London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


Another "Tom-Tom" Player.


A VERY handsome man, swarthy even for a native of Bengal, with his black glossy hair most picturesquely disposed, alike on his head and in his whiskers and moustache, gave me, after an Oriental salute, the following statement. His teeth were exquisitely white, and his laugh or smile lighted up his countenance to an expression of great intelligence. His dress was a garb of dark-brown cloth, fitting close to his body and extending to his knee. His trowsers were of the same coloured cloth, and he wore a girdle of black and white cotton round his waist. He was accompanied by his son, (whom he sometimes addressed in Hindoostanee), a round-faced boy, with large bright black eyes and rosy cheeks. The father said:—

I was born in Calcutta, and was Mussulman—my parents was Mussulman—but I Christian now. I have been in dis contree ten year. I come first as servant to military officer, an Englishman. I lived wit him in Scotland six, seven mont. He left Scotland, saying he come back, but he not, and in a mont I hear he dead, and den I com London. London is very great place, and Indian city little if you look upon London. I use tink it plenty pleasure look upon London as de great government place, but now I look upon London, and it is plenty bad pleasure. I wish very often return to my own contree, where everyting sheap—living sheap, rice sheap. I suffer from climate in dis contree. I suffer dis winter more dan ever I did. I have no flannels, no drawer, no waistcoat, and have cold upon my chest. It is now near five year I come London. I try get service, but no get service. I have character, but not from my last master. He could not give me; he dead ven I want it. I put up many insult in dis contree. I struck sometime in street. Magistrate punish man gave me blow dat left mark on my chin here. Gentlemen sometime save me from harm, sometime not. De boys call me black dis or de oder. Wen I get no service, I not live, and I not beg in street, so I buy tom-tom for 10s. De man want 30s. De 10s. my last money left, and I start to play in streets for daily bread. I beat tom-tom, and sing song about greatness of God, in my own language. I had den wife, Englishwoman, and dis little boy. I done pretty well first wid tom-tom, but it is very bad to do it now. Wen I began first, I make 3s., 4s., 5s., or 6s. a-day. It was someting new den, but nine or ten monts it was someting old, and I took less and less, until now I hardly get piece of bread. I sometime get few shilling from two or three picture-men, who draw me. It is call model. Anyting for honest bread. I must not be proud. I cannot make above 6s. a-week of tom-tom in street. Dare is, well as I know, about fifty of my contreemen playing and begging in streets of London. Dose who sweep crossing are Malay, some Bengal. Many are impostor, and spoil "spectable men. My contreemen live in lodging-house; often many are plenty blackguard lodging-houses, and dere respectable man is always insult. I have room for myself dis tree mont, and cost me tree shilling and sixpennies a-week; it is not own furniture; dey burn my coke, coal, and candle too. My wife would make work wid needle, but dere is no work for her, poor ting. She servant when I marry her. De little boy make jump in my contree"s way wen I play tomtom—he too little to dance—he six year. Most of my contreemen in street have come as Lascar, and not go back for bosen and bosenmate, and flog. So dey stay for beg, or sweep, or anyting. Dey are never pickpocket dat I ever hear of.

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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