London Labour and the London Poor, extra volume

Mayhew, Henry
1851

Dependants of Beggars.

Dependants of Beggars.

The dependants of beggars may be divided into screevers proper; i. e., writers of "slums and fakements" for those who live by "screeving," and referees, or those who give characters to professional beggars when references are required. Beggars are generally born and bred to the business. Their fathers and mothers were beggars before them, and they have an hereditary right to the calling. The exceptions to this rule are those who have fallen into mendicancy, and follow it from necessity, and those who have flown to it in a moment of distress, and finding it more lucrative than they supposed, adopted it from choice. Hence it follows that the majority are entirely destitute of education; and by education I mean the primary arts of reading and writing. Where there is demand there is supply, and the wants of mendicants who found their account in "pads," and "slums," and "fakements," created "screevers."

The antecedents of the screever are always more or less—and generally more —disreputable. He has been a fraudulent clerk imprisoned for embezzlement; or a highly-respected treasurer to a philanthropic society, who has made off with the funds entrusted to him; or a petty forger, whose family have purchased silence, and "hushed up" a scandal; or, more frequently, that most dangerous of convicts, the half-educated convict—who has served his time or escaped his bonds.

Too proud to beg himself, or, more probably, too well known to the police to dare face daylight; ignorant of any honest calling, or too idle to practise it; without courage to turn thief or informer; lazy, dissolute, and self-indulgent, the screever turns his little education to the worst of purposes, and prepares the forgery he leaves the more fearless cadger to utter.

The following are specimens of the screever's work, copied from the original documents in the possession of Mr. Horsford, of the Mendicity Society:—

"Parish of Battersea;

County of Surrey.

This memorial sheweth that Mr. Alexander Fyfe, a native of Port Glasgow N.B. and for several years carrying on the business of a NURSERY and SEEDSMAN in this parish, became security for his son in law Andrew Talfour of Bay st. Port Glasgow who in October last privately disposed of his effects and absconded to the colonies, leaving his wife and six children totally unprovided for and the said Mr. Alexander Fyfe responsible for the sum of £ 1350, the sudden reverse of fortune together with other domestic afflictions so preyed on the mind of Mr. Fyfe that he is now an inmate of a LUNATIC ASYLUM. The said Mr. Fyfe together with his family have hitherto maintained the character of HONESTY and INDUSTRY in consideration of which I have been earnestly solicited by a few Benevolent persons to draw up this statement on behalf of the bereaved family. I have therefore taken on myself the responsibility of so doing trusting those whom Providence has given the means will lend their timely aid in rescuing a respectable family from the ruin that inevitably awaits them. GIVEN under my Hand at the VESTRY in the aforesaid parish of Battersea and County of Surrey this Twenty-Fourth day of February in the year of Our Lord 1851. John Thomas Freeman, Vestry Clerk, £ 3 J. S. Jenkinson ... ... ... £ 5 0 0 Vicar of Battersea. Watson and Co. ... ... ... £ 5 John Forster & Co. ... ... 5 Revd. J. Twining ... ... 2 2 Alderman J. Humphery ... 5 Sir George Pollock ... ... 5 Southlands. £. Henry Mitton ... ... ... 2 Wm. Downs ... ... ... ... 2 Oak wharf. Mrs. Broadley Wilson ... ... 1 Sir Henry B. Houghton ... £ 5 Mrs. Adm1 Colin Campbell ... 1 ..1 Col. J. Mc Donall... ... ... £ 5 paid. Anonymous ... ... ... ... 2 Mrs. Col. Forbes ... ... ... £ 3 Col. W. Mace paid ... ... 5 P. H. Gillespie ... ... ... 5 Minister of the Scotch Church Battersea Rise 3d March /51 Messrs. Moffat, Gillespie & Co. 5 pd.

My readers will perceive that the above document is written in a semi-legal style, with a profuse amount of large capitals, and minute particularity in describing localities, though here and there an almost ostentatious indifference exists upon the same points. Thus we are told that the parish of Battersea is in the county of Surrey, and that Port Glasgow is in North Britain, while on the other hand we are only informed that the absconding Andrew Talfour, of Bay Street, Port Glasgow, N.B., made off to the colonies, which, considering the vast extent of our colonial possessions, is vague, to say the least of it. It must also be allowed that, the beginning the word "benevolent" in the second paragraph with a capital B is equally to the credit of the writer's head and heart. It is odd that after having spelt "responsible" so correctly, the writer should have indulged a playful fancy with "responsibillity;" but perhaps trifling orthographical lapses may be in keeping with the assumed character of vestry-clerk. Critically speaking, the weak point of this composition is its punctuation; its strong point the concluding paragraph, "the GIVEN under my hand at the VESTRY," which carries with it the double weight of a royal proclamation, and the business-like formality of an Admiralty contract; but the composition and caligraphy are trifles—the real genius lies in the signatures.

I wish my readers could see the names attached to this "Memorial" as they lay before me. The first, "J. S. Jenkinson," is written in the most clerical of hands; "Watson and Co." is round and commercial; "John Forster & Co." the same; the "Revd J. Twining" scholarly and easy; "Alderman J. Humphery" stiff and upright. These names are evidently copied from the Red Book and Directory; some are purely fictitious; many are cleverly executed forgeries.

The ingenuity of the concocter and compiler—of the sympathiser with the woes of Mr. Alexander Fyfe of Port Glasgow, N.B.—was exercised in vain. The imposture was detected; he was taken to a police-court, condemned, and sentenced.

Here is the case of another unfortunate Scotchman from the pen of the same gifted author. The handwriting, the wording, the capitals, and the N.B.'s, are identical with those of the warm-hearted vestryclerk of Battersea.

"These are to certify that Mr. Alexr. Malcolm Ship-Owner and General Merchant, was on his passage from FRASERBURGH. ABERDEENSHIRE. N.B. on the night of the 3d. inst when his vessel the Susan and Mary of Fraserburgh laden with Corn was run down by a "steamer name unknown" the Crew consisting of Six persons narrowly escaping with their lives.

Mr. Malcolm sustained a loss of property by the appalling event to the amount of £ 370. and being a person of exemplary character with a numerous family entirely depending upon him for support his case has excited the greatest sympathy, it has therefore been proposed by a few of his friends to enter into a subscription on his behalf with a view of raising by voluntary contributions a sufficient sum to release him from his present embarrassed situation.

I have known him for several years a constant trader to this wharf, and consider him worthy of every sympathy." Leith and Glasgow Wharf London May 6th. 1847 Joseph Adams £ 5 0 0 Geo. Carroll 5 A. Nichol & Sons pd. ... ... ... 5 P. Laurie ... ... ... ... ... ... 5 Vivian & Sons ... ... ... ... ... 3 J. H. Petty ... ... ... ... ... ... 2 pd Messrs. Drummond... ... ... ... £ 5 pd. Cranford Colvin & Co. ... ... ... £ 3 Baring Brothers ... ... ... ... 5 Curries & Co. ... ... ... ... ... 3 Jono. Price ... ... ... ... ... 5 5 Reid, Irving & Co. ... ... ... ... £ 5

The signatures attached to this are imitations of the handwriting of various firms, each distinct, individual, and apparently genuine.

The next "screeve" takes the form of a resolution at a public meeting:—

"Notting-Hill, District

Parish of Kensington

August 6th, 1857

"The Gentry and Clergy of this neighbourhood will no doubt remember that the late Mr. Edward Wyatt, (for many years a respectable tradesman in this parish) died in embarrassed circumstances in 1855, leaving a Widow and Seven Children totally unprovided for, the eldest of whom a fine Girl 19 years of age having been a Cripple from her Birth has received a liberal education and is considered a competent person to superintend a SEMINARY for the tuition of young females which would materially assist her Mother in supporting a numerous family.

A meeting was convened on Monday evening the 3rd inst (the Revd J. P. Gall, Incumbent of St. Johns, in the Chair) when it was unanimously proposed to enter into a subscription with a view of raising by voluntary contributions the sum of £ 40 in order to establish the afflicted girl in this praise worthy undertaking, I have been instructed by the Parochial Authorities to draw up this statement and therefore take upon myself the responsibility of so doing knowing the case to be one meriting sympathy.

Signed

By order of the Chairman

Reuben Green

Vestry Clerk" Subscriptions received at the Meeting, £ 11 13 6 Revd J. P. Gill ... ... ... ... £ 1 0 0 Mrs. W. Money ... ... ... ... 10 0 pd Chushington... ... ... ... ... £ 1 Mrs Coventry paid ... ... ... 10/ J. & W. S. Huntley Addison Terrace Notting Hill pd ... 1 1 Mrs. Cribb pd ... ... ... 5 0 The Misses Shorland ... ... ... 7 6 Mrs Harris ... ... ... ... 5 0 Miss Hall Lansdowne Crescent ... 10/ W. Atkinson pd ... 5 0 Thos Jacomb... ... ... ... 5 0 Miss J. Robertson paid ... 5 0 The Misses Howard ... ... 5 0

The above letter is written in a better style than those preceding it. Great talent is exhibited in the imitations of "lady'shand." The signatures "Mrs. Coventry," "Mrs. Cribb," "The Misses Howard," and "Mrs. Harris" (surely this screever must have been familiar with the works of Dickens), are excellently done, but are surpassed by the clever execution of the letters forming the names, "The Misses Shorland" and "Miss Hall Lansdowne Crescent," which are masterpieces of feminine caligraphy.

The following note was sent to its address, accompanied by a memorial in one of the House of Commons envelopes, but the faulty grammar, so unlike the style in which a member of Parliament ought to write, betrayed it.

"Committee Room No. 3

House of Commons

"Mr. J. Whatman presents his respectful compliments to the Revd. W. Smith Marriott at the earnest request of the poor families (whose case will be fully explained on perusal of the accompanying document in the bearer's possession), begs to submit it for that gentlemen's charitable consideration.

The persons whom this concerns are natives of Cranbrook Gondhurst, Brenchley &c and bears unexceptionable characters, they have the honor of knowing Mr. Marriott at Worsmorden and trust he will add his signature to the list of subscribers, for which favour they will feel grateful.

J. Whatman takes more than ordinary interest in this case having a knowledge of its authenticity, he therefore trusts that the motives which actuates him in complying with the request will be deemed a sufficient apology.

Friday Evening

May 28, 1858"

"This Memorial sheweth that Mr. Henry Shepherd a General Carrier from EWELL, CHEAM, SUTTON &c. to LONDON VIA Mitchem, Morden, Tooting and Clapham, was returning home on the Evening of Thursday the 26th inst when near the Elephant and Castle, his Horse took fright at a Band of street Musicians and ran off at a furious pace, the Van coming in contact with a Timber carriage was dashed to pieces, the Animal received such injuries as caused its death, and Mr. SHEPHERD endeavouring to save the property entrusted to his care for delivery had his Right Leg fractured and is now an inmate of GUYS HOSPITAL.

"On further investigation We find his loss exceeds £ 70. and knowing him to be an Industrious, Honest man, with a large family depending upon his exertions for support We earnestly beg leave to recommend his case to the notice of the Gentry and Clergy of his neighbourhood, trusting their united Donations in conjunction with our mutual assistance will release a deserving family from their present unfortunate position in life. "GIVEN under Our Hands this 30th day of August in the Year of Our Lord 1858" £ William Harmer 2 Geo. Stone Ewell ... ... ... ... £ 2 Sir Geo. L. Glyn ... ... ... ... 2 2 F. Gosling ... ... ... ... ... 2 2 Revd W. H. Vernon ... ... ... £ 1 Morton Stubbs ... ... ... ... 1 1 Sutton Edmund Antrobus... ... ... ... £ 2 2 pd to Bearer 2d/9th/58 W. R. G. Farmer ... ... ... ... £ 2 2 pd. Revd. R. Bouchier... ... .. .. £ 2 pd.

My readers must admire the ingenuity of this letter. The VIA Mitchem looks so formal and convincing. The grouping of the circumstances—the "local colouring," as the critics would call it, which contributed to the ruin of the ill-fated general carrier Henry Shepherd—is excellent.—"Near the Elephant and Castle his horse took fright at a band of street musicians." What more natural? "Ran off at a furious pace. The van, coming in contact with a timber carriage, was dashed to pieces. The Animal," not the horse— that would have been tautological, and Animal with a capital A. "The Animal received such injuries as caused its death, and Mr. Shepherd, endeavouring to save the property entrusted to his care—." Admirable man! Devoted carrier!—leaving his van to smash—his horse to perish as they might, that the goods confided to him might receive no hurt. ". . . . endeavouring to save the property entrusted to his care for delivery, had his right leg fractured, and is now an inmate of Guy's Hospital."

This is as well conceived and carried out as Sheridan's pistol-bullet that misses its mark, "strikes a bronze Hercules in the mantel-piece, glances off through the window, and wounds the postman who was coming to the door with a double letter from Northamptonshire!"

The word "Paid" and its abbreviation pd. is scattered here and there artistically among the subscriptions. A small note in a different hand, in a corner of the last page shows the fate of industry and talent misapplied. It runs:—

Taken from Thos. Shepherd, Sept. 13. Mansion House. Lord Mayor Sir A. Carden. Committed for 3 months. J. W. HORSFORD.

The last instance I shall cite is peculiar, from the elaborate nature of the deception, and from containing a forgery of the signature of Lord Brougham. The screever, in this case, has taken a regularly printed Warrant, Execution, or Distress for Rent, filled it up with the name of Mrs. Julia Thompson, &c., and placed an imaginary inventory to a fictitious seizure. The word "Patent" is spelt "Pattent," which might be allowable in a broker's man, but when "Ewer" is written "Ure," I think he is too hard upon the orthography peculiar to the officers of the Sheriff of Middlesex, particularly as it is evident from the rest of the filling--in of the form that the error is intentional. Not only law but science is invoked in aid of this capital case of sham real distress. "Pleuro-Pneumonia" looks veterinary and veracious enough to carry conviction to the hearts of the most sceptical.

Removing any goods off the premises to avoid a distress or any person aiding, assisting, or concealing the same, will subject themselves to double the value of such effects so removed or concealed, or suffer imprisonment in the House of Correction, there to be kept to hard labour without Bail or Mainprize for Six Months, pursuant to the Act 11th George 2nd.

Sold by G. H. Beckford, Law Stationer, 122, Chancery Lane.

"TAKE NOTICE, That by the authority and on the behalf of your Landlord, Thos. Young, I have this Sixteenth day of April in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and fifty-six distrained the several goods and chattels specified in the Schedule or Inventory hereinunder written in

19 Praed Street in the Parish of Paddington in the County of Middlesex, for Twenty-nine pounds, being Twelve Months and arrears Rent due to the said Mr. Thos. Young at Ninth Febry last and if you shall not pay the said Twelve Months and Arrears Rent so due and in arrear as aforesaid together with the costs and charges of this distress or replevy the said goods and chattels within five days from the date hereof I shall cause the said goods and chattels to be appraised and sold, pursuant to the statute in that case made and provided.

Given under my hand the day and year above written. J. W. RUSSELL. Sworn Broker, &c. To Mrs. Julia Thompson.

The Schedule or Inventory above referred to:—

Mahogany Drawers

Mahogany Dining Tables

Six Mahogany Seated Chairs

Two Arm Do. Do.

One Eight-Day clock

Six Oil Paintings Gilt Frames

One Large Pier Glass

Carpet and Hearthrug

Fender and Fire-irons

Quantity of Chimney Ornaments

Six Kitchen Chairs

One Long Table Deal

One Large Copper Boiler

Two Copper Kettles

Pattent Mangle

One Large Water Butt

Two Washing Tubs

1 1/2 Doz. of Knifes and Forkes

Quantity of Earthen ware &c. &c.

Two Feather Beds & Bedding

One Flock Do Do.

Two Mahogany Bedsteads

One French Do

Washhand stand Ure &c.

Two Hair Mattresses

Three Bedroom Chairs

One set of Bedroom Carpeting

Staircase Carpeting, Brass Rods &c

One Milch Cow

One Cart Mare

One Dung Cart

One Wheelbarrow

Three Cwt. of Hay

Quantity of Manure

And Sundry Dairy Utensils

&c. &c. &c.

On the back of this legal document is written:

"This memorial sheweth that Mrs. Julia Thompson, widow, Cowkeeper and Dairywoman has since the demise of her husband which took place in 1849 supported a family consisting of six children by the assistance of a small Dairy the Pleuro- Pneumonia a disease Among Cattle has prevailed in the neighbourhood for several weeks during which time she has lost five Milch Cows estimated at £ 75. " " which will end in her entire ruin unless aided by the Hands of the Benevolent whose Donations in conjunction with Our mutual assistance will We trust enable Mrs. Thompson to realize some part of her lost property to follow her Business As before. H. Peters £ 3 3 0 April 17th, 1856 Chaplin & Horne .. .. £ 2 Mrs. Gore .. .. .. 1 Revd J. W. Buckley .. .. 2 Revd John Miles .. .. 1 Mrs. J. Shaw .. .. 2 paid C. Lushington .. .. 3 3 W. H. Ormsby .. .. 2 C. Molyneux .. .. 1 Miss Ferrers .. .. .. 2 paid W. Emmitt .. .. .. 2 2 Anonymous .. .. .. 2 0 Misses Gregg.. .. .. 2 2 Miss Browne .. .. .. 1 J. B. White & Bros .. .. 3 pd Thos Slater .. .. .. 2 W. T. Bird .. .. .. 2 pd. Miss Hamilton .. .. 3 paid Revd. J. A. Toole .. .. 2 paid Mr. Hopgood .. .. 2 Paid A Friend to the Widow .. 3 3 Paid to Mr. Pegg Richd Green .. .. .. £ 2 pd Revd A. M. Campbell .. 3 W. P. France .. .. 1 W. M. N. Reilly .. .. 2 2 Mrs. Forbes .. .. .. 2 pd R. Gurney .. .. .. 1 J. Spurling .. .. .. 2 pd Geo. R. Ward .. .. 1 Miss Brown .. .. .. 2 Mrs Needham .. .. 2 Paid Mr Davidson .. .. .. £ 2 Mrs. H. Scott Waring .. 3 3 Mrs Hall .. .. .. 1 1 Saml. Venables .. .. 2 Revd. A. Taylor .. .. 1 Revd. H. V. Le Bas .. .. 1 Thomas Bunting .. .. 2 pd. Mrs & Miss Vullamy .. 3 Revd. C. Smalley .. .. 5 Miss Smalley .. .. .. 3 Lord Brougham .. .. 2

The two most notorious "screevers" of the present day are Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Johnson of Westminster, or as he is proud of being called, "Johnson the Schemer."

Refereesare generally keepers of low lodging-houses, brothels, &c., or small tradesmen who supply thieves and beggars with chandlery, &c. When applied to for the character of any of their friends and confederates, they give them an excellent recommendation—but are careful not to overdo it. With that highest sort of artfulness that conceals artfulness, they know when to stop, and seldom or never betray themselves by saying too much. Mrs. Simmons!" said one of them in answer to an application for character— "ah, yes, sir, I known her a good many years, and a very honest, hard-working, industrious, sober sort of a person I always knowed her to be, at least as far as I see— I never see nothing wrong in the woman for my part. The earliest-uppest, and downest-latest woman I ever see, and well she need be, with that family of hers—nine on 'em, and the eldest girl a idiot. When first I knew her, sir, her husband was alive, and then Susan—that's the idiot, sir, were a babe in arms—her husband was a bad man to her, sir—the way that man drunk and spent his money among all the lowest girls and corner-coves was awful to see,— I mean by corner-coves them sort of men who is always a standing at the corners of the streets and chaffing respectable folks a passing by—we call them corner-coves about here; but as to poor Mrs. Simmons, sir, that husband of hers tret her awful— though he's dead and gone now, poor man, and perhaps I have no right to speak ill on the dead. He had some money with her too—two hundred pound I heard—her father was a builder in a small way—and lived out towards Fulham—a very deserving woman I always found her, sir, and I have helped her a little bit myself, not much of course, for my circumstances would not allow of it; I've a wife and family myself—and I have often been wish- ful I could help her more, but what can a man do as has to pay his rent and taxes, and bring up his family respectable? When her last baby but two had the ring-worm we helped her now and then with a loaf of bread—poor thing—it ran right through the family, that ring-worm did—six on 'em had it at the same time, she told us— and then they took the measles—the most unluckiest family in catching things as goes about I never saw—but as to Mrs. Simmons herself, sir, poor thing—a more hardworkinger and honester woman I never, &c., &c., &c.

The dependants of beggars may be divided into screevers proper; i. e., writers of "slums and fakements" for those who live by "screeving," and referees, or those who give characters to professional beggars when references are required. Beggars are generally born and bred to the business. Their fathers and mothers were beggars before them, and they have an hereditary right to the calling. The exceptions to this rule are those who have fallen into mendicancy, and follow it from necessity, and those who have flown to it in a moment of distress, and finding it more lucrative than they supposed, adopted it from choice. Hence it follows that the majority are entirely destitute of education; and by education I mean the primary arts of reading and writing. Where there is demand there is supply, and the wants of mendicants who found their account in "pads," and "slums," and "fakements," created "screevers."

The antecedents of the screever are always more or less—and generally more —disreputable. He has been a fraudulent clerk imprisoned for embezzlement; or a highly-respected treasurer to a philanthropic society, who has made off with the funds entrusted to him; or a petty forger, whose family have purchased silence, and "hushed up" a scandal; or, more frequently, that most dangerous of convicts, the half-educated convict—who has served his time or escaped his bonds.

Too proud to beg himself, or, more probably, too well known to the police to dare face daylight; ignorant of any honest calling, or too idle to practise it; without courage to turn thief or informer; lazy, dissolute, and self-indulgent, the screever turns his little education to the worst of purposes, and prepares the forgery he leaves the more fearless cadger to utter.

The following are specimens of the screever's work, copied from the original documents in the possession of Mr. Horsford, of the Mendicity Society:—

"Parish of Battersea;

County of Surrey.

This memorial sheweth that Mr. Alexander Fyfe, a native of Port Glasgow N.B. and for several years carrying on the business of a NURSERY and SEEDSMAN in this parish, became security for his son in law Andrew Talfour of Bay st. Port Glasgow who in October last privately disposed of his effects and absconded to the colonies, leaving his wife and six children totally unprovided for and the said Mr. Alexander Fyfe responsible for the sum of £ 1350, the sudden reverse of fortune together with other domestic afflictions so preyed on the mind of Mr. Fyfe that he is now an inmate of a LUNATIC ASYLUM.

The said Mr. Fyfe together with his family have hitherto maintained the character of HONESTY and INDUSTRY in consideration of which I have been earnestly solicited by a few Benevolent persons to draw up this statement on behalf of the bereaved family. I have therefore taken on myself the responsibility of so doing trusting those whom Providence has given the means will lend their timely aid in rescuing a respectable family from the ruin that inevitably awaits them.

GIVEN under my Hand at the VESTRY in the aforesaid parish of Battersea and County of Surrey this Twenty-Fourth day of February in the year of Our Lord 1851.

 John Thomas Freeman, Vestry Clerk, £ 3 
 J. S. Jenkinson ... ... ... £ 5 0 0 
 Vicar of Battersea.       
 Watson and Co. ... ... ... £ 5     
 John Forster & Co. ... ... 5     
 Revd. J. Twining ... ... 2 2   
 Alderman J. Humphery ... 5     
 Sir George Pollock ... ... 5     
 Southlands.       
   £.     
 Henry Mitton ... ... ... 2     
 Wm. Downs ... ... ... ... 2     
 Oak wharf.       
 Mrs. Broadley Wilson ... ... 1     
 Sir Henry B. Houghton ... £ 5     
 Mrs. Adm1 Colin Campbell ... 1 ..1   
 Col. J. Mc Donall... ... ... £ 5 paid.   
 Anonymous ... ... ... ... 2     
 Mrs. Col. Forbes ... ... ... £ 3     
 Col. W. Mace paid ... ... 5     
 P. H. Gillespie ... ... ... 5     
 Minister of the Scotch Church Battersea Rise       
 3d March /51       
 Messrs. Moffat, Gillespie & Co. 5 pd. 

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My readers will perceive that the above document is written in a semi-legal style, with a profuse amount of large capitals, and minute particularity in describing localities, though here and there an almost ostentatious indifference exists upon the same points. Thus we are told that the parish of Battersea is in the county of Surrey, and that Port Glasgow is in North , while on the other hand we are only informed that the absconding Andrew Talfour, of Bay Street, Port Glasgow, N.B., made off to the , which, considering the vast extent of our colonial possessions, is vague, to say the least of it. It must also be allowed that, the beginning the word "benevolent" in the paragraph with a capital B is equally to the credit of the writer's head and heart. It is odd that after having spelt "responsible" so correctly, the writer should have indulged a playful fancy with "responsibiity;" but perhaps trifling orthographical lapses may be in keeping with the assumed character of vestry-clerk. Critically speaking, the weak point of this composition is its punctuation; its strong point the concluding paragraph, "the GIVEN under my hand at the VESTRY," which carries with it the double weight of a royal proclamation, and the business-like formality of an Admiralty contract; but the composition and caligraphy are trifles—the real genius lies in the signatures.

I wish my readers could see the names attached to this "Memorial" as they lay before me. The , "J. S. Jenkinson," is written in the most clerical of hands; "Watson and Co." is round and commercial; "John Forster & Co." the same; the "Revd J. Twining" scholarly and easy; "Alderman J. Humphery" stiff and upright. These names are evidently copied from the Red Book and Directory; some are purely fictitious; many are cleverly executed forgeries.

The ingenuity of the concocter and compiler—of the sympathiser with the woes of Mr. Alexander Fyfe of Port Glasgow, N.B.—was exercised in vain. The imposture was detected; he was taken to a police-court, condemned, and sentenced.

Here is the case of another unfortunate Scotchman from the pen of the same gifted author. The handwriting, the wording, the capitals, and the N.B.'s, are identical with those of the warm-hearted vestryclerk of Battersea.

"These are to certify that Mr. Alexr. Malcolm Ship-Owner and General Merchant, was on his passage from FRASERBURGH. ABERDEENSHIRE. N.B. on the night of the inst when his vessel the Susan and Mary of Fraserburgh laden with Corn was run down by a "steamer name unknown" the Crew consisting of persons narrowly escaping with their lives.

Mr. Malcolm sustained a loss of property by the appalling event to the amount of . and being a person of exemplary character with a numerous family entirely depending upon him for support his case has excited the greatest sympathy, it has therefore been proposed by a few of his friends to enter into a subscription on his behalf with a view of raising by voluntary contributions a sufficient sum to release him from his present embarrassed situation.

I have known him for several years a constant trader to this wharf, and consider him worthy of every sympathy."

 Leith and Glasgow Wharf London May 6th. 1847 Joseph Adams £ 5 0 0 
 Geo. Carroll   5   
 A. Nichol & Sons pd. ... ... ... 5   
 P. Laurie ... ... ... ... ... ... 5   
 Vivian & Sons ... ... ... ... ... 3   
 J. H. Petty ... ... ... ... ... ... 2 pd 
 Messrs. Drummond... ... ... ... £ 5 pd.   
 Cranford Colvin & Co. ... ... ... £ 3     
 Baring Brothers ... ... ... ... 5     
 Curries & Co. ... ... ... ... ... 3     
 Jono. Price ... ... ... ... ... 5 5   
 Reid, Irving & Co. ... ... ... ... £ 5     

The signatures attached to this are imitations of the handwriting of various firms, each distinct, individual, and apparently genuine.

The next "screeve" takes the form of a resolution at a public meeting:—

"Notting-Hill, District

Parish of Kensington

"The Gentry and Clergy of this neighbourhood will no doubt remember that the late Mr. Edward Wyatt, (for many years a respectable tradesman in this parish) died in embarrassed circumstances in , leaving a Widow and Children totally unprovided for, the eldest of whom a fine Girl years of age having been a Cripple from her Birth has received a liberal education and is considered a competent person to superintend a SEMINARY for the tuition of young females which would

443

materially assist her Mother in supporting a numerous family.

A meeting was convened on Monday evening the inst (the Revd J. P. Gall, Incumbent of St. Johns, in the Chair) when it was unanimously proposed to enter into a subscription with a view of raising by voluntary contributions the sum of in order to establish the afflicted girl in this praise worthy undertaking, I have been instructed by the Parochial Authorities to draw up this statement and therefore take upon myself the responsibility of so doing knowing the case to be meriting sympathy.

Signed

By order of the Chairman

Reuben Green

Vestry Clerk"

 Subscriptions received at the Meeting,           
 £ 11 13 6           
 Revd J. P. Gill ... ... ... ... £ 1 0 0   
 Mrs. W. Money ... ... ... ...   10 0 pd 
 Chushington... ... ... ... ... £ 1       
 Mrs Coventry paid ... ... ...   10/     
 J. & W. S. Huntley Addison Terrace Notting Hill pd ...   1 1   
 Mrs. Cribb pd ... ... ...   5 0   
 The Misses Shorland ... ... ...   7 6   
 Mrs Harris ... ... ... ...   5 0   
 Miss Hall Lansdowne Crescent ...   10/     
 W. Atkinson pd ...     5 0 
 Thos Jacomb... ... ... ...   5 0 
 Miss J. Robertson paid ...     5 0 
 The Misses Howard ... ...   5 0   

The above letter is written in a better style than those preceding it. Great talent is exhibited in the imitations of "lady'shand." The signatures "Mrs. Coventry," "Mrs. Cribb," "The Misses Howard," and "Mrs. Harris" (surely this screever must have been familiar with the works of Dickens), are excellently done, but are surpassed by the clever execution of the letters forming the names, "The Misses Shorland" and "Miss Hall ," which are masterpieces of feminine caligraphy.

The following note was sent to its address, accompanied by a memorial in of the envelopes, but the faulty grammar, so unlike the style in which a member of Parliament ought to write, betrayed it.

"Committee Room No.

"Mr. J. Whatman presents his respectful compliments to the Revd. W. Smith Marriott at the earnest request of the poor families (whose case will be fully explained on perusal of the accompanying document in the bearer's possession), begs to submit it for that gentlemen's charitable consideration.

The persons whom this concerns are natives of Cranbrook Gondhurst, Brenchley &c and bears unexceptionable characters, they have the honor of knowing Mr. Marriott at Worsmorden and trust he will add his signature to the list of subscribers, for which favour they will feel grateful.

J. Whatman takes more than ordinary interest in this case having a knowledge of its authenticity, he therefore trusts that the motives which actuates him in complying with the request will be deemed a sufficient apology.

Friday Evening

"

"This Memorial sheweth that Mr. Henry Shepherd a General Carrier from EWELL, CHEAM, SUTTON &c. to LONDON VIA Mitchem, Morden, Tooting and Clapham, was returning home on the Evening of Thursday the inst when near the Elephant and Castle, his Horse took fright at a Band of street Musicians and ran off at a furious pace, the Van coming in contact with a Timber carriage was dashed to pieces, the Animal received such injuries as caused its death, and Mr. SHEPHERD endeavouring to save the property entrusted to his care for delivery had his Right Leg fractured and is now an inmate of GUYS HOSPITAL.

"On further investigation We find his loss exceeds . and knowing him to be an Industrious, Honest man, with a large family depending upon his exertions for support We earnestly beg leave to recommend his case to the notice of the Gentry and Clergy of his neighbourhood, trusting their united Donations in conjunction with our mutual assistance will release a deserving family from their present unfortunate position in life.

 "GIVEN under Our Hands this 30th day of August in the Year of Our Lord 1858"   £ 
 William Harmer 2 
 Geo. Stone Ewell ... ... ... ... £ 2   
 Sir Geo. L. Glyn ... ... ... ... 2 2 
 F. Gosling ... ... ... ... ... 2 2 
 Revd W. H. Vernon ... ... ... £ 1   
 Morton Stubbs ... ... ... ... 1 1 
 Sutton       
 Edmund Antrobus... ... ... ... £ 2 2 
 pd to Bearer       
 2d/9th/58       
 W. R. G. Farmer ... ... ... ... £ 2 2 
     pd.   
 Revd. R. Bouchier... ... .. .. £ 2 pd. 

444

 

My readers must admire the ingenuity of this letter. The Mitchem looks so formal and convincing. The grouping of the circumstances—the "local colouring," as the critics would call it, which contributed to the ruin of the ill-fated general carrier Henry Shepherd—is excellent.—"Near the Elephant and Castle his horse took fright at a band of street musicians." What more natural? "Ran off at a furious pace. The van, coming in contact with a timber carriage, was The Animal," not the horse— that would have been tautological, and Animal with a capital A. "The Animal received such injuries as , and Mr. Shepherd, endeavouring to save the property entrusted to his care—." Admirable man! Devoted carrier!—leaving his van to smash—his horse to perish as they might, that the goods confided to him might receive no hurt. ". . . . endeavouring to save the property entrusted to his care for delivery, had his , and is now an inmate of Guy's Hospital."

This is as well conceived and carried out as Sheridan's pistol-bullet that misses its mark, "strikes a bronze Hercules in the mantel-piece, glances off through the window, and wounds the postman who was coming to the door with a double letter from Northamptonshire!"

The word "Paid" and its abbreviation pd. is scattered here and there artistically among the subscriptions. A small note in a different hand, in a corner of the last page shows the fate of industry and talent misapplied. It runs:—

Taken from Thos. Shepherd, Sept. 13. Mansion House. Lord Mayor Sir A. Carden. Committed for 3 months.

J. W. HORSFORD.

The last instance I shall cite is peculiar, from the elaborate nature of the deception, and from containing a forgery of the signature of Lord Brougham. The screever, in this case, has taken a regularly printed Warrant, Execution, or Distress for Rent, filled it up with the name of Mrs. Julia Thompson, &c., and placed an imaginary inventory to a fictitious seizure. The word "Patent" is spelt "Pattent," which might be allowable in a broker's man, but when "Ewer" is written "Ure," I think he is too hard upon the orthography peculiar to the officers of the Sheriff of Middlesex, particularly as it is evident from the rest of the filling--in of the form that the error is intentional. Not only law but science is invoked in aid of this capital case of sham real distress. "Pleuro-Pneumonia" looks veterinary and veracious enough to carry conviction to the hearts of the most sceptical.

Removing any goods off the premises to avoid a distress or any person aiding, assisting, or concealing the same, will subject themselves to double the value of such effects so removed or concealed, or suffer imprisonment in the , there to be kept to hard labour without Bail or Mainprize for Months, pursuant to the Act George .

Sold by G. H. Beckford, Law Stationer, , .

"TAKE NOTICE, That by the authority and on the behalf of your Landlord, Thos. Young, I have this Sixteenth day of April in the year of Our Lord distrained the several goods and chattels specified in the Schedule or Inventory hereinunder written in

in the Parish of Paddington in the County of Middlesex, for , being Months and arrears Rent due to the said Mr. Thos. Young at Febry last and if you shall not pay the said Months and Arrears Rent so due and in arrear as aforesaid together with the costs and charges of this distress or replevy the said goods and chattels within days from the date hereof I shall cause the said goods and chattels to be appraised and sold, pursuant to the statute in that case made and provided.

Given under my hand the day and year above written.

J. W. RUSSELL.

Sworn Broker, &c.

To Mrs. Julia Thompson.

The Schedule or Inventory above referred to:—

Mahogany Drawers

Mahogany Dining Tables

Mahogany Seated Chairs

Arm Do. Do.

-Day clock

Oil Paintings Gilt Frames

Large Pier Glass

Carpet and Hearthrug

Fender and Fire-irons

Quantity of Chimney Ornaments

Kitchen Chairs

Long Table Deal

Large Copper Boiler

Copper Kettles

Pattent Mangle

Large Water Butt

Washing Tubs

Doz. of Knifes and Forkes

Quantity of Earthen ware &c. &c.

Feather Beds & Bedding

Flock Do Do.

Mahogany Bedsteads

French Do

445

 

Washhand stand Ure &c.

Hair Mattresses

Bedroom Chairs

set of Bedroom Carpeting

Staircase Carpeting, Brass Rods &c

Milch Cow

Cart Mare

Dung Cart

Wheelbarrow

Cwt. of Hay

Quantity of Manure

And Sundry Dairy Utensils

&c. &c. &c.

On the back of this legal document is written:

"This memorial sheweth that Mrs. Julia Thompson, widow, Cowkeeper and Dairywoman has since the demise of her husband which took place in supported a family consisting of children by the assistance of a small Dairy the Pleuro- Pneumonia a disease Among Cattle has prevailed in the neighbourhood for several weeks during which time she has lost Milch Cows estimated at . " " which will end in her entire ruin unless aided by the Hands of the Benevolent whose Donations in conjunction with Our mutual assistance will We trust enable Mrs. Thompson to realize some part of her lost property to follow her Business As before.

   H. Peters £ 3 3 0 
 April 17th, 1856         
 Chaplin & Horne .. .. £ 2     
 Mrs. Gore .. .. .. 1     
 Revd J. W. Buckley .. .. 2     
 Revd John Miles .. .. 1     
 Mrs. J. Shaw .. .. 2 paid 
 C. Lushington .. .. 3 3   
 W. H. Ormsby .. .. 2     
 C. Molyneux .. .. 1     
 Miss Ferrers .. .. .. 2 paid 
 W. Emmitt .. .. .. 2 2   
 Anonymous .. .. .. 2 0   
 Misses Gregg.. .. .. 2 2   
 Miss Browne .. .. .. 1     
 J. B. White & Bros .. .. 3 pd   
 Thos Slater .. .. .. 2     
 W. T. Bird .. .. .. 2 pd.   
 Miss Hamilton .. .. 3 paid 
 Revd. J. A. Toole .. .. 2 paid 
 Mr. Hopgood .. .. 2 Paid 
 A Friend to the Widow .. 3 3   
   Paid to Mr. Pegg 
 Richd Green .. .. .. £ 2 pd   
 Revd A. M. Campbell .. 3     
 W. P. France .. .. 1     
 W. M. N. Reilly .. .. 2 2   
 Mrs. Forbes .. .. .. 2 pd   
 R. Gurney .. .. .. 1     
 J. Spurling .. .. .. 2 pd   
 Geo. R. Ward .. .. 1     
 Miss Brown .. .. .. 2     
 Mrs Needham .. .. 2 Paid 
 Mr Davidson .. .. .. £ 2     
 Mrs. H. Scott Waring .. 3 3   
 Mrs Hall .. .. .. 1 1   
 Saml. Venables .. .. 2     
 Revd. A. Taylor .. .. 1     
 Revd. H. V. Le Bas .. .. 1     
 Thomas Bunting .. .. 2 pd.   
 Mrs & Miss Vullamy .. 3     
 Revd. C. Smalley .. .. 5     
 Miss Smalley .. .. .. 3     
 Lord Brougham .. .. 2     

The most notorious "screevers" of the present day are Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Johnson of , or as he is proud of being called, "Johnson the Schemer."