A. The Able-Bodied Sweepers.
The elder portion of the London crossingsweepers admit, as we have before said, of being arranged, for the sake of perspicuity, into several classes. I shall begin with the
Able-bodied Males; then proceed to the Females
of the same class; and afterwards deal with the Able-bodied Irish (male and female), who take to the London causeways for a living. This done, I shall then, in due order, take up the Afflicted or Crippled class; and finally treat of the Juveniles belonging to the same calling.
1. The Able-Bodied Male Crossing-Sweepers.
The "Aristocratic" Crossing-Sweeper.
"BILLY" is the popular name of the man who for many years has swept the long crossing that cuts off one corner of Cavendish-square, making a "short cut" from Old Cavendish-street to the Duke of Portland's mansion.
Billy is a merry, good-tempered kind of man, with a face as red as a love-apple, and cheeks streaked with little veins.
"His hair is white, and his eyes are as black and bright as a terrier's. He can hardly speak a sentence without finishing it off with a moist chuckle.
His clothes have that peculiar look which arises from being often wet through, but still they are decent, and far above what his class usually wear. The hat is limp in the brim, from being continually touched.
The day when I saw Billy was a wet one, and he had taken refuge from a shower under the Duke of Portland's stone gateway. His tweed coat, torn and darned, was black about the shoulders with the rain-drops, and his boots grey with mud, but, he told me, "It was no good trying to keep clean shoes such a day as that, 'cause the blacking come off in the puddles."
Billy is "well up" in the Court Guide. He continually stopped in his statement to tell whom my Lord B. married, or where my Lady C. had gone to spend the summer, or what was the title of the Marquis So-and-So's eldest boy.
He was very grateful, moreover, to all who had assisted him, and would stop looking up at the ceiling, and God-blessing them all with a species of religious fervour.
His regret that the good old times had passed, when he made "hats full of money," was unmistakably sincere; and when he had occasion to allude to them, he always delivered his opinion upon the late war, calling it "a-cut-and
run affair," and saying that it was "nothing at all put alongside with the old war, when the halfpence and silver coin were twice as big and twenty times more plentiful" than during the late campaign.
Without the least hesitation he furnished me with the following particulars of his life and calling:—
I was born in London, in Cavendish-square, and (he added, laughing) I ought to have a title, for I first came into the world at No. 3, which was Lord Bessborough's then. My mother went there to do her work, for she chaired there, and she was took sudden and couldn't go no further. She couldn't have chosen a better place, could she? You see I was born in Cavendish-square, and I've worked
in Cavendish-square—sweeping a crossing—for now near upon fifty year.
Until I was nineteen—I'm sixty-nine now —I used to sell water-creases, but they felled off and then I dropped it. Both mother and myself sold water-creases after my Lord Bessborough died; for whilst he lived she wouldn't leave him not for nothing.
We used to do uncommon well at one time; there wasn't nobody about then as there is now. I've sold flowers, too; they was very good then; they was mostly show carnations and moss roses, and such-like, but no common flowers—it wouldn't have done for me to sell common things at the houses I used to go to.
The reason why I took to a crossing was, I had an old father and I didn't want him to go to the workus. I didn't wish too to do anything bad myself, and I never would—no, sir, for I've got as good a charackter as the first nobleman in the land, and that's a fine thing, ain't it? So as water-creases had fell off till they wasn't a living to me, I had to do summat else to help me to live.
I saw the crossing-sweepers in Westminster making a deal of money, so I thought to myself I'll do that, and I fixed upon Cavendishsquare, because, I said to myself, I'm known there; it's where I was born, and there I set to work.
The very first day I was at work I took ten shillings. I never asked nobody; I only bowed my head and put my hand to my hat, and they knowed what it meant.
By jingo, when I took that there I thought to myself, What a fool I've been to stop at water-creases!
For the first ten year I did uncommon well. Give me the old-fashioned way; they were good times then; I like the old-fashioned way. Give me the old penny pieces, and then the eighteen-penny pieces, and the three-shilling pieces, and the seven-shilling pieces—give me them, I says. The day the old halfpence and silver was cried down, that is, the old coin was called in to change the currency, my hat wouldn't hold the old silver and halfpence I was give that afternoon. I had such a
lot, upon my word, they broke my pocket. I didn't know the money was altered, but a fishmonger says to me, 'Have you got any old silver?' I said 'Yes, I've got a hat full;' and then says he, 'Take 'em down to Couttseses and change 'em.' I went, and I was nearly squeeged to death.
That was the first time I was like to be killed, but I was nigh killed again when Queen Caroline passed through Cavendish-square after her trial. They took the horses out of her carriage and pulled her along. She kept a chucking money out of the carriage, and I went and scrambled for it, and I got fiveand- twenty shillin, but my hand was a nigh smashed through it; and, says a friend of mine, before I went, 'Billy,' says he, 'don't you go;' and I was sorry after I did. She was a good woman,
she was. The Yallers, that is, the king's party, was agin her, and pulled up the paving-stones when her funeral passed; but the Blues was for her.
I can remember, too, the mob at the time of the Lord Castlereagh riots. They went to Portman-square and broke all the winders in the house. They pulled up all the rails to purtect theirselves with. I went to the Bishop of Durham's, and hid myself in the coal-cellar then. My mother chaired there, too. The Bishop of Durham and Lord Harcourt opened their gates and hurrah'd the mob, so they had nothing of their's touched; but whether they did it through fear or not I can't say. The mob was carrying a quartern loaf dipped in bullock's blood, and when I saw it I thought it was a man's head; so that frightened me, and I run off.
I remember, too, when Lady Pembroke's house was burnt to the ground. That's about eighteen year ago. It was very lucky the family wasn't in town. The housekeeper was a nigh killed, and they had to get her out over the stables; and when her ladyship heard she was all right, she said she didn't care for the fire since the old dame was saved, for she had lived along with the family for many years. No, bless you, sir! I didn't help at the fire; I'm too much of a coward to do that.
All the time the Duke of Portland was alive he used to allow me 7s. 6d. a-week, which was 1s. a-day and 1s. 6d. for Sundays. He was a little short man, and a very good man he was too, for it warn't only me as he gave money to, but to plenty others. He was the best man in England for that.
Lord George Bentinck, too, was a good friend to me. He was a great racer, he was, and then he turned to be member of parliament, and then he made a good man they tell me; but he never comed over my crossing without giving me something. He was at the corner of Holly Street, he was, and he never put foot on my crossing without giving me a sovereign. Perhaps he wouldn't cross more than once or twice a month, but when he comed my way
that was his money. Ah! he was a nice feller,
he was. When he give it he always put it in my hand and never let nobody see it, and that's the way I like to have my fee give me.
There's Mrs. D——, too, as lived at No. 6; she was a good friend of mine, and always allowed me a suit of clothes a-year; but she's dead, good lady, now.
Dr. C—— and his lady, they, likewise, was very kind friends of mine, and gave me every year clothes, and new shoes, and blankets, aye, and a bed, too, if I had wanted it; but now they are all dead, down to the coachman. The doctor's old butler, Mr. K——, he gave me twenty-five shillings the day of the funeral, and, says he, 'Bill, I'm afraid this will be the last.' Poor good friends they was all of them, and I did feel cut up when I see the hearse going off.
There was another gentleman, Mr. W. T——, who lives in Harley-street; he never come by me without giving me half-a-crown. He was a real good gentleman; but I haven't seen him for a long time now, and perhaps he's dead too.
All my friends is dropping off. I'm fiftyfive, and they was men when I was a boy. All the good gentlemen's gone, only the bad ones stop.
Another friend of mine is Lord B——. He always drops me a shilling when he come by; and, says he, 'You don't know me, but I knows you, Billy.' But I do know him, for my mother worked for the family many a year, and, considering I was born in the house, I think to myself, 'If I don't know you, why I ought.' He's a handsome, stout young chap, and as nice a gentleman as any in the land.
One of the best friends I had was Prince E——, as lived there in Chandos-street, the bottom house yonder. I had five sovereigns give me the day as he was married to his beautiful wife. Don't you remember what a talk there was about her diamonds, sir? They say she was kivered in 'em. He used to put his hand in his pocket and give me two or three shillings every time he crossed. He was a gentleman as was uncommon fond of the gals, sir. He'd go and talk to all the maid-servants round about, if they was only good-looking. I used to go and ring the hairy bells for him, and tell the gals to go and meet him in Chapel-street. God bless him! I says, he was a pleasant gentleman, and a regular good 'un for a bit of fun, and always looking lively and smiling. I see he's got his old coachman yet, though the Prince don't live in England at present, but his son does, and he always gives me a half-crown when he comes by too.
I gets a pretty fine lot of Christmas boxes, but nothing like what I had in the old times. Prince E—— always gives me half a crown, and I goes to the butler for it. Pretty near all my friends gives me a box, them as knows
me, and they say, 'Here's a Christmas box, Billy.'
Last Christmas-day I took 36s., and that was pretty fair; but, bless you, in the old times I've had my hat full of money. I tells you again I've have had as much as 5l. in old times, all in old silver and halfpence; that was in the old war, and not this runaway shabby affair.
Every Sunday I have sixpence regular from Lord H——, whether he's in town or not. I goes and fetches it. Mrs. D——, of Harley-street, she gives me a shilling every Sunday when she's in town; and the parents as knows me give halfpence to their little girls to give me. Some of the little ladies says, 'Here, that will do you good.' No, it's only pennies (for sixpences is out of fashion); and thank God for the coppers, though they are little.
I generally, when the people's out of town, take about 2s. or 2s. 6d. on the Sunday. Last Sunday I only took 1s. 3d., but then, you see, it come on to rain and I didn't stop. When the town's full three people alone gives me more than that. In the season I take 5s. safe on a Sunday, or perhaps 6s.—for you see it's all like a lottery.
I should like you to mention Lady Mildmay in Grosvenor-square, sir. Whenever I goes to see her—but you know I don't go often—I'm safe for 5s., and at Christmas I have my regular salary, a guinea. She's a very old lady, and I've knowed her for many and many years. When I goes to my lady she always comes out to speak to me at the door, and says she, 'Oh, 'tis Willy! and how do you do, Willy?' and she always shakes hands with me and laughs away. Ah! she's a good kind creetur'; there's no pride in her whatsumever—and she never sacks her servants.
My crossing has been a good living to me and mine. It's kept the whole of us. Ah! in the old time I dare say I've made as much as 3l. a week reg'lar by it. Besides, I used to have lots of broken vittals, and I can tell you I know'd where to take 'em to. Ah! I've had as much food as I could carry away, and reg'lar good stuff—chicken, and some things I couldn't guess the name of, they was so Frenchified. When the fam'lies is in town I gets a good lot of food given me, but you know when the nobility and gentlemen are away the servants is on board wages, and cuss them board wages, I says.
I buried my father and mother as a son ought to. Mother was seventy-three and father was sixty-five,—good round ages, ain't they, sir? I shall never live to be that. They are lying in St. John's Wood cemetery along with many of my brothers and sisters, which I have buried as well. I've only two brothers living now; and, poor fellows, they're not very well to do. It cost me a good bit of money. I pay 2s. 6d. a-year for keeping up the graves
of each of my parents, and 1s. 2d. for my brothers.
There was the Earl of Gainsborough as I should like you to mention as well, please sir. He lived in Chandos-street, and was a particular nice man and very religious. He always gave me a shilling and a tract. Well, you see, I did often read the tract; they was all religious, and about where your souls was to go to—very good, you know, what there was, very good; and he used to buy 'em wholesale at a little shop, corner of High-street, Marrabun. He was a very good, kind gentleman, and gave away such a deal of money that he got reg'lar known, and the little beggar girls follered him at such a rate that he was at last forced to ride about in a cab to get away from 'em. He's many a time said to me, when he's stopped to give me my shilling, 'Billy, is any of 'em a follering me?' He was safe to give to every body as asked him, but you see it worried his soul out—and it was a kind soul, too—to be follered about by a mob.
When all the fam'lies is in town I has 14s.
a-week reg'lar as clock-work from my friends as lives round the square, and when they're away I don't get 6d. a-day, and sometimes I don't get 1d. a-day, and that's less. You see some of 'em, like my Lord B——, is out eight months in the year; and some of'em, such as my Lord H——, is only three. Then Mrs. D——, she's away three months, and she always gives 1s. a-week reg'lar when she's up in London.
I don't take 4s. a-week on the crossing. Ah! I wish you'd give me 4s. for what I take. No, I make up by going of errands. I runs for the fam'lies, and the servants, and any of 'em. Sometimes they sends me to a banker's with a cheque. Bless you! they'd trust me with anythink, if it was a hat full. I've had a lot of money trusted to me at times. At one time I had as much as 83l. to carry for the Duke of Portland.
Aye, that was a go—that was! You see the hall-porter had had it give to him to carry to the bank, and he gets me to do it for him; but the vallet heerd of it, so he wanted to have a bit of fun, and he wanted to put the hall-porter in a funk. I met the vallet in Holborn, and says he, 'Bill, I want to have a lark,' so he kept me back, and I did not get back till one o'clock. The hall-porter offered 5l. reward for me, and sends the police; but Mr. Freebrother, Lord George's wallet, he says, 'I'll make it all right, Billy.' They sent up to my poor old people, and says father, 'Billy wouldn't rob anybody of a nightcap, much more 80l.' I met the policeman in Holborn, and says he, 'I want you, Billy,' and says I, 'All right, here I am.' When I got home the hall-porter, says he, 'Oh, I am a dead man; where's the money?' and says I, 'It's lost.' 'Oh! it's the Duke's, not mine,' says he. Then I pulls it out; and says the porter, 'It's a lark of Freebrother's.' So he gave me 2l.
to make it all right. That was a game, and the hall-porter, says he, 'I really thought you was gone, Billy;' but, says I, 'If everybody carried as good a face as I do, everybody would be as honest as any in Cavendishsquare.'
I had another lark at the Bishop of Durham's. I was a cleaning the knives, and a swellmobsman, with a green-baize bag, come down the steps, and says he to me, 'Is Mr. Lewis, the butler, in?—he'd got the name off quite pat. 'No,' says I, 'he's up-stairs;' then says he, 'Can I step into the pantry?' 'Oh, yes,' says I, and shows him in. Bless you! he was so well-dressed, I thought he was a master-shoemaker or something; but as all the plate was there, thinks I, I'll just lock the door to make safe. So I fastens him in tight, and keeps him there till Mr. Lewis comes. No, he didn't take none of the plate, for Mr. Lewis come down, and then, as he didn't know nothink about him, we had in a policeman, when we finds his bag was stuffed with silver tea-pots and all sorts of things from my Lord Musgrave's. Says Mr. Lewis, 'You did quite right, Billy.' It wasn't a likely thing I was going to let anybody into a pantry crammed with silver.
There was another chap who had prigged a lot of plate. He was an old man, and had a bag crammed with silver, and was a cutting away, with lots of people after him. So I puts my broom across his legs and tumbles him, and when he got up he cut away and left the bag. Ah! I've seen a good many games in my time—that I have. The butler of the house the plate had been stole from give me 2l. for doing him that turn.
Once a gentleman called me, and says he, 'My man, how long have you been in this square?' Says I, 'I'm Billy, and been here a'most all my life.' Then he says, 'Can I trust you to take a cheque to Scott, the banker?' and I answers, 'That's as you like,' for I wasn't going to press him. It was a heavy cheque, for Mr. Scott, as knows me well— aye, well, he do—says 'Billy, I can't give you all in notes, you must stop a bit.' It nearly filled the bag I had with me. I took it all safe back, and says he, 'Ah! I knowed it would be all right,' and he give me a half-sovereign. I should like you to put these things down, 'cos it's a fine thing for my charackter, and I can show my face with any man for being honest, that's one good thing.
I pays 4s. a-week for two rooms, one up and one down, for I couldn't live in one room. I come to work always near eight o'clock, for you see it takes me some time to clean the knives and boots at Lord B——'s. I get sometimes 1s. and sometimes 1s. 6d. a-week for doing that, and glad I am to have it. It's only for the servants I does it, not for the quality.
When I does anythink for the servants, it's
either cleaning boots and knives, or putting letters in the post—that's it—anythink of that kind. They gives me just what they can, 1d.
or 2d. or half a pint of beer when they ha'n't got any coppers.
Sometimes I gets a few left-off clothes, but very seldom. I have two suits a-year give me reg'lar, and I goes to a first-rate tailor for 'em, though they don't make the prime—of course not, yet they're very good. Now this coat I liked very well when it was new, it was so clean and tidy. No, the tailor don't show me the pattern-books and that sort of thing: he knows what's wanted. I won't never have none of them washing duck breeches; that's the only thing as I refuses, and the tailor knows that. I looks very nice after Christmas, I can tell you, and I've always got a good tidy suit for Sundays, and God bless them as gives 'em to me.
Every Sunday I gets a hot dinner at Lord B——'s, whether he's out of town or in town —that's summat. I gets bits, too, give me, so that I don't buy a dinner, no, not once aweek. I pays 4s. a-week rent, and I dare say my food, morning and night, costs me a 1s.
a-day—aye, I'm sure it does, morning and night. At present I don't make 12s. a-week; but take the year round, one week with another, it might come to 13s. or 14s. a-week I gets. Yes, I'll own to that.
Christmas is my best time; then I gets more than 1l. a-week: now I don't take 4s. a-week on my crossing. Many's the time I've made my breakfast on a pen'orth of coffee and a halfpenny slice of bread and butter. What do you think of that?
Wet weather does all the harm to me- People, you see, don't like to come out. I think I've got the best side of the square, and you see my crossing is a long one, and saves people a deal of ground, for it cuts off the corner. It used to be a famous crossing in its time—hah! but that's gone.
I always uses what they calls the brushbrooms; that's them with a flat head like a house-broom. I can't abide them others; they don't look well, and they wears out ten times as quick as mine. I general buys the eights, that's 10d. a-piece, and finds my own handles. A broom won't last me more than a fortnight, it's such a long crossing; but when it was paved, afore this muckydam (macadamising) was turned up, a broom would last me a full three months. I can't abide this muckydam—can you, sir? it's sloppy stuff, and goes so bad in holes. Give me the good solid stones as used to be.
I does a good business round the square when the snow's on the ground. I general does each house at so much a-week whilst it snows. Hardwicks give me a shilling. I does only my side, and that next Oxford-street. I don't go to the others, unless somebody comes and orders me—for fair play is fair play—and they belongs to
the other sweepers. I does my part and they does theirs.
It's seldom as I has a shop to sweep out, and I don't do nothink with shutters. I'm getting too old now for to be called in to carry boxes up gentlemen's houses, but when I was young I found plenty to do that way. There's a man at the corner of Chandosstreet, and he does the most of that kind of work.
The Bearded Crossing-Sweeper at the Exchange.
SINCE the destruction by fire of the Royal Exchange in 1838, there has been added to the curiosities of Cornhill a thickset, sturdy, and hirsute crossing-sweeper—a man who is as civil by habit as he is independent by nature. He has a long flowing beard, grey as wood smoke, and a pair of fierce moustaches, giving a patriarchal air of importance to a marked and observant face, which often serves as a painter's model. After half-an-hour's conversation, you are forced to admit that his looks do not all belie him, and that the old mariner (for such was his profession formerly) is worthy in some measure of his beard.
He wears an old felt hat—very battered and discoloured; around his neck, which is bared in accordance with sailor custom, he has a thick blue cotton neckerchief tied in a sailor's knot; his long iron-grey beard is accompanied by a healthy and almost ruddy face. He stands against the post all day, saying nothing, and taking what he can get without solicitation.
When I first spoke to him, he wanted to know to what purpose I intended applying the information that he was prepared to afford, and it was not until I agreed to walk with him as far as St. Mary-Axe that I was enabled to obtain his statement, as follows:—
I've had this crossing ever since '38. The Exchange was burnt down in that year. Why, sir, I was wandering about trying to get a crust, and it was very sloppy, so I took and got a broom; and while I kept a clean crossing, I used to get ha'pence and pence. I got a dockman's wages—that's half-a-crown a-day; sometimes only a shilling, and sometimes more. I have taken a crown—but that's very rare. The best customers I had is dead. I used to make a good Christmas, but I don't now. I have taken a pound or thirty shillings then in the old times.
I smoke, sir; I will have tobacco, if I can't get grub. My old woman takes cares that I have tobacco.
I have been a sailor, and the first ship as ever I was in was the Old Colossus, 74, but we was only cruising about the Channel then, and took two prizes. I went aboard the Old Remewa guardship—we were turned over to
her—and from her I was drafted over to the Escramander frigate. We went out chasing Boney, but he gived himself up to the Old Impregnable. I was at the taking of Algiers, in 1816, in the Superb. I was in the Rochfort, 74, up the Mediterranean (they call it up the Mediterranean, but it was the Malta station) three years, ten months, and twenty days, until the ship was paid off.
Then I went to work at the Dockyard. I had a misfortune soon after that. I fell out of a garret window, three stories high, and that kept me from going to the Docks again. I lost all my top teeth by that fall. I've got a scar here, one on my chin; but I warn't in the hospital more than two weeks.
I was afeard of being taken up solicitin' charity, and I knew that sweeping was a safe game; they couldn't take me up for sweeping a crossing.
Sometimes I get insulted, only in words; sometimes I get chaffed by sober people. Drunken men I don't care for; I never listen to 'em, unless they handle me, and then, although I am sixty-three this very day, sir, I think I could show them something. I do
carry my age well; and if you could ha' seen how I have lived this last winter through, sometimes one pound of bread between two of us, you'd say I was a strong man to be as I am.
Those who think that sweepin' a crossing is idle work, make a great mistake. In wet weather, the traffic that makes it gets sloppy as soon as it's cleaned. Cabs, and 'busses, and carriages continually going over the crossing must scatter the mud on it, and you must look precious sharp to keep it clean; but when I once get in the road, I never jump out of it. I keeps my eye both ways, and if I gets in too close quarters, I slips round the wheels. I've had them almost touch me.
No, sir, I never got knocked down. In foggy weather, of course, it's no use sweeping at all.
Parcels! it's very few parcels I get to carry now; I don't think I get a parcel to carry once in a month: there's 'busses and railways so cheap. A man would charge as much for a distance as a cab would take them.
I don't come to the same crossing on Sundays; I go to the corner of Finch-lane. As to regular customers, I've none—to say regular; some give me sixpence now and then. All those who used to give me regular are dead.
I was a-bed when the Exchange was burnt down.
I have had this beard five years. I grew it to sit to artists when I got the chance; but it don't pay expenses—for I have to walk four or five miles, and only get a shilling an hour: besides, I'm often kept nearly two hours, and I get nothing for going and nothing for coming, but just for the time I am there.
Afore I wore it, I had a pair of large whis-
kers. I went to a gentleman then, an artist, and he did pay me well. He advised me to grow mustarshers and the beard, but he hasn't employed me since.
They call me 'Old Jack' on the crossing, that's all they call me. I get more chaff from the boys than any one else. "They only say, 'Why don't you get shaved?' but I take no notice on 'em.
Old Bill, in Lombard Street! I knows him; he used to make a good thing of it, but I don't think he makes much now.
My wife—I am married, sir—doesn't do anything. I live in a lodging-house, and I pay three shillings a-week.
I tell you what we has, now, when I go home. We has a pound of bread, a quarter of an ounce of tea, and perhaps a red herring.
I've had a weakness in my legs for two year; the veins comes down, but I keep a bandage in my pocket, and when I feels 'em coming down, I puts the bandage on 'till the veins goes up again—it's through being on my legs so long (because I had very strong legs when young) and want of good food. When you only have a bit of bread and a cup of tea —no meat, no vegetables—you find it out; but I'm as upright as a dart, and as lissom as ever I was.
I gives threepence for my brooms. I wears out three in a week in the wet weather. I always lean very hard on my broom, 'specially when the mud is sticky—as it is after the roads is watered. I am very particular about my brooms; I gives 'em away to be burned when many another would use them.
The Sweeper in Portman Square, Who Got Permission From the Police.
A WILD-LOOKING man, with long straggling grey hair, which stood out from his head as if he brushed it the wrong way; and whiskers so thick and curling that they reminded one of the wool round a sheep's face, gave me the accompanying history.
He was very fond of making use of the term "honest crust," and each time he did so, he, Irish-like, pronounced it "currust." He seemed a kind-hearted, innocent creature, half scared by want and old age.
I'm blest if I can tell which is the best crossing in London; but mine ain't no great shakes, for I don't take three shilling a-week not with persons going across, take one week with another; but I thought I could get a honest currust (crust) at it, for I've got a crippled hand, which comed of its own accord, and I was in St. George's Hospital seven weeks. When I comed out it was a cripple with me, and I thought the crossing was better than going into the workhouse—for I likes my liberty.
I've been on this crossing since last Christmas was a twelvemonth. Before that I
was a bricklayer and plasterer. I've been thirty-two years in London. I can get as good a character as any one anywhere, please God; for as to drunkards, and all that, I was none of them. I was earning eighteen shilling a-week, and sometimes with my overtime I've had twenty shilling, or even twenty-three shilling. Bricklayers is paid according to all the hours they works beyond ten, for that's the bricklayer's day.
I was among the lime, and the sand, and the bricks, and then my hand come like this (he held out a hand with all the fingers drawn up towards the middle, like the claw of a dead bird). All the sinews have gone, as you see yourself, sir, so that I can't bend it or straighten it, for the fingers are like bits of stick, and you can't bend 'em without breaking them.
When I couldn't lay hold of anything, nor lift it up, I showed it to master, and he sent me to his doctor, who gived me something to rub over it, for it was swelled up like, and then I went to St. George's Hospital, and they cut it over, and asked me if I could come in doors as in-door patient? and I said Yes, for I wanted to get it over sooner, and go back to my work, and earn an honest currust. Then they scarred it again, cut it seven times, and I was there many long weeks; and when I comed out I could not hold any tool, so I was forced to keep on pawning and pledging to keep an honest currust in my mouth, and sometimes I'd only just be with a morsel to eat, and sometimes I'd be hungry, and that's the truth.
What put me up to crossing-sweeping was this—I had no other thing open to me but the workhouse; but of course I'd sooner be out on my liberty, though I was entitled to go into the house, of course, but I'd sooner keep out of it if I could earn an honest currust.
One of my neighbours persuaded me that I should pick up a good currust at a crossing. The man who had been on my crossing was gone dead, and as it was empty, I went down to the police-office, in Marylebone Lane, and they told me I might take it, and give me liberty to stop. I was told the man who had been there before me had been on it fourteen years, and them was good times for gentle and simple and all—and it was reported that this man had made a good bit of money, at least so it was said.
I thought I could make a living out of it, or an honest currust, but it's a very poor living, I can assure you. When I went to it first, I done pretty fair for a currust; but it's only three shillings to me now. My missus has such bad health, or she used to help me with her needle. I can assure you, sir, it's only one day a week as I have a bit of dinner, and I often go without breakfast and supper, too.
I haven't got any regular customers that
allow me anything. When the families is in town sometimes they give me half-a-crown, or sixpence, now and then, perhaps once a fortnight, or a month. They've got footmen and servant-maids, so they never wants no parcels taken—they make them do it; but sometimes I get a penny for posting a letter from one of the maids, or something like that.
The best day for us is Sunday. Sometimes I get a shilling, and when the families is in town eighteen pence. But when the families is away, and the weather so fine there's no mud, and only working-people going to the chapels, they never looks at me, and then I'll only get a shilling.
Another Who Got Permission to Sweep.
AN old Irishman, who comes from Cork, was spoken of to us as a crossing-sweeper who had formally obtained permission before exercising his calling; but I found, upon questioning him, that it was but little more than a true Hibernian piece of conciliation on his part; and, indeed, that out of fear of competition, he had asked leave of the servants and policeman in the neighbourhood.
It seems somewhat curious, as illustrative of the rights of property among crossing-sweepers, that three or four "intending" sweepers, when they found themselves forestalled by the old man in question, had no idea of supplanting the Irishman, and merely remarked,—
Well, you're lucky to get it so soon, for we meant to take it.
In reply to our questions, the man said,—
I came here in January last: I knew the old man was did who used to keep the crossin', and I thought I would like the kind of worruk, for I am getting blind, and hard of hearing likewise. I've got no parish; since the passing of the last Act, I've niver lived long enough in any one parish for that. I applied to Marabone, and they offered to sind me back to Ireland, but I'd got no one to go to, no friends or relations, or if I have, they're as poor there as I am mysilf, sir.
There was an ould man here before me. He used to have a stool to rest himsilf on, and whin he died, last Christmas, a man as knew him and me asked me whither I would take it or no, and I said I would. His broom and stool were in the coal-cellar at this corner house, Mr. ——'s, where he used to leave them at night times, and they gave them up to me; but I didn't use the stool, sir, it might be an obsthruction to the passers-by; and, sir, it looks as if it was infirrumity. But, plaise the Lord, I'll git and make a stool for myself against the hard winter, I will, bein' a carpenter by thrade.
I didn't ask the gintlefolks' permission to come here, but I asked the police and the servants, and such as that. I asked the servants at the corner-house. I don't know whither they could have kept me away if I had
not asked. Soon after I came here the gintlefolks—some of them—stopped and spoke to me. 'So,' says they, 'you've taken the place of the old man that's did?' 'Yes, I have,' says I. 'Very will,' says they, and they give me a ha'penny. That was all that occurred upon my takin' to the crossin'.
But there were some others who would have taken it if I had not; they tould me I was lucky in gettin' it so soon, or they would have had it, but I don't know who they are.
I am seventy-three years ould the 2d of June last. My wife is about the same age, and very much afflicted with the rheumatis, and she injured hersilf, too, years ago, by fallin' off a chair while she was takin' some clothes off the line.
Not to desave you, sir, I get a shillin' aweek from one of my childer and ninepence from another, and a little hilp from some of the others. I have siven childer livin', and have had tin. They are very much scattered: two are abroad; one is in the tinth Hussars— he is kind to me. The one who allows me ninepence is a basket-maker at Reading; and the shillin' I get from my daughter, a servant, sir. One of my sons died in the Crimmy; he was in the 13th Light Dragoons, and died at Scutari, on the 25th of May. They could not hilp me more than they thry to do, sir.
I only make about two shilling a-week here, sir; and sometimes I don't take three ha'pence a day. On Sundays I take about sivenpence, ninepence, or tinpence, 'cordin' as I see the people who give rigular.
Weather makes no difference to me—for, though the sum is small, I am a rigular pinsioner like of theirs. I go to Somer's-town Chapel, being a Catholic, for I'm not ashamed to own my religion before any man. When I go, it is at siven in the evening. Sometimes I go to St. Pathrick's Chapel, Soho-square. I have not been to confission for two or three years—the last time was to Mr. Stanton, at St. Pathrick's.
There's a poor woman, sir, who goes past here every Friday to get her pay from the parish, and, as sure as she comes back again, she gives me a ha'penny—she does, indeed. Sometimes the baker or the greengrocer gives me a ha'penny for minding their baskets.
I'm perfectly satisfied; it's no use to grumble, and I might be worrus off, sir. Yes, I go of arrinds some times; fitch water now and then, and post letters; but I do no odd jobs, such as hilping the servants to clean the knives, or such-like. No: they wouldn't let me behint the shadow of their doors.
A Third Who asked Leave.
THIS one was a mild and rather intelligent man, in a well-worn black dress-coat and waistcoat, a pair of "moleskin" trousers, and a
blue-and-white cotton neckerchief. I found him sweeping the crossing at the end of ——place, opposite the church.
He every now and then regaled himself with a pinch of snuff, which seemed to light up his careworn face. He seemed very willing to afford me information. He said:—
I have been on this crossing four years. I am a bricklayer by trade; but you see how my fingers have gone: it's all rheumatics, sir. I took a great many colds. I had a great deal of underground work, and that tries a man very much.
How did I get the crossing? Well, I took it—I came as a cas'alty. No one ever interfered with me. If one man leaves a crossing, well, another takes it.
Yes, some crossings is worth a good deal of money. There was a black in Regent-street, at the corner of Conduit-street, I think, who had two or three houses—at least, I've heard so; and I know for a certainty that the man in Cavendish-square used to get so much a week from the Duke of Portland—he got a shilling a-day, and eighteenpence on Sundays. I don't know why he got more on Sundays. I don't know whether he gets it since the old Duke's death.
The boys worry me. I mean the little boys with brooms; they are an abusive set, and give me a good deal of annoyance; they are so very cheeky; they watch the police away; but if they see the police coming, they bolt like a shot. There are a great many Irish lads among them. There were not nearly so many boys about a few years ago.
I once made eighteenpence in one day, that was the best day I ever made: it was very bad weather: but, take the year through, I don't make more than sixpence a-day.
I haven't worked at bricklaying for a matter of six year: What did I do for the two years before I took to crossing-sweeping? Why, sir, I had saved a little money, and managed to get on somehow. Yes, I have had my troubles, but I never had what I call great ones, excepting my wife's blindness. She was blind, sir, for eleven year, and so I had to fight for everything: she has been dead two year, come September.
I have seven children, five boys and two girls; they are all grown up and got families. Yes, they ought, amongst them, to do something for me; but if you have to trust to children, you will soon find out what that is. If they want anything of you, they know where to find you; but if you want anything of them, it's no go.
I think I made more money when first I swept this crossing than I do now; it's not a
good crossing, sir. Oh, no; but it's handy home, you see. When a shower of rain comes on, I can run home, and needn't go into a public-house; but it's a poor neighbourhood.
Oh yes, indeed sir, I am always here. Certainly; I am laid up sometimes for a day
with my feet. I am subject to the rheumatic gout, you see. Well, I don't know whether so much standing has anything to do with it.
Yes, sir, I have heard of what you call 'shutting--up shop.' I never heard it called by that name before, though; but there's lots of sweepers as sweep back the dirt before leaving at night. I know they do, some of them. I never did it myself—I don't care about it; I always think there's the trouble of sweeping it back in the morning.
People liberal? No, sir, I don't think there are many liberal people about; if people were liberal I should make a good deal of money.
Sometimes, after I get home, I read a book, if I can borrow one. What do I read? Well, novels, when I can get them. What did I read last night? Well, Reynolds's Miscellany; before that I read the Pilgrim's Progress.
I have read it three times over; but there's always something new in it.
Well, weather makes very little difference in this neighbourhood. My rent is twoand- sixpence a-week. I have a little relief from the parish. How much? Two-and-sixpence. How much does my living cost? Well, I am forced to live on what I can get. I manage as well as I can; if I have a good week, I spend it—I get more nourishment then, that's all.
I used to smoke, sir, a great deal, but I haven't touched a pipe for a matter of forty year. Yes, sir, I take snuff, Scotch and Rappee, mixed. If I go without a meal of victuals, I must have my snuff. I take an ounce a-week, sir; it costs fourpence—that there is the only luxury I get, unless somebody gives me a half pint of beer.
I very rarely get an odd job, this is not the neighbourhood for them things.
Yes, sir, I go to church on Sunday; I go to All Souls', in Langham-place, the church with the sharp spire. I go in the morning; once a-day is quite enough for me. In the afternoon, I generally take a walk in the Park, or I go to see one of my young ones; they won't come to the old crossing-sweeper, so I go to them.
A Regent-Street Crossing-Sweeper.
A MAN who had stationed himself at the end of Regent-street, near the County Fire Office, gave me the following particulars.
He was a man far superior to the ordinary run of sweepers, and, as will be seen, had formerly been a gentleman's servant. His costume was of that peculiar miscellaneous description which showed that it had from time to time been given to him in charity. A dress--coat so marvellously tight that the stitches were stretching open, a waistcoat with a remnant of embroidery, and a pair of trousers which wrinkled like a groom's top-boot,
had all evidently been part of the wardrobe of the gentlemen whose errands he had run. His boots were the most curious portion of his toilette, for they were large enough for a fisherman, and the portion unoccupied by the foot had gone flat and turned up like a Turkish slipper.
He spoke with a tone and manner which showed some education. Once or twice whilst I was listening to his statement he insisted upon removing some dirt from my shoulder, and, on leaving, he by force seized my hat and brushed it—all which habits of attention he had contracted whilst in service.
I was surprised to see stuck in the wristband of his coat-sleeve a row of pins, arranged as neatly as in the papers sold at the mercers'.
Since the Irish have come so much—the boys, I mean—my crossing has been completely cut up," he said; "and yet it is in as good a spot as could well be, from the County Fire Office (Mr. Beaumont as owns it) to Swan and Edgar's. It ought to be one of the fust crossings in the kingdom, but these Irish have spiled it.
I should think, as far as I can guess, I've been on it eight year, if not better; but it was some time before I got known. You see, it does a feller good to be some time on a crossing; but it all depends, of course, whether you are honest or not, for it's according to your honesty as you gets rewarded. By rewarded, I means, you gets a character given to you by word of mouth. For instance, a party wants me to do a job for 'em, and they says, 'Can you get any lady or gentleman to speak for you?' And I says, 'Yes;' and I gets my character by word of mouth—that's what I calls being rewarded.
Before ever I took a broom in hand, the good times had gone for crossings and sweepers. The good times was thirty year back. In the regular season, when they (the gentry) are in town, I have taken from one and sixpence to two shillings a-day; but every day's not alike, for people stop at home in wet days. But, you see, in winter-time the crossings ain't no good, and then we turn off to shovelling snow; so that, you see, a shilling a-day is even too high for us to take regular all the year round. Now, I ain't taken a shilling, no, nor a blessed bit of silver, for these three days. All the quality's out of town.
It ain't what a man gets on a crossing as keeps him; that ain't worth mentioning. I don't think I takes sixpence a-day regular— all the year round, mind—on the crossing. No, I'd take my solemn oath I don't! If you was to put down fourpence it would be nearer the mark. I'll tell you the use of a crossing to such as me and my likes. It's our shop, and it ain't what we gets a-sweeping, but it's a place like for us to stand, and then people as wants us, comes and fetches us.
In the summer I do a good deal in jobs. I do anything in the portering line, or if I'm called
to do boots and shoes, or clean knives and forks, then I does that. But that's only when people's busy; for I've only got one regular place I goes to, and that's in A——street, Piccadilly. I goes messages, parcels, letters, and anything that's required, either for the master of the hotel or the gents that uses there. Now, there's one party at Swan and Edgar's, and I goes to take parcels for him sometimes; and he won't trust anybody but me, for you see I'm know'd to be trustworthy, and then they reckons me as safe as the Bank, —there, that's just it.
I got to the hotel only lately. You see, when the peace was on and the soldiers was coming home from the Crimmy, then the governor he was exceeding busy, so he give me two shillings a-day and my board; but that wasn't reg'lar, for as he wants me he comes and fetches me. It's a-nigh impossible to say what I makes, it don't turn out reg'lar; Sunday's a shilling or one--and--sixpence, other days nothing at all—not salt to my porridge. You see, when I helps the party at the hotel, I gets my food, and that's a lift. I've never put down what I made in the course of the year, but I've got enough to find food and raiment for myself and family. Sir, I think I may say I gets about six shillings a-week, but it ain't more.
I've been abroad a good deal. I was in Cape Town, Table Bay, one-and-twenty miles from Simons' Town—for you see the French mans-of-war comes in at Cape Town, and the English mans-of-war comes in at Simons' Town. I was a gentleman's servant over there, and a very good place it was; and if anybody was to have told me years back that I was to have come to what I am now, I could never have credited it; but misfortunes has brought me to what I am.
I come to England thinking to better myself, if so be it was the opportunity; besides, I was tired of Africy, and anxious to see my native land.
I was very hard up—ay, very hard up indeed—before I took to the cross, and, in preference to turning out dishonest, I says, I'll buy a broom and go and sweep and get a honest livelihood.
There was a Jewish lady and her husband used to live in the Suckus, and I knowed them and the family—very fine sons they was—and I went into the shop to ask them to let me work before the shop, and they give me their permission so to do, and, says she, 'I'll allow you threepence a-week.' They've been good friends to me, and send me a messages; and wherever they be, may they do well, I says.
I sometimes gets clothes give to me, but it's only at Christmas times, or after its over; and that helps me along—it does so, indeed.
Whenever I sees a pin or a needle, I picks it up; sometimes I finds as many as a dozen a-day, and I always sticks them either in my cuff or in my waistcoat. Very often a lady
sees 'em, and then they comes to me and says, 'Can you oblige me with a pin?' and I says, 'Oh yes, marm; a couple, or three, if you requires them;' but it turns out very rare that I gets a trifle for anything like that. I only does it to be obliging—besides, it makes you friends, like.
I can't tell who's got the best crossing in London. I'm no judge of that; it isn't a broom as can keep a man now. They're going out of town so fast, all the harristocracy; though it's middling classes—such as is in a middling way like—as is the best friends to me.
A Tradesman's Crossing-Sweeper.
A MAN who had worked at crossing-sweeping as a boy when he first came to London, and again when he grew too old to do his work as a labourer in a coal-yard, gave me a statement of the kind of life he led, and the earnings he made. He was an old man, with a forehead so wrinkled that the dark, waved lines reminded me of the grain of oak. His thick hair was, despite his great age—which was nearly seventy—still dark; and as he conversed with me, he was continually taking off his hat, and wiping his face with what appeared to be a piece of flannel, about a foot square.
His costume was of what might be called "the all-sorts" kind, and, from constant wear, it had lost its original colour, and had turned into a sort of dirty green-grey hue. It consisted of a waistcoat of tweed, fastened together with buttons of glass, metal, and bone; a tail-coat, turned brown with weather, a pair of trousers repaired here and there with big stitches, like the teeth of a comb, and these formed the extent of his wardrobe. Around the collar of the coat and waistcoat, and on the thighs of the pantaloons, the layers of grease were so thick that the fibre of the cloth was choked up, and it looked as if it had been pieced with bits of leather.
Rubbing his unshorn chin, whereon the bristles stood up like the pegs in the barrel of a musical-box—until it made a noise like a hair-brush, he began his story:—
I'm known all about in Parliament-street —ay, every bit about them parts,—for more than thirty year. Ay, I'm as well known as the statty itself, all about them parts at Charing-cross. Afore I took to crossingsweeping I was at coal-work. The coal-work I did was backing and filling, and anythink in that way. I worked at Wood's, and Penny's, and Douglas's. They were good masters, Mr. Wood 'specially; but the work was too much for me as I got old. There was plenty of coal work in them times; indeed, I've yearned as much as nine shillings of a day. That was the time as the meters was on. Now men can hardly earn a living at coal-work. I left the coal-work because I was took ill with a fever, as was brought on by sweating—over-exaction
they called it. It left me so weak I wasn't able to do nothink in the yards.
I know Mr. G——, the fishmonger, and Mr. J——, the publican. I should think Mr. J——has knowed me this eight-and-thirty-year, and they put me on to the crossing. You see, when I was odd man at a coal job, I'd go and do whatever there was to be done in the neighbourhood. If there was anythink as Mr. G——'s men couldn't do—such as carrying fish home to a customer, when the other men were busy—I was sent for. Or Mr. J—— would send me with sperrits—a gallon, or half a gallon, or anythink of that sort—a long journey. In fact, I'd get anythink as come handy.
I had done crossing-sweeping as a boy, before I took to coal-work, when I first come out of the country. My own head first put me up to the notion, and that's more than fifty year ago—ay, more than that; but I can't call to mind exactly, for I've had no parents ever since I was eight year old, and now I'm nigh seventy; but it's as close as I can remember. I was about thirteen at that time. There was no police on then, and I saw a good bit of road as was dirty, and says I, 'That's a good spot to keep clean,' and I took it. I used to go up to the tops of the houses to throw over the snow, and I've often been obliged to get men to help me. I suppose I was about the first person as ever swept a crossing in Charing-cross; (here, as if proud of the fact, he gave a kind of moist chuckle, which ended in a fit of coughing). I used to make a good bit of money then; but it ain't worth nothink, now.
After I left coal-backing, I went back to the old crossing opposite the Adm'ralty gates, and I stopped there until Mr. G—— give me the one I'm on now, and thank him for it, I says. Mr. G—— had the crossing paved, as leads to his shop, to accommodate the customers. He had a German there to sweep it afore me. He used to sweep in the day— come about ten or eleven o'clock in the morning, and then at night he turned watchman; for when there was any wenson, as Mr. G—— deals in, hanging out, he was put to watch it. This German worked there, I reckon, about seven year, and when he died I took the crossing.
The crossing ain't much of a living for any body—that is, what I takes on it. But then I've got regular customers as gives me money. There's Mr. G——, he gives a shilling a-week; and there's Captain R——, of the Adm'ralty, he gives me sixpence a fortnight; and another captain, of the name of R——, he gives me fourpence every Sunday. Ah! I'd forgot Mr. O——, the Secretary at the Adm'ralty; he gives me sixpence now and then. Besides, I do a lot of odd jobs for different people; they knows where to come and find me when they wants me. They gets me to carry letters, or a parcel, or a box, or anythink of that there. I has a bit of vittals, too,
give me every now and then; but as for money, it's very little as I get on the crossings —perhaps seven or eight shilling a-week, reg'lar customers and all.
I never heard of anybody as was leaving a crossing selling it; no, never. My crossing ain't a reg'lar one as anybody could have. If I was to leave, it depends upon whether Mr. G—— would like to have the party, as to who gets it. There's no such thing as turning a reg'lar sweeper out, the police stops that. I've been known to them for years, and they are very kind to me. As they come's by they says, 'Jimmy, how are you?' You see, my crossing comes handy for them, for it's agin Scotlandyard; and when they turns out in their clean boots it saves their blacking.
Lord G—— used to be at the Adm'ralty, but he ain't there now; I don't know why he left, but he's gone. He used to give me sixpence every now and then when he come over. I was near to my crossing when Mr. Drummond was shot, but I wasn't near enough to hear the pistol; but I didn't see nothink. I know'd the late Sir Robert Peel, oh, certantly, but he seldom crossed over my crossing, though whenever he did, he'd give me somethink. The present Sir Robert goes over to the chapel in Spring-gardens when he's in town, but he keeps on the other side of the way; so I never had anythink from him. He's the very picture of his father, and I knows him from that, only his father were rather stouter than he is. I don't know none of the members of parliament, they most on 'em keeps on shifting so, that I hasn't no time to recognise 'em.
The watering-carts ain't no friends of our'n. They makes dirt and no pay for cleaning it. There's so much traffic with coaches and carts going right over my crossing that a fine or wet day don't make much difference to me, for people are afraid to cross for fear of being run over. I'm forced to have my eyes about me and dodge the wehicles. I never heerd, as I can tell on, of a crossing-sweeper being run over.
2. THE ABLE-BODIED FEMALE CROSSING- SWEEPERS.
The Old Woman "Over the Water."
SHE is the widow of a sweep—"as respectable and 'dustrious a man," I was told, "as any in the neighbourhood of the 'Borough;' he was a short man, sir,—very short," said my informant, "and had a weakness for top-boots, white hats, and leather breeches," and in that unsweeplike costume he would parade himself up and down the Dover and New Kentroads." He had a capital connexion (or, as his widow terms it, "seat of business"), and left behind him a good name and reputation that would have kept the "seat of business" together, if it had not been for the misconduct of the children, two of whom (sons) have been
transported, while a daughter "went wrong," though she, wretched creature, paid a fearful penalty, I learnt, for her frailties, having been burnt to death in the middle of the night, through a careless habit of smoking in bed.
The old sweeper herself, eighty years of age, and almost beyond labour, very deaf, and rather feeble to all appearance, yet manages to get out every morning between four and five, so as to catch the workmen and "timekeepers" on their way to the factories. She has the true obsequious curtsey, but is said to be very strong in her "likes and dislikes."
She bears a good character, though sometimes inclining, I was informed, towards "the other half-pint," but never guilty of any excess. She is somewhat profuse in her scriptural ejaculations and professions of gratitude. Her statement was as follows:—
Fifteen years I've been on the crossing, come next Christmas. My husband died in Guy's Hospital, of the cholera, three days after he got in, and I took to the crossing some time after. I had nothing to do. I am eighty years of age, and I couldn't do hard work. I have nothing but what the great God above pleases to give me. The poor woman who had the crossing before me was killed, and so I took it. The gentleman who was the foreman of the road, gave me the grant to take it. I didn't ask him, for poor people as wants a bit of bread they goes on the crossings as they likes, but he never interfered with me. The first day I took sixpence; but them good times is all gone, they'll never come back again. The best times I used to take a shilling a-day, and now I don't take but a few pence. The winter is as bad as the summer, for poor people haven't got it to give, and gentlefolks get very near now. People are not so liberal as they used to be, and they never will be again.
To do a hard day's washing, I couldn't. I used to go to a lady's house to do a bit of washing when I had my strength, but I can't do it now.
People going to their offices at six or seven in the morning gives me a ha'penny or a penny; if they don't, I must go without it. I go at five, and stand there till eleven or twelve, till I find it is no use being there any longer. Oh, the gentlemen give me the most, I'm sure; the ladies don't give me nothing.
At Christmas I get a few things—a gentleman gave me these boots I've got on, and a ticket for a half-quartern loaf and a hundred of coals. I have got as much as five shillings at Christmas—but those times will never come back again. I get no more than two shillings and sixpence at Christmas now.
My husband, Thomas —— was his name, was a chimley-sweep. He did a very good business—it was all done by his sons. We had a boy with us, too, just as a friendly boy. I was a mother and a mistress to him. I've had eleven children. I'm grandmother to
fifteen, and a great-grandmother, too. They won't give me a bite of bread, though, any of 'em, I've got four children living, as far as I know, two abroad and two home here with families. I never go among 'em. It is not in my power to assist 'em, so I never go to distress 'em.
I get two shilling a-week from the parish, and I have to pay out of that for a quartern loaf, a quartern of sugar, and an ounce of tea. The parish forces it on me, so I must take it, and that only leaves me one shilling and fourpence. A shilling of it goes for my lodging. I lodge with people who knew my family and me, and took a liking to me; they let me come there instead of wandering about the streets.
I stand on my crossing till I'm like to drop over my broom with tiredness. Yes, sir, I go to church at St. George's in the Borough. I go there every Sunday morning, after I leave my roads. They've taken the organ and charity children away that used to be there when I was a girl, so it's not a church now, it's a chapel. There's nothing but the preacher and the gentlefolks, and they sings their own psalms. There are gatherings at that church, but whether it's for the poor or not I don't know. I don't get any of it.
It was a great loes to me when my husband died; I went all to ruin then. My father belonged to Scotland, at Edinboro'. My mother came from Yorkshire. I don't know where Scotland is no more than the dead. My father was a gentleman's gardener and watchman. My mother used to go out a-chairing, and she was drowned just by Horsemonger Lane. She was coming through the Halfpenny Hatch, that used to be just facing the Crown and Anchor, in the New Kent-road; there was an open ditch there, sir. She took the left-hand turning instead of the right, and was drownded. My father died in St. Martin's Workhouse. He died of apoplexy fit.
I used to mind my father's place till mother died. His housekeeper I was—God help me! a fine one too. Thank the Lord, my husband was a clever man; he had a good seat of business. I lost my right hand when he died. I couldn't carry it on. There was my two sons went for sogers, and the others were above their business. He left a seat of business worth a hundred pound; he served all up the New Kent-road. He was beloved by all his people. He used to climb himself when I first had him, but he left it off when he got children. I had my husband when I was fifteen, and kept him forty years. Ah! he was well-beloved by all around, except his children, and they behaved shameful. I said to his eldest son, when he lay in the hospital, (asking your pardon, sir, for mentioning it)—I says to his eldest son, 'Billy,' says I, 'your father's very bad—why don't you go to see him?' 'Oh,' says he, 'he's all right, he's gettin' better;' and he was never the one to go and see him once; and he never come to the funeral.
Billy thought I should come upon him after his death, but I never troubled him for as much as a crumb of bread.
I never get spoken to on my roads, only some people say, 'Good morning,' 'There you are, old lady.' They never asks me no questions whatsomever. I never get run over, though I am very hard of hearing; but I am forced to have my eyes here, there, and everywhere, to keep out of the way of the carts and coaches.
Some days I goes to my crossing, and earns nothink at all: other days it's sometimes fourpence, sometimes sixpence. I earned fourpence to-day, and I had a bit of snuff out of it. Why, I believe I did yearn fivepence yesterday —I won't tell no story. I got ninepence on Sunday—that was a good day; but, God knows, that didn't go far. I yearned so much I couldn't bring it home on Saturday—it almost makes me laugh,—I yearned sixpence.
I goes every morning, winter or summer, frost or snow; and at the same hour (five o'clock); people certainly don't think of giving so much in fine weather. Nobody ever mislested me, and I never mislested nobody. If they gives me a penny, I thanks 'em; and if they gives me nothing, I thanks 'em all the same.
If I was to go into the House, I shouldn't live three days. It's not that I eat much—a very little is enough for me; but it's the air I should miss: to be shut up like a thief, I couldn't live long, I know.
The Old Woman Crossing-Sweeper Who Had a Pensioner.
THIS old dame is remarkable from the fact of being the chief support of a poor deaf cripple, who is as much poorer than the crossing-sweeper as she is poorer than Mrs. ——, in——street, who allows the sweeper sixpence a-week. The crossing-sweeper is a rather stout old woman, with a carneying tone, and constant curtsey. She complains, in common with most of her class, of the present hard times, and reverts longingly to the good old days when people were more liberal than they are now, and had more to give. She says:—
I was on my crossing before the police was made, for I am not able to work, and only get helped by the people who knows me. Mr. ——, in the square, gives me a shilling a-week; Mrs. ——, in —— street, gives me sixpence; (she has gone in the country now, but she has left it at the oil-shop for me); that's what I depinds upon, darlin', to help pay my rent, which is half-a-crown. My rent was three shillings, till the landlord didn't wish me to go, 'cause I was so punctual with my money. I give a corner of my room to a poor cretur, who's deaf as a beadle; she works at the soldiers' coats, and is a very good hand at it, and would earn a good deal of money if she had constant work. She owed as good as twelve shillings and sixpence for him.
The Crossing-Sweeper That Has Been a Maid-Servant.
The Crossing-Sweeper That Has [From a Photograph.]
After we were married, he got his living by selling memorandum-almanack books, and the like, about the streets. He was driven to that because he had no trade in his hand, and he was obliged to do something for a living. He did not make much, and over-exertion, with want of nourishment, brought on a paralytic stroke. He had the first fit about two years before he had the second; the third fit, which was the last, he had on the Monday, and died on the Wednesday week. I have two children still living. One of them is married to a poor man, who gets his living in the streets; but as far as lays in his power he makes a good husband and father. My other daughter is living with a niece of mine, for I can't keep her, sir; she minds the children.
My father was a journeyman shoemaker. He was killed; but I cannot remember how—I was too young. I can't recollect my mother. I was brought up by an uncle and aunt till I was able to go to service. I went out to service at five, to mind children under a nurse, and I was in service till I got married. I had a great many situations; you see, sir, I was forced to keep in place, because I had nowhere to go to, my uncle and aunt not being able to keep me. I was never in noblemen's families, only tradespeople's. Service was very hard, sir, and so I believe it continues.
I am fifty-five years of age, and I have been on the crossing fourteen years; but just now it is very poor work indeed. Well, if I wishes for bad weather, I'm only like other people, I suppose. I have no regular customers at all; the only one I had left has lost his senses, sir. Mr. H ——, he used to allow us sixpence a-week; but he went mad, and we don't get it now. By us, I mean the three crossingsweepers in the square where I work.
Indeed, I like the winter-time, for the families is in. Though the weather is more severe, yet you do get a few more ha'pence. I take more from the staid elderly people than from the young. At Christmas, I think I took about eleven shillings, but certainly not more. The most I ever made at that season was fourteen shillings. The worst about Christmas is, that those who give much then generally hold their hand for a week or two.
A shilling a-day would be as much as I want, sir. I have stood in the square all day for a ha'penny, and I have stood here for nothing. One week with another, I make two shillings in the seven days, after paying for my broom. I have taken threppence ha'penny to-day. Yesterday—let me see—well, it was threppence ha'penny, too; Monday I don't remember; but Sunday I recollect—it was fippence ha'penny. Years ago I made a great deal more—nearly three times as much.
I come about eight o'clock in the morning, and go away about six or seven; I am here every day. The boys used to come at one time with their brooms, but they're not allowed here now by the police.
I should not think crossings worth purchasing, unless people made a better living on them than I do.
I gave the poor creature a small piece of silver for her trouble, and asked her if that, with the threepence halfpenny, made a good day. She answered heartily—
I should like to see such another day tomorrow, sir.
Yes, winter is very much better than summer, only for the trial of standing in the frost and snow, but we certainly do get more then. The families won't be in town for three months to come yet. Ah! this neighbourhood is nothing to what it was. By God's removal, and by their own removal, the good families are all gone. The present families are not so liberal nor so wealthy. It is not the richest people that give the most. Tradespeople, and 'specially gentlefolks who have situations, are better to me than the nobleman who rides in his carriage.
I always go to Trinity Church, Gray'sinn- road, about two doors from the Welsh School —the Rev. Dr. Witherington preaches there. I always go on Sunday afternoon and evening, for I can't go in the morning; I can't get away from my crossing in time. I never omit a day in coming here, unless I'm ill, or the snow is too heavy, or the weather too bad, and then I'm obligated to resign.
I have no friends, sir, only my children; my uncle and aunt have been dead a long time. I go to see my children on Sunday, or in the evening, when I leave here.
After I leave I have a cup of tea, and after that I go to bed; very frequently I'm in bed at nine o'clock. I have my cup of tea if I can anyway get it; but I'm forced to go without
When my sight was better, I used to be very partial to reading; but I can't see the print, sir, now. I used to read the Bible, and the newspaper. Story-books I have read, too, but not many novels. Yes, Robinson Crusoe I know, but not the Pilgrim's Progress. I've heard of it; they tell me it is a very interesting book to read, but I never had it. We never have any ladies or Scripture-readers come to our lodgings; you see, we're so out, they might come a dozen times and not find us at home.
I wear out three brooms in a-week; but in the summer one will last a fortnight. I give threepence ha'penny for them; there are twopenny-ha'penny brooms, but they are not so good, they are liable to have their handles come out. It is very fatiguing standing so many hours; my legs aches with pain, and swells. I was once in Middlesex Hospital for sixteen weeks with my legs. My eyes have been weak from a child. I have got a gathering in my head from catching cold standing on the crossing. I had the fever this time twelvemonth. I laid a fortnight and four days at home, and seven weeks in the hospital. I took the diarrhœa after that, and was six weeks under the
doctor's hands. I used to do odd jobs, but my health won't permit me now. I used to make two or three shillings a-week by 'em, and get scraps and things. But I get no broken victuals now.
I never get anything from servants; they don't get more than they know what to do with.
I don't get a drop of beer once in a month.
I don't know but what this being out may be the best thing, after all; for if I was at home all my time, it would not agree with me.
STATEMENT OF "OLD JOHN," THE WATERMAN AT THE FARRINGDON-STREET CAB-STAND, CON- CERNING THE OLD BLACK CROSSING-SWEEPER WHO LEFT £ 800 TO MISS WAITHMAN.
YES, sir, I knew him for many year, though I never spoke to him in all my life. He was a stoutish, thickset man, about my build, and used to walk with his broom up and down— so.
Here "Old John" imitated the halt and stoop of an old man.
He used to touch his hat continually," he went on. "'Please remember the poor black man,' was his cry, never anything else. Oh yes, he made a great deal of money. People gave more then than they do now. Where they give one sixpence now, they used to give ten. It's just the same by our calling. Lived humbly? Yes, I think he did; at all events, he seemed to do so when he was on his crossing. He got plenty of odds-and-ends from the corner there—Alderman Waithman's, I mean; he was a very sober, quiet sort of man. No, sir, nothing peculiar in his dress. Some blacks are peculiar in their dress; but he would wear anything he could get give him. They used to call him Romeo, I think. Cur'ous name, sir; but the best man I ever knew was called Romeo, and he was a black.
The crossing-sweeper had his regular customers; he knew their times, and was there to the moment. Oh yes, he was always. Hail, rain, or snow, he never missed. I don't know how long he had the crossing. I remember him ever since I was a postboy in Doctors' Commons; I knew him when I lived in Holborn, and I haven't been away from this neighbourhood since 1809.
No, sir, there's no doubt about his leaving the money to Miss Waithman. Everybody round about here knows it; just ask them, sir. Miss Waithman (an old maid she were, sir) used to be very kind to him. He used to sweep from Alderman Waithman's (it's the
Sunday Times now) across to the opposite side of the way.
When he died, an old man, as had been a soldier, took possession of the crossing. How did he get it? Why, I say, he took it. First come, first sarved, sir; that's their way. They never sell crossings. Sometimes (for a lark)
they shift, and then one stands treat—a gallon of beer, or something of that sort. The perlice interfered with the soldier—you know the sweepers is all forced to go if the perlice interfere; now with us, sir, we are licensed, and they can't make us move on. They interfered, I say, with the old soldier, because he used to get so drunk. Why, at a public-house close at hand, he would spent seven, eight, and ten shillings on a night, three or four days together. He used to gather so many blackguards round the crossing, they were forced to move him at last. A young man has got it now; he has had it three year. He is not always here, sometimes away for a week at a stretch; but, you see, he knows the best times to come, and then he is sure to be here. The little boys come with their brooms now and then, but the perlice always drive them away.
3. THE ABLE-BODIED IRISH CROSSING- SWEEPER.
The Old Irish Crossing-Sweeper.
THIS man, a native of "County Corruk," has been in England only two years and a half. He wears a close-fitting black cloth cap over a shock of reddish hair; round his neck he has a coloured cotton kerchief, of the sort advertised as "Imitation Silk." His black coat is much torn, and his broom is at present remarkably stumpy. He waits quietly at the post opposite St. ——'s Church, to receive whatever is offered him. He is unassuming enough in his manner, and, as will be seen, not even bearing any malice against his two enemies, "The Swatestuff Man" and "The Switzer." He says:—
I've been at this crossin'near upon two year. Whin I first come over to England (about two years and a half ago), I wint a haymakin', but, you see, I couldn't get any work; and afther thrampin' about a good bit, why my eyesight gettin' very wake, and I not knowin' what to do, I took this crossin'.
How did I get it?—Will, sir, I wint walkin' about and saw it, and nobody on it. So one mornin' I brought a broom wid me and stood here. Yes, sir, I was intherfered wid. The man with one arm—a Switzer they calls him —he had had the crossin' on Sundays for a long while gone, and he didn't like my bein' here at all, at all. 'B——y Irish' he used to call me, and other scandalizin' names; and he and the swatestuff man opposite, who was a friend of his, tried everythin' they could to git me off the crossin'. But sure I niver harrumed them at all, at all.
Yis, sir, I have my rigular custhomers: there's Mr. ——, he's gone to Sydenham; he's very kind, sir. He gives me a shilling amonth. He left worrud with the sarvint while he's away to give me a shilling on the first day in every month. He gave me a letter
to the Eye Hospital, in Goulden Square, because of the wakeness of my eyesight; but they'll niver cure it at all, at all, sir, for wake eyes runs in my family. My sister, sir, has wake eyes; she is working at Croydon.
Oh no, indeed, and it isn't the gintlefolks that thry to get me off the crossin'; they'd rather shupport me, sir. But the poor payple it is that don't like me.
Eighteenpince I've made in a day, and more: niver more than two shillings, and sometimes not sixpence. Will, sir, I am not like the others; I don't run afther the ladies and gintlemen—I don't persevere. Yestherday I took sixpence, by chance, for takin' some luggage for a lady. The day before yestherday I took three ha'pence; but I think I got somethin' else for a bit of worruk thin.
Yes, winther is better than summer. I don't know which people is the most liberal. Sure, sir, I don't think there's much difference. Oh yes, sir, young men are very liberal sometimes, and so are young ladies. Perhaps old ladies or old gintlemen give the most at a time,—sometimes sixpence,—perhaps more; but thin, sir, you don't git anything else for a long time.
The boy-sweepers annoy me very much, indeed; they use such scandalizin' worruds to me, and throw dirrut, they do. They know whin the police is out of the way, so I git no purtiction.
Sure, sir, and I think it right that ivery person should attind the worruship to which he belongs. I am a Catholic, sir, and attind mass at St. Pathrick's, near St. Giles's, ivery Sunday, and I thry to be at confission wonst a month.
Whin first I took to the crossin', I was rather irrigular; but that was because of the Switzer man—that's the man with the one arm; he used to say he would lock me up, and iverything. But I have been rigular since.
I come in the morruning just before eight, in time to catch the gintlefolks going into prayers; and I leave at half-past seven to eight at night. I wait so late because I have to bring a gintleman wather for his flowers, and that I do the last thing.
I live, sir, in —— lane, behind St. Giles's Church, in the first-flure front, sir; and I pay one-and-threepence a-week. There are three bids in the room. In one bid, a man, his wife, his mother, and their little girl—Julia, they call her—sleep; in the other bid, there's a man and his wife and child. Yes, I am single, and have the third bid to myself. I come from County Corruk; the others in the room are all Irish, and come from County Corruk too. They sill fruit in the sthreet; in the winther they sill onions, and sometimes oranges.
There a Scotch gintleman as brings me my breakfast every morning; indeed, yes, and he brings it himself, he does. He has gone
to Scotland now, but he will be back in a week. He brings me some bread and mate, and a pinny for a half pint of beer, sir. He has done it almost all the time I have been here.
The Switzer man, sir, took out boards for the Polytickner, or some place like that. He got fifteen shillings a-week, and used to come here on Sundays. Yes, sir, I come here on Sundays; but it is not better than other days. Some people says to me, they would rather I went to church; but I tells 'em I do; and sure, sir, afther mass, there's no harrum in a little sweepin' between whiles.
No, sir, there's not a crossin'--sweeper in Ould Ireland. Well, sir, I niver was in Dublin; but I've been in Corruk, sir, and they don't have any crossin'--sweepers there.
Whin I git home of a night, sir, I am very tired; but I always offer up my devotions before sleepin'. Ah, sir, I should niver have swipt crossin's if a friend of mine hadn't died; he was collector of tolls in Clarnykilts, and I used to be with him. He lost his situation, and so I came to England.
The Switzer man, I think he used to sweep at eight o'clock, just as the people were goin' to prayers. Oh, sir, he was always blackgeyardin' me. 'Go back to your own counthry,' says he—a furriner himsilf, too.
Will, yes sir, I do wish for bad weather; a good wit day, and a dry day afther, is the best.
Sure and they can't turn me off my crossin' only for my bad conduct, and I thry to be quiet and take no notice.
Yis, sir, I have always been a church-goer, and I am seventy-five. I used to have some good rigular customers, but somehow I haven't seen anythin' of them for this last twelvemonth. Ah! it's in the betther neighbourhoods that people give rigularly. I niver get any broken victuals. Three-and-sixpence is the outside of my earnings, taking one week with the other.
What is the laste I ever took? Will, sir, for three days I haven't taken a farthin'. The worust week I iver had was thirteen or fourteen pence altogether; the best week I iver had was the winter before last—that harrud winter, sir, I remember takin' seven shillings thin; but the man at Portman-square makes the most.
Well, sir, I belave there's some of every nation in the world as sweeps crossin's in London.
The Female Irish Crossing-Sweeper.
IN a street not far from Gordon-square and the New-road, I found this poor old woman resting from her daily labour. She was sitting on the stone ledge of the iron railings at the corner of the street, huddled up in the way seemingly natural to old Irishwomen, her broom hidden as much as possible under her
petticoats. Her shawl was as tidy as possible for its age. She was sixty-seven years, and had buried two husbands and five children, fractured her ribs, and injured her groin, and had nothing left to comfort her but her crossing, her ha'porth of snuff, and her "drop of biled wather," by which name she indicated her "tay."
She was very civil and intelligent, and answered my inquiries very readily, and with rather less circumlocution than the Irish generally display. She seemed much hurt at the closing of the Old St. Pancras churchyard. "They buried my child where they'll never bury me, sir," she cried.
She told the story of her accident with many involuntary movements of her hand towards the injured part, and took a sparing pinch of snuff from a little black snuff-box, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, for which she said she had given a penny. She proceeded thus:—"I'm an Irishwoman, sir, and it's from Kinsale I come, twelve miles beyond Corruk, to the left-hand side, a seaport town, and a great place for fish. It's fifty years the sixteenth of last June since I came in St. Giles's parish, and there my ildest child wint did. Buried she is in Ould St. Pancras churchyarrud, where they'll never bury me, sir, for they've done away with burying in churchyarruds. That girl was forty-one year of age the seventeenth of last February, born in Stratford, below Bow, in Essex. Ah! I was comfortable there; I lived there three year and abouts. I was in sarvice at Mr. ——'s, a Frinch gintleman he was, and kept a school, where they taught Frinch and English both; but I dare say they are all gone did years ago. He was a very ould gintleman, and so was his lady; she was a North-of-England lady, but very stout, and had no children but a son and daughter. I was quite young when my aunt brought me over. My uncle was three year here before my aunt, and he died at Whitechapel. I was bechuxt sixteen and seventeen when I come over, and I reckon meself at sixty-seven come next Christmas, as well as I can guess. I never had a mother, sir; she died when I was only six months old. My father, sir, was maltster to Mr. Walker the distiller, in Corruk. Ah! indeed, and my father was well to do wonst. Early or late, wit or dry, he had a guinea a-week, but he worruked day and night; he was to attind to the corun, and he would have four min, or five or six, undther him, according as busy they might be. My father has been did four-and-twinty year, and I wouldn't know a crature if I wint home. Father come over, sir, and wanted me to go back very bad, but I wouldn't. I was married thin, and had buried some of my childer in St. Pancras; and for what should I lave England?
Oh! sir, I buried three in eight months, —two sons and their father. My husband was two year and tin months keeping his bed; he
has been did fifteen years to the eighth of last March; but I've been married again.
Siven childer I've had, and ounly two alive, and they've got enough to do to manage for thimsilves. The boy, he follers the market, and my daughter, she is along with her husband; sure he sills in the streets, sir. I see very little of her,—she lives over in the Borough.
I think I'll be afther going down to Kent, beyant Maidstone, a hop-picking, if I can git as much as to take me down the road.
My daughter's husband and me don't agree, so I'm bitter not to see them.
Ivery day, sir—ivery day in the week I am here. This morunning I was here at eight —that was earlier than usual, but I came out because I had not broke my fast with anything but a drop of wather, and that I had two tumblers of it from the house at the corrunner. I intind to go home and take two hirrings, and have a drop of biled wather—tay, I mane, sir.
I come here at about half-past nine to half-past ten, but I'm gitting a very bad leg. I goes home about five or six.
I have taken two ha'pennies this morning; thruppence I took yisterday; the day before I took, I think, fourpence ha'penny; that was my taking on Monday; on Sunday I mustered a shilling; on Saturday—I declare, sir, I forgit —fourpence or thruppence, I suppose, but my frinds is out of town very much. They gives me a penny rigular every Sunday, or a ha'penny, and some tuppence. Of a Sunday in the good time I may take eighteenpence or sixteenpence.
Oh, yes, of Christmas it's better, it is— four or five shillings on a Christmas-day.
On the Monday fortnight, before last Christmas twelvemonth, I had two ribs broke, and one fractured, and my grine (groin) bone injured. Oh! the pains that I feel even now, sir. I lived then in Phillip's-gardens, up there in the New-road. The policeman took me to the hospital. It was eighteen days I niver got off my bid. I came out in the morunning of the Christmas-eve. I hild on by the railings as I wint along, and I thought I niver should git home. How I was knocked down was by a cart; I had my eye bad thin, the lift one, and had a cloth over it. I was just comin' out of the archway of the courrut (close by the beer-shop) away from Mr. ——'s house, when crossing to the green-grocer's to git two pound of praties for my supper, I didn't see the cart comin'. I was knocked down by the shaft. They called, and they called, and he wouldn't stop, and it wint over me, it did. It was loaded with cloth; I don't know if it wasn't a Shoolbred's cart, but the boy said to the hospital-doctor and to the policeman it was heavily loaded. The boy gave me a shilling, and that was all the money I received. For a twelvemonth I couldn't hardly walk.
On that Christmas-day I took four-and-tin-
pence, but I owed it all for rint and things; and I'm sure it's a good man that let me run it the score.
Is it a shillin' I iver git? Well, thin, sir, there's one gintleman, but he's out of town— Sir George Hewitt — niver passes without givin' me a shillin'.
I have taken one-and-ninepence on a Sunday, and I've taken two shillin's. Upon my sowl, I've often gone home with three ha'pence and tuppence. For this month past, put ivery day together, I haven't taken three shilling a-week.
I wear two brooms out in a week in bad wither, and thin p'rhaps I take four to five shillin', Sunday included; but for the three year since here I've been on this crossin', I niver took tin shillin', sir, niver.
Yes, there was a man here before me: he had bad eyes, and he was obligated to lave and go into the worrukhouse; he lost the sight of one of his eyes when he came back again. I knew him sweepin' here a long time. When he come back, I said, 'Father,' says I, 'I wint on your crossin'.' 'Ah,' says he, 'you've got a bad crossin', poor woman; I wouldn't go on it again, I wouldn't;' and I niver seen him since. I don't know whether he is living or not.
A wit day makes fourpence or fippence difference sometimes.
Indeed, I have heard of crossin'--sweepers makin' so much and so much. I hear people talkin' about it, but, for my parrut, I wouldn't give heed to what they say. In Oxford-street, towards the Parruks, there was a man, years ago, they say, by all accounts left a dale of money.
I am niver annoyed by boys. I don't spake to none of them. I was in sarvice till I got married, thin I used to sill fruit through Kentish Town, Highgate, and Hampstead; but I niver sould in the streets, sir, and had my rigular customers like any greengrocer. I had a good connixion, I had; but, by gitting old and feeble, and sick, and not being able to go about, I was forrussed to give it up, I was. I couldn't carry twelve pound upon my hid— no, not if I was to get a sov'rin a-day for it, now.
I niver lave the crossin'. I haven't got a frind; nor a day's pleasure I niver take.
Oh, yes, sir, I must have a pinch—this is my snuff-box. I take a ha'porth a-day, and that's the only comforrut I've got—that and a cup of tay; for I can't dthrink cocoa or coffeetay.
My feeding is a bit of brid and butther. I haven't bought a bit of mate these three months. I used to git two penn'orth of bones and mate at Mrs. Baker's, down there; but mate is so dear, that they don't have 'em now, and it's ashamed I am of botherin' thim so often. I frequintly have a hirrin'. Oh dear! no sir. Wather is my dthrink. I can't afforrud no beer. Sometimes I have a penn'orth of
gin and could water, and I find it do me a worruld of good. Sometimes I git enough to eat, but lately, indeed, I can't git that. I declare I don't know which people give the most; the gintlemen give me more in wit wither, for then the ladies, you see, can't let their dresses out of their hands.
I am a Catholic, sir. I go to St. Pathrick's sometimes, or I go to Gordon-street Churruch. I don't care which I go to—it's all the same to me; but I haven't been to churruch for months. I've nothing to charge mysilf wid; and, indeed, I haven't been to confission for some year.
Tradespeople are very kind, indeed they are.
Yes, I think I'll go to Kint a hop-pickin'; and as for my crossin', I lave it, sir, just as it is. I go five miles beyant Maidstone. I worruked fifteen years at Mr. ——; he was a pole-puller and binsman in the hop-ground.
I've not been down there since the year before last. I was too poorly after that accident. We make about eighteenpence, two shillin's, or one shillin', 'cording as the hops is good. No lodging nor fire to pay; and we git plinty of good milk chape there. I manage thin to save a little money to hilp us in the winther.
I live in —— street, Siven Dials; but I'm going to lave my son—we can't agree. We live in the two-pair back. I pay nothing a-week, only bring home ivery ha'penny to hilp thim. Sometimes I spind a pinny or tuppence out on mysilf.
My son is doin' very badly. He sills fruit in the sthreets; but he's niver been used to it before; and he has pains in his limbs with so much walking. He has no connixion, and with the sthrawbirries now he's forrused to walk about of a night as will as a day, for they won't keep till the morrunning; they all go mouldy and bad. My son has been used to the bricklaying, sir: he can lit in a stove or a copper, or do a bit of plasther or lath, or the like. His wife is a very just, clane, sober woman, and he has got three good childer; there is Catherine, who is named afther me, she is nearly five; Illen, two years and six months, named after her mother; and Margaret, the baby, six months ould—and she is called afther my daughter, who is did.
4. THE OCCASIONAL CROSSING-SWEEPERS.
The Sunday Crossing-Sweeper.
I'M a Sunday crossing-sweeper," said an oyster-stall keeper, in answer to my inquiries. "I mean by that, I only sweep a crossing on a Sunday. I pitch in the Lorrimore-road, Newington, with a few oysters on week-days, and I does jobs for the people about there, sich as cleaning a few knives and forks, or shoes and boots, and windows. I've been in the habit of sweeping a crossing about four or five years.
I never knowed my father, he died when I was a baby. He was a 'terpreter, and spoke seven different languages. My father used to go with Bonaparte's army, and used to 'terpret for him. He died in the South of France. I had a brother, but he died quite a child, and my mother supported me and a sister by being cook in a gentleman's family: we was put out to nurse. My mother couldn't afford to put me to school, and so I can't read nor write. I'm forty-one years old.
The fust work I ever did was being boy at a pork-butcher's. I used to take out the meat wot was ordered. At last my master got broke up, and I was discharged from my place, and I took to sellin' a few sprats. I had no thoughts of taking to a crossing then. I was ten year old. I remember I give two shillings for a 'shallow;' that's a flat basket with two handles; they put 'em a top of 'well-baskets,' them as can carry a good load. A well-basket's almost like a coffin; it's a long un like a shallow, on'y it's a good deal deeper—about as deep as a washin' tub. I done very fair with my sprats till they got dear and come up very small, so then I was obliged to get a few plaice, and then I got a few baked 'taters and sold them. I hadn't money enough to buy a tin—I could a got one for eight shillings—so I put 'em in a cross-handle basket, and carried 'em round the streets, and into public-houses, and cried "Baked taters, all hot!" I used only to do this of a night, and it brought me about four or five shillings aweek. I used to fill up the day by going round to gentlemen's houses where I was known, to run for errands and clean knives and boots, and that brought me sich a thing as four shillings a-week more altogether.
I never had no idea then of sweeping a crossing of a Sunday; but at last I was obliged to push to it. I kept on like this for many years, and at last a gentleman named Mr. Jackson promised to buy me a tin, but he died. My mother went blind through a blight; that was the cause of my fust going out to work, and so I had to keep her; but I didn't mind that: I thought it was my duty so to do.
About ten years ago I got married; my wife used to go out washing and ironing. I thought two of us would get on better than one, and she didn't mind helpin' me to keep my mother, for I was determined my mother shouldn't go into the workhouse so long as I could help it.
A year or two after I got married, I found I must do something more to help to keep home, and then I fust thought of sweepin' a crossing on Sundays; so I bought a heath broom for twopence-ha'penny, and I pitched agin' the Canterbury Arms, Kennington; it was between a baker's shop and a public-house and butcher's; they told me
they'd all give me something if I'd sweep the crossing reg'lar.
The best places is in front of chapels and churches, 'cause you can take more money in front of a church or a chapel than wot you can in a private road, 'cos they look at it more, and a good many thinks when you sweeps in front of a public-house that you go and spend your money inside in waste.
The first Sunday I went at it, I took eighteenpence. I began at nine o'clock in the morning and stopped till four in the afternoon. The publican give fourpence, and the baker sixpence, and the butcher threepence, so that altogether I got above a half-crown. I stopped at this crossing a year, and I always knocked up about two shillings or a halfcrown on the Sunday. I very seldom got anythink from the ladies; it was most all give by the gentlemen. Little children used sometimes to give me ha'pence, but it was when their father give it to 'em; the little children like to do that sort of thing.
The way I come to leave this crossing was this here: the road was being repaired, and they shot down a lot of stones, so then I couldn't sweep no crossing. I looked out for another place, and I went opposite the Duke of Sutherland public-house in the Lorrimoreroad. I swept there one Sunday, and I got about one-and-sixpence. While I was sweeping this crossing, a gentleman comes up to me, and he axes me if I ever goes to chapel or church; and I tells him, 'Yes;' I goes to church, wot I'd been brought up to; and then he says, 'You let me see you at St. Michael's Church, Brixton, and I'll 'courage you, and you'll do better if you come up and sweep in front there of a Sunday instead of where you are; you'll be sure to get more money, and get better 'couraged. It don't matter what you do,' he says, 'as long as it brings you in a honest crust; anythink's better than thieving.' And then the gent gives me sixpence and goes away.
As soon as he'd gone I started off to his church, and got there just after the people was all in. I left my broom in the churchyard. When I got inside the church, I could see him a-sitten jest agin the communion table, so I walks to the free seats and sets down right close again the communion table myself, for his pew was on my right, and he saw me directly and looked and smiled at me. As he was coming out of the church he says, says he, 'As long as I live, if you comes here on a Sunday reg'lar I shall always 'courage you.'
The next Sunday I went up to the church and swept the crossing, and he see me there, but he didn't give me nothink till the church was over, and then he gave me a shilling, and the other people give me about oneand-six- pence; so I got about two-and-sixpence altogether, and I thought that was a good beginning.
The next Sunday the gen'elman was ill, but he didn't forget me. He sent me sixpence by his servant, and I got from the other people about two shillings more. I never see that gentleman, after for he died on the Saturday. His wife sent for me on the Sunday; she was ill a-bed, and I see one of the daughters, and she gave me sixpence, and said I was to be there on Monday morning. I went on the Monday, and the lady was much worse, and I see the daughter again. She gave me a couple of shirts, and told me to come on the Friday, and when I went on that day I found the old lady was dead. The daughter gave me a coat, and trousers, and waistcoat.
After the daughters had buried the father and mother they moved. I kept on sweeping at the church, till at last things got so bad that I come away, for nobody give me nothink. The houses about there was so damp that people wouldn't live in 'em.
So then I come up into Lorrimore-road, and there I've been ever since. I don't get on wonderful well there. Sometimes I don't get above sixpence all day, but it's mostly a shilling or so. The most I've took is about one-and-sixpence. The reason why I stop there is, because I'm known there, you see. I stands there all the week selling highsters, and the people about there give me a good many jobs. Besides, the road is rather bad there, and they like to have a clean crossing of a Sunday.
I don't get any more money in the winter (though it's muddier) than I do in the summer; the reason is, 'cause there isn't so many people stirring about in the winter as there is in the summer.
One broom will carry me over three Sundays, and I gives twopence-ha'penny a-piece for 'em. Sometimes the people bring me out at my crossing—'specially in cold weather—a mug of hot tea and some bread and butter, or a bit of meat. I don't know any other crossing-sweeper; I never 'sociates with nobody. I always keeps my own counsel, and likes my own company the best.
My wife's been dead five months, and my mother six months; but I've got a little boy seven year old; he stops at school all day till I go home at night, and then I fetches him home. I mean to do something better with him than give him a broom: a good many people would set him on a crossing; but I mean to keep him at school. I want to see him read and write well, because he'll suit for a place then.
There's some art in sweeping a crossing even. That is, you mustn't sweep too hard, 'cos if you do, you wears a hole right in the road, and then the water hangs in it. It's the same as sweeping a path; if you sweeps too hard you wears up the stones.
To do it properly, you must put the end of the broom-handle in the palm of your right hand, and lay hold of it with your left, about
halfway down; then you takes half your crossing, and sweeps on one side till you gets over the road; then you turns round and comes back doing the other half. Some people holds the broom before 'em, and keeps swaying it back- 'ards and for'ards to sweep the width of the crossing all in one stroke, but that ain't sich a good plan, 'cause you're apt to splash people that's coming by; and besides, it wears the road in holes and wears out the broom so quick. I always use my broom steady. I never splash nobody.
I never tried myself, but I've seen some crossin'--sweepers as could do all manner of things in mud, sich as diamonds, and stars, and the moon, and letters of the alphabet; and once in Oxford-street I see our Saviour on his cross in mud, and it was done well, too. The figure wasn't done with the broom, it was done with a pointed piece of stick; it was a boy as I see doin' it, about fifteen. He didn't seem to take much money while I was a-looking at him.
I don't think I should a took to crossin' sweeping if I hadn't got married; but when I'd got a couple of children (for I've had a girl die; if she'd lived she'd a been eight year old now,) I found I must do a somethin', and so I took to the broom.
B. The Afflicted Crossing-Sweepers.
The Wooden-Legged Sweeper.
This man lives up a little court running out of a wide, second-rate street. It is a small court, consisting of some half-dozen houses, all of them what are called by courtesy "private."
I inquired at No. 3 for John ——; "The first-floor back, if you please, sir;" and to the first-floor back I went.
Here I was answered by a good-looking and intelligent young woman, with a baby, who said her husband had not yet come home, but would I walk in and wait? I did so; and found myself in a very small, close room, with a little furniture, which the man called "his few sticks," and presently discovered another child—a little girl. The girl was very shy in her manner, being only two years and two months old, and as her mother said, very ailing from the difficulty of cutting her teeth, though the true cause seemed to be want of proper nourishment and fresh air. The baby was a boy—a fine, cheerful, good-tempered little fellow, but rather pale, and with an unnaturally large forehead. The mantelpiece of the room was filled with little ornaments of various sorts, such as bead-baskets, and over them hung a series of black profiles—not portraits of either the crossing-sweeper or any of his family, but an odd lot of heads, which had lost their owners many a year, and served, in company with a little red, green, and yellow scripture-piece, to keep the wall from looking bare. Over the door (inside the
room) was nailed a horse-shoe, which, the wife told me, had been put there by her husband, for luck.
A bed, two deal tables, a couple of boxes, and three chairs, formed the entire furniture of the room, and nearly filled it. On the windowframe was hung a small shaving-glass; and on the two boxes stood a wicker-work apology for a perambulator, in which I learnt the poor crippled man took out his only daughter at half-past four in the morning.
If some people was to see that, sir," said the sweeper, when he entered and saw me looking at it, "they would, and in fact they do
say, 'Why, you can't be in want.' Ah! little they know how we starved and pinched ourselves before we could get it.
There was a fire in the room, notwithstanding the day was very hot; but the window was wide open, and the place tolerably ventilated, though oppressive. I have been in many poor people's "places," but never remember one so poor in its appointments and yet so free from effluvia.
The crossing-sweeper himself was a very civil sort of man, and in answer to my inquiries said:—
I know that I do as I ought to, and so I don't feel hurt at standing at my crossing. I have been there four years. I found the place vacant. My wife, though she looks very well, will never be able to do any hard work; so we sold our mangle, and I took to the crossing: but we're not in debt, and nobody can't say nothing to us. I like to go along the streets free of such remarks as is made by people to whom you owes money. I had a mangle in —— Yard, but through my wife's weakness I was forced to part with it. I was on the crossing a short time before that, for I knew that if I parted with my mangle and things before I knew whether I could get a living at the crossing I couldn't get my mangle back again.
We sold the mangle only for a sovereign, and we gave two-pound-ten for it; we sold it to the same man that we bought it of. About six months ago I managed for to screw and save enough to buy that little wicker chaise, for I can't carry the children because of my one leg, and of course the mother can't carry them both out together. There was a man had the crossing I've got; he died three or four years before I took it; but he didn't depend on the crossing—he did things for the tradespeople about, such as carpet-beating, messages, and so on.
When I first took the crossing I did very well. It happened to be a very nasty, dirty season, and I took a good deal of money. Sweepers are not always civil, sir.
I wish I had gone to one of the squares, though. But I think after —— street is paved with stone I shall do better. I am certain I never taste a bit of meat from one week's end to the other. The best day I ever made was five-and-sixpence or six shillings; it was the
winter before last. If you remember, the snow laid very thick on the ground, and the sudden thaw made walking so uncomfortable, that I did very well. I have taken as little as sixpence, fourpence, and even twopence. Last Thursday I took two ha'pence all day. Take one week with the other, seven or eight shillings is the very outside.
I don't know how it is, but some people who used to give me a penny, don't now. The boys who come in wet weather earn a great deal more than I do. I once lost a good chance, sir, at the corner of the street leading to Cavendish-square. There's a bank, and they pay a man seven shillings a-week to sweep the crossing: a butcher in Oxford Market spoke for me; but when I went up, it unfortunately turned out that I was not fit, from the loss of my leg. The last man they had there they were obliged to turn away—he was so given to drink.
I think there are some rich crossingsweepers in the city, about the Exchange; but you won't find them now during this dry weather, except in by-places. In wet weather, there are two or three boys who sweep near my crossing, and take all my earnings away. There's a great able-bodied man besides—a fellow strong enough to follow the plough. I said to the policeman, 'Now, ain't this a shame? and the policeman said, 'Well, he must get his living as well as you.' I'm always civil to the police, and they're always civil to me—in fact, I think sometimes I'm too civil—I'm not rough enough with people.
You soon tell whether to have any hopes of people coming across. I can tell a gentleman directly I see him.
Where I stand, sir, I could get people in trouble everlasting; there's all sorts of thieving going on. I saw the other day two or three respectable persons take a purse out of an old lady's pocket before the baker's shop at the corner; but I can't say a word, or they would come and throw me into the road. If a gentleman gives me sixpence, he don't give me any more for three weeks or a month; but I don't think I've more than three or four gentlemen as gives me that. Well, you can scarcely tell the gentleman from the clerk, the clerks are such great swells now.
Lawyers themselves dress very plain; those great men who don't come every day, because they've clerks to do their business for them, they give most. People hardly ever stop to speak unless it is to ask you where places are —you might be occupied at that all day. I manage to pay my rent out of what I take on Sunday, but not lately—this weather religious people go pleasuring.
No, I don't go now—the fact is, I'd like to go to church, if I could, but when I come home I am tired; but I've got books here, and they do as well, sir. I read a little and write a little.
I lost my leg through a swelling—there
was no chloroform then. I was in the hospital three years and a half, and was about fifteen or sixteen when I had it off. I always feel the sensation of the foot, and more so at change of weather. I feel my toes moving about, and everything; sometimes, it's just as if the calf of my leg was itching. I feel the rain coming; when I see a cloud coming my leg shoots, and I know we shall have rain.
My mother was a laundress—my father has been dead nineteen years my last birthday. My mother was subject to fits, so I was forced to stop at home to take care of the business.
I don't want to get on better, but I always think, if sickness or anything comes on——
I am at my crossing at half-past eight; at half-past eleven I come home to dinner. I go back at one or two till seven.
Sometimes I mind horses and carts, but the boys get all that business. One of these little customers got sixpence the other day for only opening the door of a cab. I don't know how it is they let these little boys be about; if I was the police, I wouldn't allow it.
I think it's a blessing, having children— (referring to his little girl)—that child wants the gravy of meat, or an egg beaten up, but she can't get it. I take her out every morning round Euston-square and those open places. I get out about half-past four. It is early, but if it benefits her, that's no odds.
One-Legged Sweeper at Chancery-Lane.
I DON'T know what induced me to take that crossing, except it was that no one was there, and the traffic was so good—fact is, the traffic is too good, and people won't stop as they cross over, they're very glad to get out of the way of the cabs and the omnibuses.
Tradespeople never give me anything— not even a bit of bread. The only thing I get is a few cuttings, such as crusts of sandwiches and remains of cheese, from the public-house at the corner of the court. The tradespeople are as distant to me now as they were when I came, but if I should pitch up a tale I should soon get acquainted with them.
We have lived in this lodging two years and a half, and we pay one-and-ninepence a-week, as you may see from the rent-book, and that I manage to earn on Sundays. We owe four weeks now, and, thank God, it's no more.
I was born, sir, in —— street, Berkeleysquare, at Lord ——'s house, when my mother was minding the house. I have been used to London all my life, but not to this part; I have always been at the west-end, which is what I call the best end.
I did not like the idea of crossingsweep- ing at first, till I reasoned with myself, Why should I mind? I'm not doing any hurt to anybody. I don't care at all now—I know I'm doing what I ought to do.
A man had better be killed out of the way than be disabled. It's not pleasant to know that my wife is suckling that great child, and, though she is so weakly, she can't get no meat.
I've been knocked down twice, sir — both times by cabs. The last time it was a fortnight before I could get about comfortably again. The fool of a fellow was coming along, not looking at his horse, but talking to somebody on the cab-rank. The place was as free as this room, if he had only been looking before him. Nobody hollered till I was down, but plenty hollered then. Ah, I often notice such carelessness—it's really shameful. I don't think those 'shofuls' (Hansoms) should be allowed—the fact is, if the driver is not a tall man he can't see his horse's head.
A nasty place is end of —— street: it narrows so suddenly. There's more confusion and more bother about it than any place in London. When two cabs gets in at once, one one way and one the other, there's sure to be a row to know which was the first in.
The Most Severely-afflicted of all the Crossing-Sweepers.
PASSING the dreary portico of the Queen's Theatre, and turning to the right down Tottenham Mews, we came upon a flight of steps leading up to what is called "The Gallery," where an old man, gasping from the effects of a lung disease, and feebly polishing some old harness, proclaimed himself the father of the sweeper I was in search of, and ushered me into the room where he lay a-bed, having had a "very bad night."
The room itself was large and of a low pitch, stretching over some stables; it was very old and creaky (the sweeper called it "an old wilderness"), and contained, in addition to two turn--up bedsteads, that curious medley of articles which, in the course of years, an old and poor couple always manage to gather up. There was a large lithograph of a horse, dear to the remembrance of the old man from an indication of a dog in the corner. "The very spit of the one I had for years; it's a real portrait, sir, for Mr. Hanbart, the printer, met me one day and sketched him." There was an etching of Hogarth's in a black frame; a stuffed bird in a wooden case, with a glass before it; a piece of painted glass, hanging in a place of honour, but for which no name could be remembered, excepting that it was "of the old-fashioned sort." There were the odd remnants, too, of old china ornaments, but very little furniture; and, finally, a kitten.
The father, worn out and consumptive, had been groom to Lord Combermere. "I was with him, sir, when he took Bonyparte's house at Malmasong. I could have had a pension then if I'd a liked, but I was young and foolish, and had plenty of money, and we never know what we may come to."
The sweeper, although a middle-aged man,
had all the appearance of a boy—his rawlook- ing eyes, which he was always wiping with a piece of linen rag, gave him a forbidding expression, which his shapeless, short, bridgeless nose tended to increase. But his manners and habits were as simple in their character as those of a child; and he spoke of his father's being angry with him for not getting up before, as if he were a little boy talking of his nurse.
He walks, with great difficulty, by the help of a crutch; and the sight of his weak eyes, his withered limb, and his broken shoulder (his old helpless mother, and his gasping, almost inaudible father,) form a most painful subject for compassion.
The crossing-sweeper gave me, with no little meekness and some slight intelligence, the following statement:—
I very seldom go out on a crossin' o' Sundays. I didn't do much good at it. I used to go to church of a Sunday—in fact, I do now when I'm well enough.
It's fifteen year next January since I left Regent-street. I was there three years, and then I went on Sundays occasionally. Sometimes I used to get a shilling, but I have given it up now—it didn't answer; besides, a lady who was kind to me found me out, and said she wouldn't do any more for me if I went out on Sundays. She's been dead these three or four years now.
When I was at Regent-street I might have made twelve shillings a-week, or something thereabout.
I am seven-and-thirty the 26th day of last month, and I have been lame six-and-twenty years. My eyes have been bad ever since my birth. The scrofulous disease it was that lamed me—it come with a swelling on the knee, and the outside wound broke about the size of a crown piece, and a piece of bone come from it; then it gathered in the inside and at the top. I didn't go into the hospital then, but I was an out-patient, for the doctor said a close confined place wouldn't do me no good. He said that the seaside would, though; but my parents couldn't afford to send me, and that's how it is. I did go to Brighton and Margate nine years after my leg was bad, but it was too late then.
I have been in Middlesex Hospital, with a broken collar-bone, when I was knocked down by a cab. I was in a fortnight there, and I was in again when I hurt my leg. I was sweeping my crossin' when the top came off my crutch. I fell back'ards, and my leg doubled under me. They had to carry me there.
I went into the Middlesex Hospital for my eyes and leg. I was in a month, but they wouldn't keep me long, there's no cure for me.
My leg is very painful, 'specially at change of weather. Sometimes I don't get an hour's sleep of a night—it was daylight this morning before I closed my eyes.
I went on the crossing first because my parents couldn't keep me, not being able to keep theirselves. I thought it was the best thing I could do, but it's like all other things, it's got very bad now. I used to manage to rub along at first—the streets have got shockin' bad of late.
To tell the truth, I was turned away from Regent-street by Mr. Cook, the furrier, corner of Argyle Street. I'll tell you as far as I was told. He called me into his passage one night, and said I must look out for another crossin', for a lady, who was a very good customer of his, refused to come while I was there; my heavy afflictions was such that she didn't like the look of me. I said, 'Very well;' but because I come there next day and the day after that, he got the policeman to turn me away. Certainly the policeman acted very kindly, but he said the gentleman wanted me removed, and I must find another crossing.
Then I went down Charlotte-street, opposite Percy Chapel, at the corner of Windmillstreet. After that I went to Wells-street, by getting permission of the doctor at the corner. He thought that it would be better for me than Charlotte-street, so he let me come.
Ah! there ain't so many crossing-sweepers as there was; I think they've done away with a great many of them.
When I first went to Wells-street, I did pretty well, because there was a dress-maker's at the corner, and I used to get a good deal from the carriages that stopped before the door. I used to take five or six shillings in a day then, and I don't take so much in a week now. I tell you what I made this week. I've made one-and-fourpence, but it's been so wet, and people are out of town; but, of course, it's not always alike—sometimes I get threeand-six- pence or four shillings. Some people gives me a sixpence or a fourpenny-bit; I reckons that all in.
I am dreadful tired when I comes home of a night. Thank God my other leg's all right! I wish the t'other was as strong, but it never will be now.
The police never try to turn me away; they're very friendly, they'll pass the time of day with me, or that, from knowing me so long in Oxford-street.
My broom sometimes serves me a month; of course, they don't last long now it's showery weather. I give twopence-halfpenny a piece for 'em, or threepence.
I don't know who gives me the most; my eyes are so bad I can't see. I think, though, upon an average, the gentlemen give most.
Often I hear the children, as they are going by, ask their mothers for something to give to me; but they only say, 'Come along—come along!' It's very rare that they lets the children have a ha'penny to give me.
My mother is seventy the week before next Christmas. She can't do much now; she does though go out on Wednesdays or Saturdays,
but that's to people she's known for years who is attached to her. She does her work there just as she likes.
Sometimes she gets a little washing— sometimes not. This week she had a little, and was forced to dry it indoors; but that makes 'em half dirty again.
My father's breath is so bad that he can't do anything except little odd jobs for people down here; but they've got the knack now, a good many on 'em, of doin' their own.
We have lived here fifteen years next September; it's a long time to live in such an old wilderness, but my old mother is a sort of woman as don't like movin' about, and I don't like it. Some people are everlasting on the move.
When I'm not on my crossin' I sit poking at home, or make a job of mending my clothes. I mended these trousers in two or three places.
It's all done by feel, sir. My mother says it's a good thing we've got our feeling at least, if we haven't got our eyesight.
The Negro Crossing-Sweeper, Who Had Lost Both His Legs.
THIS man sweeps a crossing in a principal and central thoroughfare when the weather is cold enough to let him walk; the colder the better, he says, as it "numbs his stumps like." He is unable to follow this occupation in warm weather, as his legs feel "just like corns," and he cannot walk more than a mile a-day. Under these circumstances he takes to begging, which he thinks he has a perfect right to do, as he has been left destitute in what is to him almost a strange country, and has been denied what he terms "his rights." He generally sits while begging, dressed in a sailor shirt and trousers, with a black neckerchief round his neck, tied in the usual nautical knot. He places before him the placard which is given beneath, and never moves a muscle for the purpose of soliciting charity. He always appears scrupulously clean.
I went to see him at his home early one morning—in fact, at half-past eight, but he was not then up. I went again at nine, and found him prepared for my visit in a little parlour, in a dirty and rather disreputable alley running out of a court in a street near Brunswick-square. The negro's parlour was scantily furnished with two chairs, a turn--up bedstead, and a sea-chest. A few odds and ends of crockery stood on the sideboard, and a kettle was singing over a cheerful bit of fire. The little man was seated on a chair, with his stumps of legs sticking straight out. He showed some amount of intelligence in answering my questions. We were quite alone, for he sent his wife and child—the former a pleasant-looking "half-caste," and the latter the cheeriest little crowing, smiling "piccaninny" I have ever seen—he sent them out into the alley, while I conversed with himself.
His life is embittered by the idea that he has never yet had "his rights"—that the owners of the ship in which his legs were burnt off have not paid him his wages (of which, indeed, he says, he never received any but the five pounds which he had in advance before starting), and that he has been robbed of 42l. by a grocer in Glasgow. How true these statements may be it is almost impossible to say, but from what he says, some injustice seems to have been done him by the canny Scotchman, who refuses him his "pay," without which he is determined "never to leave the country."
"I was on that crossing," he said, "almost the whole of last winter. It was very cold, and I had nothing at all to do; so, as I passed there, I asked the gentleman at the baccershop, as well as the gentleman at the office, and I asked at the boot-shop, too, if they would let me sweep there. The policeman wanted to turn me away, but I went to the gentleman inside the office, and he told the policeman to leave me alone. The policeman said first, 'You must go away,' but I said, 'I couldn't do anything else, and he ought to think it a charity to let me stop.'
I don't stop in London very long, though, at a time; I go to Glasgow, in Scotland, where the owners of the ship in which my legs were burnt off live. I served nine years in the merchant service and the navy. I was born in Kingston, in Jamaica; it is an English place, sir, so I am counted as not a foreigner. I'm different from them Lascars. I went to sea when I was only nine years old. The owners is in London who had that ship. I was cabinboy; and after I had served my time I became cook, or when I couldn't get the place of cook I went before the mast. I went as head cook in 1851, in the Madeira barque; she used to be a West Indy trader, and to trade out when I belonged to her. We got down to 69 south of Cape Horn; and there we got almost froze and perished to death. That is the book what I sell.
The "Book" (as he calls it) consists of eight pages, printed on paper the size of a sheet of note paper; it is entitled—
Brief Sketch of the Life of
A native of Kingston, Jamaica.
Showing the hardships he underwent and the sufferings he endured in having both legs amputated.
W. HOWE, PRINTER.
It is embellished with a portrait of a black man, which has evidently been in its time a comic "nigger" of the Jim-Crow tobacco-paper kind, as is evidenced by the traces of a tobaccopipe, which has been unskilfully erased.
The "Book" itself is concocted from an
affidavit made by Edward Albert before "P. Mackinlay, Esq., one of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the country (so it is printed) of Lanark."
I have seen the affidavit, and it is almost identical with the statement in the "book," excepting in the matter of grammar, which has rather suffered on its road to Mr. Howe, the printer.
The following will give an idea of the matter of which it is composed:—
In February, 1851, I engaged to serve as cook on board the barque Madeira, of Glasgow, Captain J. Douglas, on her voyage from Glasgow to California, thence to China, and thence home to a port of discharge in the United Kingdom. I signed articles, and delivered up my register-ticket as a British seaman, as required by law. I entered the service on board the said vessel, under the said engagement, and sailed with that vessel on the 18th of February, 1851. I discharged my duty as cook on board the said vessel, from the date of its having left the Clyde, until June the same year, in which month the vessed rounded Cape Horne, at that time my legs became frost bitten, and I became in consequence unfit for duty.
In the course of the next day after my limbs became affected, the master of the vessel, and mate, took me to the ship's oven, in order, as they said, to cure me; the oven was hot at the time, a fowl that was roasting therein having been removed in order to make room for my feet, which was put into the oven; in consequence of the treatment, my feet burst through the intense swelling, and mortification ensued.
The vessel called, six weeks after, at Valpariso, and I was there taken to an hospital, where I remained five months and a half. Both my legs were amputated three inches below my knees soon after I went to the hospital at Valpariso. I asked my master for my wages due to me, for my service on board the vessel, and demanded my register-ticket; when the captain told me I should not recover, that the vessel could not wait for me, and that I was a dead man, and that he could not discharge a dead man; and that he also said, that as I had no friends there to get my money, he would only put a little money into the hands of the consul, which would be applied in burying me. On being discharged from the hospital I called on the consul, and was informed by him that master had not left any money.
I was afterwards taken on board one of her Majesty's ships, the Driver, Captain Charles Johnston, and landed at Portsmouth; from thence I got a passage to Glasgow, ware I remained three months. Upon supplication to the register-office for seamen, in London, my register-ticket has been forwarded to the Collector of Customs, Glasgow; and he his ready to deliver it to me upon obtaining the authority of the Justices of the Peace, and I recovered the same under the 22nd section of the General Merchant Seaman's Act. Declares I cannot write.
(Signed) DAVID MACKINLAY, J. P.
The Justices having considered the foregoing information and declaration, finds that Edward Albert, therein named the last-register ticket, sought to be covered under circumstances which, so far as he was concerned, were unavoidable, and that no fraud was intended or committed by him in reference thereto, therefore authorised the Collector and Comptroller of Customs at the port of Glasgow to deliver to the said Edward Albert the register-ticket, sought to be recovered by him all in terms of 22nd section of the General Merchant Seamen's Act.
(Signed) DAVID MACKINLAY, J. P.
Glasgow, Oct. 6th, 1852.
Register Ticket, No. 512, 652, age 25 years.
I could make a large book of my sufferings, sir, if I liked," he said, "and I will disgrace the owners of that ship as long as they don't give me what they owe me.
I will never leave England or Scotland until I get my rights; but they says money makes money, and if I had money I could get it. If they would only give me what they owe me, I wouldn't ask anybody for a farthing, God knows, sir. I don't know why the master put my feet in the oven; he said to cure me: the agony of pain I was in was such, he said, that it must be done.
The loss of my limbs is bad enough, but it's still worse when you can't get what is your rights, nor anything for the sweat that they worked out of me.
After I went down to Glasgow for my money I opened a little coffee-house; it was called 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' I did very well. The man who sold me tea and coffee said he would get me on, and I had better give my money to him to keep safe, and he used to put it away in a tin box which I had given fourand-sixpence for. He advertised my place in the papers, and I did a good business. I had the place open a month, when he kept all my savings—two-and-forty pounds—and shut up the place, and denied me of it, and I never got a farthing.
I declare to you I can't describe the agony I felt when my legs were burst; I fainted away over and over again. There was four men came; I was lying in my hammock, and they moved the fowl that was roasting, and put my legs in the oven. There they held me for ten minutes. They said it would take the cold out; but after I came out the cold caught 'em again, and the next day they swole up as big round as a pillar, and burst, and then like water come out. No man but God knows what I have suffered and went through.
By the order of the doctor at Valparaiso, the sick patients had to come out of the room I went into; the smell was so bad I couldn't bear it myself—it was all mortification—they had to use chloride o' zinc to keep the smell down. They tried to save one leg, but the mortification was getting up into my body. I got better after my legs were off.
I was three months good before I could turn, or able to lift up my hand to my head. I was glad to move after that time, it was a regular relief to me; if it wasn't for good attendance, I should not have lived. You know they don't allow tobaccer in a hospital, but I had it; it was the only thing I cared for. The Reverend Mr. Armstrong used to bring me a pound a fortnight; he used to bring it regular. I never used to smoke before; they said I never should recover, but after I got the tobaccer it seemed to soothe me. I was five months and a half in that place.
Admiral Moseley, of the Thetis frigate, sent me home; and the reason why he sent me home was, that after I came well, I called
on Mr. Rouse, the English consul, and he sent me to the boarding-house, till such time as he could find a ship to send me home in. I was there about two months, and the boarding-master, Jan Pace, sent me to the consul.
I used to get about a little, with two small crutches, and I also had a little cart before that, on three wheels; it was made by a man in the hospital. I used to lash myself down in it. That was the best thing I ever had—I could get about best in that.
Well, I went to the consul, and when I went to him, he says, 'I can't pay your board; you must beg and pay for it;' so I went and told Jan Pace, and he said, 'If you had stopped here a hundred years, I would not turn you out;' and then I asked Pace to tell me where the Admiral lived. 'What do you want with him?' says he. I said, 'I think the Admiral must be higher than the consul.' Pace slapped me on the back. Says he, 'I'm glad to see you've got the pluck to complain to the Admiral.'
I went down at nine o'clock the next morning, to see the Admiral. He said, 'Well, Prince Albert, how are you getting on?' So I told him I was getting on very bad; and then I told him all about the consul; and he said, as long as he stopped he would see me righted, and took me on board his ship, the Thetis;
and he wrote to the consul, and said to me, 'If the consul sends for you, don't you go to him; tell him you have no legs to walk, and he must walk to you.'
The consul wanted to send me back in a merchant ship, but the Admiral wouldn't have it, so I came in the Driver, one of Her Majesty's vessels. It was the 8th of May, 1852, when I got to Portsmouth.
I stopped a little while—about a week— in Portsmouth. I went to the Admiral of the dockyard, and he told me I must go to the Lord Mayor of London. So I paid my passage to London, saw the Lord Mayor, who sent me to Mr. Yardley, the magistrate, and he advertised the case for me, and I got four pounds fifteen shillings, besides my passage to Glasgow. After I got there, I went to Mr. Symee a Custom-house officer (he'd been in the same ship with me to California); he said, 'Oh, gracious, Edward, how have you lost your limbs!' and I burst out a crying. I told him all about it. He advised me to go to the owner. I went there; but the policeman in London had put my name down as Robert Thorpe, which was the man I lodged with; so they denied me.
I went to the shipping office, where they reckonised me; and I went to Mr. Symee again, and he told me to go before the Lord Mayor (a Lord Provost they call him in Scotland), and make an affidavit; and so, when they found my story was right, they sent to London for my seaman's ticket; but they couldn't do anything, because the captain was not there.
When I got back to London, I commenced sweeping the crossin', sir. I only sweep it in the winter, because I can't stand in the summer. Oh, yes, I feel my feet still: it is just as if I had them sitting on the floor, now. I feel my toes moving, like as if I had 'em. I could count them, the whole ten, whenever I work my knees. I had a corn on one of my toes, and I can feel it still, particularly at the change of weather.
Sometimes I might get two shillings a-day at my crossing, sometimes one shilling and sixpence, sometimes I don't take above sixpence. The most I ever made in one day was three shillings and sixpence, but that's very seldom.
I am a very steady man. I don't drink what money I get; and if I had the means to get something to do, I'd keep off the streets.
When I offered to go to the parish, they told me to go to Scotland, to spite the men who owed me my wages.
Many people tell me I ought to go to my country; but I tell them it's very hard—I didn't come here without my legs—I lost them, as it were, in this country; but if I had lost them in my own country, I should have been better off. I should have gone down to the magistrate every Friday, and have taken my ten shillings.
I went to the Merchant Seaman's Fund, and they said that those who got hurted before 1852 have been getting the funds, but those who were hurted after 1852 couldn't get nothing —it was stopped in '51, and the merchants wouldn't pay any more, and don't pay any more.
That's scandalous, because, whether you're willing or not, you must pay two shillings amonth (one shilling a-month for the hospital fees, and one shilling a-month to the Merchant Seaman's Fund), out of your pay.
I am married: my wife is the same colour as me, but an Englishwoman. I've been married two years. I married her from where she belonged, in Leeds. I couldn't get on to do anything without her. Sometimes she goes out and sells things—fruit, and so on— but she don't make much. With the assistance of my wife, if I could get my money, I would set up in the same line of business as before, in a coffee-shop. If I had three pounds I could do it: it took well in Scotland. I am not a common cook, either; I am a pastrycook. I used to make all the sorts of cakes they have in the shops. I bought the shapes, and tins, and things to make them proper.
I'll tell you how I did—there was a kind of apparatus; it boils water and coffee, and the milk and the tea, in different departments; but you couldn't see the divisions—the pipes all ran into one tap, like. I've had a sixpence and a shilling for people to look at it: it cost me two pound ten.
Even if I had a coffee-stall down at Coventgarden, I should do; and, besides, I understand the making of eel-soup. I have one child,—it is just three months and a week old. It is a boy, and we call it James Edward Albert. James is after my grandfather, who was a slave.
I was a little boy when the slaves in Jamaica got their freedom: the people were very glad to be free; they do better since, I know, because some of them have got property, and send their children to school. There's more Christianity there than there is here. The public-house is close shut on Saturday night, and not opened till Monday morning. No fruit is allowed to be sold in the street. I am a Protestant. I don't know the name of the church, but I goes down to a newbuilt church, near King's-cross. I never go in, because of my legs; but I just go inside the door; and sometimes when I don't go, I read the Testament I've got here: in all my sickness I took care of that.
There are a great many Irish in this place. I would like to get away from it, for it is a very disgraceful place,—it is an awful, awful place altogether. I haven't been in it very long, and I want to get out of it; it is not fit.
I pay one-and-sixpence rent. If you don't go out and drink and carouse with them, they don't like it; they make use of bad language— they chaff me about my misfortune—they call me 'Cripple;' some says 'Uncle Tom,' and some says 'Nigger;' but I never takes no notice of 'em at all.
The following is a verbatim copy of the placard which the poor fellow places before him when he begs. He carries it, when not in use, in a little calico bag which hangs round his neck:—
KIND CHRISTIAN FRIENDS
WAS COOK ON BOARD THE BARQUE MADEIRA OF GLASGOW CAPTAIN J. DOUGLAS IN FEBRUARY 1851 WHEN AFTER ROUNDING CAPE HORNE HE HAD HIS LEGS AND FEET FROST BITTEN WHEN in that state the master and mate put my Legs and feet into the Oven as they said to cure me the Oven being hot at the time a fowl was roasting was took away to make room for my feet and legs in consequence of this my feet and legs swelled and burst——Mortification then Ensued after which my legs were amputated Three Inches below the knees soon after my entering the Hospital at Valpariso.
AS I HAVE NO OTHER MEANS TO GET A LIVELY- HOOD BUT BY APPEALING TO
A GENEROUS PUBLIC
YOUR KIND DONATIONS WILL BE MOST THANKFULLY RECEIVED.
The Maimed Irish Crossing-Sweeper.
HE stands at the corner of —— street, where the yellow omnibuses stop, and refers to himself every now and then as the "poor lame man." He has no especial mode of addressing the passers-by, except that of hobbling a step or two towards them and sweeping away an imaginary accumulation of mud. He has lost one leg (from the knee) by a fall from a scaffold, while working as a bricklayer's labourer in Wales, some six years ago; and speaks bitterly of the hard time he had of it when he first came to London, and hobbled about selling matches. He says he is thirty-six, but looks more than fifty; and his face has the ghastly expression of death. He wears the ordinary close cloth street-cap and corduroy trousers. Even during the warm weather he wears an upper coat—a rough thick garment, fit for the Arctic regions. It was very difficult to make him understand my object in getting information from him: he thought that he had nothing to tell, and laid great stress upon the fact of his never keeping "count" of anything.
He accounted for his miserably small income by stating that he was an invalid— "now and thin continually." He said—
I can't say how long I have been on this crossin'; I think about five year. When I came on it there had been no one here before. No one interferes with me at all, at all. I niver hard of a crossin' bein' sould; but I don't know any other sweepers. I makes no fraydone with no one, and I always keeps my own mind.
I dunno how much I earn a-day—p'rhaps I may git a shilling, and p'rhaps sixpence. I didn't git much yesterday (Sunday)—only sixpence. I was not out on Saturday; I was ill in bed, and I was at home on Friday. Indeed, I did not get much on Thursday, only tuppence ha'penny. The largest day? I dunno. Why, about a shilling. Well, sure, I might git as much as two shillings, if I got a shillin' from a lady. Some gintlemen are good—such a gintleman as you, now, might give me a shilling.
Well, as to weather, I likes half dry and half wit; of course I wish for the bad wither. Every one must be glad of what brings good to him; and, there's one thing, I can't make the wither—I can't make a fine day nor a wit one. I don't think anybody would interfere with me; certainly, if I was a blaggya'rd I should not be left here; no, nor if I was a thief; but if any other man was to come on to my crossing, I can't say whether the police
would interfere to protect me—p'rhaps they might.
What is it I say to shabby people? Well, by J——, they're all shabby, I think. I don't see any difference; but what can I do? I can't insult thim, and I was niver insulted mysilf, since here I've been, nor, for the matter of that, ever had an angry worrud spoken to me.
Well, sure, I dunno who's the most liberal; if I got a fourpinny bit from a moll I'd take it. Some of the ladies are very liberal; a good lady will give a sixpence. I never hard of sweepin' the mud back again; and as for the boys annoying me, I has no coleaguein' with boys, and they wouldn't be allowed to interfere with me—the police wouldn't allow it.
After I came from Wales, where I was on one leg, selling matches, then it was I took to sweep the crossin'. A poor divil must put up with anything, good or bad. Well, I was a laborin' man, a bricklayer's labourer, and I've been away from Ireland these sixteen year. When I came from Ireland I went to Wales. I was there a long time; and the way I broke my leg was, I fell off a scaffold. I am not married; a lame man wouldn't get any woman to have him in London at all, at all. I don't know what age I am. I am not fifty, nor forty; I think about thirty-six. No, by J——, it's not mysilf that iver knew a well-off crossin'sweeper. I don't dale in them at all.
I got a dale of friends in London assist me (but only now and thin). If I depinded on the few ha'pence I get, I wouldn't live on 'em; what money I get here wouldn't buy a pound of mate; and I wouldn't live, only for my frinds. You see, sir, I can't be out always. Iam laid up nows and thins continually. Oh, it's a poor trade to big on the crossin' from morning till night, and not get sixpence. I couldn't do with it, I know.
Yes, sir, I smoke; it's a comfort, it is. I like any kind I'd get to smoke. I'd like the best if I got it.
I am a Roman Catholic, and I go to St. Patrick's, in St. Giles's; a many people from my neighbourhood go there. I go every Sunday, and to Confession just once a-year—that saves me.
By the Lord's mercy! I don't get broken victuals, nor broken mate, not as much as you might put on the tip of a forruk; they'd chuck it out in the dust-bin before they'd give it to me. I suppose they're all alike.
The divil an odd job I iver got, master, nor knives to clane. If I got their knives to clane, p'rhaps I might clane them.
My brooms cost threepence ha'penny; they are very good. I wear them down to a stump, and they last three weeks, this fine wither. I niver got any ould clothes—not but I want a coat very bad, sir.
I come from Dublin; my father and mother died there of cholera; and when they died, I come to England, and that was the cause of my coming.
By my oath it didn't stand me in more than eighteenpence that I took here last week.
I live in —— lane, St. Giles's Church, on the second landing, and I pay eightpence a week. I haven't a room to mysilf, for there's a family lives in it wid me.
When I goes home I just smokes a pipe, and goes to bid, that's all.