London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


Guy Fawkes (Man).


"I"M in the crock"ry line, going about with a basket and changing jugs, and glass, and things, for clothes and that; but for the last years I have, every , gone out with a guy. It"s a good job for the time, for what little we lay out on the guy we don"t miss, and the money comes in all of a lump at the last. While it lasts there"s money to be made by it. I used always to take the guy about for days; but this last year I took him about for .

I was year old when I went out with a guy. It was seeing others about with "em, and being out of work at the time, and having nothing to sell, I and another chap we knocked up between us, and we found it go on pretty well, so we kept on at it. The I took out was a very firstrater, for we"d got it up as well as we could to draw people"s attention. I said, "It ain"t no good doing as the others do, we must have a tip-topper." It represented Guy Fawkes in black velvet. It was about feet high, and he was standing upright, with matches in hand and lantern in the other. I show"d this round Clerkenwell and . It was the big "un as was ever brought out. There had been paper ones as big, but ne"er a dressed up in the style mine was. I had a donkey and cart, and we placed it against some cross-rails and some bits of wood to keep him steady. He stood firm because he had poles up his legs, and being lashed round the body holding him firm to the posts —like a rock. We done better the time we went out than we do lately. The guy must have cost a sovereign. He had a trunk-hose and white legs, which we made out of a pair of white drawers, for fleshings and yellow boots, which I bought in . We took over with him, which was pretty fair, and just put us on again, for November is a bad time for most street trades, and getting a few shillings all at once makes it all right till Christmas.

A pal of mine, of the name of Smith, was the as ever brought out a big . His wasn"t a regular dressed--up , but only with a paper apron to hang down the front and bows, and such-like. He put it on a chair, and had boys to carry it on their shoulders. He was the , too, as introduced clowns to dance about. I see him do well, and that"s why I took mine in hand.

The year they was chalking "No Popery" all about the walls I had , dressed up in a long black garment, with a red cross on his bosom. I"m sure I don"t know what it meant, but they told me it would be popular. I had only figure, with bows, and that tidiwated all about him. As we went along everybody shouted out "No Popery!" Everybody did. He had a large brimmed hat with a low crown in, and a wax mask. I always had wax ones. I"ve got at home now I"ve had for year. It cost twoand-. It"s a very good-looking face but rather sly, with a great horse-hair beard. Most of the boys make their"n devils, and as ugly as they can, but that wouldn"t do for Christians like as I represent mine to be.

year I had Nicholas and his adviser. That was the Emperor of Russia in big topboots and white breeches, and a green coat on. I gave him a good bit of mustachios— a little extra. He had a Russian helmet hat on, with a pair of eagles on the top. It was I bought. I bought it cheap, for I only gave a shilling for it. I was offered or for it afterwards, but I found it answer my purpose to keep. I had it dressed up this year. The other figure was the devil. I made him of green tinsel paper cut out like scale armour, and pasted on to his legs to make it stick tight. He had a devil"s mask on, and I made him a pair of horns out of his head. Over them was a banner. I was told what to do to make the banner, for I had the letters writ out , and then I cut "em out of tinsel paper and stuck them on to glazed calico. On this banner was these words:—

What shall I do next?" "Why, blow your brains out!

That took immensely, for the people said "That is wery well." It was the time the war was on. I dare say I took between and that time. There was of us rowed in with it, so we got a few shillings a-piece.

"The best I ever had was the trial of Guy Fawkes. There was figures, and they was drawn about in a horse and cart. There was Guy Fawkes, and soldiers had hold of him, and there was the king sitting in a chair in front. The king was in a scarlet


velvet cloak, sitting in an old arm-chair, papered over to make it look decent. There was green and blue paper hanging over the arms to hide the ragged parts of it. The king"s cloak cost sevenpence a-yard, and there was of these yards. He had a gilt paper crown and a long black wig made out of some rope. His trunks was black and crimson, and he had blue stockings and red boots. I made him up out of my own head, and not from pictures. It was just as I thought would be the best way to get it up, out of my own head. I"ve seed the picture of Guy Fawkes, because I"ve got a book of it at home. I never was no scholar, not in the least. The soldiers had a breastplate of white steel paper, and baggy kneebreeches, and top boots. They had a big pipe each, with a top cut out of tin. Their helmets was the same as in the pictures, of steel paper, and a kind of a dish-cover shape, with a peak in front and behind. Guy was dressed the same kind as he was this year, with a black velvet dress and red cloak, and red boots turning over at top, with lace sewed on. I never made any of my figures frightful. I get "em as near as I can to the life like.

I reckon that show was the best as I ever had about. I done very well with it. They said it was a very good sight, and well got up. I dare say it cost me, with thing and another, pretty nigh to get up. There was of us to shove, me and my brother. I know I had a sovereign to myself when it was over, besides a little bit of merrymaking.

This year I had the apprehension of Guy Fawkes by Lord Suffolk and Monteagle. I"ve followed up the hist"ry as close as I can. Next year I shall have him being burnt, with a lot of faggits and things about him. This year the figures cost about getting up. Fawkes was dressed in his old costume of black velvet and red boots. I bought some black velvet breeches in , and I gave for the pair. They was old theatrical breeches. Their lordships was dressed in gold scale-armour like, of cut-out paper pasted on, and their legs imitated steel. They had -corner cock"d hats, with white feathers in. I always buy fierce-looking masks with frowns, but of them this year was a smiling — Lord Monteagle, I think. I took the figures as near as I can form from a picture I saw of Guy Fawkes being apprehended. I placed them figures in a horse and cart, and piled them up on apple-chests to the level of the cart, so they showed all, their feet and all. I bind the chests with a piece of tablecover cloth. The day we went out we took , and the we took , and the last day we took We did so well the day because we went into the country, about Tottenham and Edmonton. They never witnessed such a thing down them parts. The drummer what I had with me was a blind man, and well known down there. They call him Friday, because he goes there every Friday, so what they usually gave him we had. Our horse was blind, so we was obliged to have to lead him in front and another to lead the blind drummer behind. We paid the drummer for the days. We paid for days , and the most of it came in, and we all went shares. It was a pony more than a horse. I think we got about a a-piece clear, when we was done on the Friday night. It took me weeks getting up in my leisure time. There was the Russian bear in front. He wore a monkey dress, the same as in the pantomimes, and that did just as well for a bear. I painted his face as near as I could get it, to make it look frightful.

When I"m building up a guy we first gits some bags and things, and cut "em out to the shape of the legs and things, and then sew it up. We sew the body and arms and all round together in one. We puts two poles down for the legs and then a cross-piece at the belly and another cross-piece at the shoulder, and that holds "em firm. We fill the legs with sawdust, and stuff it down with our hands to make it tight. It takes two sacks of sawdust for three figures, but I generally have it give to me, for I know a young feller as works at the wood-chopping. We stand "em up in the room against the wall, whilst we are dressing them. We have lots of chaps come to see us working at the guys. Some will sit there for many hours looking at us. We stuff the body with shavings and paper and any sort of rubbish. I sew whatever is wanted myself, and in fact my fingers is sore now with the thimble, for I don"t know how to use a thimble, and I feel awkward with it. I design everything and cut out all the clothes and the painting and all. They allow me 5s. for the building. This last group took me six weeks, —not constant, you know, but only lazy time of a night. I lost one or two days over it, that"s all.

I think there was more Guy Fawkeses out this year than ever was out before. There was one had Guy Fawkes and Punch and a Clown in a cart, and another was Miss Nightingale and two soldiers. It was meant to be complimentary to that lady, but for myself I think it insulting to bring out a lady like that as a guy, when she"s done good to all.

They always reckon me to be about the first hand in London at building a guy. I never see none like them, nor no one else I don"t think. It took us two quire of gold paper and one quire of silver paper to do the armour and the banner and other things. The gold paper is 6d. a-sheet, and the silver is 1d. a sheet. It wouldn"t look so noble if we didn"t use the gold paper.

This year we had three clowns with us, and we paid them 3s. a-day each. I was dressed up as a clown, too. We had to dance about, and joke, and say what we thought would be funny to the people. I had a child in my arms made of a doll stuffed with shavings, and made to represent a little boy. It was just to make a laugh. Every one I went up to I told the doll to ask their uncle or their aunt for a copper. I had another move, too, of calling for "Bill Bowers" in the crowd, and if I got into any row, or anything, I used to call to him to protect me. We had no time to say much, for we kept on moving, and it loses time to talk.

We took the guy round Goswell-road and Pentonville the first day, and on the second we was round Bethnal-green way, among the weavers. We went that way for safety the second day, for the police won"t interrupt you there. The private houses give the most. They very seldom give more than a penny. I don"t suppose we got more than 3s. or 4s. in silver all the three days.

Sometimes we have rough work with the Irish going about with guys. The "No Popery" year there was several rows. I was up at Islington-gate, there, in the Lower-road, and there"s loads of Irish live up there, and a rough lot they are. They came out with sticks and bricks, and cut after us. We bolted with the guy. If our guy hadn"t been very firm, it would have been jolted to bits. We always nailed straps round the feet, and support it on rails at the waist, and lashed to the sides. We bolted from this Irish mob over Islingtongreen, and down John-street into Clerkenwell. My mate got a nick with a stone just on the head. It just give him a slight hurt, and drawed the blood from him. We jumped up in the donkey-cart and drove off.

There was one guy was pulled out of the cart this year, down by Old Gravel-lane, in the Ratcliff-highway. They pulled Miss Nightingale out of the cart and ran away with her, and regular destroyed the two soldiers that was on each side of her. Sometimes the cabmen lash at the guys with their whips. We never say anything to them, for fear we might get stopped by the police for making a row. You stand a chance of having a feather knocked off, or such-like, as is attached to them.

There"s a lot of boys goes about on the 5th with sticks, and make a regular business of knocking guys to pieces. They"re called guysmashers. They don"t come to us, we"re too strong for that, but they only manage the little ones, as they can take advantage of. They do this some of them to take the money the boys have collected. I have had regular prigs following my show, to pick the pockets of those looking on, but as sure as I see them I start them off by putting a policeman on to them.

When we"re showing, I don"t take no trouble to invent new rhymes, but stick to the old poetry. There"s some do new songs. I usually sing out,— Gentlefolks, pray Remember this day; "Tis with kind notice we bring The figure of sly And villanous Guy, Who wanted to murder the king. By powder and store, He bitterly swore, As he skulk"d in the walls to repair, The parliament, too, By him and his crew, Should all be blowed up in the air. But James, very wise, Did the Papists surprise, As they plotted the cruelty great; He know"d their intent, So Suffolk he sent To save both kingdom and state, Guy Fawkes he was found With a lantern underground, And soon was the traitor bound fast: And they swore he should die, So they hung him up high, And burnt him to ashes at last. So we, once a-year, Come round without fear, To keep up remembrance of this day; While assistance from you May bring a review Of Guy Fawkes a-blazing away. So hollo, boys! hollo, boys! Shout and huzza; So hollo, boys! hollo, boys! Keep up this day! So hollo, boys! hollo, boys! And make the bells ring! Down with the Pope, and God save the Queen!

It used to be King, but we say Queen now, and though it don"t rhyme, it"s more correct.

It"s very seldom that the police say anything to us, so long as we don"t stop too long in the gangway not to create any mob. They join in the fun and laugh like the rest. Wherever we go there is a great crowd from morning to night.

We have dinner on Guy Fawkes" days between one and two. We go to any place where it"s convenient for us to stop at, generally at some public-house. We go inside, and leave some of the lads to look after the guy outside. We always keep near the window, where we can look out into the street, and we keep ourselves ready to pop out in a minute if anybody should attack the guy. We generally go into some by-way, where there ain"t much traffic. We never was interrupted much whilst we was at dinner, only by boys chucking stones and flinging things at it; and they run off as soon as we come out.

There"s one party that goes out with a guy that sells it afterwards. .They stop in London for the first two days, and then they work their way into the country as far as Sheerness, and then they sells the guy to form part of the procession on Lord-mayor"s day. It"s the watermen and ferrymen mostly buy it, and they carry it about in a kind of merriment among themselves, and at night they burn it and let off fireworks. They don"t make no charge for coming to see it burnt, but it"s open to the air and free to the public.

None of the good guys taken about on the 5th are burnt at night, unless some gentlemen buy them. I used to sell mine at one time to the Albert Saloon. Sometimes they"d give me 15s. for it, and sometimes less, according to what kind of a one I had. Three years, I think, I sold it to them. They used to burn it at first in the gardens at the back, but after they found the gardens fill very well without it, so they wouldn"t have any more.

I always take the sawdust and shavings out of my guys, and save the clothes for another year. The clothes are left in my possession to be taken care of. I make a kind of private bonfire in our yard with the sawdust and shavings, and the neighbours come there and have a kind of a spree, and shove one another into the fire, and kick it about the yard, and one thing and another.

When I am building the guy, I begin about six weeks before 5th of November comes, and then we subscribe a shilling or two each and buy such things as we wants. Then, when we wants more, I goes to my pals, who live close by, and we subscribe another shilling or sixpence each, according to how we gets on in the day. Nearly all those that take out guys are mostly street traders.

The heaviest expense for any guy I"ve built was 4l. for one of four figures.

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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