London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


Blind Profile-Cutter.


A CHEERFUL blind man, well known to all crossing Waterloo or Hungerford-bridges, gave me the following account of his figurecutting:—

I had the measles when I was seven, and became blind; but my sight was restored by Dr. Jeffrey, at old St. George"s Hospital. After that I had several relapses into total blindness in consequence of colds, and since 1840 I have been quite blind, excepting that I can partially distinguish the sun and the gas-lights, and such-like, with the left eye only. I am now 31, and was brought up to house-painting. When I was last attacked with blindness I was obliged to go into St. Martin"s workhouse, where I underwent thirteen operations in two years. When I came out of the workhouse I played the German flute in the street, but it was only a noise, not music, sir. Then I sold boot-laces and tapes in the street, and averaged 5s. a-week by it—certainly not more. Next I made little wooden tobaccostoppers in the street, in the shape of legs—they"re called "legs." The first day I started in that line—it was in Tottenham-court-road—I was quite elated, for I made half-a-crown. I next tried it by St. Clement"s-church, but I found that I cut my hands so with the knives and files, that I had to give it up, and I then took up with the trade of cutting out profiles of animals and birds, and grotesque human figures, in card. I established myself soon after I began this trade by the Victoria-gate, Bayswater; that was the best pitch I ever had—one day I took 15s., and I averaged 30s. a-week for six weeks. At last the inspector of police ordered me off. After that I was shoved about by the police, such crowds gathered round me, until I at length got leave to carry on my business by Waterloo-bridge; that"s seven years ago. I remained there till the opening of Hungerfordbridge, in May 1845. I sit there cold or fine, winter or summer, every day but Sunday, or if I"m ill. I often hear odd remarks from people crossing the bridge. In winter time, when I"ve been cold and hungry, and so poor that I couldn"t get my clothes properly mended, one has said, "Look at that poor blind man there;" and another (and oft enough, too) has answered, "Poor blind man!—he has better clothes and more money than you or me; it"s all done to excite pity!" I can generally tell a gentleman"s or lady"s voice, if they"re the real thing. I can tell a purseproud man"s voice, too. He says, in a domineering, hectoring way, as an ancient Roman might speak to his slave, "Ah, ha! my good fellow! how do you sell these things?" Since January last, I may have averaged 8s. a-week—that"s the outside. The working and the middling classes are my best friends. I know of no other man in my particular line, and I"ve often inquired concerning any.

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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