London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Country Lodging-Houses.


Concerning the lodging-houses, more especially in the country, I give the statement of a middleaged man, familiar with them for years. He was recommended to me as possessed of much humour and a great master of humourous slang:—

I can tell you all about it, sir; but one lodginghouse is so like another that I can't draw much distinction. In small country towns, especially agricultural towns, they are decent places enough, regular in their hours, and tidy enough. At these places they have what they call 'their own travellers,' persons that they know, and who are always accommodated in preference. As to the characters that frequent these places, let us begin with the Crocusses. They carry about a lot of worms in bottles, what they never took out of anybody, though they'll tell you different, or long pieces of tape in bottles, made to look like worms, and on that they'll patter in a market place as if on a real cure, and they've got the cheek to tell the people that that very worm was taken from Lady ——, near the town, and referring them to her to prove it. The one I knew best would commence with a piece of sponge in a bottle, which he styled the stomach wolf. That was his leading slum, and pretty well he sponged them too. When he'd pattered on about the wolf, he had another bottle with what he called a worm 200 inches long, he bounced it was, which the day before yesterday he had from Mrs. ——'s girl (some well-known person), and referred them to her. While he's going on, a brother Crocus will step up, a stranger to the people, and say, 'Ah, Doctor ——, you're right. I had the pleasure of dining with Mr. —— when the worm was extracted, and never saw a child so altered in my life.' That's what the Crocus's call giving a jolly; and after that don't the first Crocus's old woman serve out the sixpenny- worths? The stuff is to cure every mortal thing a man can ail—ay, or a woman either. They'd actually have the cheek to put a blister on a cork leg. Well, when they're done pattering on the worm racket, then come the wonderful pills. Them are the things. These pills, from eight to a dozen in a box, are charged 4d. to 6d. according to the flat's appearance—as the Crocus calls his customers. The pills meet with a ready sale, and they're like chip in porridge, neither good nor harm. It's chiefly the bounciful patter, the cheek they have, that gets them Crocusses on. It's amazing. They'll stare a fellow in the face, and make him believe he's ill whether he is or no. The man I speak of is a first-rate cove; he trains it and coaches it from market to market like any gentleman. He wears a stunning fawny (ring) on his finger, an out-and-out watch and guard, and not a duffer neither—no gammon; and a slap--up suit of black togs. I've seen the swell bosmen (farmers) buy the pills to give the people standing about, just to hear the Crocus patter. Why they've got the cheek to pitch their stall with their worms opposite a regular medical man's shop, and say, 'Go over the way and see what he'll do—he'll drive up in a horse and gig to your door, and make you pay for it too; but I don't—I've walked here to do you good, and I will do you good before I leave you. One trial is all I ask'—and quite enough too (said my informant). I'll warrant they won't come a second time; if they do, it's with a stick in their hands. If he does much business in the worm-powder way (some have it in cakes for children), the Crocus never gives them a chance to catch him. But if it's only pills, he'll show next market day, or a month after, and won't he crack about it then? He says, 'One trial is all I ask,' and one of them got it and was transported. I knew one of these Crocusses who was once so hard up from lushing and boozing about that he went into a field and collected sheep dung and floured it over, and made his pills of it, and made the people swallow it at Lutterworth market, in Leicestershire; because there they'll swallow anything. If the Crocus I have mentioned see this in the paper—as he will, for he's a reading-man— won't he come out bouncefull? He'll say, 'Why am I thus attacked—why don't the proprietor and the editor of this paper come forward—if he's among you? Who made this report? let him come forward, and I'll refute him face to face.' And no doubt (my informant remarked), he'd give him a tidy dose, too, the Crocus would. For myself, I'd far rather meet him face to face than his medicine, either his blue or his pink water. There's another sort who carry on the crocussing business, but on a small scale; they're on the penny and twopenny racket, and are called hedge crocusses—men who sell corn salve, or 'four pills a penny,' to cure anything, and go from house to house in the country. But as the hedge crocus is shickery togged, he makes poorly out. Respectable people won't listen to him, and it's generally the lower order that he gulls. These hedge fellows are slow and dull; they go mouching along as if they were croaking themselves. I've seen the head crocus I've mentioned at four markets in one week, and a town on a Saturday night, clear from 5l. to 7l.—all clear profit, for his fakement costs him little or nothing. For such a man's pound, the hedge fellow may make 1s. The next I'll tell you about is durynacking, or duryking. The gipsies (and they're called Romanies) are the leading mob at this racket, but they're well known, and I needn't say anything about those ladies. But there're plenty of travelling women who go about with a basket and a bit of driss (lace) in it, gammy lace, for a stall-off (a blind), in case they meet the master, who would order them off. Up at a bosken (farm-house) they'll get among the servant girls, being pretty well acquainted with the neighbourhood by inquiries on the road, as to the number of daughters and female servants. The first inquiry is for the missus or a daughter, and if they can't be got at they're on to the slaveys. Suppose they do get hold of one of the daughters, they commence by offering the driss, which, as it is queer stuff, wouldn't be picked up by an agricultural young lady, as the durynacker very well knows. Then she begins, 'Ah! my sweet young lady, my blessed looking angel'—if she's as ugly as sin, and forty; they say that, and that's the time you get them to rights, when they're old and ugly, just by sweetening them, and then they don't mind tipping the loaver (money)—'I know you dont want this stuff (she'll continue), there's something on your mind. I see you're in love; but the dear handsome gentleman—he'll not slight you, but loves you as hard as a hammer.' This is thrown out as a feeler, and the young lady is sure to be confused; then the durrynacker has hold of her mauly (hand) in a minute. It's all up with the girl, once the woman gets a grip. She's asked in directly, and of course the sisters (if she has any) and the slavey are let into the secret, and all have their fortunes told. The fortune-teller may make a week's job of it, according as the loaver comes out. She'll come away with her basket full of eggs, bacon, butter, tea and sugar, and all sorts of things. I have seen them bring the scran in! Every one is sure to have handsome husbands, thumping luck, and pretty children. The durrynacker, too, is not particular, if there's a couple of silver spoons—she doesn't like odd ones; and mind you, she alway carries a basket—big enough too. I know a man on this lurk, but he works the article with a small glass globe filled full of water, and in that he shows girls their future husbands, and kids them on to believe they do see them—ay, and the church they're to be married in—and they fancy they do see it as they twist the globe this way and that, while he twists the tin out of them, and no flies. He actually had the cheek, though he knew I was fly to every fake, to try to make me believe that I could see the place where Smith O'Brien had the fight in Ireland! 'Don't you see them cabbages, and a tall man in a green velvet cap among them, holloring out, "I'm the King of Munster?"' I don't know any other male durrynacker worth noticing; the women have all the call. Young women won't ask their fortunes of men. The way the globe man does is to go among the old women and fiddle (humbug) them, and, upon my word, three-parts of them are worse than the young ones. Now I'll tell you about the tat (rag) gatherers; buying rags they call it, but I call it bouncing people. Two men I lodged with once, one morning hadn't a farthing, regularly smashed up, not a feather to fly with, they'd knocked down all their tin lushing. Well, they didn't know what to be up to, till one hit upon a scheme. 'I've got it, Joe,' says he. He borrows two blue plates from the lodging-house keeper, a washing jug and basin. Off they goes, one with the crockery, and the other with a bag. They goes into the by-courts in Windsor, because this bouncing caper wouldn't do in the main drag. Up goes the fellow with a bag, and hollas out, 'Now, women, bring out your copper, brass, white rags, old flannel, bed-sacking, old ropes, empty bottles, umbrellas—any mortal thing—the best price is given;' and the word's hardly out, when up comes his pal, hollaring, 'Sam, holloa! stop that horse,' as if he'd a horse and cart passing the court, and then the women bring out their umbrellas and things, and the're all to be exchanged for crockery such as he shows, and all goes into the bag, and the bagman goes off with the things, leaving the other to do the bounce, and he keeps singing out for the horse and cart with the load of crockery, gammoning there is one, that the ladies may have their choice, and he then hurries down to quicken his cart-driver's movements, and hooks it, leaving the flats completely stunned. Oh! it does give them a ferrycadouzer. Two other men go about on this lurk, one with an old cracked plate under his waistcoat, and the other with a bag. And one sings out, 'Now, women, fourpence a pound for your white rags. None of your truck system, your needles and thread for it. I don't do it that way; ready money, women, is the order of the day with me.' Well, one old mollesher (woman), though she must have known her rags would only bring 2d. a lb. at a fair dealer's, if there be one, brought out 8 lbs. of white rags. He weighs them with his steelyards, and in they went to the bag. The man with the bag steps it immediately, and the other whips out his flute quite carelessly, and says—'Which will you have marm, Jem Crow, or the Bunch of Roses?' The old woman says directly, 'What do you mean, 8 times 4 is 32, and 32 pence is 2s. 8d.; never mind, I won't be hard, give me half-a-crown.' Well, when she finds there's no money, out she hollars, and he plays his distracted flute to drown her voice, and backs himself manfully out of the court. I have known these men get on so that I have seen them with a good horse and cart. There's another class of rag bloaks, who have bills printed with the Queen's Arms at the top, if you please, 'By royal authority'—that's their own authority, and they assume plenty of it. Well, this bill specifies the best prices for rags, left-off clothes, &c. One fellow goes and drops these bills at the kens (houses), the other comes after him, and as the man who drops marks every house where a bill has been taken, the second man knows where to call. any house where he gets a call commences the caper. Well, anything to be disposed of is brought out, often in the back yard. The party of the house produces the bill, which promises a stunning tip for the old lumber. The man keeps sorting the things out, and running them down as not so good as he expected; but at the same time he kids them on by promising three times more than the things are worth. This is a grand racket—the way he fakes them, and then he says, 'Marm (or sir, as it may be), I shall give you 15s. for the lot,' which stuns the party, for they never expected to get anything like that—and their expectations is not disappointed, for they don't. Then he turns round directly, and commences sorting more particularly than before, putting the best and the easiest to carry altogether. He starts up then, and whips a couple of bob, or half a bull (2s. 6d.) into the woman's hand, saying, 'I always like to bind a bargain, marm—one of the fairest dealing men travelling. Do save all your old lumber for me.' Of a sudden he begins searching his pockets, and exclaims, 'Dear me, I haven't enough change in my pocket, but I'll soon settle that—my mate has it outside. I'll just take a load out to the cart, and come back for the others with the money;' and so he hooks it, and I've no occasion to tell you he never comes back; and that's what he calls having them on the knock.

The other inmates at the lodging-houses which my informant described are of the class concerning whom full information is or will be given in other portions of this or the following letters. His description of the lodging-houses, too, was a corroboration of the statement I give to-day. All the classes described meet and mix at the lodginghouses.

I shall reserve what I have to say concerning the influence of the low lodging-houses of London and the country till the conclusion of the present volume.

View all images in this book
 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