London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of a "Reduced" Gentlewoman, and a "re- Duced" Tradesman, as Street-Sellers of Stationery.


I now give statements, which show the correctness of my conclusion, that among the streetstationers were persons of education who had known prosperity, and that, as a body, those engaged in this traffic were a better class than the mass of the "paper-workers." They are also here cited as illustrations of the causes which lead, or rather force, many to a street-life.

The statement is that of a lady:—

My father," she said, "was an officer in the army, and related to the Pitt family. After his death, I supported myself by teaching music. I was considered very talented by my profession, both as teacher and composer." (I may here in- terrupt the course of the narrative by saying, that I myself have had printed proofs of the lady's talents in this branch of art.) "A few years ago, a painful and protracted illness totally incapacitated me from following my profession; consequently, I became reduced to a state of great destitution. For many weeks I remained ill in my own room. I often, during that time, went without nourishment the day through. I might have gone into an hospital; but I seemed to dread it so much, that it was not until I was obliged to give up my room that I could make up my mind to enter one. From that time, until within a few weeks ago, I have been an inmate of several hospitals: the last I was in was the Convalescent Establishment at Carshalton. On my coming to London, I found I had to begin the world again, as it were, in a very different manner from what I have been accustomed to. I had no head to teach—I felt that; and what to do I hardly knew. I had no home to go to, and not a halfpenny in the world. I had heard of the House of Charity, in Soho-square, and, as a last resource, I went there; but before I could have courage to ask admittance, I got a woman to go in and see what kind of a place it was —I seemed to fear it so much. I met with great kindness there, however; and, by the time I left, the care they had bestowed upon me had restored my health in a measure, but not my head. The doctors advised me to get some outdoor occupation (I am always better in the open air); but what to do I could not tell. At last I thought of a man I had known, who made fancy envelopes. I went to him, and asked him to allow me to go round to a few houses with some of them for a small per centage. This he did, and I am thereby enabled, by going along the streets and calling to offer my envelopes at any likely house, just to live. None but those who have suffered misfortunes (as I have done) can tell what my feelings were on first going to a house. I could not go where I was known; I had not the courage, nor would my pride allow me. My pupils had been very kind to me during my illnesses, but I could not bear the idea of going to them and offering articles for sale.

My fear of strangers is so great, that I tremble when I knock at a door—lest I should meet with an angry word. How few have any idea of the privations and suffering that have been endured before a woman (brought up as I have been) can make up her mind to do as I am obliged to do! I am now endeavouring to raise a little money to take a room, and carry on the envelope business myself. I might do pretty well, I think; and, should my head get better, in time I might get pupils again. At present I could not teach, the distressed state of my mind would not allow me.

The tradesman's statement he forwarded to me in writing, supplying me with every facility to test the full accuracy of his assertions, which it is right I should add I have done, and found all as he has stated. I give the narrative in the


writer's words (and his narrative will be found at once diffuse and minute), as a faithful representation of a "reduced" tradesman's struggles, thoughts, and endurances, before being forced into the streets.

I was brought up," he writes, "as a linendraper. After filling every situation as an assistant, both in the wholesale and retail trade, I was for a considerable time in business. Endeavouring to save another from ruin, I advanced what little money I had at my banker's, and became security for more, as I thought I saw my way clear. But a bond of judgment was hanging over the concern (kept back from me of course) and the result was, I lost my money to the amount of some hundreds, of which I have not recovered one pound. Since that time I have endeavoured to gain a livelihood as a town traveller. In 1845 I became very much afflicted, and the affliction continued the greater part of the following year. At one time I had fifteen wounds on my body, and lost the use of one side. I was reduced by bodily disease, as well as in circumstances. My wife went to reside among her friends, and I, after my being an out-patient of Bartholomew's Hospital went, through necessity, to Clerkenwell Workhouse. When recovered, I made another effort to do something among my own trade, and thought, after about two years struggle, I should recover in a measure my position. In August, 1849, I sent for a few shillings-worth of light articles from London (being then at Dunstable). I received them, and sold one small part; I went the following day to the next village nearer London. There I had a violent attack of cholera; which once more defeated my plans, leaving me in a weak condition. I was obliged to seek the refuge of my parish, and consider that very harshly was I treated there. They refused me admittance, and suffered me to walk the street two days and two nights. I had no use of my arm, was ill and disabled. About half-past seven on the third night, a gentleman, hearing of my sufferings, knocked at the door of the Union, took me inside, and dared them to turn me thence. This was in October, 1849. I lay on my bed there for seven weeks nearly, and a few days before Christmasday the parish authorities brought me before the Board, and turned me out, with one shilling and a loaf; one of the overseers telling me to go to h—ll and lodge anywhere. I came to lodge at the Model Lodging-house, King-street, Drurylane; but being winter-time they were full. Although I remained there in the day-time, I was obliged to sleep at another house. At this domicile I saw how many ways there were of getting what the very poor call a living, and various suggestions were offered. I was promised a gift of 2s. 6d. by an individual, on a certain day,—but I had to live till that day, and many were the feelings of my mind, how to dispose of what might remain when I received the 2s. 6d., as I was getting a little into debt. My debt, when paid, left me but 9 1/2d. out of the 2s. 6d. to trade with. I had never hawked an article before that time; to stand the streets was terrible to my mind, and how to invest this small sum sadly perplexed me. My mind was racked by painful anxiety; one moment almost desponding, the next finding so much sterling value in a shilling, that I saw in it the means of rescuing me from my degradation. Wanting many of the necessaries of life, but without suitable attire for my own business, and still weak from illness, I made up my mind. On the afternoon of 2nd Jan., 1850, I purchased 1 1/2 doz. memorandum-books, of a stationer in Clerkenwell, telling him my capital. I obtained the name of 'Ninepence-halfpenny Man' (the amount of my funds) at that shop. The next step was how to dispose of my books. I thought I would go round to some coffee and public-houses, as I could not endure the streets. I went into one, where I was formerly known, and sold 6d.-worth, and meeting a person who was once in my own line, at another house, I sold 4d.-worth more. The first night, therefore, I got over well. The next day I did a little, but not so well, and I found out that what I had bought was not the most ready sale. My returns that week were only 6s. 2d. I found I must have something different,—one thing would not do alone; so I bought a few childrens' books and almanacks— sometimes going to market with as little as seven farthings. I could not rise to anything better in the way of provisions during this time than dry toast and coffee, as the rent must be looked to. I struggled on, hoping against hope. At one period I had a cold and lost my voice. Two or three wet days in a week made me a bankrupt. If I denied myself food, to increase my stock, and went out for a day or two to some near town, I found that with small stock and small returns I could not stem the tide.

I always avoided associating with any but those a step higher in the grades of society—a circumstance that caused me not to know as much of the market for my cheap articles as I might have done. I am perhaps looked on as rather an 'aristocrat,' as I am not often seen by the streetsellers at a stand. My difficulties have been of no ordinary kind; with a desire for more domestic comfort on one hand, and painful reflections from want of means on the other, I have had to call to my aid all the philosophy I possess, to keep up a proper equilibrium, lest I should be tempted to anything derogatory or dishonest. I am desirous of a rescue at the only time likely for it to take place with advantage, as I am persuaded when persons continue long in a course that endangers their principles and self-respect, a rescue becomes hopeless. Should I have one small start with health, the privations I have undergone show not what comforts I have had, or may hope ever to have, but what I can absolutely do without.

I found the first six months not quite so good as the latter; March and May being the worst. The entire amount taken from January 2nd to December 31st, 1850; was 28l. 10s. 6d.,— an average of about 11s. 4d. a week; say for cost of goods, 6s. per week; and rent, 1s. 9d.; leaving me but 3s. 7d. clear for living. This statement, sir, is strictly correct, as I do not get cent. per cent. on all the articles; and yet with so small a return I am not behind one single crown at the present time.

On New Year's-day last, I had but the cost price of stock, 5d. Up to the evening of February 10th, I have taken 2l. 19s. 8d.;— having paid for goods, 1l. 10s. 5d.; and for rent, 8s. 10d.: leaving me 1l. 5d. to exist on during nearly six weeks. These facts and figures show that without a little assistance it is impossible to rise; and remember this circumstance—I have had to walk on some occasions as much as twenty or twenty-two miles in a day. If those whom Providence has blessed with a little more than their daily wants would only enter into the conflicts of the really reduced person, they would not be half so niggardly in spending a few coppers for useful articles, at least, nor overbearing in their requirements as to bulk, when purchasing of the itinerant vendor. Did they but reflect that they themselves might be in the same condition, or some of their families, I am sure they would not act as they do; for I would venture to say that the common street beggar does not get more rebuffs or insults than the educated and unfortunate reduced tradesmen in the streets. The past year has been one of the most trying and painful, yet I hope instructive, periods of my existence, and one of which I trust I never shall see the like again.

I subjoin of the testimonies that have been furnished me, as to this man's character, and which I thought it right to procure before giving publicity to the above statement. It is from a minister of the gospel—the street-seller's father-in-law.

DEAR SIR,—I received a letter, last Tuesday, from Mr. Knight, intimating that he was requested by you to inquire into the character of Mr. J—— N——.

It is quite correct, as he states, that his wife is my daughter. They lived together several years in London; but eventually, notwithstanding her efforts in the millinery and straw-work, they became so reduced that their circumstances obliged my daughter to take her two little girls with herself to us.

This was in the summer, 1845. His wife and children have been of no expense to Mr. N. since that time. The sole cause of their separation was poverty.

I consider him to have acted imprudently in giving up his situation to depend on an income arising from a small capital; whereas, if he had kept in a place, whilst she attended to her own business, they might have gone on comfortably; and should they, through the interposition of a kind Providence, gain that position again, it is to be hoped that they will improve the circumstance to the honour and glory of the Author of all our mercies, and with gratitude to the instrument who may be raised up for their good.

I am, dear Sir, respectfully yours,

J. D.

Other vouchers have been received, and all equally satisfactory.

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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