London: A Pilgrimage
Many varieties of industry--of industry that makes millionaires, and industry that just holds body and soul together will come under the notice of the London Pilgrim who will explore London east of the . In the heart of the City there is outward form of feverish activity. Barter, speculation, vast enterprise, the sending forth of fleets, the sinking of mines, the negotiating of loans, the laying down of leagues of railway, the buying and selling of gold and silver, occupy the well-dressed multitudes. The clerk's outward man has as prosperous a seeming as that of his employer, who lives in the West, and has a duke for a next-door neighbor. Behind many of the groups are very dismal shabby- genteel stories, no doubt; but nothing save prosperous, shiny broadcloth, glossy hats, and decorated buttonholes are apparent in the street. Here are no pinched cheeks or ragged limbs, except when shadows from the East are slipping timorously through the golden realm, to earn a crust, or beg , in the West. The abounding refreshment places--from the dark and greasy old gridiron chop-houses in the lanes, to the modern finery and luxury of lunch at
|the Palmerston, or in ancient Crosby Hall ( of the most picturesque bits of old and modern London massed and mingled in picture, as it struck my fellow-Pilgrim busy morning)-all are packed with hurrying men, eager to eat and drink, and confident about the wherewithal. London abounds in startling contrasts. These stately arcades of the defaced, it must be admitted, by unsightly advertisementswith her Majesty holding the centre of the Quadrangle, are but a few minutes' walk from the Market--the Exchange- of rags! Here the princes of finance buy and sell thousands with a nod of the head, or lunch while they bid, at Lloyd's, for an Australian clipper. We travel East, and at once come upon speculators of another world, merchants for whom nothing is too small, or mean, or repulsive. The violent contrasts of London life struck Addison, as still they strike every close observer. But in his day the contrasts were not so crowded together as they are now, and the poor were not in such imposing legions. Among the watchmakers and jewellers of Clerkenwell, the starveling descendants of the Spitalfields weavers, the cabinet-makers and workers in wood by the purlieus, the Teutons who bake and refine sugar in Whitechapel, the unsavory leather-workers of , the shoemakers of and , the potters of , are hosts of shiftless, hopeless victims of the fierce competition and the overcrowded labor market: the slop-workers, needle-women, street vendors, montebanks,|
|sharpers, beggars, and thieves, who disgrace our civilization by their sufferings or their misdeeds.|
The extremes lie close together. How many minutes' walk have we between , and that low gateway of the world-famed millionaire, and his humble authority in Exchanges, in material for shoddy, in left-off clothes cast aside by the well-to-do, to be passed with due consideration and profit to the backs of the poor? The old-clothes man's children are rolling about upon his greasy treasure, while he, with his heavy silver spectacles poised upon his hooked nose, takes up each item and estimates it to a farthing.
East from the City, to the heart of and Whitechapel, is
splendid auspices of Messrs. Moses & Sons--employers of these pale work-folk who flit to and fro under our eyes-or a trip in the heavily charged atmosphere of , where the flat, stale odor of old clothes soon unnerves the too curious observer; and so out upon the tea and colonial grandees of and Mincing Lane--will reveal a new world of London to many a Cockney who thought he knew the great City well. The grandest and noblest spectacles of commerce touch the basest and most heart-breaking: the captain of the Indiaman elbows the sweater from the clothes mart and the Fagin of the Shadwell fence. Within sight of home-sailing fleets the needlewoman, who puts together cheap finery for the Sunday wear of the shop-boy, works her heart out. Yet throughout this neighborhood that is, in the open--there is a valiant cheeriness full of strength. The humors of the place are rough and coarse, as the performances in the penny gaffs and public-house sing-songs testify; but there is everywhere a readiness to laugh. The vendor of old clothes, who addresses the bystanders in , throws jests into his address. Cheap Jack must be a humorist, let him appear where he may--in England. The gallantry of the cheap butcher who cries
the livelong day to customers who market with pence is proverbial. The veriest slattern is
to him; and he recommends an indescribable pile of scraps with an airy compliment or , not unwelcome to the shrivelled ear that receives them. The dealers on the
|pavement patter in the liveliest fashion, recommending pots and gridirons, strings of onions, lucifers, cabbages, whelks, oysters, and umbrellas by lively appeals to the good-humor of the passers-by. The man who has a ready wit will empty his basket, while the dull vendor remains with his arms crossed.|
That which most astonishes the watcher of the industries of the poor is the fertility of invention that never slackens. In a low lodginghouse by Shadwell, which we entered late night, in the midst of the hurly-burly, herring-frying, gambling, and singing, a poor old man was making card-board railway carriages for sale in the streets. I remarked that this was something new.
he said, lifting the side of a carriage with his gummed pencil as he spoke--for he could not afford to lose a moment-
The Fashion of the West ripples faintly even here, by tlhe walls of
|the Docks, and at the curb by the Standard Theatre, and along the line of old . It has established penny ices--for which the juvenile population exhibit astonishing voracity--in all the poor districts of the Metropolis. Wherever we have travelled in crowded places of the working population we have found the penny-ice man doing a brisk trade --even when his little customers were blue with the cold. The popular ice-vendor is the fashionable rival of the ginger-beer hawker--an old, familiar London figure. The ginger-beer man, in the presence of this recent competition, curses, no doubt, the uncertain whim of the public mind, as the old coachman cursed the engine-driver; but the penny ice has proved too strong for the ancient ginger-beer bottle, lying in orderly rows upon the substantial stall. The ginger-beer merchant of to-day must move with the times; and this is how we saw him gesticulating and pattering sultry morning to the thirsty crowd of the New Cut.|
was his perpetual cry;
being duly iced to meet the educated taste of his shoeless customers.
said an intelligent New Cut dealer, who was fast disposing of immense mounds of cabbages and lettuces.
--the man continued, following out his practical line of thought-
|And the philosopher filled a bonnetless woman's apron with cabbages, when she had critically felt the heart of each, deeply anxious about her utmost pennyworth.|