London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of a Jew Street-Seller.
AN elderly man, who, at the time I saw him, was vending spectacles, or bartering them for old clothes, old books, or any -hand articles, gave me an account of his street-life, but it presented little remarkable beyond the not unusual vicissitudes of the lives of those of his class.
He had been in every street-trade, and had on occasions travelled all over England, selling quills, sealing-wax, pencils, sponges, braces, cheap or superior jewellery, thermometers, and pictures. He had sold barometers in the mountainous parts of Cumberland, sometimes walking for hours without seeing man or woman. "," he said, " I was afterwards in the old-clothes line. I buy a few odd hats and light things still, but I'm not able to carry heavy weights, as my breath is getting rather short." [I find that the Jews generally object to the more laborious kinds of street-traffic.] "Yes, I've been twice to Ireland, and sold a good many quills in Dublin, for I crossed over from Liverpool. Quills and wax were a great trade with us once; now it's quite different. I've had as much as of my own, and that more than half-a-dozen times, but all of it went in speculations. Yes, some went in gambling. I had a share in a gaming-booth at the races, for years. O, I dare say that's more than years back; but we did very little good. There was such fees to pay for the tent on a raceground, and often such delays between the races in the different towns, and bribes to be given to the town-officers—such as town-sergeants and chief constables, and I hardly know who—and so many expenses altogether, that the profits were mostly swamped. Once at Newcastle races there was a fight among the pitmen, and our tent was in their way, and was demolished almost to bits. A deal of the money was lost or stolen. I don't know how much, but not near so much as my partners wanted to make out. I wasn't on the spot just at the time. I got married after that, and took a shop in the -hand clothes line in Bristol, but my wife died in child-bed in less than a year, and the shop didn't answer; so I got sick of it, and at last got rid of it. O, I work both the country and London still. I shall take a turn into Kent in a day or . I suppose I clear between and a week in anything, and as I've only myself, I do middling, and am ready for another chance if any likely speculation offers. I lodge with a relation, and sometimes live with his family. No, I never touch any meat but 'Coshar.' I suppose my meat now costs me or a day, but it has cost me times that—and for beer in addition."
I am informed that there are about adult Jews (besides old-clothes men) in the streets selling fruit, cakes, pencils, spectacles, sponge, accordions, drugs, &c.