London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


Italian Pipers and Clarionet Players.


THE companion I got about with me, is with me from Naples, not the city, but in the country. His is of my family; no, not my cousin, but my mother was the sister of his cousin. Yes! yes! yes! my cousin. Some one told me he was my nephew, but it"s cousin. Naples is a pretty city. It is more pretty than Paris, but not so big. I worked on the ground at Naples, in the country, and I guarded sheep. I never was a domestic; but it was for my father. It was ground of his. It was not much. He worked the earth for yellow corn. He had not much of sheep, only fifteen. When I go out with the sheep I carry my bagpipes always with me. I play on them when I was sixteen years of age. I play them when I guard my sheep. In my country they call my instrument de "zampogna." All the boys in my country play on it, for there are many masters there who teach it. I taught myself to play it. I bought my own instrument. I gave the money myself for that affair. It cost me seven francs. The bag is made of a skin of goat. There are four clarionets to it. There is one for the high and one for the bass. I play them with different hands. The other two clarionets make a noise to make the accord; one makes high and the other the low. They drone to make harmony. The airs I play are the airs of my country. I did not invent them. One is "La Tarentule Italien," and another is what we call "La Badend," but I not know what you call it in French. Another is the "Death of the Roi de France." I know ten of these airs. The "Pastorelle Naopolitan" is very pretty, and so is the "Pastorelle Romaine."

When I go out to guard my sheep I play my zampogna, and I walk along and the sheep follow me. Sometimes I sit down and the sheep eat about me, and I play on my instrument. Sometimes I go into the mountains. There are plenty of mountains in my country, and with snow on them. I can hear the guardians of sheep playing all around me in the mountains. Yes, many at once,—six, ten, twelve, or fifteen, on every side. No, I did not play my instrument to keep my sheep together, only to learn the airs. I was a good player, but there were others who played much better than me. Every night in my village there are four or six who play together instruments like mine, and all the people dance. They prefer to dance to the "Tarentule Italien." It is a pretty dance in our costume. The English do not dance like nous autres. We are not paid for playing in the village, only at fêtes, when gentlemen say, "Play;" and then they give 20 sous or 40 sous, like that. There is another air, which is played only for singing. There is one only for singing chansons, and another for singing "La Prière de la Vierge." Those that play the zampogna go to the houses, and the candles are lighted on the altar, and we play while the bourgeois sing the prière.

I am aged 23 years next March. I was sixteen when I learnt my instrument. The twelfth of this month I shall have left my country nine months. I have traversed the states of Rome and of France to come to England. I marched all the distance, playing my zampogna. I gain ten sous French whilst I voyage in the states of France. I march from Marseilles to Paris. To reach Marseilles by the boat it cost 15 frs. by head.

The reason why we left our native land is this:—One of our comrades had been to Paris, and he had said he gained much money by painters by posing for his form. Then I had envy to go to Paris and gain money. In my country they pay 20 sous for each year for each sheep. I had 200 to guard for a monsieur, who was very rich. There were four of us left our village at the same time. We all four played de zampogna. My father was not content that I voyage the world. He was very sorry. We got our passport arranged tout de suite, two passport for us four. We all began to play our instruments together, as soon as we were out of the village. Four of our friends accompanied us on our road, to say adien. We took bread of corn with us to eat for the first day. When we had finished that we played at the next village, and they give us some more bread.

At Paris I posed to the artists, and they pay me 20 sous for the hour. The most I pose is four hours for the day. We could not play our instruments in the street, because the serjeant-de-ville catch us, and take us directly to prison. I go to play in the courts before the houses. I asked the concierge at the door if he would give me permission to play in the court. I gain 15 sous or 1 franc par jour. For all the time I rest in Paris I gain 2 francs for the day. This is with posing to artists to paint, and for playing. I also play at the barrière outside Paris, where the wine is cheap. They gave us more there than in the courts; they are more generous where they drink the wine.

When I arrive at Paris my comrades have leave me. I was alone in Paris. There an Italian proposed to me to go to America as his servant. He had two organs, and he had two servants to play them, and they gave him the half of that which they gained. He said to me, that he would search for a piano organ for me, and I said I would give him the half of that which I gained in the streets. He made us sign a card before a notary. He told us it would cost 150 francs to go to America. I gave him the money to pay from Paris to Folkestone. From there we voyaged on foot to Londres. I only worked for him for eight days, because I said I would not go to Amérique. He is here now, for he has no money to go in Amérique.

I met my cousin here in Londres. I was here fifteen days before I met him. We neither of us speak Anglais, and not French either, only a little very bad; but we understand it. We go out together now, and I play the zampogna, and he the "biforc Italien," or what the French call flageolet, and the English pipes. It is like a flageolet. He knows all the airs that I play. He play well the airs—that he does. He wears a cloak on his shoulders, and I have one, too; but I left it at home to-day. It is a very large cloak, with three yards of étoffe in it. He carry in his hat a feather of what you call here peacock, and a French lady give him the bright ribbon which is round his hat. I have also plume de peacock and flowers of stuff, like at the shops, round my hat. In my country we always put round our hat white and red flowers.

Sometimes we go to pose to the artists, but it is not always. There are plenty of artists near Newman-street, but in other quarters there are none at all. It is for our costume they paint us. The colours they put on the pictures are those of our costume. I have been three times to a gentleman in a large street, where they took our portraits photographique. They give a shilling. I know the houses where I go to be done for a portrait, but I don"t know the names of the messieurs, or the streets where they reside. At the artists" they pay 1s. par heure, and we pose two or three heures, and the most is four heures. When we go together we have 1s. each for the hour. My cousin is at an artist"s to-day. They paint him more than me, because he carries a sash of silk round his waist, with ornaments on it. I haven"t got one, because I want the money to buy one.

We gain 1s. each the day. Ah! pardon, monsieur, not more than that. The artists are not for every day, perhaps one time for the week. When we first come here, we take 5s. between the two, but now it makes cold, and we cannot often play. Yesterday we play in the ville, and we take 7d. each. Plenty of persons look at us, but when my comrade touch his hat they give nothing. There is one month we take 2s. each the day, but now it is 1s. For the three months that we have been here, we have gained 12s. the week each, that is, if we count what we took when first we were arrived. For two months we took always a crown every day—always, always; but now it is only 1s., or 2s., or 7d. I had saved 72s., and I had it in my bourse, which I place under my head when I sleep. We sleep three in a bed—myself, my cousin, and another Italian. In the night this other take my bourse and run away. Now I have only 8s. in my bourse. It nearly broke the heart when I was robbed.

We pay 2d. for each for our bed every night. We live in a house held by a Mossieu Italian. There are three who sleep in one bed—me, and my comrade, and another. We are not large. This mossieu let us lodge cheaper than others, because we are miserable, and have not much money. For breakfast we have a half-loaf each one. It is a loaf that you must pay 4d. or 4 1/2d. We pay 2 1/2d. each for that, and 1/2d. each for a cup of tea or coffee. In the day we eat 2d. or 3d. between both for some bread, and we come home the night at half-past eight, and we eat supper. It is of maccaroni, or potatoes boiled, and we pay 2 1/2d. each. It costs us 9d. each the day to live. There are twenty-four Italian in the house where we live, and they have three kitchens. When one is more miserable than the others, then he is helped; and at another time he assists in his turn. We pay 2d. aweek to wash our shirt. I always share with my cousin what he makes in the day. If he goes to work and I stop at home, it is the same thing, and the same with me. He carries the money always, and pays for what we have want to eat; and then, if I wish to go back to my own country, then we share the money when we separate.

The gentlemen give us more money than the ladies. We have never had anything to eat given to us. They have asked us to sing, but we don"t know how. Only one we have sung to, an Italian mossieu, who make our portraits. We sang the "Prayer of the Sainte Vierge." They have also asked us to dance, but we did not, because the serjeant-de-ville, if we assemble a great mob, come and defend us to play.

We have been once before the magistrate, to force the mossieu who brought us over to render the passport of my native village. He has not rendered to me my card. We shall go before a magistrate again some day.

I can write and read Italian. I did not go much to the school of my native village, but the master taught me what I know. I can read better than I write, for I write very bad and slow. My cousin cannot read and write. I also know my numbers. I can count quickly. When we write a letter, we go to an Italian mossieu, and we tell him to say this and that, and he puts it down on the paper. We pay 1s. for the letter, and then at the post they make us pay 2s. 2d. When my parents get a letter from me, they take it to a mossieu, or the schoolmaster of the village, to read for them, because they cannot read. They have sent me a letter. It was well written by a gentleman who wrote it for them. I have sent my mother five pieces of five francs from Paris. I gave the money, and they gave me a letter; and then my mother went to the consul at Naples, and they gave her the money. Since I have been here I could send no money, because it was stolen. If I had got it, I should have sent some to my parents. When I have some more, I shall send it.

I love my mother very much, and she is good, but my father is not good. If he gain a piece of 20 sous, he goes on the morrow to the marchand of wine, and play the cards, and spend it to drink. I never send my money to my father, but to my mother.

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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