London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


Writer Without Hands.


THE next in order are the Writers without Hands and the Chalkers on Flag-stones.

A man of , born in the crippled state he described, tall, and with an intelligent look and good manners, gave me this account:—

I was born without hands—merely the elbow of the right arm and the joint of the wrist of the left. I have rounded stumps. I was born without feet also, merely the ankle and heel, just as if my feet were cut off close within the instep. My father was a farmer in Cavan county, Ireland, and gave me a fair education. He had me taught to write. I"ll show you how, sir." (Here he put on a pair of spectacles, using his stumps, and then holding the pen on one stump, by means of the other he moved the two together, and so wrote his name in an old-fashioned hand.) "I was taught by an ordinary schoolmaster. I served an apprenticeship of seven years to a turner, near Cavan, and could work well at the turning, but couldn"t chop the wood very well. I handled my tools as I"ve shown you I do my pen. I came to London in 1814, having a prospect of getting a situation in the Indiahouse; but I didn"t get it, and waited for eighteen months, until my funds and my father"s help were exhausted, and I then took to making fancy screens, flower-vases, and hand-racks in the streets. I did very well at them, making 15s. to 20s. a-week in the summer, and not half that, perhaps not much more than a third, in the winter. I continue this work still, when my health permits, and I now make handsome ornaments, flower-vases, &c. for the quality, and have to work before them frequently, to satisfy them. I could do very well but for ill-health. I charge from 5s. to 8s. for hand-screens, and from 7s. 6d. to 15s. for flower-vases. Some of the quality pay me handsomely—some are very near. I have done little work in the streets this way, except in very fine weather. Sometimes I write tickets in the street at a halfpenny each. The police never interfere unless the thoroughfare is obstructed badly. My most frequent writing is, "Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I return." "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord." To that I add my name, the date sometimes, and a memorandum that it was the writing of a man born without hands or feet. When I"m not disturbed, I do pretty well, getting 1s. 6d. a-day; but that"s an extra day. The boys are a great worry to me. Working people are my only friends at the writing, and women the best. My best pitches are Tottenham-court-road and the West-end tho- roughfares. There"s three men I know who write without hands. They"re in the country chiefly, travelling. One man writes with his toes, but chiefly in the public-houses, or with showmen. I consider that I am the only man in the world who is a handicraftsman without hands or feet. I am married, and have a grown--up family. Two of my sons are in America, one in Australia, one a sailor, the others are emigrants on the coast of Africa, and one a cabinet-maker in London—all fine fellows, well made. I had fifteen in all. My father and mother, too, were a handsome, wellmade couple.

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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