London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


Blind Reader.


AN intelligent man gave me the following account of his experience as a blind reader. He was poorly dressed, but clean, and had not a vulgar look.

My father died when I was ten years old, and my mother in the coronation year, 1838. I am now in my thirty-eighth year. I was a clerk in various offices. I was not born blind, but lost my sight four years ago, in consequence of aneurism. I was a fortnight in the Ophthalmic Hospital, and was an out-patient for three months. I am a married man, with one child, and we did as well as we could, but that was very badly, until every bit of furniture (and I had a house full of good furniture up to that time) went. At last I thought I might earn a little by reading in the street. The Society for the Indigent Blind gave me the Gospel of St. John, after Mr. Freer"s system, the price being 8s.; and a brother-in-law supplied me with the Gospel of St. Luke, which cost 9s. In Mr. Freer"s system the regular alphabet letters are not used, but there are raised characters, thirty-four in number, including long and short vowels; and these characters express sounds, and a sound may comprise a short syllable. I learned to read by this system in four lessons. I first read in public in Mornington-crescent. For the first fortnight or three weeks I took from 2s. 6d. to 2s. 9d. a-day—one day I took 3s. My receipts than fell to something less than 18d. a-day, and have been gradually falling ever since. Since the 1st of January, this year, I haven"t averaged more than 2s. 6d. a-week by my street reading and writing. My wife earns 3s. or 4s. a-week with her needle, slaving with a "sweater" to a shirtmaker. I have never read anywhere but in Eustonsquare and Mornington-crescent. On Whit- Monday I made 2s. 0 1/2d., and that, I assure you, I reckon real good holiday earnings; and I read until I was hoarse with it. Once I counted at Mornington-crescent, as closely as I could, just out of curiosity and to wile away the time, above 2000 persons, who passed and re-passed without giving me a halfpenny. The working people are my best friends, most decidedly. I am tired of the streets; besides, being half-starved. There are now five or six blind men about London, who read in the streets. We can read nothing but the Scriptures, as "blind printing,"—so it"s sometimes called—has only been used in the Scriptures. I write also in the streets, as well as read. I use Wedgwood"s manifold writer. I write verses from Scripture. There was no teaching necessary for this. I trace the letters from my knowledge of them when I could see. I believe I am the only blind man who writes in the streets.

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 Title Page
Chapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin
Our Street Folk - Street Exhibitors
Chapter III: - Street Musicians
Chapter IV: - Street Vocalists
Chapter V: - Street Artists
Chapter VI: - Exhibitors of Trained Animals
Chapter VII: Skilled and Unskilled Labour - Garret-Masters
Chapter VIII: - The Coal-Heavers
Chapter IX: - Ballast-Men
Chapter X: - Lumpers
Chapter XI: Account of the Casual Labourers
 Chapter XII: Cheap Lodging-Houses
Chapter XIII: On the Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis
Chapter XIV: London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men
Chapter XV: London Omnibus Drivers and Conductors
Chapter XVI: Character of Cabdrivers
Chapter XVII: Carmen and Porters
Chapter XVIII: London Vagrants
 Chapter XIX: Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men