London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


The Dancing Dogs.


I RECEIVED the following narrative from the old man who has been so long known about the streets of London with a troop of performing dogs. He was especially picturesque in his appearance. His hair, which was grizzled rather than grey, was parted down the middle, and hung long and straight over his shoulders. He was dressed in a coachman"s blue greatcoat with many capes. His left hand was in a sling made out of a dirty pocket-handkerchief, and in his other he held a stick, by means of which he could just manage to hobble along. He was very ill, and very poor, not having been out with his dogs for nearly months. He appeared to speak in great pain. The civility, if not politeness of his manner, threw an air of refinement about him, that struck me more forcibly from its contrast with the manners of the English belonging to the same class. He began:—

I have de dancing dogs for de street— now I have nothing else. I have tree dogs— One is called Finette, anoder von Favorite, that is her nomme, an de oder von Ozor. Ah!" he said, with a shrug of the shoulders, in answer to my inquiry as to what the dogs did, "un danse, un valse, un jomp a de stick and troo de hoop—non, noting else. Sometime I had de four dogs—I did lose de von. Ah! she had beaucoup d"esprit— plenty of vit, you say—she did jomp a de hoop better dan all. Her nomme was Taborine! —she is dead dare is long time. All ma dogs have des habillements—the dress and de leetle hat. Dey have a leetel jackette in divers colours en étoffe—some de red, and some de green, and some de bleu. Deir hats is de rouge et noir—red and black, wit a leetle plume-fedder, you say. Dere is some 10 or 11 year I have been in dis country. I come from Italie—Italie—Oui, Monsieur, oui. I did live in a leetle ville, trento miglia, dirty mile, de Parma. Je travaille dans le campagne, I vork out in de countrie—je ne sais comment vous appellez la campagne. There is no commerce in de montagne. I am come in dis country here. I have leetel business to come. I thought to gagner ma vie—to gain my life wid my leetel dogs in dis countrie. I have dem déjà when I have come here from Parma—j"eu avait dix. I did have de ten dogs—je les apporte. I have carried all de ten from Italie. I did learn— yes—yes—de dogs to danse in ma own countrie. It did make de cold in de montagne in winter, and I had not no vork dere, and I must look for to gain my life some oder place. Après ça, I have instruct my dogs to danse. Yes, ils learn to danse; I play de music, and dey do jomp. Non, non—pas du tout! I did not never beat ma dogs; dare is a way to learn de dogs without no vip. Premièrement, ven I am come here I have gained a leetel monnaie—plus que now—beaucoup d"avantage—plenty more. I am left ma logement —my lodging, you say, at 9 hours in de morning, and am stay away vid ma dogs till 7 or 8 hours in de evening. Oh! I cannot count how many times de leetel dogs have danse in de day—twenty—dirty—forty peut-être— all depends: sometimes I would gain de tree shilling—sometime de couple—sometime not nothing—all depend. Ven it did make bad time, I could not vork; I could not danse. I could not gain my life den. If it make cold de dogs are ill—like tout de monde. I did pay plenty for de nouriture of de dogs. Sometime dey did get du pain de leetel dogs (de bread) in de street—sometime I give dem de meat, and make de soup for dem. Ma dogs danse comme les chiens, mais dey valtz comme les dames, and dey stand on dare back-legs like les gentilhommes. After I am come here to dis countrie two day, am terrible malade. I am gone to hospital, to St. Bartolomé, de veek before de Jour de Noël (Christmas-day). In dat moment I have de fevre. I have rested in l"hospital quatre semaine— four veek. Ma dogs vere at libertie all de time. Von compagnon of mine have promised me to take de care of ma dogs, and he have lose dem all—tout les dix. After dat I have bought tree oder dogs—one espanol, anoder von appellé "Grifon," and de oder vas de dog ordinaire,—non! non! not one "pull dog." He no good. I must have one month, or six semaine, to instruite ma dogs. I have rested in a logement Italien at Saffron-hill, ven I am come here to London. Dare vas plenty of Italiens dare. It was tout plein— quite full of strangers. All come dare—dey come from France, from Germany, from Italie. I have paid two shillings per semaine each veek—only pour le lit, for de bed. Every von make de kitchen for himself. Vot number vas dare, you say? Sometime dare is 20 person dere, and sometime dere is dirty person in de logement, sometime more dan dat. It is very petite maison. Dare is von dozen beds—dat is all—and two sleep demselves in each bed. Sometimes, ven dere arrive plenty, dey sleep demselves tree in von bed— but ordinairement dere is only two. Dey is all musicians dere—one play de organ, de piano, de guitar, de flute, yes, dare vos some vot played it, and de viol too. De great part vas Italiens. Some of dem have des monkeys, de oders des mice white, and des pigs d"Indes, (guinea-pigs) and encore oders have des dolls vid two heads, and des puppets vot danse vid de foot on de boards. Des animals are in an appartement apart vid de moosick. Dare vos sometime tree dancing dogs, one dozen of mice, five or six pigs d"Indes, and ma monkey, altogether vid de moosick, by demselves.

Dare is all de actors vot vas dare. Ma tree dogs gained me sometime two shillan, sometime von shillan, and sometime I would rest on my feet all day, and not gain two sous. Sometimes de boys would ensault ma dogs vid de stones. Dare is long time I have rested in London. Dare is short time I vas in de campagne de countree here, not much. London is better dan de campagne for ma dogs—dare is always de vorld in London— de city is large—yes! I am always rested at Saffron-hill for 10, 11 years. I am malade at present, since the 15th of Mars; in ma arms, ma legs, ma tighs have de douleure—I have plenty of pains to march. Ma dogs are in de logement now. It is since the 15th of Mars dat I have not vent out vid ma dogs— yes, since de 15th of Mars I have done no vork. Since dat time I have not paid no money for ma logement—it is due encore. Non! non! I have not gained my life since the 15th of Mars. Plenty of time I have been vitout noting to eat. Des Italiens at de logement dey have given me pieces of bread and bouilli. Ah! it is very miserable to be poor, like me. I have sixty and tirteen years. I cannot march now but vith plenty of pains. Von doctor have give to me a letter for to present to de poor-house. He did give me my medicine for nothing—gratis. He is obliged, he is de doctor of de paroisse. He is a very brave and honest man, dat doctor dare. At de poor-house day have give to me a bread and six sous on Friday of de veek dat is past, and told me to come de Vednesday next. But I am arrive dere too late, and dey give me noting, and tell me to come de Vednesday next encore. Ma dogs dey march now in de street, and eat something dare. Oh! ma God, non! dey eat noting but what dey find in de street ven it makes good times; but ven it makes bad times dey have noting at all, poor dogs! ven I have it, dey have it,— but ven dere is noting for me to eat, dare is noting for dem, and dey must go out in de streets and get de nouriture for themselves. Des enfans vot know ma dogs vill give to dem to eat sometimes. Oh! yes, if I had de means, I would return to Italie, ma countree. But I have not no silver, and not no legs to walk. Vot can I do? Oh! yes, I am very sick at present. All my limbs have great douleur—Oh, yes! plenty of pain.

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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