London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Experience of a Street- Stationer.


A middle-aged man gave me the following


account. He had pursued the trade for upwards of years. He was a stout, cosey-looking man, wearing a loose great coat. The back of his tray rested against his double-breasted waistcoat; the pattern of which had become rather indistinct, but which was buttoned tightly up to his chin, as if to atone for the looseness of his coat. The corner of his mouth, toward his left ear, was slightly drawn down, for he seemed in "crying" to pitch his voice (so that it could be heard a street off) out of the corner of his only partially-opened mouth.

Middlin', sir," he said, "times is middlin' with me; they might be better, but then they might be worse. I can manage to live. The times is changed since I was first in the business. There wasn't no 'velops (envelopes) then, and no note-paper—least I had none; but I made as good or a better living than I do now; a better indeed. When the penny-postage came in—I don't mind the year, but I hadn't been long in the trade [it was in 1840]—I cried some of the postage 'velops. They was big, figured things at first, with elephants and such like on them, and I called them at prime cost, if anything was bought with 'em. The very first time, a p'liceman says, 'You mustn't sell them covers. What authority have you to do it?' 'Why, the authority to earn a dinner,' says I; but it was no go. Another peeler came up and said I wasn't to cry them again, or he'd have me up; and so that spec. came to nothing. I sell to ladies and gentlemen, and to servant-maids, and mechanics, and their wives; and indeed all sorts of people. Some fine ladies, that call me to the door on the sly, do behave very shabby. Why, there was one who wanted five half-quire of note for 4d., and I told her I couldn't afford it, and so she said 'that she knew the world, and never gave nobody the price they first asked.' 'If that's it, ma'am,' says I, 'people that knows your plan can 'commodate you.' That knowing card of a lady, sir, as she reckons herself, had as much velvet to her body—such a gown!— as would pay my tailor's bills for twenty year. But I don't employ a fashionable tailor, and can patch a bit myself, as I was two years with a saddler, and was set to work to make girths and horse-clothes. My master died, and all went wrong, and I had to turn out, without nobody to help me,—for I had no parents living; but I was a strong young fellow of sixteen. I first tried to sell a few pairs of girths, and a roller or two, to livery-stable keepers, and horsedealers, and job-masters. But I was next to starving. They wouldn't look at anything but what was good, and the stuff was too high, and the profit too little—for I couldn't get regular prices, in course—and so I dropped it. There's no men in the world so particular about good things as them as is about vallyable horses. I've often thought if rich people cared half as much about poor men's togs, that was working or them for next to nothing, as they cared for their horse-clothes, it would be a better world. I was dead beat at last; but I went down to Epsom and sold a few race-cards. I'd borrowed 1s. of a groom to start with, and he wouldn't take it back when I offered it; and that wax is bought at general warehouses, known as "swag shops" (of which I may speak hereafter), at 8d. the pound, there being 48 round sticks in, was my beginning in the paper trade. I felt queer at first, and queerer when I wasn't among horses, as at the races like—but one get's reconciled to anything, 'cept, to a man like me, a low lodging-house. A stable's a palace to it. I got into stationery at last, and it's respectable.

I've heard people say how well they could read and write, and it was no good to them. It has been, and is still, a few pence to me; though I can only read and write middlin'. I write notes and letters for some as buys paper of me. Never anything in the beggin' way— never. It wouldn't do to have my name mixed up that way. I've often got extra pennies for directing and doing up valentines in nice 'velops. Why, I spoke to a servant girl the other day; she was at the door, and says I, 'Any nice paper to-day, to answer your young man's last loveletter, or to write home and ask your mother's consent to your being wed next Monday week?' That's the way to get them to listen, sir. Well, I finds that she can't write, and so I offers to do it for a pint of beer, and she to pay for paper of course. And then there was so many orders what to say. Her love to no end of aunts, and all sorts of messages and inquiries about all sorts of things; and when I'd heard enough to fill a long 'letter' sheet, she calls me back and says, 'I'm afraid I've forgot uncle Thomas.' I makes it all short enough in the letter, sir. 'My kind love to all inquiring friends,' takes in all uncle Thomases. I writes them when I gets a bite of dinner. Sometimes I posts them, if I'm paid beforehand; at other times I leaves them next time I pass the door. There's no mystery made about it. If a missus says, 'What's that?' I've heard a girl answer, 'It's a letter I've got written home, ma'am. I haven't time myself,' or 'I'm no scholar, ma'am.' But that's only where I'm known. I don't write one a week the year round—perhaps forty in a year. I charge 1d. or 2d., or if it's a very poor body, and no gammon about it, nothing. Well, then, I think I never wrote a love-letter. Women does that one for another, I think, when the young housemaid can't write as well as she can talk. I jokes some as I knows, and says I writes all sorts of letters but love-letters, and for them, you see, says I, there's wanted the best gilt edge, and a fancy 'velop, and a Dictionary. I take more for note and 'velops than anything else, but far the most for note. Some has a sheet folded and fitted into a 'velop when they buys, as they can't fit it so well theirselves, they say. Perhaps I make 2s. a day, take it all round. Some days I may make as much as 3s. 6d.; at others, 'specially wet days, not 1s. But I call mine a tidy round, and better than an average. I've only myself, and pays 1s. 9d. a week for a tidy room, with a few of my own sticks in it. I buy sometimes in Budge-row, and sometimes in Drury-lane. Very seldom at a swag-shop (Birmingham house), for I don't like them.

Well, now, I've heard, sir, that poor men like me ain't to be allowed to sell anything in the Park at the Great Exhibition. How's that, sir?" I told him I could give no information on the subject.

It's likely enough to be true," he resumed; "the nobs 'll want to keep it all to theirselves. I read Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper on a Sunday, and what murders and robberies there is now! What will there be when the Great Exhibition opens! for rogues is worst in a crowd, and they say they'll be plenty come to London from all arts and parts? Never mind; if I can see anything better to do in a fair way at the Exhibition, I'll cut the streets.

Perhaps my earnings is half from working people and half from private houses; that's about it. But working people's easiest satisfied.

I have given this man's statement more fully than I should have thought necessary, that I might include his account of letter-writing. The letter-writer was at period a regular street-labourer in London, as he is now in some continental cities—Naples, for instance. The vocation in London seems in some respects to have fallen into the hands of the street-stationer, but the majority of letters written for the uneducated—and their letter-receiving or answering is seldom arduous—is done, I believe, by those who are rather vaguely but emphatically described as—"friends."

I am told that there are street-stationers in London, a small majority of whom may be itinerant, but chiefly on regular rounds. On a Sunday morning, in such places as the Brill, are or men, but not regularly, who sell stationery only on Sunday mornings. Taking the number, however, at , I am assured that their average profits may be taken at weekly, each stationer. On note-paper of the best sort the profit is sometimes only per cent.; but, take the trade altogether, we may calculate it at cent. per cent. (on some things it is higher); and we find yearly expended in streetstationery.

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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