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Thursday, May 16, 1850
It is no easy matter to classify the different kinds of labour
scientifically. To arrange the several varieties of work into "orders," and
to group the manifold species of arts under a few comprehensive genera - so that
the mind may grasp the whole at one effort - is a task attended with
considerable difficulty. The first attempt to bring any number of diverse
phenonema within the rules of logical division is not only laborious, but
generally unsuccessful. It is impossible, however, to proceed with the
systematic arrangement. Crude and illogical as the result may be, still it is
essential to the proper conduct of the present investigation that I should seek
to give some method to it. I shall therefore, before proceeding to the immediate
subject of the present Letter, endeavour to arrange the several kinds of labour
into their different classes.
In my first communication I stated that the poorer classes appeared to be divisible into (1) those that will work - as artisans, labourers, servants, &c.; (2) those that cannot work, as paupers, almspeople, and the inmates of our hospitals and asylums; (3) those that will not work - as professional beggars, vagrants, criminals, and prostitutes. These three classes seem to comprise the whole of the humbler portion of the community; and every individual belonging to the poorer class of society must, therefore, fall under one or other of the above divisions.
The people that cannot or will not work, are neither a very various, nor, compared with the artisans and labourers, are they a very numerous class. They form, however, a most important section, living upon the earnings or the property of the more industrious or wealthy. Hence it is essential that we should know all we can about them, so that we may learn how at least to check their increase, if not to bring about a positive diminution of their numbers. The paupers alone cost the country seven millions a year; the sum dispensed in charities to almspeople, mendicants, the inmates of asylums and hospitals, amounts at least to three millions (the income derived from property bequeathed for charitable purposes is very nearly half the amount); and the cost of maintenance of the thirty thousand criminals that enter our gaols every year, together with the value of the property stolen, is upwards of a million - making the entire expense of supporting those that either cannot or will not work come to little less than twelve millions sterling per annum.
The class that will work, however, is far more complex. The branches of industry are so multifarious, the divisions of labour so minute and manifold, that it seems almost impossible to reduce them to any system. Moreover, the crude generalizations expressed in the names of the several arts render the subject still more perplexing. Some kinds of workmen are called after the articles the make - as saddlers, hatters, boot-makers, dressmakers, breeches-makers, stay-makers, lace-makers, button-makers, glovers, cabinet-makers, artificial flower-makers, ship-builders, organ-builders, boat-builders, nailers, pinmakers, basket-makers, pump-makers, clock and watch makers, wheelwrights, shipwrights, and so forth. Some operatives, on the other hand, take their names not from what they make, but from the kind of work they perform. Hence we have carvers, joiners, bricklayers, weavers, knitters, engravers, embroiderers, tanners, curriers, bleachers, thatchers, lime-burners, seamstresses, assayers, refiners, embossers, chasers, painters, paperhangers, printers, bookbinders, and soon. Other artisans, again, are styled after the materials upon which they work, such as tinmen, jewellers, lapidaries, goldsmiths, braziers, plumbers, pewterers, glass workers, glaziers, &c. &c.; while a few operatives are named after the tools they use; thus we have ploughmen, sawyers, and needlewomen.
But these divisions, it is evident, are as unscientific as they are arbitrary; nor would it be possible by adopting such a classification to arrive at any practical result. We must therefore take a wholly different view of the subject. The first grand division that naturally presents itself is, according to the skill of the operative, into artisans and labourers - an artisan being a skilled workman, and a labourer an unskilled one. That is to say, an artisan is an educated handicraftsman, following a calling that requires an apprenticeship of greater or less duration in order to arrive at perfection in it; whereas a labourer's occupation needs no education whatever. Many years must be spent in practising before a man can acquire sufficient manual dexterity to make a pair of boots or a coat; dock labour or porter's work, however, needs neither teaching nor learning, for any man can carry a load or turn a wheel. The artisan, therefore, is literally a handicraftsman - one who by practice has acquired manual dexterity enough to perform a particular class of work, which is consequently called "skilled. But both artisans and labourers work for masters who make a profit out of their labour. Hence they belong to the class of workmen called operatives - whereas servants who are not employed with a view to profit constitute a different order. Under the term servants, clerks and shopmen are included, as well as those who perform the ordinary domestic duties, for though both the former are engaged in business, still the tradesman makes no profit directly out of their labours. His gains are derived from his goods, the making of which is expressed in the price of the articles he sells, and out of those gains the clerks and shopmen are paid. Strictly speaking, the wages of the latter enter no more into the price of the goods than the money he pays to his domestic servants, which must also be derived from his profits.
There are, then, three classes of workpeople - artisans, labourers, and servants. Of these the artisans are not only the most numerous, but the most varied in their occupations. The natural classification of artisans or skilled labourers appears to be according to the materials upon which they work, for this circumstance seems to constitute the peculiar quality of the art more than the tool used - indeed, it appears to be the principal cause of the modification of the implements in different handicrafts. The tailor who stitches woollen materials together would make but a poor hand at sewing leather. The two substances are joined by the same means, but in a different manner, and with different instruments. So the turner, who has been accustomed to turn wood, is unable to fashion metals by the same method. Hence we may divide the artisans into two classes, according as they pursue some mechanical or chemical occupation. The former are literally mechanics or handicraftsmen - the latter chemical manufacturers. The handicraftsmen consist of (1) the workers in wood, as the carpenters, the cabinet-makers, &c.; (2) the workers in metals, as braziers, tinmen, plumbers, goldsmiths, pewterers, coppersmiths, iron-founders, blacksmiths, anchor-smiths, locksmiths, &c. (3) The workers in brick and stones - as bricklayers, masons, &c. (4) The workers in glass and earthenware - as potters, glass-blowers, glass-cutters, bottle-makers, glaziers, &c. (5) The workers in silk, cotton, wool, flax, and hemp - as weavers, spinners, knitters, carpet-makers, lace-makers, tailors, seamstresses, embroiderers, milliners, dress-makers, stay-stitchers, rope-makers, canvass-weavers, &c. (6) The workers in skin, hair, and feathers - as tanners, curriers, boot and shoe-makers, glove-makers, furriers, brush and broom makers, hair- manufacturers, feather dressers, &c. The chemical manufacturers come next - as powder-makers, white-lead-makers, alkali and acid manufacturers, lucifer-match makers, blacking-makers, ink-makers, soapboilers, tallow-handlers, &c. Then follow the mixed arts - as the paper- makers, cardboard-makers, printers, bookbinders. After these come the occupations connected with shipping - as shipwrights, boat and barge builders, block, mast, and oar makers, whip-makers, wheelwrights, &c. Then come the several occupations in connection with provisions - as millers, bakers, butchers, drovers, provision curers, market-gardeners, maltsters, brewers, vinegar-makers, and mustard-makers.
But these callings are mostly pursued in-doors, and there is still a large number of individuals who obtain their livelihood in the street. They consist of three classes - hucksters, or those who live by selling something in the street; showmen, or those who exhibit or perform something in the street; and working pedlars, or those who make or mend something in the street.
Of the Hucksters I have already treated at considerable length. As we have seen, they include the street vendors of provisions - as fish, vegetables, fruit, pea-soup, hot eels, spice-cakes, sweetmeats, coffee, baked potatoes, water-cresses, ham sandwiches, cats' and dogs' meat, pickled whelks - and the street vendors of domestic articles, as blacking, crockery-ware, lucifers, hearthstones, cutlery, sand and gravel, tea trays, slippers, sponges and washleathers, sheeting and table covers, &c. &c.
Of the Street Showmen and Performers it is my intention to treat at present. They are not a numerous but an extremely curious class, and are worthy of attention, as affording us another instance of the love of "a roving life," and of the irkesomeness of labour among certain individuals. The same characteristics as were found to prevail among the hucksters and the vagrants will be found generally to distinguish the street performers. There is the same improvidence - the same intemperance - the same objection to pursue any regular occupation. Some I have met with who appear to be more soberly and industriously inclined than the rest, and anxious to abandon their vagabond life. For the most part it will be seen that the Street Performers have been induced to take to the business, not only from an indisposition to follow any settled employment, but from the gains of the business having been, a few years back, considerably more than could be obtained by any of the present arts or handicrafts. It will be seen that, not very long since, ?10 a week was the ordinary income of an attractive street exhibition. From all I can gather now, even the best street performance affords but a scanty subsistence; and, indeed I have found, among all the members of the "purfession" (for so it is invariably called), a strong desire to emigrate - or to do anything that will procure them a more certain subsistance. But they all agree that after they have once taken to the streets, it is almost impossible to get any other employment; they are too well known to be engaged by any one, and they are generally too old and their habits too unsettled to learn any new craft. Some, however, who are far advanced in years, I have found practising shoemaking as a means of emancipating themselves from the streets. Altogether the inquiry into the condition of these men has a saddening effect upon one.
The class has several divisions and subdivisions. First, there are the street actors - their performances consist of four different kinds: (1) Street puppet-shows - as Punch, Fantoccini, Chinese shades, and Galantee shows; (2) Street-feats of strength or sleight-of-hand, including the performances of jugglers, conjurors, balancers, posturers, stiff tumblers, pole balancers, salamanders or fire-eaters, and sword and snake swallowers; (3) Street-dances - as street hornpipes and street highland flings; (4) Street performances of trained animals - as dancing dogs, performing birds, and mice. Besides these several kinds of street actors, there are the street musicians, and their different classes - as street bands - brass and mixed - street Ethopians, farm-yard fiddlers, horse organs, Italian organ boys, hurdy-gurdy players, blind and crippled fiddlers, and violincello and clarionet-players. Then there are the street artists - as the artist upon the pavement in coloured chalks, the black profile cutters, and the proprietors of peep-shows; and after these the various street exhibitions and curiosities - as shows of giants, dwarfs, industrious fleas, alligators, happy families, glass ships, together with street telescoper, microscopes, thaumascopes, and weighing, lifting, and measuring machines. These constitute the chief varieties of the class. I shall begin with the street actors, and first with the performances of the street puppets.
The performer of Punch that I saw was a short, dark, pleasant-looking man, dressed in a very greasy and very shiny green shooting-jacket. This was fastened together by one button in front, all the other button-holes having been burst through. Protruding from his bosom, a corner of the Pandaean pipes was just visible, and as he told me the story of his adventures he kept playing with the band of his very limp and very rusty old beaver hat. He had formerly been a gentleman's servant, and was especially civil in his manners. He came to me with his hair tidily brushed for the occasion, but apologized for his appearance on entering the room. He was very communicative, and took great delight in talking like Punch, with his call in his mouth, while some young children were in the room, and who, hearing the well-known sound of Punch's voice, looked all about for the figure. Not seeing the show, they fancied the man had the figure in his pocket, and that the sounds came from it. The change from Punch's voice to the man's natural tone was managed without an effort, and instantaneously. It had a very peculiar effect: -
"I am the proprietor of a Punch's show," he said. "I goes about with it myself, and performs inside the frame behind the green baize. I have a pardner what plays the music - the pipes and drum - him as you seed with me. I have been five and twenty year now at the business. I wish I'd never seen it, though its been a money-taking business - the best of all the street hexhibitions I may say. I am fifty year old. I took to it for money gains - that was what I done it for. I formerly lived in service - was a footman in a gennelman's family. When I first took to it I could take two and three pounds a day - I could so. You see the way in which I took first to the business was this here - there was a party used to come and cheer' for us at my master's house, and her son having a hexhibition of his own, and being in want of a pardner, axed me if so be as I'd go out, which was a thing that I degraded at at the time. He gave me information as to what the money taking was, and it seemed to me that good that it would pay me better nor service. I had ?20 a year in my place, and my board and lodging and two suits of clothes; but the young man told me as how I could make ?1 a day at the Punch and Judy business after a little practice. It took a deal of persuasions though, before I'd jine him - it was beneath my dignity to fall from a footman, to a showman. But, you see, the French gennelman as I lived with (he were a merchant in the City, and had fourteen clerks at work for him) went back to his own country to reside, and left me with a written kerackter - but that was no use to me, no one would look at it - so I was five months out of employment, knocking about - living first on my wages and then on my clothes, till all was gone but the few rags on my back. So I began to think that the Punch and Judy business was better than starving after all. Yes, I should think any thing better than that - though it's a business that, after you've once took to, never can get out of - people fancies you know too much, and won't have nothing to say to you. If I got a situation at a tradesman's, why the boys would be sure to recognize me behind the counter, and begin a shouting into the shop (they must shout, you know), 'Oh, there's Punch and Judy - there's Punch a sarving out the customers.' Ah, it's great annoyance being a public kerackter, I can assure you sir - go where you will it's Punchy, Punchy!' As for the boys they'll never leave me alone till I die, I know; and I suppose in my old age I shall have to take to the parish broom. All our forefathers died in the workhouse. I don't know a Punch's showman that hasn't. One of my pardners was buried by the workhouse; and even old Pike, the most noted showman as ever was, died in the work-house. Pike and Porsini - Porsini was the first original street Punch, and Pike was his apprentice - their names is handed down to prosperity among the noblemen and footmen of the land. They both died in the workhouse, and, in course, I shall do the same. Something else might turn up, to be sure. We can't say what this luck of the world is. I'm obliged to strive wery hard - wery hard indeed, sir - now, to get a living, and then not get it after all at times - compelled to go short often. Punch, you know, sir, is a dramatic performance, in two hacts. It's a play, you may say. I don't think it can be called a tragedy hexactly: a drama is what we names it. There is tragic parts, and comic sentimental parts too. Some families where I performs wil].have it most sentimental - in the original style - them families is generally sentimental themselves. Others is all for the comic, and then I has to kick up all the games I can. To the sentimental folk I am obliged to perform werry steady and werry slow, and leave out all comic words and business. They won't have no ghosts, no coffin, and no devil; and that's what I call spiling the performance entirely. It's the march of hintellect wots a doing all this ere - it is sir. But I was a-going to tell you about my first jining the business. Well, you see, after a good deal of persuading, and being druv to it, I may say, I consented to go out with the young man as I were a speaking about. He was to give me 12s. a week and my keep, for two years certain, till I could get my own show things together, and for that I was to carry the show and go round and collect - collecting, you know, sounds better than begging, the pronounciation's better like. Sometimes the people says, when they sees us a coming round, Oh, here they comes-a-begging - but it can't be begging, you know, when you're a hexerting yourselves. I couldn't play the drum and pipes, so the young man used to do that himself, to call the people together before he got into the show. I used to stand outside, and patter to the figures. The first time that ever I went out with Punch was in the beginning of August, 1825. I did all I could to avoid being seen. My dignity was hurt at being hobligated to take to the streets for a living. At fust I fought shy, and used to feel queer - somehow you don't know how like - whenever the people used to look at me. I remember werry well the first street as ever I performed in. It was off Gray's-inn, one of them quiet, genteel streets, and when the mob began to gather round, I felt all overish, and I turned my head to the frame instead of the people. We hadn't had no rehearsals aforehand, and I did the patter quite permiscuous. There was not much talk to be sure, required then; and what little there was consisted of merely calling out the names of the figures as they came up, and these my master prompted me with from inside the frame. But little as there was for me to do, I know I never could have done it if it hadn't been for the spirits - the false spirits, you see (a little drop of gin) - as my master guy me in the morning. The fust time as ever I made my appearance in public, I collected as much as eight shillings, and my master said, after the performance was over, 'You'll do!' You see, I was partly in livery and looked a little bit decent like. After this was over I kept on going out with my master for two years, as I had agreed, at the end of that time I had saved enough to start a show of my own. I bought the show of old Porsini, the man as first brought Punch into the streets of England. To be sure there was a woman over here with it before him. Her name was ,I can't think of it just now, but she never performed in the streets, so we consider Porsini to be our real forefather. It isn't much more nor seventy year since Porsini - was a wery old man when he died, and blind - showed the hexhibition in the streets of London. I've heerd tell that old Porsini used to take as much as ?10 a day, and he used to sit down to his fowls and wine, and the very best of everything, like the first gennelman in the land - indeed he made enough money at the business to be quite a tip-top gennelman, that he did. But he never took care of a halfpenny he got. He was that independent that if he was wanted to perform, sir, he'd come at his time, not your'n. At last he reduced himself to want, and died in St. Giles's workhouse. Ah, poor fellow! he oughtn't to have been allowed to die where he did, after amusing the public for so many years. Every one in London knowed him. Lords, dukes, princes, squires and wagabonds - all used to laugh at his performance, and a funny clever old fellow he was. He was past performing when I bought my show of him, and wery poor. He was living in the Coal-yard, Drury-lane, and had scarcely a bit of food to eat. He had all he had got in drink, and in treating friends - aye, any one no matter who. He didn't study the world, nor himself neither. As fast as the money came it went, and when it was gone why he'd go to work and get more. His show was a wery inferior one, though it were the fust - nothing at all like them about now - nothing near as good. If you only had four sticks then, it was quite enough to make plenty of money out of, so long as it was Punch. I gave him 35s. for the stand, figures and all. I bought it cheap you see, for it was thrown on one side, and was of no use to any one but such as myself. There was twelve figures and the other happyratus, such as they allows, ladder, horse, bell, and stuffed dog. The characters were - Punch, Judy, Child, Beadle, Scaramouch, Nobody, Jack ketch, the Grand Senoor, the Doctor, the Devil (there was no ghost used then), Merry Andrew, and the Blind Man. These last two keracters are quite done with now. The heads of the keracters was all carved on wood, and dressed in the proper costume of the country. There was, at that time, and is now, a real carver for the Punch business. He was dear, but werry good and hexcellent. His Punch's head was the best as lever seed. The nose and chin used to meet quite close together. A set of new figures, dressed and all, would come to about ?15. Each head costs 7s. for the carving alone, and every figure that we has takes at least a yard of cloth to dress him, besides ornaments and things that comes werry expensive. A good show at the present time will cost ?3 odd for the stand alone - that's including baize, the frontispiece, the back scene, the cottage, and the letter cloth, or what is called the drop-scene at the theatres. In the old ancient style the back scene used to pull up and change into a gaol scene, but that's all altered now. We've got more upon the comic business, and tries to do more with Toby than with the prison scene. The prison is what we calls the sentimental style. Formerly Toby was only a stuffed figure. It was Pyke who first hit upon hinterducing a live dog, and a great hit it were, it made a grand alteration in the exhibition, for now the performance is called that of Punch and Toby as well. There is one Punch about the streets at present that tries it on with three dogs, but that aint much of a go - too much of a good thing I calls it. Punch, as I said before, is a drama in two hacts. We don't drop the scene at the hend of the fust - the drum and pipes strikes up instead. The first act we consider to end with Punch being taken to prison for the murder of his wife and child. The great difficulty in performing Punch consists in the speaking, which is done by a call,' or whistle in the mouth such as is here. (He then produced the call from his waistcoat pocket. It was a small fiat instrument, made of two curved pieces of metal about the size of a kneebuckle, bound together with black thread. Between these was a thin plate of some substance (apparently silk) which he said was a secret. The call, he told me, was tuned to a musical instrument, and took a considerable time to learn. He afterwards took from his pocket two of the small metallic plates unbound. He said the composition they were made of was also one of the "secrets of the purfession." They were not tin nor zinc, because "both of them metals were pisons in the mouth, and hinjurious to the constitution." ) "These calls," he continued, "we often sell to gennelmen for a sovereign a-piece, and for that we give 'em a receipt how to use them. They aint whistles, but calls, or unknown tongues, as we sometimes names 'em because with them in the mouth we can pronounce each word as plain as any parson. We have two or three kinds - one for out-of-doors, one for indoors, one for speaking and for singing, and another for selling. I've sold many a one to gennelmen going along, so I generally keeps a hextra one with me. Porsini brought the calls into this country with him from Italy, and we who are now in the purfession have all larnt how to make and use them, either from him or those as he had taught em to. I larnt the use of mine from Porsini himself. My master whom I went out with at first would never teach me, and was wery particklar in keeping it all secret from me. Porsini taught me the call at the time I bought his show of him. I was six months in perfecting myself in the use of it. I kept practising away night and morning with it until I got it quite perfect. It was no use trying at home - cause it sounds quite different in the hopen hair. Often when I've made em at home I'm obliged to take the calls to pieces, after trying em out in the streets - they've been made upon too weak a scale. When I was a practising I used to go into the parks and fields and out-of-the-way places, so as to get to know how to use it in the hopen hair. Now I'm reckoned one of the best speakers in the whole purfession. When I made my first appearance as a regular performer of Punch, on my own account, I did feel uncommon narvous to be sure; though I knowed the people couldn't see me behind the baize, still I felt as if all the eyes of the country were upon me. It was as much as hever I could do to get the words out and keep the figures from shaking. When I struck up the fust song my voice trembled so as I thought I should never be able to get to the hend of the fust hact. I soon, however, got over that there, and at present I'd play before the whole bench of bishops as cool as a cowcumber. We always have a pardner now to play the drum and pipes, and collect the money. This, however, is only a recent dodge. In older times we used to go about with a trumpet - that was Porsini's ancient style; but now that's stopped. Only her Majesty's mails may blow trumpets in the streets at present. The fust person who went out with me was my wife. She used to stand outside and keep the boys from peeping through the baize whilst I was a performing behind it, and she used to collect the money arterwards as well. I carried the show and trumpet, and she the box. She's been dead these five year now. Take one week with another all through the year, I should say I made then ?5 regular. I have taken as much as ?2 10s. in one day in the streets, and I used to think it a bad day's business at that time if I took only ?1. You can see Punch has been good work - a money-making business - and beat all mechanics right out. If I could take as much as I did when I first began, what my forefathers have done when the business was five times as good as ever it were in my time. Why I leaves you to judge what old Porsini and Pike must have made. Twenty years ago I've often and often got 7s. and 8s. for one hexhibition in the streets - 2s. and 3s. I used to think low to get at one collection - and many times I'd perform eight or ten times in a day. We didn't care much about work then, for we could get money fast enough, but now I often show twenty times in the day and get scarcely a bare living at it aster all. That shows the times you know, sir - what things was and is now. Arter performing in the streets of a day we used to attend private parties in the hevening, and get sometimes as much as ?2 for the hexhibition. This used to be at the juvenile parties of the nobility, and the performance lasted about an hour and a half. For a short performance of half an hour at a gennelman's house, we never had less than ?1. A performance houtside the house was 2s. 6d., but we often got as much as 10s. for it. I have performed afore almost all the nobility. Lord was particular partial to us, and one of our greatest patronizers. At the time of the Police Bill I met him at Cheltenhaxn on my travels, and he told me as he had saved Punch's neck once more; and it's through him principally that we are allowed to hexhibit in the streets. Punch is exempt from the Police Act. If you read the hact throughout you wont find Punch mentioned in it. But all I've been telling you is about the business as it was. What it is is a werry different consarn. A good day for us now seldom gets beyond five shillings, and that's between myself and my pardner, who plays the drum and pipes. Often we are out all day, and get a mere nuffing. Many days we have been out and taken nuffing at all - that's wery common when we dwells upon horders. By dwelling on horders I mean looking out for gennelmen what wants us to play in front of their houses. When we strike up in the open street we take upon a haverage only 3d. a show. In course, we may do more, but that's about the sum, take one street performance with another. Them kind of performances is what we calls short showing.' We gets the halfpence and hooks it. Along pitch is the name we gives to performances that lasts about half an hour or more. Them long pitches we confine solely to street corners in public thoroughfares, and then we take about a shilling upon a haverage, and more if it's to be got - we never turns away nuffing. 'Boys, look up your fardens,' says the houtside man, it ain't half over yet, we'll show it all through.' The short shows we do only in private bye streets, and of them we can get through about twenty in the day - that's as much as we can tackle - ten in the morning and ten in the arternoon. Of the long pitches, we can only do eight in the day. We start on our rounds at nine in the morning, and remain out till dark at night. We gets a snack at the publics on our road. The best hours for Punch are in the morning from nine till ten, because then the children are at home. Aiter that, you know, they goes out with the maids for a walk. From twelve till three is good again, and, then, from six till nine - that's because the children are mostly at home at them hours. We make much more by horders for performance houtside the gennelmen's houses than we do by performing in public in the hopen streets. Monday is the best day for street business; Friday is no day at all, because then the poor people has spent all their money. If we was to pitch on a Friday we shouldn't take a halfpenny in the streets, so we in general on that day goes round for horders. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is the best days for us with horders at gennelmen's houses. We do much better in the spring than at any time in the year, excepting holiday time, at Midsummer and Christmas. That's what we calls Punch's season. We do most at evening parties in the holiday time, and if there's a pin to choose between them, I should say Christmas holidays was the best. For attending hevening parties now we generally get ?1 and our refreshments - as much more as they like to give us. But the business gets slacker and slacker every season. Where I went to ten parties twenty years ago, I don't go to two now. People isn't getting tired of our performances, but stingier - that's it. Everybody looks at their money now afore they parts with it, and gennelfolks haggle and cheapens us down to shillings and sixpences, as if they was guineas in the holden time. Our business is werry much like hackney-coach work; we do best in vet veather. It looks like rain this evening, and I'm uncommon glad on it to be sure. You see the vet keeps the children in doors all day, and then they wants something to quiet em a bit, and the mothers and fathers, to pacify the dears, gives us a horder to perform. It musn't rain cats and dogs - that's as bad as no vet at all. What we likes is a regular good steady Scotch mist, for then we takes double what we does on other days. In summer we does little or nothing; the children are out all day enjoying themselves in the Parks. The best pitch of all in London is Leicester-square; there's all sorts of classes, you see, passing there. Then comes Regent-street (the corner of Burlington-street is uncommon good, and there's a good publican there besides). Bond-street an't no good now. Oxford-street, up by Old Cavendish-street, or Oxford-market, or Wells-street, are all favourite pitches for Punch. We don't do much in the City. People has their heads all full of business there, and them as is greedy after the money an't no friend of Punch's. Tottenham-court-road, the New- road, and all the henwirons of London is pretty good. Hampstead, though, an't no good; they've got too poor there. I'd sooner not go out at all than to Hampstead. Belgrave-square, and all about that part, is uncommon good; but where there's many chapels Punch won't do at all. I did once, though, strike up hopposition to a street preacher wot was a holding forth in the New-road, and uncommon well. All his flock, as he called em, left him and come over to look at me. Punch and preaching is two different creeds - hopposition parties, I may say. We in generally walks from twelve to twenty mile every day, and carries the show, which weighs a good half-hundred at least. Arter great exertion our woice werry often fails us; for speaking all day through the 'call' is werry trying, specially when we are chirrupping up so as to bring the children to the vinders. The boys is the greatest nuisances we has to contend with. Wherever we goes we are sure of plenty of boys for a haudience but they've got no money, bother'em, and they'll follow us for miles, so that were often compelled to go miles to awoid em. Many parts is swarming with boys - such as Vhitechapel - Spitalfields; that's the worst place of all for boys I ever come anear - they're like flies in summer there, only much more thicker. I never shows my face within miles of them parts. Chelsea, again, has an uncommon lot of boys, and wherever we know the children swarm, them's the spots we makes a point of awoiding. Why, the boys is such a hobstruction to our performance that often we are obliged to drop the curtain for em. They'll throw one anothers' caps into the frame while I'm inside on it, and do what we will we can't keep em from poking their fingers through the baize and making holes to peep through. Then they will keep tapping the drum - but the worst of allis, the most of'em a'n't got a farden to bless themselves with, and they will shove into the best places. Soldiers again we don't like, they've got no money - no, not even so much as pockets, sir. Nusses a'n't no good. Even if the mothers of the dear little children has given em a penny to spend, why the musses takes it from em and keeps it for ribbins. Sometimes we can coax a penny out of the children, but the nusses knows too much to be gammoned by us. Indeed servants in generally don't do the thing what's right to us - some is good to us, but the most of 'em will have poundage out or what we gets. About sixpence out of every halfcrown is what the footman takes from us. We in generally goes into the country in the summer time for two or three months. Watering- places is wery good in July and August. Punch mostly goes down to the seaside with the quality. Brighton, though, a'n't no account: the Pavilion's done up with, and therefore Punch has discontinued his wisits. We don't put up at the trampers' houses on our travels, but in generally inns is where we stays, because we consider ourselves to be above the other showmen and medicants. At one lodging-house as I stopped at once in Warwick there was as many as fifty staying there what got their living by street performances - the greater part were Italian boys and girls. There are altogether as many as sixteen Punch and Judy frames in England. Eight of these is at work in London, and the other eight in the country, and to each of these frames there axe two men. We are all acquainted with one another; are all sociable together, and know where each other is, and what they are doing on. When one comes home another goes out - that's the way we proceed through life. It wouldn't do for two to go to the same place. If two on us happens to meet at one town, we jine and shift pardners, and share the money. One goes one way and the other another, and we meet at night and reckon up over a sociable pint or a glass. We shift pardners so as each may know how much the other has taken. It's the common practice for the man what performs Punch to share with the one what plays the drum and pipes - each has half of what is collected; but if the pardner can't play the drum and pipes, and only carries the frame and collects, then his share is but a third of what is taken until he larns how to perform himself. The street performers in London lives mostly in little rooms of their own; they has generally wives and one or two children, who are brought up to the business. Some lives about the Westminster-road and St. George's in the East. A great many are in Lock's-fields; they are all the old school that way. Then some, or rather the principal part of the showmen, are to be found up about Lisson Grove. In this neighbourhood there is a house of call, where they all assembles in the evening. There are a very few in Brick-lane, Spitalfields, that is mostly deserted now by showmen. The West-end is the great resort of all, for it's there the money lays, and there the showmen abound. We all know one another, and we can tell in what part of the country the others are. We have intelligence, by letters, from all parts. There's a Punch I know on now is either in the Isle of Man, or on his way to it.
The proprietor of the Fantoccini was less communicative than that of Punch. "He was afraid," he told me, "that telling so much would do the purfession harm. It was letting the public know too much - and they were quite 'cute enough already." He spoke all throughout very guardedly. He said, it looked quite fearful-like to have every word as he uttered written down. On inquiry, however, I found that he had spoken nothing but the truth. He was a short, spare man, with sharp features. His dress consisted of an old blue pilot coat, that had turned to a bright plum-colour with age, and two waistcoats - one an old shiny black satin "vest" that almost covered what appeared to be the remains of a crimson plush. His trowsers were corduroy, and very greasy down the front of the thigh, apparently with the friction of the big drum. He appeared to be a well-meaning man, and particularly anxious not to say anything that could be taken amiss by the nobility and gentry, who, he said, were his best customers. He "didn't care about the streets; but the houses," he said - he "wouldn't offend for a good deal."
"I go out with the Fantoccini sometimes ," he said, "and sometimes with the Chinese Shades. The Shades I work in the winter season, and the Fantoccini in the summer. The Shades don't do in the summer, because it is a night exhibition, and the days are long then. I was originally brought up to the artificial flower business, and had, as a boy, 3s. 6d. a week for veining the leaves. I was then ten years old. I stopped working at this after five years, during which time my wages had risen to 7s. 6d. per week, and I had learnt myself to play the Pandaean pipes, and after that to beat the drum, much to the annoyance of my mother, who was a religious kerackter. At last I made acquaintance with a person belonging to a street band, and he proposed that I should go out with him of an evening to play at the hotels. I thought I would try, and I got for my first night's share 7s. 6d.; there were four of us in the band, and all played the pipes. Street bands then were very different to what they are now. They were much worse, but thought a great deal better of than at present. I considered the 7s. 6d. that I got by playing the pipes for one evening in the street was much easier armed than the 7s. 6d. that I got for working the whole week through at the artificial flower business, so I knocked off work, and took to the street band altogether. My share at that time (I am speaking of thirty years ago) used very often to come to 15s. and 18s. per night, and there were three of us who had as much as myself. We used to play outside the hotels chiefly. Sometimes we took as much as a sovereign from one house, sometimes 5s., and sometimes only 2s. 6d. Soon after this I saw a Fantoccini show, and was so much taken with it that I made up my mind to get a set of the figures, and start in the business. I bought a common set for practice, and those I larnt myself upon. After that I went to a regular maker, and had a good set made on purpose for me. I gave him 7s. 6d. a figure. I had seven of them to start with. There was the Sailor for the hornpipe dancer - that was one; the Pole-andrew, to perform backwards and forwards over two chairs with a pole; the Magic Turk, who dance the fandango; then there was the Clown, the Indian Juggler with the balls, the Skeleton that tumbles all to pieces, and Tom and Jerry's larks, which consisted of four figures - African Sal, Dusty Bob, Billy Waters, and Tom and Jerry. Each of these figures were about a foot high, and were made for me by a pupil of Mr. Gray's, who was the first that introduced the Fantoccini into the streets; and that is just upon 25 years ago. Before Mr. Gray's time the same figures, upon a larger scale, were shown by Mr. Myddleton in a booth, and called 'the Puppets.' Myddleton worked his figures in a different way to those in the Fantoccini, and being much larger, they were not near so nimble. My stock in trade, puppets and all, cost me about ?10. The frame was ?3 of the money. The heads of the figures were carved in wood, and the bodies dressed so as to be supple and easy. The working of them is a secret, and requires a great deal of practice; they are moved principally by the fingers. It would not do for a person with the gout or rheumatism to try his hand at it. The Sailor dances at nat'ral as T. P. Cooke, and the Indian Juggler flings the balls about as nimbly as Rammy Sammy. The exhibition is the same as it was in Gray's time, with the exception of some new figures, such as the maid with the milking-pails and the enchanted Turk, whose limbs come all to pieces. The skeleton is the most difficult to work, but, perhaps, the Pole-andrew requires the greatest practice and nimbleness in the fingers. When the Fantoccini first came up, a great deal of money was taken by it. Gray could not attend at the gentlemen's houses fast enough. Very often he would have to perform at two or three different parties in the course of the evening, and get a pound or more at each. He gave his musician who played the pipes 7s. a day, and the man that carried his frame Ss. When I first took to the Fantoccini business I used to make ?5 a week throughout the Christmas and Mid-summer holidays. After that I used to take about ?3 a week. Some weeks of course was bad, but take it altogether I got on very well till about eight years after I started. There are only four regular Fantoccini men in the country, and these seldom work that alone. If you can't change your hand in the street-exhibition line from one thing to another, it won't do now-a-days. People grows tired of seeing the same thing, and they want something fresh. When I goes round to the gentlemen's houses with the Fantoccini, if I am not wanted I comes home. I charge half-a-crown if ordered to play in front of a house. Sometimes I play at the corners of the streets, like Punch. We depend more upon the orders from gentlemen's houses than we do on the streets. Take it upon an average we make about the same as Punch. The Chinese Shades is a different affair - it is a night exhibition. It consists of a frame like Punch's, with a transparent curtain in front. Behind this the shadows of movable figures are shown. There are about six of these in London, and there may be more in different parts of the country. They were first brought into the public streets by a man named Brown, who used to show them in a waggon forty years ago. In former years they were shown at Astley's Theatre, upon a much larger scale; at least, I know the Broken-bridge and Billy Button was, which are both parts of our entertainment to the present day. Since its first introduction into the streets we have added the female dancer on the tight-rope, as well as the performance of the west-country Bull-bait, Spring-heel Jack, and Monsieur Kline. In the Chinese Shades there is a great deal of talking, but in the Fantoccini nothing is said. The nights of the fore part of the week are much the best. We seldom go out in the latter part if things pay us in the day - except one gets an order to tend a gentleman's house. Our audience in the streets consist chiefly of working-men, but the Shades pleases the children a great deal. Last Christmas night, as ever was, I performed in St. Giles's Union. I showed the parish boys and girls the Fantoccini, the Chinese Shades, and Mr. Punch as well. It was the clergyman of the parish as engaged me, and it seemed to be a treat to the poor children. Each of them had an orange in their hand; and you should have heard them laugh - good Lord! Fine evenings we do pretty well, but in wet weather it is no use to show our faces in the streets. We go out with the Shades about six in the evening, and come home about ten; we manage to show about four long performances during that time. The Chinese Shades is a deal more labour and exertion for the lungs than the Fantoccini. I don't know that we make more money at it. I should say, taking it all the year round, I make upon an average from 15s. to 20s. a week, but in former times I could make more in a day than I can in a week now. I had two guineas a week about twenty years back along with Diavolo Antonio, at Norwich, for playing half an hour of a night at the Assembly Rooms. I also performed at the Royal Gardens at Vauxhall, and there I exhibited the Shades, Fantoccini, and Punch, for many years. Nobody but Mr. Pike and myself have ever shown there of late years; our business is all gone to the dogs now. To show you the impression our street performances makes on some folks, I will just tell you about one party who was so struck with Punch that wherever the exhibition went there he was at our heels. Miles upon miles he travelled after us; he never lost a performance; day after day, and week after week, he stuck to us as close as wax. He was a dealer in books, and used to hawk them from house to house, but he was so struck with the performance of Punch that he gave up his business to follow the show wherever it went. Among our profession he was nicknamed the Ghost, because he positively haunted us. If we told him to go away, he would disappear for a short time, and then shoot into sight again the very next performance. From our first exhibition in the morning till our last at night he was at our heels; and if we were ordered to play before a gentleman's house, there he was sure to be standing in the front. Not so much as a farthing did he ever give us; and if we went into a public house to dinner, we should find him waiting outside for us when we came away, let us stay as long as we would. It was quite a hinfatuation. We used to tell him to go about his business, or hold horses; but no, he would never leave us. At last his friends, finding how he was taken up with the show, and that he would not do anything else, purchased a frame and a set of figures for him from one of our regular men. Then he had to be taught the performance before he could make any use of it. He is now travelling the country with this same show, but he is not much of a hand at it to this day. You see, sir, he has great taste for Punch, but no lungs.
A short thick-set man, with small puckered-up eyes, and dressed in an old brown velveteen shooting jacket, gave me an account of some by-gone exhibitions and the Galantee Show:
"My father was a soldier," he said, "and was away in foreign parts, and I and a sister lived with my mother in St. Martin's workhouse. I was 55 last New Year's-day. My uncle, a bootmaker in St. Martin's-lane, took my mother out of the work-house, that she might do a little washing and pick up a living for herself, and we children went to live with my grandfather, a tailor. After his death, and after many changes, we had a lodging in the Dials, and there ----- the sweep coaxed me with pudding one day, and encouraged me so well, that I didn't like to go back to my mother; and at last I was apprenticed to him from Hatton-garden, on a month's trial. I liked chimley sweeping for that month; but it was quite different when I was regularly indentured. I was cruelly treated then, and poorly fed, and had to turn out barefooted between three and four many a morning in frost and snow. In first climbing the chimleys, a man stood beneath me and pushed me up, telling me how to use my elbows and knees: if I slipped he was beneath me, and ketched me, and shoved me up again. The skin came off my knees and elbows; here's the marks still you see. I suffered a great deal as well as Dan Duff, a fellow sweep, a boy who died. I've been to Mrs. Montagu's dinner in the square, on the 1st May, when I was a sweep boy; it was a dinner in honour of her son having been stolen away by a sweep" (the man's own words). "I suppose there was more than 300 of us sweeps there in a large green at the back of her house. I ran away from my master once; but was carried back, and was rather better used. My master then got me knee and elbow pads, and bathed my joints in salt and water, and I managed to drag on seven sorrowful years with him. I was glad to be my own man at last, and I cut the sweep trade, bought Pandean pipes, and started with an organ man as his mate. I saved money with the organ man, and then bought a drum. He gave me 5s. a week and my wittles, drink, washing, and lodging; but there wasn't so much music afloat then. I left the organ man and went out with 'Michael, the Italy bear.' Michael was the man's name that brought over the bear from somewhere abroad. He was a Italy man; and he used to beat the bear and manage her. They called her Jenny; but Michael was not to say roughish with her, unless she was obstropolous. If she were he showed her the large mopstick and beat her with it - hard sometimes - specially when she wouldn't let the monkey get a top of her head, for that was part of the performance. The monkey was dressed the same as a soldier, but the bear had no dress but her muzzle and chain. The monkey - a clever fellow he was, and could jump over sticks like a Christian - was called Billy. He jumped up and down the bear too, and onto his master's shoulders, where he sat as Michael walked down the street. The bear had been taught to roll and tumble - she rolled right over her head all round a stick, and then she danced round it. She did it to the word of command. Michael said to her, 'Round and round again.' We fed her on bread; a quartern loaf every night, after her work, in half a pail of water; the same every morning; never any meat, nothing but bread, boiled tatoes, or raw carrots; meat would have made her savage. The monkey was fed on nuts, apples, gingerbread, or anything. Besides them we had two dancing dogs. The bear didn't like them, and they were kept on one side in performing. The dogs jumped through hoops and danced on their hind legs; they're easyish enough trained. Sometimes the butchers set bull-dogs - two or three at a time - at Jenny, and Michael and me had to beat them off, as well as the two other men that were with us. Those two men collected the money, and I played the pipes and drum, and Michael minded the bear, and the dogs, and monkey. In London we did very well. The West-end was the best; Whitechapel was crowded for us, but only with coppers. I don't know what Michael made, but I had 7s. a week, with my wittles and lodging. Michael did well; he generally had 20s. to 30s. every night in ha'pence, and used to give 21s. worth of it for a one-pound note; for they was in then. He must have taken ?12 a week by week, or more. When we've travelled in the country we've sometimes had trouble to get lodgings for the bear. We've had to sleep in outhouses with her, and have sometimes frightened people that didn't know we were there, but nothing serious. Bears is well-behaved enough, if they're not aggrawated. Perhaps no one but me is left in England now, what properly understands a dancing bear. Jenny wasn't ever baited, but offers were made for it by sporting characters. The country was better than London when the weather allowed; but in Gloucester, Cheltenham, and a quod many places, we weren't let in the high streets. The gentlefolk in the balconies, both in town and country, where they had a good sight, were our best friends. It's more than thirty years ago - yes a good bit more now. At Chester races one year, we were all taken and put into prison - bear, and dogs, and musicianers and all - every one - because we played a day after the races; that was Saturday. We were all in good until Monday morning. I don't know how the authorities fed the bear. We were each in a separate cell, and I had bread, cheese, and gruel. On Monday we were discharged, and the bear was shot by the magistrates' orders. They wanted to hang poor Jenny at first, but she was shot and sold to the hairdressers. I couldn't say to see her shot, and had to go into an alehouse on the road. I don't know what her carcase sold for; it wasn't very fat. Michael and me then parted at Chester, and he afterwards went home, rich, to Italy, taking his monkey and dogs with him, I believe. He lived very careful, chiefly on rice and cabbage, and very little meat with it, which he called manesta. He was a very old man. I had manesta sometimes, but didn't like it much. I drummed and piped my way from Chester to London, and there took up with another foreigner named Green, in the clockwork figure line. The figures were a Turk called Bluebeard, a Sailor, a lady called Lady Catarina, and Neptune's car, which we called Nelson's car as well - but it was Neptune's by rights. These figures danced on a table when taken out of a box. Each had its own dance after being wound up. First came my Lady Catarina. She, and the others of them, was full two feet high. She had a cork body, and a very handsome silk dress, or muslin, according to the fashion and the season - black in Lent, or whatever the nobility wore. Lady Catarina, when wound up, danced a reel for seven minutes, the Sailor a hornpipe, and Bluebeard shook his head, rolled his eyes, and moved his sword, just as natural as life. Neptune's car went either straight or round the table, as it was set. We often showed our performance in the houses of the nobility, and would get 10s. or 12s. at a good house where there was children. I had a third share, and in town and country we cleared SOs. a week at least, every week, among the three of us, after all our keep and expenses had been paid. At Doncaster races we have taken ?3 in a day, and ?4 at Lincoln races. Country, in summer, was better than town. There's no such exhibition now, barring one I have, but that's pledged. It cost ?20 at Mr. -----s, for the four figures without dresses. I saved money, which went in an illness of rheumatic-gout. There's no bears at all allowed now - times is changed, and all for the worser. I stuck to this clock-work concern sixteen years, and knows all parts of the country - Ireland, Scotland, Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Wight. A month before Christmas we used to put the figures by, for the weather didn't suit, and then we went with a galantee show of a magic lantern. We showed it on a white sheet, or on the ceiling, big or little, in the houses of the gentlefolk and the schools where there was a breaking-up; it was shown by way of a treat to the scholars. There was Harlequin, and Billy Button, and suchlike. We had 10s. 6d. and 15s., for each performance, and did very well indeed. I have that galantee show still, but it brings in little now. Green's dead, and all in the line's dead but me. The galantee show don't answer, because magic lanterns are so cheap in the shops. When we started, magic lanterns wasn't common, but we can't keep hold of a good thing long in these times. It was a regular Christmas thing once - the galantee show. I can make, in a holiday time, 20s. a week at present; but that's only at holiday times, and is just a mere casualty a few times a year. I do other jobs when I can get them - at other times I delivers bills, carries boards, and helps at funerals.