London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of a Mechanic's Wife, as a Street-Seller.


A MIDDLE-aged woman, presenting what may be best understood as a decency of appearance, for there was nothing remarkable in her face or dress, gave me the following account of her experience as a street-seller, and of her feelings when she became :—

I went into service very young in the country," she said, "but mistress brought me up to London with her, where master had got a situation: the children was so fond of me. I saved a little money in that and other places as girls often does, and they seems not to save it so much for themselves as for others. Father got the first bit of money I saved, or he would have been seized for rent—he was only a working man (agricultural labourer)—and all the rest I scraped went before I'd been married a fortnight, for I got married when I was 24. O no, indeed, I don't mean that my money was wasted by my husband. It was every farthing laid out in the house, besides what he had, for we took a small house in a little street near the Commercial-road, and let out furnished rooms. We did very well at first with lodgings, but the lodgers were mates of vessels, or people about the river and the docks, and they were always coming and going, and the rooms was often empty, and some went away in debt. My husband is a smith, and was in middling work for a good while. Then he got a job to go with some horses to France, for he can groom a horse as well as shoe it, and he was a long time away, three or four months, for he was sent into another country when he got to France, but I don't understand the particulars of it. The rooms was empty and the last lodger went away without paying, and I had nothing to meet the quarter's rent, and the landlord, all of a sudden almost, put in the brokers, for he said my husband would never come back, and perhaps I should be selling the furniture and be off to join him, for he told me it was all a planned thing he knew. And so the furniture was sold for next to nothing, and 1l. 6s. was given to me after the sale; I suppose that was over when all was paid, but I'd been forced to part with some linen and things to live upon and pay the rates, that came very heavy. My husband came back to an empty house three days after, and he'd been unlucky, for he brought home only 4l. instead of 10l. at least, as he expected, but he'd been cheated by the man he went into the other country with. Yes, the man that cheated him was an Englishman, and my poor John was put to great trouble and expense, and was in a strange place without knowing a word of the language. But the foreigners was very kind to him, he said, and didn't laugh at him when he tried to make hisself understood, as I've seen people do here many a time. The landlord gave us 1l. to give up the house, as he had a good offer for it, and so we had to start again in the world like.

Our money was almost all gone before John got regular work, tho' he had some odd jobs, and then he had for a good many months the care of a horse and cart for a tradesman in the City. Shortly after that he was laid up a week with a crushed leg, but his master wouldn't wait a week for him, so he hired another: 'I have nothing to say against John,' says he, when I told his master of the accident, 'and I'm sorry, very sorry, but my business can't be hindered by waiting for people getting better of accidents.' John got work at his own business next, but there was always some stopper. He was ill, or I was ill, and if there was 10s. in the house, then it went and wasn't enough. And so we went on for a good many years, I don't know how many. John kept working among horses and carts, or at his own business, but what with travelling abroad, I suppose, and such like, he got to like best to be in the streets, and he has his health best that way." (The husband, it is evident, was afflicted with the restlessness of the tribe.) "About seven years ago we were very badly off—no work, and no money, and neither of of us well. Then I used to make a few women's plain night-caps and plain morning caps for servants, and sell them to a shopkeeper, but latterly I couldn't sell them at all, or get no more than the stuff cost me, without any profit for labour. So at last— and it was on a Friday evening of all unlucky times—my gold wedding-ring that cost 8s. 6d., and that I'd stuck to all along, had to be pawned for 4s. 6d. for rent and bread. That was a shocking time, sir. We've sat in the dark of an evening, for we could get neither coals nor a candle as we was a little in debt, and John said, it was a blessing after all perhaps that we hadn't no family, for he often, both joking and serious, wished for children, but it wasn't God's will you see that we should have any. One morning when I woke very early I found my husband just going out, and when I asked him what sent him out so soon, he says: 'It's for nothing bad, so don't fret yourself, old gal.' That day he walked all over London and called on all the masters as had employed him, or knowed him, and told them how he was situated, and said that if he could borrow 20s. up and down, he could do a little, he knew—the thought of it came into his mind all of a sudden—in going about with a horse and cart, that he could hire, and sell coals to poor people. He raised 8s. 6d., I think it was, and started with a quarter of a ton of coals, and then another quarter when the first was sold, and he carried it on for three or four weeks. But the hire of the horse and cart took all the profit, and the poor people wanted credit, besides people must cheat to thrive as sells coals in the street. All this time I could do nothing —though I tried for washing and charing, but I'm slow at washing—but starve at home, and be afraid every knock was the landlord. After that John was employed to carry a very heavy board over his shoulder, and so as to have it read on both sides. It was about an eating-house, and I went with him to give little bills about it to all we met, for it was as much as a man could do to carry the board. He had 1s. a day, and I had 6d. That was my first time in the streets and I felt so 'shamed to come to that. I thought if I met any people I knew in Essex, or any of my old mistresses, what would they think. Then we had all sorts of jokes to stand. We both looked pinched, and young gents used to say, 'Do you dine there yourselves?' and the boys—O, of all the torments!—they've shouted out, 'Excellent Dining-rooms' that was on the board, sir, 'and two jolly speciments of the style of grub!' I could have knocked their saucy heads together. We was resting in the shade one day—and we were anxious to do our best, for 1s. 6d. a day was a great thing then—and an old gentleman came up and said he was glad to get out of the sun. He looked like a parson, but was a joky man, and he'd been having some wine, I think, he smelled of it so. He began to talk to us and ask us questions, such as you have, sir, and we told him how we was situated. 'God bless you,' says he, 'for I think you're honest folks. People that lie don't talk like you; here's some loose silver I have,' and he gave John 5s. 6d. and went away. We could hardly think it was real; it seemed such a lot of money just then, to be got clear all at once. I've never seen him since, and never saw him, as I knows of, before, but may God Almighty bless him wherever he is, for I think that 5s. 6d. put new life into us, and brought a blessing. A relation of John's came to London not long after and gave him a sovereign and sent him some old clothes, and very good ones, when he went back. Then John hired a barrow—it's his own now— and started as a costermonger. A neighbour of ourn told him how to do it, and he's done very well at it since.

Well, you know, sir, I could'nt like to stay at home by myself doing of a nothing, and I couldn't get any charing; besides John says, 'Why, can't you sell something?' So I made some plain women's caps, and as we lived in Ann's-place, Waterloo-road, then, I went into the New Cut with them on a Saturday night. But there was such crowding, and shoving, and shouting, that I was kept under and sold only one cap. I was very much nervoused before I went and thought again—it was very foolish, I know— 'if I saw anybody from Essex,' for country people seem to think all their friends in London are making fortunes! Before I went my landlady would treat me to a little drop of gin to give me spirits, and 'for luck,' but I think it made me more nervoused. I very seldom taste any. And John's very good that way. He takes his pint or two every now and then, but I know where he uses, and if it gets late I go for him and he comes home. The next time I went to sell in the Cut I got bold, for I knew I was doing nothing but what was honest; I've sold caps, and millinery, and laces, and artificial flowers, and such like ever since. We've saved a little money now, which is in the bank, thank God, but that's not done by costering, or by my trade. But my husband buys a poney every now and then, and grooms and fattens it up well, and makes it quite another thing, and so clears a pound or two; he once cleared 3l. 15s. on it. We don't go to church or chapel on a Sunday, we're so tired out after the week's work. But John reads a tract that a young lady leaves 'till he falls asleep over it.

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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