London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Experience of a Street Book- Seller.


I now give a statement, furnished to me by an experienced man, as to the nature of his trade, and the class of his customers. Most readers will remember having seen an account in the life of some poor scholar, having read—and occasionally, in spite of the remonstrances of the stall-keeper—some work which he was too needy to purchase, and even of his having read it through at intervals. That something of this kind is still to be met with will be found from the following account:

My customers, sir, are of all sorts," my informant said. "They're gentlemen on their way from the City, that have to pass along here by the City-road. Bankers' clerks, very likely, or insurance-office clerks, or such like. They're fairish customers, but they often screw me. Why only last month a gentleman I know very well by sight, and I see him pass in his brougham in bad weather, took up an old Latin book—if I remember right it was an odd volume of a French edition of Horace—and though it was marked only 8d., it was long before he would consent to give more than 6d. And I should never have got my price if I hadn't heard him say quite hastily, when he took up the book, 'The very thing I've long been looking for!' Mechanics are capital customers for scientific or trade books, such as suit their business; and so they often are for geography and history, and some for poetry; but they're not so screwy. I know a many such who are rare ones for searching into knowledge. Women buy very little of me in comparison to men; sometimes an odd novel, in one volume, when its cheap, such as 'The Pilot,' or 'The Spy,' or 'The Farmer of Inglewood Forest,' or 'The Monk.' No doubt some buy 'The Monk,' not knowing exactly what sort of a book it is, but just because it's a romance; but some young men buy it, I know, because they have learned what sort it's like. Old three vol. novels won't sell at all, if they're ever so cheap. Boys very seldom buy of me, unless it's a work about pigeons, or something that way.

I can't say that odd vols. of Annual Registers are anything but a bad sale, but odd vols. of old Mags. (magazines), a year or half-year bound together, are capital. Old London Mags., or Ladies', or Oxford and Cambridges, or Town and Countrys, or Universals, or Monthly Reviews, or Humourists, or Ramblers, or Europeans, or any of any sort, that's from 40 to 100 years old, no matter what they are, go off rapidly at from 1s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. each, according to size, and binding, and condition. Odd numbers of Mags. are good for little at a stall. The old Mags. in vols. are a sort of reading a great many are very fond of. Lives of the Princess Charlotte are a ready penny enough. So are Queen Carolines, but not so good. Dictionaries of all kinds are nearly as selling as the old Mags., and so are good Latin books. French are only middling; not so well as you might think.

My informant then gave me a similar account to what I had previously received concerning English classics, and proceeded: "Old religious books, they're a fair trade enough, but they're not so plentiful on the stalls now, and if they're black-letter they don't find their way from the auctions or anywhere to any places but the shops or to private purchasers. Mrs. Rowe's 'Knowledge of the Heart' goes off, if old. Bibles, and Prayer-books, and Hymn-books, are very bad." [This may be accounted for by the cheapness of these publications, when new, and by the facilities afforded to obtain them gratuitously.] "Annuals are dull in going off; very much so, though might expect different. I can hardly sell 'Keepsakes' at all. Children's books, such as are out year at apiece, very nicely got up, sell finely next year at the stalls for from to Genteel people buy them of us for presents at holiday times. They'll give an extra penny quite cheerfully if there's 'Price ' or 'Price ' lettered on the back or part of the title-page. School-books in good condition don't stay long on hand, especially Pinnock's. There's not a few people who stand and read and read for half an hour or an hour at a time. It's very trying to the temper when they take up room that way, and prevent others seeing the works, and never lay out a penny theirselves. But they seem quite lost in a book. Well, I'm sure I don't know what they are. Some seem very poor, judging by their dress, and some seem shabby genteels. I can't help telling them, when I see them going, that I'm much obliged, and I hope that perhaps next time they'll manage to say 'thank ye,' for they don't open their lips once in times. I know a man in the trade that goes dancing mad when he has customers of this sort, who aren't customers. I dare say, day with another, I earn the year through; wet days are greatly against us, for if we have a cover people won't stop to look at a stall. Perhaps the rest of my trade earn the same." This man told me that he was not unfrequently asked, and by respectable people, for indecent works, but he recommended them to go to Holywellstreet themselves. He believed that some of his fellow-traders supply such works, but to no great extent.

An elderly man, who had known the street book-trade for many years, but was not concerned in it when I saw him, told me that he was satisfied he had sold old books, old plays often, to Charles Lamb, whom he described as a stuttering man, who, when a book suited him, sometimes laid down the price, and smiled and nodded, and then walked away with it in his pocket or under his arm, without a word having been exchanged. When we came to speak of dates, I found that my informant—who had only conjectured that this was Lamb—was unquestionably mistaken. of the best customers he ever had for anything old or curious, and in Italian, if he remembered rightly, as well as in English, was the late Rev. Mr. Scott, who was chaplain on board the Victory, at the time of Nelson's death at Trafalgar. "He had a living in Yorkshire, I believe it was," said the man, "and used to come up every now and then to town. I was always glad to see his white head and rosy face, and to have a little talk with him about books and trade, though it wasn't always easy to catch what he said, for he spoke quick, and not very distinct. But he was a pleasant old gentleman, and talked to a poor man as politely as he might to an admiral. He was very well known in my trade, as I was then employed."

The same man once sold to a gentleman, he told me, and he believed it was somewhere about years ago, if not more, a Spanish or Portuguese work, but what it was he did not know. It was marked , being a goodsized book, but the stall-keeper was tired of having had it a long time, so that he gladly would have taken for it. The gentleman in question handed him half-a-crown, and, as he had not the change, the purchaser said: "O,


don't mind; it's worth far more than halfa- crown to me." When this liberal customer had walked away, a gentleman who had been standing at the stall all the time, and who was an occasional buyer, said, "Do you know him?" and, on receiving an answer in the negative, he rejoined, "That's Southey."

Another stall-keeper told me that his customers—some of whom he supplied with any periodical in the same way as a newsvendor— had now and then asked him, especially "the ladies of the family," who glanced, when they passed, at the contents of his stall, why he had not newer works? "I tell them," said the stall-keeper, "that they haven't become cheap enough yet for the streets, but that they would come to it in time." After some conversation about his trade, which only confirmed the statements I have given, he said laughingly, "Yes, indeed, you all come to such as me at last. Why, last night I heard a song about all the stateliest buildings coming to the ivy, and I thought, as I listened, it was the same with authors. The best that the best can do is the book-stall's food at last. And no harm, for he's in the best of company, with Shakespeare, and all the great people."

Calculating weekly as the average earnings of the street book-stall keepers—for further information induces me to think that the street bookseller who earned a week regularly, cleared it by having a "tidy pitch"—and reckoning that, to clear such an amount, the bookseller takes, at least, weekly, we find guineas yearly expended in the purchase of books at the purely street-stalls, independently of what is laid out at the open-air stalls connected with book-shops.

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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