London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3Mayhew, Henry
Blind Female Violin Player.
I HAD the following narrative from a stout blind woman, with a very grave and even meditative look, years old, dressed in a clean cotton gown, the pattern of which was almost washed out. She was led by a very fine dog (a Scotch colley, she described it), a chain being affixed to the dog"s leather collar A boy, poor and destitute, she said, barefooted, and wearing a greasy ragged jacket, with his bare skin showing through the many rents, accompanied her when I saw her. The boy had been with her a month, she supporting him. She said:—
"I have been blind years. I was a servant in my youth, and in married a journeyman cabinet-maker. I went blind from an inflammation years before my husband died. We had children, all dead now—the last died years ago; and at my husband"s death I was left almost destitute. I used to sell a few laces in the street, but couldn"t clear a-week by it. I had a little help from the parish, but very rarely; and at last I could get nothing but an order for the house. A neighbour—a tradesman— then taught me at his leisure to play the violin, but I"m not a great performer. I wish I was. I began to play in the streets years ago. I get halfpennies in charity, not for my music. Some days I pick up , some days only , and on wet days nothing. I"ve often had to pledge my fiddle for —I could never get more on it, and sometimes not that. When my fiddle was in pledge, I used to sell matches and laces in the streets, and have had to borrow to lay in a stock. I"ve sometimes taken in hours. My chief places, when I"ve only the dog to lead me, are Regentstreet and Portland-place; and, really, people are very kind and careful in guiding and directing me,—even the cabmen! may God bless them."