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Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens

Part 4 out of 15

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of cheese. If the old man have such a thing as vanity in his
composition, this is certainly his pride; and if it be possible to
imagine that anything in this world could disturb his impenetrable
calmness, we should say it would be the doubting his judgment on
this important point.

We needn't tell you all this, however, for if you have an atom of
observation, one glance at his sleek, knowing-looking head and
face--his prim white neckerchief, with the wooden tie into which it
has been regularly folded for twenty years past, merging by
imperceptible degrees into a small-plaited shirt-frill--and his
comfortable-looking form encased in a well-brushed suit of black--
would give you a better idea of his real character than a column of
our poor description could convey.

Nicholas is rather out of his element now; he cannot see the
kitchen as he used to in the old House; there, one window of his
glass-case opened into the room, and then, for the edification and
behoof of more juvenile questioners, he would stand for an hour
together, answering deferential questions about Sheridan, and
Percival, and Castlereagh, and Heaven knows who beside, with
manifest delight, always inserting a 'Mister' before every
commoner's name.

Nicholas, like all men of his age and standing, has a great idea of
the degeneracy of the times. He seldom expresses any political
opinions, but we managed to ascertain, just before the passing of
the Reform Bill, that Nicholas was a thorough Reformer. What was
our astonishment to discover shortly after the meeting of the first
reformed Parliament, that he was a most inveterate and decided
Tory! It was very odd: some men change their opinions from
necessity, others from expediency, others from inspiration; but
that Nicholas should undergo any change in any respect, was an
event we had never contemplated, and should have considered
impossible. His strong opinion against the clause which empowered
the metropolitan districts to return Members to Parliament, too,
was perfectly unaccountable.

We discovered the secret at last; the metropolitan Members always
dined at home. The rascals! As for giving additional Members to
Ireland, it was even worse--decidedly unconstitutional. Why, sir,
an Irish Member would go up there, and eat more dinner than three
English Members put together. He took no wine; drank table-beer by
the half-gallon; and went home to Manchester-buildings, or
Millbank-street, for his whiskey-and-water. And what was the
consequence? Why, the concern lost--actually lost, sir--by his
patronage. A queer old fellow is Nicholas, and as completely a
part of the building as the house itself. We wonder he ever left
the old place, and fully expected to see in the papers, the morning
after the fire, a pathetic account of an old gentleman in black, of
decent appearance, who was seen at one of the upper windows when
the flames were at their height, and declared his resolute
intention of falling with the floor. He must have been got out by
force. However, he was got out--here he is again, looking as he
always does, as if he had been in a bandbox ever since the last
session. There he is, at his old post every night, just as we have
described him: and, as characters are scarce, and faithful
servants scarcer, long may he be there, say we!

Now, when you have taken your seat in the kitchen, and duly noticed
the large fire and roasting-jack at one end of the room--the little
table for washing glasses and draining jugs at the other--the clock
over the window opposite St. Margaret's Church--the deal tables and
wax candles--the damask table-cloths and bare floor--the plate and
china on the tables, and the gridiron on the fire; and a few other
anomalies peculiar to the place--we will point out to your notice
two or three of the people present, whose station or absurdities
render them the most worthy of remark.

It is half-past twelve o'clock, and as the division is not expected
for an hour or two, a few Members are lounging away the time here
in preference to standing at the bar of the House, or sleeping in
one of the side galleries. That singularly awkward and ungainly-
looking man, in the brownish-white hat, with the straggling black
trousers which reach about half-way down the leg of his boots, who
is leaning against the meat-screen, apparently deluding himself
into the belief that he is thinking about something, is a splendid
sample of a Member of the House of Commons concentrating in his own
person the wisdom of a constituency. Observe the wig, of a dark
hue but indescribable colour, for if it be naturally brown, it has
acquired a black tint by long service, and if it be naturally
black, the same cause has imparted to it a tinge of rusty brown;
and remark how very materially the great blinker-like spectacles
assist the expression of that most intelligent face. Seriously
speaking, did you ever see a countenance so expressive of the most
hopeless extreme of heavy dulness, or behold a form so strangely
put together? He is no great speaker: but when he DOES address
the House, the effect is absolutely irresistible.

The small gentleman with the sharp nose, who has just saluted him,
is a Member of Parliament, an ex-Alderman, and a sort of amateur
fireman. He, and the celebrated fireman's dog, were observed to be
remarkably active at the conflagration of the two Houses of
Parliament--they both ran up and down, and in and out, getting
under people's feet, and into everybody's way, fully impressed with
the belief that they were doing a great deal of good, and barking
tremendously. The dog went quietly back to his kennel with the
engine, but the gentleman kept up such an incessant noise for some
weeks after the occurrence, that he became a positive nuisance. As
no more parliamentary fires have occurred, however, and as he has
consequently had no more opportunities of writing to the newspapers
to relate how, by way of preserving pictures he cut them out of
their frames, and performed other great national services, he has
gradually relapsed into his old state of calmness.

That female in black--not the one whom the Lord's-Day-Bill Baronet
has just chucked under the chin; the shorter of the two--is 'Jane:'
the Hebe of Bellamy's. Jane is as great a character as Nicholas,
in her way. Her leading features are a thorough contempt for the
great majority of her visitors; her predominant quality, love of
admiration, as you cannot fail to observe, if you mark the glee
with which she listens to something the young Member near her
mutters somewhat unintelligibly in her ear (for his speech is
rather thick from some cause or other), and how playfully she digs
the handle of a fork into the arm with which he detains her, by way
of reply.

Jane is no bad hand at repartees, and showers them about, with a
degree of liberality and total absence of reserve or constraint,
which occasionally excites no small amazement in the minds of
strangers. She cuts jokes with Nicholas, too, but looks up to him
with a great deal of respect--the immovable stolidity with which
Nicholas receives the aforesaid jokes, and looks on, at certain
pastoral friskings and rompings (Jane's only recreations, and they
are very innocent too) which occasionally take place in the
passage, is not the least amusing part of his character.

The two persons who are seated at the table in the corner, at the
farther end of the room, have been constant guests here, for many
years past; and one of them has feasted within these walls, many a
time, with the most brilliant characters of a brilliant period. He
has gone up to the other House since then; the greater part of his
boon companions have shared Yorick's fate, and his visits to
Bellamy's are comparatively few.

If he really be eating his supper now, at what hour can he possibly
have dined! A second solid mass of rump-steak has disappeared, and
he eat the first in four minutes and three quarters, by the clock
over the window. Was there ever such a personification of
Falstaff! Mark the air with which he gloats over that Stilton, as
he removes the napkin which has been placed beneath his chin to
catch the superfluous gravy of the steak, and with what gusto he
imbibes the porter which has been fetched, expressly for him, in
the pewter pot. Listen to the hoarse sound of that voice, kept
down as it is by layers of solids, and deep draughts of rich wine,
and tell us if you ever saw such a perfect picture of a regular
gourmand; and whether he is not exactly the man whom you would
pitch upon as having been the partner of Sheridan's parliamentary
carouses, the volunteer driver of the hackney-coach that took him
home, and the involuntary upsetter of the whole party?

What an amusing contrast between his voice and appearance, and that
of the spare, squeaking old man, who sits at the same table, and
who, elevating a little cracked bantam sort of voice to its highest
pitch, invokes damnation upon his own eyes or somebody else's at
the commencement of every sentence he utters. 'The Captain,' as
they call him, is a very old frequenter of Bellamy's; much addicted
to stopping 'after the House is up' (an inexpiable crime in Jane's
eyes), and a complete walking reservoir of spirits and water.

The old Peer--or rather, the old man--for his peerage is of
comparatively recent date--has a huge tumbler of hot punch brought
him; and the other damns and drinks, and drinks and damns, and
smokes. Members arrive every moment in a great bustle to report
that 'The Chancellor of the Exchequer's up,' and to get glasses of
brandy-and-water to sustain them during the division; people who
have ordered supper, countermand it, and prepare to go down-stairs,
when suddenly a bell is heard to ring with tremendous violence, and
a cry of 'Di-vi-sion!' is heard in the passage. This is enough;
away rush the members pell-mell. The room is cleared in an
instant; the noise rapidly dies away; you hear the creaking of the
last boot on the last stair, and are left alone with the leviathan
of rump-steaks.


All public dinners in London, from the Lord Mayor's annual banquet
at Guildhall, to the Chimney-sweepers' anniversary at White Conduit
House; from the Goldsmiths' to the Butchers', from the Sheriffs' to
the Licensed Victuallers'; are amusing scenes. Of all
entertainments of this description, however, we think the annual
dinner of some public charity is the most amusing. At a Company's
dinner, the people are nearly all alike--regular old stagers, who
make it a matter of business, and a thing not to be laughed at. At
a political dinner, everybody is disagreeable, and inclined to
speechify--much the same thing, by-the-bye; but at a charity dinner
you see people of all sorts, kinds, and descriptions. The wine may
not be remarkably special, to be sure, and we have heard some
hardhearted monsters grumble at the collection; but we really think
the amusement to be derived from the occasion, sufficient to
counterbalance even these disadvantages.

Let us suppose you are induced to attend a dinner of this
description--'Indigent Orphans' Friends' Benevolent Institution,'
we think it is. The name of the charity is a line or two longer,
but never mind the rest. You have a distinct recollection,
however, that you purchased a ticket at the solicitation of some
charitable friend: and you deposit yourself in a hackney-coach,
the driver of which--no doubt that you may do the thing in style--
turns a deaf ear to your earnest entreaties to be set down at the
corner of Great Queen-street, and persists in carrying you to the
very door of the Freemasons', round which a crowd of people are
assembled to witness the entrance of the indigent orphans' friends.
You hear great speculations as you pay the fare, on the possibility
of your being the noble Lord who is announced to fill the chair on
the occasion, and are highly gratified to hear it eventually
decided that you are only a 'wocalist.'

The first thing that strikes you, on your entrance, is the
astonishing importance of the committee. You observe a door on the
first landing, carefully guarded by two waiters, in and out of
which stout gentlemen with very red faces keep running, with a
degree of speed highly unbecoming the gravity of persons of their
years and corpulency. You pause, quite alarmed at the bustle, and
thinking, in your innocence, that two or three people must have
been carried out of the dining-room in fits, at least. You are
immediately undeceived by the waiter--'Up-stairs, if you please,
sir; this is the committee-room.' Up-stairs you go, accordingly;
wondering, as you mount, what the duties of the committee can be,
and whether they ever do anything beyond confusing each other, and
running over the waiters.

Having deposited your hat and cloak, and received a remarkably
small scrap of pasteboard in exchange (which, as a matter of
course, you lose, before you require it again), you enter the hall,
down which there are three long tables for the less distinguished
guests, with a cross table on a raised platform at the upper end
for the reception of the very particular friends of the indigent
orphans. Being fortunate enough to find a plate without anybody's
card in it, you wisely seat yourself at once, and have a little
leisure to look about you. Waiters, with wine-baskets in their
hands, are placing decanters of sherry down the tables, at very
respectable distances; melancholy-looking salt-cellars, and decayed
vinegar-cruets, which might have belonged to the parents of the
indigent orphans in their time, are scattered at distant intervals
on the cloth; and the knives and forks look as if they had done
duty at every public dinner in London since the accession of George
the First. The musicians are scraping and grating and screwing
tremendously--playing no notes but notes of preparation; and
several gentlemen are gliding along the sides of the tables,
looking into plate after plate with frantic eagerness, the
expression of their countenances growing more and more dismal as
they meet with everybody's card but their own.

You turn round to take a look at the table behind you, and--not
being in the habit of attending public dinners--are somewhat struck
by the appearance of the party on which your eyes rest. One of its
principal members appears to be a little man, with a long and
rather inflamed face, and gray hair brushed bolt upright in front;
he wears a wisp of black silk round his neck, without any
stiffener, as an apology for a neckerchief, and is addressed by his
companions by the familiar appellation of 'Fitz,' or some such
monosyllable. Near him is a stout man in a white neckerchief and
buff waistcoat, with shining dark hair, cut very short in front,
and a great, round, healthy-looking face, on which he studiously
preserves a half sentimental simper. Next him, again, is a large-
headed man, with black hair and bushy whiskers; and opposite them
are two or three others, one of whom is a little round-faced
person, in a dress-stock and blue under-waistcoat. There is
something peculiar in their air and manner, though you could hardly
describe what it is; you cannot divest yourself of the idea that
they have come for some other purpose than mere eating and
drinking. You have no time to debate the matter, however, for the
waiters (who have been arranged in lines down the room, placing the
dishes on table) retire to the lower end; the dark man in the blue
coat and bright buttons, who has the direction of the music, looks
up to the gallery, and calls out 'band' in a very loud voice; out
burst the orchestra, up rise the visitors, in march fourteen
stewards, each with a long wand in his hand, like the evil genius
in a pantomime; then the chairman, then the titled visitors; they
all make their way up the room, as fast as they can, bowing, and
smiling, and smirking, and looking remarkably amiable. The
applause ceases, grace is said, the clatter of plates and dishes
begins; and every one appears highly gratified, either with the
presence of the distinguished visitors, or the commencement of the
anxiously-expected dinner.

As to the dinner itself--the mere dinner--it goes off much the same
everywhere. Tureens of soup are emptied with awful rapidity--
waiters take plates of turbot away, to get lobster-sauce, and bring
back plates of lobster-sauce without turbot; people who can carve
poultry, are great fools if they own it, and people who can't have
no wish to learn. The knives and forks form a pleasing
accompaniment to Auber's music, and Auber's music would form a
pleasing accompaniment to the dinner, if you could hear anything
besides the cymbals. The substantials disappear--moulds of jelly
vanish like lightning--hearty eaters wipe their foreheads, and
appear rather overcome by their recent exertions--people who have
looked very cross hitherto, become remarkably bland, and ask you to
take wine in the most friendly manner possible--old gentlemen
direct your attention to the ladies' gallery, and take great pains
to impress you with the fact that the charity is always peculiarly
favoured in this respect--every one appears disposed to become
talkative--and the hum of conversation is loud and general.

'Pray, silence, gentlemen, if you please, for Non nobis!' shouts
the toast-master with stentorian lungs--a toast-master's shirt-
front, waistcoat, and neckerchief, by-the-bye, always exhibit three
distinct shades of cloudy-white.--'Pray, silence, gentlemen, for
Non nobis!' The singers, whom you discover to be no other than the
very party that excited your curiosity at first, after 'pitching'
their voices immediately begin TOO-TOOing most dismally, on which
the regular old stagers burst into occasional cries of--'Sh--Sh--
waiters!--Silence, waiters--stand still, waiters--keep back,
waiters,' and other exorcisms, delivered in a tone of indignant
remonstrance. The grace is soon concluded, and the company resume
their seats. The uninitiated portion of the guests applaud Non
nobis as vehemently as if it were a capital comic song, greatly to
the scandal and indignation of the regular diners, who immediately
attempt to quell this sacrilegious approbation, by cries of 'Hush,
hush!' whereupon the others, mistaking these sounds for hisses,
applaud more tumultuously than before, and, by way of placing their
approval beyond the possibility of doubt, shout 'Encore!' most

The moment the noise ceases, up starts the toast-master:-
'Gentlemen, charge your glasses, if you please!' Decanters having
been handed about, and glasses filled, the toast-master proceeds,
in a regular ascending scale:- 'Gentlemen--AIR--you--all charged?
Pray--silence--gentlemen--for--the cha-i-r!' The chairman rises,
and, after stating that he feels it quite unnecessary to preface
the toast he is about to propose, with any observations whatever,
wanders into a maze of sentences, and flounders about in the most
extraordinary manner, presenting a lamentable spectacle of
mystified humanity, until he arrives at the words, 'constitutional
sovereign of these realms,' at which elderly gentlemen exclaim
'Bravo!' and hammer the table tremendously with their knife-
handles. 'Under any circumstances, it would give him the greatest
pride, it would give him the greatest pleasure--he might almost
say, it would afford him satisfaction [cheers] to propose that
toast. What must be his feelings, then, when he has the
gratification of announcing, that he has received her Majesty's
commands to apply to the Treasurer of her Majesty's Household, for
her Majesty's annual donation of 25l. in aid of the funds of this
charity!' This announcement (which has been regularly made by
every chairman, since the first foundation of the charity, forty-
two years ago) calls forth the most vociferous applause; the toast
is drunk with a great deal of cheering and knocking; and 'God save
the Queen' is sung by the 'professional gentlemen;' the
unprofessional gentlemen joining in the chorus, and giving the
national anthem an effect which the newspapers, with great justice,
describe as 'perfectly electrical.'

The other 'loyal and patriotic' toasts having been drunk with all
due enthusiasm, a comic song having been well sung by the gentleman
with the small neckerchief, and a sentimental one by the second of
the party, we come to the most important toast of the evening--
'Prosperity to the charity.' Here again we are compelled to adopt
newspaper phraseology, and to express our regret at being
'precluded from giving even the substance of the noble lord's
observations.' Suffice it to say, that the speech, which is
somewhat of the longest, is rapturously received; and the toast
having been drunk, the stewards (looking more important than ever)
leave the room, and presently return, heading a procession of
indigent orphans, boys and girls, who walk round the room,
curtseying, and bowing, and treading on each other's heels, and
looking very much as if they would like a glass of wine apiece, to
the high gratification of the company generally, and especially of
the lady patronesses in the gallery. Exeunt children, and re-enter
stewards, each with a blue plate in his hand. The band plays a
lively air; the majority of the company put their hands in their
pockets and look rather serious; and the noise of sovereigns,
rattling on crockery, is heard from all parts of the room.

After a short interval, occupied in singing and toasting, the
secretary puts on his spectacles, and proceeds to read the report
and list of subscriptions, the latter being listened to with great
attention. 'Mr. Smith, one guinea--Mr. Tompkins, one guinea--Mr.
Wilson, one guinea--Mr. Hickson, one guinea--Mr. Nixon, one
guinea--Mr. Charles Nixon, one guinea--[hear, hear!]--Mr. James
Nixon, one guinea--Mr. Thomas Nixon, one pound one [tremendous
applause]. Lord Fitz Binkle, the chairman of the day, in addition
to an annual donation of fifteen pounds--thirty guineas [prolonged
knocking: several gentlemen knock the stems off their wine-
glasses, in the vehemence of their approbation]. Lady, Fitz
Binkle, in addition to an annual donation of ten pound--twenty
pound' [protracted knocking and shouts of 'Bravo!'] The list being
at length concluded, the chairman rises, and proposes the health of
the secretary, than whom he knows no more zealous or estimable
individual. The secretary, in returning thanks, observes that HE
knows no more excellent individual than the chairman--except the
senior officer of the charity, whose health HE begs to propose.
The senior officer, in returning thanks, observes that HE knows no
more worthy man than the secretary--except Mr. Walker, the auditor,
whose health HE begs to propose. Mr. Walker, in returning thanks,
discovers some other estimable individual, to whom alone the senior
officer is inferior--and so they go on toasting and lauding and
thanking: the only other toast of importance being 'The Lady
Patronesses now present!' on which all the gentlemen turn their
faces towards the ladies' gallery, shouting tremendously; and
little priggish men, who have imbibed more wine than usual, kiss
their hands and exhibit distressing contortions of visage.

We have protracted our dinner to so great a length, that we have
hardly time to add one word by way of grace. We can only entreat
our readers not to imagine, because we have attempted to extract
some amusement from a charity dinner, that we are at all disposed
to underrate, either the excellence of the benevolent institutions
with which London abounds, or the estimable motives of those who
support them.


'Now ladies, up in the sky-parlour: only once a year, if you


The first of May! There is a merry freshness in the sound, calling
to our minds a thousand thoughts of all that is pleasant in nature
and beautiful in her most delightful form. What man is there, over
whose mind a bright spring morning does not exercise a magic
influence--carrying him back to the days of his childish sports,
and conjuring up before him the old green field with its gently-
waving trees, where the birds sang as he has never heard them
since--where the butterfly fluttered far more gaily than he ever
sees him now, in all his ramblings--where the sky seemed bluer, and
the sun shone more brightly--where the air blew more freshly over
greener grass, and sweeter-smelling flowers--where everything wore
a richer and more brilliant hue than it is ever dressed in now!
Such are the deep feelings of childhood, and such are the
impressions which every lovely object stamps upon its heart! The
hardy traveller wanders through the maze of thick and pathless
woods, where the sun's rays never shone, and heaven's pure air
never played; he stands on the brink of the roaring waterfall, and,
giddy and bewildered, watches the foaming mass as it leaps from
stone to stone, and from crag to crag; he lingers in the fertile
plains of a land of perpetual sunshine, and revels in the luxury of
their balmy breath. But what are the deep forests, or the
thundering waters, or the richest landscapes that bounteous nature
ever spread, to charm the eyes, and captivate the senses of man,
compared with the recollection of the old scenes of his early
youth? Magic scenes indeed; for the fancies of childhood dressed
them in colours brighter than the rainbow, and almost as fleeting!

In former times, spring brought with it not only such associations
as these, connected with the past, but sports and games for the
present--merry dances round rustic pillars, adorned with emblems of
the season, and reared in honour of its coming. Where are they
now! Pillars we have, but they are no longer rustic ones; and as
to dancers, they are used to rooms, and lights, and would not show
well in the open air. Think of the immorality, too! What would
your sabbath enthusiasts say, to an aristocratic ring encircling
the Duke of York's column in Carlton-terrace--a grand poussette of
the middle classes, round Alderman Waithman's monument in Fleet-
street,--or a general hands-four-round of ten-pound householders,
at the foot of the Obelisk in St. George's-fields? Alas! romance
can make no head against the riot act; and pastoral simplicity is
not understood by the police.

Well; many years ago we began to be a steady and matter-of-fact
sort of people, and dancing in spring being beneath our dignity, we
gave it up, and in course of time it descended to the sweeps--a
fall certainly, because, though sweeps are very good fellows in
their way, and moreover very useful in a civilised community, they
are not exactly the sort of people to give the tone to the little
elegances of society. The sweeps, however, got the dancing to
themselves, and they kept it up, and handed it down. This was a
severe blow to the romance of spring-time, but, it did not entirely
destroy it, either; for a portion of it descended to the sweeps
with the dancing, and rendered them objects of great interest. A
mystery hung over the sweeps in those days. Legends were in
existence of wealthy gentlemen who had lost children, and who,
after many years of sorrow and suffering, had found them in the
character of sweeps. Stories were related of a young boy who,
having been stolen from his parents in his infancy, and devoted to
the occupation of chimney-sweeping, was sent, in the course of his
professional career, to sweep the chimney of his mother's bedroom;
and how, being hot and tired when he came out of the chimney, he
got into the bed he had so often slept in as an infant, and was
discovered and recognised therein by his mother, who once every
year of her life, thereafter, requested the pleasure of the company
of every London sweep, at half-past one o'clock, to roast beef,
plum-pudding, porter, and sixpence.

Such stories as these, and there were many such, threw an air of
mystery round the sweeps, and produced for them some of those good
effects which animals derive from the doctrine of the
transmigration of souls. No one (except the masters) thought of
ill-treating a sweep, because no one knew who he might be, or what
nobleman's or gentleman's son he might turn out. Chimney-sweeping
was, by many believers in the marvellous, considered as a sort of
probationary term, at an earlier or later period of which, divers
young noblemen were to come into possession of their rank and
titles: and the profession was held by them in great respect

We remember, in our young days, a little sweep about our own age,
with curly hair and white teeth, whom we devoutly and sincerely
believed to be the lost son and heir of some illustrious personage-
-an impression which was resolved into an unchangeable conviction
on our infant mind, by the subject of our speculations informing
us, one day, in reply to our question, propounded a few moments
before his ascent to the summit of the kitchen chimney, 'that he
believed he'd been born in the vurkis, but he'd never know'd his
father.' We felt certain, from that time forth, that he would one
day be owned by a lord: and we never heard the church-bells ring,
or saw a flag hoisted in the neighbourhood, without thinking that
the happy event had at last occurred, and that his long-lost parent
had arrived in a coach and six, to take him home to Grosvenor-
square. He never came, however; and, at the present moment, the
young gentleman in question is settled down as a master sweep in
the neighbourhood of Battle-bridge, his distinguishing
characteristics being a decided antipathy to washing himself, and
the possession of a pair of legs very inadequate to the support of
his unwieldy and corpulent body.

The romance of spring having gone out before our time, we were fain
to console ourselves as we best could with the uncertainty that
enveloped the birth and parentage of its attendant dancers, the
sweeps; and we DID console ourselves with it, for many years. But,
even this wicked source of comfort received a shock from which it
has never recovered--a shock which has been in reality its death-
blow. We could not disguise from ourselves the fact that whole
families of sweeps were regularly born of sweeps, in the rural
districts of Somers Town and Camden Town--that the eldest son
succeeded to the father's business, that the other branches
assisted him therein, and commenced on their own account; that
their children again, were educated to the profession; and that
about their identity there could be no mistake whatever. We could
not be blind, we say, to this melancholy truth, but we could not
bring ourselves to admit it, nevertheless, and we lived on for some
years in a state of voluntary ignorance. We were roused from our
pleasant slumber by certain dark insinuations thrown out by a
friend of ours, to the effect that children in the lower ranks of
life were beginning to CHOOSE chimney-sweeping as their particular
walk; that applications had been made by various boys to the
constituted authorities, to allow them to pursue the object of
their ambition with the full concurrence and sanction of the law;
that the affair, in short, was becoming one of mere legal contract.
We turned a deaf ear to these rumours at first, but slowly and
surely they stole upon us. Month after month, week after week,
nay, day after day, at last, did we meet with accounts of similar
applications. The veil was removed, all mystery was at an end, and
chimney-sweeping had become a favourite and chosen pursuit. There
is no longer any occasion to steal boys; for boys flock in crowds
to bind themselves. The romance of the trade has fled, and the
chimney-sweeper of the present day, is no more like unto him of
thirty years ago, than is a Fleet-street pickpocket to a Spanish
brigand, or Paul Pry to Caleb Williams.

This gradual decay and disuse of the practice of leading noble
youths into captivity, and compelling them to ascend chimneys, was
a severe blow, if we may so speak, to the romance of chimney-
sweeping, and to the romance of spring at the same time. But even
this was not all, for some few years ago the dancing on May-day
began to decline; small sweeps were observed to congregate in twos
or threes, unsupported by a 'green,' with no 'My Lord' to act as
master of the ceremonies, and no 'My Lady' to preside over the
exchequer. Even in companies where there was a 'green' it was an
absolute nothing--a mere sprout--and the instrumental
accompaniments rarely extended beyond the shovels and a set of
Panpipes, better known to the many, as a 'mouth-organ.'

These were signs of the times, portentous omens of a coming change;
and what was the result which they shadowed forth? Why, the master
sweeps, influenced by a restless spirit of innovation, actually
interposed their authority, in opposition to the dancing, and
substituted a dinner--an anniversary dinner at White Conduit House-
-where clean faces appeared in lieu of black ones smeared with rose
pink; and knee cords and tops superseded nankeen drawers and
rosetted shoes.

Gentlemen who were in the habit of riding shy horses; and steady-
going people who have no vagrancy in their souls, lauded this
alteration to the skies, and the conduct of the master sweeps was
described beyond the reach of praise. But how stands the real
fact? Let any man deny, if he can, that when the cloth had been
removed, fresh pots and pipes laid upon the table, and the
customary loyal and patriotic toasts proposed, the celebrated Mr.
Sluffen, of Adam-and-Eve-court, whose authority not the most
malignant of our opponents can call in question, expressed himself
in a manner following: 'That now he'd cotcht the cheerman's hi, he
vished he might be jolly vell blessed, if he worn't a goin' to have
his innings, vich he vould say these here obserwashuns--that how
some mischeevus coves as know'd nuffin about the consarn, had tried
to sit people agin the mas'r swips, and take the shine out o' their
bis'nes, and the bread out o' the traps o' their preshus kids, by a
makin' o' this here remark, as chimblies could be as vell svept by
'sheenery as by boys; and that the makin' use o' boys for that
there purpuss vos barbareous; vereas, he 'ad been a chummy--he
begged the cheerman's parding for usin' such a wulgar hexpression--
more nor thirty year--he might say he'd been born in a chimbley--
and he know'd uncommon vell as 'sheenery vos vus nor o' no use:
and as to kerhewelty to the boys, everybody in the chimbley line
know'd as vell as he did, that they liked the climbin' better nor
nuffin as vos.' From this day, we date the total fall of the last
lingering remnant of May-day dancing, among the elite of the
profession: and from this period we commence a new era in that
portion of our spring associations which relates to the first of

We are aware that the unthinking part of the population will meet
us here, with the assertion, that dancing on May-day still
continues--that 'greens' are annually seen to roll along the
streets--that youths in the garb of clowns, precede them, giving
vent to the ebullitions of their sportive fancies; and that lords
and ladies follow in their wake.

Granted. We are ready to acknowledge that in outward show, these
processions have greatly improved: we do not deny the introduction
of solos on the drum; we will even go so far as to admit an
occasional fantasia on the triangle, but here our admissions end.
We positively deny that the sweeps have art or part in these
proceedings. We distinctly charge the dustmen with throwing what
they ought to clear away, into the eyes of the public. We accuse
scavengers, brickmakers, and gentlemen who devote their energies to
the costermongering line, with obtaining money once a-year, under
false pretences. We cling with peculiar fondness to the custom of
days gone by, and have shut out conviction as long as we could, but
it has forced itself upon us; and we now proclaim to a deluded
public, that the May-day dancers are NOT sweeps. The size of them,
alone, is sufficient to repudiate the idea. It is a notorious fact
that the widely-spread taste for register-stoves has materially
increased the demand for small boys; whereas the men, who, under a
fictitious character, dance about the streets on the first of May
nowadays, would be a tight fit in a kitchen flue, to say nothing of
the parlour. This is strong presumptive evidence, but we have
positive proof--the evidence of our own senses. And here is our

Upon the morning of the second of the merry month of May, in the
year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, we went
out for a stroll, with a kind of forlorn hope of seeing something
or other which might induce us to believe that it was really
spring, and not Christmas. After wandering as far as Copenhagen
House, without meeting anything calculated to dispel our impression
that there was a mistake in the almanacks, we turned back down
Maidenlane, with the intention of passing through the extensive
colony lying between it and Battle-bridge, which is inhabited by
proprietors of donkey-carts, boilers of horse-flesh, makers of
tiles, and sifters of cinders; through which colony we should have
passed, without stoppage or interruption, if a little crowd
gathered round a shed had not attracted our attention, and induced
us to pause.

When we say a 'shed,' we do not mean the conservatory sort of
building, which, according to the old song, Love tenanted when he
was a young man, but a wooden house with windows stuffed with rags
and paper, and a small yard at the side, with one dust-cart, two
baskets, a few shovels, and little heaps of cinders, and fragments
of china and tiles, scattered about it. Before this inviting spot
we paused; and the longer we looked, the more we wondered what
exciting circumstance it could be, that induced the foremost
members of the crowd to flatten their noses against the parlour
window, in the vain hope of catching a glimpse of what was going on
inside. After staring vacantly about us for some minutes, we
appealed, touching the cause of this assemblage, to a gentleman in
a suit of tarpaulin, who was smoking his pipe on our right hand;
but as the only answer we obtained was a playful inquiry whether
our mother had disposed of her mangle, we determined to await the
issue in silence.

Judge of our virtuous indignation, when the street-door of the shed
opened, and a party emerged therefrom, clad in the costume and
emulating the appearance, of May-day sweeps!

The first person who appeared was 'my lord,' habited in a blue coat
and bright buttons, with gilt paper tacked over the seams, yellow
knee-breeches, pink cotton stockings, and shoes; a cocked hat,
ornamented with shreds of various-coloured paper, on his head, a
bouquet the size of a prize cauliflower in his button-hole, a long
Belcher handkerchief in his right hand, and a thin cane in his
left. A murmur of applause ran through the crowd (which was
chiefly composed of his lordship's personal friends), when this
graceful figure made his appearance, which swelled into a burst of
applause as his fair partner in the dance bounded forth to join
him. Her ladyship was attired in pink crape over bed-furniture,
with a low body and short sleeves. The symmetry of her ankles was
partially concealed by a very perceptible pair of frilled trousers;
and the inconvenience which might have resulted from the
circumstance of her white satin shoes being a few sizes too large,
was obviated by their being firmly attached to her legs with strong
tape sandals.

Her head was ornamented with a profusion of artificial flowers; and
in her hand she bore a large brass ladle, wherein to receive what
she figuratively denominated 'the tin.' The other characters were
a young gentleman in girl's clothes and a widow's cap; two clowns
who walked upon their hands in the mud, to the immeasurable delight
of all the spectators; a man with a drum; another man with a
flageolet; a dirty woman in a large shawl, with a box under her arm
for the money,--and last, though not least, the 'green,' animated
by no less a personage than our identical friend in the tarpaulin

The man hammered away at the drum, the flageolet squeaked, the
shovels rattled, the 'green' rolled about, pitching first on one
side and then on the other; my lady threw her right foot over her
left ankle, and her left foot over her right ankle, alternately; my
lord ran a few paces forward, and butted at the 'green,' and then a
few paces backward upon the toes of the crowd, and then went to the
right, and then to the left, and then dodged my lady round the
'green;' and finally drew her arm through his, and called upon the
boys to shout, which they did lustily--for this was the dancing.

We passed the same group, accidentally, in the evening. We never
saw a 'green' so drunk, a lord so quarrelsome (no: not even in the
house of peers after dinner), a pair of clowns so melancholy, a
lady so muddy, or a party so miserable.

How has May-day decayed!


When we affirm that brokers' shops are strange places, and that if
an authentic history of their contents could be procured, it would
furnish many a page of amusement, and many a melancholy tale, it is
necessary to explain the class of shops to which we allude.
Perhaps when we make use of the term 'Brokers' Shop,' the minds of
our readers will at once picture large, handsome warehouses,
exhibiting a long perspective of French-polished dining-tables,
rosewood chiffoniers, and mahogany wash-hand-stands, with an
occasional vista of a four-post bedstead and hangings, and an
appropriate foreground of dining-room chairs. Perhaps they will
imagine that we mean an humble class of second-hand furniture
repositories. Their imagination will then naturally lead them to
that street at the back of Long-acre, which is composed almost
entirely of brokers' shops; where you walk through groves of
deceitful, showy-looking furniture, and where the prospect is
occasionally enlivened by a bright red, blue, and yellow hearth-
rug, embellished with the pleasing device of a mail-coach at full
speed, or a strange animal, supposed to have been originally
intended for a dog, with a mass of worsted-work in his mouth, which
conjecture has likened to a basket of flowers.

This, by-the-bye, is a tempting article to young wives in the
humbler ranks of life, who have a first-floor front to furnish--
they are lost in admiration, and hardly know which to admire most.
The dog is very beautiful, but they have a dog already on the best
tea-tray, and two more on the mantel-piece. Then, there is
something so genteel about that mail-coach; and the passengers
outside (who are all hat) give it such an air of reality!

The goods here are adapted to the taste, or rather to the means, of
cheap purchasers. There are some of the most beautiful LOOKING
Pembroke tables that were ever beheld: the wood as green as the
trees in the Park, and the leaves almost as certain to fall off in
the course of a year. There is also a most extensive assortment of
tent and turn-up bedsteads, made of stained wood, and innumerable
specimens of that base imposition on society--a sofa bedstead.

A turn-up bedstead is a blunt, honest piece of furniture; it may be
slightly disguised with a sham drawer; and sometimes a mad attempt
is even made to pass it off for a book-case; ornament it as you
will, however, the turn-up bedstead seems to defy disguise, and to
insist on having it distinctly understood that he is a turn-up
bedstead, and nothing else--that he is indispensably necessary, and
that being so useful, he disdains to be ornamental.

How different is the demeanour of a sofa bedstead! Ashamed of its
real use, it strives to appear an article of luxury and gentility--
an attempt in which it miserably fails. It has neither the
respectability of a sofa, nor the virtues of a bed; every man who
keeps a sofa bedstead in his house, becomes a party to a wilful and
designing fraud--we question whether you could insult him more,
than by insinuating that you entertain the least suspicion of its
real use.

To return from this digression, we beg to say, that neither of
these classes of brokers' shops, forms the subject of this sketch.
The shops to which we advert, are immeasurably inferior to those on
whose outward appearance we have slightly touched. Our readers
must often have observed in some by-street, in a poor
neighbourhood, a small dirty shop, exposing for sale the most
extraordinary and confused jumble of old, worn-out, wretched
articles, that can well be imagined. Our wonder at their ever
having been bought, is only to be equalled by our astonishment at
the idea of their ever being sold again. On a board, at the side
of the door, are placed about twenty books--all odd volumes; and as
many wine-glasses--all different patterns; several locks, an old
earthenware pan, full of rusty keys; two or three gaudy chimney-
ornaments--cracked, of course; the remains of a lustre, without any
drops; a round frame like a capital O, which has once held a
mirror; a flute, complete with the exception of the middle joint; a
pair of curling-irons; and a tinder-box. In front of the shop-
window, are ranged some half-dozen high-backed chairs, with spinal
complaints and wasted legs; a corner cupboard; two or three very
dark mahogany tables with flaps like mathematical problems; some
pickle-jars, some surgeons' ditto, with gilt labels and without
stoppers; an unframed portrait of some lady who flourished about
the beginning of the thirteenth century, by an artist who never
flourished at all; an incalculable host of miscellanies of every
description, including bottles and cabinets, rags and bones,
fenders and street-door knockers, fire-irons, wearing apparel and
bedding, a hall-lamp, and a room-door. Imagine, in addition to
this incongruous mass, a black doll in a white frock, with two
faces--one looking up the street, and the other looking down,
swinging over the door; a board with the squeezed-up inscription
'Dealer in marine stores,' in lanky white letters, whose height is
strangely out of proportion to their width; and you have before you
precisely the kind of shop to which we wish to direct your

Although the same heterogeneous mixture of things will be found at
all these places, it is curious to observe how truly and accurately
some of the minor articles which are exposed for sale--articles of
wearing apparel, for instance--mark the character of the
neighbourhood. Take Drury-Lane and Covent-garden for example.

This is essentially a theatrical neighbourhood. There is not a
potboy in the vicinity who is not, to a greater or less extent, a
dramatic character. The errand-boys and chandler's-shop-keepers'
sons, are all stage-struck: they 'gets up' plays in back kitchens
hired for the purpose, and will stand before a shop-window for
hours, contemplating a great staring portrait of Mr. Somebody or
other, of the Royal Coburg Theatre, 'as he appeared in the
character of Tongo the Denounced.' The consequence is, that there
is not a marine-store shop in the neighbourhood, which does not
exhibit for sale some faded articles of dramatic finery, such as
three or four pairs of soiled buff boots with turn-over red tops,
heretofore worn by a 'fourth robber,' or 'fifth mob;' a pair of
rusty broadswords, a few gauntlets, and certain resplendent
ornaments, which, if they were yellow instead of white, might be
taken for insurance plates of the Sun Fire-office. There are
several of these shops in the narrow streets and dirty courts, of
which there are so many near the national theatres, and they all
have tempting goods of this description, with the addition,
perhaps, of a lady's pink dress covered with spangles; white
wreaths, stage shoes, and a tiara like a tin lamp reflector. They
have been purchased of some wretched supernumeraries, or sixth-rate
actors, and are now offered for the benefit of the rising
generation, who, on condition of making certain weekly payments,
amounting in the whole to about ten times their value, may avail
themselves of such desirable bargains.

Let us take a very different quarter, and apply it to the same
test. Look at a marine-store dealer's, in that reservoir of dirt,
drunkenness, and drabs: thieves, oysters, baked potatoes, and
pickled salmon--Ratcliff-highway. Here, the wearing apparel is all
nautical. Rough blue jackets, with mother-of-pearl buttons, oil-
skin hats, coarse checked shirts, and large canvas trousers that
look as if they were made for a pair of bodies instead of a pair of
legs, are the staple commodities. Then, there are large bunches of
cotton pocket-handkerchiefs, in colour and pattern unlike any one
ever saw before, with the exception of those on the backs of the
three young ladies without bonnets who passed just now. The
furniture is much the same as elsewhere, with the addition of one
or two models of ships, and some old prints of naval engagements in
still older frames. In the window, are a few compasses, a small
tray containing silver watches in clumsy thick cases; and tobacco-
boxes, the lid of each ornamented with a ship, or an anchor, or
some such trophy. A sailor generally pawns or sells all he has
before he has been long ashore, and if he does not, some favoured
companion kindly saves him the trouble. In either case, it is an
even chance that he afterwards unconsciously repurchases the same
things at a higher price than he gave for them at first.

Again: pay a visit with a similar object, to a part of London, as
unlike both of these as they are to each other. Cross over to the
Surrey side, and look at such shops of this description as are to
be found near the King's Bench prison, and in 'the Rules.' How
different, and how strikingly illustrative of the decay of some of
the unfortunate residents in this part of the metropolis!
Imprisonment and neglect have done their work. There is
contamination in the profligate denizens of a debtor's prison; old
friends have fallen off; the recollection of former prosperity has
passed away; and with it all thoughts for the past, all care for
the future. First, watches and rings, then cloaks, coats, and all
the more expensive articles of dress, have found their way to the
pawnbroker's. That miserable resource has failed at last, and the
sale of some trifling article at one of these shops, has been the
only mode left of raising a shilling or two, to meet the urgent
demands of the moment. Dressing-cases and writing-desks, too old
to pawn but too good to keep; guns, fishing-rods, musical
instruments, all in the same condition; have first been sold, and
the sacrifice has been but slightly felt. But hunger must be
allayed, and what has already become a habit, is easily resorted
to, when an emergency arises. Light articles of clothing, first of
the ruined man, then of his wife, at last of their children, even
of the youngest, have been parted with, piecemeal. There they are,
thrown carelessly together until a purchaser presents himself, old,
and patched and repaired, it is true; but the make and materials
tell of better days; and the older they are, the greater the misery
and destitution of those whom they once adorned.


It is a remarkable circumstance, that different trades appear to
partake of the disease to which elephants and dogs are especially
liable, and to run stark, staring, raving mad, periodically. The
great distinction between the animals and the trades, is, that the
former run mad with a certain degree of propriety--they are very
regular in their irregularities. We know the period at which the
emergency will arise, and provide against it accordingly. If an
elephant run mad, we are all ready for him--kill or cure--pills or
bullets, calomel in conserve of roses, or lead in a musket-barrel.
If a dog happen to look unpleasantly warm in the summer months, and
to trot about the shady side of the streets with a quarter of a
yard of tongue hanging out of his mouth, a thick leather muzzle,
which has been previously prepared in compliance with the
thoughtful injunctions of the Legislature, is instantly clapped
over his head, by way of making him cooler, and he either looks
remarkably unhappy for the next six weeks, or becomes legally
insane, and goes mad, as it were, by Act of Parliament. But these
trades are as eccentric as comets; nay, worse, for no one can
calculate on the recurrence of the strange appearances which
betoken the disease. Moreover, the contagion is general, and the
quickness with which it diffuses itself, almost incredible.

We will cite two or three cases in illustration of our meaning.
Six or eight years ago, the epidemic began to display itself among
the linen-drapers and haberdashers. The primary symptoms were an
inordinate love of plate-glass, and a passion for gas-lights and
gilding. The disease gradually progressed, and at last attained a
fearful height. Quiet, dusty old shops in different parts of town,
were pulled down; spacious premises with stuccoed fronts and gold
letters, were erected instead; floors were covered with Turkey
carpets; roofs supported by massive pillars; doors knocked into
windows; a dozen squares of glass into one; one shopman into a
dozen; and there is no knowing what would have been done, if it had
not been fortunately discovered, just in time, that the
Commissioners of Bankruptcy were as competent to decide such cases
as the Commissioners of Lunacy, and that a little confinement and
gentle examination did wonders. The disease abated. It died away.
A year or two of comparative tranquillity ensued. Suddenly it
burst out again amongst the chemists; the symptoms were the same,
with the addition of a strong desire to stick the royal arms over
the shop-door, and a great rage for mahogany, varnish, and
expensive floor-cloth. Then, the hosiers were infected, and began
to pull down their shop-fronts with frantic recklessness. The
mania again died away, and the public began to congratulate
themselves on its entire disappearance, when it burst forth with
tenfold violence among the publicans, and keepers of 'wine vaults.'
From that moment it has spread among them with unprecedented
rapidity, exhibiting a concatenation of all the previous symptoms;
onward it has rushed to every part of town, knocking down all the
old public-houses, and depositing splendid mansions, stone
balustrades, rosewood fittings, immense lamps, and illuminated
clocks, at the corner of every street.

The extensive scale on which these places are established, and the
ostentatious manner in which the business of even the smallest
among them is divided into branches, is amusing. A handsome plate
of ground glass in one door directs you 'To the Counting-house;'
another to the 'Bottle Department; a third to the 'Wholesale
Department;' a fourth to 'The Wine Promenade;' and so forth, until
we are in daily expectation of meeting with a 'Brandy Bell,' or a
'Whiskey Entrance.' Then, ingenuity is exhausted in devising
attractive titles for the different descriptions of gin; and the
dram-drinking portion of the community as they gaze upon the
gigantic black and white announcements, which are only to be
equalled in size by the figures beneath them, are left in a state
of pleasing hesitation between 'The Cream of the Valley,' 'The Out
and Out,' 'The No Mistake,' 'The Good for Mixing,' 'The real Knock-
me-down,' 'The celebrated Butter Gin,' 'The regular Flare-up,' and
a dozen other, equally inviting and wholesome LIQUEURS. Although
places of this description are to be met with in every second
street, they are invariably numerous and splendid in precise
proportion to the dirt and poverty of the surrounding
neighbourhood. The gin-shops in and near Drury-Lane, Holborn, St.
Giles's, Covent-garden, and Clare-market, are the handsomest in
London. There is more of filth and squalid misery near those great
thorough-fares than in any part of this mighty city.

We will endeavour to sketch the bar of a large gin-shop, and its
ordinary customers, for the edification of such of our readers as
may not have had opportunities of observing such scenes; and on the
chance of finding one well suited to our purpose, we will make for
Drury-Lane, through the narrow streets and dirty courts which
divide it from Oxford-street, and that classical spot adjoining the
brewery at the bottom of Tottenham-court-road, best known to the
initiated as the 'Rookery.'

The filthy and miserable appearance of this part of London can
hardly be imagined by those (and there are many such) who have not
witnessed it. Wretched houses with broken windows patched with
rags and paper: every room let out to a different family, and in
many instances to two or even three--fruit and 'sweet-stuff'
manufacturers in the cellars, barbers and red-herring vendors in
the front parlours, cobblers in the back; a bird-fancier in the
first floor, three families on the second, starvation in the
attics, Irishmen in the passage, a 'musician' in the front kitchen,
and a charwoman and five hungry children in the back one--filth
everywhere--a gutter before the houses and a drain behind--clothes
drying and slops emptying, from the windows; girls of fourteen or
fifteen, with matted hair, walking about barefoot, and in white
great-coats, almost their only covering; boys of all ages, in coats
of all sizes and no coats at all; men and women, in every variety
of scanty and dirty apparel, lounging, scolding, drinking, smoking,
squabbling, fighting, and swearing.

You turn the corner. What a change! All is light and brilliancy.
The hum of many voices issues from that splendid gin-shop which
forms the commencement of the two streets opposite; and the gay
building with the fantastically ornamented parapet, the illuminated
clock, the plate-glass windows surrounded by stucco rosettes, and
its profusion of gas-lights in richly-gilt burners, is perfectly
dazzling when contrasted with the darkness and dirt we have just
left. The interior is even gayer than the exterior. A bar of
French-polished mahogany, elegantly carved, extends the whole width
of the place; and there are two side-aisles of great casks, painted
green and gold, enclosed within a light brass rail, and bearing
such inscriptions, as 'Old Tom, 549;' 'Young Tom, 360;' 'Samson,
1421'--the figures agreeing, we presume, with 'gallons,'
understood. Beyond the bar is a lofty and spacious saloon, full of
the same enticing vessels, with a gallery running round it, equally
well furnished. On the counter, in addition to the usual spirit
apparatus, are two or three little baskets of cakes and biscuits,
which are carefully secured at top with wicker-work, to prevent
their contents being unlawfully abstracted. Behind it, are two
showily-dressed damsels with large necklaces, dispensing the
spirits and 'compounds.' They are assisted by the ostensible
proprietor of the concern, a stout, coarse fellow in a fur cap, put
on very much on one side to give him a knowing air, and to display
his sandy whiskers to the best advantage.

The two old washerwomen, who are seated on the little bench to the
left of the bar, are rather overcome by the head-dresses and
haughty demeanour of the young ladies who officiate. They receive
their half-quartern of gin and peppermint, with considerable
deference, prefacing a request for 'one of them soft biscuits,'
with a 'Jist be good enough, ma'am.' They are quite astonished at
the impudent air of the young fellow in a brown coat and bright
buttons, who, ushering in his two companions, and walking up to the
bar in as careless a manner as if he had been used to green and
gold ornaments all his life, winks at one of the young ladies with
singular coolness, and calls for a 'kervorten and a three-out-
glass,' just as if the place were his own. 'Gin for you, sir?'
says the young lady when she has drawn it: carefully looking every
way but the right one, to show that the wink had no effect upon
her. 'For me, Mary, my dear,' replies the gentleman in brown. 'My
name an't Mary as it happens,' says the young girl, rather relaxing
as she delivers the change. 'Well, if it an't, it ought to be,'
responds the irresistible one; 'all the Marys as ever _I_ see, was
handsome gals.' Here the young lady, not precisely remembering how
blushes are managed in such cases, abruptly ends the flirtation by
addressing the female in the faded feathers who has just entered,
and who, after stating explicitly, to prevent any subsequent
misunderstanding, that 'this gentleman pays,' calls for 'a glass of
port wine and a bit of sugar.'

Those two old men who came in 'just to have a drain,' finished
their third quartern a few seconds ago; they have made themselves
crying drunk; and the fat comfortable-looking elderly women, who
had 'a glass of rum-srub' each, having chimed in with their
complaints on the hardness of the times, one of the women has
agreed to stand a glass round, jocularly observing that 'grief
never mended no broken bones, and as good people's wery scarce,
what I says is, make the most on 'em, and that's all about it!' a
sentiment which appears to afford unlimited satisfaction to those
who have nothing to pay.

It is growing late, and the throng of men, women, and children, who
have been constantly going in and out, dwindles down to two or
three occasional stragglers--cold, wretched-looking creatures, in
the last stage of emaciation and disease. The knot of Irish
labourers at the lower end of the place, who have been alternately
shaking hands with, and threatening the life of each other, for the
last hour, become furious in their disputes, and finding it
impossible to silence one man, who is particularly anxious to
adjust the difference, they resort to the expedient of knocking him
down and jumping on him afterwards. The man in the fur cap, and
the potboy rush out; a scene of riot and confusion ensues; half the
Irishmen get shut out, and the other half get shut in; the potboy
is knocked among the tubs in no time; the landlord hits everybody,
and everybody hits the landlord; the barmaids scream; the police
come in; the rest is a confused mixture of arms, legs, staves, torn
coats, shouting, and struggling. Some of the party are borne off
to the station-house, and the remainder slink home to beat their
wives for complaining, and kick the children for daring to be

We have sketched this subject very slightly, not only because our
limits compel us to do so, but because, if it were pursued farther,
it would be painful and repulsive. Well-disposed gentlemen, and
charitable ladies, would alike turn with coldness and disgust from
a description of the drunken besotted men, and wretched broken-down
miserable women, who form no inconsiderable portion of the
frequenters of these haunts; forgetting, in the pleasant
consciousness of their own rectitude, the poverty of the one, and
the temptation of the other. Gin-drinking is a great vice in
England, but wretchedness and dirt are a greater; and until you
improve the homes of the poor, or persuade a half-famished wretch
not to seek relief in the temporary oblivion of his own misery,
with the pittance which, divided among his family, would furnish a
morsel of bread for each, gin-shops will increase in number and
splendour. If Temperance Societies would suggest an antidote
against hunger, filth, and foul air, or could establish
dispensaries for the gratuitous distribution of bottles of Lethe-
water, gin-palaces would be numbered among the things that were.


Of the numerous receptacles for misery and distress with which the
streets of London unhappily abound, there are, perhaps, none which
present such striking scenes as the pawnbrokers' shops. The very
nature and description of these places occasions their being but
little known, except to the unfortunate beings whose profligacy or
misfortune drives them to seek the temporary relief they offer.
The subject may appear, at first sight, to be anything but an
inviting one, but we venture on it nevertheless, in the hope that,
as far as the limits of our present paper are concerned, it will
present nothing to disgust even the most fastidious reader.

There are some pawnbrokers' shops of a very superior description.
There are grades in pawning as in everything else, and distinctions
must be observed even in poverty. The aristocratic Spanish cloak
and the plebeian calico shirt, the silver fork and the flat iron,
the muslin cravat and the Belcher neckerchief, would but ill assort
together; so, the better sort of pawnbroker calls himself a silver-
smith, and decorates his shop with handsome trinkets and expensive
jewellery, while the more humble money-lender boldly advertises his
calling, and invites observation. It is with pawnbrokers' shops of
the latter class, that we have to do. We have selected one for our
purpose, and will endeavour to describe it.

The pawnbroker's shop is situated near Drury-Lane, at the corner of
a court, which affords a side entrance for the accommodation of
such customers as may be desirous of avoiding the observation of
the passers-by, or the chance of recognition in the public street.
It is a low, dirty-looking, dusty shop, the door of which stands
always doubtfully, a little way open: half inviting, half
repelling the hesitating visitor, who, if he be as yet uninitiated,
examines one of the old garnet brooches in the window for a minute
or two with affected eagerness, as if he contemplated making a
purchase; and then looking cautiously round to ascertain that no
one watches him, hastily slinks in: the door closing of itself
after him, to just its former width. The shop front and the
window-frames bear evident marks of having been once painted; but,
what the colour was originally, or at what date it was probably
laid on, are at this remote period questions which may be asked,
but cannot be answered. Tradition states that the transparency in
the front door, which displays at night three red balls on a blue
ground, once bore also, inscribed in graceful waves, the words
'Money advanced on plate, jewels, wearing apparel, and every
description of property,' but a few illegible hieroglyphics are all
that now remain to attest the fact. The plate and jewels would
seem to have disappeared, together with the announcement, for the
articles of stock, which are displayed in some profusion in the
window, do not include any very valuable luxuries of either kind.
A few old china cups; some modern vases, adorned with paltry
paintings of three Spanish cavaliers playing three Spanish guitars;
or a party of boors carousing: each boor with one leg painfully
elevated in the air, by way of expressing his perfect freedom and
gaiety; several sets of chessmen, two or three flutes, a few
fiddles, a round-eyed portrait staring in astonishment from a very
dark ground; some gaudily-bound prayer-books and testaments, two
rows of silver watches quite as clumsy and almost as large as
Ferguson's first; numerous old-fashioned table and tea spoons,
displayed, fan-like, in half-dozens; strings of coral with great
broad gilt snaps; cards of rings and brooches, fastened and
labelled separately, like the insects in the British Museum; cheap
silver penholders and snuff-boxes, with a masonic star, complete
the jewellery department; while five or six beds in smeary clouded
ticks, strings of blankets and sheets, silk and cotton
handkerchiefs, and wearing apparel of every description, form the
more useful, though even less ornamental, part, of the articles
exposed for sale. An extensive collection of planes, chisels,
saws, and other carpenters' tools, which have been pledged, and
never redeemed, form the foreground of the picture; while the large
frames full of ticketed bundles, which are dimly seen through the
dirty casement up-stairs--the squalid neighbourhood--the adjoining
houses, straggling, shrunken, and rotten, with one or two filthy,
unwholesome-looking heads thrust out of every window, and old red
pans and stunted plants exposed on the tottering parapets, to the
manifest hazard of the heads of the passers-by--the noisy men
loitering under the archway at the corner of the court, or about
the gin-shop next door--and their wives patiently standing on the
curb-stone, with large baskets of cheap vegetables slung round them
for sale, are its immediate auxiliaries.

If the outside of the pawnbroker's shop be calculated to attract
the attention, or excite the interest, of the speculative
pedestrian, its interior cannot fail to produce the same effect in
an increased degree. The front door, which we have before noticed,
opens into the common shop, which is the resort of all those
customers whose habitual acquaintance with such scenes renders them
indifferent to the observation of their companions in poverty. The
side door opens into a small passage from which some half-dozen
doors (which may be secured on the inside by bolts) open into a
corresponding number of little dens, or closets, which face the
counter. Here, the more timid or respectable portion of the crowd
shroud themselves from the notice of the remainder, and patiently
wait until the gentleman behind the counter, with the curly black
hair, diamond ring, and double silver watch-guard, shall feel
disposed to favour them with his notice--a consummation which
depends considerably on the temper of the aforesaid gentleman for
the time being.

At the present moment, this elegantly-attired individual is in the
act of entering the duplicate he has just made out, in a thick
book: a process from which he is diverted occasionally, by a
conversation he is carrying on with another young man similarly
employed at a little distance from him, whose allusions to 'that
last bottle of soda-water last night,' and 'how regularly round my
hat he felt himself when the young 'ooman gave 'em in charge,'
would appear to refer to the consequences of some stolen joviality
of the preceding evening. The customers generally, however, seem
unable to participate in the amusement derivable from this source,
for an old sallow-looking woman, who has been leaning with both
arms on the counter with a small bundle before her, for half an
hour previously, suddenly interrupts the conversation by addressing
the jewelled shopman--'Now, Mr. Henry, do make haste, there's a
good soul, for my two grandchildren's locked up at home, and I'm
afeer'd of the fire.' The shopman slightly raises his head, with
an air of deep abstraction, and resumes his entry with as much
deliberation as if he were engraving. 'You're in a hurry, Mrs.
Tatham, this ev'nin', an't you?' is the only notice he deigns to
take, after the lapse of five minutes or so. 'Yes, I am indeed,
Mr. Henry; now, do serve me next, there's a good creetur. I
wouldn't worry you, only it's all along o' them botherin'
children.' 'What have you got here?' inquires the shopman,
unpinning the bundle--'old concern, I suppose--pair o' stays and a
petticut. You must look up somethin' else, old 'ooman; I can't
lend you anything more upon them; they're completely worn out by
this time, if it's only by putting in, and taking out again, three
times a week.' 'Oh! you're a rum un, you are,' replies the old
woman, laughing extremely, as in duty bound; 'I wish I'd got the
gift of the gab like you; see if I'd be up the spout so often then!
No, no; it an't the petticut; it's a child's frock and a beautiful
silk ankecher, as belongs to my husband. He gave four shillin' for
it, the werry same blessed day as he broke his arm.'--'What do you
want upon these?' inquires Mr. Henry, slightly glancing at the
articles, which in all probability are old acquaintances. 'What do
you want upon these?'--'Eighteenpence.'--'Lend you ninepence.'--
'Oh, make it a shillin'; there's a dear--do now?'--'Not another
farden.'--'Well, I suppose I must take it.' The duplicate is made
out, one ticket pinned on the parcel, the other given to the old
woman; the parcel is flung carelessly down into a corner, and some
other customer prefers his claim to be served without further

The choice falls on an unshaven, dirty, sottish-looking fellow,
whose tarnished paper-cap, stuck negligently over one eye,
communicates an additionally repulsive expression to his very
uninviting countenance. He was enjoying a little relaxation from
his sedentary pursuits a quarter of an hour ago, in kicking his
wife up the court. He has come to redeem some tools:- probably to
complete a job with, on account of which he has already received
some money, if his inflamed countenance and drunken staggers may be
taken as evidence of the fact. Having waited some little time, he
makes his presence known by venting his ill-humour on a ragged
urchin, who, being unable to bring his face on a level with the
counter by any other process, has employed himself in climbing up,
and then hooking himself on with his elbows--an uneasy perch, from
which he has fallen at intervals, generally alighting on the toes
of the person in his immediate vicinity. In the present case, the
unfortunate little wretch has received a cuff which sends him
reeling to this door; and the donor of the blow is immediately the
object of general indignation.

'What do you strike the boy for, you brute?' exclaims a slipshod
woman, with two flat irons in a little basket. 'Do you think he's
your wife, you willin?' 'Go and hang yourself!' replies the
gentleman addressed, with a drunken look of savage stupidity,
aiming at the same time a blow at the woman which fortunately
misses its object. 'Go and hang yourself; and wait till I come and
cut you down.'--'Cut you down,' rejoins the woman, 'I wish I had
the cutting of you up, you wagabond! (loud.) Oh! you precious
wagabond! (rather louder.) Where's your wife, you willin? (louder
still; women of this class are always sympathetic, and work
themselves into a tremendous passion on the shortest notice.) Your
poor dear wife as you uses worser nor a dog--strike a woman--you a
man! (very shrill;) I wish I had you--I'd murder you, I would, if I
died for it!'--'Now be civil,' retorts the man fiercely. 'Be
civil, you wiper!' ejaculates the woman contemptuously. 'An't it
shocking?' she continues, turning round, and appealing to an old
woman who is peeping out of one of the little closets we have
before described, and who has not the slightest objection to join
in the attack, possessing, as she does, the comfortable conviction
that she is bolted in. 'Ain't it shocking, ma'am? (Dreadful! says
the old woman in a parenthesis, not exactly knowing what the
question refers to.) He's got a wife, ma'am, as takes in mangling,
and is as 'dustrious and hard-working a young 'ooman as can be,
(very fast) as lives in the back parlour of our 'ous, which my
husband and me lives in the front one (with great rapidity)--and we
hears him a beaten' on her sometimes when he comes home drunk, the
whole night through, and not only a beaten' her, but beaten' his
own child too, to make her more miserable--ugh, you beast! and she,
poor creater, won't swear the peace agin him, nor do nothin',
because she likes the wretch arter all--worse luck!' Here, as the
woman has completely run herself out of breath, the pawnbroker
himself, who has just appeared behind the counter in a gray
dressing-gown, embraces the favourable opportunity of putting in a
word:- 'Now I won't have none of this sort of thing on my
premises!' he interposes with an air of authority. 'Mrs. Mackin,
keep yourself to yourself, or you don't get fourpence for a flat
iron here; and Jinkins, you leave your ticket here till you're
sober, and send your wife for them two planes, for I won't have you
in my shop at no price; so make yourself scarce, before I make you

This eloquent address produces anything but the effect desired; the
women rail in concert; the man hits about him in all directions,
and is in the act of establishing an indisputable claim to
gratuitous lodgings for the night, when the entrance of his wife, a
wretched, worn-out woman, apparently in the last stage of
consumption, whose face bears evident marks of recent ill-usage,
and whose strength seems hardly equal to the burden--light enough,
God knows!--of the thin, sickly child she carries in her arms,
turns his cowardly rage in a safer direction. 'Come home, dear,'
cries the miserable creature, in an imploring tone; 'DO come home,
there's a good fellow, and go to bed.'--'Go home yourself,' rejoins
the furious ruffian. 'Do come home quietly,' repeats the wife,
bursting into tears. 'Go home yourself,' retorts the husband
again, enforcing his argument by a blow which sends the poor
creature flying out of the shop. Her 'natural protector' follows
her up the court, alternately venting his rage in accelerating her
progress, and in knocking the little scanty blue bonnet of the
unfortunate child over its still more scanty and faded-looking

In the last box, which is situated in the darkest and most obscure
corner of the shop, considerably removed from either of the gas-
lights, are a young delicate girl of about twenty, and an elderly
female, evidently her mother from the resemblance between them, who
stand at some distance back, as if to avoid the observation even of
the shopman. It is not their first visit to a pawnbroker's shop,
for they answer without a moment's hesitation the usual questions,
put in a rather respectful manner, and in a much lower tone than
usual, of 'What name shall I say?--Your own property, of course?--
Where do you live?--Housekeeper or lodger?' They bargain, too, for
a higher loan than the shopman is at first inclined to offer, which
a perfect stranger would be little disposed to do; and the elder
female urges her daughter on, in scarcely audible whispers, to
exert her utmost powers of persuasion to obtain an advance of the
sum, and expatiate on the value of the articles they have brought
to raise a present supply upon. They are a small gold chain and a
'Forget me not' ring: the girl's property, for they are both too
small for the mother; given her in better times; prized, perhaps,
once, for the giver's sake, but parted with now without a struggle;
for want has hardened the mother, and her example has hardened the
girl, and the prospect of receiving money, coupled with a
recollection of the misery they have both endured from the want of
it--the coldness of old friends--the stern refusal of some, and the
still more galling compassion of others--appears to have
obliterated the consciousness of self-humiliation, which the idea
of their present situation would once have aroused.

In the next box, is a young female, whose attire, miserably poor,
but extremely gaudy, wretchedly cold, but extravagantly fine, too
plainly bespeaks her station. The rich satin gown with its faded
trimmings, the worn-out thin shoes, and pink silk stockings, the
summer bonnet in winter, and the sunken face, where a daub of rouge
only serves as an index to the ravages of squandered health never
to be regained, and lost happiness never to be restored, and where
the practised smile is a wretched mockery of the misery of the
heart, cannot be mistaken. There is something in the glimpse she
has just caught of her young neighbour, and in the sight of the
little trinkets she has offered in pawn, that seems to have
awakened in this woman's mind some slumbering recollection, and to
have changed, for an instant, her whole demeanour. Her first hasty
impulse was to bend forward as if to scan more minutely the
appearance of her half-concealed companions; her next, on seeing
them involuntarily shrink from her, to retreat to the back of the
box, cover her face with her hands, and burst into tears.

There are strange chords in the human heart, which will lie dormant
through years of depravity and wickedness, but which will vibrate
at last to some slight circumstance apparently trivial in itself,
but connected by some undefined and indistinct association, with
past days that can never be recalled, and with bitter recollections
from which the most degraded creature in existence cannot escape.

There has been another spectator, in the person of a woman in the
common shop; the lowest of the low; dirty, unbonneted, flaunting,
and slovenly. Her curiosity was at first attracted by the little
she could see of the group; then her attention. The half-
intoxicated leer changed to an expression of something like
interest, and a feeling similar to that we have described, appeared
for a moment, and only a moment, to extend itself even to her

Who shall say how soon these women may change places? The last has
but two more stages--the hospital and the grave. How many females
situated as her two companions are, and as she may have been once,
have terminated the same wretched course, in the same wretched
manner! One is already tracing her footsteps with frightful
rapidity. How soon may the other follow her example! How many
have done the same!


We shall never forget the mingled feelings of awe and respect with
which we used to gaze on the exterior of Newgate in our schoolboy
days. How dreadful its rough heavy walls, and low massive doors,
appeared to us--the latter looking as if they were made for the
express purpose of letting people in, and never letting them out
again. Then the fetters over the debtors' door, which we used to
think were a bona fide set of irons, just hung up there, for
convenience' sake, ready to be taken down at a moment's notice, and
riveted on the limbs of some refractory felon! We were never tired
of wondering how the hackney-coachmen on the opposite stand could
cut jokes in the presence of such horrors, and drink pots of half-
and-half so near the last drop.

Often have we strayed here, in sessions time, to catch a glimpse of
the whipping-place, and that dark building on one side of the yard,
in which is kept the gibbet with all its dreadful apparatus, and on
the door of which we half expected to see a brass plate, with the
inscription 'Mr. Ketch;' for we never imagined that the
distinguished functionary could by possibility live anywhere else!
The days of these childish dreams have passed away, and with them
many other boyish ideas of a gayer nature. But we still retain so
much of our original feeling, that to this hour we never pass the
building without something like a shudder.

What London pedestrian is there who has not, at some time or other,
cast a hurried glance through the wicket at which prisoners are
admitted into this gloomy mansion, and surveyed the few objects he
could discern, with an indescribable feeling of curiosity? The
thick door, plated with iron and mounted with spikes, just low
enough to enable you to see, leaning over them, an ill-looking
fellow, in a broad-brimmed hat, Belcher handkerchief and top-boots:
with a brown coat, something between a great-coat and a 'sporting'
jacket, on his back, and an immense key in his left hand. Perhaps
you are lucky enough to pass, just as the gate is being opened;
then, you see on the other side of the lodge, another gate, the
image of its predecessor, and two or three more turnkeys, who look
like multiplications of the first one, seated round a fire which
just lights up the whitewashed apartment sufficiently to enable you
to catch a hasty glimpse of these different objects. We have a
great respect for Mrs. Fry, but she certainly ought to have written
more romances than Mrs. Radcliffe.

We were walking leisurely down the Old Bailey, some time ago, when,
as we passed this identical gate, it was opened by the officiating
turnkey. We turned quickly round, as a matter of course, and saw
two persons descending the steps. We could not help stopping and
observing them.

They were an elderly woman, of decent appearance, though evidently
poor, and a boy of about fourteen or fifteen. The woman was crying
bitterly; she carried a small bundle in her hand, and the boy
followed at a short distance behind her. Their little history was
obvious. The boy was her son, to whose early comfort she had
perhaps sacrificed her own--for whose sake she had borne misery
without repining, and poverty without a murmur--looking steadily
forward to the time, when he who had so long witnessed her
struggles for himself, might be enabled to make some exertions for
their joint support. He had formed dissolute connexions; idleness
had led to crime; and he had been committed to take his trial for
some petty theft. He had been long in prison, and, after receiving
some trifling additional punishment, had been ordered to be
discharged that morning. It was his first offence, and his poor
old mother, still hoping to reclaim him, had been waiting at the
gate to implore him to return home.

We cannot forget the boy; he descended the steps with a dogged
look, shaking his head with an air of bravado and obstinate
determination. They walked a few paces, and paused. The woman put
her hand upon his shoulder in an agony of entreaty, and the boy
sullenly raised his head as if in refusal. It was a brilliant
morning, and every object looked fresh and happy in the broad, gay
sunlight; he gazed round him for a few moments, bewildered with the
brightness of the scene, for it was long since he had beheld
anything save the gloomy walls of a prison. Perhaps the
wretchedness of his mother made some impression on the boy's heart;
perhaps some undefined recollection of the time when he was a happy
child, and she his only friend, and best companion, crowded on him-
-he burst into tears; and covering his face with one hand, and
hurriedly placing the other in his mother's, walked away with her.

Curiosity has occasionally led us into both Courts at the Old
Bailey. Nothing is so likely to strike the person who enters them
for the first time, as the calm indifference with which the
proceedings are conducted; every trial seems a mere matter of
business. There is a great deal of form, but no compassion;
considerable interest, but no sympathy. Take the Old Court for
example. There sit the judges, with whose great dignity everybody
is acquainted, and of whom therefore we need say no more. Then,
there is the Lord Mayor in the centre, looking as cool as a Lord
Mayor CAN look, with an immense bouquet before him, and habited in
all the splendour of his office. Then, there are the Sheriffs, who
are almost as dignified as the Lord Mayor himself; and the
Barristers, who are quite dignified enough in their own opinion;
and the spectators, who having paid for their admission, look upon
the whole scene as if it were got up especially for their
amusement. Look upon the whole group in the body of the Court--
some wholly engrossed in the morning papers, others carelessly
conversing in low whispers, and others, again, quietly dozing away
an hour--and you can scarcely believe that the result of the trial
is a matter of life or death to one wretched being present. But
turn your eyes to the dock; watch the prisoner attentively for a
few moments; and the fact is before you, in all its painful
reality. Mark how restlessly he has been engaged for the last ten
minutes, in forming all sorts of fantastic figures with the herbs
which are strewed upon the ledge before him; observe the ashy
paleness of his face when a particular witness appears, and how he
changes his position and wipes his clammy forehead, and feverish
hands, when the case for the prosecution is closed, as if it were a
relief to him to feel that the jury knew the worst.

The defence is concluded; the judge proceeds to sum up the
evidence; and the prisoner watches the countenances of the jury, as
a dying man, clinging to life to the very last, vainly looks in the
face of his physician for a slight ray of hope. They turn round to
consult; you can almost hear the man's heart beat, as he bites the
stalk of rosemary, with a desperate effort to appear composed.
They resume their places--a dead silence prevails as the foreman
delivers in the verdict--'Guilty!' A shriek bursts from a female
in the gallery; the prisoner casts one look at the quarter from
whence the noise proceeded; and is immediately hurried from the
dock by the gaoler. The clerk directs one of the officers of the
Court to 'take the woman out,' and fresh business is proceeded
with, as if nothing had occurred.

No imaginary contrast to a case like this, could be as complete as
that which is constantly presented in the New Court, the gravity of
which is frequently disturbed in no small degree, by the cunning
and pertinacity of juvenile offenders. A boy of thirteen is tried,
say for picking the pocket of some subject of her Majesty, and the
offence is about as clearly proved as an offence can be. He is
called upon for his defence, and contents himself with a little
declamation about the jurymen and his country--asserts that all the
witnesses have committed perjury, and hints that the police force
generally have entered into a conspiracy 'again' him. However
probable this statement may be, it fails to convince the Court, and
some such scene as the following then takes place:

Court: Have you any witnesses to speak to your character, boy?

Boy: Yes, my Lord; fifteen gen'lm'n is a vaten outside, and vos a
vaten all day yesterday, vich they told me the night afore my trial
vos a comin' on.

Court. Inquire for these witnesses.

Here, a stout beadle runs out, and vociferates for the witnesses at
the very top of his voice; for you hear his cry grow fainter and
fainter as he descends the steps into the court-yard below. After
an absence of five minutes, he returns, very warm and hoarse, and
informs the Court of what it knew perfectly well before--namely,
that there are no such witnesses in attendance. Hereupon, the boy
sets up a most awful howling; screws the lower part of the palms of
his hands into the corners of his eyes; and endeavours to look the
picture of injured innocence. The jury at once find him 'guilty,'
and his endeavours to squeeze out a tear or two are redoubled. The
governor of the gaol then states, in reply to an inquiry from the
bench, that the prisoner has been under his care twice before.
This the urchin resolutely denies in some such terms as--'S'elp me,
gen'lm'n, I never vos in trouble afore--indeed, my Lord, I never
vos. It's all a howen to my having a twin brother, vich has
wrongfully got into trouble, and vich is so exactly like me, that
no vun ever knows the difference atween us.'

This representation, like the defence, fails in producing the
desired effect, and the boy is sentenced, perhaps, to seven years'
transportation. Finding it impossible to excite compassion, he
gives vent to his feelings in an imprecation bearing reference to
the eyes of 'old big vig!' and as he declines to take the trouble
of walking from the dock, is forthwith carried out, congratulating
himself on having succeeded in giving everybody as much trouble as


'The force of habit' is a trite phrase in everybody's mouth; and it
is not a little remarkable that those who use it most as applied to
others, unconsciously afford in their own persons singular examples
of the power which habit and custom exercise over the minds of men,
and of the little reflection they are apt to bestow on subjects
with which every day's experience has rendered them familiar. If
Bedlam could be suddenly removed like another Aladdin's palace, and
set down on the space now occupied by Newgate, scarcely one man out
of a hundred, whose road to business every morning lies through
Newgate-street, or the Old Bailey, would pass the building without
bestowing a hasty glance on its small, grated windows, and a
transient thought upon the condition of the unhappy beings immured
in its dismal cells; and yet these same men, day by day, and hour
by hour, pass and repass this gloomy depository of the guilt and
misery of London, in one perpetual stream of life and bustle,
utterly unmindful of the throng of wretched creatures pent up
within it--nay, not even knowing, or if they do, not heeding, the
fact, that as they pass one particular angle of the massive wall
with a light laugh or a merry whistle, they stand within one yard
of a fellow-creature, bound and helpless, whose hours are numbered,
from whom the last feeble ray of hope has fled for ever, and whose
miserable career will shortly terminate in a violent and shameful
death. Contact with death even in its least terrible shape, is
solemn and appalling. How much more awful is it to reflect on this
near vicinity to the dying--to men in full health and vigour, in
the flower of youth or the prime of life, with all their faculties
and perceptions as acute and perfect as your own; but dying,
nevertheless--dying as surely--with the hand of death imprinted
upon them as indelibly--as if mortal disease had wasted their
frames to shadows, and corruption had already begun!

It was with some such thoughts as these that we determined, not
many weeks since, to visit the interior of Newgate--in an amateur
capacity, of course; and, having carried our intention into effect,
we proceed to lay its results before our readers, in the hope--
founded more upon the nature of the subject, than on any
presumptuous confidence in our own descriptive powers--that this
paper may not be found wholly devoid of interest. We have only to
premise, that we do not intend to fatigue the reader with any
statistical accounts of the prison; they will be found at length in
numerous reports of numerous committees, and a variety of
authorities of equal weight. We took no notes, made no memoranda,
measured none of the yards, ascertained the exact number of inches
in no particular room: are unable even to report of how many
apartments the gaol is composed.

We saw the prison, and saw the prisoners; and what we did see, and
what we thought, we will tell at once in our own way.

Having delivered our credentials to the servant who answered our
knock at the door of the governor's house, we were ushered into the
'office;' a little room, on the right-hand side as you enter, with
two windows looking into the Old Bailey: fitted up like an
ordinary attorney's office, or merchant's counting-house, with the
usual fixtures--a wainscoted partition, a shelf or two, a desk, a
couple of stools, a pair of clerks, an almanack, a clock, and a few
maps. After a little delay, occasioned by sending into the
interior of the prison for the officer whose duty it was to conduct
us, that functionary arrived; a respectable-looking man of about
two or three and fifty, in a broad-brimmed hat, and full suit of
black, who, but for his keys, would have looked quite as much like
a clergyman as a turnkey. We were disappointed; he had not even
top-boots on. Following our conductor by a door opposite to that
at which we had entered, we arrived at a small room, without any
other furniture than a little desk, with a book for visitors'
autographs, and a shelf, on which were a few boxes for papers, and
casts of the heads and faces of the two notorious murderers, Bishop
and Williams; the former, in particular, exhibiting a style of head
and set of features, which might have afforded sufficient moral
grounds for his instant execution at any time, even had there been
no other evidence against him. Leaving this room also, by an
opposite door, we found ourself in the lodge which opens on the Old
Bailey; one side of which is plentifully garnished with a choice
collection of heavy sets of irons, including those worn by the
redoubtable Jack Sheppard--genuine; and those SAID to have been
graced by the sturdy limbs of the no less celebrated Dick Turpin--
doubtful. From this lodge, a heavy oaken gate, bound with iron,
studded with nails of the same material, and guarded by another
turnkey, opens on a few steps, if we remember right, which
terminate in a narrow and dismal stone passage, running parallel
with the Old Bailey, and leading to the different yards, through a
number of tortuous and intricate windings, guarded in their turn by
huge gates and gratings, whose appearance is sufficient to dispel
at once the slightest hope of escape that any new-comer may have
entertained; and the very recollection of which, on eventually
traversing the place again, involves one in a maze of confusion.

It is necessary to explain here, that the buildings in the prison,
or in other words the different wards--form a square, of which the
four sides abut respectively on the Old Bailey, the old College of
Physicians (now forming a part of Newgate-market), the Sessions-
house, and Newgate-street. The intermediate space is divided into
several paved yards, in which the prisoners take such air and
exercise as can be had in such a place. These yards, with the
exception of that in which prisoners under sentence of death are
confined (of which we shall presently give a more detailed
description), run parallel with Newgate-street, and consequently
from the Old Bailey, as it were, to Newgate-market. The women's
side is in the right wing of the prison nearest the Sessions-house.
As we were introduced into this part of the building first, we will
adopt the same order, and introduce our readers to it also.

Turning to the right, then, down the passage to which we just now
adverted, omitting any mention of intervening gates--for if we
noticed every gate that was unlocked for us to pass through, and
locked again as soon as we had passed, we should require a gate at
every comma--we came to a door composed of thick bars of wood,
through which were discernible, passing to and fro in a narrow
yard, some twenty women: the majority of whom, however, as soon as
they were aware of the presence of strangers, retreated to their
wards. One side of this yard is railed off at a considerable
distance, and formed into a kind of iron cage, about five feet ten
inches in height, roofed at the top, and defended in front by iron
bars, from which the friends of the female prisoners communicate
with them. In one corner of this singular-looking den, was a
yellow, haggard, decrepit old woman, in a tattered gown that had
once been black, and the remains of an old straw bonnet, with faded
ribbon of the same hue, in earnest conversation with a young girl--
a prisoner, of course--of about two-and-twenty. It is impossible
to imagine a more poverty-stricken object, or a creature so borne
down in soul and body, by excess of misery and destitution, as the
old woman. The girl was a good-looking, robust female, with a
profusion of hair streaming about in the wind--for she had no
bonnet on--and a man's silk pocket-handkerchief loosely thrown over
a most ample pair of shoulders. The old woman was talking in that
low, stifled tone of voice which tells so forcibly of mental
anguish; and every now and then burst into an irrepressible sharp,
abrupt cry of grief, the most distressing sound that ears can hear.
The girl was perfectly unmoved. Hardened beyond all hope of
redemption, she listened doggedly to her mother's entreaties,
whatever they were: and, beyond inquiring after 'Jem,' and eagerly
catching at the few halfpence her miserable parent had brought her,
took no more apparent interest in the conversation than the most
unconcerned spectators. Heaven knows there were enough of them, in
the persons of the other prisoners in the yard, who were no more
concerned by what was passing before their eyes, and within their
hearing, than if they were blind and deaf. Why should they be?
Inside the prison, and out, such scenes were too familiar to them,
to excite even a passing thought, unless of ridicule or contempt
for feelings which they had long since forgotten.

A little farther on, a squalid-looking woman in a slovenly, thick-
bordered cap, with her arms muffled in a large red shawl, the
fringed ends of which straggled nearly to the bottom of a dirty
white apron, was communicating some instructions to HER visitor--
her daughter evidently. The girl was thinly clad, and shaking with
the cold. Some ordinary word of recognition passed between her and
her mother when she appeared at the grating, but neither hope,
condolence, regret, nor affection was expressed on either side.
The mother whispered her instructions, and the girl received them
with her pinched-up, half-starved features twisted into an
expression of careful cunning. It was some scheme for the woman's
defence that she was disclosing, perhaps; and a sullen smile came
over the girl's face for an instant, as if she were pleased: not
so much at the probability of her mother's liberation, as at the
chance of her 'getting off' in spite of her prosecutors. The
dialogue was soon concluded; and with the same careless
indifference with which they had approached each other, the mother
turned towards the inner end of the yard, and the girl to the gate
at which she had entered.

The girl belonged to a class--unhappily but too extensive--the very
existence of which, should make men's hearts bleed. Barely past
her childhood, it required but a glance to discover that she was
one of those children, born and bred in neglect and vice, who have
never known what childhood is: who have never been taught to love
and court a parent's smile, or to dread a parent's frown. The
thousand nameless endearments of childhood, its gaiety and its
innocence, are alike unknown to them. They have entered at once
upon the stern realities and miseries of life, and to their better
nature it is almost hopeless to appeal in after-times, by any of
the references which will awaken, if it be only for a moment, some
good feeling in ordinary bosoms, however corrupt they may have
become. Talk to THEM of parental solicitude, the happy days of
childhood, and the merry games of infancy! Tell them of hunger and
the streets, beggary and stripes, the gin-shop, the station-house,
and the pawnbroker's, and they will understand you.

Two or three women were standing at different parts of the grating,
conversing with their friends, but a very large proportion of the
prisoners appeared to have no friends at all, beyond such of their
old companions as might happen to be within the walls. So, passing
hastily down the yard, and pausing only for an instant to notice
the little incidents we have just recorded, we were conducted up a
clean and well-lighted flight of stone stairs to one of the wards.
There are several in this part of the building, but a description
of one is a description of the whole.

It was a spacious, bare, whitewashed apartment, lighted, of course,
by windows looking into the interior of the prison, but far more
light and airy than one could reasonably expect to find in such a
situation. There was a large fire with a deal table before it,
round which ten or a dozen women were seated on wooden forms at
dinner. Along both sides of the room ran a shelf; below it, at
regular intervals, a row of large hooks were fixed in the wall, on
each of which was hung the sleeping mat of a prisoner: her rug and
blanket being folded up, and placed on the shelf above. At night,
these mats are placed on the floor, each beneath the hook on which
it hangs during the day; and the ward is thus made to answer the
purposes both of a day-room and sleeping apartment. Over the
fireplace, was a large sheet of pasteboard, on which were displayed
a variety of texts from Scripture, which were also scattered about
the room in scraps about the size and shape of the copy-slips which
are used in schools. On the table was a sufficient provision of a
kind of stewed beef and brown bread, in pewter dishes, which are
kept perfectly bright, and displayed on shelves in great order and
regularity when they are not in use.

The women rose hastily, on our entrance, and retired in a hurried
manner to either side of the fireplace. They were all cleanly--
many of them decently--attired, and there was nothing peculiar,
either in their appearance or demeanour. One or two resumed the
needlework which they had probably laid aside at the commencement
of their meal; others gazed at the visitors with listless
curiosity; and a few retired behind their companions to the very
end of the room, as if desirous to avoid even the casual
observation of the strangers. Some old Irish women, both in this
and other wards, to whom the thing was no novelty, appeared
perfectly indifferent to our presence, and remained standing close
to the seats from which they had just risen; but the general
feeling among the females seemed to be one of uneasiness during the
period of our stay among them: which was very brief. Not a word
was uttered during the time of our remaining, unless, indeed, by
the wardswoman in reply to some question which we put to the
turnkey who accompanied us. In every ward on the female side, a
wardswoman is appointed to preserve order, and a similar regulation
is adopted among the males. The wardsmen and wardswomen are all
prisoners, selected for good conduct. They alone are allowed the
privilege of sleeping on bedsteads; a small stump bedstead being
placed in every ward for that purpose. On both sides of the gaol,
is a small receiving-room, to which prisoners are conducted on
their first reception, and whence they cannot be removed until they
have been examined by the surgeon of the prison. {2}

Retracing our steps to the dismal passage in which we found
ourselves at first (and which, by-the-bye, contains three or four
dark cells for the accommodation of refractory prisoners), we were
led through a narrow yard to the 'school'--a portion of the prison
set apart for boys under fourteen years of age. In a tolerable-
sized room, in which were writing-materials and some copy-books,
was the schoolmaster, with a couple of his pupils; the remainder
having been fetched from an adjoining apartment, the whole were
drawn up in line for our inspection. There were fourteen of them
in all, some with shoes, some without; some in pinafores without
jackets, others in jackets without pinafores, and one in scarce
anything at all. The whole number, without an exception we
believe, had been committed for trial on charges of pocket-picking;
and fourteen such terrible little faces we never beheld.--There was
not one redeeming feature among them--not a glance of honesty--not
a wink expressive of anything but the gallows and the hulks, in the
whole collection. As to anything like shame or contrition, that
was entirely out of the question. They were evidently quite
gratified at being thought worth the trouble of looking at; their
idea appeared to be, that we had come to see Newgate as a grand
affair, and that they were an indispensable part of the show; and
every boy as he 'fell in' to the line, actually seemed as pleased
and important as if he had done something excessively meritorious
in getting there at all. We never looked upon a more disagreeable
sight, because we never saw fourteen such hopeless creatures of
neglect, before.

On either side of the school-yard is a yard for men, in one of
which--that towards Newgate-street--prisoners of the more
respectable class are confined. Of the other, we have little
description to offer, as the different wards necessarily partake of
the same character. They are provided, like the wards on the
women's side, with mats and rugs, which are disposed of in the same
manner during the day; the only very striking difference between
their appearance and that of the wards inhabited by the females, is
the utter absence of any employment. Huddled together on two
opposite forms, by the fireside, sit twenty men perhaps; here, a
boy in livery; there, a man in a rough great-coat and top-boots;
farther on, a desperate-looking fellow in his shirt-sleeves, with
an old Scotch cap upon his shaggy head; near him again, a tall
ruffian, in a smock-frock; next to him, a miserable being of
distressed appearance, with his head resting on his hand;--all
alike in one respect, all idle and listless. When they do leave
the fire, sauntering moodily about, lounging in the window, or
leaning against the wall, vacantly swinging their bodies to and
fro. With the exception of a man reading an old newspaper, in two
or three instances, this was the case in every ward we entered.

The only communication these men have with their friends, is
through two close iron gratings, with an intermediate space of
about a yard in width between the two, so that nothing can be
handed across, nor can the prisoner have any communication by touch
with the person who visits him. The married men have a separate
grating, at which to see their wives, but its construction is the

The prison chapel is situated at the back of the governor's house:
the latter having no windows looking into the interior of the
prison. Whether the associations connected with the place--the
knowledge that here a portion of the burial service is, on some
dreadful occasions, performed over the quick and not upon the dead-
-cast over it a still more gloomy and sombre air than art has
imparted to it, we know not, but its appearance is very striking.
There is something in a silent and deserted place of worship,
solemn and impressive at any time; and the very dissimilarity of
this one from any we have been accustomed to, only enhances the
impression. The meanness of its appointments--the bare and scanty
pulpit, with the paltry painted pillars on either side--the women's
gallery with its great heavy curtain--the men's with its unpainted
benches and dingy front--the tottering little table at the altar,
with the commandments on the wall above it, scarcely legible
through lack of paint, and dust and damp--so unlike the velvet and
gilding, the marble and wood, of a modern church--are strange and
striking. There is one object, too, which rivets the attention and
fascinates the gaze, and from which we may turn horror-stricken in
vain, for the recollection of it will haunt us, waking and
sleeping, for a long time afterwards. Immediately below the
reading-desk, on the floor of the chapel, and forming the most
conspicuous object in its little area, is THE CONDEMNED PEW; a huge
black pen, in which the wretched people, who are singled out for
death, are placed on the Sunday preceding their execution, in sight
of all their fellow-prisoners, from many of whom they may have been
separated but a week before, to hear prayers for their own souls,
to join in the responses of their own burial service, and to listen
to an address, warning their recent companions to take example by
their fate, and urging themselves, while there is yet time--nearly
four-and-twenty hours--to 'turn, and flee from the wrath to come!'
Imagine what have been the feelings of the men whom that fearful
pew has enclosed, and of whom, between the gallows and the knife,
no mortal remnant may now remain! Think of the hopeless clinging
to life to the last, and the wild despair, far exceeding in anguish
the felon's death itself, by which they have heard the certainty of
their speedy transmission to another world, with all their crimes
upon their heads, rung into their ears by the officiating

At one time--and at no distant period either--the coffins of the
men about to be executed, were placed in that pew, upon the seat by
their side, during the whole service. It may seem incredible, but
it is true. Let us hope that the increased spirit of civilisation
and humanity which abolished this frightful and degrading custom,
may extend itself to other usages equally barbarous; usages which
have not even the plea of utility in their defence, as every year's
experience has shown them to be more and more inefficacious.

Leaving the chapel, descending to the passage so frequently alluded
to, and crossing the yard before noticed as being allotted to
prisoners of a more respectable description than the generality of
men confined here, the visitor arrives at a thick iron gate of
great size and strength. Having been admitted through it by the
turnkey on duty, he turns sharp round to the left, and pauses
before another gate; and, having passed this last barrier, he
stands in the most terrible part of this gloomy building--the
condemned ward.

The press-yard, well known by name to newspaper readers, from its
frequent mention in accounts of executions, is at the corner of the
building, and next to the ordinary's house, in Newgate-street:
running from Newgate-street, towards the centre of the prison,
parallel with Newgate-market. It is a long, narrow court, of which
a portion of the wall in Newgate-street forms one end, and the gate
the other. At the upper end, on the left hand--that is, adjoining
the wall in Newgate-street--is a cistern of water, and at the
bottom a double grating (of which the gate itself forms a part)
similar to that before described. Through these grates the
prisoners are allowed to see their friends; a turnkey always
remaining in the vacant space between, during the whole interview.
Immediately on the right as you enter, is a building containing the
press-room, day-room, and cells; the yard is on every side
surrounded by lofty walls guarded by chevaux de frise; and the
whole is under the constant inspection of vigilant and experienced

In the first apartment into which we were conducted--which was at
the top of a staircase, and immediately over the press-room--were
five-and-twenty or thirty prisoners, all under sentence of death,
awaiting the result of the recorder's report--men of all ages and
appearances, from a hardened old offender with swarthy face and
grizzly beard of three days' growth, to a handsome boy, not
fourteen years old, and of singularly youthful appearance even for
that age, who had been condemned for burglary. There was nothing
remarkable in the appearance of these prisoners. One or two
decently-dressed men were brooding with a dejected air over the
fire; several little groups of two or three had been engaged in
conversation at the upper end of the room, or in the windows; and
the remainder were crowded round a young man seated at a table, who
appeared to be engaged in teaching the younger ones to write. The
room was large, airy, and clean. There was very little anxiety or
mental suffering depicted in the countenance of any of the men;--
they had all been sentenced to death, it is true, and the
recorder's report had not yet been made; but, we question whether
there was a man among them, notwithstanding, who did not KNOW that
although he had undergone the ceremony, it never was intended that
his life should be sacrificed. On the table lay a Testament, but
there were no tokens of its having been in recent use.

In the press-room below, were three men, the nature of whose
offence rendered it necessary to separate them, even from their
companions in guilt. It is a long, sombre room, with two windows
sunk into the stone wall, and here the wretched men are pinioned on
the morning of their execution, before moving towards the scaffold.
The fate of one of these prisoners was uncertain; some mitigatory
circumstances having come to light since his trial, which had been
humanely represented in the proper quarter. The other two had
nothing to expect from the mercy of the crown; their doom was
sealed; no plea could be urged in extenuation of their crime, and
they well knew that for them there was no hope in this world. 'The
two short ones,' the turnkey whispered, 'were dead men.'

The man to whom we have alluded as entertaining some hopes of
escape, was lounging, at the greatest distance he could place
between himself and his companions, in the window nearest to the
door. He was probably aware of our approach, and had assumed an
air of courageous indifference; his face was purposely averted
towards the window, and he stirred not an inch while we were
present. The other two men were at the upper end of the room. One
of them, who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his back
towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on
the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it. The other was leaning
on the sill of the farthest window. The light fell full upon him,
and communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an
appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly. His cheek rested
upon his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes
wildly staring before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on
counting the chinks in the opposite wall. We passed this room
again afterwards. The first man was pacing up and down the court
with a firm military step--he had been a soldier in the foot-

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