London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry
1851

Guy Fawkes (Boy).

Guy Fawkes (Boy).

"I ALWAYS go out with a Guy Fawkes every year. I"m seventeen years old, and I"ve been out with a guy ever since I can remember, except last year; I didn"t then, because I was in Middlesex Hospital with an abscess, brought on by the rheumatic fever. I was in the hospital a month. My father was an undertaker; he"s been dead four months: mother carries on the trade. He didn"t like my going out with guys, but I always would. He didn"t like it at all, he used to say it was a disgrace. Mother didn"t much fancy my doing it this year. When I was a very little un, I was carried about for a guy. I couldn"t a been more than seven years old when I first begun. They put paper-hangings round my legs—they got it from Baldwin"s, in the Tottenham Court-road; sometimes they bought, and sometimes got it give "em; but they give a rare lot for a penny or twopence. After that they put me on a apron made of the same sort of paper—showy, you know—then they put a lot of tinsel bows, and at the corners they cut a sort of tail like there is to farriers" aprons, and it look stunnin"; then they put on my chest a tinsel heart and rosettes; they was green and red, because it shows off. All up my arms I had bows and things to make a show-off. Then I put on a black mask with a little red on the cheek, to make me look like a devil: it had horns, too. Always pick out a devil"s mask with horns: it looks fine, and frightens the people a"most. The boy that dressed me was a very clever chap, and made a guy to rights. Why, he made me a little guy about a foot high, to carry in my lap—it was piecings of quilting like, a sort of patch-work all sewn together,— and then he filled it with saw-dust, and made a head of shavings. He picked the shavings small, and then sewed "em up in a little bag; and then he painted a face, and it looked wery well; and he made it a little tinsel bob-tail coat, and a tinsel cap with two feathers on the top. It was made to sit in a chair; and there was a piece of string tied to each of the legs and the arms, and a string come behind; and I used to pull it, and the legs and arms jumped up. I was put in a chair, and two old broom-handles was put through the rails, and then a boy got in front, and another behind, and carried me off round Holborn way in the streets and squares. Every now and then they put me down before a window; then one of "em used to say the speech, and I used all the time to keep pulling the string of my little guy, and it amused the children at the winders. After they"d said the speech we all shouted hurrah! and then some of them went and knocked at the door and asked "Please to remember the guy;" and the little children brought us ha"pence and pence; and sometimes the ladies and gentlemen chucked us some money out of the winder. At last they carried me into Russell-square. They put me down before a gentleman"s house and begun saying the speech: while they was saying it, up comes a lot o" boys with sticks in their hands. One of our chaps knowed what they was after, and took the little guy out of my hand, and went on saying the speech. I kept all on sitting still. After a bit one of these "ere boys says, "Oh, it"s a dead guy; let"s have a lark with it!" and then one of "em gives me a punch in the eye with his fist, and then snatched the mask off my face, and when he"d pulled it off he says, "Oh, Bill, it"s a live un!" We was afraid we should get the worst of it, so we run away round the square. The biggest one of our lot carried the chair. After we"d run a little way they caught us again, and says, "Now then, give us all your money;" with that, some ladies and gentlemen that see it all came up to "em and says, "If you don"t go we"ll lock you up;" and so they let us go away. And so we went to another place where they sold masks; and we bought another. Then they asked me to be guy again, but I wouldn"t, for I"d got a black-eye through it already. So they got another to finish out the day. When we got home at night we shared 2s. apiece. There was five of us altogether; but I think they chisselled me. I know they got a deal more than that, for they"d had a good many sixpences and shillings. People usen"t to think much of a shilling that time a-day, because there wasn"t any but little guys about then; but I don"t know but what the people now encourage little guys most, because they say that the chaps with the big ones ought to go to work.

Next year I was out with a stuffed guy. They wanted me to be guy again, because I wasn"t frightened easy, and I was lightish; but I told "em "No, I"ve had enough of being guy; I don"t be guy any more: besides, I had such fine money for getting a whack in the eye!" We got on pretty well that year; but it gets wus and wus every year. We got hardly anything this year; and next I don"t suppose we shall get anything at all. These chaps that go about pitchin" into guys we call "guy smashers;" but they don"t do it only for the lark of smashing the guys: they do it for the purpose of taking the boys" money away, and sometimes the clothes. If one of "em has a hole in his boots, and he sees a guy with a good pair on, he pretty soon pulls "em of the guy and hooks it off with "em.

After I"d been out with guys for three or four years, I got big enough to go to work, and I used to go along with my brother and help him at a coal-shed, carrying out coals. I was there ten months, and then one night—a bitter cold night, it was freezing hard—we had a naphtha lamp to light in the shop; and as me and my brother was doing it, either a piece of the match dropped in or else he poured it over, I can"t say which, but all at once it exploded and blowed me across the road and knocked him in the shop all a-fire; and I was all a-fire, too—see how it"s burnt my face and the hand I held the lucifer in. A woman run out of the next shop with some wet sacks, and throw"d "em upon me, but it flared up higher then: water don"t put it out, unless it"s a mass of water like a engine. Then a milkman run up and pulled off his cape and throwed it over me, and that put it out; then he set me up, and I run home, though I don"t know how I got there, and for two days after I didn"t know anybody. Another man ran into the shop and pulled out my brother, and we was both taken to the University Hospital. Two or three people touched me, and the skin came off on their hands, and at nine o"clock the next morning my brother died. When they took me to the hospital they had no bed for me, and so they sent me home again, and I was seven months before I got well. But I"ve never been to say well since, and I shall never be fit for hard work any more.

The next year I went out with a guy again, and I got on pretty well; and so I"ve done every year since, except last. I"ve had several little places since I got burnt, but they haven"t lasted long.

"This year I made a stunning guy. First of all I got a pair of my own breeches—black uns—and stuffed "em full of shavings. I tied the bottoms with a bit of string. Then I got a black coat—that belonged to another boy— and sewed it all round to the trousers; then we filled that with shavings, and give him a good corporation. Then we got a block, sich as the milliners have, and shoved that right in the neck of the coat, and then we shoved some more shavings all round, to make it stick in tight; and when that was done it looked just like a dead man. I know something about dead men, because my father was always in that line. Then we got some horsehair and some glue, and plastered the head all round with glue, and stuck the horse-hair on to imitate the hair of a man; then we put the mask on: it was a twopenny one—they"re a great deal cheaper than they used to be, you can get a very good one now for a penny—it had a great big nose, and it had two red horns, black eyebrows, and red cheeks. I like devils, they"re so ugly. I bought a good-looking un two or three years ago, and we didn"t get hardly anything, the people said, "Ah! it"s too goodlooking; it don"t frighten us at all." Well, then, after we put on his mask we got two gloves, one was a woollen un, and the other a kid un, and stuffed them full of shavings, and tied "em down to the chair. We didn"t have no lantern, "cos it keeps on falling out of his hands. After that we put on an old pair of lace-up boots. We tied "em on to the legs of the breeches. The feet mostly twistes round, but we stopped that; we shoved a stick up the leg of his breeches, and the other end into the boot, and tied it, and then it couldn"t twist round very easy. After that we put a paper hangingcap on his head; it was silk-velvet kind of paper, and decorated all over with tinsel bows. His coat we pasted all over with blue and green tinsel bows and pictures. They was painted theatrical characters, what we buy at the shop a ha"penny a sheet plain, and penny a sheet coloured: we bought "em plain, and coloured them ourselves. A-top of his hat we put a hornament. We got some red paper, and cut it into narrow strips, and curled it with the blade of the scissors, and stuck it on like a feather. We made him a fine apron of hanging-paper, and cut that in slips up to his knees, and curled it with the scissors, the same as his feather, and decorated it with stars, and bows, and things, made out of paper, all manner of colours, and pieces of tinsel. After we"d finished the guy we made ourselves cock"d hats, all alike, and then we tied him in a chair, and wrote on his breast, "Villanous Guy." Then we put two broomsticks under the chair and carried him out. There was four of us, and the two that wasn"t carrying, they had a large bough of a tree each, with a knob at the top to protect the guy. We started off at once, and got into the squares, and put him in front of the gentlemen"s houses, and said this speech:— Pray, gentlefolks, pray Remember this day, At which kind notice we bring This figure of sly, Old, villanous Guy, He wanted to murder the king. With powder in store, He bitterly swore By him in the vaults to compare, By him and his crew, And parliament, too, Should all be blow"d up in the air. So please to remember The fifth of November, The gunpowder treason and plot, I see no reason Why gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot. So hollo, boys! hollo, boys! Shout out the day! Hollo, boys! hollo, boys! Hollo, Hurrah!

After we"d finished our speech in one of the squares, and hollowed Hurrah! the beadle come out, and said he"d give us the stick about our backs, and the guy too, if we didn"t go away. So we went away, and got into Russell-square and Bedford-square; but there was such a lot of small guys out, that we did worse than ever we"d done before. When we was in Southampton-street, Holborn, I finished the speech with "Down with the Pope, and God save the Queen;" so four shoe-black boys come up, and says, says they, "What do you say, Down with the Pope and God save the Queen for?" And I says, "I didn"t mean no harm of it." With that they makes use of some bad language, and told me they"d smash my head and the guy"s too; and they was going to do it, when up comes a boy that I knew, and I says to him, "They"re going to knock me about;" so he says, "No they won"t;" so then the boys made their reply, and said they would. So I told "em they was very fast about fighting, I"d fight one of them; so with that they all got ready to pitch upon me: but when they see this other boy stuck to me, they went off, and never struck a blow. When we got home I opened the money-box and shared the money; one had 5d., and two had 4 1/2d. each, and I had 7d. because I said the speech. At night we pulled him all to pieces, and burnt his stuffing, and let off some squibs and crackers. I always used to spend the money I got guying on myself. I used to buy sometimes fowls, because I could sell the eggs. There is some boys that take out guys as do it for the sake of getting a bit of bread and butter, but not many as I knows of. It don"t cost much to make a guy. The clothes we never burns—they"re generally too good: they"re our own clothes, what we wears at other times; and when people burn a guy they always pull off any of the things that"s of use fust; but mostly the guy gets pulled all to pieces, and only the shavings gets burnt.

"I ALWAYS go out with a Guy Fawkes every year. I"m years old, and I"ve been out with a guy ever since I can remember, except last year; I didn"t then, because I was in with an abscess, brought on by the rheumatic fever. I was in the hospital a month. My father was an undertaker; he"s been dead months: mother carries on the trade. He didn"t like my going out with guys, but I always would. He didn"t like it at all, he used to say it was a disgrace. Mother didn"t much fancy my doing it this year. When I was a very little un, I was carried about for a guy. I couldn"t a been more than years old when I begun. They put paper-hangings round my legs—they got it from Baldwin"s, in the Tottenham Court-road; sometimes they bought, and sometimes got it give "em; but they give a rare lot for a penny or twopence. After that they put me on a apron made of the same sort of paper—showy, you know—then they put a lot of tinsel bows, and at the corners they cut a sort of tail like there is to farriers" aprons, and it look stunnin"; then they put on my chest a tinsel heart and rosettes; they was green and red, because it shows off. All up my arms I had bows and things to make a show-off. Then I put on a black mask with a little red on the cheek, to make me look like a devil: it had horns, too. Always pick out a devil"s mask with horns: it looks fine, and frightens the people a"most. The boy that dressed me was a very clever chap, and made a guy to rights. Why, he made me a little guy about a foot high, to carry in my lap—it was piecings of quilting like, a sort of patch-work all sewn together,— and then he filled it with saw-dust, and made a head of shavings. He picked the shavings small, and then sewed "em up in a little bag; and then he painted a face, and it looked wery well; and he made it a little tinsel bob-tail coat, and a tinsel cap with feathers on the top. It was made to sit in a chair; and there was a piece of string tied to each of the legs and the arms, and a string come behind; and I used to pull it, and the legs and arms jumped up. I was put in a chair, and old broom-handles was put through the rails, and then a boy got in front, and another behind, and carried me off round way in the streets and squares. Every now and then they put me down before a window; then of "em used to say the speech, and I used all the time to keep pulling the string of my little guy, and it amused the children at the winders. After they"d said the speech we all shouted hurrah! and then some of them went and knocked at the door and asked "Please to remember the guy;" and the little children brought us ha"pence and pence; and sometimes the ladies and gentlemen chucked us some money out of the winder. At last they carried me into . They put me down before a gentleman"s house and begun saying the speech: while they was saying it, up comes a lot o" boys with sticks in their hands. of our chaps knowed what they was after, and took the little guy out of my hand, and went on saying the speech. I kept all on sitting still. After a bit of these "ere boys says, "Oh, it"s a dead guy; let"s have a lark with it!" and then of "em gives me a punch in the eye with his fist, and then snatched the mask off my face, and when he"d pulled it off he says, "Oh, Bill, it"s a live un!" We was afraid we should get the worst of it, so we run away round the square. The biggest of our lot carried the chair. After we"d run a little way they caught us again, and says, "Now then, give us all your money;" with that, some ladies and gentlemen that see it all came up to "em and says, "If you don"t go we"ll lock you up;" and so they let us go away. And so we went to another place where they sold masks; and we bought another. Then they asked me to be guy again, but I wouldn"t, for I"d got a black-eye through it already. So they got another to finish out the day. When we got home at night we shared apiece. There was of us altogether; but I think they chisselled me. I know they got a deal more than that, for they"d had a good many sixpences and shillings. People usen"t to think much of a shilling that time a-day, because there wasn"t any but little guys about then; but I don"t know but what the people now encourage little guys most, because they say that the chaps with the big ones ought to go to work.

71

 

Next year I was out with a stuffed guy. They wanted me to be guy again, because I wasn"t frightened easy, and I was lightish; but I told "em "No, I"ve had enough of being guy; I don"t be guy any more: besides, I had such fine money for getting a whack in the eye!" We got on pretty well that year; but it gets wus and wus every year. We got hardly anything this year; and next I don"t suppose we shall get anything at all. These chaps that go about pitchin" into guys we call "guy smashers;" but they don"t do it only for the lark of smashing the guys: they do it for the purpose of taking the boys" money away, and sometimes the clothes. If of "em has a hole in his boots, and he sees a guy with a good pair on, he pretty soon pulls "em of the guy and hooks it off with "em.

After I"d been out with guys for or years, I got big enough to go to work, and I used to go along with my brother and help him at a coal-shed, carrying out coals. I was there months, and then night—a bitter cold night, it was freezing hard—we had a naphtha lamp to light in the shop; and as me and my brother was doing it, either a piece of the match dropped in or else he poured it over, I can"t say which, but all at once it exploded and blowed me across the road and knocked him in the shop all a-fire; and I was all a-fire, too—see how it"s burnt my face and the hand I held the lucifer in. A woman run out of the next shop with some wet sacks, and throw"d "em upon me, but it flared up higher then: water don"t put it out, unless it"s a mass of water like a engine. Then a milkman run up and pulled off his cape and throwed it over me, and that put it out; then he set me up, and I run home, though I don"t know how I got there, and for days after I didn"t know anybody. Another man ran into the shop and pulled out my brother, and we was both taken to the University Hospital. or people touched me, and the skin came off on their hands, and at o"clock the next morning my brother died. When they took me to the hospital they had no bed for me, and so they sent me home again, and I was months before I got well. But I"ve never been to say well since, and I shall never be fit for hard work any more.

The next year I went out with a guy again, and I got on pretty well; and so I"ve done every year since, except last. I"ve had several little places since I got burnt, but they haven"t lasted long.

"This year I made a stunning guy. of all I got a pair of my own breeches—black uns—and stuffed "em full of shavings. I tied the bottoms with a bit of string. Then I got a black coat—that belonged to another boy— and sewed it all round to the trousers; then we filled that with shavings, and give him a good corporation. Then we got a block, sich as the milliners have, and shoved that right in the neck of the coat, and then we shoved some more shavings all round, to make it stick in tight; and when that was done it looked just like a dead man. I know something about dead men, because my father was always in that line. Then we got some horsehair and some glue, and plastered the head all round with glue, and stuck the horse-hair on to imitate the hair of a man; then we put the mask on: it was a twopenny —they"re a great deal cheaper than they used to be, you can get a very good now for a penny—it had a great big nose, and it had red horns, black eyebrows, and red cheeks. I like devils, they"re so ugly. I bought a good-looking un or years ago, and we didn"t get hardly anything, the people said, "Ah! it"s too goodlooking; it don"t frighten us at all." Well, then, after we put on his mask we got gloves, was a woollen un, and the other a kid un, and stuffed them full of shavings, and tied "em down to the chair. We didn"t have no lantern, "cos it keeps on falling out of his hands. After that we put on an old pair of lace-up boots. We tied "em on to the legs of the breeches. The feet mostly twistes round, but we stopped that; we shoved a stick up the leg of his breeches, and the other end into the boot, and tied it, and then it couldn"t twist round very easy. After that we put a paper hangingcap on his head; it was silk-velvet kind of paper, and decorated all over with tinsel bows. His coat we pasted all over with blue and green tinsel bows and pictures. They was painted theatrical characters, what we buy at the shop a ha"penny a sheet plain, and penny a sheet coloured: we bought "em plain, and coloured them ourselves. A-top of his hat we put a hornament. We got some red paper, and cut it into narrow strips, and curled it with the blade of the scissors, and stuck it on like a feather. We made him a fine apron of hanging-paper, and cut that in slips up to his knees, and curled it with the scissors, the same as his feather, and decorated it with stars, and bows, and things, made out of paper, all manner of colours, and pieces of tinsel. After we"d finished the guy we made ourselves cock"d hats, all alike, and then we tied him in a chair, and wrote on his breast, "" Then we put broomsticks under the chair and carried him out. There was of us, and the that wasn"t carrying, they had a large bough of a tree each, with a knob at the top to protect the guy. We started off at once, and got into the squares, and put him in front of the gentlemen"s houses, and said this speech:—

Pray, gentlefolks, pray

Remember this day,

At which kind notice we bring

This figure of sly,

Old, villanous Guy,

He wanted to murder the king.

With powder in store,

He bitterly swore

By him in the vaults to compare,

By him and his crew,

And parliament, too,

Should all be blow"d up in the air.

So please to remember

The fifth of November,

The gunpowder treason and plot,

I see no reason

Why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

So hollo, boys! hollo, boys!

Shout out the day!

Hollo, boys! hollo, boys!

Hollo, Hurrah!

After we"d finished our speech in one of the squares, and hollowed Hurrah! the beadle come out, and said he"d give us the stick about our backs, and the guy too, if we didn"t go away. So we went away, and got into Russell-square and Bedford-square; but there was such a lot of small guys out, that we did worse than ever we"d done before. When we was in Southampton-street, Holborn, I finished the speech with "Down with the Pope, and God save the Queen;" so four shoe-black boys come up, and says, says they, "What do you say, Down with the Pope and God save the Queen for?" And I says, "I didn"t mean no harm of it." With that they makes use of some bad language, and told me they"d smash my head and the guy"s too; and they was going to do it, when up comes a boy that I knew, and I says to him, "They"re going to knock me about;" so he says, "No they won"t;" so then the boys made their reply, and said they would. So I told "em they was very fast about fighting, I"d fight one of them; so with that they all got ready to pitch upon me: but when they see this other boy stuck to me, they went off, and never struck a blow. When we got home I opened the money-box and shared the money; one had 5d., and two had 4 1/2d. each, and I had 7d. because I said the speech. At night we pulled him all to pieces, and burnt his stuffing, and let off some squibs and crackers. I always used to spend the money I got guying on myself. I used to buy sometimes fowls, because I could sell the eggs. There is some boys that take out guys as do it for the sake of getting a bit of bread and butter, but not many as I knows of.

It don"t cost much to make a guy. The clothes we never burns—they"re generally too good: they"re our own clothes, what we wears at other times; and when people burn a guy they always pull off any of the things that"s of use fust; but mostly the guy gets pulled all to pieces, and only the shavings gets burnt.

 
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 Title Page
collapseChapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin
collapseOur Street Folk - Street Exhibitors
collapseChapter III: - Street Musicians
collapseChapter IV: - Street Vocalists
collapseChapter V: - Street Artists
collapseChapter VI: - Exhibitors of Trained Animals
collapseChapter VII: Skilled and Unskilled Labour - Garret-Masters
collapseChapter VIII: - The Coal-Heavers
collapseChapter IX: - Ballast-Men
collapseChapter X: - Lumpers
collapseChapter XI: Account of the Casual Labourers
 Chapter XII: Cheap Lodging-Houses
collapseChapter XIII: On the Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis
collapseChapter XIV: London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men
collapseChapter XV: London Omnibus Drivers and Conductors
collapseChapter XVI: Character of Cabdrivers
collapseChapter XVII: Carmen and Porters
collapseChapter XVIII: London Vagrants
 Chapter XIX: Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men
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