London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of Two Runaway Street-Boys.


I ENDEAVOURED to find a boy or girl who belonged to the -educated classes, had run away, and was now a street-seller. I heard of boys of this class— man thought he knew , and was sure of —who now lived by street-selling, my informant believed without having any recourse to theft, but all these boys were absent; they had not returned from Epsom, or had not returned to their usual haunts, or else they had started for their summer's excursion into the country. Many a street-seller becomes as weary of town after the winter as a member of parliament who sits out a very long session; and the moment the weather is warm, and "seems settled," they are off into the country. In this change of scene there is the feeling of independence, of freedom; are not "tied to their work;" and this feeling has perhaps even greater charms for the child than the adult.

The number of lads of a , who support themselves by street-selling, is not large. I speak of those whom I have classed as children under years of age. If a boy run away, scared and terrified by the violence of a parent, or maddened by continuous and sometimes excessive severity, the parent often feels compunction, and I heard of persons being sent to every lodging-house in London, and told to search every dry arch, to bring back a runaway. On these occasions the street-sellers willingly give their aid; I have even heard of women, whose degradation was of the lowest, exerting themselves in the recovery of a runaway child, and that often unsolicited and as often unrecompensed.

The children who are truants through their own vicious or reckless propensities, or through the inducements of their seniors, become far more frequently, thieves or lurkers, rather than streetsellers. As to runaway girls of a well-educated class, and under , I heard of none who were street-sellers.



I now give instances of runaway lads, who have been dishonest, and honest.

The , when he told me his history, was a slim and rather tall young man of or , with a look, speech, and air, anything but vulgar. He was the son of a wealthy jeweller, in a town in the West of England, and ran away from home with an adult member of his father's establishment, who suggested such a course, taking with them money and valuables. They came to London, and the elder thief, retaining all the stolen property, at once abandoned the child, then only , and little and young-looking for his age. He fell into the hands of some members of the swell-mob, and became extremely serviceable to them. He was dressed like a gentleman's son, and was innocent-looking and handsome. His appearance, when I saw him, showed that this must have been the case as regards his looks. He lived with some of the swell-mobsmen—then a more prosperous people than they are now—in a good house in the South wark-Bridge-road. The women who resided with the mobsmen were especially kind to him. He was well fed, well lodged, well clad, and petted in everything. He was called "the kid," a common slang name for a child, but he was kid. He "went to work" in Regentstreet, or wherever there were most ladies, and his appearance disarmed suspicion. He was, moreover, highly successful in church and chapel practice. At length he became "spotted." The police got to know him, and he was apprehended, tried, and convicted. He was, however—he believed through the interest of his friends, of whose inquiries concerning him he had heard, but of that I know nothing—sent to the Philanthropic Asylum, then in St. George's-road. Here he remained the usual time, then left the place well clothed, and with a sum of money, and endeavoured to obtain some permanent employment. In this endeavour he failed. Whether he exerted himself strenuously or not I cannot say, but he told me that the very circumstance of his having been "in the Philanthropic" was fatal to his success. His "character" and "recommendations" necessarily showed where he had come from, and the young man, as he then was, became a beggar. His chief practice was in "screeving," or writing on the pavement. Perhaps some of my readers may remember having noticed a wretched-looking youth who hung over the words "I AM STARVING," chalked on the footway on the Surrey side of . He lay huddled in a heap, and appeared half dead with cold and want, his shirtless neck and shoulders being visible through the rents in his thin jean jacket; shoe or stocking he did not wear. This was the rich jeweller's son. Until he himself told me of it—and he seemed to do so with some sense of shame—I could not have believed that the well-spoken and welllooking youth before me was the piteous object I had observed by the bridge. What he is doing now I am unable to state.

Another boy, who thought he was not yet , though he looked older, gave me the following account. He was short but seemed strong, and his career, so far, is chiefly remarkable for his perseverance, exercised as much, perhaps, from insensibility as from any other quality. He was sufficiently stupid. If he had parents living, he said, he didn't know nothing about them; he had lived and slept with an old woman who said she was his grandmother, and he'd been told that she weren't no relation; he didn't trouble himself about it. She sold lucifer-boxes or any trifle in the streets, and had an allowance of weekly, but from what quarter he did not know. About years ago he was run over by a cab, and was carried to the workhouse or the hospital; he believed it was Clerkenwell Workhouse, but he weren't sure. When he recovered and was discharged he found the old woman was dead, and a neighbour went with him to the parish officers, by whom—as well as I could understand him— he was sent to the workhouse, after some inquiry. He was soon removed to Nor'ud. On my asking if he meant Norwood, he replied, "no, Nor'ud," and there he was with a number of other children with a Mr. Horbyn. He did not know how long he was there, and he didn't know as he had anything much to complain of, but he ran away. He ran away because he thought he would; and he believed he could get work at paper-staining. He made his way to , near where there was a great paper-stainer's, but he could not get any work, and he was threatened to be sent back, as they knew from his dress that he had run away. He slept in courts and alleys, fitting himself into any covered corner he could find. The poor women about were kind to him, and gave him pieces of bread; some knew that he had run away from a workhouse and was all the kinder. "The fust browns as ivver I yarned," he said, "was from a drover. He was a going into the country to meet some beasts, and had to carry some passels for somebody down there. They wasn't 'evvy, but they was orkerd to grip. His old 'oman luk out for a young cove to 'elp her old man, and saw me fust, so she calls me, and I gets the job. I gived the greatest of satisfaction, and had sixpence give me, for Jim (the drover) was well paid, as they was vallyble passels, and he said he'd taken the greatest of care on 'em, and had engaged a poor lad to 'elp him." On his return the child slept in a bed, in a house near Gray's-inn-lane, for the time since he had run away, he believed about a fortnight. He persevered in looking out for odd jobs, without ever stealing, though he met some boys who told him he was a fool not to prig. "I used to carry his tea from his old 'oman," he went on, "to a old cove as had a stunnin' pitch of fruit in the City-road. But my best friend was Stumpy; he had a beautiful crossin' (as a sweeper) then, but he's dead now and berried as well. I used to talk to him and whistle—I just whistle" [here he whistled loud and shrill, to convince me of his perfection in that street accomplishment] "—and to dance him the double-shuffle" [he favoured me with a specimen of that dance], "and he said I hinterested him. Well, he meant he liked it, I s'pose. When he went to rest hisself, for he soon got tired, over


his drop of beer to his grub, I had his crossin' and his broom for nuff'n. boy used to say to Stumpy, 'I'll give you for your crossin' while you's grubbin.' But I had it for nuff'n, and had all I yarned; sometimes , sometimes , but only once I've been 'elping Old Bill with his summer cabbages and flowers (cauliflowers), and now he's on live heels. I can sing 'em out prime, but you 'eared me. I has my bit o' grub with him, and a few browns, and Old Bill and Young Bill, too, says I shall have better to do, but I can't until peas. I sleeps in a loft with 'ampers, which is Old Bill's; a stunnin' good bed. I've cried for and 'elped other costers. Stumpy sent me to 'em. I think he 'd been hisself, but I was always on the look-out. I'll go for some bunse soon. I don't know what I shall do time to come, I nivver thinks on it. I could read middlin', and can a little now, but I'm out of practice."

I have given this little fellow's statement somewhat fully, for I believe he is a type of the most numerous class of runaway urchins who ripen, so to speak, into costermongers, after "helping" that large body of street-traders.

I heard of boy who had been discharged from Brixton, and had received to begin the world with, as it was his offence, on his way back to London, being called upon suddenly as soon as he had reached the New Cut (then the greatest of all the street-markets) to help a costermonger. This gave the boy a start, and he had since lived honestly.

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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