London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


The Lecture.


Here is an opportunity which has seldom if ever been offered to the public before, whereby any person of common intellect may learn to write short-hand in a few hours, without any aid from a teacher. The system is entirely my own. It contains no vowels, no arbitrary characters, no double consonants, and no terminations; it may therefore properly be called 'stenography,' an expression which conveys its own meaning; it is derived from two Greek words; stenos, short, and grapho, I write, or graphi, the verb to write, and embraces all that is necessary in fifteen characters. I know that a prejudice obtains to a great extent against anything and everything said or done in the street, but I have nothing to do with either the majority or minority of street pretenders. I am an educated man, and not a mere pretender, and if the justice or genuineness of a man's pretensions would always lead him to success I had not been here to-day. But against the tide of human disappointment, the worthy and the undeserving are so equally compelled to struggle, and so equally liable to be overturned by competition, that till you can prove that wealth is the guage of character, it may be difficult to determine the ability or morality of a man from his position. I was lately reading an account of the closing life of that leviathan in literature, Dr. Johnson, and an anecdote occurred, which I relate, conceiving that it applies to one of the points at issue—I mean the ridicule with which my little publication has sometimes been treated by passers-by, who have found it easier to speculate on the texture of my coat, than on the character of my language. The Doctor had a niece who had embraced the peculiarities of Quakerism; after he had scolded her some time, and in rather unmeasured terms, her mother interfered and said, 'Doctor, don't scold the girl—you'll meet her in heaven, I hope.'— 'I hope not,' said the Doctor, 'for I hate to meet fools anywhere.' I apply the same observation to persons who bandy about the expressions 'gift of the gab,' 'catch-penny,' &c., &c., which in my case it is somewhat easier to circulate than to support. At any rate they ought to be addressed to me and not to the atmosphere. The man who meets a foe to the face, gives him an equal chance of defence, and the sword openly suspended from the belt is a less dangerous, because a less cowardly weapon than the one which, like that of Harmodius, is concealed under the wreaths of a myrtle.

If you imagine that professional disappointment is confined to people out of doors, you are very much mistaken. Look into some of the middle-class streets around where we are standing: you will find here and there, painted or engraved on a door, the words 'Mr. So-and-so, surgeon.' The man I am pre-supposing shall be qualified, — qualified in the technical sense of the expression, a Member of the College of Surgeons, a Licentiate of Apothecaries' Hall, and a Graduate of some University. He may possess the talent of Galen or Hippocrates; or, to come to more recent date, of Sir Astley Cooper himself, but he never becomes popular, and dies unrewarded because unknown: before he dies, he may crawl out of his concealed starvation into such a thoroughfare as this, and see Professor Morrison, or Professor Holloway, or the Proprietor of Parr's Life Pills, or some other quack, ride by in their carriage; wealth being brought them by the same waves that have wafted misfortune to himself; though that wealth has been procured by one undeviating system of Hypocrisy and Humbug, of Jesuitism and Pantomime, such as affords no parallel since the disgusting period of Oliverian ascendancy. Believe me, my friends, a man may form his plans for success with profound sagacity, and guard with caution against every approach to extravagance, but neither the boldness of enterprise nor the dexterity of stratagem will always secure the distinction they deserve. Else that policeman would have been an inspector!

I have sometimes been told, that if I possessed the facilities I professedly exhibit, I might turn them to greater personal advantage: in coarse, unfettered, Saxon English, 'That's a LIE;' for on the authority of a distinguished writer, there are 2,000 educated men in London and its suburbs, who rise every morning totally ignorant where to find a breakfast. Now I am not quite so bad as that, so that it appears I am an exception to the rule, and not the rule open to exception. However, it is beyond all controversy, that the best way to keep the fleas from biting you in bed is to 'get out of bed;' and by a parity of reasoning, the best way for you to sympathize with me for being on the street is to take me off, as an evidence of your sympathy. I remember that, some twenty years ago, a poor man of foreign name, but a native of this metropolis, made his appearance in Edinburgh, and advertised that he would lecture on mnemonics, or the art of memory. As he was poor, he had recourse to an humble lecture-room, situated up a dirty court. Its eligibility may be determined by the fact that sweeps' concerts were held in it, at 1/2d. per head, and the handbill mostly ended with the memorable words: 'N.B.—No gentleman admitted without shoes and stockings.' At the close of his first lecture (the admission to which was 2d.), he was addressed by a scientific man, who gave him 5s.—(it will relieve the monotony of the present address if some of you follow his example)—and advised him to print and issue some cards about his design, which he did. I saw one of them—the ink on it scarcely dry— as he had got it back at the house of a physician, and on it was inscribed: 'Old birds are not caught with chaff. From Dr. M——, an old bird.' The suspicious doctor, however, was advised to hear the poor man's twopenny lecture, and was able, at the end of it, to display a great feat of memory himself. What was the result? The poor man no longer lectured for 2d. But it is tedious to follow him through a series of years. He was gradually patronised throughout the kingdom, and a few months ago he was lecturing in the Hanover-square Rooms, with the Earl of Harrowby in the chair. Was he not as clever a man when he lectured in the sweeps' concert-room? Yes; but he had not been brought under the shadow of a great name. Sometimes that 'great name' comes too late. You are familiar with the case of Chatterton. He had existed, rather than lived, three days on a penny loaf; then he committed suicide, and was charitably buried by strangers. Fifty years or more had elapsed, when people found out how clever he had been, and collected money for the erection of that monument which now stands to his memory by St. Mary Redcliff Church, in Bristol. Now, if you have any idea of doing that for me, please to collect some of it while I am alive!

On occasions when the audience is not very liberal, the lecturer treats them to the following hint:

When in my golden days—or at the least they were silver ones compared to these—I was in the habit of lecturing on scientific subjects, I always gave the introductory lecture free. I suppose this is an 'introductory lecture,' for it yields very little money at present. I have often thought, that if everybody a little richer than myself was half as conscientious, I should either make a rapid fortune, or have nobody to listen to me at all; for I never sanction long with my company anything I don't believe. Now, if what I say is untrue or grossly improbable, it does not deserve the sanction of an audience; if otherwise, it must be meritorious, and deserve more efficient sanction. As to any insults I receive, Christianity has taught me to forgive, and philosophy to despise them.

These very curious, and perhaps unique, specimens of street elocution are of course interrupted by the occasional sale of a card, and perhaps some conversation with the purchaser. The stenographic card-seller states that he has sometimes been advised to use more commonplace language. His reply is germane to the matter. He says that a street audience, like some other audiences, is best pleased with what they least understand, and that the way to appear sublime is to be incomprehensible. He can occasionally be a little sarcastic. A gentleman informed me that he passed him at Bagnigge-wells on occasion, when he was interrupted by a "gent." fearfully disfigured by the small-pox, who exclaimed: "It's a complete humbug." "No, sir," retorted Mr. Shorthand, "but if any of the ladies present were to call you handsome, would be a humbug." On another occasion a man (half-drunk) had been annoying him some time, and getting tired of the joke, said: "Well—I see you are a learned man, you must pity my ignorance." "No," was the reply, "but I pity your father." "Pity my father!—why?" was the response. "Because Solomon says, 'He that begetteth a fool shall have sorrow of him.'" This little , I was told, brought forth loud acclamations from the crowd, and a crown-piece from a lady who had been some minutes a listener. These statements are among the most curious revelations of the history of the streets.

The short-hand card-seller, as has partly appeared in a report I gave of a meeting of street-folk, makes no secret of having been fined for obstructing a thoroughfare,—having been bound down to keep the peace, and several times imprisoned as a defaulter. He tells me that he once "got a month" in of the metropolitan jails. It was the custom of the chaplain of the prison in which he was confined, to question the prisoners every Wednesday, from box to box (as they were arranged before him) on some portion of Holy Writ, and they were expected, if able, to answer. On occasion, the subject being the Excellence of Prayer, the chaplain, remarked that, "even among the heathen, every author, without exception, had commended prayer to a real or supposed Deity." The card-seller, I am told, cried out "Question!" "Who is that?" said the chaplain. The turnkey pointed out the questioner. "Yes," said the card-seller, "you know what Seneca says:—'Quid opus votis? Fac teipsum felicem, vel bonum.' 'What need of prayer? Make thou thyself happy and virtuous.' Does recommend prayer?" The prisoners laughed, and to prevent a mutiny, the classical querist was locked up, and the chaplain closed the proceedings. It is but justice, however, to the worthy minister to state, his querist came out of durance vile better clothed than he went in.

The stenographic trade, of which the informant in question is the sole pursuer, was commenced years ago. At that time cards were sold in a day; but the average is now , and about on a Saturday night. The card-seller tells me that he is more frequently than ever interrupted by the police, and his health being delicate, wet days are "nuisances" to him. He makes an annual visit to the country, he tells me, to see his children, who have been provided for by some kind friends. About years ago he was returning to London and passed through Oxford. He was "hard up," he says, having left his coat for his previous night's lodging. He attended prayers (without a coat) at St. Mary's church, and when he came out, seated himself on the pavement beside the church, and wrote with chalk inside an oval border.

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 Title Page
 The Street-Folk: Of Wandering Tribes in General
 Of the Wandering Tribes of this Country
 Of the London Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Varieties of Street-Folk in General, and Costermongers in Particular
Of Costermongering Mechanics
Ancient Calling of Costermongers
Of the Obsolete Cries of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers 'Economically' Considered
The London Street Markets on a Saturday Night
The Sunday Morning Markets
Habits and amusements of Costermongers
Gambling of Costermongers
'Vic Gallery'
The Politics of Costermongers.-- Policemen
Marriage and Concubinage of Costermongers
Religion of Costermongers
Of the Uneducated State of Costermongers
Language of Costermongers
Of the Nicknames of Costermongers
Of the Education of Costermongers' Children
The Literature of Costermongers
Of the Honesty of Costermongers
Of the Conveyances of the Costermongers and Other Street-Sellers
Of the 'Smithfield Races'
Of the Donkeys of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers' Capital
Of the 'Slang' Weights and Measures
Of Half Profits
Of the Boys of the Costermongers, and their Bunts
Of the Juvenile Trading of the Costermongers
Of the Education of the 'Coster-Lads'
The Life of a Coster-Lad
Of the 'Penny Gaff'
Of the Coster-Girls
The Life of a Coster Girl
Of Costermongers and Thieves
Of the More Provident Costermongers
Of the Homes of the Costermongers
Of the Dress of the Costermongers
Once Try You'll Come Again
Of the Diet and Drink of Costermongers
Of the Cries, Rounds, and Days of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers on their Country Rounds
Of the Earnings of Costermongers
Of the Capital and Income of the Costermongers
Of the Providence and Improvidence of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers in Bad Weather and During the Cholera
Of the Costermongers' Raffles
Of the Markets and Trade Rights of the Costerongers, and of the Laws Affecting Them
Of the Removals of Costermongers From the Streets
Of the Tricks of Costermongers
Of the Street-Sellers of Fish
Of Sprat-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Fruit and Vegetables
Of the Stationary Street-Sellers of Fish, Fruit, and Vegetables
Of the Street-Irish
Of the Street-Sellers of Game, Poultry (Live and Dead), Rabbits, Butter, Cheese, and Eggs
Of the Sellers of Trees, Shrubs, Flowers (Cut and In Pots), Roots, Seeds, and Branches
Street-Sellers of Green Stuff
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Pea-Soup and Hot Eels
Of the Experience of a Hot-Eel and Pea-Soup Man
Of the Street-Sellers of Pickled Whelks
Of the Customers, Etc., of Pickled Whelk-Sellers
Of the Street Sellers, and of the Preparation of Fried Fish
Of the Experience of a Fried Fish- Seller, and of the Class of Customers
Of the Preparation and Quantity of Sheep's Trotters, and of the Street-Sellers
Statements of Sheep's Trotter Women
Of the Street Trade in Baked Potatoes
Of 'Trotting,' or 'Hawking' Butchers
Of the Experience of a Hawking Butcher
Of the Street-Sellers of Ham-Sandwiches
Of the Experience of a Ham Sandwich- Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Bread
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Green Peas
Of the Experience of a Hot Green Pea Seller
Of Cats' and Dogs'--Meat Dealers
Of the Street-Sale of Drinkables
Of Coffee-Stall Keepers
Of the Street Sale of Ginger-Beer, Sherbet, Lemonade, &c
Of the Experience and Customers of A Ginger-Beer Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Elder Wine
Of the Street Sale of Peppermint-Water
Of Milk Selling in St. James's Park
Of the Street Sale of Milk
Of the Street-Sale of Curds and Whey
Of the Street-Sellers of Rice-Milk
Of Water-Carriers
Of the Street-Sellers of Pastry and Confectionary
Of Street Piemen
Of the Street-Sellers of Boiled Puddings
Of the Street-Sellers of Plum 'Duff' or Dough
Of the Street-Sellers of Cakes, Tarts, &c.
Of Other Cake-Sellers in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Gingerbread- Nuts, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot-Cross Buns, and of Chelsea Buns
Of Muffin and Crumpet-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street Sale of Sweet-Stuff
Of the Customers of the Sweet-Stuff Street-Sellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Cough Drops and of Medical Confectionary
'Lohoch de farfara,' the Lohoch of Coltsfoot
Of the Street-Sellers of Ices and of Ice Creams
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Capital, or Stock in Trade, of the Street- Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Income, or 'Takings,' of Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, &c.
Of the Former and Present Street- Patterers
Of the Habits, Opinions, Morals, and Religion of Patterers Generally
Of the Publishers and authors of Street-Literature
Of Long Song-Sellers
Of Running Patterers
Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Recent Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Chaunters
Of the Experience of a Chaunter
Of the Death and Fire Hunters
Of the Sellers of Second Editions
Of the Standing Patterers
Experience of a Standing Patterer
Of Political Litanies, Dialogues, etc.
Of 'Cocks,' Etc.
Of 'Strawing'
Of the Sham indecent Street-Trade
Of Religious Tract Sellers
Of a Benefit Society of Patterers
Of the Abodes, Tricks, Marriage, Character, and Characteristics of the Different Grades of Patterers
Of the Low Lodging-Houses of London
Of the Filth, Dishonesty, and Immorality of Low Lodging-Houses
Of the Children in Low Lodging- Houses
Of the Low Lodging-Houses Throughout the Country
Of the Street Stationers, and the Street Card-Sellers
Of the Seller of the Penny Short-Hand Cards
The Lecture
'I perish with hunger'
Of the Sellers of Race Cards and Lists
Of the Street-Sellers of Gelatine, of Engraved, and of Playing Cards, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Experience of a Street- Stationer
Of a 'Reduced' Gentlewoman, and a 'Reduced' Tradesman, as Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Street-Sale of Memorandum- Books and Almanacks
Of the Street-Sale of Pocket-Books and Diaries
Of the Street-Sellers of Songs
Of the Street 'Pinners-up,' or Wall Song-Sellers
Of Ancient and Modern Street Ballad Minstrelsy
Of Street 'Ballads on a Subject'
Of the Street Poets and Authors
Of the Experience of a Street Author, or Poet
Of the Street-Sellers of Broad-Sheets
Of the 'Gallows' Literature of the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Conundrums
Of the Street-Sellers of Comic Exhibitions, Magical Delusions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Play-Bills
Of the Street-Sellers of Periodicals, Pamphlets, Tracts, Books, Etc.
Of the Street-Sale of Back Numbers
Of the Sale of Waste Newspapers at Billingsgate
Of the Sale of Periodicals on the Steam- Boats and Steam-Boat Piers
Of the Sale of Newspapers, Books, &c., at the Railway Stations
Of the Street Booksellers
Of the Character of Books of the Street-Sale
Of the Experience of a Street Book- Seller
Of Street Book-Auctioneers
Of the Street-Sale of Song-Books, and of Children's Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Account-Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Guide-Books, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Fine Arts
Of Street Art
Of the Street-Sellers of Engravings, Etc., in Umbrellas, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pictures in Frames
Of the Street-Sellers of Manuscript and Other Music
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Capital or Value of the Stock-in-Trade of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature and the Fine Arts
Income, or Average Annual 'Takings,' of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
An Epitome of the Pattering Class
Of the 'Screevers,' or Writers of Begging-Letters and Petitions
'God Save the Queen'
Of the Probable Means of Reformation
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles in Metal
Of the Cheap Johns, or Street Han- Sellers
'The Original Cheap John'
The Crippled Street-Seller of Nut- Meg-Graters
Of the Swag-Shops of the Metropolis
Shopkeepers and Dealers Supplied with the Following Articles --
Of the Life of a Cheap-John
The Street-Sellers of Cutlery
Of the Blind Street-Sellers of Tailors' Needles, etc.
The Public-House Hawkers of Metal Spoons, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Jewellery
Of the Pedlar-Jewellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Card-Counters, Medals, Etc.
The Construction is of Iron and of Glass, 1848 Feet Long. about Half is 456 Wide. the Remainder 408 Feet Wide, and 66 Feet High; Site, Upwards of 20 acres. Josh. Paxton, archt.
Of the Street-Sellers of Rings and Sovereigns For Wagers
Of the Street-Sellers of Children's Gilt Watches
Of the Street-Sellers of Tinware
Of the Life of a Tin-Ware Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Dog-Collars
Of the Life of a Street-Seller of Dog- Collars
Of the Street-Sellers of Tools
Of the Beggar Street-Sellers
Pike's Patent Cotton. 120 Yards
'The Lace-Makers' Appeal'
'ALLEN, Printer, Long-row, Nottingham'
Of the 'House of Lords,' a Street-Seller's Defunct Club
Of the Street-Sellers of Crockery and Glass-Wares
Of the 'Swag,' Crockery, and Glass Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Spar and China Ornaments, and of Stone Fruit
Of the Street-Sellers of Textile Fabrics
Of the Haberdashery Swag-Shops
Of Hawkers, Pedlars, and Petty Chapmen
Of the Packmen, or Hawkers of Soft Wares
Statement of a Packman
Of the Tally Packman
Of the 'Duffers' or Hawkers of Pretended Smuggled Goods
Of the Street-Sellers of 'Small-Ware,' or Tape, Cotton, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Lace
Of the Street-Sellers of Japanned Table- Covers
Of the Street-Sellers of Braces, Belts, Hose, Trowser-Straps, and Waistcoats
Of the Street-Sellers of Boot and Stay- Laces, &c.
Of a Blind Female Seller of 'Small-Wares'
The Blind Street-Seller of Boot-Laces
Of the Life of a Blind Boot-Lace Seller
Of the Low Lodging-Houses
Statement of a Young Pickpocket
Statement of a Prostitute
Statement of a Beggar
Meeting of Thieves
Of the Country Lodging-Houses
Of the Street-Sellers of Chemical Articles of Manufacture
Of the Street-Sellers of Blacking, Black Lead, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of French Polish
Of the Street-Sellers of Grease-Removing Compositions
Of the Street-Sellers of Corn-Salve
Of the Street-Sellers of Glass and China Cement, and of Razor Paste
Of the Street-Seller of Crackers and Detonating Balls
Of the Street-Sellers of Lucifer-Matches
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigar Lights, or Fuzees
Of the Street-Sellers of Gutta-Percha Heads
Of the Street-Sellers of Fly-Papers and Beetle-Wafers
Of the Street-Sellers of Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Walking-Sticks
Of the Street-Sellers of Whips, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pipes, and of Snuff and Tobacco Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigars
Of the Street-Sellers of Sponge
Of the Street-Sellers of Wash-Leathers
Of the Street-Sellers of Spectacles and Eye-Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Dolls
Of the 'Swag-Barrowmen,' and 'Lot- Sellers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Roulette Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Poison For Rats
Of the Street-Sellers of Rhubarb and Spice
Of the Hawking of Tea
Of the Women Street-Sellers
Of the Children Street-Sellers of London