HAVING now giving an account of those who may be called the literary patterers (proper), or at any rate of those who do not deem it vain so to account themselves, because they "work paper," I proceed to adduce an account of the different grades of patterers generally, for patter has almost as many divisions as literature. There is patter pathetic, as from beggars; bouncing, to puff off anything of little or no value; comic, as by the clowns; descriptive, as in the cases where the vendor describes, however ornately, what he really sells; religious, as occasionally by the vendors of tracts;
(as it is understood by the profession) to make a thing believed to be what it is not; classical, as in the case of the sale of stenographic cards, &c.; and sporting, as in race cards.
The pattering tribe is by no means confined to the traffic in paper, though it may be the principal calling as regards the acuteness of its professors. Among these street-folk are the running and standing patterers (or stationers as they are sometimes, but rarely, styled)—and in these are included, the Death and Fire Hunters of whom I have spoken; Chaunters; Edition-sellers; Reciters; Conundrumsellers; Board-workers; Strawers; Sellers of (Sham) Indecent Publications; Street Auctioneers; Cheap Jacks; Mountebanks (quacks); Clowns; the various classes of Showmen; Jugglers; Conjurors; Ring-sellers for wagers; Sovereign-sellers; Corn-curers; Greasere- movers; French-polishers; Blacking-sellers; Nostrum-vendors; Fortune-tellers; Oratorical-beggars; Turnpike-sailors; the classes of Lurkers; Stenographic Card-sellers, and the Vendors of Race-cards or lists.
The following accounts have been written for me by the same gentleman who has already described the Religion, Morals, &c., of patterers. He has for some years resided among the class, and has pursued a street calling for his existence. What I have already said of his opportunities of personal observation and of dispassionate judgment I need not iterate.
"I wish," says the writer in question, "in the disclosures I am now about to make concerning the patterers generally, to than merely put the public on their guard. I take no cruel delight in dragging forth the follies of my fellow-men. Before I have done with my subject, I hope to draw forth and exhibit some of the latent virtues of the class under notice, many of whom I know to sigh in secret over that imprudent step (whatever its descrip-
tion), which has furnished the censorious with a weapon they have been but too ready to wield. The thing for me to do is to give a glance at the of these outcasts, and to set forth their usual conduct, opinions, conversation and amusements. As London (including the mile circle), is the head quarters of lodging-house life, and least known, because most crowded, I shall lift the veil which shrouds the vagrant hovel where the patterer usually resides.
As there are many individuals in lodginghouses who are not regular patterers or professional vagrants, being rather, as they term themselves, 'travellers' (or tramps), so there are multitudes who do inhabit such houses who really belong to the fraternity, pattering, or vagrant. Of these some take up their abode in what they call 'flatty-kens,' that is, houses the landlord of which is not 'awake' or 'fly' to the 'moves' and dodges of the trade; others resort to the regular 'padding-kens,' or houses of call for vagabonds; while others—and especially those who have families—live constantly in furnished rooms, and have little intercourse with the 'regular' travellers, tramps, or wanderers.
The medium houses the London vagrant haunts, (for I have no wish to go to extremes either way,) are probably in , and perhaps the fairest 'model' of the '' is the house in Orchard-street—once the residence of royalty—which has been kept and conducted for half a century by the veteran who some years ago was the man who amused the population with that well-known ditty,
If I'd as much money as I could tell,
I would not cry young lambs to sell.
(for that is the old man's title) still manufactures lambs, but seldom goes out himself; his sons (obedient and exemplary young men) take the toys into the country, and dispose of them at fairs and markets. The wife of this man is a woman of some beauty and good sound sense, but far too credulous for the position of which she is the mistress.
"So much for the establishment. I have now to deal with the inmates.
No could be long an inmate of Mr. ——'s without discerning in the motley group persons who had seen better days, and, seated on the same bench, persons who are 'seeing' the best days they saw. When I took up my abode in the house under consideration, I was struck by the appearance of a middle-aged lady-like woman, a native of Worcester, bred to the glove trade, and brought up in the lap of plenty, and under the high sanction of religious principle. She had evidently some source of mental anguish. I believe it was the conduct of her husband, by whom she had been deserted, and who was living with a woman to whom, it is said, the wife had shown much kindness. By her sat a giant in size, and candour demands
that I should say a 'giant in sin.' When Navy Jem, as he is called, used to for his living (it was a long while ago) he drove a barrow at the formation of the Great Western Railway. At present the man lies in bed till mid-day, and when he makes his appearance in the kitchen,
The very kittens on the hearth
They dare not even play.
His breakfast embraces all the good things of the season. He divides his delicacies with a silver fork—where did he get it? The mode in which this man obtains a livelihood is at once a mixture and a mystery. His prevailing plan is to waylay gentlemen in the decline of life, and to extort money by threats of accusation and exposure, to which I can do no more than allude. His wife, a notorious shoplifter, is now for the time 'expiating her offences' in Coldbath-fields.
Next to Navy Jem may be perceived a little stunted woman, of pretended Scotch, but really Irish extraction, whose husband has died in the hospital for consumption at least as many times as the hero of Waterloo has seen engagements. At last the man did die, and his widow has been collecting money to bury him for eight years past, but has not yet secured the required sum. This woman, whose name I never knew, has a boy and a girl; to the former she is very kind, the latter she beats without mercy, always before breakfast, and with such (almost) unvaried punctuality that her brother will sometimes whisper (after saying grace), 'Mother, has our Poll had her licks yet?'
Among the records of mortality lately before the public, is the account of a notorious woman, who was found suffocated in a stagnant pool, whether from suicide or accident it was impossible to determine. She had been in every hospital in town and country, suffering from a disease, entirely self-procured. She applied strong acids to wounds: previously punctured with a pin, and so caused her body to present one mass of sores. She was deemed incurable by the hospital doctors, and liberal collections were made for her among the benevolent in various places. The trick, however, was ultimately discovered, and the failure of her plan (added to the bad state of health to which her bodily injuries had gradually led) preyed upon her mind and hastened her death.
This woman had been the paramour of 'Peter the crossing-sweeper,' a man who for years went about showing similar wounds, which he pretended had been inflicted while fighting in the Spanish Legion—though, truth to say, he had never been nearer Spain than Liverpool is to New York. He had followed the 'monkry' from a child, and chiefly, since manhood, as a 'broken-down weaver from Leicester,' and after singing through every one of the provinces 'We've got no work to do,' he scraped acquaintance with a 'school of shallow coves;' that is, men who go about half-naked, telling frightful tales about ship-
wrecks, hair-breadth escapes from houses on fire, and such like aqueous and igneous calamities. By these Peter was initiated into the 'scaldrum dodge,' or the art of burning the body with a mixture of acids and gunpowder, so as to suit the hues and complexions of the accident to be deplored. Such persons hold every morning a 'committee of ways and means,' according to whose decision the movements of the day are carried out. Sometimes when on their country rounds, they go singly up to the houses of the gentry and wealthy farmers, begging shirts, which they hide in hedges while they go to another house and beg a similar article. Sometimes they go in crowds, to the number of from twelve to twenty; they are most successful when the 'swell' is not at home; if they can meet with the 'Burerk' (Mistress), or the young ladies, they 'put it on them for dunnage' (beg a stock of general clothing), flattering their victims first and frightening them afterwards. A friend of mine was present in a lodging-house in Plymouth, when a school of the shallow coves returned from their day's work with six suits of clothes, and twenty-seven shirts, besides children's apparel and shoes, (all of which were sold to a broker in the same street), and, besides these, the donations in money received amounted to 4s. 4d. a man.
At this enterprise 'Peter' continued several years, but—to use his own words—'everything has but a time,' the country got 'dead' to him, and people got 'fly' to the 'shallow brigade;' so Peter came up to London to 'try his hand at something else.' Housed in the domicile of 'Sayer the barber,' who has enriched himself by beer-shops and lodginghouse-keeping, to the tune it is said of 20,000l., Peter amused the 'travellers' of Wentworthstreet, Whitechapel, with recitals of what he had seen and done. Here a profligate, but rather intelligent man, who had really been in the service of the Queen of Spain, gave him an old red jacket, and with it such instructions as equipped him for the imposition. One sleeve of this jacket usually hung loosely by his side, while the arm it should have covered was exposed naked, and to all appearance withered. His rule was to keep silence till a crowd assembled around him, when he began to 'patter' to them to the following effect: 'Ladies and gentlemen, it is with feelings of no common reluctance that I stand before you at this time; but although I am not without feelings, I am totally without friends, and frequently without food. This wound (showing his disfigured arm) I received in the service of the Queen of Spain, and I have many more on different parts of my person. I received a little praise for my brave conduct, but not a penny of pension, and here I am (there's no deception you see) ill in health—poor in pocket, and exposed without proper nourishment to wind and weather—the cold is blowing through me till I am almost perished.' His 'Doxy' stood by and received
the 'voluntary contributions' of the audience in a soldier's cap, which our hero emptied into his pocket, and after snivelling out his thanks, departed to renew the exhibition in the nearest available thoroughfare. Peter boasted that he could make on an average fifteen of these pitches a day, and as the proceeds were estimated at something considerable in each pitch (he has been known to take as much as halfa- crown in pence at one standing), he was able to sport his figure at Astley's in the evening— to eat 'spring lamb,' and when reeling home under the influence of whiskey, to entertain the peaceful inhabitants with the music of—'We won't go home till morning———'
Whether the game got stale, or Peter became honest, is beyond the purport of my communication to settle. If any reader, however, should make his purchases at the puffing fishmonger's in Lombard-street, they may find Peter now pursuing the more honest occupation of sweeping the crossing, by the church of St. Gabriel, Fenchurch-street.
Among the most famous of the 'lurking patterers' was 'Captain Moody,' the son of poor but honest parents in the county of Cornwall, who died during his boyhood, leaving him to the custody of a maiden aunt. This lady soon, and not without reason, got tired of her incorrigible charge. Young Moody was apprenticed successively to three trades, and wanted not ability to become expert in any of them, but having occasional interviews with some of the gipsey tribe, and hearing from themselves of their wonderful achievements, he left the sober walks of life and joined this vagrant fraternity.
His new position, however, was attractive only while it was novel. Moody, who had received a fair education, soon became disgusted with the coarseness and vulgarity of his associates. At the solicitation of a neighbouring clergyman, he was restored to the friendship of his aunt, who had soon sad reason to regret that her compassion had got the better of her prudence; for one Sunday afternoon, while she was absent at church, young Moody who had pleaded indisposition and so obtained permission to stay at home, decamped (after dispatching the servant to the town, a mile distant, to fetch the doctor) in the meantime, emptying his aunt's 'safety cupboard' of a couple of gold watches and £ 72 in cash and country notes.
His roving disposition then induced him to try the sea, and the knowledge he obtained during several voyages fitted him for those maritime frauds which got him the name of 'Captain Moody, the lurker.' The frauds of this person are well known, and often recounted with great admiration among the pattering fraternity. On one occasion, the principal butcher in Gosport was summoned to meet a gentlemen at an hotel. The Louisa, a brig, had just arrived at Portsmouth, the captain's name was Young, and this gentleman Moody personated for the time being. 'I have occasion,' said he
to the butcher, 'for an additional supply of beef for the Louisa; I have heard you spoken of by Captain Harrison' (whom Moody knew to be an old friend of the butcher's), 'and I have thus given you the preference. I want a bullock, cut up in 12 lb. pieces; it must be on board by three to-morrow.' The price was agreed upon, and the captain threw down a few sovereigns in payment, but, of course, discovered that he had not gold enough to cover the whole amount, so he proposed to give him a cheque he had just received from Captain Harrison for £ 100, and the butcher could give him the difference. The tradesman was nothing loth, for a cheque upon 'Vallance, Mills, and West,' with Captain Harrison's signature, was reckoned equal to money any day, and so the butcher considered the one he had received, until the next morning, when the draft and the order proved to be forgeries. The culprit was, of course, nowhere to be found, nor, indeed, heard of till two years after, when he had removed the scene of his depredations to Liverpool.
In that port he had a colleague, a man whose manners and appearance were equally prepossessing. Moody sent his 'pal' into a jeweller's shop, near the corner of Lord-street, who there purchased a small gold seal, paid for it, and took his leave. Immediately afterwards, Moody entered the shop under evident excitement, declaring that he had seen the person, who had just left the shop secrete two, if not three, seals up his coat-sleeve; adding, that the fellow had just gone through the Exchange, and that if the jeweller were quick he would be sure to catch him. The jeweller ran out without his hat, leaving his kind friend in charge of the shop, and soon returned with the supposed criminal in his custody. The 'captain,' however, in the mean time, had decamped, taking with him a tray from the window, containing precious materials to the value of 300l.
At another time, the 'captain' prepared a document, setting forth 'losses in the Baltic trade,' and a dismal variety of disasters; and concluding with a melancholy shipwreck, which had really taken place just about that time in the German Ocean. With this he travelled over great part of Scotland, and with almost unprecedented success. Journeying near the Frith of Forth, he paid a visit to Lord Dalmeny—a nobleman of great benevolence—who had read the account of the shipwreck in the local journals, and wondered that the petition was not signed by influential persons on the spot; and, somewhat suspicious of the reality of the 'captain's' identity, placed a terrestrial globe before him, and begged to be shown 'in what latitude he was cast away.' The awkwardness with which Moody handled the globe showed that
he was 'out of his latitude' altogether. His lordship thereupon committed the document to the flames, but generously gave the 'captain' a sovereign and some good advice; the former he appropriated at the nearest public-house, of the latter he never made the least use.
Old, and worn out by excesses and imprisonment, he subsists now by 'sitting pad' about the suburban pavements; and when, on a recent evening, he was recognised in a low publichouse in Deptford, he was heard to say, with a sigh: 'Ah! once I could "screeve a fakement" (write a petition) or "cooper a monekur" (forge a signature) with any man alive, and my heart's game now; but I'm old and asthmatic, and got the rheumatis, so that I ain't worth a d—n.
'The Lady Lurker.'—Of this person very little is known, and that little, it is said, makes her an object of pity. Her father was a dissenting minister in Bedfordshire. She has been twice married; her first husband was a schoolmaster at Hackney, and nephew of a famous divine who wrote a Commentary on the Bible, and was chaplain to George III. She afterwards married a physician in Cambridgeshire (a Dr. S——), who is alleged to have treated her ill, and even to have attempted to poison her. She has no children; and, since the death of her husband, has passed through various grades, till she is now a cadger. She dresses becomingly in black, and sends in her card (Mrs. Dr. S——) to the houses whose occupants are known, or supposed, to be charitable. She talks with them for a certain time, and then draws forth a few boxes of lucifers, which, she says, she is compelled to sell for her living. These lucifers are merely excuses, of course, for begging; still, nothing is known to have ever transpired in her behaviour wholly unworthy of a distressed gentlewoman. She lives in private lodgings.
I continue the account of these habitations, and of then wretched occupants, from the pen of the same gentleman whose vicissitudes (partly self-procured) led him to several years' acquaintance with the subject.
Padding-kens" (lodging-houses) in the country are certainly preferable abodes to those of St. Giles's, Westminster, or Whitechapel; but in country as in town, their condition is extremely filthy and disgusting; many of them are scarcely ever washed, and as to sweeping, once a week is miraculous. In most cases they swarm with vermin, and, except where their position is very airy, the ventilation is imperfect, and frequent sickness the necessary result. It is a matter of surprise that the nobility, clergy, and gentry of the realm should permit the existence of such horrid dwellings.
I think," continues my informant, "that the majority of these poor wretches are without even the idea of respectability or 'home comforts,'— many of them must be ranked among the worst of our population. Some, who could live elsewhere, prefer these wretched abodes, because they answer various evil purposes. With beggars, patterers, hawkers, tramps, and vendors of their own manufacture, are mingled thieves, women of easy virtue, and men of no virtue at all; a few, and by far the smallest portion, are persons who once filled posts of credit and affluence, but whom bankruptcy, want of em-
ployment, or sickness has driven to these dismal retreats. The vast majority of London vagrants take their summer vacation in the country, and the 'dodges' of both are interchanged, and every new 'move' circulates in almost no time.
I will endeavour to sketch a few of the most renowned 'performers' on this theatre of action. By far the most illustrious is 'Nicholas A——,' an ame known to the whole cadging fraternity as a real descendant from Bamfylde Moore Carew, and the 'prince of lurkers' and patterers for thirty years past. This man owes much of his success to his confessedly imposing appearance, and many of his escapes to the known respectability of his connections. His father— yet alive — is a retired captain in the Royal Navy, a gentleman of good private property, and one of her Majesty's justices of peace for the county of Devon—the southern extremity of which was the birth-place of Nicholas. But little is known of his early days. He went to school at Tavistock, where he received a good education, and began life by cheating his schoolfellows.
The foolish fondness of an indulgent mother, and some want of firmness in paternal discipline, accelerated the growth of every weed of infamy in Nicholas, and baffled every experiment, by sea and land, to 'set' him up in life.
Scarcely was he out of his teens, when he honoured the sister country with his visits and his depredations. About the centre of Sackvillestreet, Dublin, there lived a wealthy silversmith of the name of Wise. Into his shop (accompanied by one of his pals in livery) went Nicholas, whose gentlemanly exterior, as I have already hinted, would disarm suspicion in a stranger.
'Good morning sir, is your name Wise?— Yes, sir.—Well, that is my name.—Indeed, of the English family, I suppose?—Yes, sir, East Kent.—Oh, indeed! related to the ladies of Leeds Castle, I presume?—I have the honour to be their brother.—James, is your name James or John?—Neither, sir, it is Jacob.— Oh, indeed! a very ancient name.—Well, I have occasion to give a party at the Corn Exchange Tavern, and I want a little plate on hire, can you supply me?'—A very polite affirmative settled this part of the business. Plate to the amount of 150l. was selected and arranged, when Nicholas discovered that his pocket-book was at home (to complete the deception, his right arm was in a sling). 'Will you, Mr. Wise (you see my infirmity), write me a few lines?—With the greatest pleasure,' was the silversmith's reply.—'Well, let me see. "My dear, do not be surprised at this; I want
150l., or all the money you can send, per bearer; I will explain at dinner-time. J. WISE.
"'Now, John, take this to your mistress, and be quick.' As John was not very hasty in his return, Nicholas went to look for him, leaving a strict injunction that the plate should be sent to the Tavern, as soon as the deposit was received. This happened at
in the forenoon—the clock struck and no return of either the master or the man.
The jeweller left a message with his apprentice, and went home to his dinner. He was met at the door of his suburban villa by his 'better half,' who wondered what made him so late, and wished to know the nature of the exigency which had caused him to send home for so much money? The good man's perplexity was at an end when he saw his own handwriting on the note; and every means within the range of constabulary vigilance was taken to capture the offender, but Nicholas and his servant got clear off.
This man's ingenuity was then taxed as to the next move, so he thought it expedient to tax
somebody else. He went with his 'pal' to a miscellaneous repository, where they bought a couple of old ledgers — useful only as waste paper, a bag to hold money, two ink-bottles, &c. Thus equipped, they waited on the farmers of the district, and exhibited a 'fakement,' setting forth parliamentary authority for imposing a tax upon the geese! They succeeded to admiration, and weeks elapsed before the hoax was discovered. The coolness of thus assuming legislatorial functions, and being, at the same time, the executive power, has rarely been equalled.
There is an old proverb, that 'It is an ill wind that blows nobody good.' The gallant 'captain' was domiciled at a lodging-house in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, where he found all the lodgers complaining of the badness of the times —most of them were makers of nets. He sallied forth to all the general shops, and left his (fictitious) 'captain' card at each, with an order for an unusual number of nets. This 'dodge' gave a week's work to at least twenty poor people; but whether the shopkeepers were 'caught in a net,' or the articles were paid for and removed by the 'captain,' or whether it was a piece of pastime on his part, I did not stay long enough to ascertain.
Nicholas A—— is now in his sixty-second year, a perfect hypochondriac. On his own authority—and it is, no doubt, too true—he has been 'lurking' on every conceivable system, from forging a bill of exchange down to 'maundering on the fly,' for the greater part of his life; and, excepting the 'hundred and thirteen times' he has been in provincial jails, society has endured the scourge of his deceptions for a quarter of a century at least. He now lives with a young prostitute in Portsmouth, and contributes to her wretched earnings an allowance of 5s. a week, paid to him by the attorney of a distant and disgusted relative.
The writer of this account was himself whole years on the "monkry," before he saw a lodging-house for tramps; and the he
saw was well-known to every patterer in Christendom, and whose fame he says is "gone out into all lands," for its wayfaring inmates are very proud of its popularity.
It may be as well," writes the informant in question, "before submitting the following
account, to state that there are other, and more elaborate marks—the hieroglyphics of tramping —than those already given. I will accordingly explain them.
Two hawkers (pals) go together, but separate when they enter a village, one taking each side of the road, and selling different things; and, so as to inform each other as to the character of the people at whose houses they call, they chalk certain marks on their door-posts:
Go on. means 'Go on. I have called here; don't
you call—it's no go.'
Stop-you may call here. means 'Stop—you may call here; they want' (for instance) 'what you sell, though not what I sell;' or else, 'They had no change when I was there, but may have it now;' or, 'If they don't buy, at least they'll treat you civilly.'
I went this way. on a corner-house, or a sign-post, means, 'I went this way;' or 'Go on in this direction.'
Stop-don't go any further in this direction. on a corner-house, or sign-post, means 'Stop—don't go any further in this direction.'
Danger. as before explained, means 'danger.'
Like many other young men, I had lived above my income, and, too proud to crave parental forgiveness, had thrown off the bonds of authority for a life of adventure. I was now homeless upon the world. With a body capable of either exertion or fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified by danger, I endured rather than enjoyed my itinerant position. I sold small articles of Tunbridge ware, perfumery, &c.. &c., and by 'munging' (begging) over them—sometimes in Latin—got a better living than I expected, or probably deserved. I was always of temperate and rather abstemious habits, but ignorant of the haunts of other wanderers, (whom I saw in dozens every day upon every road, and every conceivable pursuit) I took up my nightly quarters at a sort of third-rate public-houses, and supposed that my contemporaries did the same. How long my ignorance might have continued (if left to myself) I can hardly determine; an adventure at a road-side inn, however, removed the veil from my eyes, and I became gradually and speedily 'awake' to 'every move on the board.' It was a lovely evening in July, the air was serene and, the scenery romantic; my own feelings were in unison with both, and enhanced perhaps by the fact that I had beguiled the last two miles of my deliberate walk with a page out of my pocketcompanion, 'Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful.' I was now smoking my pipe and quaffing a pint of real 'Yorkshire stingo' in the 'keeping room' (a term which combines parlour and kitchen in one word) of a real 'Yorkshire village,' Dranfield, near Sheffield. A young person of the other sex was my only and accidental companion; she had been driven into the house by the over-officiousness of a vigilant village constable, who finding that she sold lace without a license, and—infinitely worse—refused to listen to his advances, had warned her to 'make herself scarce' at her 'earliest possible convenience.'
Having elicited what I did for a living, she popped the startling question to me, 'Where do you "hang out" in Sheffield?' I told her that I had never been in Sheffield, and did not 'hang out' my little wares, but used my persuasive art to induce the purchase of them. The lady said, 'Well, you are "green." I mean, where do you dos?' This was no better, it seemed something like Greek,—'delta, omicron, sigma,' (I retain the "patterer's" own words to show the education of the class)—but the etymology was no relief to the perplexity. 'Where do you mean to sleep?' she inquired. I referred to my usual practice of adjourning to an humble public-house. My companion at once threw off all manner of disguise, and said, 'Well, sir, you are a young man that I have taken a liking to, and if you think you should like my company, I will take you to a lodging where there is plenty of travellers, and you will see "all sorts of life.'" I liked the girl's company, and our mutual acquiescence made us companions on the road. We had not got far before we met the aforesaid constable in company with an unmistakeable member of the Rural Police. They made some inquiries of me, which I thought exceeded their commission. I replied to them with a mutilated Ode of Horace, when they both determined that I was a Frenchman, and allowed us to 'go on our way rejoicing.'
The smoky, though well-built, town of Sheffield was now near at hand. The daylight was past,' and the 'shades of the evening were stretching out;' we were therefore enabled to journey through the thoroughfares without impertment remarks, or perhaps any observation, except from a toothless old woman, of John Wesley's school, who was 'sorry to see two such nice young people going about the country,' and wondered if we 'ever thought of eternity!'
After a somewhat tedious ramble, we arrived at Water-lane;—at the 'Bug-trap;' which from time immemorial has been the name of the most renowned lodging-house in that or perhaps any locality. Water-lane is a dark narrow street, crowded with human beings of the most degraded sort—the chosen atmosphere of cholera, and the stronghold of theft and prostitution. In less than half an hour, my fair companion and myself were sipping our tea, and eating Yorkshire cake in this same lodging-house.
'God bless every happy couple!' was echoed from a rude stentorian voice, while a still ruder hand bumped down upon our tea-table a red earthen dish of no small dimensions, into which was poured, from the mouth of a capacious bag, fragments of fish, flesh, and fowl, viands and vegetables of every sort, intermingled with bits of cheese and dollops of Yorkshire pudding. The man to whom this heterogeneous mass belonged, appeared anything but satisfied with his lot. 'Well,' said he, 'I don't know what this 'ere monkry will come to, after a bit. Three bob and a tanner, and that there dish o' scra n (enough to feed two families for a fortnight) 'is
all I got this blessed day since seven o'clock in the morning, and now it's nine at night.' I ventured to say something, but a remark, too base for repetition, 'put the stunners on me,' and I held my peace.
I was here surprised, on conversing with my young female companion, to find that she went to church, said her prayers night and morning, and knew many of the collects, some of which she repeated, besides a pleasing variety of Dr. Watts's hymns. At the death of her mother, her father had given up housekeeping; and, being too fond of a wandering life, had led his only child into habits like his own.
As the night advanced, the party at the 'Bug-trap' more than doubled. High-flyers, shallow-coves, turnpike-sailors, and swells out of luck, made up an assembly of fourscore human beings, more than half of whom were doomed to sleep on a 'make-shift'—in other words, on a platform, raised just ten inches above the floor of the garret, which it nearly equalled in dimensions. Here were to be huddled together, with very little covering, old men and women, young men and children, with no regard to age, sex, or propensities.
The 'mot' of the 'ken' (nickname for 'matron of the establishment') had discovered that I was a 'more bettermost' sort of person, and hinted that, if I would 'come down' with twopence more (threepence was the regular nightly charge), I, 'and the young gal as I was with,' might have a little 'crib' to ourselves in a little room, along with another woman wot was married and had a 'kid,' and whose husband had got a month for 'griddling in the main drag' (singing in the high street), and being 'cheekish' (saucy) to the beadle.
Next morning I bade adieu to the 'Bugtrap,' and I hope for ever.
The same informant further stated that he was some time upon "tramp" before he even knew of the existence of a common lodginghouse: "After I had 'matriculated' at Sheffield," he says, "I continued some time going to public-houses to sleep, until my apparel having got shabby and my acquintance with misfortune more general, I submitted to be the associate of persons whom I never spoke to out of doors, and whose even slight acquaintance I have long renounced. My introduction to a London paddin' ken was in Whitechapel, the place was then called Cat and Wheel-alley (now ). On the spot where St. Jude's church now stands was a double lodging-house, kept by a man named Shirley— side of it was for single men and women, the other married couples; as these 'couples' made frequent exchanges, it is scarcely probable that Mr. Shirley ever 'asked to see their marriage lines.' These changes were, indeed, as common as they were disgusting. I knew brothers (Birmingham nailers) who each brought a young woman out of service from the country. After a while each became dissatisfied
with his partner. The mistress of the house (an old procuress from Portsmouth) proposed that they should change their wives. They did so, to the amusement of other couples sleeping on the same floor, and some of whom followed the example, and more than once during the night.
When Cat and Wheel-alley was pulled down, the crew removed to George-yard; the proprietor died, and his wife sold the concern to a wooden-legged Welshman named Hughes (commonly called 'Taff'). I was there some time. 'Taff' was a notorious receiver of stolen goods. I knew two little boys, who brought home six pairs of new Wellington boots, which this miscreant bought at 1s. per pair; and, when they had no luck, he would take the strap off his wooden-leg, and beat them through the nakedness of their rags. He boarded and lodged about a dozen Chelsea and Greenwich pensioners. These he used to follow and watch closely till they got paid; then (after they had settled with him) he would make them drunk, and rob them of the few shillings they had left.
One of these dens of infamy may be taken as a specimen of the whole class. They have generally a spacious, though often ill-ventilated, kitchen, the dirty dilapidated walls of which are hung with prints, while a shelf or two are generally, though barely, furnished with crockery and kitchen utensils. In some places knives and forks are not provided, unless a penny is left with the 'deputy,' or manager, till they are returned. A brush of any kind is a stranger, and a looking-glass would be a miracle. The average number of nightly lodgers is in winter 70, and in summer (when many visit the provinces) from 40 to 45. The general charge is, if two sleep together, 3d. per night, or 4d. for a single bed. In either case, it is by no means unusual to find 18 or 20 in one small room, the heat and horrid smell from which are insufferable; and, where there are young children, the staircases are the lodgment of every kind of filth and abomination. In some houses there are rooms for families, where, on a rickety machine, which they dignify by the name of a bedstead, may be found the man, his wife, and a son or daughter, perhaps 18 years of age; while the younger children, aged from 7 to 14, sleep on the floor. If they have linen, they take it off to escape vermin, and rise naked, one by one, or sometimes brother and sister together. This is no ideal picture; the subject is too capable of being authenticated to need that meaningless or dishonest assistance called 'allowable exaggeration.' The amiable and deservedly popular minister of a district church, built among lodging-houses, has stated that he has found 29 human beings in one apartment; and that having with difficulty knelt down between two beds to pray with a dying woman, his legs became so jammed that he could hardly get up again.
Out of some fourscore such habitations," continues my informant, "I have only found
two which had any sort of garden; and, I am happy to add, that in neither of these two was there a single case of cholera. In the others, however, the pestilence raged with terrible fury.
Of all the houses of this sort, the best I know is the one (previously referred to) in Orchard-street, Westminister, and another in Seven Dials, kept by a Mr. Mann (formerly a wealthy butcher). Cleanliness is inscribed on every wall of the house; utensils of every kind are in abundance, with a plentiful supply of water and gas. The beds do not exceed five in a room, and they are changed every week. There is not one disorderly lodger; and although the master has sustained heavy losses, ill health, and much domestic affliction, himself and his house may be regarded as patterns of what is wanted for the London poor.
As there is a sad similarity between these abodes, so there is a sort of caste belonging in general to the inmates. Of them it may be averred that whatever their pursuits, they are more or less alike in their views of men and manners. They hate the aristocracy. Whenever there is a rumour or an announcement of an addition to the Royal Family, and the news reaches the padding-ken, the kitchen, for half-an-hour, becomes the scene of uproar—'another expense coming on the b—y country!' The 'patterers' are very fond of the Earl of Carlisle, whom, in their attachment, they still call Lord Morpeth; they have read many of his lordship's speeches at soirées, &c., and they think he wishes well to a poor man. Sir James Graham had better not show face among them; they have an idea (whence derived we know not) that this nobleman invented fourpenny-pieces, and now, they say, the swells give a 'joey' where they used to give a 'tanner.' The hero of Waterloo is not much amiss 'if he lets politics alone.' The name of a bishop is but another name for a Beelzebub; but they are very fond of the inferior clergy. Lay-agents and tract-distributors they cannot bear; they think they are spies come to see how much 'scran' (food) they have got, and then go and 'pyson' the minds of the public against poor people.
I was once (says our informant) in a house of this kind, in George-street, St. Giles's,—the missionary who visited them on that occasion (Sunday afternoon) had the misfortune to be suspected as the author of some recent exposure in the newspapers.—They accused him, and he rebutted the accusation; they replied, and he rejoined; at last one of the men said, 'What do you want poking your nose in here for?' 'The City Mission,' was the answer, 'had authorised ——.' 'Authorised be d—d! are you ordained?' 'No, not yet, friend.' The women then tore the poor gentleman's nether garments in a way I must not describe. The men carried him into the yard, filled his mouth with flour of mustard and then put him in a water-butt.
It is, I am satisfied, quite a mistake to
suppose that there is much real infidelity among these outcast beings. They almost all believe in a hereafter; most of them think that the wicked will be punished for a few years, and then the whole universe of people be embraced in the arms of one Great Forgiving Father. Some of them think that the wicked will not rise at all; the punishment of 'losing Heaven' being as they say 'Hell enough for anybody.' Points of doctrine they seldom meddle with.
There are comparatively few Dissenters to be found in padding-kens, though many whose parents were Dissenters. My own opinion (writes my informant) is, that dissent seldom lasts long in one family. In eight years' experience I have found two hundred apparently pious men and women, and at least two thousand who call themselves Protestants, but never go to any church or chapel.
The politics of these classes are, perhaps, for the most part, 'liberal Tory.' In most lodging-houses they take one or two papers: the
Weekly Dispatch, and Bell's Weekly Messenger, are the two usually taken. I know of no exception to this rule. The beggars hate a Whig Ministry, and I know that many a tear was shed in the hovels and cellars of London when Sir Robert Peel died. I know a publican, in Westminster, whose daily receipts are enormous, and whose only customers are soldiers, thieves, and prostitutes, who closed his house the day of the funeral, and put himself, his family, and even his beer-machines and gas-pipes, into mourning for the departed statesman.
The pattering fraternity, that I write of, are generally much given to intemperance. Their amusements are the theatre, the free-and-easy, the skittle-ground, and sometimes cards and dominoes. They read some light works, and some of them subscribe to libraries, and a few, very few, attend lectures. Eliza Cook is a favourite writer with them, and Capt. Marryatt, the 'top-sawyer,' as a novelist. Ainsworth is the idol of another class, when they can read. Mr. Dickens was a favourite, but he has gone down sadly in the scale since his Household Words
'came it so strong' against the begging letter department. These poor creatures seldom rise in society. They make no effort to extricate themselves, while by others they are unpitied because unknown. To this rule, however, there are some happy and honourable exceptions.
Taken as a body, patterers, lurkers, &c. are by no means quick-sighted as to the sanctions of moral obligation. They would join the hue and cry against the persecutors of Jane Wilbred, but a promiscuous robbery, even accompanied by murder—if it was 'got up clever' and 'done clean,' so long as the parties escaped detection—might call forth a remark that 'there was no great harm done,' and perhaps some would applaud the perpetrators.
Before quitting this part of my subject (viz. the character, habits, and opinions of classes of patterers), I will give an account of the pre-
tended missionary proceedings of a man, wellknown to the vagrant fraternity as " George." I received the following narrative from the gentleman whose statements I have given previously. The scheme was concocted in a low lodging-house:
After a career of incessant 'lurking' and deceit, Chelsea George left England, and remained abroad," writes my informant, "four or five years. Exposure to the sun, and allowing his beard to grow a prodigious length, gave him the appearance of a foreigner. He had picked up enough French and Italian, with a little Dutch and German, and a smattering of Spanish, to enable him to 'hail for any part of the globe,' and from the designed inarticulateness with which he spoke (sometimes four languages in one sentence) added to his sun-burnt and grotesque appearance, it was difficult to pall
him upon any racket (detect him in any pretence), so that the most incredulous,—though often previously imposed upon—gave credence to his story, relief to his supposed necessities, and sometimes letters of introduction to their friends and neighbours.
Some time after his return to England, and while pursuing the course of a 'high-flyer' (genteel beggar), he met with an interruption to his pursuits which induced him to alter his plan without altering his behaviour. The newspapers of the district, where he was then located, had raised before the eye and mind of the public, what the 'patterers' of his class proverbially call a 'stink,'—that is, had opened the eyes of the unwary to the movements of 'Chelsea George;' and although he ceased to renew his appeals from the moment he heard of the notice of him, his appearance was so accurately described that he was captured and committed to Winchester jail as a rogue and vagabond. The term of his imprisonment has escaped my recollection. As there was no definite charge against him, probably he was treated as an ordinary vagrant and suffered a calendar month in durance. The silent system was not then in vogue, consequently there existed no barrier to mutual intercourse between prisoners, with all its train of conscience-hardening tendencies. I do not say this to intimate unqualified approval of the solitary system, I merely state a fact which has an influence on my subject.
George had by this time scraped acquaintance with two fellow-prisoners—Jew Jem and Russia Bob. The former in 'quod' for 'pattering' as a 'converted Jew,' the latter for obtaining money under equally false, though less theological, pretences.
Liberated about one time, this trio laid their heads together,—and the result was a plan to evangelize, or rather victimize, the inhabitants of the collier villages in Staffordshire and the adjoining counties. To accomplish this purpose, some novel and imposing representation must be made, both to lull suspicion and give the air of piety to the plan, and disinterestedness to the agents by whom it was carried out.
George and his two fellow-labourers were 'square-rigged'—that is, well dressed. Something, however, must be done to colour up the scene, and make the appeal for money touching, unsuspected, and successful. Just before the time to which I allude, a missionary from Sierra Leone had visited the larger towns of the district in question, while the inhabitants of the surrounding hamlets had been left in ignorance of the 'progress of missions in Africa and the East.' George and his comrades thought it would be no great harm at once to enlighten and fleece this scattered and anxious population. The plan was laid in a town of some size and facility. They 'raised the wind' to an extent adequate to some alteration of their appearances, and got bills printed to set forth the merits of the cause. The principal actor was Jew Jim, a converted Israelite, with 'reverend' before his name, and half the letters of the alphabet behind it. He had been in all the islands of the South Sea, on the coast of Africa, all over Hindostan, and half over the universe; and after assuring the villagers of Torryburn that he had carried the Gospel to various dark and uninhabited parts of the earth, he introduced Russia Bob (an Irishman who had, however, been in Russia) as his worthy and self-denying colleague, and Chelsea George as the first-fruits of their ministry— as one who had left houses and land, wife and children, and taken a long and hazardous voyage to show Christians in England that their sable brethren, children of one common Parent, were beginning to cast their idols to the moles and to the bats. Earnest was the gaze and breathless the expectation with which the poor deluded colliers of Torry-burn listened to this harangue; and as argument always gains by illustration, the orator pulled out a tremendous black doll, bought for a 'flag' (fourpence) of a retired ragmerchant, and dressed up in Oriental style. This, Jew Jim assured the audience, was an idol brought from Murat in Hindostan. He presented it to Chelsea George for his worship and embraces. The convert indignantly repelled the insinuation, pushed the idol from him, spat in its face, and cut as many capers as a dancingbear. The trio at this stage of the performances began 'puckering' (talking privately) to each other in murdered French, dashed with a little Irish; after which, the missionaries said that their convert (who had only a few words of English) would now profess his faith. All was attention as Chelsea George came forward. He stroked his beard, put his hand in his breast to keep down his dickey, and turning his eyes upwards, said: 'I believe in Desus Tist—dlory to 'is 'oly Name!'
This elicited some loud 'amens' from an assemblage of nearly 1,000 persons, and catching the favourable opportunity, a 'school of pals,' appointed for the purpose, went round and made the collection. Out of the abundance of their credulity and piety the populace contributed sixteen pounds! The whole scene was enacted out of doors, and presented to a
stranger very pleasing impressions. I was present on the occasion, but was not then aware of the dodge. One verse of a hymn, and the blessing pronoanced, was the signal for separation. A little shaking of hands concluded the exhibition, and 'every man went into his own house.'
The missionary party and their 'pals' took the train to Manchester, and as none of them were teetotallers, the proceeds of their imposition did not last long. They were just putting on their considering caps, for the contrivance of another dodge, when a gentleman in blue clothes came into the tap-room, and informed Jew Jem that he was 'wanted.' It appears that 'Jem' had come out of prison a day or two before his comrades, and being 'hard up,' had ill-used a lady, taken her purse, and appropriated its contents. Inquiries, at first useless, had now proved successful—the 'missionary' stood his trial, and got an 'appointment' on Norfolk Island. Russia Bob took the cholera and died, and 'George the convert' was once more left alone to try his hand at something else.