Living Picture of London, for 1828 and Stranger's Guide Through the Streets of the Metropolis

Bee, Jon


CHAPTER I: First Impressions on coming to London, with a general Glance at Town Life and Manners

CHAPTER I: First Impressions on coming to London, with a general Glance at Town Life and Manners


AT his first entrance to , as London is termed when the of it is adverted to, is impressed with the bustle and confusion that every where prevails; and, as he passes along towards the centre, he is utterly at a loss to account what all the apparent hubbub and buz of voices, the runnings up and down, and crossings and jostlings, and rolling of vehicles among hardly-saved foot passengers can possibly portend. If he comes from a remote , he imagines it may be' electiontime' or ; is he from , perhaps 'tis assizes that causes such an access of people; and he no longer is bewildered at their number, when he recollects the many compara-


tively deserted places he has recently passed through in his journey up to Town. If our Stranger's mind be of a lively inquisitive nature, his imagination thus fills up the chasm that wonderment has created with ill-assorted suggestions, or he seeks to obtain information from his fellow-travellers, some of whom know as little of the passing scene as himself; whilst here and there one or two old stagers contrive to mislead his unsophisticated curiosity by lies, and call it ; for 'tis

a d-d good joke to quiz the countryman.

To this they add certain opprobrious epithets, according nicely with the measure and fruitfulness of their education, in the designations of , , or , whereby they hope to lessen his pretensions to equality with themselves on the score of town-knowledge, and throw a shade over his endeavours to become enlightened at their expense. of middling condition and minor acquirements, which constitute the bulk, are not communicative of useful information of any kind, unless they can enhance their own self-importance by the condescension; as far as regards the inquisitiveness of countryfolks concerning , they are absolutely misintelligent, if not delusive, unless the party has some claim upon their patience and civility, or they hope to obtain public notice, or aggrandizement of some sort or other; and then they do not hesitate to walk bare-headed into the street for his accommodation, nor


withhold their beneficence in purse or table, or personal assistance, as the case may seem to demand. Herein lies the secret of those numberless subscriptions to annual or purposes, the majority whereof may be purely philanthropic; but very nearly the half are extorted by example, the desire to appear munificent, and the certainty of being in superior company, to which all emergents aspire. The ' people at Lloyd's' are here kept more immediately in view, who are, to a man, the " architects of their own fortunes."

Whether our Stranger arrive by water- conveyance or land-carriage, he will lie open to the danger of forming an undesirable acquaintance with some designing , from the very circumstance of such abortive seeking after information on the road , who will insinuate himself to his good graces by apparent disinterestedness. Such a however, may be distinguished from a real , by the quantity and volubility of his speech, and exacerbated professions, its delectable emptiness, and the absence of his , which may and should be put to the proof instantly; if fallacious, he will kick at the inquiry, if not so, then not. The great length and duration of a coasting voyage affords more opportunity for both species of deceit than the journey , by which latter kind of conveyance the greater number, by far, of new arrivals take place. To these, therefore, in the


order set down, I shall first address the appropriate information as to their safe conduct until the same observations apply equally to both. But, by whichever of these, or by whatever means he may reach London, or however long he may remain in it, he will never cease to feel the affectation of superior uppishness of the people among whom he sojourns concerning the affairs of . Let this be granted them, whether indigenous or denizen, and they claim the same superiority in all other matters, but in some one or other naturally get beyond their depth. Test a cockney how you may, he never declares his non- knowledge on any topic whatever, if he be but, as our stranger has already ascertained, no doubt, even before his arrival, will retort, by some r of his own contrivance, or old saw borrowed from cockney-lore.

Hereby they hope to administer to their own self-love; and well were it for the stranger if such annoyances relax as thejourney approaches its , or ceases upon his being set down at his inn. But here new evils await him, arising out of the same causes, , his , and the superior cunning, with its attendant dishonesty, of those among whom he must now mix and make his way. Part of these aim to possess themselves of his property, either by some cajolery, overcharge, or overreaching; others by way of trade, and a few by direct unblushing robbery. Nor do these attempts wholly


subside, when his protracted residence in town no longer subjects him to the sinistrous charge of being a , unknowing countryman, nor place him any more in the relatively disadvantageous situation of a raw,

fit only to be acted upon by those who consider themselves


to every move upon

the board

of actual life. But he will not wait long for his revenge; very many of those long resident inhabitants, who may have acquired a good portion of , as well as the all-keen , find themselves very often overmatched by the superiorly cunning devices of the dishonest part of the community: occurs to both varieties, to the utter discomfiture of their uppish ideas, as often as to the new-comers; whilst their commercial concerns and other are so frequently invaded by the burglar, the night prowler, andthe unfaithful servant or deluded menial, that the more liberal cockney, in advanced life, is free to confess that even he is

not sufficiently


to every thing which is passing in the world,

nor thinks it always the best that can happen; and he now hearkens with uneasiness to precautions, that in early life he would deride as practical foolishness, and in the middle course of it scarcely believe necessary. Experience has effected this much for his improvement, who in the precociousness of a warm soil, thought less than nothing the value of all worldly know-


ledge but his own,-for it is of this alone we now speak.

The reader will already have discovered that we do but precede him by a very few years, and what we now teach, we once had to learn, like himself; closer observation, much painstaking, some leisure, and a taste for the thing, forming the only difference betwixt us. He will perceive the objects we have in view throughout the volume are, the guarding him against being plundered, in the first place (no mean attempt); in , how to avoid personal contamination and danger himself, and to enjoy in security the intercourse of friendship; and generally, we would show him how to form an estimate of men, manners, and opinions in this vast metropolis, particularly , those whose actions operate in some way upon others; whereas, the unobservant , unseen of his fellow mortals, for such there are ; the mere man of , whose only circle is a butterfly meandring among the wo-begone like himself; the unobtruding of sickly pursuits, and the useful, intellectual, unassuming , however rich, all these are but negations in our presentscheme of exhibiting ; since those descriptions of inerts have betaken themselves out of the course of events, and live but to a limited few; their circle is circumscribed in narrow space, and we shall not dare the pene-


tralia of their seclusion; but let an individual among them

come out

upon the stage of , he shall not seek notoriety in vain; will resound his name for a day, or immortalise his memory for a week :-does he ask more ?-let him achieve it. Even the inactive of retiring manners, must for its own sake, unheeded of our labours; since these are but worldly, his deeds of a more heavenly cast. Silent never can weigh in the scale of the man of the world; nor outrageous merit aught but pity, however well arranged; unless either, being religious, obtrude itself upon public notice, and endeavour to warp the public mind; or, being replete with schemes of ideal advantages, drag our youth to bleach their bones on the shores of Senegal, or bury myriads in the mines of Mexico, blast their hopes by the lightning of , or freeze the more hardy at the poles, unless they and their ships previously get squeezed, like nits, between immense icebergs. These are the cockney characters that require exposure and demand our execrations, if we can cease laughing at their fifty times exploded bubbles, and

proposals for forming joint-stock companies

for lunatic undertakings.

The first part of the ensuing pages is mainly adapted to the occasions of such persons as may be supposed anxiously solicitous of guarding their property from depredations, to whom its preservation is essential, and its loss an


event to be deplored; but as for the noble and the wealthy, to whom the exit of a trunk or two is no privation, the purloinment of a few hundreds is felt but as a flea-bite, and the stripping a town-residence of its can be remedied by a upon Hammersley's, Coutts's, or Child's, and a verbal message to Rundall, these come in for a very small share of consideration in this volume; for they despise commiseration, and ought to find sufficient protection in the fealty of their retainers, the flunkies of the north and footmen of the south. What safer keeping can their be committed to, than their numerous attendants of the valet genus,- faithful coachmen, grooms, out-riders and Swiss , with the stately porter, grooms, stable-boys, and helpers, for watch over their in town-house, or metropolitan villa ? Environed by a host like this, the magnates of the land need not dread the attacks of thieves, , or on ; even though the high walls and deep areas of the mansion; the secure windows, gaol-like railings, and well-pannelled doors, guarded within by a peeping , by day, and watched without by a sleepy , at night, did not laugh to scorn the Quixotic attempts of every marauder, however daring; whilst the rapidity of their equipages, when journeying, set at nought the

stand and deliver

commands of that exceedingly rare creature, - a highwayman. It is


only when our nobles descend from their high estate, to mix with middle, ordinary, or common life, that we can hope to render the present work useful to their occasions. And these are neither few nor far between; nor exclude a near (very near) view and taste of the

varieties of life ;

for our high-born gentry of the present day, have wisely cast aside the stiff manners and poker-back gait of the former age, and descended to personal investigation of the condition and means of living among the lower orders, and a little more:-* * *. Thanks be to all for this familiar intercourse, and its consequence, a due appreciation of the bents and inclinations, and amusements, and morality of the lower orders, which had been grossly misrepresented by and the super-humane in

the houses

as well as

out of doors,

and even in the streets.

On the contrary, isolated persons, on their first visit to town, to whom the loss of their little property is of great moment, if not ruin, lie most exposed to depredations of every kind, by being obliged to assort, during their sojournment with every description of characters, who look upon as fair game, and act accordingly as they may belong to the bad, good, or indifferent particles of society. The worst of these usually take advantage of the countenance they receive from the better disposed, and they make consists not in words alone: if they do not commit any direct


depredation on the stranger, no means of doing this seems readier than to some of their acquaintance to the most easy and safe manner of performing the same piece of disservice. On his part, the stranger endeavours to avoid the company of suspected persons, expresses a feverish anxiety to ascertain the true mode of discriminating the honest from the roguish part of mankind, and sometimes so bewilders himself with surmises, that he falls an easier prey in consequence; for the deluding rogues then operate upon his fears, with exaggerated statements, false intelligence, and recommendations of deceitful security, adding hereto insidious advice, and counselling him to his destruction; all these are accompanied with the usual overstrained professions of friendship, honour, and disinterestedness, including offers of assistance, that turn out like the broken staff, and schemes of money-making, that are never realised. Most of these latter remarks apply to those visitors who come to London occasionally to vend their goods, whether manufactures or produce of the land: such people may be said to be always for, what they learn, at one such visit, they forget by the next; else the rogues devise new schemes to meet new emergencies, or the people our stranger has met, from year to year, may have fallen in the scale of opulence, of credit and of honesty, have entirely lost their caste in society, and become roguish through necessity. This is not meant


as an apology for abandonment of character, truly; but it is no less matter of fact, that such does too often happen: the when vaunted, being the worst of creatures in commercial life or social intercourse.