London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Tortoises.


THE number of tortoises sold in the streets of London is far greater than might be imagined, for it is a creature of no utility, and which is inanimate in this country for half its life.

Of live tortoises, there are annually imported from the port of Mogadore in Morocco. They are not brought over, as are the parrots, &c., of which I have spoken, for amusement or as private ventures of the seamen, but are regularly consigned from Jewish houses in Mogadore, to Jewish merchants in London. They are a freight of which little care is taken, as they are brought over principally as ballast in the ship's hold, where they remain torpid.

The street-sellers of tortoises are costermongers of the smarter class. Sometimes the vendors of shells and foreign birds "work" also a few tortoises, and occasionally a wholesale dealer (the consignee of the Jewish house in Africa) will send out his own servants to sell barrow-loads of tortoises in the street on his own account. They are regularly ranged on the barrows, and certainly present a curious appearance—halfalive creatures as they are (when the weather is not of the warmest), brought from another continent for sale by thousands in the streets of London, and retention in the gardens and grounds of our civic villas. Of the number imported, -half, or , are yearly sold in the streets by the several open-air dealers I have mentioned. The wholesale price is from to the dozen; they are retailed from to , a very fine well-grown tortoise being sometimes worth The mass, however, are sold at to each, but many fetch They are bought for children, and to keep in gardens as I have said, and when properly fed on lettuce leaves, spinach, and similar vegetables, or on white bread sopped in water, will live a long time. If the tortoise be neglected in a garden, and have no access to his favourite food, he will eat almost any green thing which comes in his way, and so may commit ravages. During the winter, and the later autumn and earlier spring, the tortoise is torpid, and may be kept in a drawer or any recess, until the approach of summer "thaws" him, as I heard it called.

Calculating the average price of tortoises in street-sale at each, we find upwards of thus expended yearly.

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 Title Page
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Of the Streets of London
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys
Of the Chimney-Sweepers of the Present Day
Of the General Characteristics of the Working Chimney-Sweepers
Sweeping of the Chimneys of Steam-Vessels
Of the 'Ramoneur' Company
Of the Brisk and Slack Seasons, and the Casual Trade among the Chimney- Sweepers
Of the 'Leeks' Among the Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Inferior Chimney-Sweepers -- the 'Knullers' and 'Queriers'
Of the Fires of London
Of the Sewermen and Nightmen of London
Of the Wet House-Refuse of London
Of the Means of Removing the Wet House-Refuse
Of the Quantity of Metropolitan Sewage
Of Ancient Sewers
Of the Kinds and Characteristics of Sewers
Of the Subterranean Character of the Sewers
Of the House-Drainage of the Metropolis as Connected With the Sewers
Of the London Street-Drains
Of the Length of the London Sewers and Drains
Of the Cost of Constructing the Sewers and Drains of the Metropolis
Of the Uses of Sewers as a Means of Subsoil Drainage
Of the City Sewerage
Of the Outlets, Ramifications, Etc., of the Sewers
Of the Qualities, Etc., of the Sewage
Of the New Plan of Sewerage
Of the Management of the Sewers and the Late Commissions
Of the Powers and Authority of the Present Commissions of Sewers
Of the Sewers Rate
Of the Cleansing of the Sewers -- Ventilation
Of 'Flushing' and 'Plonging,' and Other Modes of Washing the Sewers
Of the Working Flushermen
Of the Rats in the Sewers
Of the Cesspoolage and Nightmen of the Metropolis
Of the Cesspool System of London
Of the Cesspool and Sewer System of Paris
Of the Emptying of the London Cesspools by Pump and Hose
Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman
Of the Present Disposal of the Night-Soil
Of the Working Nightmen and the Mode of Work