London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Life of a Blind Boot-Lace Seller.


THE blind boot lace-seller who gave me the following history of his life was the original of the portrait given in No. . He was a tall, stronglybuilt man. In face he was ghastly, his cheek bones were sharp and high, his nose flat to his face, and his eyes were so deeply sunk in that he had more the appearance of a death's head than of a living man. His shirt was scrupulously clean. He wore a bright red cotton neckerchief and a plaid waistcoat of many colours. His dog accompanied him and never left his master's side moment.

It's very sorrowful—very sorrowful indeed to hear that," said the boot-lace seller to me, on my reading him the account of the blind needleseller; "it touches me much to hear that. But you see I don't grieve for the loss of my sight as he do, poor man. I don't remember ever seeing any object. If there was a thing with many colours in it, I could dissarn the highest colour. I couldn't tell one from another, but only the highest.

I was born in Northumberland," he said, "about five-and-fifty years ago. My father was a grocer and had 1,000l. worth of freehold property besides his business, which was very large for a small town; his was the principal shop, and in the general line. He had a cart of his own, in which he attended market. I was very comfortably brought up, never wanted for nothing, and had my mother lived I should have had an independent fortune. At five years old, while mother was still alive, I caught the small pox. I had four sisters and one brother, and we all six had it at once; that was before the vaccination was properly established. I've heerd said that father did not want to have us inoculated, because of the people coming backwards and forwards to the shop. I only wish vaccination had been in vogue then as it is now, and I shouldn't have lost my eyes. God bless the man who brought it up, I say; people doesn't know what they've got to thank him for. Well, all my sisters and brothers had not a mark upon them. It laid hold of only me. They couldn't lay a finger upon me, they was obligated to lift me up in one of my father's shirts, by holding the corners of it like a sheet. As soon as ever the pock began to decay it took away my eyes altogether. I didn't lose both my eyeballs till about twenty years after that, though my sight was gone for all but the shadow of daylight and any high colours. At sixteen years of age my left eye bursted; I suffered terribly then— oh terribly! yes, that I did. The black-and-white like all mixed together, the pock came right through the star of the eye the doctor said; and when I was five-and-twenty my other eye-ball bursted, and then my eyes was quite out of my head. Till that time I could see a little bit; I could tell the daylight, and I could see the moon, but not the shape of it. I never could see a star, and do you know I grieved about the loss of that little bit of sight as much as if I was losing the whole of it. As my eye-ball sloughed day by day, I could see the light going away by little, every day till the week's end. When I looked at the daylight just before it all went, I could see the light look as red as fire—as red as blood; and when it all left me, oh, I was dreadful sorrowful, I thought I was lost altogether. But, I shouldn't have been so bad off, as I said, if mother had lived, but she died when I was about six year old. I didn't care much about her, indeed I took a dreadful dislike to her. I heerd her say one day to a person in the shop, that she would sooner see me dead and buried than be as I was, but now I know that it was her fondness for me. Mother catched a cold, and died after six day's illness. When she was gone, father got to neglect his business. He had no one then to attend to it, and he took and shut up the shop. He lost heart, you see. He took and turned all the tenants out of his property, and furnished all the rooms of a large house suitable for the quality that used to come to the town to bathe. He mortgaged the place for 250l. to buy the furniture, and that was the ruin of him. Eighteen years afterwards the lawyers got the better of him, and all the family was turned out of the door without a penny. My father they'd put in jail before. He died a few years afterwards in the workhouse. When the family was turned out, there was only my eldest brother away at sea, and my eldest sister in sarvice; so me and my three sisters was sent in the wide world without the means of getting a crust or a place to put our heads in. All my sisters after that got into sarvice, and I went to drive some coal carts at North Shields. The coal carts was father's, and they was all he had left out of his property; so I used to go to Wall's End and fill the carts, then take them down to North Shields and sell them at the people's doors. We never used to sell less than the load. I did all this, blind as I was, without a person to guide, and continued at it night and day for about fifteen year. It was well known to the whole country side. I was the talk for miles round. They couldn't believe I was blind; though they see my eyes was gone, still they couldn't hardly believe. Then, after the fifteen year, me and my father had a complete fall out. He took an advantage of my sister. He had borrowed 20l. of her, and when he could he wouldn't pay her. He behaved as bad as father could, and then I broke with him." (He then went over the whole story, and was affected, even to speechlessness, at the remembrance of his family troubles. Into these there is no necessity to enter here; suffice it, the blind man appears to have behaved very nobly.) "I came away and went to my brother, who was well off at Hull; when I got there, I found he had gone to Russia and died there that very spring. While I was on my way to Hull, I used to go to sleep at the lodging-houses for travellers. I had never been in one before, and there I got to think, from what I heerd, that a roving life was a fine pleasant one. The very first lodging-house I went into was one in Durham, and there persons as was coming the same road persuaded me to go and beg with them, but I couldn't cheek it; it was too near hand at home. We came on to Darlington, that was 18 miles further, that day. They still kept company with me, and wanted me to beg, but I wouldn't; I couldn't face it. I thought people would know me. The next day we started on our way to Northallerton, and then my few shillings was all gone; so that night we went to seek relief, and got a pennyworth of milk, and a penny loaf each and our bed. The parish gave us a ticket to a lodging-house. The next morning we started from Northallerton, and then I was very hungry; all I had the day before was the pennyworth of bread I got from the parish. Then as we got about a mile out of the town, there was a row of houses, and the Scotchman who was with me says, 'If ye'll gang up wi' me, I'll speak for ye.' Well, we went up and got 3d., and plenty of bread and butter; almost every house we got something at; then I was highly delighted; thinks I, this is a business—and so I did. We shared with the other man who had come on the road with us, and after that we started once more, and then I was all eager to go on with the same business. You see I'd never had no pleasure, and it seemed to me like a new world — to be able to get victuals without doing anything— instead of slaving as I'd been with a couple of carts and horses at the coal-pits all the time. I didn't think the country was half so big, and you couldn't credit the pleasure I felt in going about it. I felt as if I didn't care for nothing; it was so beautiful to be away there quite free, without any care in the world, for I could see plainly I could always get the best of victuals, and the price of my lodgings. There's no part in all England like Yorkshire for living. We used to go to all the farm-houses, we wouldn't miss one if it was half a mile off the road; if the Scotchman who was with me could only see a road he'd take me up it, and we got nice bits of pie and meat, and bread and cake, indeed as much as would serve four people, when we got to the lodging-house at night and a few shillings beside. I soon got not to care about the loss of my brother. At last we got to make so much money that I thought it was made to chuck about the streets. We got it so easy, you see. It was only 4s. or 5s., but then I was only a flatty or I could have made 14s. or 15s. at least. This was in Boroughbridge, and there at a place called, I think, Bridely-hill, there was a lodging-house without never a bed in it at all; but only straw littered on the ground, and here I found upwards of sixty or seventy, all tramps, and living in different ways, pattering, and thieving, and singing, and all sorts; and that night I got to think it was the finest scene I had ever known. I grew pleaseder, and pleaseder, with the life, and wondered how any one could follow any other. There was no drunkenness, but it was so new and strange, and I'd never known nothing of life before, that I was bewildered, like, with over-joy at it. Then I soon got to think I'd have the summer's pleasure out and wouldn't go near Hull till the back end of the year, for it was the month of May, that what I'm talking about took place; and so things went on. I never thought of home, or sisters, or anything, indeed. I was so over-joyed that I could think of nothing else. Whenever I got to a new county it seemed like getting into a new nation, and when I heard we were close upon a new place I used to long and long to get into it. At last I left the Scotchman and took up with an old sailor, a man-of-warsman, who was coming up to London to get his pension, and he was a regular 'cadger' like the other who had put me 'fly to the dodge,' though none of us wer'nt 'fly' to nothing then. I can't tell you, I wanted to, how I longed to be in town, and, as I came through the streets with him, I didn't know whether I carried the streets or they carried me. You see I had heard people talk about London in North Shields, and I thought there was no poor people there at all—none but ladies and gentlemen and sailors. In London the sailor drew his pension, and he and me got robbed, and then the sailor left me, and then I started off without a penny into the country; and at Stratford-le-Bow I began, for the first time, to say, 'Pity the poor blind.' Up to this time I had never axed no one —never spoke, indeed—the cadgers who had been with me had done this for me, and glad to have the chance of sharing with me. A blind man can get a guide at any place, because they know he's sure to get something. I took only 5d. at Stratford-le-Bow, and then started on my way to Romford; and there, in the lodging-house, I met a blind man, who took me in partnership with him, and larnt me my business complete—that he just did, and since then I've been following it, and that's about two or three and twenty year ago. Since I've been in London, and that's fourteen year, I've lived very regular, always had a place, and attended my church. If it hadn't been for the lodging-houses I should never, may be, have been as I am; though, I must confess, I always had a desire to find out travelling, but couldn't get hold of any one to put me in the way of it. I longed for a roving life and to shake a loose leg, still I couldn't have done much else after my quarrel with my father. My sister had offered to lend me money enough to buy a horse and cart for myself, but I didn't like that, and thought I'd get it of my brother at Hull; and that and the padding kens is solely the cause of my being as I am; and since I first travelled there's more now than ever—double and treble as many.

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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