of sheet copper, or a bundle of Havannah cigars.
But a clanging bell proclaims the hour of one, and the dock- labourers, from Tower Hill to the far-off Isle of Dogs, are summoned back to their toil. Goodness and their own deplenished pockets only know how they have been lunching, or on what coarse viands they have [-139-] fed since noon. Many have not fed at all; for, of the motley herd of dock-labourers, hundreds, especially in the London Docks-where no recommendation save strength is needed, and they are taken on their good behaviour from day to day-are of the Irish way of thinking; and, wonderfully economical, provident, self-denying are those much maligned Hibernians when they are earning money. They are only spendthrifts and indolent when they have nothing. They will content themselves with a fragment of hard, dry bread, and the bibulous solace of the nearest pump, and go home cheerfully at dusk to the unsavoury den - be it in Whitechapel or in Bloomsbury or in far-off Kensington, for they prefer strangely to live at the farthest possible distance from their place of daily toil - where their ragged little robins of children dwell like so many little pigs under a bed. And there they will partake of a mess of potatoes, with one solitary red herring smashed up therein, to "give it a relish." They will half starve themselves, and go as naked as the police will permit them to go ; but they will be very liberal to the priest, and will scrape money together to bring their aged and infirm parents over from the "ould country." That is folly and superstition, people will say. Of course, what people say must be right.
Some dock-labourers lunch on too much beer and too little bread; for they are held in thraldom by certain unrighteous publicans, who still pursue, with great contentment and delectation to themselves, but to the defrauding, ruin, and misery of their customers, the atrocious trade, now well nigh rooted from the manufacturing and mining districts, known as the "tommy-shop" system. I think I need scarcely explain what this system is, for, under its twin denomination of "truck," it has already formed a subject for Parliamentary inquiry. Let it suffice to say, that the chief feature in the amiable system consists in giving the labourer a fallacious amid delusive credit to the amount of his weekly wages, and supplying him with victuals and drink (chiefly the latter) at an enormous rate of profit. The labourer is paid by his foreman in tickets instead of cash, and invariably finds himself at the end of the week victimised, or, to use a more expressive, though not so genteel a term, diddled, to a heart-rending extent. Dock-labourers who are in regular gangs and regularly employed, are the greatest sufferers by this unjust mode of payment. As to the casual toilers who crowd about the gates at early morning in the hope of being engaged for a working day, they are paid half a crown, and are free to squander or to hoard the thirty pence as they list. That industrious and peaceable [-140-] body of men, the coalwhippers, groaned for a long period under the iniquities of the truck system; they are now protected by a special Act of Parliament, renewed from time to time; but the dock-labourers yet eat their bread leavened by a sense of injustice. There are none to help them; for they have no organisation, and very few friends. It is perfectly true that the dock-companies have nothing whatsoever to do with the social servitude under which their labourers groan; and that it is private speculators who work the system for their own aggrandisement; but the result to the labourer is the same. I don't think it matters to Quashie, the negro slave, when he is beaten, whether the cowhide be wielded by Mr. Simon Legree, the planter, or by Quimbo, the black driver.
Look at these labourers, and wonder. For it is matter for astonishment to know that among these meanly-clad, frequently ragged men, coarse, dirty, and repulsive in aspect, there are very many who have been tenderly bred and nurtured; who have been, save the mark, gentlemen! who have received University educations and borne the Queen's commission. And here also are the draff and husks of foreign immigration; Polish, German, and Italian exiles. They have come to this - down to this - up to this, if you choose ; come to the old, old level, as old as Gardener Adam's time, of earning the daily bread by the sweat of the brow. It were better so than to starve ; better so than to steal.
What time the dock-labourers have finished lunch, another very meritorious class of human ants begin their prandial repasts. With I just one thought at the vast number of merchants', brokers', shipping-agents', warehousemen's, wholesale dealers' counting-houses that exist in London city, you will be able to form an idea of the legions of clerks, - juniors and seniors, who, invariably early-breakfasting men, must get seriously hungry at one p.m. Some I know are too proud to dine at this patriarchal hour. They dine, after office hours, at Simpson's, at the Albion, at the London, or, save us, at the Wellington. They go even further west, and patronise Feetum's, or the Scotch Stores in Regent Street, merely skating out, as it were, for a few minutes at noon, for a snack at that Bay Tree to which I have already alluded. Many, and I they are the married clerks, bring neat parcels with them, containing sandwiches or bread-and-cheese, consuming those refreshments in the counting-house. In the very great houses, it is not considered etiquette to dine during office-hours, save on foreign-post nights. As to the extremely junior clerks, or office-boys, as they are irreverently termed,[-141-]
ONE O'CLOCK P.M. : DINING-ROOMS IN BUCKLESBURY
[-142-] they eat whatever they can get, and whenever they can get it, very frequently getting nothing at all. But there are yet hundreds upon hundreds of clerks who consume an orthodox dinner of meat, vegetables, and cheese - and on high days and holidays pudding-at one p.m. Their numbers are sufficient to cram almost to suffocation the eating-houses of Cheapside, the Poultry, Mark Lane, Cornhill, and especially Bucklersbury. Of late years there has been an attempt to change the eating-houses of Cheapside into pseudo "restaurants." Seductive announcements, brilliantly emblazoned, and showily framed and glazed, have been hung up, relating to "turtle" and "venison ;" salmon, with wide waddling mouths, have gasped in the windows; and insinuating mural inscriptions have hinted at the existence of "Private dining- rooms for ladies." Now, whatever can ladies - though I have the authority of Mr. Charles Dibdin and my own lips for declaring that there are fine ones in the city - want to come and dine in Cheapside for? At these restaurants they give you things with French names, charge you a stated sum for attendance, provide the pale ale in silver tankards, and take care of your hat and coat; but I like them not - neither, I believe, do my friends, the one-o'clock dining clerks. Either let me go to Birch's or the Anti-Gallican, or let me take my modest cut of roast and boiled, my "one o' taters," my " cheese and sallary," at an eating- house in Bucklersbury - such a one as my alter ego, Mr. M'Connell, has here presented for your edification. And his pictured morals must eke out my written apophthegms - for this sheet is full.
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]