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Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens

Part 3 out of 15

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regular gentleman-attendant on the principal riders, who always
wears a military uniform with a table-cloth inside the breast of
the coat, in which costume he forcibly reminds one of a fowl
trussed for roasting. He is--but why should we attempt to describe
that of which no description can convey an adequate idea?
Everybody knows the man, and everybody remembers his polished
boots, his graceful demeanour, stiff, as some misjudging persons
have in their jealousy considered it, and the splendid head of
black hair, parted high on the forehead, to impart to the
countenance an appearance of deep thought and poetic melancholy.
His soft and pleasing voice, too, is in perfect unison with his
noble bearing, as he humours the clown by indulging in a little
badinage; and the striking recollection of his own dignity, with
which he exclaims, 'Now, sir, if you please, inquire for Miss
Woolford, sir,' can never be forgotten. The graceful air, too,
with which he introduces Miss Woolford into the arena, and, after
assisting her to the saddle, follows her fairy courser round the
circle, can never fail to create a deep impression in the bosom of
every female servant present.

When Miss Woolford, and the horse, and the orchestra, all stop
together to take breath, he urbanely takes part in some such
dialogue as the following (commenced by the clown): 'I say, sir!'-
-'Well, sir?' (it's always conducted in the politest manner.)--'Did
you ever happen to hear I was in the army, sir?'--'No, sir.'--'Oh,
yes, sir--I can go through my exercise, sir.'--'Indeed, sir!'--
'Shall I do it now, sir?'--'If you please, sir; come, sir--make
haste' (a cut with the long whip, and 'Ha' done now--I don't like
it,' from the clown). Here the clown throws himself on the ground,
and goes through a variety of gymnastic convulsions, doubling
himself up, and untying himself again, and making himself look very
like a man in the most hopeless extreme of human agony, to the
vociferous delight of the gallery, until he is interrupted by a
second cut from the long whip, and a request to see 'what Miss
Woolford's stopping for?' On which, to the inexpressible mirth of
the gallery, he exclaims, 'Now, Miss Woolford, what can I come for
to go, for to fetch, for to bring, for to carry, for to do, for
you, ma'am?' On the lady's announcing with a sweet smile that she
wants the two flags, they are, with sundry grimaces, procured and
handed up; the clown facetiously observing after the performance of
the latter ceremony--'He, he, oh! I say, sir, Miss Woolford knows
me; she smiled at me.' Another cut from the whip, a burst from the
orchestra, a start from the horse, and round goes Miss Woolford
again on her graceful performance, to the delight of every member
of the audience, young or old. The next pause affords an
opportunity for similar witticisms, the only additional fun being
that of the clown making ludicrous grimaces at the riding-master
every time his back is turned; and finally quitting the circle by
jumping over his head, having previously directed his attention
another way.

Did any of our readers ever notice the class of people, who hang
about the stage-doors of our minor theatres in the daytime? You
will rarely pass one of these entrances without seeing a group of
three or four men conversing on the pavement, with an indescribable
public-house-parlour swagger, and a kind of conscious air, peculiar
to people of this description. They always seem to think they are
exhibiting; the lamps are ever before them. That young fellow in
the faded brown coat, and very full light green trousers, pulls
down the wristbands of his check shirt, as ostentatiously as if it
were of the finest linen, and cocks the white hat of the summer-
before-last as knowingly over his right eye, as if it were a
purchase of yesterday. Look at the dirty white Berlin gloves, and
the cheap silk handkerchief stuck in the bosom of his threadbare
coat. Is it possible to see him for an instant, and not come to
the conclusion that he is the walking gentleman who wears a blue
surtout, clean collar, and white trousers, for half an hour, and
then shrinks into his worn-out scanty clothes: who has to boast
night after night of his splendid fortune, with the painful
consciousness of a pound a-week and his boots to find; to talk of
his father's mansion in the country, with a dreary recollection of
his own two-pair back, in the New Cut; and to be envied and
flattered as the favoured lover of a rich heiress, remembering all
the while that the ex-dancer at home is in the family way, and out
of an engagement?

Next to him, perhaps, you will see a thin pale man, with a very
long face, in a suit of shining black, thoughtfully knocking that
part of his boot which once had a heel, with an ash stick. He is
the man who does the heavy business, such as prosy fathers,
virtuous servants, curates, landlords, and so forth.

By the way, talking of fathers, we should very much like to see
some piece in which all the dramatis personae were orphans.
Fathers are invariably great nuisances on the stage, and always
have to give the hero or heroine a long explanation of what was
done before the curtain rose, usually commencing with 'It is now
nineteen years, my dear child, since your blessed mother (here the
old villain's voice falters) confided you to my charge. You were
then an infant,' &c., &c. Or else they have to discover, all of a
sudden, that somebody whom they have been in constant communication
with, during three long acts, without the slightest suspicion, is
their own child: in which case they exclaim, 'Ah! what do I see?
This bracelet! That smile! These documents! Those eyes! Can I
believe my senses?--It must be!--Yes--it is, it is my child!'--'My
father!' exclaims the child; and they fall into each other's arms,
and look over each other's shoulders, and the audience give three
rounds of applause.

To return from this digression, we were about to say, that these
are the sort of people whom you see talking, and attitudinising,
outside the stage-doors of our minor theatres. At Astley's they
are always more numerous than at any other place. There is
generally a groom or two, sitting on the window-sill, and two or
three dirty shabby-genteel men in checked neckerchiefs, and sallow
linen, lounging about, and carrying, perhaps, under one arm, a pair
of stage shoes badly wrapped up in a piece of old newspaper. Some
years ago we used to stand looking, open-mouthed, at these men,
with a feeling of mysterious curiosity, the very recollection of
which provokes a smile at the moment we are writing. We could not
believe that the beings of light and elegance, in milk-white
tunics, salmon-coloured legs, and blue scarfs, who flitted on sleek
cream-coloured horses before our eyes at night, with all the aid of
lights, music, and artificial flowers, could be the pale,
dissipated-looking creatures we beheld by day.

We can hardly believe it now. Of the lower class of actors we have
seen something, and it requires no great exercise of imagination to
identify the walking gentleman with the 'dirty swell,' the comic
singer with the public-house chairman, or the leading tragedian
with drunkenness and distress; but these other men are mysterious
beings, never seen out of the ring, never beheld but in the costume
of gods and sylphs. With the exception of Ducrow, who can scarcely
be classed among them, who ever knew a rider at Astley's, or saw
him but on horseback? Can our friend in the military uniform ever
appear in threadbare attire, or descend to the comparatively un-
wadded costume of every-day life? Impossible! We cannot--we will
not--believe it.


If the Parks be 'the lungs of London,' we wonder what Greenwich
Fair is--a periodical breaking out, we suppose, a sort of spring-
rash: a three days' fever, which cools the blood for six months
afterwards, and at the expiration of which London is restored to
its old habits of plodding industry, as suddenly and completely as
if nothing had ever happened to disturb them.

In our earlier days, we were a constant frequenter of Greenwich
Fair, for years. We have proceeded to, and returned from it, in
almost every description of vehicle. We cannot conscientiously
deny the charge of having once made the passage in a spring-van,
accompanied by thirteen gentlemen, fourteen ladies, an unlimited
number of children, and a barrel of beer; and we have a vague
recollection of having, in later days, found ourself the eighth
outside, on the top of a hackney-coach, at something past four
o'clock in the morning, with a rather confused idea of our own
name, or place of residence. We have grown older since then, and
quiet, and steady: liking nothing better than to spend our Easter,
and all our other holidays, in some quiet nook, with people of whom
we shall never tire; but we think we still remember something of
Greenwich Fair, and of those who resort to it. At all events we
will try.

The road to Greenwich during the whole of Easter Monday, is in a
state of perpetual bustle and noise. Cabs, hackney-coaches, 'shay'
carts, coal-waggons, stages, omnibuses, sociables, gigs, donkey-
chaises--all crammed with people (for the question never is, what
the horse can draw, but what the vehicle will hold), roll along at
their utmost speed; the dust flies in clouds, ginger-beer corks go
off in volleys, the balcony of every public-house is crowded with
people, smoking and drinking, half the private houses are turned
into tea-shops, fiddles are in great request, every little fruit-
shop displays its stall of gilt gingerbread and penny toys;
turnpike men are in despair; horses won't go on, and wheels will
come off; ladies in 'carawans' scream with fright at every fresh
concussion, and their admirers find it necessary to sit remarkably
close to them, by way of encouragement; servants-of-all-work, who
are not allowed to have followers, and have got a holiday for the
day, make the most of their time with the faithful admirer who
waits for a stolen interview at the corner of the street every
night, when they go to fetch the beer--apprentices grow
sentimental, and straw-bonnet makers kind. Everybody is anxious to
get on, and actuated by the common wish to be at the fair, or in
the park, as soon as possible.

Pedestrians linger in groups at the roadside, unable to resist the
allurements of the stout proprietress of the 'Jack-in-the-box,
three shies a penny,' or the more splendid offers of the man with
three thimbles and a pea on a little round board, who astonishes
the bewildered crowd with some such address as, 'Here's the sort o'
game to make you laugh seven years arter you're dead, and turn
ev'ry air on your ed gray vith delight! Three thimbles and vun
little pea--with a vun, two, three, and a two, three, vun: catch
him who can, look on, keep your eyes open, and niver say die! niver
mind the change, and the expense: all fair and above board: them
as don't play can't vin, and luck attend the ryal sportsman! Bet
any gen'lm'n any sum of money, from harf-a-crown up to a suverin,
as he doesn't name the thimble as kivers the pea!' Here some
greenhorn whispers his friend that he distinctly saw the pea roll
under the middle thimble--an impression which is immediately
confirmed by a gentleman in top-boots, who is standing by, and who,
in a low tone, regrets his own inability to bet, in consequence of
having unfortunately left his purse at home, but strongly urges the
stranger not to neglect such a golden opportunity. The 'plant' is
successful, the bet is made, the stranger of course loses: and the
gentleman with the thimbles consoles him, as he pockets the money,
with an assurance that it's 'all the fortin of war! this time I
vin, next time you vin: niver mind the loss of two bob and a
bender! Do it up in a small parcel, and break out in a fresh
place. Here's the sort o' game,' &c.--and the eloquent harangue,
with such variations as the speaker's exuberant fancy suggests, is
again repeated to the gaping crowd, reinforced by the accession of
several new-comers.

The chief place of resort in the daytime, after the public-houses,
is the park, in which the principal amusement is to drag young
ladies up the steep hill which leads to the Observatory, and then
drag them down again, at the very top of their speed, greatly to
the derangement of their curls and bonnet-caps, and much to the
edification of lookers-on from below. 'Kiss in the Ring,' and
'Threading my Grandmother's Needle,' too, are sports which receive
their full share of patronage. Love-sick swains, under the
influence of gin-and-water, and the tender passion, become
violently affectionate: and the fair objects of their regard
enhance the value of stolen kisses, by a vast deal of struggling,
and holding down of heads, and cries of 'Oh! Ha' done, then,
George--Oh, do tickle him for me, Mary--Well, I never!' and similar
Lucretian ejaculations. Little old men and women, with a small
basket under one arm, and a wine-glass, without a foot, in the
other hand, tender 'a drop o' the right sort' to the different
groups; and young ladies, who are persuaded to indulge in a drop of
the aforesaid right sort, display a pleasing degree of reluctance
to taste it, and cough afterwards with great propriety.

The old pensioners, who, for the moderate charge of a penny,
exhibit the mast-house, the Thames and shipping, the place where
the men used to hang in chains, and other interesting sights,
through a telescope, are asked questions about objects within the
range of the glass, which it would puzzle a Solomon to answer; and
requested to find out particular houses in particular streets,
which it would have been a task of some difficulty for Mr. Horner
(not the young gentleman who ate mince-pies with his thumb, but the
man of Colosseum notoriety) to discover. Here and there, where
some three or four couple are sitting on the grass together, you
will see a sun-burnt woman in a red cloak 'telling fortunes' and
prophesying husbands, which it requires no extraordinary
observation to describe, for the originals are before her.
Thereupon, the lady concerned laughs and blushes, and ultimately
buries her face in an imitation cambric handkerchief, and the
gentleman described looks extremely foolish, and squeezes her hand,
and fees the gipsy liberally; and the gipsy goes away, perfectly
satisfied herself, and leaving those behind her perfectly satisfied
also: and the prophecy, like many other prophecies of greater
importance, fulfils itself in time.

But it grows dark: the crowd has gradually dispersed, and only a
few stragglers are left behind. The light in the direction of the
church shows that the fair is illuminated; and the distant noise
proves it to be filling fast. The spot, which half an hour ago was
ringing with the shouts of boisterous mirth, is as calm and quiet
as if nothing could ever disturb its serenity: the fine old trees,
the majestic building at their feet, with the noble river beyond,
glistening in the moonlight, appear in all their beauty, and under
their most favourable aspect; the voices of the boys, singing their
evening hymn, are borne gently on the air; and the humblest
mechanic who has been lingering on the grass so pleasant to the
feet that beat the same dull round from week to week in the paved
streets of London, feels proud to think as he surveys the scene
before him, that he belongs to the country which has selected such
a spot as a retreat for its oldest and best defenders in the
decline of their lives.

Five minutes' walking brings you to the fair; a scene calculated to
awaken very different feelings. The entrance is occupied on either
side by the vendors of gingerbread and toys: the stalls are gaily
lighted up, the most attractive goods profusely disposed, and
unbonneted young ladies, in their zeal for the interest of their
employers, seize you by the coat, and use all the blandishments of
'Do, dear'--'There's a love'--'Don't be cross, now,' &c., to induce
you to purchase half a pound of the real spice nuts, of which the
majority of the regular fair-goers carry a pound or two as a
present supply, tied up in a cotton pocket-handkerchief.
Occasionally you pass a deal table, on which are exposed pen'orths
of pickled salmon (fennel included), in little white saucers:
oysters, with shells as large as cheese-plates, and divers
specimens of a species of snail (WILKS, we think they are called),
floating in a somewhat bilious-looking green liquid. Cigars, too,
are in great demand; gentlemen must smoke, of course, and here they
are, two a penny, in a regular authentic cigar-box, with a lighted
tallow candle in the centre.

Imagine yourself in an extremely dense crowd, which swings you to
and fro, and in and out, and every way but the right one; add to
this the screams of women, the shouts of boys, the clanging of
gongs, the firing of pistols, the ringing of bells, the bellowings
of speaking-trumpets, the squeaking of penny dittos, the noise of a
dozen bands, with three drums in each, all playing different tunes
at the same time, the hallooing of showmen, and an occasional roar
from the wild-beast shows; and you are in the very centre and heart
of the fair.

This immense booth, with the large stage in front, so brightly
illuminated with variegated lamps, and pots of burning fat, is
'Richardson's,' where you have a melodrama (with three murders and
a ghost), a pantomime, a comic song, an overture, and some
incidental music, all done in five-and-twenty minutes.

The company are now promenading outside in all the dignity of wigs,
spangles, red-ochre, and whitening. See with what a ferocious air
the gentleman who personates the Mexican chief, paces up and down,
and with what an eye of calm dignity the principal tragedian gazes
on the crowd below, or converses confidentially with the harlequin!
The four clowns, who are engaged in a mock broadsword combat, may
be all very well for the low-minded holiday-makers; but these are
the people for the reflective portion of the community. They look
so noble in those Roman dresses, with their yellow legs and arms,
long black curly heads, bushy eyebrows, and scowl expressive of
assassination, and vengeance, and everything else that is grand and
solemn. Then, the ladies--were there ever such innocent and awful-
looking beings; as they walk up and down the platform in twos and
threes, with their arms round each other's waists, or leaning for
support on one of those majestic men! Their spangled muslin
dresses and blue satin shoes and sandals (a LEETLE the worse for
wear) are the admiration of all beholders; and the playful manner
in which they check the advances of the clown, is perfectly

'Just a-going to begin! Pray come for'erd, come for'erd,' exclaims
the man in the countryman's dress, for the seventieth time: and
people force their way up the steps in crowds. The band suddenly
strikes up, the harlequin and columbine set the example, reels are
formed in less than no time, the Roman heroes place their arms a-
kimbo, and dance with considerable agility; and the leading tragic
actress, and the gentleman who enacts the 'swell' in the pantomime,
foot it to perfection. 'All in to begin,' shouts the manager, when
no more people can be induced to 'come for'erd,' and away rush the
leading members of the company to do the dreadful in the first

A change of performance takes place every day during the fair, but
the story of the tragedy is always pretty much the same. There is
a rightful heir, who loves a young lady, and is beloved by her; and
a wrongful heir, who loves her too, and isn't beloved by her; and
the wrongful heir gets hold of the rightful heir, and throws him
into a dungeon, just to kill him off when convenient, for which
purpose he hires a couple of assassins--a good one and a bad one--
who, the moment they are left alone, get up a little murder on
their own account, the good one killing the bad one, and the bad
one wounding the good one. Then the rightful heir is discovered in
prison, carefully holding a long chain in his hands, and seated
despondingly in a large arm-chair; and the young lady comes in to
two bars of soft music, and embraces the rightful heir; and then
the wrongful heir comes in to two bars of quick music (technically
called 'a hurry'), and goes on in the most shocking manner,
throwing the young lady about as if she was nobody, and calling the
rightful heir 'Ar-recreant--ar-wretch!' in a very loud voice, which
answers the double purpose of displaying his passion, and
preventing the sound being deadened by the sawdust. The interest
becomes intense; the wrongful heir draws his sword, and rushes on
the rightful heir; a blue smoke is seen, a gong is heard, and a
tall white figure (who has been all this time, behind the arm-
chair, covered over with a table-cloth), slowly rises to the tune
of 'Oft in the stilly night.' This is no other than the ghost of
the rightful heir's father, who was killed by the wrongful heir's
father, at sight of which the wrongful heir becomes apoplectic, and
is literally 'struck all of a heap,' the stage not being large
enough to admit of his falling down at full length. Then the good
assassin staggers in, and says he was hired in conjunction with the
bad assassin, by the wrongful heir, to kill the rightful heir; and
he's killed a good many people in his time, but he's very sorry for
it, and won't do so any more--a promise which he immediately
redeems, by dying off hand without any nonsense about it. Then the
rightful heir throws down his chain; and then two men, a sailor,
and a young woman (the tenantry of the rightful heir) come in, and
the ghost makes dumb motions to them, which they, by supernatural
interference, understand--for no one else can; and the ghost (who
can't do anything without blue fire) blesses the rightful heir and
the young lady, by half suffocating them with smoke: and then a
muffin-bell rings, and the curtain drops.

The exhibitions next in popularity to these itinerant theatres are
the travelling menageries, or, to speak more intelligibly, the
'Wild-beast shows,' where a military band in beef-eater's costume,
with leopard-skin caps, play incessantly; and where large highly-
coloured representations of tigers tearing men's heads open, and a
lion being burnt with red-hot irons to induce him to drop his
victim, are hung up outside, by way of attracting visitors.

The principal officer at these places is generally a very tall,
hoarse man, in a scarlet coat, with a cane in his hand, with which
he occasionally raps the pictures we have just noticed, by way of
illustrating his description--something in this way. 'Here, here,
here; the lion, the lion (tap), exactly as he is represented on the
canvas outside (three taps): no waiting, remember; no deception.
The fe-ro-cious lion (tap, tap) who bit off the gentleman's head
last Cambervel vos a twelvemonth, and has killed on the awerage
three keepers a-year ever since he arrived at matoority. No extra
charge on this account recollect; the price of admission is only
sixpence.' This address never fails to produce a considerable
sensation, and sixpences flow into the treasury with wonderful

The dwarfs are also objects of great curiosity, and as a dwarf, a
giantess, a living skeleton, a wild Indian, 'a young lady of
singular beauty, with perfectly white hair and pink eyes,' and two
or three other natural curiosities, are usually exhibited together
for the small charge of a penny, they attract very numerous
audiences. The best thing about a dwarf is, that he has always a
little box, about two feet six inches high, into which, by long
practice, he can just manage to get, by doubling himself up like a
boot-jack; this box is painted outside like a six-roomed house, and
as the crowd see him ring a bell, or fire a pistol out of the
first-floor window, they verily believe that it is his ordinary
town residence, divided like other mansions into drawing-rooms,
dining-parlour, and bedchambers. Shut up in this case, the
unfortunate little object is brought out to delight the throng by
holding a facetious dialogue with the proprietor: in the course of
which, the dwarf (who is always particularly drunk) pledges himself
to sing a comic song inside, and pays various compliments to the
ladies, which induce them to 'come for'erd' with great alacrity.
As a giant is not so easily moved, a pair of indescribables of most
capacious dimensions, and a huge shoe, are usually brought out,
into which two or three stout men get all at once, to the
enthusiastic delight of the crowd, who are quite satisfied with the
solemn assurance that these habiliments form part of the giant's
everyday costume.

The grandest and most numerously-frequented booth in the whole
fair, however, is 'The Crown and Anchor'--a temporary ball-room--we
forget how many hundred feet long, the price of admission to which
is one shilling. Immediately on your right hand as you enter,
after paying your money, is a refreshment place, at which cold
beef, roast and boiled, French rolls, stout, wine, tongue, ham,
even fowls, if we recollect right, are displayed in tempting array.
There is a raised orchestra, and the place is boarded all the way
down, in patches, just wide enough for a country dance.

There is no master of the ceremonies in this artificial Eden--all
is primitive, unreserved, and unstudied. The dust is blinding, the
heat insupportable, the company somewhat noisy, and in the highest
spirits possible: the ladies, in the height of their innocent
animation, dancing in the gentlemen's hats, and the gentlemen
promenading 'the gay and festive scene' in the ladies' bonnets, or
with the more expensive ornaments of false noses, and low-crowned,
tinder-box-looking hats: playing children's drums, and accompanied
by ladies on the penny trumpet.

The noise of these various instruments, the orchestra, the
shouting, the 'scratchers,' and the dancing, is perfectly
bewildering. The dancing, itself, beggars description--every
figure lasts about an hour, and the ladies bounce up and down the
middle, with a degree of spirit which is quite indescribable. As
to the gentlemen, they stamp their feet against the ground, every
time 'hands four round' begins, go down the middle and up again,
with cigars in their mouths, and silk handkerchiefs in their hands,
and whirl their partners round, nothing loth, scrambling and
falling, and embracing, and knocking up against the other couples,
until they are fairly tired out, and can move no longer. The same
scene is repeated again and again (slightly varied by an occasional
'row') until a late hour at night: and a great many clerks and
'prentices find themselves next morning with aching heads, empty
pockets, damaged hats, and a very imperfect recollection of how it
was they did NOT get home.



Such are the written placards wafered up in the gentlemen's
dressing-room, or the green-room (where there is any), at a private
theatre; and such are the sums extracted from the shop-till, or
overcharged in the office expenditure, by the donkeys who are
prevailed upon to pay for permission to exhibit their lamentable
ignorance and boobyism on the stage of a private theatre. This
they do, in proportion to the scope afforded by the character for
the display of their imbecility. For instance, the Duke of
Glo'ster is well worth two pounds, because he has it all to
himself; he must wear a real sword, and what is better still, he
must draw it, several times in the course of the piece. The
soliloquies alone are well worth fifteen shillings; then there is
the stabbing King Henry--decidedly cheap at three-and-sixpence,
that's eighteen-and-sixpence; bullying the coffin-bearers--say
eighteen-pence, though it's worth much more--that's a pound. Then
the love scene with Lady Ann, and the bustle of the fourth act
can't be dear at ten shillings more--that's only one pound ten,
including the 'off with his head!'--which is sure to bring down the
applause, and it is very easy to do--'Orf with his ed' (very quick
and loud;--then slow and sneeringly)--'So much for Bu-u-u-
uckingham!' Lay the emphasis on the 'uck;' get yourself gradually
into a corner, and work with your right hand, while you're saying
it, as if you were feeling your way, and it's sure to do. The tent
scene is confessedly worth half-a-sovereign, and so you have the
fight in, gratis, and everybody knows what an effect may be
produced by a good combat. One--two--three--four--over; then, one-
-two--three--four--under; then thrust; then dodge and slide about;
then fall down on one knee; then fight upon it, and then get up
again and stagger. You may keep on doing this, as long as it seems
to take--say ten minutes--and then fall down (backwards, if you can
manage it without hurting yourself), and die game: nothing like it
for producing an effect. They always do it at Astley's and
Sadler's Wells, and if they don't know how to do this sort of
thing, who in the world does? A small child, or a female in white,
increases the interest of a combat materially--indeed, we are not
aware that a regular legitimate terrific broadsword combat could be
done without; but it would be rather difficult, and somewhat
unusual, to introduce this effect in the last scene of Richard the
Third, so the only thing to be done, is, just to make the best of a
bad bargain, and be as long as possible fighting it out.

The principal patrons of private theatres are dirty boys, low
copying-clerks, in attorneys' offices, capacious-headed youths from
city counting-houses, Jews whose business, as lenders of fancy
dresses, is a sure passport to the amateur stage, shop-boys who now
and then mistake their masters' money for their own; and a choice
miscellany of idle vagabonds. The proprietor of a private theatre
may be an ex-scene-painter, a low coffee-house-keeper, a
disappointed eighth-rate actor, a retired smuggler, or
uncertificated bankrupt. The theatre itself may be in Catherine-
street, Strand, the purlieus of the city, the neighbourhood of
Gray's-inn-lane, or the vicinity of Sadler's Wells; or it may,
perhaps, form the chief nuisance of some shabby street, on the
Surrey side of Waterloo-bridge.

The lady performers pay nothing for their characters, and it is
needless to add, are usually selected from one class of society;
the audiences are necessarily of much the same character as the
performers, who receive, in return for their contributions to the
management, tickets to the amount of the money they pay.

All the minor theatres in London, especially the lowest, constitute
the centre of a little stage-struck neighbourhood. Each of them
has an audience exclusively its own; and at any you will see
dropping into the pit at half-price, or swaggering into the back of
a box, if the price of admission be a reduced one, divers boys of
from fifteen to twenty-one years of age, who throw back their coat
and turn up their wristbands, after the portraits of Count D'Orsay,
hum tunes and whistle when the curtain is down, by way of
persuading the people near them, that they are not at all anxious
to have it up again, and speak familiarly of the inferior
performers as Bill Such-a-one, and Ned So-and-so, or tell each
other how a new piece called The Unknown Bandit of the Invisible
Cavern, is in rehearsal; how Mister Palmer is to play The Unknown
Bandit; how Charley Scarton is to take the part of an English
sailor, and fight a broadsword combat with six unknown bandits, at
one and the same time (one theatrical sailor is always equal to
half a dozen men at least); how Mister Palmer and Charley Scarton
are to go through a double hornpipe in fetters in the second act;
how the interior of the invisible cavern is to occupy the whole
extent of the stage; and other town-surprising theatrical
announcements. These gentlemen are the amateurs--the Richards,
Shylocks, Beverleys, and Othellos--the Young Dorntons, Rovers,
Captain Absolutes, and Charles Surfaces--a private theatre.

See them at the neighbouring public-house or the theatrical coffee-
shop! They are the kings of the place, supposing no real
performers to be present; and roll about, hats on one side, and
arms a-kimbo, as if they had actually come into possession of
eighteen shillings a-week, and a share of a ticket night. If one
of them does but know an Astley's supernumerary he is a happy
fellow. The mingled air of envy and admiration with which his
companions will regard him, as he converses familiarly with some
mouldy-looking man in a fancy neckerchief, whose partially corked
eyebrows, and half-rouged face, testify to the fact of his having
just left the stage or the circle, sufficiently shows in what high
admiration these public characters are held.

With the double view of guarding against the discovery of friends
or employers, and enhancing the interest of an assumed character,
by attaching a high-sounding name to its representative, these
geniuses assume fictitious names, which are not the least amusing
part of the play-bill of a private theatre. Belville, Melville,
Treville, Berkeley, Randolph, Byron, St. Clair, and so forth, are
among the humblest; and the less imposing titles of Jenkins,
Walker, Thomson, Barker, Solomons, &c., are completely laid aside.
There is something imposing in this, and it is an excellent apology
for shabbiness into the bargain. A shrunken, faded coat, a decayed
hat, a patched and soiled pair of trousers--nay, even a very dirty
shirt (and none of these appearances are very uncommon among the
members of the corps dramatique), may be worn for the purpose of
disguise, and to prevent the remotest chance of recognition. Then
it prevents any troublesome inquiries or explanations about
employment and pursuits; everybody is a gentleman at large, for the
occasion, and there are none of those unpleasant and unnecessary
distinctions to which even genius must occasionally succumb
elsewhere. As to the ladies (God bless them), they are quite above
any formal absurdities; the mere circumstance of your being behind
the scenes is a sufficient introduction to their society--for of
course they know that none but strictly respectable persons would
be admitted into that close fellowship with them, which acting
engenders. They place implicit reliance on the manager, no doubt;
and as to the manager, he is all affability when he knows you
well,--or, in other words, when he has pocketed your money once,
and entertains confident hopes of doing so again.

A quarter before eight--there will be a full house to-night--six
parties in the boxes, already; four little boys and a woman in the
pit; and two fiddles and a flute in the orchestra, who have got
through five overtures since seven o'clock (the hour fixed for the
commencement of the performances), and have just begun the sixth.
There will be plenty of it, though, when it does begin, for there
is enough in the bill to last six hours at least.

That gentleman in the white hat and checked shirt, brown coat and
brass buttons, lounging behind the stage-box on the O. P. side, is
Mr. Horatio St. Julien, alias Jem Larkins. His line is genteel
comedy--his father's, coal and potato. He DOES Alfred Highflier in
the last piece, and very well he'll do it--at the price. The party
of gentlemen in the opposite box, to whom he has just nodded, are
friends and supporters of Mr. Beverley (otherwise Loggins), the
Macbeth of the night. You observe their attempts to appear easy
and gentlemanly, each member of the party, with his feet cocked
upon the cushion in front of the box! They let them do these
things here, upon the same humane principle which permits poor
people's children to knock double knocks at the door of an empty
house--because they can't do it anywhere else. The two stout men
in the centre box, with an opera-glass ostentatiously placed before
them, are friends of the proprietor--opulent country managers, as
he confidentially informs every individual among the crew behind
the curtain--opulent country managers looking out for recruits; a
representation which Mr. Nathan, the dresser, who is in the
manager's interest, and has just arrived with the costumes, offers
to confirm upon oath if required--corroborative evidence, however,
is quite unnecessary, for the gulls believe it at once.

The stout Jewess who has just entered, is the mother of the pale,
bony little girl, with the necklace of blue glass beads, sitting by
her; she is being brought up to 'the profession.' Pantomime is to
be her line, and she is coming out to-night, in a hornpipe after
the tragedy. The short thin man beside Mr. St. Julien, whose white
face is so deeply seared with the small-pox, and whose dirty shirt-
front is inlaid with open-work, and embossed with coral studs like
ladybirds, is the low comedian and comic singer of the
establishment. The remainder of the audience--a tolerably numerous
one by this time--are a motley group of dupes and blackguards.

The foot-lights have just made their appearance: the wicks of the
six little oil lamps round the only tier of boxes, are being turned
up, and the additional light thus afforded serves to show the
presence of dirt, and absence of paint, which forms a prominent
feature in the audience part of the house. As these preparations,
however, announce the speedy commencement of the play, let us take
a peep 'behind,' previous to the ringing-up.

The little narrow passages beneath the stage are neither especially
clean nor too brilliantly lighted; and the absence of any flooring,
together with the damp mildewy smell which pervades the place, does
not conduce in any great degree to their comfortable appearance.
Don't fall over this plate basket--it's one of the 'properties'--
the caldron for the witches' cave; and the three uncouth-looking
figures, with broken clothes-props in their hands, who are drinking
gin-and-water out of a pint pot, are the weird sisters. This
miserable room, lighted by candles in sconces placed at lengthened
intervals round the wall, is the dressing-room, common to the
gentlemen performers, and the square hole in the ceiling is THE
trap-door of the stage above. You will observe that the ceiling is
ornamented with the beams that support the boards, and tastefully
hung with cobwebs.

The characters in the tragedy are all dressed, and their own
clothes are scattered in hurried confusion over the wooden dresser
which surrounds the room. That snuff-shop-looking figure, in front
of the glass, is Banquo: and the young lady with the liberal
display of legs, who is kindly painting his face with a hare's
foot, is dressed for Fleance. The large woman, who is consulting
the stage directions in Cumberland's edition of Macbeth, is the
Lady Macbeth of the night; she is always selected to play the part,
because she is tall and stout, and LOOKS a little like Mrs.
Siddons--at a considerable distance. That stupid-looking milksop,
with light hair and bow legs--a kind of man whom you can warrant
town-made--is fresh caught; he plays Malcolm to-night, just to
accustom himself to an audience. He will get on better by degrees;
he will play Othello in a month, and in a month more, will very
probably be apprehended on a charge of embezzlement. The black-
eyed female with whom he is talking so earnestly, is dressed for
the 'gentlewoman.' It is HER first appearance, too--in that
character. The boy of fourteen who is having his eyebrows smeared
with soap and whitening, is Duncan, King of Scotland; and the two
dirty men with the corked countenances, in very old green tunics,
and dirty drab boots, are the 'army.'

'Look sharp below there, gents,' exclaims the dresser, a red-headed
and red-whiskered Jew, calling through the trap, 'they're a-going
to ring up. The flute says he'll be blowed if he plays any more,
and they're getting precious noisy in front.' A general rush
immediately takes place to the half-dozen little steep steps
leading to the stage, and the heterogeneous group are soon
assembled at the side scenes, in breathless anxiety and motley

'Now,' cries the manager, consulting the written list which hangs
behind the first P. S, wing, 'Scene 1, open country--lamps down--
thunder and lightning--all ready, White?' [This is addressed to
one of the army.] 'All ready.'--'Very well. Scene 2, front
chamber. Is the front chamber down?'--'Yes.'--'Very well.'--
'Jones' [to the other army who is up in the flies]. 'Hallo!'--
'Wind up the open country when we ring up.'--'I'll take care.'--
'Scene 3, back perspective with practical bridge. Bridge ready,
White? Got the tressels there?'--'All right.'

'Very well. Clear the stage,' cries the manager, hastily packing
every member of the company into the little space there is between
the wings and the wall, and one wing and another. 'Places, places.
Now then, Witches--Duncan--Malcolm--bleeding officer--where's the
bleeding officer?'--'Here!' replies the officer, who has been rose-
pinking for the character. 'Get ready, then; now, White, ring the
second music-bell.' The actors who are to be discovered, are
hastily arranged, and the actors who are not to be discovered place
themselves, in their anxiety to peep at the house, just where the
audience can see them. The bell rings, and the orchestra, in
acknowledgment of the call, play three distinct chords. The bell
rings--the tragedy (!) opens--and our description closes.


There was a time when if a man ventured to wonder how Vauxhall-
gardens would look by day, he was hailed with a shout of derision
at the absurdity of the idea. Vauxhall by daylight! A porter-pot
without porter, the House of Commons without the Speaker, a gas-
lamp without the gas--pooh, nonsense, the thing was not to be
thought of. It was rumoured, too, in those times, that Vauxhall-
gardens by day, were the scene of secret and hidden experiments;
that there, carvers were exercised in the mystic art of cutting a
moderate-sized ham into slices thin enough to pave the whole of the
grounds; that beneath the shade of the tall trees, studious men
were constantly engaged in chemical experiments, with the view of
discovering how much water a bowl of negus could possibly bear; and
that in some retired nooks, appropriated to the study of
ornithology, other sage and learned men were, by a process known
only to themselves, incessantly employed in reducing fowls to a
mere combination of skin and bone.

Vague rumours of this kind, together with many others of a similar
nature, cast over Vauxhall-gardens an air of deep mystery; and as
there is a great deal in the mysterious, there is no doubt that to
a good many people, at all events, the pleasure they afforded was
not a little enhanced by this very circumstance.

Of this class of people we confess to having made one. We loved to
wander among these illuminated groves, thinking of the patient and
laborious researches which had been carried on there during the
day, and witnessing their results in the suppers which were served
up beneath the light of lamps and to the sound of music at night.
The temples and saloons and cosmoramas and fountains glittered and
sparkled before our eyes; the beauty of the lady singers and the
elegant deportment of the gentlemen, captivated our hearts; a few
hundred thousand of additional lamps dazzled our senses; a bowl or
two of punch bewildered our brains; and we were happy.

In an evil hour, the proprietors of Vauxhall-gardens took to
opening them by day. We regretted this, as rudely and harshly
disturbing that veil of mystery which had hung about the property
for many years, and which none but the noonday sun, and the late
Mr. Simpson, had ever penetrated. We shrunk from going; at this
moment we scarcely know why. Perhaps a morbid consciousness of
approaching disappointment--perhaps a fatal presentiment--perhaps
the weather; whatever it was, we did NOT go until the second or
third announcement of a race between two balloons tempted us, and
we went.

We paid our shilling at the gate, and then we saw for the first
time, that the entrance, if there had been any magic about it at
all, was now decidedly disenchanted, being, in fact, nothing more
nor less than a combination of very roughly-painted boards and
sawdust. We glanced at the orchestra and supper-room as we hurried
past--we just recognised them, and that was all. We bent our steps
to the firework-ground; there, at least, we should not be
disappointed. We reached it, and stood rooted to the spot with
mortification and astonishment. THAT the Moorish tower--that
wooden shed with a door in the centre, and daubs of crimson and
yellow all round, like a gigantic watch-case! THAT the place where
night after night we had beheld the undaunted Mr. Blackmore make
his terrific ascent, surrounded by flames of fire, and peals of
artillery, and where the white garments of Madame Somebody (we
forget even her name now), who nobly devoted her life to the
manufacture of fireworks, had so often been seen fluttering in the
wind, as she called up a red, blue, or party-coloured light to
illumine her temple! THAT the--but at this moment the bell rung;
the people scampered away, pell-mell, to the spot from whence the
sound proceeded; and we, from the mere force of habit, found
ourself running among the first, as if for very life.

It was for the concert in the orchestra. A small party of dismal
men in cocked hats were 'executing' the overture to Tancredi, and a
numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, with their families,
had rushed from their half-emptied stout mugs in the supper boxes,
and crowded to the spot. Intense was the low murmur of admiration
when a particularly small gentleman, in a dress coat, led on a
particularly tall lady in a blue sarcenet pelisse and bonnet of the
same, ornamented with large white feathers, and forthwith commenced
a plaintive duet.

We knew the small gentleman well; we had seen a lithographed
semblance of him, on many a piece of music, with his mouth wide
open as if in the act of singing; a wine-glass in his hand; and a
table with two decanters and four pine-apples on it in the
background. The tall lady, too, we had gazed on, lost in raptures
of admiration, many and many a time--how different people DO look
by daylight, and without punch, to be sure! It was a beautiful
duet: first the small gentleman asked a question, and then the
tall lady answered it; then the small gentleman and the tall lady
sang together most melodiously; then the small gentleman went
through a little piece of vehemence by himself, and got very tenor
indeed, in the excitement of his feelings, to which the tall lady
responded in a similar manner; then the small gentleman had a shake
or two, after which the tall lady had the same, and then they both
merged imperceptibly into the original air: and the band wound
themselves up to a pitch of fury, and the small gentleman handed
the tall lady out, and the applause was rapturous.

The comic singer, however, was the especial favourite; we really
thought that a gentleman, with his dinner in a pocket-handkerchief,
who stood near us, would have fainted with excess of joy. A
marvellously facetious gentleman that comic singer is; his
distinguishing characteristics are, a wig approaching to the
flaxen, and an aged countenance, and he bears the name of one of
the English counties, if we recollect right. He sang a very good
song about the seven ages, the first half-hour of which afforded
the assembly the purest delight; of the rest we can make no report,
as we did not stay to hear any more.

We walked about, and met with a disappointment at every turn; our
favourite views were mere patches of paint; the fountain that had
sparkled so showily by lamp-light, presented very much the
appearance of a water-pipe that had burst; all the ornaments were
dingy, and all the walks gloomy. There was a spectral attempt at
rope-dancing in the little open theatre. The sun shone upon the
spangled dresses of the performers, and their evolutions were about
as inspiriting and appropriate as a country-dance in a family
vault. So we retraced our steps to the firework-ground, and
mingled with the little crowd of people who were contemplating Mr.

Some half-dozen men were restraining the impetuosity of one of the
balloons, which was completely filled, and had the car already
attached; and as rumours had gone abroad that a Lord was 'going
up,' the crowd were more than usually anxious and talkative. There
was one little man in faded black, with a dirty face and a rusty
black neckerchief with a red border, tied in a narrow wisp round
his neck, who entered into conversation with everybody, and had
something to say upon every remark that was made within his
hearing. He was standing with his arms folded, staring up at the
balloon, and every now and then vented his feelings of reverence
for the aeronaut, by saying, as he looked round to catch somebody's
eye, 'He's a rum 'un is Green; think o' this here being up'ards of
his two hundredth ascent; ecod, the man as is ekal to Green never
had the toothache yet, nor won't have within this hundred year, and
that's all about it. When you meets with real talent, and native,
too, encourage it, that's what I say;' and when he had delivered
himself to this effect, he would fold his arms with more
determination than ever, and stare at the balloon with a sort of
admiring defiance of any other man alive, beyond himself and Green,
that impressed the crowd with the opinion that he was an oracle.

'Ah, you're very right, sir,' said another gentleman, with his
wife, and children, and mother, and wife's sister, and a host of
female friends, in all the gentility of white pocket-handkerchiefs,
frills, and spencers, 'Mr. Green is a steady hand, sir, and there's
no fear about him.'

'Fear!' said the little man: 'isn't it a lovely thing to see him
and his wife a going up in one balloon, and his own son and HIS
wife a jostling up against them in another, and all of them going
twenty or thirty mile in three hours or so, and then coming back in
pochayses? I don't know where this here science is to stop, mind
you; that's what bothers me.'

Here there was a considerable talking among the females in the

'What's the ladies a laughing at, sir?' inquired the little man,

'It's only my sister Mary,' said one of the girls, 'as says she
hopes his lordship won't be frightened when he's in the car, and
want to come out again.'

'Make yourself easy about that there, my dear,' replied the little
man. 'If he was so much as to move a inch without leave, Green
would jist fetch him a crack over the head with the telescope, as
would send him into the bottom of the basket in no time, and stun
him till they come down again.'

'Would he, though?' inquired the other man.

'Yes, would he,' replied the little one, 'and think nothing of it,
neither, if he was the king himself. Green's presence of mind is

Just at this moment all eyes were directed to the preparations
which were being made for starting. The car was attached to the
second balloon, the two were brought pretty close together, and a
military band commenced playing, with a zeal and fervour which
would render the most timid man in existence but too happy to
accept any means of quitting that particular spot of earth on which
they were stationed. Then Mr. Green, sen., and his noble companion
entered one car, and Mr. Green, jun., and HIS companion the other;
and then the balloons went up, and the aerial travellers stood up,
and the crowd outside roared with delight, and the two gentlemen
who had never ascended before, tried to wave their flags, as if
they were not nervous, but held on very fast all the while; and the
balloons were wafted gently away, our little friend solemnly
protesting, long after they were reduced to mere specks in the air,
that he could still distinguish the white hat of Mr. Green. The
gardens disgorged their multitudes, boys ran up and down screaming
'bal-loon;' and in all the crowded thoroughfares people rushed out
of their shops into the middle of the road, and having stared up in
the air at two little black objects till they almost dislocated
their necks, walked slowly in again, perfectly satisfied.

The next day there was a grand account of the ascent in the morning
papers, and the public were informed how it was the finest day but
four in Mr. Green's remembrance; how they retained sight of the
earth till they lost it behind the clouds; and how the reflection
of the balloon on the undulating masses of vapour was gorgeously
picturesque; together with a little science about the refraction of
the sun's rays, and some mysterious hints respecting atmospheric
heat and eddying currents of air.

There was also an interesting account how a man in a boat was
distinctly heard by Mr. Green, jun., to exclaim, 'My eye!' which
Mr. Green, jun., attributed to his voice rising to the balloon, and
the sound being thrown back from its surface into the car; and the
whole concluded with a slight allusion to another ascent next
Wednesday, all of which was very instructive and very amusing, as
our readers will see if they look to the papers. If we have
forgotten to mention the date, they have only to wait till next
summer, and take the account of the first ascent, and it will
answer the purpose equally well.


We have often wondered how many months' incessant travelling in a
post-chaise it would take to kill a man; and wondering by analogy,
we should very much like to know how many months of constant
travelling in a succession of early coaches, an unfortunate mortal
could endure. Breaking a man alive upon the wheel, would be
nothing to breaking his rest, his peace, his heart--everything but
his fast--upon four; and the punishment of Ixion (the only
practical person, by-the-bye, who has discovered the secret of the
perpetual motion) would sink into utter insignificance before the
one we have suggested. If we had been a powerful churchman in
those good times when blood was shed as freely as water, and men
were mowed down like grass, in the sacred cause of religion, we
would have lain by very quietly till we got hold of some especially
obstinate miscreant, who positively refused to be converted to our
faith, and then we would have booked him for an inside place in a
small coach, which travelled day and night: and securing the
remainder of the places for stout men with a slight tendency to
coughing and spitting, we would have started him forth on his last
travels: leaving him mercilessly to all the tortures which the
waiters, landlords, coachmen, guards, boots, chambermaids, and
other familiars on his line of road, might think proper to inflict.

Who has not experienced the miseries inevitably consequent upon a
summons to undertake a hasty journey? You receive an intimation
from your place of business--wherever that may be, or whatever you
may be--that it will be necessary to leave town without delay. You
and your family are forthwith thrown into a state of tremendous
excitement; an express is immediately dispatched to the
washerwoman's; everybody is in a bustle; and you, yourself, with a
feeling of dignity which you cannot altogether conceal, sally forth
to the booking-office to secure your place. Here a painful
consciousness of your own unimportance first rushes on your mind--
the people are as cool and collected as if nobody were going out of
town, or as if a journey of a hundred odd miles were a mere
nothing. You enter a mouldy-looking room, ornamented with large
posting-bills; the greater part of the place enclosed behind a
huge, lumbering, rough counter, and fitted up with recesses that
look like the dens of the smaller animals in a travelling
menagerie, without the bars. Some half-dozen people are 'booking'
brown-paper parcels, which one of the clerks flings into the
aforesaid recesses with an air of recklessness which you,
remembering the new carpet-bag you bought in the morning, feel
considerably annoyed at; porters, looking like so many Atlases,
keep rushing in and out, with large packages on their shoulders;
and while you are waiting to make the necessary inquiries, you
wonder what on earth the booking-office clerks can have been before
they were booking-office clerks; one of them with his pen behind
his ear, and his hands behind him, is standing in front of the
fire, like a full-length portrait of Napoleon; the other with his
hat half off his head, enters the passengers' names in the books
with a coolness which is inexpressibly provoking; and the villain
whistles--actually whistles--while a man asks him what the fare is
outside, all the way to Holyhead!--in frosty weather, too! They
are clearly an isolated race, evidently possessing no sympathies or
feelings in common with the rest of mankind. Your turn comes at
last, and having paid the fare, you tremblingly inquire--'What time
will it be necessary for me to be here in the morning?'--'Six
o'clock,' replies the whistler, carelessly pitching the sovereign
you have just parted with, into a wooden bowl on the desk. 'Rather
before than arter,' adds the man with the semi-roasted
unmentionables, with just as much ease and complacency as if the
whole world got out of bed at five. You turn into the street,
ruminating as you bend your steps homewards on the extent to which
men become hardened in cruelty, by custom.

If there be one thing in existence more miserable than another, it
most unquestionably is the being compelled to rise by candlelight.
If you have ever doubted the fact, you are painfully convinced of
your error, on the morning of your departure. You left strict
orders, overnight, to be called at half-past four, and you have
done nothing all night but doze for five minutes at a time, and
start up suddenly from a terrific dream of a large church-clock
with the small hand running round, with astonishing rapidity, to
every figure on the dial-plate. At last, completely exhausted, you
fall gradually into a refreshing sleep--your thoughts grow
confused--the stage-coaches, which have been 'going off' before
your eyes all night, become less and less distinct, until they go
off altogether; one moment you are driving with all the skill and
smartness of an experienced whip--the next you are exhibiting a la
Ducrow, on the off-leader; anon you are closely muffled up, inside,
and have just recognised in the person of the guard an old
schoolfellow, whose funeral, even in your dream, you remember to
have attended eighteen years ago. At last you fall into a state of
complete oblivion, from which you are aroused, as if into a new
state of existence, by a singular illusion. You are apprenticed to
a trunk-maker; how, or why, or when, or wherefore, you don't take
the trouble to inquire; but there you are, pasting the lining in
the lid of a portmanteau. Confound that other apprentice in the
back shop, how he is hammering!--rap, rap, rap--what an industrious
fellow he must be! you have heard him at work for half an hour
past, and he has been hammering incessantly the whole time. Rap,
rap, rap, again--he's talking now--what's that he said? Five
o'clock! You make a violent exertion, and start up in bed. The
vision is at once dispelled; the trunk-maker's shop is your own
bedroom, and the other apprentice your shivering servant, who has
been vainly endeavouring to wake you for the last quarter of an
hour, at the imminent risk of breaking either his own knuckles or
the panels of the door.

You proceed to dress yourself, with all possible dispatch. The
flaring flat candle with the long snuff, gives light enough to show
that the things you want, are not where they ought to be, and you
undergo a trifling delay in consequence of having carefully packed
up one of your boots in your over-anxiety of the preceding night.
You soon complete your toilet, however, for you are not particular
on such an occasion, and you shaved yesterday evening; so mounting
your Petersham great-coat, and green travelling shawl, and grasping
your carpet-bag in your right hand, you walk lightly down-stairs,
lest you should awaken any of the family, and after pausing in the
common sitting-room for one moment, just to have a cup of coffee
(the said common sitting-room looking remarkably comfortable, with
everything out of its place, and strewed with the crumbs of last
night's supper), you undo the chain and bolts of the street-door,
and find yourself fairly in the street.

A thaw, by all that is miserable! The frost is completely broken
up. You look down the long perspective of Oxford-street, the gas-
lights mournfully reflected on the wet pavement, and can discern no
speck in the road to encourage the belief that there is a cab or a
coach to be had--the very coachmen have gone home in despair. The
cold sleet is drizzling down with that gentle regularity, which
betokens a duration of four-and-twenty hours at least; the damp
hangs upon the house-tops and lamp-posts, and clings to you like an
invisible cloak. The water is 'coming in' in every area, the pipes
have burst, the water-butts are running over; the kennels seem to
be doing matches against time, pump-handles descend of their own
accord, horses in market-carts fall down, and there's no one to
help them up again, policemen look as if they had been carefully
sprinkled with powdered glass; here and there a milk-woman trudges
slowly along, with a bit of list round each foot to keep her from
slipping; boys who 'don't sleep in the house,' and are not allowed
much sleep out of it, can't wake their masters by thundering at the
shop-door, and cry with the cold--the compound of ice, snow, and
water on the pavement, is a couple of inches thick--nobody ventures
to walk fast to keep himself warm, and nobody could succeed in
keeping himself warm if he did.

It strikes a quarter past five as you trudge down Waterloo-place on
your way to the Golden Cross, and you discover, for the first time,
that you were called about an hour too early. You have not time to
go back; there is no place open to go into, and you have,
therefore, no resource but to go forward, which you do, feeling
remarkably satisfied with yourself, and everything about you. You
arrive at the office, and look wistfully up the yard for the
Birmingham High-flier, which, for aught you can see, may have flown
away altogether, for preparations appear to be on foot for the
departure of any vehicle in the shape of a coach. You wander into
the booking-office, which with the gas-lights and blazing fire,
looks quite comfortable by contrast--that is to say, if any place
CAN look comfortable at half-past five on a winter's morning.
There stands the identical book-keeper in the same position as if
he had not moved since you saw him yesterday. As he informs you,
that the coach is up the yard, and will be brought round in about a
quarter of an hour, you leave your bag, and repair to 'The Tap'--
not with any absurd idea of warming yourself, because you feel such
a result to be utterly hopeless, but for the purpose of procuring
some hot brandy-and-water, which you do,--when the kettle boils! an
event which occurs exactly two minutes and a half before the time
fixed for the starting of the coach.

The first stroke of six, peals from St. Martin's church steeple,
just as you take the first sip of the boiling liquid. You find
yourself at the booking-office in two seconds, and the tap-waiter
finds himself much comforted by your brandy-and-water, in about the
same period. The coach is out; the horses are in, and the guard
and two or three porters, are stowing the luggage away, and running
up the steps of the booking-office, and down the steps of the
booking-office, with breathless rapidity. The place, which a few
minutes ago was so still and quiet, is now all bustle; the early
vendors of the morning papers have arrived, and you are assailed on
all sides with shouts of 'Times, gen'lm'n, Times,' 'Here's Chron--
Chron--Chron,' 'Herald, ma'am,' 'Highly interesting murder,
gen'lm'n,' 'Curious case o' breach o' promise, ladies.' The inside
passengers are already in their dens, and the outsides, with the
exception of yourself, are pacing up and down the pavement to keep
themselves warm; they consist of two young men with very long hair,
to which the sleet has communicated the appearance of crystallised
rats' tails; one thin young woman cold and peevish, one old
gentleman ditto ditto, and something in a cloak and cap, intended
to represent a military officer; every member of the party, with a
large stiff shawl over his chin, looking exactly as if he were
playing a set of Pan's pipes.

'Take off the cloths, Bob,' says the coachman, who now appears for
the first time, in a rough blue great-coat, of which the buttons
behind are so far apart, that you can't see them both at the same
time. 'Now, gen'lm'n,' cries the guard, with the waybill in his
hand. 'Five minutes behind time already!' Up jump the passengers-
-the two young men smoking like lime-kilns, and the old gentleman
grumbling audibly. The thin young woman is got upon the roof, by
dint of a great deal of pulling, and pushing, and helping and
trouble, and she repays it by expressing her solemn conviction that
she will never be able to get down again.

'All right,' sings out the guard at last, jumping up as the coach
starts, and blowing his horn directly afterwards, in proof of the
soundness of his wind. 'Let 'em go, Harry, give 'em their heads,'
cries the coachman--and off we start as briskly as if the morning
were 'all right,' as well as the coach: and looking forward as
anxiously to the termination of our journey, as we fear our readers
will have done, long since, to the conclusion of our paper.


It is very generally allowed that public conveyances afford an
extensive field for amusement and observation. Of all the public
conveyances that have been constructed since the days of the Ark--
we think that is the earliest on record--to the present time,
commend us to an omnibus. A long stage is not to be despised, but
there you have only six insides, and the chances are, that the same
people go all the way with you--there is no change, no variety.
Besides, after the first twelve hours or so, people get cross and
sleepy, and when you have seen a man in his nightcap, you lose all
respect for him; at least, that is the case with us. Then on
smooth roads people frequently get prosy, and tell long stories,
and even those who don't talk, may have very unpleasant
predilections. We once travelled four hundred miles, inside a
stage-coach, with a stout man, who had a glass of rum-and-water,
warm, handed in at the window at every place where we changed
horses. This was decidedly unpleasant. We have also travelled
occasionally, with a small boy of a pale aspect, with light hair,
and no perceptible neck, coming up to town from school under the
protection of the guard, and directed to be left at the Cross Keys
till called for. This is, perhaps, even worse than rum-and-water
in a close atmosphere. Then there is the whole train of evils
consequent on a change of the coachman; and the misery of the
discovery--which the guard is sure to make the moment you begin to
doze--that he wants a brown-paper parcel, which he distinctly
remembers to have deposited under the seat on which you are
reposing. A great deal of bustle and groping takes place, and when
you are thoroughly awakened, and severely cramped, by holding your
legs up by an almost supernatural exertion, while he is looking
behind them, it suddenly occurs to him that he put it in the fore-
boot. Bang goes the door; the parcel is immediately found; off
starts the coach again; and the guard plays the key-bugle as loud
as he can play it, as if in mockery of your wretchedness.

Now, you meet with none of these afflictions in an omnibus;
sameness there can never be. The passengers change as often in the
course of one journey as the figures in a kaleidoscope, and though
not so glittering, are far more amusing. We believe there is no
instance on record, of a man's having gone to sleep in one of these
vehicles. As to long stories, would any man venture to tell a long
story in an omnibus? and even if he did, where would be the harm?
nobody could possibly hear what he was talking about. Again;
children, though occasionally, are not often to be found in an
omnibus; and even when they are, if the vehicle be full, as is
generally the case, somebody sits upon them, and we are unconscious
of their presence. Yes, after mature reflection, and considerable
experience, we are decidedly of opinion, that of all known
vehicles, from the glass-coach in which we were taken to be
christened, to that sombre caravan in which we must one day make
our last earthly journey, there is nothing like an omnibus.

We will back the machine in which we make our daily peregrination
from the top of Oxford-street to the city, against any 'buss' on
the road, whether it be for the gaudiness of its exterior, the
perfect simplicity of its interior, or the native coolness of its
cad. This young gentleman is a singular instance of self-devotion;
his somewhat intemperate zeal on behalf of his employers, is
constantly getting him into trouble, and occasionally into the
house of correction. He is no sooner emancipated, however, than he
resumes the duties of his profession with unabated ardour. His
principal distinction is his activity. His great boast is, 'that
he can chuck an old gen'lm'n into the buss, shut him in, and rattle
off, afore he knows where it's a-going to'--a feat which he
frequently performs, to the infinite amusement of every one but the
old gentleman concerned, who, somehow or other, never can see the
joke of the thing.

We are not aware that it has ever been precisely ascertained, how
many passengers our omnibus will contain. The impression on the
cad's mind evidently is, that it is amply sufficient for the
accommodation of any number of persons that can be enticed into it.
'Any room?' cries a hot pedestrian. 'Plenty o' room, sir,' replies
the conductor, gradually opening the door, and not disclosing the
real state of the case, until the wretched man is on the steps.
'Where?' inquires the entrapped individual, with an attempt to back
out again. 'Either side, sir,' rejoins the cad, shoving him in,
and slamming the door. 'All right, Bill.' Retreat is impossible;
the new-comer rolls about, till he falls down somewhere, and there
he stops.

As we get into the city a little before ten, four or five of our
party are regular passengers. We always take them up at the same
places, and they generally occupy the same seats; they are always
dressed in the same manner, and invariably discuss the same topics-
-the increasing rapidity of cabs, and the disregard of moral
obligations evinced by omnibus men. There is a little testy old
man, with a powdered head, who always sits on the right-hand side
of the door as you enter, with his hands folded on the top of his
umbrella. He is extremely impatient, and sits there for the
purpose of keeping a sharp eye on the cad, with whom he generally
holds a running dialogue. He is very officious in helping people
in and out, and always volunteers to give the cad a poke with his
umbrella, when any one wants to alight. He usually recommends
ladies to have sixpence ready, to prevent delay; and if anybody
puts a window down, that he can reach, he immediately puts it up

'Now, what are you stopping for?' says the little man every
morning, the moment there is the slightest indication of 'pulling
up' at the corner of Regent-street, when some such dialogue as the
following takes place between him and the cad:

'What are you stopping for?'

Here the cad whistles, and affects not to hear the question.

'I say [a poke], what are you stopping for?'

'For passengers, sir. Ba--nk.--Ty.'

'I know you're stopping for passengers; but you've no business to
do so. WHY are you stopping?'

'Vy, sir, that's a difficult question. I think it is because we
perfer stopping here to going on.'

'Now mind,' exclaims the little old man, with great vehemence,
'I'll pull you up to-morrow; I've often threatened to do it; now I

'Thankee, sir,' replies the cad, touching his hat with a mock
expression of gratitude;--'werry much obliged to you indeed, sir.'
Here the young men in the omnibus laugh very heartily, and the old
gentleman gets very red in the face, and seems highly exasperated.

The stout gentleman in the white neckcloth, at the other end of the
vehicle, looks very prophetic, and says that something must shortly
be done with these fellows, or there's no saying where all this
will end; and the shabby-genteel man with the green bag, expresses
his entire concurrence in the opinion, as he has done regularly
every morning for the last six months.

A second omnibus now comes up, and stops immediately behind us.
Another old gentleman elevates his cane in the air, and runs with
all his might towards our omnibus; we watch his progress with great
interest; the door is opened to receive him, he suddenly
disappears--he has been spirited away by the opposition. Hereupon
the driver of the opposition taunts our people with his having
'regularly done 'em out of that old swell,' and the voice of the
'old swell' is heard, vainly protesting against this unlawful
detention. We rattle off, the other omnibus rattles after us, and
every time we stop to take up a passenger, they stop to take him
too; sometimes we get him; sometimes they get him; but whoever
don't get him, say they ought to have had him, and the cads of the
respective vehicles abuse one another accordingly.

As we arrive in the vicinity of Lincoln's-inn-fields, Bedford-row,
and other legal haunts, we drop a great many of our original
passengers, and take up fresh ones, who meet with a very sulky
reception. It is rather remarkable, that the people already in an
omnibus, always look at newcomers, as if they entertained some
undefined idea that they have no business to come in at all. We
are quite persuaded the little old man has some notion of this
kind, and that he considers their entry as a sort of negative

Conversation is now entirely dropped; each person gazes vacantly
through the window in front of him, and everybody thinks that his
opposite neighbour is staring at him. If one man gets out at Shoe-
lane, and another at the corner of Farringdon-street, the little
old gentleman grumbles, and suggests to the latter, that if he had
got out at Shoe-lane too, he would have saved them the delay of
another stoppage; whereupon the young men laugh again, and the old
gentleman looks very solemn, and says nothing more till he gets to
the Bank, when he trots off as fast as he can, leaving us to do the
same, and to wish, as we walk away, that we could impart to others
any portion of the amusement we have gained for ourselves.


Of all the cabriolet-drivers whom we have ever had the honour and
gratification of knowing by sight--and our acquaintance in this way
has been most extensive--there is one who made an impression on our
mind which can never be effaced, and who awakened in our bosom a
feeling of admiration and respect, which we entertain a fatal
presentiment will never be called forth again by any human being.
He was a man of most simple and prepossessing appearance. He was a
brown-whiskered, white-hatted, no-coated cabman; his nose was
generally red, and his bright blue eye not unfrequently stood out
in bold relief against a black border of artificial workmanship;
his boots were of the Wellington form, pulled up to meet his
corduroy knee-smalls, or at least to approach as near them as their
dimensions would admit of; and his neck was usually garnished with
a bright yellow handkerchief. In summer he carried in his mouth a
flower; in winter, a straw--slight, but, to a contemplative mind,
certain indications of a love of nature, and a taste for botany.

His cabriolet was gorgeously painted--a bright red; and wherever we
went, City or West End, Paddington or Holloway, North, East, West,
or South, there was the red cab, bumping up against the posts at
the street corners, and turning in and out, among hackney-coaches,
and drays, and carts, and waggons, and omnibuses, and contriving by
some strange means or other, to get out of places which no other
vehicle but the red cab could ever by any possibility have
contrived to get into at all. Our fondness for that red cab was
unbounded. How we should have liked to have seen it in the circle
at Astley's! Our life upon it, that it should have performed such
evolutions as would have put the whole company to shame--Indian
chiefs, knights, Swiss peasants, and all.

Some people object to the exertion of getting into cabs, and others
object to the difficulty of getting out of them; we think both
these are objections which take their rise in perverse and ill-
conditioned minds. The getting into a cab is a very pretty and
graceful process, which, when well performed, is essentially
melodramatic. First, there is the expressive pantomime of every
one of the eighteen cabmen on the stand, the moment you raise your
eyes from the ground. Then there is your own pantomime in reply--
quite a little ballet. Four cabs immediately leave the stand, for
your especial accommodation; and the evolutions of the animals who
draw them, are beautiful in the extreme, as they grate the wheels
of the cabs against the curb-stones, and sport playfully in the
kennel. You single out a particular cab, and dart swiftly towards
it. One bound, and you are on the first step; turn your body
lightly round to the right, and you are on the second; bend
gracefully beneath the reins, working round to the left at the same
time, and you are in the cab. There is no difficulty in finding a
seat: the apron knocks you comfortably into it at once, and off
you go.

The getting out of a cab is, perhaps, rather more complicated in
its theory, and a shade more difficult in its execution. We have
studied the subject a great deal, and we think the best way is, to
throw yourself out, and trust to chance for alighting on your feet.
If you make the driver alight first, and then throw yourself upon
him, you will find that he breaks your fall materially. In the
event of your contemplating an offer of eightpence, on no account
make the tender, or show the money, until you are safely on the
pavement. It is very bad policy attempting to save the fourpence.
You are very much in the power of a cabman, and he considers it a
kind of fee not to do you any wilful damage. Any instruction,
however, in the art of getting out of a cab, is wholly unnecessary
if you are going any distance, because the probability is, that you
will be shot lightly out before you have completed the third mile.

We are not aware of any instance on record in which a cab-horse has
performed three consecutive miles without going down once. What of
that? It is all excitement. And in these days of derangement of
the nervous system and universal lassitude, people are content to
pay handsomely for excitement; where can it be procured at a
cheaper rate?

But to return to the red cab; it was omnipresent. You had but to
walk down Holborn, or Fleet-street, or any of the principal
thoroughfares in which there is a great deal of traffic, and judge
for yourself. You had hardly turned into the street, when you saw
a trunk or two, lying on the ground: an uprooted post, a hat-box,
a portmanteau, and a carpet-bag, strewed about in a very
picturesque manner: a horse in a cab standing by, looking about
him with great unconcern; and a crowd, shouting and screaming with
delight, cooling their flushed faces against the glass windows of a
chemist's shop.--'What's the matter here, can you tell me?'--'O'ny
a cab, sir.'--'Anybody hurt, do you know?'--'O'ny the fare, sir. I
see him a turnin' the corner, and I ses to another gen'lm'n "that's
a reg'lar little oss that, and he's a comin' along rayther sweet,
an't he?"--"He just is," ses the other gen'lm'n, ven bump they cums
agin the post, and out flies the fare like bricks.' Need we say it
was the red cab; or that the gentleman with the straw in his mouth,
who emerged so coolly from the chemist's shop and philosophically
climbing into the little dickey, started off at full gallop, was
the red cab's licensed driver?

The ubiquity of this red cab, and the influence it exercised over
the risible muscles of justice itself, was perfectly astonishing.
You walked into the justice-room of the Mansion-house; the whole
court resounded with merriment. The Lord Mayor threw himself back
in his chair, in a state of frantic delight at his own joke; every
vein in Mr. Hobler's countenance was swollen with laughter, partly
at the Lord Mayor's facetiousness, but more at his own; the
constables and police-officers were (as in duty bound) in ecstasies
at Mr. Hobler and the Lord Mayor combined; and the very paupers,
glancing respectfully at the beadle's countenance, tried to smile,
as even he relaxed. A tall, weazen-faced man, with an impediment
in his speech, would be endeavouring to state a case of imposition
against the red cab's driver; and the red cab's driver, and the
Lord Mayor, and Mr. Hobler, would be having a little fun among
themselves, to the inordinate delight of everybody but the
complainant. In the end, justice would be so tickled with the red
cab-driver's native humour, that the fine would be mitigated, and
he would go away full gallop, in the red cab, to impose on somebody
else without loss of time.

The driver of the red cab, confident in the strength of his own
moral principles, like many other philosophers, was wont to set the
feelings and opinions of society at complete defiance. Generally
speaking, perhaps, he would as soon carry a fare safely to his
destination, as he would upset him--sooner, perhaps, because in
that case he not only got the money, but had the additional
amusement of running a longer heat against some smart rival. But
society made war upon him in the shape of penalties, and he must
make war upon society in his own way. This was the reasoning of
the red cab-driver. So, he bestowed a searching look upon the
fare, as he put his hand in his waistcoat pocket, when he had gone
half the mile, to get the money ready; and if he brought forth
eightpence, out he went.

The last time we saw our friend was one wet evening in Tottenham-
court-road, when he was engaged in a very warm and somewhat
personal altercation with a loquacious little gentleman in a green
coat. Poor fellow! there were great excuses to be made for him:
he had not received above eighteenpence more than his fare, and
consequently laboured under a great deal of very natural
indignation. The dispute had attained a pretty considerable
height, when at last the loquacious little gentleman, making a
mental calculation of the distance, and finding that he had already
paid more than he ought, avowed his unalterable determination to
'pull up' the cabman in the morning.

'Now, just mark this, young man,' said the little gentleman, 'I'll
pull you up to-morrow morning.'

'No! will you though?' said our friend, with a sneer.

'I will,' replied the little gentleman, 'mark my words, that's all.
If I live till to-morrow morning, you shall repent this.'

There was a steadiness of purpose, and indignation of speech, about
the little gentleman, as he took an angry pinch of snuff, after
this last declaration, which made a visible impression on the mind
of the red cab-driver. He appeared to hesitate for an instant. It
was only for an instant; his resolve was soon taken.

'You'll pull me up, will you?' said our friend.

'I will,' rejoined the little gentleman, with even greater
vehemence an before.

'Very well,' said our friend, tucking up his shirt sleeves very
calmly. 'There'll be three veeks for that. Wery good; that'll
bring me up to the middle o' next month. Three veeks more would
carry me on to my birthday, and then I've got ten pound to draw. I
may as well get board, lodgin', and washin', till then, out of the
county, as pay for it myself; consequently here goes!'

So, without more ado, the red cab-driver knocked the little
gentleman down, and then called the police to take himself into
custody, with all the civility in the world.

A story is nothing without the sequel; and therefore, we may state,
that to our certain knowledge, the board, lodging, and washing were
all provided in due course. We happen to know the fact, for it
came to our knowledge thus: We went over the House of Correction
for the county of Middlesex shortly after, to witness the operation
of the silent system; and looked on all the 'wheels' with the
greatest anxiety, in search of our long-lost friend. He was
nowhere to be seen, however, and we began to think that the little
gentleman in the green coat must have relented, when, as we were
traversing the kitchen-garden, which lies in a sequestered part of
the prison, we were startled by hearing a voice, which apparently
proceeded from the wall, pouring forth its soul in the plaintive
air of 'All round my hat,' which was then just beginning to form a
recognised portion of our national music.

We started.--'What voice is that?' said we. The Governor shook his

'Sad fellow,' he replied, 'very sad. He positively refused to work
on the wheel; so, after many trials, I was compelled to order him
into solitary confinement. He says he likes it very much though,
and I am afraid he does, for he lies on his back on the floor, and
sings comic songs all day!'

Shall we add, that our heart had not deceived us and that the comic
singer was no other than our eagerly-sought friend, the red cab-

We have never seen him since, but we have strong reason to suspect
that this noble individual was a distant relative of a waterman of
our acquaintance, who, on one occasion, when we were passing the
coach-stand over which he presides, after standing very quietly to
see a tall man struggle into a cab, ran up very briskly when it was
all over (as his brethren invariably do), and, touching his hat,
asked, as a matter of course, for 'a copper for the waterman.'
Now, the fare was by no means a handsome man; and, waxing very
indignant at the demand, he replied--'Money! What for? Coming up
and looking at me, I suppose!'--'Vell, sir,' rejoined the waterman,
with a smile of immovable complacency, 'THAT'S worth twopence.'

The identical waterman afterwards attained a very prominent station
in society; and as we know something of his life, and have often
thought of telling what we DO know, perhaps we shall never have a
better opportunity than the present.

Mr. William Barker, then, for that was the gentleman's name, Mr.
William Barker was born--but why need we relate where Mr. William
Barker was born, or when? Why scrutinise the entries in parochial
ledgers, or seek to penetrate the Lucinian mysteries of lying-in
hospitals? Mr. William Barker WAS born, or he had never been.
There is a son--there was a father. There is an effect--there was
a cause. Surely this is sufficient information for the most
Fatima-like curiosity; and, if it be not, we regret our inability
to supply any further evidence on the point. Can there be a more
satisfactory, or more strictly parliamentary course? Impossible.

We at once avow a similar inability to record at what precise
period, or by what particular process, this gentleman's patronymic,
of William Barker, became corrupted into 'Bill Boorker.' Mr. Barker
acquired a high standing, and no inconsiderable reputation, among
the members of that profession to which he more peculiarly devoted
his energies; and to them he was generally known, either by the
familiar appellation of 'Bill Boorker,' or the flattering
designation of 'Aggerawatin Bill,' the latter being a playful and
expressive sobriquet, illustrative of Mr. Barker's great talent in
'aggerawatin' and rendering wild such subjects of her Majesty as
are conveyed from place to place, through the instrumentality of
omnibuses. Of the early life of Mr. Barker little is known, and
even that little is involved in considerable doubt and obscurity.
A want of application, a restlessness of purpose, a thirsting after
porter, a love of all that is roving and cadger-like in nature,
shared in common with many other great geniuses, appear to have
been his leading characteristics. The busy hum of a parochial
free-school, and the shady repose of a county gaol, were alike
inefficacious in producing the slightest alteration in Mr. Barker's
disposition. His feverish attachment to change and variety nothing
could repress; his native daring no punishment could subdue.

If Mr. Barker can be fairly said to have had any weakness in his
earlier years, it was an amiable one--love; love in its most
comprehensive form--a love of ladies, liquids, and pocket-
handkerchiefs. It was no selfish feeling; it was not confined to
his own possessions, which but too many men regard with exclusive
complacency. No; it was a nobler love--a general principle. It
extended itself with equal force to the property of other people.

There is something very affecting in this. It is still more
affecting to know, that such philanthropy is but imperfectly
rewarded. Bow-street, Newgate, and Millbank, are a poor return for
general benevolence, evincing itself in an irrepressible love for
all created objects. Mr. Barker felt it so. After a lengthened
interview with the highest legal authorities, he quitted his
ungrateful country, with the consent, and at the expense, of its
Government; proceeded to a distant shore; and there employed
himself, like another Cincinnatus, in clearing and cultivating the
soil--a peaceful pursuit, in which a term of seven years glided
almost imperceptibly away.

Whether, at the expiration of the period we have just mentioned,
the British Government required Mr. Barker's presence here, or did
not require his residence abroad, we have no distinct means of
ascertaining. We should be inclined, however, to favour the latter
position, inasmuch as we do not find that he was advanced to any
other public post on his return, than the post at the corner of the
Haymarket, where he officiated as assistant-waterman to the
hackney-coach stand. Seated, in this capacity, on a couple of tubs
near the curbstone, with a brass plate and number suspended round
his neck by a massive chain, and his ankles curiously enveloped in
haybands, he is supposed to have made those observations on human
nature which exercised so material an influence over all his
proceedings in later life.

Mr. Barker had not officiated for many months in this capacity,
when the appearance of the first omnibus caused the public mind to
go in a new direction, and prevented a great many hackney-coaches
from going in any direction at all. The genius of Mr. Barker at
once perceived the whole extent of the injury that would be
eventually inflicted on cab and coach stands, and, by consequence,
on watermen also, by the progress of the system of which the first
omnibus was a part. He saw, too, the necessity of adopting some
more profitable profession; and his active mind at once perceived
how much might be done in the way of enticing the youthful and
unwary, and shoving the old and helpless, into the wrong buss, and
carrying them off, until, reduced to despair, they ransomed
themselves by the payment of sixpence a-head, or, to adopt his own
figurative expression in all its native beauty, 'till they was
rig'larly done over, and forked out the stumpy.'

An opportunity for realising his fondest anticipations, soon
presented itself. Rumours were rife on the hackney-coach stands,
that a buss was building, to run from Lisson-grove to the Bank,
down Oxford-street and Holborn; and the rapid increase of busses on
the Paddington-road, encouraged the idea. Mr. Barker secretly and
cautiously inquired in the proper quarters. The report was
correct; the 'Royal William' was to make its first journey on the
following Monday. It was a crack affair altogether. An
enterprising young cabman, of established reputation as a dashing
whip--for he had compromised with the parents of three scrunched
children, and just 'worked out' his fine for knocking down an old
lady--was the driver; and the spirited proprietor, knowing Mr.
Barker's qualifications, appointed him to the vacant office of cad
on the very first application. The buss began to run, and Mr.
Barker entered into a new suit of clothes, and on a new sphere of

To recapitulate all the improvements introduced by this
extraordinary man into the omnibus system--gradually, indeed, but
surely--would occupy a far greater space than we are enabled to
devote to this imperfect memoir. To him is universally assigned
the original suggestion of the practice which afterwards became so
general--of the driver of a second buss keeping constantly behind
the first one, and driving the pole of his vehicle either into the
door of the other, every time it was opened, or through the body of
any lady or gentleman who might make an attempt to get into it; a
humorous and pleasant invention, exhibiting all that originality of
idea, and fine, bold flow of spirits, so conspicuous in every
action of this great man.

Mr. Barker had opponents of course; what man in public life has
not? But even his worst enemies cannot deny that he has taken more
old ladies and gentlemen to Paddington who wanted to go to the
Bank, and more old ladies and gentlemen to the Bank who wanted to
go to Paddington, than any six men on the road; and however much
malevolent spirits may pretend to doubt the accuracy of the
statement, they well know it to be an established fact, that he has
forcibly conveyed a variety of ancient persons of either sex, to
both places, who had not the slightest or most distant intention of
going anywhere at all.

Mr. Barker was the identical cad who nobly distinguished himself,
some time since, by keeping a tradesman on the step--the omnibus
going at full speed all the time--till he had thrashed him to his
entire satisfaction, and finally throwing him away, when he had
quite done with him. Mr. Barker it OUGHT to have been, who
honestly indignant at being ignominiously ejected from a house of
public entertainment, kicked the landlord in the knee, and thereby
caused his death. We say it OUGHT to have been Mr. Barker, because
the action was not a common one, and could have emanated from no
ordinary mind.

It has now become matter of history; it is recorded in the Newgate
Calendar; and we wish we could attribute this piece of daring
heroism to Mr. Barker. We regret being compelled to state that it
was not performed by him. Would, for the family credit we could
add, that it was achieved by his brother!

It was in the exercise of the nicer details of his profession, that
Mr. Barker's knowledge of human nature was beautifully displayed.
He could tell at a glance where a passenger wanted to go to, and
would shout the name of the place accordingly, without the
slightest reference to the real destination of the vehicle. He
knew exactly the kind of old lady that would be too much flurried
by the process of pushing in and pulling out of the caravan, to
discover where she had been put down, until too late; had an
intuitive perception of what was passing in a passenger's mind when
he inwardly resolved to 'pull that cad up to-morrow morning;' and
never failed to make himself agreeable to female servants, whom he
would place next the door, and talk to all the way.

Human judgment is never infallible, and it would occasionally
happen that Mr. Barker experimentalised with the timidity or
forbearance of the wrong person, in which case a summons to a
Police-office, was, on more than one occasion, followed by a
committal to prison. It was not in the power of trifles such as
these, however, to subdue the freedom of his spirit. As soon as
they passed away, he resumed the duties of his profession with
unabated ardour.

We have spoken of Mr. Barker and of the red cab-driver, in the past
tense. Alas! Mr. Barker has again become an absentee; and the
class of men to which they both belonged is fast disappearing.
Improvement has peered beneath the aprons of our cabs, and
penetrated to the very innermost recesses of our omnibuses. Dirt
and fustian will vanish before cleanliness and livery. Slang will
be forgotten when civility becomes general: and that enlightened,
eloquent, sage, and profound body, the Magistracy of London, will
be deprived of half their amusement, and half their occupation.


We hope our readers will not be alarmed at this rather ominous
title. We assure them that we are not about to become political,
neither have we the slightest intention of being more prosy than
usual--if we can help it. It has occurred to us that a slight
sketch of the general aspect of 'the House,' and the crowds that
resort to it on the night of an important debate, would be
productive of some amusement: and as we have made some few calls
at the aforesaid house in our time--have visited it quite often
enough for our purpose, and a great deal too often for our personal
peace and comfort--we have determined to attempt the description.
Dismissing from our minds, therefore, all that feeling of awe,
which vague ideas of breaches of privilege, Serjeant-at-Arms, heavy
denunciations, and still heavier fees, are calculated to awaken, we
enter at once into the building, and upon our subject.

Half-past four o'clock--and at five the mover of the Address will
be 'on his legs,' as the newspapers announce sometimes by way of
novelty, as if speakers were occasionally in the habit of standing
on their heads. The members are pouring in, one after the other,
in shoals. The few spectators who can obtain standing-room in the
passages, scrutinise them as they pass, with the utmost interest,
and the man who can identify a member occasionally, becomes a
person of great importance. Every now and then you hear earnest
whispers of 'That's Sir John Thomson.' 'Which? him with the gilt
order round his neck?' 'No, no; that's one of the messengers--that
other with the yellow gloves, is Sir John Thomson.' 'Here's Mr.
Smith.' 'Lor!' 'Yes, how d'ye do, sir?--(He is our new member)--
How do you do, sir?' Mr. Smith stops: turns round with an air of
enchanting urbanity (for the rumour of an intended dissolution has
been very extensively circulated this morning); seizes both the
hands of his gratified constituent, and, after greeting him with
the most enthusiastic warmth, darts into the lobby with an
extraordinary display of ardour in the public cause, leaving an
immense impression in his favour on the mind of his 'fellow-

The arrivals increase in number, and the heat and noise increase in
very unpleasant proportion. The livery servants form a complete
lane on either side of the passage, and you reduce yourself into
the smallest possible space to avoid being turned out. You see
that stout man with the hoarse voice, in the blue coat, queer-
crowned, broad-brimmed hat, white corduroy breeches, and great
boots, who has been talking incessantly for half an hour past, and
whose importance has occasioned no small quantity of mirth among
the strangers. That is the great conservator of the peace of
Westminster. You cannot fail to have remarked the grace with which
he saluted the noble Lord who passed just now, or the excessive
dignity of his air, as he expostulates with the crowd. He is
rather out of temper now, in consequence of the very irreverent
behaviour of those two young fellows behind him, who have done
nothing but laugh all the time they have been here.

'Will they divide to-night, do you think, Mr. -' timidly inquires a
little thin man in the crowd, hoping to conciliate the man of

'How CAN you ask such questions, sir?' replies the functionary, in
an incredibly loud key, and pettishly grasping the thick stick he
carries in his right hand. 'Pray do not, sir. I beg of you; pray
do not, sir.' The little man looks remarkably out of his element,
and the uninitiated part of the throng are in positive convulsions
of laughter.

Just at this moment some unfortunate individual appears, with a
very smirking air, at the bottom of the long passage. He has
managed to elude the vigilance of the special constable downstairs,
and is evidently congratulating himself on having made his way so

'Go back, sir--you must NOT come here,' shouts the hoarse one, with
tremendous emphasis of voice and gesture, the moment the offender
catches his eye.

The stranger pauses.

'Do you hear, sir--will you go back?' continues the official
dignitary, gently pushing the intruder some half-dozen yards.

'Come, don't push me,' replies the stranger, turning angrily round.

'I will, sir.'

'You won't, sir.'

'Go out, sir.'

'Take your hands off me, sir.'

'Go out of the passage, sir.'

'You're a Jack-in-office, sir.'

'A what?' ejaculates he of the boots.

'A Jack-in-office, sir, and a very insolent fellow,' reiterates the
stranger, now completely in a passion.

'Pray do not force me to put you out, sir,' retorts the other--
'pray do not--my instructions are to keep this passage clear--it's
the Speaker's orders, sir.'

'D-n the Speaker, sir!' shouts the intruder.

'Here, Wilson!--Collins!' gasps the officer, actually paralysed at
this insulting expression, which in his mind is all but high
treason; 'take this man out--take him out, I say! How dare you,
sir?' and down goes the unfortunate man five stairs at a time,
turning round at every stoppage, to come back again, and denouncing
bitter vengeance against the commander-in-chief, and all his

'Make way, gentlemen,--pray make way for the Members, I beg of
you!' shouts the zealous officer, turning back, and preceding a
whole string of the liberal and independent.

You see this ferocious-looking gentleman, with a complexion almost
as sallow as his linen, and whose large black moustache would give
him the appearance of a figure in a hairdresser's window, if his
countenance possessed the thought which is communicated to those
waxen caricatures of the human face divine. He is a militia-
officer, and the most amusing person in the House. Can anything be
more exquisitely absurd than the burlesque grandeur of his air, as
he strides up to the lobby, his eyes rolling like those of a Turk's
head in a cheap Dutch clock? He never appears without that bundle
of dirty papers which he carries under his left arm, and which are
generally supposed to be the miscellaneous estimates for 1804, or
some equally important documents. He is very punctual in his
attendance at the House, and his self-satisfied 'He-ar-He-ar,' is
not unfrequently the signal for a general titter.

This is the gentleman who once actually sent a messenger up to the
Strangers' gallery in the old House of Commons, to inquire the name
of an individual who was using an eye-glass, in order that he might
complain to the Speaker that the person in question was quizzing
him! On another occasion, he is reported to have repaired to
Bellamy's kitchen--a refreshment-room, where persons who are not
Members are admitted on sufferance, as it were--and perceiving two
or three gentlemen at supper, who, he was aware, were not Members,
and could not, in that place, very well resent his behaviour, he
indulged in the pleasantry of sitting with his booted leg on the
table at which they were supping! He is generally harmless,
though, and always amusing.

By dint of patience, and some little interest with our friend the
constable, we have contrived to make our way to the Lobby, and you
can just manage to catch an occasional glimpse of the House, as the
door is opened for the admission of Members. It is tolerably full
already, and little groups of Members are congregated together
here, discussing the interesting topics of the day.

That smart-looking fellow in the black coat with velvet facings and
cuffs, who wears his D'Orsay hat so rakishly, is 'Honest Tom,' a
metropolitan representative; and the large man in the cloak with
the white lining--not the man by the pillar; the other with the
light hair hanging over his coat collar behind--is his colleague.
The quiet gentlemanly-looking man in the blue surtout, gray
trousers, white neckerchief and gloves, whose closely-buttoned coat
displays his manly figure and broad chest to great advantage, is a
very well-known character. He has fought a great many battles in
his time, and conquered like the heroes of old, with no other arms
than those the gods gave him. The old hard-featured man who is
standing near him, is really a good specimen of a class of men, now
nearly extinct. He is a county Member, and has been from time
whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary. Look at his
loose, wide, brown coat, with capacious pockets on each side; the
knee-breeches and boots, the immensely long waistcoat, and silver
watch-chain dangling below it, the wide-brimmed brown hat, and the
white handkerchief tied in a great bow, with straggling ends
sticking out beyond his shirt-frill. It is a costume one seldom
sees nowadays, and when the few who wear it have died off, it will
be quite extinct. He can tell you long stories of Fox, Pitt,
Sheridan, and Canning, and how much better the House was managed in
those times, when they used to get up at eight or nine o'clock,
except on regular field-days, of which everybody was apprised
beforehand. He has a great contempt for all young Members of
Parliament, and thinks it quite impossible that a man can say
anything worth hearing, unless he has sat in the House for fifteen
years at least, without saying anything at all. He is of opinion
that 'that young Macaulay' was a regular impostor; he allows, that
Lord Stanley may do something one of these days, but 'he's too
young, sir--too young.' He is an excellent authority on points of
precedent, and when he grows talkative, after his wine, will tell
you how Sir Somebody Something, when he was whipper-in for the
Government, brought four men out of their beds to vote in the
majority, three of whom died on their way home again; how the House
once divided on the question, that fresh candles be now brought in;
how the Speaker was once upon a time left in the chair by accident,
at the conclusion of business, and was obliged to sit in the House
by himself for three hours, till some Member could be knocked up
and brought back again, to move the adjournment; and a great many
other anecdotes of a similar description.

There he stands, leaning on his stick; looking at the throng of
Exquisites around him with most profound contempt; and conjuring
up, before his mind's eye, the scenes he beheld in the old House,
in days gone by, when his own feelings were fresher and brighter,
and when, as he imagines, wit, talent, and patriotism flourished
more brightly too.

You are curious to know who that young man in the rough great-coat
is, who has accosted every Member who has entered the House since
we have been standing here. He is not a Member; he is only an
'hereditary bondsman,' or, in other words, an Irish correspondent
of an Irish newspaper, who has just procured his forty-second frank
from a Member whom he never saw in his life before. There he goes
again--another! Bless the man, he has his hat and pockets full

We will try our fortune at the Strangers' gallery, though the
nature of the debate encourages very little hope of success. What
on earth are you about? Holding up your order as if it were a
talisman at whose command the wicket would fly open? Nonsense.
Just preserve the order for an autograph, if it be worth keeping at
all, and make your appearance at the door with your thumb and
forefinger expressively inserted in your waistcoat-pocket. This
tall stout man in black is the door-keeper. 'Any room?' 'Not an
inch--two or three dozen gentlemen waiting down-stairs on the
chance of somebody's going out.' Pull out your purse--'Are you
QUITE sure there's no room?'--'I'll go and look,' replies the door-
keeper, with a wistful glance at your purse, 'but I'm afraid
there's not.' He returns, and with real feeling assures you that
it is morally impossible to get near the gallery. It is of no use
waiting. When you are refused admission into the Strangers'
gallery at the House of Commons, under such circumstances, you may
return home thoroughly satisfied that the place must be remarkably
full indeed. {1}

Retracing our steps through the long passage, descending the
stairs, and crossing Palace-yard, we halt at a small temporary
doorway adjoining the King's entrance to the House of Lords. The
order of the serjeant-at-arms will admit you into the Reporters'
gallery, from whence you can obtain a tolerably good view of the
House. Take care of the stairs, they are none of the best; through
this little wicket--there. As soon as your eyes become a little
used to the mist of the place, and the glare of the chandeliers
below you, you will see that some unimportant personage on the
Ministerial side of the House (to your right hand) is speaking,
amidst a hum of voices and confusion which would rival Babel, but
for the circumstance of its being all in one language.

The 'hear, hear,' which occasioned that laugh, proceeded from our
warlike friend with the moustache; he is sitting on the back seat
against the wall, behind the Member who is speaking, looking as
ferocious and intellectual as usual. Take one look around you, and
retire! The body of the House and the side galleries are full of
Members; some, with their legs on the back of the opposite seat;
some, with theirs stretched out to their utmost length on the
floor; some going out, others coming in; all talking, laughing,
lounging, coughing, oh-ing, questioning, or groaning; presenting a
conglomeration of noise and confusion, to be met with in no other
place in existence, not even excepting Smithfield on a market-day,
or a cock-pit in its glory.

But let us not omit to notice Bellamy's kitchen, or, in other
words, the refreshment-room, common to both Houses of Parliament,
where Ministerialists and Oppositionists, Whigs and Tories,
Radicals, Peers, and Destructives, strangers from the gallery, and
the more favoured strangers from below the bar, are alike at
liberty to resort; where divers honourable members prove their
perfect independence by remaining during the whole of a heavy
debate, solacing themselves with the creature comforts; and whence
they are summoned by whippers-in, when the House is on the point of
dividing; either to give their 'conscientious votes' on questions
of which they are conscientiously innocent of knowing anything
whatever, or to find a vent for the playful exuberance of their
wine-inspired fancies, in boisterous shouts of 'Divide,'
occasionally varied with a little howling, barking, crowing, or
other ebullitions of senatorial pleasantry.

When you have ascended the narrow staircase which, in the present
temporary House of Commons, leads to the place we are describing,
you will probably observe a couple of rooms on your right hand,
with tables spread for dining. Neither of these is the kitchen,
although they are both devoted to the same purpose; the kitchen is
further on to our left, up these half-dozen stairs. Before we
ascend the staircase, however, we must request you to pause in
front of this little bar-place with the sash-windows; and beg your
particular attention to the steady, honest-looking old fellow in
black, who is its sole occupant. Nicholas (we do not mind
mentioning the old fellow's name, for if Nicholas be not a public
man, who is?--and public men's names are public property)--Nicholas
is the butler of Bellamy's, and has held the same place, dressed
exactly in the same manner, and said precisely the same things,
ever since the oldest of its present visitors can remember. An
excellent servant Nicholas is--an unrivalled compounder of salad-
dressing--an admirable preparer of soda-water and lemon--a special
mixer of cold grog and punch--and, above all, an unequalled judge

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