London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry

1851

Poor Harp Player.

A POOR, feeble, half-witted looking man, with the appearance of far greater age than he represented himself, (a common case with the very poor), told me of his sufferings in the streets. He was wretchedly clad, his clothes being old, patched, and greasy. He is wellknown in London, being frequently seen with a crowd of boys at his heels, who amuse themselves in playing all kinds of tricks upon him.

I play the harp in the streets," he said, "and have done so for the last two years, and should be very glad to give it up. My brother lives with me; we"re both bachelors, and he"s so dreadful lame, he can do nothing. He is a coach-body maker by business. I was born blind, and was brought up to music; but my sight was restored by Dr. Ware, the old gentleman in Bridge-street, Blackfriars, when I was nine years old, but it"s a near sight now. I"m forty-nine in August. When I was young I taught the harp and the pianoforte, but that very soon fell off, and I have been teaching on or off these many years—I don"t know how many. I had three guineas a-quarter for teaching the harp at one time, and two guineas for the piano. My brother and I have 1s. and a loaf a-piece from the parish, and the 2s. pays the rent. Mine"s not a bad trade now, but it"s bad in the streets. I"ve been torn to pieces; I"m torn to pieces every day I go out in the streets, and I would be glad to get rid of the streets for 5s. a-week. The streets are full of ruffians. The boys are ruffians. The men in the streets too are ruffians, and encourage the boys. The police protect me as much as they can. I should be killed every week but for them; they"re very good people. I"ve known poor women of the town drive the boys away from me, or try to drive them. It"s terrible persecution I suffer—terrible persecution. The boys push me down and hurt me badly, and my harp too. They yell and make noises so that I can"t be heard, nor my harp. The boys have cut off my harp-strings, three of them, the other day, which cost me 6 1/2d. or 7d. I tell them it"s a shame, but I might as well speak to the stones. I never go out that they miss me. I don"t make more than 3s. a-week in the streets, if I make that.

 
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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