London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Pursuits, Dwellings, Traffic, Etc., of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers.
TO speak of the street Jew-boys as regards their traffic, manners, haunts, and associations, is to speak of the same class of boys who may not be employed regularly in street-sale, but are the comrades of those who are; a class, who, on any cessation of their employment in cigar manufactories, or indeed any capacity, will apply themselves temporarily to street-selling, for it seems to these poor and uneducated lads a sort of natural vocation.
These youths, or by their parents (who are of the lowest class of the Jews, and who often, I am told, care little about the matter, so long as the child can earn his own maintenance), frequently in the evenings, after their day's work, resort to coffee-shops, in preference even to a cheap concert-room. In these places they amuse themselves as men might do in a tavern where the landlord leaves his guests to their own caprices. Sometimes of them reads aloud from some exciting or degrading book, the lads who are unable to read listening with all the intentness with which many of the uneducated attend to any reading. The reading is, however, not unfrequently interrupted by rude comments from the listeners. If a newspaper be read, the "police," or "crimes," are mostly the parts preferred. But the most approved way of passing the evening, among the Jew boys, is to play at draughts, dominoes, or cribbage, and to bet on the play. Draughts and dominoes are unpractised among the costermonger boys, but some of the young Jews are adepts in those games.
A gentleman who took an interest in the Jew lads told me that he had often heard the sort of reading and comments I have described, when he had called to talk to and perhaps expostulate with these youths in a coffee-shop, but he informed me that they seldom regarded any expostulation, and
|seemed to be little restrained by the presence of a stranger, the lads all muttering and laughing in a box among themselves. I saw of them, a little after in the evening, in a coffee-shop in the London-road,—although it is not much of a Jewish locality,—and of them were playing at draughts for coffee, while the others looked on, betting halfpennies or pennies with all the eagerness of gamblers, unrestrained in their expressions of delight or disappointment as they thought they were winning or losing, and commenting on the moves with all the assurance of connoisseurship; sometimes they squabbled angrily and then suddenly dropped their voices, as the master of the coffee-shop had once or twice cautioned them to be quiet.
The dwellings of boys such as these are among the worst in London, as regards ventilation, comfort, or cleanliness. They reside in the courts and recesses about Whitechapel and Petticoatlane, and generally in a garret. If not orphans they usually dwell with their father. I am told that the care of a mother is almost indispensable to a poor Jew boy, and having that care he seldom becomes an outcast. The Jewesses and Jew girls are rarely itinerant street-sellers—not in the proportion of to , compared with the men and boys; in this respect therefore the street Jews differ widely from the English costermongers and the street Irish, nor are the Hebrew females even stall-keepers in the same proportion.
Jew boy's lodging which I visited was in a back garret, low and small. The boy lived with his father (a street-seller of fruit), and the room was very bare. A few sacks were thrown over an old palliass, a blanket seemed to be used for a quilt; there were no fire-irons nor fender; no cooking utensils. Beside the bed was an old chest, serving for a chair, while a board resting on a trestle did duty for a table (this was once, I presume, a small street-stall). The not very large window was thick with dirt and patched all over. Altogether I have seldom seen a more wretched apartment. The man, I was told, was addicted to drinking.
The callings of which the Jew boys have the monopoly are not connected with the sale of any especial article, but rather with such things as present a variety from those ordinarily offered in the streets, such as cakes, sweetmeats, fried fish, and (in the winter) elder wine. The cakes known as "boolers"—a mixture of egg, flour, and candied orange or lemon peel, cut very thin, and with a slight colouring from saffron or something similar— are now sold principally, and used to be sold exclusively, by the Jew boys. Almond cakes (little round cakes of crushed almonds) are at present vended by the Jew boys, and their sponge biscuits are in demand. All these dainties are bought by the street-lads of the Jew pastry-cooks. The difference in these cakes, in their sweetmeats, and their elder wine, is that there is a dash of spice about them not ordinarily met with. It is the same with the fried fish, a little spice or pepper being blended with the oil. In the street-sale of pickles the Jews have also the monopoly; these, however, are seldom hawked, but generally sold from windows and door-steads. The pickles are cucumbers or gherkins, and onions—a large cucumber being , and the smaller and
The faults of the Jew lad are an eagerness to make money by any means, so that he often grows up a cheat, a trickster, a receiver of stolen goods, though seldom a thief, for he leaves that to others. He is content to profit by the thief's work, but seldom himself, however he may cheat. Some of these lads become rich men: others are vagabonds all their lives. None of the Jew lads confine themselves to the sale of any article, nor do they seem to prefer branch of streettraffic to another. Even those who cannot read are exceedingly quick.
I may here observe in connection with the receipt of stolen goods, that I shall deal with this subject in my account of the LONDON THIEVES. I shall also show the connection of Jewesses and Jews with the , in my forthcoming exposition of the LONDON PROS- TITUTES.