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

Bee, Jon


IN the year
I published a volume similar to the present, having the same objects, but differing in the manner of execution. That task was imposed upon me in consequence of some "Hints," which had been previously communicated to the public through the medium of a popular publication, at the instance of its Editor. Of both performances I have spoken at large in the
sixth chapter
, in which are introduced copious extracts from the last mentioned, explanations of my first inducement to think of such matters, and an apology for the guise assumed in composing the volume alluded to.
It was in the nature of that volume that its most practical parts should soonest become inutile; the facts therein adduced, and the deductions drawn, being applied to improvement, to the abatement of error, the annihilation of crime by precautions, and the correction of a mistaken policy-its pages would necessarily effect their own obsoleteness. The same will happen to this volume, also, in process of time; wherefore I entertain the idea of producing an-
other such at no distant period, in which the early parts will be condensed into simple precepts, to make room for enlarging upon other topics, which have been omitted altogether, or sketched much too slightly in the present-the black-legs, the highflyers, the haut ton, and the literatists, for example.
The Critics, I perceive, spoke in terms of approbation of the former volume. I am sure they did not ground their judgement so much on the style of execution as its practical utility; for it was uniformly ill done as to letters, by the frequent use of vulgarisms; and even now I have persisted in adopting the terms and phraseology we have, for the most part, heard applied to the business described, or that seemed to characterise the persons engaged; with what taste the reader must decide-I only looked to effect. But there were other critics than the periodicallyprinted self-appointed censors of literature, from whom I heard of commendations that were infinitely more gratifying to my mind: the voluntary uninfluenced praise of one magistrate would weigh more than volumes of monthly or quarterly lucubrations, even though he had not been himself the man of letters, a real English gentleman, a person of discernment and a sound
lawyer. Yet I never exchanged a word with him on the subject, chiefly on account of those very commendations; and I since discover, that he is much fonder of the emoluments of his office, than the trouble it engenders.
Should the careful reader meet with repetitions of the same facts, or of similar reflections, he must attribute these to the circumstance of more persons than one having been engaged in the collection and elucidation of the facts here brought together. On some occasions, the employment of the plural (WE) instead of the singular (I) has reference to the same circumstance; at others, it may be taken as the potent WE of concealed authorship. If the writer has any where spoken with apparent levity, he will not be suspected of deriding sufferings that are impersonal; nor, when he descends to describe any
very excellent trick
of dishonesty, or
charming mode of flooring
a victim, he apprehends he cannot be misunderstood as recommending either practice, by any one who has dipped into Swift's Advice to Servants,
over the left;
studied Fielding's Life of Jonathan Wild, the great; or partook of Beresford's happiness at
the Miseries of human life.
Yet must it be conceded, that teaching by irony is like flogging school-boys
with liquorice-root, or inviting a beau, surcharged with trinkets, to the pleasures of an Old Bailey exhibition; from both which, even the leastwise would turn away if he could, however high the gratification might seem to the inflictors.
No fiction of the brain, no imaginary character, make any part of these pages, though I may not always hit the exact orthography of proper names; whereby offensive underlings of grovelling dispositions, may find holes to creep, as they are wont, from the censure of their own contracted circles; and although I may have adopted a popular cognomen instead of a christian name, or legal denomination, yet I protest against, as I utterly eschew, all attempts at teaching this most perilous of all worldly knowledge, by the machinery of
pretty novel
amusing narrative,
to which some excellent cerebral writers of the present day seem fondly addicted ;
Life in the West
is the very best of these, and supersedes an entire chapter which I had devoted to the subject. I had, also, for years acted strenuously and effectively against the Hells, as the reader may conclude upon consulting
the Annals of Sporting,
passim, and No. 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 20, 39, particularly. My chief antipathy against the scoundrels was, that they called themselves sportsmen; whence I infer the ruin they wrought they considered sport. Yet I could not see with what propriety the writer just cited could inveigh against
Crockford's subscription-house,
though I could easily understand why the newspaper scribes should yelp at this or any such a place, that did not pay them for quietism. A handsome sum subscribed by each of twelve hundred gentlemen, including in that number many of the Magnates of the land, would be a good guarantee to unprejudiced minds, that legism would not prevail there, however it might creep in and get kicked out.
those modern
Bunyans, who couch whatever they write
under the similitude of a dream.
Here and there, I find I have carried this plain-spoken, unvarnished openness of mine to the extremity, in the severe rebuke of some full-grown fool, or arrant actual knave, who stands at the head and foremost of his class. But I have no apology to make,
to them
, at any rate. In some few cases I am not sure that I did not intend to give pain; but then, this disposition has been amiably restricted to fitting objects: the censor of scoundrels, the expositor of villainies, cannot be supposed capable of being conciliated by the filthy pretensions of him who dares to expect complacencies that belong only to the virtuous; he even fancies too much when he hopes to escape with negation from the pen that is confessedly castigatory.