London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


Italian With Monkey.


AN Italian, who went about with trained monkeys, furnished me with the following account.

He had a peculiar boorish, and yet goodtempered expression, especially when he laughed, which he did continually.

He was dressed in a brown, ragged, cloth jacket, which was buttoned over a long, loose, dirty, drab waistcoat, and his trowsers were of broad-ribbed corduroy, discoloured with long wearing. Round his neck was a plaid handkerchief, and his shoes were of the extreme "strong-men"s" kind, and grey with dust


and want of blacking. He wore the Savoy and broad-brimmed felt hat, and with it on his head had a very picturesque appearance, and the shadow of the brim falling on the upper part of his brown face gave him almost a Murillo-like look. There was, however, an odour about him,—half monkey, half dirt,—that was far from agreeable, and which pervaded the apartment in which he sat.

I have got monkey," he said, "but I mustn"t call in London. I goes out in countree. I was frightened to come here. I was frightened you give me months in prison. Some of my countrymen is very frightened what you do. No, sir, I never play de monkey in de town. I have been out vare dere is so many donkey, up a top at dat village—vat you call —I can"t tell de name. Dey goes dere for pastime,—pleasure,—when it makes fine weather. Dere is two church, and two large hotel,—yes, I tink it is Blackheath! I goes dere sometime vid my monkey. I have got only one monkey now,—sometime I have got two;—he is dressed comme un soldat rouge, like one soldier, vid a red jacket and a Bonaparte"s hat. My monkey only pull off his hat and take a de money. He used to ride a de dog; but dey stole a de dog,—some of de tinkare, a man vid de umbrella going by, stole a him. Dere is only tree months dat I have got my monkey. It is my own. I gave dirtyfive shilling for dis one I got. He did not know no tricks when he come to me first. I did teach a him all he know. I teach a him vid de kindness, do you see. I must look rough for tree or four times, but not to beat him. He can hardly stir about; he is afraid dat you go to hit him, you see. I mustn"t feed him ven I am teaching him. Sometimes I buy a happorth of nuts to give him, after he has done what I want him to do. Dis one has not de force behind; he is weak in de back. Some monkey is like de children at de school, some is very hard to teash, and some learn de more quick, you see. De one I had before dis one could do many tings. He had not much esprit pas grande chose; but he could play de drum,—de fiddle, too,— Ah! but he don"t play de fiddle like de Christian, you know; but like de monkey. He used to fight wid de sword,—not exactly like de Christian, but like de monkey too,—much better. I beg your pardon to laugh, sir! He used to move his leg and jomp,—I call it danse,—but he could not do polka like de Christian.—I have seen the Christian though what can"t danse more dan de monkey! I beg your pardon to laugh. I did play valtz to him on de organ. Non! he had not moosh ear for de musick, but I force him to keep de time by de jerk of de string. He commence to valtz vell when he die. He is dead the vinter dat is passed, at Sheltenham. He eat some red-ee paint. I give him some castor-oil, but no good: he die in great deal pain, poor fellow! I rather lose six pounds than lose my monkey. I did cry!—I cry because I have no money to go and buy anoder monkey! Yes! I did love my monkey! I did love him for the sake of my life! I give de raisins, and bile dem for him. He have every ting he like. I am come here from Parma about fourteen or fifteen year ago. I used to work in my countree. I used to go and look at de ship in de montagnes: non! non! pas des vaisseaux, mais des moutons! I beg your pardon to laugh. De master did bring me up here,— dat master is gone to America now,—he is come to me and tell me to come to Angleterre. He has tell me I make plenty of money in dis country. Ah! I could get plenty of money in dat time in London, but now I get not moosh. I vork for myself at present. My master give me nine—ten shilling each veek, and my foot, and my lodging—yes! everyting ven I am first come here. I used to go out vid de organ,—a good one,—and I did get two, tree, and more shillan for my master each day. It was chance-work: sometimes I did get noting at all. De organ was my master"s. He had no one else but me wid him. We used to travel about togeder, and he took all de money. He had one German piano, and play de moosick. I can"t tell how moosh he did make,—he never tell to me,—but I did sheat him sometimes myself. Sometime when I take de two shillan I did give him de eighteen-pence! I beg your pardon to laugh! De man did bring up many Italians to dis country, but now it is difficult to get de passports for my countrymen. I was eighteen months with my master; after dat I vent to farm-house. I run away from my master. He gave me a slap of de face, you know, von time, so I don"t like it, you know, and run away! I beg your pardon to laugh! I used to do good many tings at de farm-house. It was in Yorkshire. I used to look at de beasts, and take a de vater. I don"t get noting for my vork, only for de sake of de belly I do it. I was dere about tree year. Dey behave to me very well. Dey give me de clothes and all I want. After dat I go to Liverpool, and I meet some of my countrymen dere, and dey lend me de monkey, and I teash him to danse, fight, and jomp, mush as I could, and I go wid my monkey about de country.

Some day I make tree shillan wid my monkey, sometime only sixpence, and sometime noting at all. When it rain or snow I can get noting. I gain peut-être a dozen shillan a week wid my monkey, sometime more, but not often. Dere is long time I have been in de environs of London; but I don"t like to go in de streets here. I don"t like to go to prison. Monkey is defended, —defendu,—what you call it, London. But dere is many monkey in London still. Oh, non! not a dozen. Dere is not one dozen monkey wot play in Angleterre. I know dere is two monkey at Saffron hill, and one go in London; but he do no harm. I don"t know dat de monkey was train to go down de area and steal a de silver spoons out of de kitchen. Dey would be great fool to tell dat; but every one must get a living de best dey can. Wot I tell you about de monkey I"m frightened vill hurt me!

I tell you dey is defended in de streets, and dey take me up. I hope not. My monkey is very honest monkey, and get me de bread. I never was in prison, and I would not like to be. I play de moosick, and please de people, and never steal noting. Non! non! me no steal, nor my monkey too. Dey policemen never say noting to me. I am not beggar, but artiste!—every body know dat— and my monkey is artiste too! I beg your pardon to laugh.

This object is in collection Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
TARC Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 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