Although my present inquiry relates to London life in London streets, it is necessary that I should briefly treat of the Jews generally, as an integral, but distinct and peculiar part of street-life.
That this ancient people were engaged in what may be called street-traffic in the earlier ages of our history, as well as in the importation of spices, furs, fine leather, armour, drugs, and general merchandise, there can be no doubt; nevertheless concerning this part of the subject there are but the most meagre accounts.
Jews were settled in England as early as , and during the sway of the Saxon kings. They increased in number after the era of the Conquest; but it was not until the rapacity to which they were exposed in the reign of Stephen had in a great measure exhausted itself, and until the measures of Henry II. had given encouragement to commerce, and some degree of security to property in cities or congregated communities, that the Jews in England became numerous and wealthy. They then became active and enter- prising attendants at fairs, where the greater portion of the internal trade of the kingdom was carried on, and especially the traffic in the more valuable commodities, such as plate, jewels, armour, cloths, wines, spices, horses, cattle, &c. The agents of the great prelates and barons, and even of the ruling princes, purchased what they required at these fairs. St. Giles's fair, held at St. Giles's hill, not far from Winchester, continued days. The fair was, as it were, a temporary city. There were streets of tents in every direction, in which the traders offered and displayed their wares. During the continuance of the fair, business was strictly prohibited in Winchester, Southampton, and in every place within miles of St. Giles's hill. Among the tent-owners at such fairs were the Jews.
At this period the Jews may be considered as of the bodies of "merchant-strangers," as they were called, settled in England for purposes of commerce. Among the other bodies of these
|"strangers" were the German "merchants of the steel-yard," the Lombards, the Caursini of Rome, the "merchants of the staple," and others. These were all corporations, and thriving corporations (when unmolested), and the Jews had also their Jewerie, or Judaisme, not for a "corporation" merely, but also for the requirements of their faith and worship, and for their living together. The London Jewerie was established in a place of which no vestige of its establishment now remains beyond the name—the . Here was erected the synagogue of the Jews in England, which was defaced or demolished, Maitland states, by the citizens, after they had slain Jews (other accounts represent that number as greatly exaggerated). This took place in , during of the many disturbances in the uneasy reign of Henry III.|
All this time the Jews amassed wealth by trade and usury, in spite of their being plundered and maltreated by the princes and other potentates— every has heard of King John's having a Jew's teeth drawn—and in spite of their being reviled by the priests and hated by the people. The sovereigns generally encouraged "merchantstrangers." When the city of London, in , petitioned Edward I. for "the expulsion of all merchant-strangers," that monarch answered, with all a monarch's peculiar regard for "great" men and "great" men only, "No! the merchant-strangers are useful and beneficial to the great men of the kingdom, and I will not expel them." But though the King encouraged, the people detested, foreign traders, though not with the same intensity as they detested and contemned the Jews, for in detestation a strong religious feeling was an element. Of this dislike to the merchant-strangers, very many instances might be cited, but I need give only . In , nearly a century after the banishment of the Jews, a Genoese merchant, a man of great wealth, petitioned Richard II. for permission to deposit goods for safe keeping in Southampton Castle, promising to introduce so large a share of the commerce of the East into England, that pepper should be a pound. "Yet the Londoners," writes Walsingham, but in the quaint monkish Latin of the day, "enemies to the prosperity of their country, hired assassins, who murdered the merchant in the street. After this, what stranger will trust his person among a people so faithless and so cruel? who will not dread our treachery, and abhor our name?"
In , by a decree of Edward I., the Jews were banished out of England. The causes assigned for this summary act, were "their extortions, their debasing and diminishing the coin, and for other crimes." I need not enter into the merits or demerits of the Jews of that age, but it is certain that any ridiculous charge, any which it was impossible could be true, was an excuse for the plundering of them at the hands of the rich, and the persecution of them at the hands of the people. At the period of this banishment, their number is represented by the contemporaneous historians to have been about , a number most probably exaggerated, as perhaps all statements of the numbers of a people are when no statistical knowledge has been acquired. During this period of their abode in England, the Jews were protected as the villeins or bondsmen of the king, a protection disregarded by the commonalty, and only giving to the executive government greater facilities of extortion and oppression.
In an Amsterdam Jew, Rabbi Manasseh Ben-Israel, whose name is still highly esteemed among his countrymen, addressed Cromwell on the behalf of the Jews that they should be re-admitted into England with the sanction, and under the protection, of the law. Despite the absence of such sanction, they had resided and of course traded in this country, but in small numbers, and trading often in indirect and sometimes in contraband ways. Chaucer, writing in the days of Richard II., reigns after their expulsion, speaks of Jews as living in England. It is reputed that, in the reigns of Elizabeth and the James, they supplied, at great profit, the materials required by the alchymists for their experiments in the transmutation of metals. In Elizabeth's reign, too, Jewish physicians were highly esteemed in England. The Queen at time confided the care of her health to Rodrigo Lopez, a Hebrew, who, however, was convicted of an attempt to poison his royal mistress. Francis I., of France, carried his opinion of Jewish medical skill to a great height; he refused on occasion, during an illness, to be attended by the most eminent of the Israelitish physicians, because the learned man had just before been converted to Christianity. The most Christian king, therefore, applied to his ally, the Turkish sultan, Solyman II., who sent him "a true hardened Jew," by whose directions Francis drank asses' milk and recovered.
Cromwell's response to the application of Manasseh Ben Israel was favourable; but the opposition of the Puritans, and more especially of Prynne, prevented any public declaration on the subject. In , however, the Jews began to arrive and establish themselves in England, but not until after the restoration of Charles II., in , could it be said that, as a body, they were settled in England. They arrived from time to time, and without any formal sanction being either granted or refused. reason alleged at the time was, that the Jews were well known to be money-lenders, and Charles and his courtiers were as well known money-borrowers!
I now come to the character and establishment of the Jews in the capacity in which I have more especially to describe them — as street-traders. There appears no reason to doubt that they commenced their principal street traffic, the collecting of old clothes, soon after their settlement in London. At any rate the cry and calling of the Jew old clothesman were so established, or years after their return, or early in the last century, that of them is delineated in Tempest's "Cries of London," published about that period. In this work the street Jew is represented as very different in his appearance to that which he presents in our
|day. Instead of merely a dingy bag, hung empty over his arm, or carried, when partially or wholly filled, on his shoulder, he is depicted as wearing, or rather carrying, cocked hats, over the other, upon his head; a muff, with a scarf or large handkerchief over it, is attached to his right hand and arm, and dress swords occupy his left hand. The apparel which he himself wears is of the full-skirted style of the day, and his long hair, or periwig, descends to his shoulders. This difference in appearance, however, between the street Jew of and of a century and a half later, is simply the effect of circumstances, and indicates no change in the character of the man. Were it now the fashion for gentlemen to wear muffs, swords, and cocked hats, the Jew would again have them in his possession.|
During the eighteenth century the popular feeling ran very high against the Jews, although to the masses they were almost strangers, except as men employed in the not-very-formidable occupation of collecting and vending -hand clothes. The old feeling against them seems to have lingered among the English people, and their own greed in many instances engendered other and lawful causes of dislike, by their resorting to unlawful and debasing pursuits. They were considered—and with that exaggeration of belief dear to any ignorant community—as an entire people of misers, usurers, extortioners, receivers of stolen goods, cheats, brothel-keepers, sheriff's-officers, clippers and sweaters of the coin of the realm, gaming-house keepers; in fine, the charges, or rather the accusations, of carrying on every disreputable trade, and none else, were "bundled at their doors." That there was too much foundation for many of these accusations, and still , no reasonable Jew can now deny; that the wholesale prejudice against them was absurd, is equally indisputable.
So strong was this popular feeling against the Israelites, that it not only influenced, and not only controlled the legislature, but it coerced the Houses of Parliament to repeal, in , an act which they had passed the previous session, and that act was merely to enable foreign Jews to be naturalized without being required to take the sacrament! It was at that time, and while the popular ferment was at its height, unsafe for a Hebrew old clothesman, however harmless a man, and however long and well known on his beat, to ply his streetcalling openly; for he was often beaten and maltreated. Mobs, riots, pillagings, and attacks upon the houses of the Jews were frequent, and of the favourite cries of the mob was certainly among the most preposterously stupid of any which ever tickled the ear and satisfied the mind of the ignorant:—
Some mob-leader, with a taste for rhyme, had in this distich cleverly blended the prejudice against the Jews with the easily excited but vague fears of a French invasion, which was in some strange way typified to the apprehensions of the vulgar as connected with slavery, popery, the compulsory wearing of wooden shoes (), and the eating of frogs! And this sort of feeling was often revenged on the street-Jew, as a man mixed up with wooden shoes! Cumberland, in the comedy of "The Jew," and some time afterwards Miss Edgeworth, in the tale of "Harrington and Ormond," and both at the request of Jews, wrote to moderate this rabid prejudice.
In what estimation the street, and, incidentally, all classes of Jews are held at the present time, will be seen in the course of my remarks; and in the narratives to be given. I may here observe, however, that among some the dominant feeling against the Jews on account of their faith still flourishes, as is shown by the following statement: —A gentleman of my acquaintance was evening, about twilight, walking down Brydgesstreet, Covent-garden, when an elderly Jew was preceding him, apparently on his return from a day's work, as an old clothesman. His bag accidentally touched the bonnet of a dashing woman of the town, who was passing, and she turned round, abused the Jew, and spat at him, saying with an oath: "You old rags humbug! can't do that!"—an allusion to a vulgar notion that Jews have been unable to do more than , since spitting on the Saviour.
The number of Jews now in England is computed at . This is the result at which the Chief Rabbi arrived a few years ago, after collecting all the statistical information at his command. Of these , more than -half, or about , reside in London. I am informed that there may now be a small increase to this population, but only small, for many Jews have emigrated—some to California. A few years ago— a circumstance mentioned in my account of the Street-Sellers of Jewellery—there were a number of Jews known as "hawkers," or "travellers," who traverse every part of England selling watches, gold and silver pencil-cases, eye-glasses, and all the more portable descriptions of jewellery, as well as thermometers, barometers, telescopes, and microscopes. This trade is now little pursued, except by the stationary dealers; and the Jews who carried it on, and who were chiefly foreign Jews, have emigrated to America. The foreign Jews who, though a fluctuating body, are always numerous in London, are included in the computation of ; of this population -thirds reside in the city, or the streets adjacent to the eastern boundaries of the city.
|View all images in this book|
|Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles|
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Metal Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Metal Trays, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Linen, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Curtains
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Carpeting, Flannels, Stocking-Legs, &c., &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Bed-Ticking, Sacking, Fringe, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Glass and Crockery
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Miscellaneous Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Musical Instruments
Of the Music 'Duffers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Weapons
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Curiosities
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Telescopes and Pocket Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Other Miscellaneous Second-Hand Articles
Of Second-Hand Store Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Apparel
Of the Old Clothes Exchange
Of the Wholesale Business at the Old Clothes Exchange
Of the Uses of Second-Hand Garments
Of the Street-Sellers of Petticoat and Rosemary-Lanes
Of the Street-Sellers of Men's Second-Hand Clothes
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Boots and Shoes
Of the Street-Sellers of Old Hats
Of the Street-Sellers of Women's Second-Hand Apparel
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Furs
Of the Second-Hand Sellers of Smithfield- Market
|Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals|
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Former Street-Sellers, 'Finders,' Stealers, and Restorers of Dogs
Of a Dog-'Finder' -- A 'Lurker's' Career
Of the Present Street-Sellers of Dogs.
Of the Street-Sellers of Sporting Dogs
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Birds
Of the Bird-Catchers Who are Street- Sellers
Of the Crippled Street Bird-Seller
Of the Tricks of the Bird-Duffers
Of the Street-Sellers of Foreign Birds
Of the Street-Sellers of Birds'--Nests
Of the Street-Sellers of Squirrels
Of the Street-Sellers of Leverets, Wild Rabbits, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Gold and Silver Fish
Of the Street-Sellers of Tortoises
Of the Street-Sellers of Snails, Frogs, Worms, Snakes, Hedgehogs, Etc.
|Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities|
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Coals
Of the Street-Sellers of Coke
Of the Street-Sellers of Tan-Turf
Of the Street-Sellers of Salt
Of the Street-Sellers of Sand
Of the Street-Sellers of Shells
Of the River Beer-Sellers, or Purl-Men
Of the Numbers, Capital, and income of the Street- Sellers of Second-Hand Articles, Live Animals, Mineral Producions, Etc.
Income, or 'Takinags' of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
|Of the Street-Buyers|
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Buyers of Rags, Broken Metal, Bottles, Glass, and Bones
Of the 'Rag-and-Bottle,' and the 'Marine-Store' Shops
Of the Buyers of Kitchen-Stuff, Grease, and Dripping
Of the Street-Buyers of Hare and Rabbit Skins
Of the Street-Buyers of Waste (Paper)
Of the Street-Buyers of Umbrellas and Parasols
|Of the Street-Jews|
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Trades and Localities of the Street-Jews
Of the Jew Old-Clothes Men
Of a Jew Street-Seller
Of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers
Of the Pursuits, Dwellings, Traffic, Etc., of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers
Of the Street Jewesses and Street Jew-Girls
Of the Synagogues and the Religion of the Street and Other Jews
Of the Politics, Literature, and Amusements of the Jews
Of the Charities, Schools, and Education of the Jews
Of the Funeral Ceremonies, Fasts, and Customs of the Jews
Of the Jew Street-Sellers of Accordions, and of their Street Musical Pursuits
Of the Street-Buyers of Hogs'--Wash
Of the Street-Buyers of Tea-Leaves
|Of the Street-Finders or Collectors|
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Bone-Grubbers and Rag-Gatherers
Of the 'Pure'-Finders
Of the Cigar-End Finders
Of the Old Wood Gatherers
Of the Dredgers, or River Finders
Of the Sewer-Hunters
Of the Mud-Larks
Of the London Dustmen, Nightmen, Sweeps, and Scavengers
Of the Dustmen of London
Of the London Sewerage and Scavengery
|Of the Streets of London|
Of the Streets of London
Of the Traffic of London
Of the Dust and Dirt of the Streets of London
Of the Street-Dust of London, and the Loss and injury Occasioned by it
Of the Horse-Dung of the Streets of London
Of Street 'Mac' and Other Mud
Of the Mud of the Streets
Of the Surface-Water of the Streets of London
Of the Master Scavengers in Former Times
Of the Several Modes and Characteristics of Street-Cleansing
Of the Contractors For Scavengery
Of the Contractors' (or Employers') Premises, &c.
Of the Working Scavengers Under the Contractors
Of the 'Casual Hands' Among the Scavagers
Of the Influence of Free Trade on the Earnings of the Scavagers
Of the Worse Paid Scavagers, or Those Working For Scurf Employers
Of the Street-Sweeping Machine, and the Street-Sweepers Employed With it
Of the Cleansing of the Streets by Pauper Labour
Of the Street-Orderlies
Street Orderlies -- City Surveyor's Report
Of the 'Jet and Hose' System of Scavaging
Of the Cost and Traffic of the Streets of London
Of the Rubbish Carters
Of Casual Labour in General, and That of the Rubbish-Carters in Particular
Of the Casual Labourers among the Rubbish-Carters
The Effects of Casual Labour in General
Of the Scurf Trade Among the Rubbish- Carters
|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