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THE CONTRASTS OF LONDON.
It will, doubtlessly, hare been noticed that, in speaking of
London generally, it has been our wont here to use certain antithetical
phrases, such as " wealth and want," "charity and crime,"
"palaces and workhouses," &c. It must not, however, he supposed that we have
done this as a mere rhetorical flourish, for none can object to such piebald
painting more than we. The mind's eye must be dim, indeed, that requires things
to be put in the strong contrast of black and white before it can distinguish
their peculiarities; and as the educated organ of the artist gets to prefer the
sober browns and delicate neutral tints to the glare of positive colour, so long
literary culture teaches one to despise those mere verbal trickeries which are
termed "flowers of speech," and in which a showy arrangement of phrases is
used as a cloak for a beggarly array of ideas.
But London is essentially a city of antithesis - a city where life itself is painted in pure black and white, and where the very extremes of society are seen in greater force than anywhere else. This constitutes, as it were, the topographical essence of the Great Metropolis - the salient point of its character as a Capital - the distinctive mark which isolates it from all other towns and cities in the world; for though the middle class and the medium forms of civilized life prevail in the Metropolis to an unparalleled extent, this does not constitute its civic idiosyncracy; but it is simply the immensity of the commerce which springs from this same unparalleled prevalence of merchant people in London, and the consequent vastness of its wealth, as well as the unprecedented multitude of individuals attracted by such wealth to the spot, that forms the most prominent feature in every one's ideal picture of the town.
Then, again, it is owing partly to the excessive riches of London that its poverty appears to be in excess also-not that there really is, perhaps, a greater proportion of misery to be found within the metropolitan boundaries than within other large cities; but as London is the largest of all cities, there is naturally the greatest amount of human wretchedness to be seen concentrated within it; wretchedness, too, that is made to look still more wretched simply from the fact of its being associated with the most abundant comfort in the world.
Moreover, from the immense mass of houses, the mind is positively startled at the idea of there being any houseless in the Capital; and so, too, from the enormous consumption of food by the aggregate population, as well as the sumptuousness of the civic banquets, the anomaly of there being any famishing within it, becomes deeply impressed upon the mind; while the exceeding charity of the Metropolis, where many of the asylums, for the humblest even rival in architectural grandeur the dwelling-places of the proudest in the land, naturally, gives a deeper dye, from the mere contrast, to the criminality of the London people - whose pickpockets, it must be confessed, are among the most expert, and whose "dangerous classes" are certainly the most brutally ignorant in all Christendom.
For these reasons, therefore, we shall now proceed to set forth some of the principal social and moral contrasts to be noted in London town.
¶ 1. Of the Riches and Poverty of London.
Country people have a saying that the streets of London are
paved with gold, and certainly, when we come to consider the aggregate wealth of
the Metropolis, it amounts to so enormous a sum as to admit almost of the
bullion being spread over the entire surface of the 1,750 miles of paving that
make up the London thoroughfares.
In the first place, it has been already stated that the paving of the streets themselves [-29-] costs no less than £14,000,000; so that when we come to learn that the expense of constructing the Metropolitan roadways amounts, upon an average, to £8,000 a mile, the very stones of the streets seem almost to be nuggets of gold.
Again, the treasures buried beneath the soil are equally inconceivable; for there are no less than 1,900 miles of gas-pipes laid under these same London stones, and about the same length of water-pipes as well; so that these, at only a shilling a foot each, would cost nearly half a million of money. Further, there are the subterranean tunnels of the sewers - the bricken bowels, as it were, of the Capital - of which there are also some hundreds of miles stretching through London beneath the pavement.
Hence we find that there is a vast amount of wealth sunk both in and under the London roadways, and that upon every square yard of earth, trodden under the feet of the people, there has bean an enormous sum expended.
The amount of money spent, and the vastness of apparatus employed, simply in lighting London and the suburbs with gas, would seem to dispel all thoughts of poverty; for, according to the account of Mr. Barlow, the capital employed in the pipes, tanks, gas-holders, and apparatus of the aggregate London gas-works, amounts to between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000; and the cost of lighting averages more than half a million of money per annum - there being no less than 360,000 gas-lights fringing the streets, and consuming as much as 13,000,000 cubic feet of gas every night.
Those who have seen London only in the day-time, with its flood of life pouring through the arteries to its restless heart, know it not in all its grandeur. They have still, in order to comprehend the multiform sublimity of the great city, to contemplate it by night, afar off from an eminence. As noble a prospect as any in the world, it has been well said, is London viewed from the suburbs on a clear winter's evening. Though the stars be shining in the heavens, there is another firmament spread out below with its millions of bright lights glittering at the feet. Line after line sparkles like the trails left by meteors, and cutting and crossing one another till they .are lost in the haze of distance. Over the whole, too, there hangs a lurid cloud, bright as if the monster city were in flames, and looking from afar like the sea at dusk, made phosphorescent by the million creatures dwelling within it.
Again, at night it is, that the strange anomalies of London life are best seen. As the hum of life ceases, and the shops darken, and the gaudy gin palaces thrust out their ragged and squalid crowds to pace the streets, London puts on its most solemn look of all. On the benches of the parks, in the niches of the bridges, and in the litter of the markets, are huddled together the homeless and the destitute. The only living things that haunt the streets are the poor wretched Magdalens, who stand shivering in their finery, waiting to catch the drunkard as he goes shouting homewards. There, on a door-step, crouches some shoeless child, whose day's begging has not brought it enough to purchase even the penny night's lodging that his young companions in beggary have gone to. Where the stones are taken up and piled high in the road, while the mains are being mended, and the gas streams from a tall pipe, in a flag of flame, a ragged crowd are grouped round the glowing coke fire - some smoking, and others dozing beside it.
Then, as the streets grow blue with the coming light, and the church spires and roof-tops stand out against the clear sky with a sharpness of outline that is seen only in London before its million chimneys cover the town with their smoke - then come sauntering forth the unwashed poor; some with greasy wallets on their backs to hunt over each dust-heap, and eke out life by seeking refuse bones, or stray rags and pieces of old iron; others, whilst on their way to their work, are gathered at the corner of some street round the early breakfast-stall, and blowing saucers of steaming coffee, drawn from tall tin cans that have the red-hot charcoal shining crimson through the holes in the fire-pan beneath them; whilst already the little slattern girl, with her basket slung before her, screams, "Water-creases!" through the sleeping streets.
[-30-] But let us pass to a more cheering subject - let us, in the exceeding wealth of our city, forget for the moment its exceeding misery. We have already shown what a vast amount of treasure is buried, as we said before, not only in, but under the ground of London; and now we will proceed to portray the immense value of the buildings raised upon it. The gross rental, or yearly income from the houses in the metropolis, as assessed to the property and income tax, amounts to twelve and a half millions of pounds, so that at ten years' purchase, the aggregate value of the buildings throughout London, will amount to no less than the prodigious sum of one hundred and twenty-fire millions sterling.*
* TABLE SHOWING THE ASSESSMENT OF PROPERTY TO THE INCOME TAX AND POOR RATES IN THE SEVERAL DISTRICTS THROUGHOUT LONDON
DISTRICTS Number of Inhabited Houses Assessment. Income Tax for the year 1843 Assessment. Poor Rate for the year 1849 Average Income Tax per house Average Poor Rate per house WEST DISTRICTS £ £ £ Kensington 17151 876854 650115 51.1 37.7 Chelsea 7591 167897 166998 22.1 21.9 St. George, Hanover Square 8792 1009572 675440 114.7 76.8 Westminster 6642 272790 223200 41.0 33.6 St. Martin-in-the-Fields 2307 226852 249555 98.3 108.0 St. James, Westminster 3399 416843 412823 122.6 121.4 Total, West Districts 45882 2970808 3378131 64.7 73.6 NORTH DISTRICTS Marylebone 15826 1132324 836372 72.1 52.8 Hampstead 1719 66656 69357 38.7 40.3 Pancras *** 18584 1251737 572731 67.3 30.8 Islington 13528 309629 329781 22.8 23.9 Hackney 9848 170347 196073 17.3 14.8 Total, North Districts 59475 2930693 2004314 33.6 33.7 CENTRAL DISTRICTS St. Giles 4700 305880 232129 65.0 49.3 Strand 3962 353786 220872 89.2 59.8 Holborn 4311 261665 51206 60.6 11.9 Clerkenwell 7224 300928 188372 41.6 26.0 St. Luke 6349 193443 141658 30.4 22.3 East London 4739 202598 139767 42.7 29.2 West London 2657 256278 124540 96.4 46.8 London City 7297 1279148 1562428 175.2 214.2 Total, Central Districts 41239 3153726 2760972 76.4 93.6 EAST DISTRICTS Shoreditch 15337 325846 215694 21.2 14.0 Bethnal Green 13298 110172 130159 8.2 8.4 Whitechapel 8812 209192 177719 23.7 20.1 St. George-in-the-East 6146 184563 151343 30.0 21.3 Stepney 16259 289093 279461 18.3 17.1 Poplar 6831 258979 193940 37.9 28.3 Total, East Districts 66683 1386725 1148316 20.7 17.2 SOUTH DISTRICTS St. Saviour, Southwark 4600 71282 122156 15.4 26.5 St. Olave, ditto 2360 94231 86140 39.9 36.5 Bermondsey 7007 107225 127667 15.3 18.2 St. George, Southwark 6992 153830 113999 22.0 16.3 Newington 10458 207877 165900 19.8 15.8 Lambeth 20447 534372 458861 26.1 22.4 Wandsworth 8276 368526 231476 44.5 27.9 Camberwell 9412 208338 209337 22.1 22.2 Rotherhithe 2792 59677 58909 21.3 21.0 Greenwich 14383 290534 261987 20.1 18.2 Lewisham 5927 150359 159283 25.3 26.8 Total, South Districts 92654 2246251 1995715 24.2 21.5 Total, for all London 305933 12688203 12287448 41.1 40.1
Nor is this all: this sum, enormous as it is, expresses the value of the houses only; and in order to understand the worth also of the furniture that they contain, we must consult the returns of the Assurance Companies, and thus we shall find that the gross property insured is valued at more than one hundred and sixty-sir million pounds.**
** The revenue derived from the duty paid on Insurances, amounts in round numbers to £250,000 for the London offices only; and this, at 3s. per £100, gives upwards of £166,000,000 for the aggregate value of the London Assurances, though only two-fifths of the houses are said to be insured.
*** The reason of their being so great a difference between the assessments for the income tax and poor's rates in this district, is because the Inns of Court are estimated in the one and not in the other.
[-31-] If, then, the value of the house property throughout the
Metropolis amounts to so incomprehensible a sum, it is almost impossible to
believe that any man among us should want a roof to shelter his head at night.
The scenes, however, that are to be witnessed in the winter time at the Refuge for the Destitute, in Playhouse Yard, tell a very different tale; for those who pay a visit to the spot, as we did some few winters back, will find a large crowd of houseless poor gathered about the asylum at dusk, waiting for the first opening of the doors, and with their blue, shoeless feet, ulcerous with the cold, from long exposure to the snow and ice in the street, and the bleak, stinging wind blowing through their rags. To hear the cries of the hungry, shivering children, and the wrangling of the greedy men assembled there to obtain shelter for the night, and a pound of dry bread, is a thing to haunt one for life. At the time of our visit there were four hundred and odd creatures, utterly destitute, collected outside the door. Mothers with infants at their breast-fathers with boys clinging to their side-the friendless-the penniless-the shirtless-the shoeless-breadless-homeless; in a word, the very poorest of this the very richest city in the world.
The records of this extraordinary institution, too, tell a fearful history. There is a world of wisdom and misery to be road in them. The poor who are compelled to avail themselves of its eleemosynary shelter, warmth, and food, come from all nations. Here are destitute Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Scotchmen, Irishmen, Africans, Americans, Spaniards, Portuguese, Poles-besides the destitute of our own country; and there are artisans belonging to all trades as well-compositors, carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, smiths, seamen, sweeps, engineers, watchmakers, artists, clerks and shopmen, milliners and gentlemen's servants, and navvies, and surveyors-indeed the beggared man of every craft and calling whatsoever.
The misery of many that are driven to seek the hospitality of such asylums is assuredly of their own making, and there are many there, too, who pursue mendicancy as a profession, preferring the precarious gains of begging to the regular income of industry. Many who trade upon the sympathy of those who desire to ease the sufferings of the deserving poor.
But with these there also are mixed not a few whose callings yield a subsistence only in the summer time - brickmakers, agricultural labourers, garden women, and the like-whose means of subsistence fails them at the very season when the elements conspire to render their necessities more urgent.
The poverty indicated by the journals of the refuge for the houseless, is quite as startling to all generous natures as are the returns of the house property of London. For we found - making allowance, too, for those who had remained more than one night in the establishment - that, since the opening of the asylum in 1820, as many as 1,141,588 homeless individuals had received shelter within the walls; and that upwards of 2¾ millions of pounds, or nearly 10,025 tons, of bread had been distributed among the poor wretches.
If, then, we are proud of our prodigious riches, surely we cannot but feel humbled at our prodigious poverty also.
Again, we turn to the brighter side of the London picture,
and once more we ourselves are startled with the army of figures, marshalling
the wondrous wealth of this Great Metropolis.
The late Mr. Rothschild called the English Metropolis, in 1832, the bank of the whole world: "I mean," said he, "that all transactions in India and China, in Germany and Russia, are guided and settled here." And no wonder that the statement should be made; for we learn that the amount of capital at the command of the entire London bankers may be estimated at sixty-four millions of pounds;* [* See table of the bill currency of the United Kingdom in Banfield's "Statistical Companion" for 1854] and that the deposits or sums ready to be [-32-] invested by the insurance companies may be taken at ten million pounds, whilst thc amount employed in discounts, in the Metropolis alone, equals the inconceivable sum of seventy-eight million pounds.
Indeed, it is asserted upon good authority, that the loans of one London house only, exceeded, in the year 1841, thirty millions sterling, which is upon an average nearly three millions of money per month; such loans occasionally amounting to as much as seven hundred thousand pounds in a single day.
But this is not all. In London there exists an establishment called the "clearing-house," whither are taken the checks and bills, on the authority of which a great part of the money paid and received by bankers is made, and where the cheeks and bills drawn on one banking-house are cancelled by those which it holds on others. In the appendix to the Second Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Banks there is a return of the payments made through the clearing-house for the year 1839, and though all the sums under £100 were omitted in the statement, the total was upwards of 954 million pounds! whilst the annual payments, through three bankers only, exceeded 100 millions sterling.
Such an extent of commerce is not only unparalelled, but requires as great faith as a miracle to enable us to credit it. Nevertheless, a walk to the several docks of London - those vast emporia of the riches of the entire world - will enable even the most sceptical to arrive at some sense of the magnitude of our metropolitan trade.
These docks, indeed, are the very focus of the wealth of our merchant princes. The cranes creak again with the mass of riches. In the warehouses are stored heaps of indigo and dye stuffs, that are, as it were, so many ingots of untold gold. Above and below ground you see piles upon piles of treasure that the eye cannot compass. The wealth appears as boundless as the very sea it has traversed, and the brain aches in an attempt to comprehend the amount of riches before, above, and beneath it. There are acres upon acres of treasures - more than enough, one would fancy, to enrich the people of the whole globe.
As you pass along this quay, the air is pungent with the vast stores of tobacco. At that it overpowers you with the fumes of rum. Then you are nearly sickened with the stench of hides and huge bins of horns; and shortly afterwards, the atmosphere is fragrant with coffee and spice. Nearly everywhere you see stacks of cork, or else yellow bins of sulphur, or lead-coloured copper ore. As you enter one warehouse, the flooring is sticky, as if it had been newly tarred, with the sugar that has leaked through the tiers of casks; and as you descend into the dark vaults, you see long lines of lights hanging from the black arches, and lamps flitting about midway in the air. Here you sniff the fumes of the wine - and there are acres of hogsheads of it - together with the peculiar fungous smell of dry-rot.
Along the quay you see, among the crowd, men with their faces blue with indigo, and gaugers with their long brass tipped rules dripping with spirit fresh from the casks they have been probing. Then will come a group of flaxen-haired sailors, chattering German; and next a black seaman, with a red-cotton handkerchief twisted turban-like round his head. Presently, a blue-smocked butcher pushes through the throng, with fresh meat and a bunch of cabbage in the tray on his shoulder; and shortly afterwards comes a broad straw-hatted mate, carrying green parroquets in a wooden cage. Here, too, you will see sitting on a bench a sorrowful-looking woman, with new bright cooking-tins at her feet, telling you she is some emigrant preparing for her voyage.
Then the jumble of sounds as you pass along the dock blends in anything but sweet concord. The sailors are singing boisterous nigger-songs from the Yankee ship just entering the dock; the cooper is hammering at the casks on the quay; the chains of the cranes, loosed of their weight, rattle as they fly up again; the ropes splash in the water; some captain shouts his orders through his hands; a goat bleats from a ship in the basin; and empty casks roll along the stones with a hollow drum-like sound. Here the heavy-laden ships have their gunwales down in the water, far below the quay, and you descend to them by ladders,
whilst in another basin the craft stand high up out of the
dock, so that their green copper- sheeting is almost level with the eye of the
passenger, and above his head a long line of bowsprits stretch far over the
quay, with spars and planks hanging from them as a temporary gangway to each
"It is impossible," says Mr. M'Cuhloch, "to form any accurate estimate of the amount of the trade of the Port of London. But if we include the produce conveyed into and from the Port, as well as the home and foreign markets, it will not," he tells us, "be overrated at the prodigious sum of sixty-five millions sterling per annum."
Of this enormous extent of commerce the Docks are the headquarters.
But if the incomprehensibility of this wealth rises to
sublimity, assuredly the want that co-exists with it is equally incomprehensible
and equally sublime.
Pass from the quay and warehouses to the courts and alleys that surround them, and the mind is as bewildered with the destitution of the one place as it is with the superabundance of the other. Many come to see the riches, but few the poverty abounding in absolute masses round the far-famed Port of London.
He, therefore, who wishes to behold one of the most extraordinary and least known scenes of the Metropolis, should wend his way to the London Dock gates at half-past seven in the morning. There he will see congregated, within the principal entrance, masses of men of all ranks, looks, and natures. Decayed and bankrupt master butchers are there, and broken-down master bakers, publicans, and grocers, and old soldiers, sailors, Polish refugees, quondam gentlemen, discharged lawyers' clerks, "suspended" government officials, almsmen, pensioners, servants, thieves-indeed every one (for the work requires no training) who wants a bat; and who is willing to work for it. The London Dock is one of the few places in the Metropolis where men can get employment without character or recommendation.
As the hour approaches eight, you know by the stream pouring through the gates, and the rush towards particular spots, that the "calling foremen have made their appearance, and that the "casual men" are about to be taken on for the day.
Then begins the scuffling and scrambling, and stretching forth of countless hands high in the air, to catch the eye of him whose nod can give them work. As the foreman calls from a book the names, some men jump tip on the back of others, so as to lift themselves high above the rest and attract his notice. All are shouting; some cry aloud his surname, and some his christian name; and some call out their own names to remind him that they are there. Now the appeal is made in Irish blarney; and now in broken English.
Indeed, it is a sight to sadden the most callous to see thousands of men struggling there for only one day's hire, the scuffle being made the fiercer by the knowledge that hundreds out of the assembled throng must be left to idle the day out in want. To look in the faces of that hungry crowd is to see a sight that is to be ever remembered. Some are smiling to the foreman to coax him into remembrance of them; others, with their protruding eyes, are terribly eager to snatch at the hoped-for pass for work. Many, too, have gone there and gone through the same struggle, the same cries, and have left after all without the work they had screamed for.
Until we saw with our own eyes this scene of greedy despair, we could not have believed that there was so mad an anxiety to work, and so bitter a want of it among so vast a body of men. No wonder that the calling foreman should be often carried many yards away by the struggle and rush of the multitude around him, seeking employment at his hands One of the officials assured us that he had more than once been taken off his feet, and hurried to a distance of a quarter of a mile by the eagerness of the impatient crowd clamouring for work.
If, however, the men fail in getting taken on at the commencement of the day, they then retire to the waiting-yard, at the back of the Docks, there to remain hour after hour in [-36-] hope that the wind may blow them some stray ship, so that other gangs may be wanted, and the calling foreman come to seek fresh hands there.
It is a sad sight, too, to see the poor fellows waiting in these yards to be hired at fourpence per hour - for such are the terms given in the after-part of the day. There, seated on long benches ranged against the wall, they remain, some telling their miseries, and some their crimes, to one another, while others dose away their time. Rain or sunshine, there are always plenty of them ready to catch the stray shilling or eightpence for the two or three hours' labour. By the size of the shed you can judge how many men sometimes stay there, in the pouring rain, rather than run the chance of losing the stray hour's job. Some loiter on the bridge close by, and directly that their practised eye or ear tells them the cabling foreman is in want of another gang, they rush forward in a stream towards the gate- though only six or eight at most can be hired out of the hundred or more that are waiting. Then the same mad fight takes place again as in the morning; the same jumping on benches; the same raising of hands; the same entreaties; ay! and the same failure as before.
It is strange to mark the change that takes place in the manner of the men when the foreman has left. Those that have been engaged go smiling to their labour, while those who are left behind give vent to their disappointment in abuse of him before whom they had been supplicating and smiling but a few minutes previously.
There are not less than 20,000 souls living by Dock labour in the Metropolis. The London Docks are worked by between 1,000 to 3,000 hands, according as the business is brisk or slack - that is, according as the wind is, fair or foul, for the entry of the ships into the Port of London.
Hence there are some thousands of stomachs deprived of food by the mere chopping of the breeze. "It's an ill wind," says the proverb, "that blows nobody any good; and until we came to investigate the condition of the Dock labourer, we could not have believed it possible that near upon 2,000 souls in one place alone lived, chameleon-like, upon the very air; or that an easterly wind could deprive so many of bread. It is, indeed, "a nipping and an eager air."
That the sustenance of thousands of families should be as fickle as the very breeze itself, that the weather-cock should be the index of daily want or daily ease to such a vast body of men, women, and children, is a climax of misery and wretchedness that could hardly have been imagined to exist in the very heart of our greatest wealth.
Nor is it less wonderful, when we come to consider the immense amount of food consumed in London, that there should be such a thing as want known among us.
The returns of the cattle-market, for instance, tell us that the population of London consume some 277,000 bullocks, 30,000 calves, 1,480,000 sheep, and 34,000 pigs; and these, it is estimated by Mr. Hicks, are worth between seven and eight millions sterling.
In the way of bread, the Londoners are said to eat up no less than 1,600,000 quarters of wheat.
Then the list of vegetables supplied by the aggregate London "green markets" - including Covent-garden, Farringdon, Portman, the Borough, and Spitalfields - is as follows:-
310,464,000 pounds . . potatoes
89,672,000 plants . . cabbages
14,326,000 heads . . broccoli and cauliflowers
32,648,000 roots . . . turnips
1,850,000 junks . . . ditto, tops
16,817,000 roots . . . carrots
438,000 bushels . peas
133,400 ,, . . beans
221,100 ,, . . French beans
[-37-] 19,872 dozen . . . vegetable marrows
19,560 dozen bundles . . . asparagus
34,800 ,, ,, . celery
91,200 ,, , rhubarb
4,492,800 plants lettuces
132,912 dozen hands . . . radishes
1,489,600 bushels onions
94,000 dozen bundles . . . ditto (spring)
87,360 bushels cucumbers
32,900 dozen bundles . . . herbs*
[* These returns, and those of the fish, cattle, and poultry markets, were originally collected by the author, for the first time in London, from the several salesmen at the markets, and cost both much time and money; though the gentlemen who fabricate books on London, from Mr. M'Culloch downwards, do not hesitate to dig their scissors into the results, taking care to do with them the same as is done with the stolen handkerchiefs in Petticoat Lane-viz., pick out the name of the owner.]
Again, the list of the gross quantity of fish that is eaten at the London dinners or suppers is equally enormous:-
3,480,000 pounds of salmon and salmon trout 29,000 boxes,
14 fish per box
4,000,000 pounds of live cod . . . . . averaging 10 lbs. each
26,880,000 pounds of soles . . . . . averaging ¼ lb. each
6,752,000 pounds of whiting . . . . averaging 6 ounces
5,040,000 pounds of haddock . . . averaging 2 lbs. each
33,600,000 pounds of plaice . . . averaging 1lb. each
23,250,000 pounds of fresh herrings . . . . 250,000 barrels, 700 fish per barrel
42,000,000 pounds of fresh herrings . . . in bulk
4,000,000 pounds of sprats
1,505,280 pounds of eels from Holland - 6 fish per 1lb.
127,680 pounds of eels from England Ireland - 6 fish per 1lb.
4,200,000 . . . barrelled cod . . . . 15,000 barrels, 50 fish per barrel
8,000,000 . . . dried salt cod . . . . 5 lbs. each
10,920,000 . . . . smoked haddock . . . 25,000 barrels, 300 fish per barrel
10,600,000 . . . bloaters . . . 265,000 baskets, 150 fish per basket
14,000,000 . . . red herrings . . . . 100,000 barrels, 500 fish per barrel
96,000 . . . dried sprats . . . . 9,600 large bundles, 30 fish per bundle
. . . . .oysters . . . 309,935 barrels, 1,600 fish per barrel
1,200,000 . . . lobsters . . . averaging 1 lb. each fish
600,000 . . . crabs. . . averaging 1 lb. each fish
192,295 gallons . . . shrimps . . . 324 to the pint
24,300½ bushels . . . whelks . . . 224 to the ½bushel
50,400½ bushels . . . mussels . . . 1,000 to the ½bushel
32,400½ bushels . . . cockles . . . 2,000 to the ½bushel
76,000½ bushels . . . periwinkles . . . 4,000 to the ½bushel
[-38-] Further, in the matter of game poultry, the metropolitan consumption from one market alone (Leadenhall) amounts to the following
TAME BIRDS AND DOMESTIC FOWLS.
WILD BIRDS, OR ANIMALS, OR GAME.
39,500 wild birds
By way of dessert to this enormous banquet, the supply of fruit furnished by all the London markets is equally inconceivable:-
686,000 bushels of apples
353,000 ,, . pears
173,200 dozen lbs. of cherries
176,500 bushels of plums
5,333 ,, . greengages
16,450 ,, . damsons
4,900 ,, . bullace
276,700 ,, . gooseberries
171,000 sieves . . currants (red)
108,000 ,, . . currants (black)
24,000 ,, . . currants (white)
1,527,500 pottles . . strawberries
35,250 ,, . . raspberries
127,940 ,, . . mulberries
9,018 bushels of hazel nuts
518,400 lbs. of filberts
Then, as a fitting companion to this immense amount of solid food, the quantity of liquids consumed is as follows:-
pipes of wines
2,000,000 gallons of spirits
43,200,000 gallons of porter and ale
19,215,000,000 gallons of water, supplied by the several companies to the houses.
[-39-] And lastly, for the purposes of heating and lighting, the
Metropolis burns no less than 3,000,000 tons of coal.
But if the great meat and vegetable and poultry markets of the Metropolis are indications of the good living indulged in by a large proportion of the people, there are at the same time other markets which may be cited as proofs of the privation undergone by large numbers also. The wretched man who lives by picking up bits of rag in the street - and there is a considerable army of them - cannot be said to add much to the gross consumption of the Capital; still he even attends his market, and has his exchange, even though he deals in coupons of linen, and traffics in old iron rather than the precious metals.
Let us, then, by way of contrast to the luxury indicated by the preceding details, follow the bone-grubber to his mart -the exchange for old clothes and rags.
The traffic here consists not of ship -loads of valuables brought from the four quarters of the globe, hut simply of wallets of refuse gathered from the areas, mews, and alleys of every part of London; for that which is bought and sold in this locality is not made up of the choicest riches of the world, but simply of what others have cast aside as worthless. Indeed, the wealth in which the merchants of Rag Fair deal, so far from being of any value to ordinary minds, is merely the offal of the well-to-do-the skins sloughed by gentility - the debris, as it were, of the fashionable world.
The merchandize of this quarter consists not of gold-dust and ivory, but literally of old metal and bones; not of bales of cotton and pieces of rich silk, but of bits of dirty rag, swept from shop doors and picked up and washed by the needy finders; not of dye-stuffs, nor indigo, nor hides, but of old soleless shoes, to be converted by the alchemy of science into Prussian blue wherewith to tint, perhaps, some nobles' robes, and bits of old iron to be made into new.
Some dozen years ago, one of the Hebrew merchant dealers in old clothes purchased the houses at the back of Phil's Buildings- a court leading out of Houndsditch, immediately facing St. Mary Axe, and formed the present market, now styled the "Old Clothes Exchange," and where Rag Fair may be said to be at present centralized. Prior to this, the market was held in the streets.
About three or four o'clock in winter, and four or five in summer, are the busiest periods at the "Old Clothes Exchange ;" and then the passage leading to the Mart from Houndsditch will be seen to be literally black with the mob of old-clothes men congregated outside the gates. Almost all have bags on their backs, and not a few three or four old hats in their hands, while here and there faces with grizzly beards will be seen through the vista of hook noses.
Immediately outside the gateway, at the end of the crowded court, stands the celebrated Barney Aaron, the janitor, with out-stretched hand waiting to receive the halfpenny toll, demanded of each of the buyers and sellers who enter; and with his son by his side, with a leathern pouch filled with half a hundred weight of coppers he has already received, and ready to give change for any silver that may be tendered.
As the stranger passes through the gate, the odour of the collocated old clothes and old rags, and old shoes, together with, in the season, half-putrid hare skins, is almost overpowering. The atmosphere of the place has a peculiar sour smell blended with the mildewy or ftmgous odour of what is termed "mother ;" indeed the stench is a compound of mouldiness, mustiness, and fustiness-a kind of "bouquet de mule sewers, that is far from pleasant to christian nostrils.
The hucksters of tatters as they pour in with their bundles at their backs, one after another, are surrounded by some half-dozen of the more eager Jews, some in greasy gaberdines extending to the heels and clinging almost as tight to the frame as ladies' wet bathing- gowns. Two or three of them seize the hucksters by the arm, and feel the contents of the bundle at his back; and a few tap them on the shoulder as they all clamour for the first sight of the contents of their wallets.
[-40-] "Ha' you cot any preaking (broken pieces)?" cries one who buys old coats, to cut into cloth caps.
"Cot any fustian, old cordsh, or old poots ?" "Yer know me," says another, in a wheedling tone. "I'm little Ikey, the pest of puyers, and always gives a coot prishe."
Such, indeed, is the anxiety and eagerness of the Israelitish buyers to get the first chance of the bargains, that it is as much as the visitor can do to force his way through the greedy and greasy mob.
Once past the entrance, however, the stranger is able to obtain a tolerable view of the place.
The "Exchange" consists of a large square plot of ground, about an acre in extent, and surrounded by a low hoarding, with a narrow sloping roof, hardly wider indeed than the old eaves to farm-houses, and projecting far enough forward to shelter one person from the rain. Across this ground are placed four double rows of benches, ranged back to back, and here sit the sellers of old clothes, with their unsightly and unsavoury store of garments strewn or piled on the ground at their feet, whilst between the rows of petty dealers pass the merchant buyers on the look-out for "bargains."
The first thing that strikes the mind is, that a greater bustle and eagerness appear to rage among the buyers of the refuse of London, than among the traders in the more valuable commodities. Every lot exposed for sale seems to have fulfilled to the utmost the office for which it was designed, and now that its uses are ended, and it seems to be utterly worthless, the novice to such scenes cannot refrain from marvelling what remaining quality can possibly give the least value to the rubbish.
Here a "crockman" (a seller of crockery ware), in a bright-red plush waistcoat and knee-breeches, and with legs like balustrades, sits beside his half-emptied basket of china and earthen-ware, while at his feet is strewn the apparently worthless collection of paletots, and cracked Wellingtons, and greasy napless hats, for which he has exchanged his jugs, basins, and spar ornaments. A few yards from him is a woman, enveloped in a coachman's drab and many-caped box-coat, with a pair of men's cloth boots on her feet, and her limp-looking straw bonnet flattened down on her head, from repeated loads; the ground before her, too, is littered with old tea-coloured stays, and bundles of wooden husks, and little bits of whalebone, whilst beside her, on the scat, lies a small bundle of old parasols tied together, and looking like a quiver full of arrows. In the winter you may see the same woman surrounded with hare skins; some so old and stiff that they seem frozen, and the fresher ones looking shiny and crimson as red tinsel.
Now you come, as you push your way along the narrow passage between the seats, to a man with a small mound of old boots, some of which have the soles torn off, and the broken threads showing underneath like the stump of teeth; others are so brown from long want of blacking, that they seem almost to be pieces of rusty metal, and others again are speckled all over with small white spots of mildew. Beside another huckster is piled a little hillock of washed-out light waistcoats, and old cotton drawers, and straw-bonnets half in shreds. Then you see a Jew boy holding up the remains of a theatrical dress, consisting of a black velvet body stuck all over with bed furniture ornaments, and evidently reminding the young Israelite of some "soul-stirring" melo-drama that he has seen on the Saturday evening at the Pavilion Theatre.
A few steps farther on, you find one of the merchants blowing into the fur of some old imitation-sable muff that has gone as foxy as a Scotchman's whiskers. Next, your attention is fixed upon a black-chinned and lanthorn-jawed bone-grubber, clad in dirty greasy rags, with his wallet emptied on the stones, and the bones from it, as well as bits of old iron and horse-shoes, and pieces of rags, all sorted into different lots before him; and as he sits there, anxiously waiting for a purchaser, he munches a hunk of mouldy pie crust that he has had given to him on his rounds.
[-41-] In one part of the Exchange you recognize the swarthy features of some well-known travelling tinker, with a complexion the colour of curry powder, and hands brown, as if recently tarred; while in front of him is reared a pyramid of old battered britannia-metal teapots and saucepans; and next to him sits an umbrella mender, before whom is strewn a store of whalebone ribs, and ferruled sticks fitted with sharp pointed bone handles.
Then the buyers, too, are almost as picturesque and motley a group as the sellers, for the purchasers are of all nations, and habited in every description of costume. Some are Greeks, others Swiss, others again Germans; some have come there to buy up the rough old charity clothing and the army great coats for the Irish "market." One man with a long flowing beard and tattered gaberdine, that shines like a tarpaulin with the grease, and who is said to be worth thousands, is there again, as indeed he is day after day, to see if he cannot add another sixpence to his hoard, by dabbling in the rags and refuse with which the ground is covered. Mark how he is wheedling, and whining, and shrugging up his shoulders to that poor wretch, in the hope of inducing him to part with the silver pencil-case he has "found" on his rounds, for a few pence less than its real value.
As the purchasers go pacing up and down the narrow pathways, threading their way, now along the old bottles, bonnets, and rags, and now among the bones, the old metal and stays, the gowns, the hats, and coats, a thick-lipped Jew boy shouts from his high stage in the centre of the market, "Shinsher peer, an aypenny a glarsh!-an aypenny a glarsh, shinsher peer!" Between the seats women worm along carrying baskets of trotters, and screaming as they go, "Legs of mutton, two for a penny! Who'll give me a hansel." And after them comes a man with a large fray of "fatty cakes."
In the middle of the market, too, stands another dealer in street luxuries, with a display of pickled whelks, like huge snails floating in saucers of brine; and next to him is a sweetmeat stall, with a crowd of young Israelites gathered round the keeper eagerly gambling with marbles for "Albert rock" and "Boneyparte's ribs."
At one end of the Exchange stands a coffee and beer shop, inside of which you find Jews playing at draughts, or wrangling as they settle for the articles which they have bought or sold; while, even as you leave by the gate that leads towards Petticoat Lane, there is a girl stationed outside with a horse-pail full of ice, and dispensing halfpenny egg-cupsful of what appears to be very much like frozen soap-suds, and shouting, as she shakes the bucket, and makes the ice in it rattle like broken glass, "Now, boys! here's your coolers, only an aypenny a glass! -an aypenny a glass!"
In fine, it may truly be said that in no other part of the entire world is such a scene of riot, rags, filth, and feasting to be witnessed, as at the Old Clothes Exchange in Houndsditch.
¶ ii. The Charity and the Crime of London.
The broad line of demarcation separating our own time from
that of all others, is to found in the fuller and more general development of
the human sympathies.
Our princes and nobles are no longer the patrons of prize-fights, but the presidents of benevolent institutions. Instead of the bear-gardens and cock-pits that formerly flourished in every quarter of the town, our Capital bristles and glitters with its thousand palaces for the indigent and suffering poor. If we are distinguished among nations for our exceeding wealth, assuredly we are equally illustrious for our abundant charity. Almost every want or ill that can distress human nature has some palatial institution for the mitigation of it. We have rich societies for every conceivable form of benevolence - for the visitation of the sick; for the cure of the maimed, and the crippled; for the alleviation of the pangs of child-birth; for giving shelter to the houseless, support to the aged and the infirm, homes to the orphan and the foundling; for the reformation of juvenile offenders and prostitutes, the reception of the children of convicts, the liberation of debtors, the suppression [-42-] of vice; for educating the ragged, teaching the blind, the deaf and the dumb; for guarding and soothing the mad; protecting the idiotic, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry. Nor does our charity cease with our own countrymen; for the very ship-of-war which we build to destroy the people of other lands, we ultimately convert into a floating hospital to save and comfort them in the hour of their affliction among us.
Of the sums devoted to the maintenance of these various institutions, the excellent little work of Mr. Sampson Low, jun., on the "Charities of London in 1852-3," enables us to come to a ready and very accurate conclusion.
Accordingly we find, upon reference to this work, that there are altogether in the Metropolis 530 charitable institutions, viz.
Ninety-two Medical Charities, having an aggregate income during the year of £266,925.
Twelve Societies for the Preservation of Life, Health, and Public Morals, whose yearly incomes equal altogether, £35,717.
Seventeen for Reclaiming the Fallen, or Penitentiary and Reformatory Asylums £39,486.
Thirteen for the Relief of Street Destitution and Distress £18,326.
Fourteen for the Relief of Specific Distress = £27,387.
One hundred and twenty-six Asylums for the Reception of the Aged = £87,630.
Nine for the Benefit of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb = £25,050.
Thirteen Asylums for the Maintenance of Orphans = £45,464.
Fifteen for the Maintenance of other Children (exclusive of Parochial Schools) = £88,228
Twenty-one Societies for the Promotion of Schools and their efficiency = £72,247.
Twenty-five Jewish Miscellaneous Charities = £10,000.
Nineteen for the Benefit of the Industrious = £9,124.
Twelve Benevolent Pension Societies = £23,667.
Fifteen Clergy Aid Funds = £35,301.
Thirty-two other Professional and Trade Benevolent Funds = £53,467.
Thirty Trade Provident = £25,000.
Forty-three Home Mission Societies (several combining extensive operations abroad) = £319, 705.
Fourteen Foreign Mission Societies = £459,668.* [The sales of Bibles and other religious publications, realising above £100,000, is not included in either of the last-mentioned amounts.]
To this list must be added five unclassed Societies = £3,252.
Also an amount of £160,000, raised during the year for special funds, including the proposed Wellington College, the new Medical College, the Wellington Benevolent Fund, &c. - making altogether, as the subject of our "Report, -
Five hundred and thirty Charitable Societies in London, with an aggregate amount disbursed during the year of £1,805,635.**
[** These figures have been compiled from the various statements of the year during 1852-3, for the which they are respectively made up to - averaging March 31, 1853. Grammar Schools and Educational Establishments, as Merchant Taylors' and St. Paul's, are not included-neither Parochial and other Local schools - or Miscellaneous Endowments in the gift of City Companies and Parishes.]
But the above aggregate amount of the metropolitan charitable donations, large as the sum is, refers only to the moneys entrusted to public societies to distribute. Of the amount disbursed by private individuals in charity to their poorer neighbours, of course no accurate estimate can be formed. But if we assume that as much money is given in private as in public charity (and from our inquiries among the London beggars, and especially the "screeving" or begging-letter writing class, we have reason to believe that there is much more), we shall have, in round numbers, a gross total of three and a half millions of money annually distributed by the rich among the poor.
a set-off against this noble indication of the benevolence of our people, we
will [-43-] again humble the Londoner's pride by giving him a faint
notion of the criminality of a large body of London folk.
In the Reports of the Poor-Law Commissioners we find that between the years 1848 and 1849 there were no less than 143,064 vagrants, or tramps, admitted into the casual wards of the workhouses throughout the metropolitan districts.*
* The items making up the above total - that is to say, the number of vagrants admitted into the several Metropolitan Workhouses - may be given as follows :-Pancras, 19,859; Chelsea, 15,199 ; Stepney, 12,869; West London, 9,777; Fulham, 9,017; Holborn, 7,947; St. Margaret, Westminster, 7,410; St. George, Southwark, 6,918; London City, 6,825; Newington, 9,575; Shoreditch, 5,921 ; Paddington. 5,378; East London, 4,912; Islington, 4,561 ; Kensington, 3,917 ; Wandsworth, 3,848 ; St. Luke's, 1,409; Whitechapel, 3,304; Rotherhithe, 2,627; Lambeth, 2,516 ; Camberwell, 2,104; St. Martin's in the Fields, 1,823 ; Poplar, 1,737 ; Bethnal Green, 1,620 ; Greenwich, 1,404 ; Hackney, 833 ; St. Giles, 581 ; St. James, Westminster, 371; Clerkenwell, 88 ; Strand, 68 ; St. George in the East, 31; St. Saviour, 15; Lewisham, 12 ; St. Olave, Southwark, 0; Bermondsey, 0; St. George, Hanover Square, 0; Marylebone, 0 ; Hampstcad, 0.]
There are, then, no less than 143,000 admissions of vagrants to the casual wards of the Metropolis in the course of the year; and granting that many of these temporary inmates appear more than once in the calculation (for it is the habit of the class to go from one elcemosynary asylum to another), still we shall have a large number distributed throughout the Metropolis. The conclusion we have come to, after consulting with the best authorities on the subject, is, that there are just upon 4,000 habitual vagabonds distributed about London, and the cost of their support annually amounts to very nearly £50,000.**
[** The above conclusion has been arrived at from the following data -
Average number of Vagrants relieved each night in the Metropolitan Unions . 849
Average number of Vagrants resident in the Mendicants' Lodging-houses of London 2,431
Average number of individuals relieved at the Metropolitan Asylums for the houseless poor 750
Total . . . . 4,030
Now, as five per cent, of this amount is said to consist of characters really destitute and deserving, we arrive at the conclusion that there are 3,829 vagrants in London, living either by mendicancy or theft.
The cost of the vagrants in London in the year 1848, may be estimated as follows:-
310,058 vagrants relieved at the Metropolitan Unions, at the cost of 2d. per head . . . . £2,584 13s. 0d.
67,500 nights' lodgings afforded to the houseless poor at the Metropolitan Asylums, including the West End Asylum, Market Street, Edgeware Road . . . . . £3,134 1s. 4½d
2,431 inmates of the Mendicants' Lodging-houses in London, gaining by "cadging" upon an average 1s. per day, or altogether, per year . . . . £44,365 15s. 0d.
[Total] £50,084 9s. 4½d
Deduct 5 per cent, for the cost of relief for the truly deserving . . . £2,504 4s. 5d.
The total will then be £47,580 4s. l1½d]
"One of the worst concomitants of vagrant
says the Poor-Law Report, "is the fever of a dangerous typhoid character
which has universally marked the path of the mendicant. There is scarcely a
workhouse in which this pestilence does not prevail in a greater or less degree;
and numerous Union officers have fallen victims to it." Those who are acquainted
with the exceeding filth of the persons frequenting the casual wards, will not
wonder at the fever which follows in the wake of the vagrants. "Many have
the itch. I have seen," says Mr. Boase, "a party of twenty all scratching
themselves at once, before settling into their rest in the straw. Lice exist in
great numbers upon them."
That vagrancy is the nursery of crime, and that the habitual tramps are first beggars then thieves, and finally the convicts of the country, the evidence of all parties goes to prove.
But we cannot give the reader a better general idea of the character and habits of this class than by detailing the particulars of a meeting of that curious body of people which we once held, and when as many as 150 were present. Never was witnessed a more distressing [-44-] spectacle of squalor, rags, and wretchedness. Some were young men, and some were children. One, who styled himself a "cadger," was six years of age, and several who confessed themselves as "prigs" were only ten. The countenances of the boys were of various character. Many were not only good-looking, but had a frank ingenuous expression, that seemed in no way connected with innate roguery. Many, on the other hand, had the deep-sunk and half- averted eye, which is so characteristic of natural dishonesty and cunning. Some had the regular features of lads born of parents in easy circumstances. The hair of most of the lads was cut very close to the head, showing their recent liberation from prison; indeed, one might tell, by the comparative length of the crop, the time that each boy had been out of gaol. All but a few of the elder lads were remarkable, amidst the rags, filth, and wretchedness of their external appearance, for the mirth and carelessness impressed upon the countenance.
At first their behaviour was very noisy and disorderly, coarse and ribald jokes were freely cracked, exciting general bursts of laughter; while howls, cat-calls, and all manner of unearthly and indescribable yells threatened for a time to render all attempts at order utterly abortive. At one moment, a lad would imitate the bray of the jackass, and immediately the whole hundred and fifty would fall to braying like him. Then some ragged urchin would crow like a cock; whereupon the place would echo with a hundred and fifty cock-crows! Next, as a negro-boy entered the room, one of the young vagabonds would shout out swe-ee-p; this would be received with peals of laughter, and followed by a general repetition of the same cry. Presently a hundred and fifty cat-calls, of the shrillest possible description, would almost split the ears. These would be succeeded by cries of, "Strike up, catgut scrapers!" "Go on with your barrow!" "Flare up, my never-sweats!" and a variety of other street sayings.
Indeed, the uproar which went on before the commencement of the meeting will be best understood, if we compare it to the scene presented by a public menagerie at feeding time. The greatest difficulty, as might be expected, was experienced in collecting the subjoined statistics as to the character and condition of those present on the occasion. By a persevering mode of inquiry, however, the following facts were elicited:-
With respect to age, the youngest boy present was six years old; he styled himself a cadger, and said that his mother, who was a widow, and suffering from ill health, sent him into the streets to beg. There were 7 of ten years of age, 3 of twelve, and 3 of thirteen, 10 of fourteen, 26 of fifteen, 11 of sixteen, 20 of seventeen, 26 of eighteen, and 45 of nineteen.
Then 19 had fathers and mothers still living, 39 had only one parent, and 80 were orphans, in the fullest sense of the word, having neither father nor mother alive.
Of professed beggars, there were 50; whilst 66 acknowledged themselves to be habitual "prigs;" the anouncement that the greater number present were thieves pleased them exceedingly, and was received with three rounds of applause.
Next it was ascertained that 12 of them had been in prison once (2 of these were but ten years of age), 5 had been in prison twice, 3 thrice, 4 four times, 7 five times, 8 six times, 5 seven times, 4 eight times, 2 nine times (and 1 of these thirteen years of age), 5 ten times, 5 twelve times, 2 thirteen times, 3 fourteen times, 2 sixteen times, 3 seventeen times, 2 eighteen times, 5 twenty times, 6 twenty-four times, 1 twenty-five times, 1 twenty-six times, and 1 twenty-nine times.
The announcements in reply to the question as to the number of times that any of them had been in gaol, were received with great applause, which became more and more boisterous as the number of imprisonments increased. When it was announced that one, though only nineteen years of age, had been incarcerated as many as twenty-nine times, the clapping of hands, the cat-calls, and shouts of "bray-vo!" lasted for several minutes, whilst the whole of the boys rose to look at the distinguished individual. Some chalked on their hats the figures which designated the sum of the several times they had been in gaol.
[-45-] As to the cause of their vagabondism, it was found that 22 had run away from their homes, owing to the ill-treatment of their parents; 18 confessed to having been ruined through their parents allowing them to run wild in the streets, and to be led astray by bad companions; and 15 acknowledged that they had been first taught thieving in a lodging-house.
Concerning the vagrant habits of the youths, the following facts were elicited:- 78 regularly roam through the country every year; 65 sleep regularly in the casual-wards of the unions; and 52 occasionally slept in trampers' lodging-houses throughout the country.
Respecting their education, according to the popular meaning of the term, 63 of the 150 were able to read and write, and they were principally thieves. 50 of this number said they had read "Jack Sheppard," and the lives of "Dick Turpin," and " Claude du Val," and all the other popular thieves' novels, as well as the Newgate Calendar, and lives of the robbers and pirates. Those who could not read themselves, said that "Jack Sheppard" was read out to them at the lodging-houses. Numbers avowed that they had been induced to resort to an abandoned course of life from reading the lives of notorious thieves, and novels about highway robbers. When asked what they thought of Jack Sheppard, several bawled out- "He's a regular brick "-a sentiment which was almost universally concurred in by the deafening shouts and plaudits which followed. When questioned as to whether they would like to have been Jack Sheppard, the answer was, "Yes, if the times were the same now as they were then!" 13 confessed that they had taken to thieving in order to go to the low theatres; and one lad said he had lost a good situation on the Birmingham railway through his love of the play. 20 stated that they had been flogged in prison, many of them having been so punished two, three, and four different times.
A policeman in plain clothes was present, but their acute eyes were not long before they detected his real character, notwithstanding his disguise. Several demanded that he should be turned out. The officer was accordingly given to understand that the meeting was a private one, and requested to withdraw. Having apologized for intruding, he proceeded to leave the room; and no sooner did the boys see the "Peeler" move towards the door than they gave vent to several rounds of very hearty applause, accompanied with hisses, groans, and cries of "Throw him over!"
Now, we have paid some little attention to such strange members of the human family as these, and others at war with all social institutions. We have thought the peculiarities of their nature as worthy of study in an ethnological point of view, as those of the people of other countries, and we have learnt to look upon them as a distinct race of individuals, as distinct as the Malay is from the Caucasian tribe. We have sought, moreover, to reduce their several varieties into something like system, believing it quite as requisite that we should have an attempt at a scientific classification of the criminal classes, as of the Infusoriae or the Cryptogamia. An enumeration of the several natural orders and species of criminals will let the reader see that the class is as multifarious, and surely, in a scientific point of view, as worthy of being studied as the varieties of animalcules.
In the first place, then, the criminal classes are divisible into three distinct families, i.e., the beggars, the cheats, and the thieves.
Of the beggars there are many distinct species. (1.) The naval and the military beggars; as turnpike sailors and "raw" veterans. (2.) Distressed operative beggars; as pretended starved-out manufacturers, or sham frozen-out gardeners, or tricky hand-loom weavers, &c. (3.) Respectable beggars; as sham broken-down tradesmen, poor ushers or distressed authors, clean family beggars, with children in very white pinafores and their faces cleanly washed, and the ashamed beggars, who pretend to hide their faces with a written petition. (4.) Disaster beggars; as shipwrecked mariners, or blown-up miners, or burnt-out tradesmen, and lucifer droppers. (5.) Bodily afflicted beggars; such as those having real or pretended sores or swollen legs, or being crippled or deformed, maimed, or paralyzed, or [-46-] else being blind, or deaf, or dumb, or subject to fits, or in a decline and appearing with bandages round the head, or playing the "shallow cove," i. e., appearing half-clad in the streets. (6.) Famished beggars; as those who chalk on the pavement, "I am starving," or else remain stationary, and hold up a piece of paper before their face similarly inscribed. (7.) Foreign beggars, who stop you in the street, and request to know if you can speak French; or destitute Poles, Indians, or Lascars, or Negroes. (8.) Petty trading beggars; as tract sellers, lucifer match sellers, boot lace venders, &c. (9.) Musical beggars; or those who play on some musical instrument, as a cloak for begging-as scraping fiddlers, hurdy-gurdy and clarionet players. (10.) Dependents of beggars; as screevers or the writers of "slums" (letters) and "fakements" (petitions), and referees, or those who give characters to professional beggars.
The second criminal class consists of cheats, and these are subdivisible into-( 1.) Government defrauders; as "jiggers" (defrauding the excise by working illicit stills), and smugglers who defraud the customs. (2.) Those who cheat the public; as swindlers, who cheat those of whom they buy; and duffers and horse-chanters, who cheat those to whom they sell; and "charley pitchers," or low gamblers, cheating those with whom they play; and "bouncers and besters", who cheat by laying wagers; and "flat catchers," or ring-droppers, who cheat by pretending to find valuables in the street; and bubble-men, who institute sham annuity offices or assurance companies; and douceur-men, who cheat by pretending to get government situations, or provide servants with places, or to tell persons of something to their advantage. (3.) The dependents of cheats; as "jollies" and "magsmen," or the confederates of other cheats; and "bonnets," or those who attend gaming tables; and referees, who give false characters to servants.
The last of the criminal classes are the thieves, who admit of being classified as follows :-(1.) Those who plunder with violence; as "cracksmen," who break into houses; "rampsmen," who stop people on the highway; "bludgers" or "stick slingers," who rob in company with low women. (2.) Those who hocus or plunder persons by stupefying; as "drummers," who drug liquor; and "bug-hunters," who plunder drunken men. (3.) Those who plunder by stealth, as (i.) "mobsmen, or those who plunder by manual dexterity, like "buzzers," who pick gentlemen's pockets; "wires," who pick ladies' pockets; "prop-nailers," who steal pins or brooches; and "thumble screwers," who wrench off watches; and shoplifters, who purloin goods from shops; (ii.) "sneaksmen," or petty cowardly thieves, and of these there are two distinct varieties, according as they sneak off with either goods or animals. Belonging to the first variety, or those who sneak off with goods, are "drag-sneaks," who make off with goods from carts or coaches; "snoozers," who sleep at railway hotels, and make off with either apparel or luggage in the morning; "sawney-hunters," who purloin cheese or bacon from cheesemongers' doors; "noisy racket men," who make off with china or crockery-ware from earthenware shops; "snow-gatherers," who make off with clean clothes from hedges; "cat and kitten hunters," who make off with quart or pint pots from area railings; "area sneaks," who steal from the area; "dead-lurkers," who steal from the passages of houses; "till friskers," who make off with the contents of tills; "bluey-hunters," who take lead from the tops of houses; "toshers," who purloin copper from ships and along shore ; "star-glazers," who cut the panes of glass from windows; "skinners," or women and boys who strip children of their clothes; and mudlarks, who steal pieces of rope, coal, and wood from the barges at the wharves.
Those sneaks-men, on the other hand, who purloin animals, are either horse-stealers or "woolly bird" (sheep) stealers, or deer-stealers, or dog-stealers, or poachers, or "lady and gentlemen racket-men," who steal cocks and hens, or cat-stealers or body snatchers.
Then there is still another class of plunderers, who are neither sneaks-men nor mobsmen, but simply breach-of-trust-men, taking those articles only which have been confided to them; these are either embezzlers, who rob their employers; or illegal pawners, who [-47-] pledge the blankets, &c., at their lodgings, or the work of their employers; dishonest servants, who go off with the plate, or let robbers into their master's houses, bill stealers, and letter stealers.
Beside these there are (4) the "shoful-men," or those who plunder by counterfeits; as coiners and forgers of checks, and notes, and wills; and, lastly, we have (5) the dependents of thieves ; as "fences," or receivers of stolen goods ; and "smashers," or the utterers of base coin.
Now, as regards the number of this extensive family of criminals, the return published by the Constabulary Commissioners is still the best authority; and, according to this, there were in the Metropolis at the time of making the report, 107 burglars; 110 housebreakers; 38 highway robbers; 773 pickpockets; 3,657 sneaks-men, or common thieves ; 11 horse-stealers, and 141 dog-stealers; 3 forgers; 28 coiners, and 317 utterers of base coin 141 swindlers or obtainers of goods under false pretences, and 182 cheats; 343 receivers of stolen goods; 2,768 habitual rioters; 1,205 vagrants; 50 begging letter writers; 86 bearers of begging letters, and 6,371 prostitutes; besides 470 not otherwise described: making altogether a total of 16,900 criminals known to the police; so that it would appear that one in every hundred and forty of the London population belongs to the criminal class.
Further, the police returns tell us the total value of the property which this large section of metropolitan society are known to make away with, amounts to very nearly £42,000 per annum.
Thus, in the course of the year 1853, property to the amount of £2,854 was stolen by burglary; £135 by breaking into dwelling-houses; and £143 by breaking into shops, &e.; £1,158 by embezzlement; £579 by forgery; £1,615 by fraud; £46 by robbery on the highway; £250 by horse stealing; and £104 by cattle stealing; £78 by dog stealing; £1,249 by stealing goods exposed for sale; £413 stealing lead, &c., from unfurnished houses; £1597 by stealing from carts and carriages; £122 by stealing linen exposed to dry; £421 by stealing poultry from an outhouse; £1,888 stolen from dwelling-houses by means of false keys; £2,936 by lodgers; £8,866 by servants; £4,500 by doors being left open; £2,175 by false messages; £2,848 by lifting the window or breaking the glass; £559 by entry through the attic windows from an empty house; £795 by means unknown; £3,018 by picking pockets; £729 was taken from drunken persons; £48 from children; £2024 by prostitutes; £418 by larceny on the river-amounting altogether to £41,988; and this only in those robberies which became known to the police.
Now, as there is a market even for the rags gathered by the
bone-grubber, so is there an "exchange" for the articles collected by the
thieves. This is the celebrated Petticoat Lane, or Middlesex Street, as it is
now styled, where the Jew fences most do congregate, and where all manner of
things are bought and no questions asked. Our picture of the contrasts of London
- of the extreme forms of metropolitan life - would be incomplete without the
following sketch of the place.
The antipodes to the fashionable world is Petticoat Lane, which is, as it were, the capital of the unfashionable empire - the metropolis of the bas-ton. It is to the East End what Regent Street is to the West.
Proceeding up the Lane from Aldgate, the locality seems to be hardly different from other byeways in the same district; indeed it has much the character of the entry to Leather Lane out of Holborn, being narrow and dark, and flanked by shops which evidently depend little upon display for their trade. The small strip of roadway as you turn into the Lane is generally blocked up by some costermonger's barrow, with its flat projecting tray on the top, littered with little hard knubbly-looking pears, scarcely bigger than turnip-radishes, and which is brought to a dead halt every dozen paces, while the corduroyed proprietor pauses to turn round, and roar, "Sixteen a penny, lumping pears!"
As you worm your way along, you pass little slits of blind alleys, with old sheets and [-48-] patchwork counterpanes, like large fancy chess-boards, stretched to dry across the court, and hanging so still and straight that you see at a glance how stagnant the air is in these dismal quarters. The gutters are all grey, and bubbling with soap-suds, and on the doorsteps sit crouching fluffy-haired women; whilst at the entrance are clusters of sharp-featured boys, some in men's coats, with the cuffs turned half-way up the sleeves, and the tails trailing on the stones, and others with the end of their trousers rolled up, and the waistbands braced with string high across their chests.
As you move by them, you see the pennies spin from the midst of them into the air, and the eager young group suddenly draw back and peer intently on the ground, as the coins are heard to jingle on the stones.
Up another alley you catch sight of some women engaged in scrubbing an old French bedstead that stretches half across the court, while others are busy beating the coffee-coloured mattress that leans against the wall, previous to making its appearance at the furniture-stall above. In the opposite court may be seen a newly-opened barrel of pickled herrings, with the slimy, metallic-looking fish ranged like a cockade within; and here against the wall dangle the split bodies of drying fish-hard-looking "finny-haddies" (Finnan haddocks), brown and tarry-like as a sailor's "sou'-wester," and seeming as if they were bats asleep, as they hang spread open in the dusky corners of the place.
A little higher up, the Lane appears to be devoted chiefly to the preparation and sale of such eatables as the Israelites generally delight in. Almost every other shop is an "establishment" for the cooking and distribution of fried fish, the air around being redolent of the vapours of hot oil; and, as you pass on your way, you hear the flounders and soles frizzing in the back parlours, whilst hot-looking hook-nosed women rush out with smoking frying-pans in their hands, their aprons stained with grease almost as if they were water-proofed with it, and their checks red and shiny as tinsel-foil with the fire. The sloping shop-boards here are covered with the dishes filled with the fresh-cooked fish, looking brown as the bottom of a newly-sanded bird-cage; by the side of these are ranged oyster-tubs filled with pickled cucumbers, the soft, swollen vegetables floating in the vinegar like huge fat caterpillars.
Mingled with these are strange-looking butchers' shops, with small pieces of pale, bloodless meat dangling from the hooks, and each having a curious tin ticket, like a metallic capsule, fastened to it. This is the seal of the Rabbi, certifying that the animal was slaughtered according to the Jewish rites; and here are seen odd-looking Hebrew butchers and butcher-boys, with their black, curly hair, greasier even than the locks of the Whitechapel Israelites on a Saturday, and speckled with bits of suet. Their faces, too, appear, to eyes unused to the sight, so unnaturally grim above their blue smocks, that they have very much the appearance of a small family of O. Smiths costumed for the part in a piece of Adelphi diablerie.
Nor are the bakers' shops in this locality of a less peculiar or striking east; for here the heads and eyebrows of the Hebrew master bakers are unnaturally white with the flour, and give them the same grotesque look as would characterize a powdered Jew footman in the upper circles;
while among the loaves and bags of flour in the shop,. you often catch sight of dusty, thin, passover biscuits, nearly as big as targets.
As you proceed up the Lane, the trade of the place assumes a totally different character; there the emporia of fried fish, and butcher's meat, and pickled cucumbers pass into petty marts for old furniture and repositories of second-hand tools. Now, in front of one shop, you see nothing but old foot-rules and long carpenters' planes, all ranged in straight lines and shiny and yellow with recent bees-wax. Behind the trellis of tools, too, you occasionally catch sight of the figure of a man engaged in polishing-up the handle of an old centre-bit, or scouring away at the rusty blade of some second-hand saw.
The pavement in front of the furniture-shops is littered with old deal chairs and tables; and imitation chests of drawers with the fronts removed, and showing the coarse brownpaper-like sacking of the doubled-up bed within; and huge unwieldy sofas are there with a kind of canvas tank sunk under the seat, and reminding one of those odd-looking carts in
which the load is placed below the axle of the wheels. As you
pass along the line of lumbered-up shops, you discover vistas of curious
triangular cupboards; bulky, square-looking arm-chairs in their canvas undress;
narrow brown tables, with semicircular flaps hanging at their sides, and quaint
oval looking-glasses; and yellow-painted bamboo chairs, with the rushes showing
underneath, as ragged as an old fish-basket; while the floor is encumbered with
feather beds, doubled up, and looking like lumps of dirty dough.
Adjoining the old furniture-shops are second-hand clothes marts, with the entire fronts of the shops covered outside with rows of old fustian trousers, washed as white as the inside of a fresh hide, and with tripey corduroys, and fluffy carpenters' flannel jackets; the door-posts, moreover, are decked with faded gaudy waistcoats, ornamented with fancy buttons, that have much the appearance of small brandy-balls.
A few paces further on, you come to a hatter's, with the men at work in the shop, their irons, heavy as the sole of a club-boot, standing on the counter by their side, and the place filled with varnished brown paper hat-shapes, that seem as if they had been modelled in hard-bake.
Nor are the Jewesses of Petticoat Lane the least remarkable of the characters appertaining to the place. In front of almost every doorway is seated some fat Hebrew woman, with gold ear-rings dangling by her neck, as big as a chandelier drop, and her lingers hooped with thick gold rings. Some of the ladies are rubbing up old brass candlesticks, and some scouring old tarnished tea-kettles, their hands and faces, amidst all their finery, begrimed with dirt. In one part of the Lane, you behold one of the women with a bunch of bright blue artificial flowers in her cap, as big as the nosegays with which coachmen delight to decorate their horses' heads on the 1st of May, busy extracting the grease from the collar of a threadbare surtout; in another part you may perceive an Israelite maiden, almost as grubby and tawdry as My Lady on May Day, engaged in the act of blacking a pair of high-lows; while at the door of some rag and bottle warehouse, where, from the poverty-stricken aspect of the place, you would imagine that the people could hardly be one week's remove from the workhouse, you see some grand lady with a lace-edged parasol in her white-kidded hand, and a bright green and red cashmere shawl spread out over her back, taking leave of her greasy-looking daughters, previous to emerging into all the elegancies of Aldgate.
Were it not for such curious sights as the above, it would be difficult to account for that strange medley of want and luxury-that incongruous association of the sale of jewellery and artificial flowers, with that of old clothes, rags, and old metal, which constitutes, perhaps, one of the most startling features of Petticoat Lane.
"How is it," the mind naturally inquires, "that, in a place where the people who come to sell or buy are among the very poorest in the land, there can be the least demand for such trumpery as rings, brooches, and artificial roses? Does the bone-grubber who rummages the muck-heaps for some bit of rag, or metal, that will help to bring him a few pence at the day's end - does he feast on fried fish and pickled cucumbers? Is he, poor wretch ! who cannot even get bread enough to stay his cravings, the purchaser of the halfpenny ices? Are the fatty cakes made for them who come here to sell the shirt off their backs for a meal?"
Verily, the luxuries and the finery are not for such as these; but for those who live, and trade, and fatten upon the misery of the poor and the vice of the criminal.
If all the old rags and clothes, and tools and beds in Petticoat Lane, had tongues, what stories of unknown sufferings or infatuate vice would they not tell! In those old tool shops alone what volumes of silent misery are there not contained! They who know what a mechanic will suffer before he parts with the implements of his trade-who know how he will pawn or sell every valuable, however useful, make away with every relic, however much prized, before he is driven to dispose of those implements which are another pair of hands to him, and without which it is impossible for him to get either work or bread - those who [-52-] know this, and know further how a long illness, a fever, laying prostrate a working man's whole family, and brought on, most probably, by living in some cheap, close, pent-up court, will compel a poor fellow to part, bit by bit, with each little piece of property that he has accumulated out of his earnings when in health and strength - how his watch, as well as the humble trinkets of his wife, will go first to get the necessary food or physic for them all - how the extra suit of Sunday clothes, and the one silk gown, and the thick warm shawl are parted with next - how, after this, the blankets and under-clothing of the wife and children disappear, one by one, for though they shiver in the streets, at least no one sees how thinly they are clad, or knows how cold they lie at night - how then the bedding is sold from under them to keep them a few days longer from the dreaded poor-house - and how, last of all, when wife and children are stripped nearly naked, when the man has sold the shirt from his back to stay the cravings of his little ones, when they have nothing but the boards to lie upon - how, then, and not till then, the planes and saws and centre-bits are disposed of, and each with the same pang too, as if the right hand of the man was being cut from him - those, we say, who know the sufferings which have preceded the sale of many of these implements - who know, too, the despair which fills the mind of a working man as he sees his only means of independence wrested from him, will not pass the old tool shops in Petticoat Lane idly by, but rather read in each wretched article some sad tale of humble misery.
Still all the tools are not there from such a cause; no! nor half of them; perhaps the greater part would be found, if the matter were opened up, to have been disposed of for drink - by fatuous sots, who first swilled themselves out of work, and then guzzled away now a plane and now a saw, raising first a glass on this to stay the trembling of the hand in the morning, and then a drop on that to keep down the "horrors" - until at length nothing remained but "the house," or street-cadging and lying, as the broken-down mechanic.
But are we all so immaculate that we have no sympathy but for the deserving poor. Is our pity limited merely to those only who suffer the least, because they suffer with an unaccusing conscience; and must we entirely shut out from our commiseration the wretch who is tormented not only with hunger, but with the self-reproaches of his own bosom. Granting that this cast-iron philosophy is right and good for society, shall not the thought of the suffering wife and children, even of the drunkard and the trickster, move us to the least tenderness?
"How long," the thoughtful traveller will wonder to himself, as he continues his journey mournfully up the Lane, "did the family go without food before that bed was brought here for sale? Those fustian and flannel jackets, what sad privations were experienced by their former owners, ere they were forced to take them off their backs to raise a meal? What is the wretched history of those foot-rules and chisels? How long did the little ones starve before that pair of baby's boots were stripped from the tiny feet and sold for a bite and a sup-ay, or if you will, Mr. Puritan, for another glass of gin? Did the parting with those wedding rings cost more or less agony of body? Where is the owner of the little boots now? In a workhouse, or walking the streets with gayer boots than ever?
"That silk pocket handkerchief, too - the one in which we can just see where the mark has been picked from the corner - what is the story in connection with it? Is the lad who stole it, and who sold it to the Jew there for not one-fourth the sum that it is now ticketed at - is he at the hulks yet? Was he one out of the many families that have been turned into the streets, on the breaking up of the hundred homes to which these piles of old furniture belonged? Or was he wilfully bad - one of those that Mr. Carlyle would have shot, and swept into the dust bin."
Yonder, at the corner of one of the courts higher up the Lane, is a group of eager lads peeping over the shoulders of one another, while one shows some silver spoons.
The Jew who buys them is a regular attendant at synagogue, and wears the laws of Moses next his skin. But he asks no questions, and has a crucible always ready on the fire. [-53-] His daughters are like Indian idols-all gold and dirt now, but next Saturday you shall see them parading Aldgate in the highest style of fashion. The old man has no end of money to leave Ruth and Rachel, when he dies and is gathered - as he hopes to be - to the bosom of Abraham.
Now, sapient reader, you can guess, perhaps, who it is that buys the artificial flowers, and the fried fish, and the jewellery that you see exposed among the old tools and clothes and furniture in Petticoat Lane.
OF THE LONDON STREETS, THEIR TRAFFIC, NAMES, AND CHARACTER.
The thoroughfares of London constitute, assuredly, the finest
and most remarkable of all the sights that London contains. Not that this is due
to their architectural display, even though at the West End there are streets
which are long lines of palaces - such as Pall Mall, with its stately array of
club-houses - and Regent Street, where the fronts of each distinct block of
buildings are united so as to form one imposing façade, and where every façade
is different, so that, as we walk along, a kind of architectural panorama glides
before the eye - and Belgravia and Tyburnia, where the squares and terraces are
vast palatial colonies. Nor yet is it due to the magnificence of its shops -
crystal storehouses of which the sheets of glass are like sheets of the clearest
lake ice, both in their dimensions and transparency, and gorgeous with the
display of the richest products in the world. Nor yet, again, is it owing to the
capacious Docks at the East End of the Metropolis, where the surrounding streets
have all the nautical oddness of an amphibious Dutch town, from the mingling of
the many mast-heads with the chimney-pots, and where the sense of the immensity
of the aggregate merchant-wealth is positively overpowering to contemplate.
Neither is it owing to the broad green parks, that are so many bright snatches
of the country scattered round the smoke-dried city, and where the verdure of
the fields is rendered doubly grateful, not only from their contrast with the
dense rusty-red mass of bricks and mortar with which they are encompassed, but
from being vast aerial reservoirs-great sylvan tanks, as it were, of oxygen-for
the supply of health and spirits to the walled-in multitude. But these same
London thoroughfares are, simply, the finest of all sights - in the world,
we may say - on account of the never-ending and infinite variety of life to be
seen in them.
Beyond doubt, the enormous multitudes ever pouring through the principal metropolitan thoroughfares strike the first deep impression upon the stranger's mind; and we ourselves never contemplate the tumultuous scene without feeling that here lies the true grandeur of the Capital-the one distinctive mark that gives a special sublimity to the spot.
Travellers speak of the awful magnificence of the great torrent of Niagara, where thousands upon thousands of tons of liquid are ever pouring over the rocks in one immense, terrific flood. But what is this in grandeur to the vast human tide - the stupendous living torrent of thousands upon thousands of restless souls, each quickened with some different purpose, and for ever rushing along the great leading thoroughfares of the Metropolis? what the aggregate power of the greatest cataract in the world to the united might of the several emotions and wills stirring each of the homuncular atoms composing that dense human stream. And if the roar of the precipitated waters bewilders and affrights the mind, assuredly the riot and tumult of the traffic of London at once stun and terrify the brain of those who hear it for the first time.
There is no scene in the wide world, indeed, equal in grandeur to the contemplation of the immensity of this same London traffic. Can the masses of the pyramids impress the mind with such an overwhelming sense of labour and everlastingness as is inspired by the appa-[-54-]rently never-ending and never-tiring industry of the masses of people in our streets? If the desert be the very intensity of the sublime from the feeling of tragic loneliness - of terrible isolation that it induces-from the awful solemnity of the great ocean of desolation encompassing the traveller; surely this monster Metropolis is equally sublime, though from the opposite cause - from the sense of the infinite multitude of people with which we are surrounded, and yet of our comparative, if not absolute, friendlessness and isolation in the very midst of such an infinite multitude.
Is there any other sight in the Metropolis, moreover, so thoroughly Londonesque as this is in its character? Will our Law Courts, though justice be dispensed there with a fairness and even mercy to the accused, that is utterly unknown in other lands, give the foreigner as lively an idea of the genius of our people? Will our Houses of Parliament, where the policy of every new law is discussed by the national representatives with an honesty and freedom impossible to be met with in the Chambers of other States, show him so much of our character? Will the stranger be so astounded even at the internal economy of our great newspaper printing-offices, where the intelligence of the entire world is focussed, as it were, into one enormous daily sheet, that is filled with finer essays than any to be found in "the British Classics," and printed far more elegantly than library books on the Continent, - even though the greater portion of the matter has been written, and the million bits of type composing it have been picked up, in the course of the preceding night? Or will our leviathan breweries, or our races, or our cattle-shows, or cricket matches, or, indeed, any of the institutions, or customs, or enterprises peculiar to the land, sink so deeply into the stranger's mind as the contemplation of the several miles of crowd - the long and dense commercial train of men and vehicles each day flooding the leading thoroughfares of this giant city!
Let the visitor from some quiet country or foreign town behold the city at five in the day, and see the people crowding the great lines of streets like a flock of sheep in a narrow lane; and the conveyances, too, packed full of human beings, and jammed as compactly together as the stones on the paving beneath, and find, moreover-go which way he will-the same black multitude pervading the thoroughfares almost as far as he can travel before nightfall- behold every one of the civic arteries leading to the mighty heart of London, charged with its thousands of human globules, all busy, as they circulate through them, sustaining the life and energy and well-being of the land; and assuredly he will allow that the world has no wonder - amongst the whole of its far-famed seven - in the least comparable to this.
Let us now, however, descend to particulars, and endeavour to
set forth the actual amount of traffic going on through the leading London
By a return which was kindly furnished to us by Mr. Haywood, the City Surveyor, we are enabled to come at this point with greater accuracy than might be imagined. The return of which we speak was of a very elaborate character, and specified not only the total number of vehicles drawn by one horse, as well as two, three, or more horses, that passed over 24 of the principal City thoroughfares in the course of twelve hours, but also set forth the number of each kind of conveyance traversing the city for every hour throughout the day.
By means of this table, then, we find there are two tides, as it were, in the daily stream of locomotion flowing through the city - the one coming to its highest point at eleven in the forenoon, up to which time the number of vehicles gradually increases, and so rapidly, too, that there are very nearly twice as many conveyances in the streets at eleven, as there are at nine o'clock in the morning. After eleven o'clock the tide of the traffic, however, begins to ebb - the number-of carriages gradually decreasing, till two in the afternoon, when there is one-sixth less vehicles in the leading thoroughfares than at eleven. After two, again, another change occurs, and the crowd of conveyances continues to increase in number till five o'clock, when there are a few hundreds more collected within the city boundaries than there [-55-] were at eleven. After five, the locomotive current ebbs once more, and does not attain its next flood until eleven the next day.
Now, by this return it is shown, that the gross number of vehicles passing along the City thoroughfares, in the course of twelve hours, ordinarily amounts to one-eighth of a million, or upwards of 125,000.*
[* The following are the data for the above statement:-
RETURN, SHOWING THE TOTAL NUMBER OF VEHICLES PASSING IN THE COURSE OF TWELVE HOURS (NINE A.M. To NINE P.M.) THROUGH THE PRINCIPAL STREETS OF THE CITY OF LONDON.
Lower Thames Street, by Botolph Lane 1,380
Threadneedle Street 2,150
Lombard Street, by Birch in Lane . . 2,228
Upper Thames Street (in rear of Queen Street) 2,331
Aldersgate Street, by Fann Street . 2,590
Tower Street, by Mark Lane . 2,890
Smithfield Bars 3,108
Fenchurch Street 3,642
Eastcheap, by Philpot Lane . 4,102
Bishopsgate Street Without, by City boundary 4,110
Finsbury Pavement, by South Place 4,460
Aldgate High Street, by City boundary 4,754
Bishopsgate Street Within, by Great St. Helen's 4,842
Gracechurch Street, by St. Peter's Alley 4,887
Cornhill, by the Royal Exchange 4,916
Blackfriars Bridge . 6,262
Leadenhall Street, in rear of the East India House . 5,930
Newgate Street, by Old Bailey 6,375
Ludgate Hill, by Pilgrim Street . 6,829
Holborn Hill, by St. Andrew's Church 6,906
Temple Bar Gate . . 7,741
Poultry, by the Mansion Rouse . 10,274
Cheapside, by Foster Lane . 11,053
London Bridge 13,099
of these, it should be added, are reckoned more than once in the statement; if,
however, we sum up only the number appearing in the distinct lines of
thoroughfares - like Holborn, Fleet Street, Leadenhall Street, Blackfriars
Bridge, Bishopsgate Street, Finsbury Pavement, &c.-the amount of city
traffic, will even then reach nearly 60,000 vehicles, passing and re-passing
through the streets every day.
Now, that this estimate is not very wide of the truth, is proven by the fact, that there are no less than 3000 cabs plying in London streets; nearly 1000 omnibuses; and more than 10,000 private and job carriages and carts, belonging to various individuals throughout the Metropolis (as is shown by the returns of the Stamp and Tax Office). Moreover, it is calculated, that some 3000 conveyances enter the Metropolis daily from the surrounding country; whilst the amount of mileage duty paid by the Metropolitan Stage Carriages, in the year 1853, prove that the united London omnibuses and short stages must have travelled over not less than 21,800,000 miles of ground in the course of that year-a distance which is very nearly equal to one-fourth that of the earth from the sun!
Hence, it will appear that the above estimate, as to the number of vehicles passing and repassing through the City streets every day, does not exceed the bounds of reason.
But the thoroughfares within the City boundaries are not one-thirtieth of the length of those without them; and as there are two distinct lines of streets, traversing London from east to west, each six miles long, and at least four distinct highways, stretching north and south, each four miles in length at least; whilst along each and all of these a dense stream of foot passengers and conveyances is maintained throughout the day; it will therefore be found, by calculation, that at five o'clock, when almost every one of these thoroughfares may be said to be positively crowded with the traffic, that there is a dense stream of omnibuses, cabs, carts, and carriages, as well as foot passengers, flowing though London at one and the same time, that is near upon 30 miles long altogether!
We have before spoken of the prodigious length of the aggregate streets and lanes of the Metropolis, and a peep at the balloon map of London* [*An excellent map of the kind above specified is published by Appleyard and Hetling of Farringdon Street, and it will be found to be more easily comprehensible to strangers than the ordinary ground-plans of the London streets.] will convince the stranger what a tangled knot of highways and byeways is the town. A plexus of nerves or capillary vessels is [-56-] not more intricate than they. As well might we seek to find order and systematic arrangement among a ball of worms as in that conglomeration of thoroughfares constituting the British Metropolis.
"I began to study the Map of London," says Southey, in his Espriella's Letters, "though dismayed at the sight of its prodigious extent. The river is of no assistance to a stranger in finding his way; there is no street along its banks; nor is there any eminence whence you can look around and take your bearings."
But the nomenclature of the London streets is about as unsystematic as is the general plan of the thoroughfares, and cannot but be extremely puzzling to the stranger. Every one knows how the Frenchman was perplexed with the hundred significations given to the English term "box" - such as band-box, Christmas-box, coach-box, box on the ears, shooting-box, box-free, private box, the wrong box, boxing the compass, and a boxing match. And, assuredly, he must be equally bothered on finding the same name applied to some score or two of different thoroughfares, that are often so far apart, that, if he happen to be the bearer of a letter of introduction with the address of "King Street, London," the unhappy wight would probably be driven about from district to district - from King Street, Golden Square, maybe, to King street, Cheapside, and then back again to King Street, Covent Garden-and so on until he had tried the whole of the forty-two King Streets that are now set down in the Post-office Directory.
¶ i. Of the Nomenclature of the London Streets.
A painstaking friend of ours has, at our request, been at the
trouble of classifying the various thoroughfares of London, and he finds that of
the streets, squares, terraces, &c., bearing a loyal title, there are
no less than seventy-three christened King, seventy-eight Queen, forty-two
called Prince's, and four Princess's; twenty-six styled Duke, one Duchess, and
twenty-eight having the title of Regent; while there are thirty-one Crown
Streets, or Courts, and one Regina Villa.
Then many thoroughfares are named after the titles of nobles. Thus there are no less than eighty-nine localities called York, after the Duke of ditto; fifty-eight entitled Gloucester; forty-four Brunswick, in honour of that "house;" thirty-nine Bedford, thirty-five Devonshire, thirty-six Portland, thirty-four Cambridge, twenty-eight Lansdowne, twenty-seven Montague, twenty-six Cumberland, twenty-two Claremont and Clarence, twenty Clarendon, twenty-three Russell, twenty-one Norfolk-besides many other highways or byeways styled Cavendish, or Cecil, or Buckingham, or Northumberland, or Stanhope.
Next, in illustration of the principle of hero-worshsip, there are fifty-two thoroughfares called after Wellington, twenty-nine after Marlborough, and eleven after Nelson; there are, moreover, twenty styled Waterloo, and fifteen Trafalgar, thirteen Blenheim, one Doyne, and three Navarino; whilst, in honour of Prime Ministers, there are six localities called after Pitt, two after Fox, and three after Canning; in celebration of Lord Chancellors, five are named Eldon; for Politicians, one Place is styled Cobden, and two streets Burdett; and to commemorate the name of great poets and philosophers, there is one Shakespeare's Walk (at Shadwell), one Ben Jonson's Fields, eight Milton Streets, and seven thoroughfares bearing the name of Addison, and one that of Cato.
Of the number of thoroughfares called by simple Christian names, the following are the principal examples:- There are fifty-eight localities known as George, forty christened Victoria, forty-three Albert, and eight Adelaide. Then there are forty-seven Johns, forty- nine Charleses, thirty-five Jameses, thirty-three Edwards, thirty Alfreds, twenty Charlottes, and the same number of Elizabeths and Fredericks, together with a small number of Roberts, and Anns, and Peters, and Pauls, and Adams, and Ameias, and Marys, beside eight King Edwards, two King Williams, one King John, and one King Henry.
[-57-] Many streets, on the other hand, bear the surnames of their builders or landlords; and, accordingly, we have several thoroughfares rejoicing in the illustrious names of Smith or Baker, or Newman, or Perry, or Nicholas, or Milman, or Warren, or Leigh, or Beaufoy, and indeed one locality bearing the euphonious title of Bugsby's Reach.
Religious titles, again, are not uncommon. Not only have we the celebrated Paternoster Row, and Ave-Maria Lane, and Amen Corner, and Adam and Eve Court, but there are All Hallows Chambers, and a number of Providence Rows and Streets. Moreover, there is a large family called either Church or Chapel, besides a Bishop's Walk, a Dean's Yard, and a Mitre Court, together with not a few christened College or Abbey; whilst there is a Tabernacle Row, Square, and Walk, as well as a well-known Worship Street, and no less than twenty distinct places bearing the name of Trinity, as well as two large districts styled Whitefriars and Blackfriars, and a bevy of streets called after the entire calendar of Saints, together with a posse of Angel Courts and Lanes.
Other places, on the contrary, delight in Pagan titles; for in the suburbs we find two Neptune Streets, four Minerva Terraces, two Apollo Buildings, one Diana Place, a Hermes Street, and a Hercules Passage; besides several streets dedicated to England's mythological patroness, Britannia, and some half-dozen roads, or cottages, or places, glorying in the title of the imaginary Scotch goddess, Caledonia. The same patriotic spirit seems to make the name of Albion very popular among the godfathers or godmothers of thoroughfares, for there are no less than some fifty buildings, chambers, cottages, groves, mews, squares, &c., rejoicing in the national cognomen.
Further, there is a large number of astronomically-named highways, such as those called Sun Street or Sols' Row, or Half-Moon Street, or Star Alley, or Corner. And, again, we have many of an aquatic turn, as witness the Thames Streets and River Terraces, and Brook Streets, and Wells Streets, and Water Lanes-ay, and one Ocean Row.
Others delight in zoological titles, such as Fish Street, Elephant Gardens, or Stairs, Cow Lane, Lamb Alley, and Bear Street, as well as Duck Lane, and Drake Street, and Raven Row, and Dove Court, with many Swan Streets and Lanes and Alleys, and Eagle Streets, and Swallow Streets, and one Sparrow Corner. In the same category, too, we must class the thoroughfares christened after fabulous monsters, such as the Red Lion and White Lion Streets, the Mermaid Courts, and Phoenix Places and Wharves.
In addition to these must be mentioned the gastronomical localities, such as Milk Street, Beer Street, Bread Street, Pine-Apple Place, Sugar-Loaf Court, and Vinegar Yard; and the old Pie Lane, and Pudding Corner; besides Orange Street, and Lemon Street, and the horticultural Pear-Tree Court, Fig-Tree ditto, Cherry-Tree Lane, and Walnut-Tree Walk.
Others, again, have botanical names given to them: thus, there are ten Rose Villas, Terraces, Lanes, or Courts; nine Holly ditto; seven Ivy Cottages or Places; one Lily Terrace; two Woodbine Villas; the same number of Fir Groves; a Lavender Hill and Place; twelve Willow Walks and Cottages, besides three Acacia and Avenue Roads or Gardens; one Coppice Row; and no less than fifty-four Cottages, or Crescents, or Parks styled Grove - though mostly all are as leafless as boot-trees.
A large number of thoroughfares, on the other hand, are called after their size or shape; Thus there are twenty-three Streets, Courts, Pavements, Walls, and Ways styled Broad; but only three Streets called Narrow. There are, however, six Acres, Alleys, or Lanes called Long; and an equal number of Buildings denominated Short. Then we have as many as thirty-five styled High, four called Back, and the same number bearing the opposite title of Fore; whilst there are no less than ten Rows denominated Middle, and twenty Courts, Lanes, &c. christened Cross, as well as one dubbed Turnagain. In addition to these there are three Ovals, four Triangles, two Polygons, and one Quadrant; besides an innumerable quantity of Squares, Circuses, and Crescents.
Some places, on the other hand, appear to have chromatic names, though this arises from [-58-] the pigmentary patronymics of their original landlords. Hence there are sixteen thoroughfares called Green, two White, and one Grey.
Further, we have a considerable quantity named after the cardinal points of the compass, there being as many as forty-eight denominated North, not a few of which lie in a wholly different direction, and forty-four bearing the title of South; whilst there are twenty-nine nicknamed East, and an equal number West; but only one styled North-East.
In the suburbs the topographical titles are often of a laudatory character, and generally eulogistic of the view that was (originally, perhaps,) to be obtained from the Buildings, or Crescent, or Cottages, or Row, to which the inviting title has been applied. Accordingly we find that there are twenty-four Prospect Cottages and Places; four Belle-Vues, and a like number of Belvideres; whilst there is one Fair-View Place; besides nearly a score of Pleasant Places, four Mount Pleasants, sixteen Paradise Terraces or Cottages, and six Paragon Villas or Rows.
Others, still, are christened after particular trades. Thus, the Butchers have two Rows called after them; the Fishmongers two Alleys; the Dyers, three Courts or Buildings; the Barbers, one Yard; the Sadlers, three Buildings or Places; the Stonecutters, one Street; the Potters, a few Fields; the Weavers, two Streets; the Ironmongers, one Lane; and the Ropemakers, one Walk; whilst there are no less than thirty-three thoroughfares having the general title of Commercial. Further, in honour of the Bootmakers, there is one Place styled Crispin, one Lane called Shoe, and one Street bearing the name of Boot-besides a Petticoat Lane in honour of the ladies, and, for the poorer classes, a Rag Fair.
Then, of thoroughfares named after materials, there are eight Wood Streets, one Stone Buildings, one Iron and one Golden Square, seven Silver Streets, and two Diamond Rows.
Lastly, there is a large class of streets called after some public place near which they are situate. For instance, there are just upon one hundred localities having the prefix Park, and thirty-seven entitled Bridge, nineteen are called Market, twelve styled Palace, fourteen Castle, nine Tower, two Parliament, two Asylum, three Spital (the short for Hospital), one Museum, four Custom House, and a like number Charter House; but as yet there exist only two Railway Places, and one Tunnel Square.
Nor would the catalogue be complete if we omitted to enumerate the London Hills, such as Snow, Corn, Ludgate, Holborn, Primrose, Saffron, and Mutton; or the streets named after the ancient Gates, as Newgate, Ludgate, Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, and Moorgate; or those co8mopolitan thoroughfares dubbed Portugal Street, Spanish Place, America Square, Greek Street, Turk's Row, Denmark Hill, and Copenhagen Fields, not forgetting the ancient Petty France and the modern Little Britain.
¶ ii. Character of the London Streets.
The physiognomy of the metropolitan thoroughfares is well
worthy of the study of some civic Lavater. The finely-chiselled features of an
English aristocrat, are not more distinct from the common countenance of a
Common Councilman, than is the stately Belgravian square from its vulgar brother
in Barbican; and as there exists in society a medium class of people, between
the noble and the citizen, who may be regarded as the patterns of ostensible
respectability among us, such as bankers, lawyers, and physicians; so have we in
London a class of respectable localities, whose architecture is not only as prim
as the silver hair, or as cold-looking as the bald head, which is so distinctive
of the "genteel" types above specified; but it is as different from the
ornate and stately character of the buildings about the parks as they, on the
other hand, differ from the heavy and ruddy look of the City squares; for what
the Belgravian districts are in their "build" to the Bedfordian, and the
Bedfordian again to the Towerian, so is there the same ratio in social rank and
character among nobles, professional gentry, and citizens.
[-59-] Again, the very east-end of the town, such as Bethnal green, is as marked in the cut of its bricks and mortar-in the "long lights" of the weavers' houses about Spitalflelds, and the latticed pigeon-house, surmounting almost every roof-as is May Fair from Rag Fair; and so striking is this physiognomical expression - the different cast of countenance, as it were - in the houses of the several localities inhabited by the various grades of society, that to him who knows London well, a walk through its divers districts is as peculiar as a geographical excursion through the multiform regions of the globe.
Stroll through the streets, for instance, that constitute the environs of Fitzroy Square, and surely it needs not brass cards upon the doors to say that this is the artistic quarter of London. Notice the high window in the middle of the first floor, the shutters closed in the day time at all but the upper part of the casement, so as to give a "top light." See, too, the cobwebby window panes and the fiat sticks of the old-fashioned parlour blinds leaning different ways- all betokening the residence of one who hardly belongs to the well-to-do classes. Observe, as you continue your walk, the group of artists' colour-men's shops, with the boxes of moist colours in the windows, and some large brown photographs, or water-colour drawings exposed for sale; and mark, in another street hard by, the warehouses of plaster casts, where you see bits of arms, or isolated hands, modelled in whiting; and chalk figures of horses, with all the muscles showing. After this, the mind's eye that cannot, at a glance, detect that hereabouts dwell the gentry who indulge in odd beards and hats, and delight in a picturesque "make-up," must need some intellectual spectacles to aid its perception.
Travel then across Regent Street to Saville Row, and, if you be there about noon, it will not be necessary to read the small brass tablets graven with "NIGHT-BELL," to learn that here some renowned physician or surgeon dwells in every other house; for you will see a seedy carriage, with fagged-looking horses, waiting at nearly all the thresholds, and pale people, with black patches of respirators over their mouths, in the act of leaving or entering the premises; so that you will readily discover that the gentry frequenting this locality are about to hurry round the Metropolis, and feel some score of pulses, and look at some score of tongues, at the rate of ten guineas per hour.
Next wend your way to Chancery Lane, and give heed to the black-coated gentry, with bundles of papers tied with red-tape in their hands, the door-posts striped with a small catalogue of names, the street-doors set wide open, and individuals in black clerical-looking gowns and powdered coachmen-like wigs, tripping along the pavement towards the Courts; and stationers' shops, in which hang legal almanacs, and skins of parchment, as greasy-looking as tracing-paper, with "this indenture" flourished in the corner, and law lists bound in bright red leather, and law books in sleek yellow calf. Note, too, the furniture shops, with leathern-topped writing-tables and pigeon-holes, and what-nets for papers, and square piles of drawers, and huge iron safes and japanned tin boxes, that seem as if they had had a coat of raspberry jam by way of paint, against which the boys had been dabbing their fingers- all which, of course, will apprise you that you are in the legal quarter of the town.
Then, how different the squares in the different parts of
London - the squares which are so purely national - so utterly unlike your foreign
"place," or "platz," that bare paved or gravelled space, with
nothing but a fountain, a statue, or column, in the centre of it. True, the
trees may grow as black in London as human beings at the tropics; but still
there is the broad carpet of green award in the centre, and occasionally the
patches of bright-coloured flowers that speak of the English love of
gardening-the Londoner's craving for country life.
What a distinctive air, we repeat, have the fashionable West End squares; how different from the "genteel" affairs in the northern districts of the Metropolis, as well as from the odd and desolate places in the City, or the obsolete and antiquated spots on the south side of Holborn and Oxford Street-like Leicester and Soho.
How spacious are the handsome old mansions around Grosvenor Square, with their quoins, windows, and door-cases of stone, bordering the sombre "rubbed" brick fronts. In France or Germany such enormous buildings would have a different noble family lodging on every "flat." The inclosure, too, is a small park, or palace garden, rather than the paved court-yard of foreign places.
Then there is Grosvenor's twin brother, Portman Square, where the houses are all but as imposing in appearance-and St. James's Square - and Berkeley - and Cavendish - and Hanover - and Manchester - with the still more stately and gorgeous Belgrave and Eaton Squares.
Next to these rank the respectable and genteel squares, such as Montague, and Bryanstone, and Connaught, and Cadogan, at the West End, and Fitzroy, and Russell, and Bedford, and Bloomsbury, and Tavistock, and Torrington, and Gordon, and Euston, and Mecklenburg, and Brunswick, and Queen's, and Finsbury - all lying in that district east of Tottenham Court Road which was the celebrated terra incognita of John Wilson Croker.
After these come the City squares - those intensely quiet places immured in the very centre of London, which seem as still and desolate as cloisters; and where the desire for peace is so strong upon the inhabitants, that there is generally a liveried street-keeper or beadle maintained to cane off the boys, as well as dispel the flock of organ-grinders and Punch- and-Judy men, and acrobats, who would look upon the tranquillity of the place as a mine of wealth to them. To this class belong Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate; Bridgewater Square, Barbican; America Square, Minories; Wellclose Square, London Docks; Trinity Square, Tower; Nelson Square, Blackfriars; Warwick Square, Newgate Street; and Gough and Salisbury Squares, Fleet Street; though many of these are but the mere bald "places" of the continent.
Further, we have the obsolete, or "used up" old squares, that lie south of Oxford Street and Holborn, and east of Regent Street, and which have mostly passed from fashionable residences into mere quadrangles, full of shops, or hotels, or exhibitions, or chambers; such are the squares of Soho, Leicester, Golden, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, and even Covent Garden.
And, lastly, we have the pretentious parvenu-like suburban squares, such as Thurlow and Trevor, by Brompton; and Sloane, by Chelsea; and Edwardes, by Kensington; and Oakley, by Camden Town; and Holford and Claremont Squares, by Pentonville; and Islington Square; and Green Arbour Square, by Stepney; and Surrey Square, by the Old Kent Road; and the Oval, by Kennington.
In fine, there are now upwards of one hundred squares distributed throughout London, and these are generally in such extreme favour among the surrounding inhabitants, that they are each regarded as the headquarters of the elite of the district by all aspirants for fashionable distinction; so that the pretentious traders of Gower Street and the like, instead of writing down their address as Gower Street, Tottenham Court Road, love to exaggerate it into Gower Street, Bedford Square.
Of streets, again, we find the same distinctive classes as of
the squares. There are, first, the fashionable streets, such as Arlington Street
St. James's, and Park Lane, and Portland Place, and Richmond and Canton
Terraces, and Privy Gardens.
Then come the respectable or "genteel" thoroughfares of Clarges Street, and Harley Street, and Gloucester Place, and Woburn Place, and Keppel Street, &c.
After these we have the lodging-house localities, comprised in the several streets running out of the Strand.
Moreover, mention must be made of the distinctive streets, and narrow commercial lanes, crowding about the bank, where the houses are as full of merchants and clerks as a low lodging-house is full of tramps.
[-61-] Further, there are the streets and districts for particular trades, as Long Acre, where the carriage-makers abound; and Lombard Street, where the bankers love to congregate; and Clerkenwell, the district for the watch-makers; and Hatton Garden for the Italian glass- blowers; and the Borough for the hatters; Bermondsey for the tanners; Lambeth for the potters; and Spitalfields for weavers; and Catherine Street for the newsvendors; and Paternoster Row for the booksellers; and the New Road for the zinc-workers: and Lower Thames Street for the merchants in oranges and foreign fruits; and Mincing Lane for the wholesale grocers; and Holywell Street and Rosemary Lane for old clothes; and so on.
Again, one of the most distinctive quarters about London is in the neighbourhood of the Docks. The streets themselves in this locality have all, more or less, a maritime character; every other store is either stocked with gear for the ship or the sailor; and the front of many a shop is filled with quadrants and bright brass sextants, chronometers, and ships' binnacles, with their compass cards trembling with the motion of the cabs and waggons passing in the street, whilst over the doorway is fixed a huge figure of a naval officer in a cocked hat, taking a perpetual sight at the people in the first-floor on the opposite side of the way. Then come the sailors' cheap shoe marts, rejoicing in the attractive sign of "Jack and his Mother;" every public house, too, is a "Jolly Jack Tar," or something equally taking, and there are "Free Concerts" at the back of every bar. Here, also, the sailmakers' shops abound, with their windows stowed with ropes, and smelling of tar as you pass them. All the neighbouring grocers are provision agents, and exhibit in their windows tin cases of meat and biscuits, and every article is "warranted to keep in any climate." The corners of the streets, moreover, are mostly monopolized by slopsellers, their windows parti-coloured with the bright red and blue flannel shirts, and the doors nearly blocked up with hammocks and well-oiled nor'-westers; whilst the front of the house itself is half covered with canvas trousers, rough pilot-coats, and shinny black dreadnoughts. The foot-passengers alone would tell you that you were in the maritime district of London, for you pass now a satin waistcoated mate, and now a black sailor with a large fur cap on his head, and then a custom-house officer in his brass-buttoned jacket.
Nor would this account of the peculiarities of the London
streets be complete if we omitted to mention the large body of people who derive
their living from exercising some art or craft, or of carrying on some trade in
them. This portion of people are generally to be seen in the greatest numbers at
the London Street Markets of a Saturday night, and a more peculiar sight is not
to be witnessed in any other capital of the world.
It is at these street markets that many of the working classes purchase their Sunday's dinner, and after pay-time on a Saturday night, the crowd in some parts is almost impassable. Indeed, the scene at such places has more the character of a fair than a market. There are hundreds of stalls, and every stall has its one or two lights; either it is illuminated by the intense white light of the new self-generating gas lamp, or else it is brightened up by the red smoky flame of the old-fashioned grease lamp. One man shows off his yellow haddocks with a candle stuck in a bundle of firewood; his neighbours make a candlestick of a huge turnip, and the tallow gutters over its sides; whilst the boy shouting, "Eight a penny, stunning pears! has surrounded his "dip with a thick roll of brown paper that flares away in the wind. Some stalls are crimson, with the fire shining through the holes beneath the baked chestnut stove; others have handsome octohedral lamps; while a few have a candle shining through a sieve; these, with the sparkling ground-glass globes of the tea-dealers' shops, and the butchers' gas-lights streaming and fluttering in the wind like flags of flame, pour forth such a flood of light, that at a distance the atmosphere immediately above the spot is as lurid as if the street were on fire.
The pavement and the road are crowded with purchasers and street sellers. The housewife in a thick shawl, with the market-basket on her arm, walks slowly on, stopping now to look at the stall of caps, and now to cheapen a bunch of greens. Little boys holding three [-62-] or four onions in their hand, creep between the people, wriggling their way through every interstice in the crowd, and asking for custom in whining tones as if seeking charity.
Then the tumult of the thousand cries of the eager dealers, all shouting at the top of their voices at one and the same time, is almost bewildering. "So-old again!" roars one. "Chesnuts, all ott !-A penny a score!" bawls another. "An aypenny a skin, blacking! shrieks a boy. "Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy,-bu-u-wy!" jabbers the butcher. "Half-a- quire of paper for a penny !" bellows the street stationer. "An aypenny a lot, inguns!" "Tuppence a pound, grapes!" "Three-a-penny, Yarmouth bloaters!" "Who'll buy a bonnet for fourpence?" "Pick em out cheap, here! three pair for an aypenny, boot- laces." "Now's your time! beautiful whelks, a penny a lot!" "Here's ha-p-orths!" shouts the perambulating confectioner. "Come and look at e'm !-prime toasters!" bellows one with a Yarmouth bloater stuck on a toasting fork. "Penny a lot, fine russets-penny a lot!" calls the apple woman. And so the Babel goes on.
One man stands with his red-edged mats hanging over his back and chest like a herald's coat; and the girl, with her basket of walnuts, lifts her brown-stained fingers to her mouth, as she screams, "Fine warnuts! sixteen a penny, fine war-r-nuts!" At one of the neighbouring shops, a boot-maker, to attract custom, has illuminated his shop-front with a line of gas, and in its full glare stands a blind beggar, his eyes turned up so as to show only the whites, and mumbling some begging rhymes, that are drowned in the shrill notes of the player on the bamboo-flute, next to him. The boys' sharp shoutings; the women's cracked voices; the gruff hoarse roar of the men-are all mingled together. Sometimes an Irishman is heard, with his cry of " Fine ating apples!" or else the jingling music of an unseen organ breaks out as the trio of street singers rest between the verses.
Then the sights, as you elbow your way through the crowd, are equally multifarious. Here is a stall glittering with new tin saucepans; there another, bright with its blue and yellow crockery and sparkling white glass. Now you come to a row of old shoes, arranged along the pavement; now to a stand of gaudy tea-trays; then to a shop, with red handkerchiefs and blue checked shirts, fluttering backwards and forwards, and a temporary counter built up on the kerb, behind which shop-boys are beseeching custom. At the door of a tea-shop, with its hundreds of white globes of light, stands a man delivering bills, "thanking the public for past favours and defying competition." Here, alongside the road, are some half-dozen headless tailors' dummies, dressed in Chesterfields and fustian jackets, each labelled, "LOOK AT THE PRICES", or "OBSERVE THE QUALITY." Next, we pass a butcher's shop, crimson and white, with the meat piled up to the first-floor; in front of which, the butcher himself in his blue coat, walks up and down sharpening his knife on the steel that hangs to his waist, saying to each woman as she passes, "What can I do for you, my dear?" A little further on, stands the clean family begging; the father, with his head down, as if ashamed to be seen, and a box of lucifers held forth in his hand; the boys, in newly-worked pinafores, and the tidily got-up mother, with a child at her breast.
One stall is green and white with bunches of turnips-another red with apples; the next yellow with onions; and the one after that purple with pickling cabbages. One minute you pass a man with an umbrella turned inside upwards, and full of prints. The next moment you hear a fellow with a peep-show of Mazeppa, and Paul Jones the pirate, describing the pictures to the crowd of boys as some of them spy in at the little round windows. Then you are startled by the sharp snap of percussion caps from the crowd of lads, firing at the target for nuts, at the corner of the street; and the minute afterwards you see a black man clad in thin white garments, and shivering in the cold, with tracts in his hand, or else you hear the sounds of music from "Frazier's Circus," on the other side of the road, and the man outside the door of the penny concert beseeching the passers-by to "be in time! be in time !" as Mr. Somebody is just about to sing his favourite song of "The Knife-grinder."
[-63-] Such, indeed, is the riot, the struggle, and the scramble for a living, that the confusion and uproar of the London Street Market on Saturday night have a bewildering and half-saddening effect upon the thoughtful mind.
Each salesman tries his utmost to sell his wares, tempting the passers-by with his bargains. The boy with his stock of herbs, offers a "double andful of fine parsley for a penny." The man with the donkey-cart filled with turnips, has three lads to shout for him to their utmost, with their "Ho! ho! hi-i-i! What do you think of this here? A penny a bunch! - a penny a bunch! Hurrah for free trade! Here's your turnips!"
Until the scene and tumult are witnessed and heard, it is impossible to have a sense of the scramble that is going on throughout London for a living - the shouting and the struggling of hundreds to get the penny profit out of the poor man's Sunday's dinner.