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

Bee, Jon




These are of two sorts, or rather the same persons and their associates, under two different aspects. 1st. Those who obtain goods, under false pretences, of town resident shopkeepers, as well as of the minor manufacturers, who visit town occasionally, to vend their goods; and, 2dly, those who sell goods of any description, in detail, about from house to house, and in public-houses, where newly-come persons may lodge during their visit, or casually sojourn for refreshment. Shabby swindlers, who order home goods and change for a sovereign, then way-lay the messenger and obtain both, as Parson Nightingale served Parsons, the bookseller, rightfully belong to another page of this volume ; as do those who take fine houses, and order in goods on credit, which they convert into money for their subsistence, or to live a short life and a merry one, joyously: master, mistress, coachman, cook, being all in the mess, upon equal terms; as was the case with Daffy Swinton, subsequently hung, and more recently, of the pseudo De Courcy 1 reland, now in the county prison for debtors. It is worthy of remark, that De Courci (as he sometimes wrote) and his coachman are both located in the same large room, where the latter is head-man, so never condescends to speak to his kind master. Och, bad luck to the warmhearted sons of Ould Erin, when the molehills become Mountains, and the varlets forget



their former low situations. Note, Reader, the due march of events: De Courci is since quodded for coining.

Birmingham goods and broad-cloths constitute two extensive articles for jobbing-off in the manner just alluded to, among the shopkeepers; and some of the bringers of such goods would recollect old customers and former dealers, with whom they have hitherto done business, and to whom they apply to take off their present stocks; perhaps, in vain; for times alter, or they would chaffer for greater bargains: or the vendor inquires after any unfavourable reports

as to credit,

or something happens, or is insinuated, as to those old purchasers, and a better market, so as to render the assistance of an agent, or useful man, necessary. He it is, of whom we now come to speak; for he

does business

for the countryman, and, ultimately, does his business for him, in four instances out of five. These are the species of countrymen, to whom I alluded at an early page (10), as continuing always green, notwithstanding their frequent trips to Town.

One of the commonest manoeuvres of the agent is, to procure for his country friend, a purchaser, as rotten and unprincipled as himself, whom he recommends in vivid terms, as " Ultimately, those two worthies go snacks, that is not an equal division; but the least-wise agent, is usually fobbed-off



with a very small share, when he lets into the Secret another or two of his own confraternity. who threaten the purchaser into a further bonus, by way of hush-money. He usually pays the expenses of two or three carousals, and also treats, incontinently, to glasses and pots, until the eve of his commercial finale.

Frequently it has happened, that the countryman remained so long in town, that he is compelled to make a forced sale for cash, which he does at a great loss, and the agent who transacts this business seldom brings back the whole money, nor shows himself for a day or two, having, meantime, laid out (detained) part for himself: he subtracts part of the proceeds in the same manner, when the harassed vendor is persuaded to pawn a piece or two of cloth: then Sam le Barber, an able man, or a Proctor look out for a Purser, who advances the cash, with a ticket, implying equity of redemption, and places the goods on the shelves of his London-wall, for twelve months. Cotterell was long-time esteemed a very good by Clarke, and those just mentioned; but he would go further, and do more: an Oxford-street jaunt, or taking off a cut of two or three yards, were neither difficult or uncommon operations with him, who, from his dress, or undress, obtains the



olfactory suspicion of whilst he held a face beyond doubt in that respect.

Yet Sam gave his advice with apparent candour, and some knowledge, at times; for he understood trap, had taken his degrees, walked the Bench, and been aboard the Fleet.

and straightway, with this impression, they sought a species of jobbers who buy every thing that comes to hand, if that transaction can rightly be termed buying, by which the articles brought in change owners at a ruinous depression. These general-dealer-warehousemen are very rogues, to a man. I have treated them as receivers of stolen goods, in a subsequent page, which they acknowledge, unblushingly, to be a just description of their trade.

Such are the characters, in species and individually, into whose hands or clutches the stranger visitant is likely to fall, who resorts to London to sell his goods. No matter how wary, however circumspect he be, those kind of gentry usually prove an over-match for him, if he stand much in need of the needful, as

half cash, half bill

(the most fascinating kind of offer) is no uncommon proposal, when the bill is never intended to be paid. Further details of the practices of the warehousemen, or purchasers of goods,

no matter how obtained,

belong to a subsequent chapter. I



have entered as far into the tricks of agents as may serve to guard the new-comer against casualties; and as he himself will most likely take up his quarters in the city proper, he will discover the chief resorts of those ever-ready, at all, agents whom we have been considering to be in the Aldersgate and Cripplegate Wards, about Basinghall-street, and Aldermanbury; if they spread themselves farther about town, this is intended for more certain seclusion, and to avoid interruption.

Travelling tradesmen, vendors of goods, are but the seconds, or counterpart, of the preceding, and but for the difference of their manners and connexions, might be classed with the duffers. Great variety of goods, or

general articles,

are carried about by them from house to house, and, of course, to public-houses or other places of resort. One word of advice is alone sufficient for the entire class:-deal not with them; for the single circumstance of your being a stranger is sufficient to raise their cupidity. Let the cockneys deal with them that like it; they, probably, may match tolerably well with the runabouts, who knock at their doors a score times a day, and keep their old wives a-gate, answering to their calls when they should be getting the dinner ready.