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

Bee, Jon

1828

SHARPERS, strictly of the out-door genus, and whom our stranger in town is likeliest to meet with in his peregrinations, are the subtle characters we come next to discuss, in the order here set down. And truly, some among them are fearful fellows to deal with, and equally as

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vicious, and quite as numerous, as the more bold, open, and hardy villains; for, in what consists the difference between losing one's property by a pickpocket, and that other mode of its changing hands under the semblance of trade? Not a jot. What signifies it to the sufferer, whether he be knocked down by the bludgeon of a thief, or run the risk of his life through the machinations of false accusers ? Both aim at his money, and both cringe to him for their lives, when these become forfeited, since none but rank cowards, when they have resolved to turn rogues, would so conduct their crimes. But forgiveness in this, as in many other cases, is an offence against the well-being of society, according to the true civic creed.

Let our stranger be as wary of downright thieves as we may favourably suppose these instructions have made him, he is still liable to fall into the clutches of more refined rogues, whose dexterities are mostly confined to the tongue, and making wrong appear the better reason. Mock-auctions and

selling-off

shops are not the only pests where barkers are kept at the doors to invite unwary passengers to I walk in, walk in, sale just begun,

with full mouthed garrulity and hoarse tones, the joint effects of gin and long exposure to practise in the open air. Furniture-brokers in Moorfields for male, and Cranbourn-alley, for female barkers, have long been renowned as the nurseries of either sex, if they are not looked up to

GROSS IMPOSITIONS GROSSLY SUPPORTED.

as the

"finishing schools"

for this species of humbug. Although few absolute strangers find occasion to purchase household furniture of the first mentioned, or caps and cloaks of the latter, yet do we frequently discover that some soft cockneyised country folks, induced by those lintel-post asseverators of super- excellence, really

"walk in,"

and bargain, and buy goods that were made but to sell; something like those of Peter Pindar's razor-man, whose wares at thirteen for eighteen-pence were not made to shave.

Sirrah, I tell you, you're a knave, To cry up razors that wo'n't shave. '' (said the razor-man,)"

Yet, what better can persons expect, who submit to importunities that are redoubled in proportion to the grossness of the imposition, and hearken to protestations of cheapness that are most fervent, when farthest removed from truth? Even the coarseness and vulgarity of such a proceeding, by assumed shopkeepers, are good assurance of intended imposture. Happily, the places where those disgraceful scenes chiefly lie are somewhat remote from general resort: Rosemary-lane, Seven-dials, and Fieldlane, neither attract casual visitors, nor lie in great thoroughfares, from any one noted point to another; though Houndsditch is certainly

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obnoxious to the long-shore people of the East, wending their way to the North and West, by the shortest route, and Moorfields is still accessible to an immense population, in their footway to and from the City. All those barkers obstruct the passengers' way, and some lay hands on your shoulders, whilst the Jews of Russell-court and of Holywell-street, Strand, are not only enabled by their situation to interrupt a greater number of persons, but, in addition to all other annoyances, hurl abuse, scurrility, and threats at those who refuse to become purchasers of their base apparel or ricketty furniture. What is to be done with such fellows when they lay fast hold of your person, backed as they are by several more of their crew ? Would you thrash away at the obtruders ? this must be undertaken at a disadvantage of five to one. In the years -5-, the extreme insolence of the Holywellstreet barkers received several checks before the magistrates at Bow-street, and of one of them before his own door, in the shape of a sound licking. Thus, this circumcised havidge is just now reduced to comparative civility, though their numbers compel you, at every score paces, to walk into the kennel; and persons of keen olfactory nerves get offended in that particular by this sort of forced contact of the doubtfully clean observers of the Pentateuch.

Hands off!

will not always procure relaxation of their claws, though it never failed us, at the expense of a base imputation, however;

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as --touching the cravat, an 'twere mase of .

repeated we, upon another occasion, (there were two of us,) (said the lousy rascal,) Even Jews have the grace, now-a-day, to feel when they are suspected of contamination: he capped us next day ! and that in silence! !

If the shopkeepers who keep barkers rob you in their dealings, which is very likely; if they intimidate you into a purchase, as sometimes happens; if they abuse you with scurrilous and prosecutable epithets, which they employ abundantly-do not threaten, but go at once with your complaint to the next police-office; be clear and energetic, and circumspect in your charge, particularising the first accostment of the barker, and you cannot fail to obtain redress, restitution of your moneys, and a free passage whilst your image remains imprinted on their minds. But do not pass along the same thoroughfare at night for a long season afterwards; unless you mean to become a or one who unaccountably in any other way than as sausagemeat; for the Jewish people are little forgetful of their persecutions, now as of old, any thing in Mr. De Blossiers Tovey (Angliae Judaicae) to the contrary notwithstanding.

Barking barbers do not enter into our speculation concerning nefarious beings, the masters mostly performing this out-door portion of the coparceny, when it is performed, and having nought more in view than to planish the muzzles of bristly handicraftsmen, by means of frequent admonitions, that here they will at three halfpence per chin. 'Tis too much to say, that any man ever did lose his life in barber's shop, within the bills of mortalitydread name! although we overheard certain strange stories in Paris-gaunt residence of rawhead and bloody-bones-about hogs' puddings and mince-meat being served out by a friseur's adjunct, about . Pour la fin, on voiait dans sa caverne vuide, l'osseux remains of bodies that required no shaving when living. Sixteen years are past since any of us last heard Dove, at Holborn-bars, sticking his fists in his fat ribs, for the treble purpose of exhibiting the angular kimbo, of easing the action of his diaphragm, and of supporting thefullrespectability of his portal, crying, at half-minute intervals, the first word as high as A flat in alto, the other two in D below, that waxed a diapazon, ere night closed his labour, or his amusement,

Has he no successor? no imitator left, in all this close-shaving metropolis? Are all the Doves dead, indeed! and no pigeon left to fill the excision thus inflicted upon decent society?

Returning from this excursion, to the brokers

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of Moorfields, who are barkers to a man, and the best dressed importunates of the whole class, let us see what was Bill Perry's practice, before his reformation, when they dragged him, per force, into their well-stocked warehouses. I may, however, repeat what I have said elsewhere, and that is,

knock the man down, or, indeed, the woman, who dares to touch you with the hands; should you wish to decline this, at least, huff the offender with

'hands off, fellow !'

 
 
Footnotes:

[] BARKERS, MALE AND FEMALE.

[] BARKERS' INSOLENCE, HOW REPRESSED.

[] JEW BROKERS AND SALESMEN PUNISHED.

[] ONE BARKER TOO LITTLE: A LAMENT.

[] FURNITURE BROKERS, BARKERS.