By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: London Labour and the London Poor (Vol. 3 of 4)
Author: Mayhew, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "London Labour and the London Poor (Vol. 3 of 4)" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


  A Cyclopædia of the Condition and Earnings










  First edition                                  1851
  (_Volume One only and parts of Volumes Two and Three_)
  Enlarged edition (Four volumes)             1861-62
  New impression                                 1865





  THE DESTROYERS OF VERMIN                           1
  STREET-EXHIBITORS                                 43
  STREET-MUSICIANS                                 158
  STREET-VOCALISTS                                 190
  STREET-ARTISTS                                   204
  EXHIBITORS OF TRAINED ANIMALS                    214
  SKILLED AND UNSKILLED LABOUR                     221
  GARRET-MASTERS                                   221
  THE COAL-HEAVERS                                 234
  BALLAST-MEN                                      265
  LUMPERS                                          288
  THE DOCK-LABOURERS                               300
  CHEAP LODGING-HOUSES                             312
  LONDON CAB-DRIVERS                               351
  LONDON CARMEN AND PORTERS                        357
  LONDON VAGRANTS                                  368
  MEETING OF TICKET-OF-LEAVE MEN                   430


  JACK BLACK, RAT-KILLER TO HER MAJESTY                    11
  PUNCH’S SHOWMAN, WITH ASSISTANT                          45
  GUY FAUX                                                 63
  STREET-TELESCOPE EXHIBITOR                               81
  STREET-ACROBATS PERFORMING                               93
  STREET-CONJUROR                                         117
  CIRCUS-CLOWN AT FAIR                                    132
  STREET-PERFORMERS ON STILTS                             150
  OLD SARAH                                               160
  ETHIOPIAN SERENADERS                                    190
  BALLAST-HEAVERS AT WORK IN THE POOL                     279
  A DINNER AT A CHEAP LODGING-HOUSE                       314
  CAB-DRIVER                                              351
  STREET TICKET-PORTERS WITH KNOT                         364
  MEETING OF TICKET-OF-LEAVE MEN                          430






In “the Brill,” or rather in Brill-place, Somers’-town, there is a
variety of courts branching out into Chapel-street, and in one of the
most angular and obscure of these is to be found a perfect nest of
rat-catchers--not altogether professional rat-catchers, but for the
most part sporting mechanics and costermongers. The court is not easily
to be found, being inhabited by men not so well known in the immediate
neighbourhood as perhaps a mile or two away, and only to be discovered
by the aid and direction of the little girl at the neighbouring
cat’s-meat shop.

My first experience of this court was the usual disturbance at the
entrance. I found one end or branch of it filled with a mob of eager
listeners, principally women, all attracted to a particular house by
the sounds of quarrelling. One man gave it as his opinion that the
disturbers must have earned too much money yesterday; and a woman,
speaking to another who had just come out, lifting up both her hands
and laughing, said, “Here they are--_at it_ again!”

The rat-killer whom we were in search of was out at his stall in
Chapel-street when we called, but his wife soon fetched him. He was a
strong, sturdy-looking man, rather above the middle height, with light
hair, ending in sandy whiskers, reaching under his chin, sharp deep-set
eyes, a tight-skinned nose that looked as if the cuticle had been
stretched to its utmost on its bridge. He was dressed in the ordinary
corduroy costermonger habit, having, in addition, a dark blue Guernsey
drawn over his waistcoat.

The man’s first anxiety was to show us that rats were not his only
diversion; and in consequence he took us into the yard of the house,
where in a shed lay a bull-dog, a bull-bitch, and a litter of pups just
a week old. They did not belong to him, but he said he did a good deal
in the way of curing dogs when he could get ’em.

On a shelf in this shed were two large dishes, the one containing
mussels without the shells, and the other eels; these are the
commodities in which he deals at present, so that he is properly what
one would call a “pickled-eel seller.”

We found his room on the first-floor clean and tidy, of a good
size, containing two bedsteads and a large sea-chest, besides an
old-fashioned, rickety, mahogany table, while in a far corner of the
room, perhaps waiting for the cold weather and the winter’s fire, was
an arm-chair. Behind the door hung a couple of dog-leads, made of
strong leather, and ornamented with brass. Against one side of the
wall were two framed engravings of animals, and a sort of chart of
animated nature, while over the mantel-shelf was a variety of most
characteristic articles. Among these appeared a model of a bull-dog’s
head, cut out of sandstone, and painted in imitation of nature--a most
marvellous piece of ugliness. “He was the best dog I ever see,” said
the host, “and when I parted with him for a ten-pound note, a man as
worked in the New Road took and made this model--he was a real beauty,
was that dog. The man as carved that there, didn’t have no difficulty
in holdin’ him still, becos he was very good at that sort o’ thing; and
when he’d looked at anything he couldn’t be off doin’ it.”

There were also a great many common prints about the walls, “a penny
each, frame and all,” amongst which were four dogs--all ratting--a game
cock, two Robinson Crusoes, and three scripture subjects.

There was, besides, a photograph of another favourite dog which he’d
“had give him.”

The man apologised for the bareness of the room, but said, “You see,
master, my brother went over to ’Merica contracting for a railway
under Peto’s, and they sends to me about a year ago, telling me to get
together as many likely fellows as I could (about a dozen), and take
them over as excavators; and when I was ready, to go to Peto’s and get
what money I wanted. But when I’d got the men, sold off all my sticks,
and went for the money, they told me my brother had got plenty, and
that if he wanted me he ought to be ashamed of hisself not to send some
over hisself; so I just got together these few things again, and I
ain’t heard of nothing at all about it since.”

After I had satisfied him that I was not a collector of dog-tax, trying
to find out how many animals he kept, he gave me what he evidently
thought was “a treat”--a peep at his bull-dog, which he fetched from
upstairs, and let it jump about the room with a most unpleasant
liberty, informing me the while how he had given five pound for him,
and that one of the first pups he got by a bull he had got five pounds
for, and that cleared him. “That Punch” (the bull-dog’s name), he
said, “is as quiet as a lamb--wouldn’t hurt nobody; I frequently takes
him through the streets without a lead. Sartainly he killed a cat the
t’other afternoon, but he couldn’t help that, ’cause the cat flew at
him; though he took it as quietly as a man would a woman in a passion,
and only went at her just to save his eyes. But you couldn’t easy get
him off, master, when he once got a holt. He was a good one for rats,
and, he believed, the stanchest and tricksiest dog in London.”

When he had taken the brute upstairs, for which I was not a little
thankful, the man made the following statement:--

“I a’n’t a Londoner. I’ve travelled all about the country. I’m a
native of Iver, in Buckinghamshire. I’ve been three year here at these
lodgings, and five year in London altogether up to last September.

“Before I come to London I was nothink, sir--a labouring man, an
eshkewator. I come to London the same as the rest, to do anythink I
could. I was at work at the eshkewations at King’s Cross Station. I
work as hard as any man in London, I think.

“When the station was finished, I, having a large family, thought
I’d do the best I could, so I went to be foreman at the Caledonian
Sawmills. I stopped there a twelvemonth; but one day I went for a load
and a-half of lime, and where you fetches a load and a-half of lime
they always gives you fourpence. So as I was having a pint of beer out
of it, my master come by and saw me drinking, and give me the sack.
Then he wanted me to ax his pardon, and I might stop; but I told him I
wouldn’t beg no one’s pardon for drinking a pint of beer as was give
me. So I left there.

“Ever since the Great Western was begun, my family has been distributed
all over the country, wherever there was a railway making. My brothers
were contractors for Peto, and I generally worked for my brothers; but
they’ve gone to America, and taken a contract for a railway at St.
John’s, New Brunswick, British North America. I can do anything in the
eshkewating way--I don’t care what it is.

“After I left the Caledonian Sawmills I went to Billingsgate, and
bought anythink I could see a chance of gettin’ a shilling out on, or
to’ards keeping my family.

“All my lifetime I’ve been a-dealing a little in rats; but it was not
till I come to London that I turned my mind fully to that sort of
thing. My father always had a great notion of the same. We all like the
sport. When any on us was in the country, and the farmers wanted us to,
we’d do it. If anybody heerd tell of my being an activish chap like, in
that sort of way, they’d get me to come for a day or so.

“If anybody has a place that’s eaten up with rats, I goes and gets some
ferruts, and takes a dog, if I’ve got one, and manages to kill ’em.
Sometimes I keep my own ferruts, but mostly I borrows them. This young
man that’s with me, he’ll sometimes have an order to go fifty or sixty
mile into the country, and then he buys his ferruts, or gets them the
best way he can. They charges a good sum for the loan of ’em--sometimes
as much as you get for the job.

“You can buy ferruts at Leadenhall-market for 5_s._ or 7_s._--it all
depends; you can’t get them all at one price, some of ’em is real
cowards to what others is; some won’t even kill a rat. The way we tries
’em is, we puts ’em down anywhere, in a room maybe, with a rat, and if
they smell about and won’t go up to it, why they won’t do; ’cause you
see, sometimes the ferrut has to go up a hole, and at the end there may
be a dozen or sixteen rats, and if he hasn’t got the heart to tackle
one on ’em, why he ain’t worth a farden.

“I have kept ferruts for four or five months at a time, but they’re
nasty stinking things. I’ve had them get loose; but, bless you, they
do no harm, they’re as hinnocent as cats; they won’t hurt nothink;
you can play with them like a kitten. Some puts things down to ketch
rats--sorts of pison, which is their secret--but I don’t. I relies upon
my dogs and ferruts, and nothink else.

“I went to destroy a few rats up at Russell-square; there was a shore
come right along, and a few holes--they was swarmed with ’em there--and
didn’t know how it was; but the cleverest men in the world couldn’t
ketch many there, ’cause you see, master, they run down the hole into
the shore, and no dog could get through a rat-hole.

“I couldn’t get my living, though, at that business. If any gentleman
comes to me and says he wants a dog cured, or a few rats destroyed, I
does it.

“In the country they give you fourpence a rat, and you can kill
sometimes as many in a farmyard as you can in London. The most I
ever got for destroying rats was four bob, and then I filled up the
brickwork and made the holes good, and there was no more come.

“I calls myself a coster; some calls theirselves general dealers, but
I doesn’t. I goes to market, and if one thing don’t suit, why I buys

“I don’t know whether you’ve heerd of it, master, or not, but I’m the
man as they say kills rats--that’s to say, I kills ’em like a dog. I’m
almost ashamed to mention it, and I shall never do it any more, but
I’ve killed rats for a wager often. You see it’s only been done like
for a lark; we’ve bin all together daring one another, and trying to
do something as nobody else could. I remember the first time I did it
for a wager, it was up at ----, where they’ve got a pit. There was a
bull-dog a killing rats, so I says,

“‘Oh, that’s a duffin’ dog; any dog could kill quicker than him. I’d
kill again him myself.’

“Well, then they chaffed me, and I warn’t goin’ to be done; so I says,

“‘I’ll kill again that dog for a sov’rin.’

“The sov’rin was staked. I went down to kill eight rats again the dog,
and I beat him. I killed ’em like a dog, with my teeth. I went down
hands and knees and bit ’em. I’ve done it three times for a sov’rin,
and I’ve won each time. I feels very much ashamed of it, though.

“On the hind part of my neck, as you may see, sir, there’s a scar;
that’s where I was bit by one; the rat twisted hisself round and held
on like a vice. It was very bad, sir, for a long time; it festered, and
broke out once or twice, but it’s all right now.”


“The rat, though small, weak, and contemptible in its appearance,
possesses properties that render it a more formidable enemy to mankind,
and more injurious to the interests of society, than even those animals
that are endued with the greatest strength and the most rapacious
dispositions. To the one we can oppose united powers and superior arts;
with regard to the other, experience has convinced us that no art can
counteract the effects of its amazing fecundity, and that force is
ineffectually directed against an animal possessed of such variety of
means to elude it.

“There are two kinds of rats known in this country,--the black rat,
which was formerly universal here, but is now very rarely seen, having
been almost extirpated by the large brown kind, which is generally
distinguished by the name of the _Norway rat_.

“This formidable invader is now universally diffused through the whole
country, from whence every method has been tried in vain to exterminate
it. This species is about nine inches long, of a light-brown colour,
mixed with tawny and ash; the throat and belly are of a dirty white,
inclining to grey; its feet are naked, and of a pale flesh-colour;
the tail is as long as the body, covered with minute dusky scales,
thinly interspersed with short hairs. In summer it frequents the banks
of rivers, ponds, and ditches, where it lives on frogs, fishes, and
small animals. But its rapacity is not entirely confined to these. It
destroys rabbits, poultry, young pigeons, &c. It infests the granary,
the barn, and the storehouse; does infinite mischief among corn and
fruit of all kinds; and not content with satisfying its hunger,
frequently carries off large quantities to its hiding-place. It is a
bold and fierce little animal, and when closely pursued, will turn and
fasten on its assailant. Its bite is keen, and the wound it inflicts is
painful and difficult to heal, owing to the form of its teeth, which
are long, sharp, and of an irregular shape.

“The rat is amazingly prolific, usually producing from twelve to
eighteen young ones at one time. Their numbers would soon increase
beyond all power of restraint, were it not for an insatiable appetite,
that impels them to destroy and devour each other. The weaker always
fall a prey to the stronger; and a large male rat, which usually
lives by itself, is dreaded by those of its own species as their most
formidable enemy.

“It is a singular fact in the history of those animals, that the skins
of such of them as have been devoured in their holes have frequently
been found curiously turned inside out, every part being completely
inverted, even to the ends of the toes. How the operation is performed
it would be difficult to ascertain; but it appears to be effected in
some peculiar mode of eating out the contents.

“Besides the numbers that perish in these unnatural conflicts, they
have many fierce and inveterate enemies, that take every occasion to
destroy them. Mankind have contrived various methods of exterminating
these bold intruders. For this purpose traps are often found
ineffectual, such being the sagacity of the animals, that when any
are drawn into the snare, the others by such means learn to avoid the
dangerous allurement, notwithstanding the utmost caution may have
been used to conceal the design. The surest method of killing them
is by poison. Nux vomica ground and mixed with oatmeal, with a small
proportion of oil of rhodium and musk, have been found from experience
to be very effectual.

“The water-rat is somewhat smaller than the Norway rat; its head larger
and its nose thicker; its eyes are small; its ears short; scarcely
appearing through the hair; its teeth are large, strong, and yellow;
the hair on its body thicker and longer than that of the common rat,
and chiefly of a dark brown colour mixed with red; the belly is grey;
the tail five inches long, covered with short black hairs, and the tip
with white.

“The water-rat generally frequents the sides of rivers, ponds, and
ditches, where it burrows and forms its nest. It feeds on frogs, small
fish and spawn, swims and dives remarkably fast, and can continue a
long time under water.”[1]

[1] Bewick’s _History of Quadrupeds_, 1790, 354 _et seq._

In Mr. Charles Fothergill’s _Essay on the Philosophy, Study, and Use of
Natural History_ (1813), we find some reflections which remind us of
Ray and Derham. We shall extract a few paragraphs which relate to the
subject in hand.

“Nothing can afford a finer illustration of the beautiful order and
simplicity of the laws which govern the creation, than the certainty,
precision, and regularity with which the natural checks in the
superabundant increase of each tribe of animals are managed; and
every family is subject to the operation of checks peculiar to the
species--whatever it may be--and established by a wise law of the
Most High, to counteract the fatal effects that might arise from an
ever-active populative principle. It is by the admirable disposition
of these checks, the contemplation of which is alone sufficient to
astonish the loftiest and most comprehensive soul of man, that the
whole system of animal life, in all its various forms, is kept in due
strength and equilibrium.

“This subject is worthy of the naturalist’s most serious consideration.”

“This great law,” Mr. F. proceeds, “pervades and affects the whole
animal creation, and so active, unwearied, and rapid is the principle
of increase over the means of subsistence amongst the inferior animals,
that it is evident whole genera of carnivorous beings amongst beasts,
birds, fish, reptiles, and insects, have been created for the _express
purpose_ (?) of suppressing the redundancy of others, and restraining
their numbers within proper limits.

“But even the natural checks are insufficient to restrain the effects
of a too-rapid populative principle in some animals, which have,
therefore, certain destructive propensities given to them by the
Creator, that operate powerfully upon themselves and their offspring,
as may be particularly observed in the natural history of the _rabbit_,
but which is still more evidently and strikingly displayed in the life
and economy of the _rat_.

“It has been calculated by Mr. Pennant, and there can be no doubt of
the truth of the statement, that the astonishing number of 1,274,840
may be produced from a single pair of rabbits in the short space of
four years, as these animals in their wild state breed seven times in
a-year, and generally produce eight young ones each time. They are
capable of procreation at the age of five or six months, and the doe
carries her burthen no more than thirty days.

“But the principle of increase is much more powerful, active, and
effective in the common grey rat than in any other animal of equal
size. This destructive animal is continually under the _furor_ of
animal love. The female carries her young for one month only; and she
seldom or never produces a less number than twelve, but sometimes as
many as eighteen at a litter--the medium number may be taken for an
average--and the period of gestation, though of such short continuance,
is confined to no particular season of the year.

“The embraces of the male are admitted immediately after the birth
of the vindictive progeny; and it is a fact which I have ascertained
beyond any doubt, that the female suckles her young ones almost to the
very moment when another litter is dropping into the world as their

“A celebrated Yorkshire rat-catcher whom I have occasionally employed,
one day killed a large female rat, that was in the act of suckling
twelve young ones, which had attained a very considerable growth;
nevertheless, upon opening her swollen body, he found thirteen
quick young, that were within a few days of their birth. Supposing,
therefore, that the rat produces ten litters in the course of a year,
and that no check on their increase should operate destructively for
the space of four years, a number not far short of 3,000,000 might be
produced from a single pair in that time!

“Now, the consequence of such an active and productive principle of
increase, if suffered continually to operate without check, would soon
be fatally obvious. We have heard of fertile plains devastated, and
large towns undermined, in Spain, by rabbits; and even that a military
force from Rome was once requested of the great Augustus to suppress
the astonishing numbers of the same animal overrunning the island of
Majorca and Minorca. This circumstance is recorded by Pliny.

“If, therefore, rats were suffered to multiply without the restraint
of the most powerful and positive natural checks, not only would
fertile plains and rich cities be undermined and destroyed, but the
whole surface of the earth in a very few years would be rendered
a barren and hideous waste, covered with myriads of famished grey
rats, against which man himself would contend in vain. But the same
Almighty Being who perceived a necessity for their existence, has also
restricted their numbers within proper bounds, by creating to them many
very powerful enemies, and still more effectually by establishing a
propensity in themselves, the gratification of which has continually
the effect of lessening their numbers, even more than any of their
foreign enemies.

“The male rat has an insatiable thirst for the blood of his own
offspring; the female, being aware of this passion, hides her young
in such secret places as she supposes likely to escape notice or
discovery, till her progeny are old enough to venture forth and stand
upon their own energies; but, notwithstanding this precaution, the
male rat frequently discovers them, and destroys as many as he can;
nor is the defence of the mother any very effectual protection, since
she herself sometimes falls a victim to her temerity and her maternal

“Besides this propensity to the destruction of their own offspring,
when other food fails them, rats hunt down and prey upon each other
with the most ferocious and desperate avidity, inasmuch as it not
unfrequently happens, in a colony of these destructive animals, that
a single male of more than ordinary powers, after having overcome and
devoured all competitors with the exception of a few females, reigns
the sole bloody and much-dreaded tyrant over a considerable territory,
dwelling by himself in some solitary hole, and never appearing abroad
without spreading terror and dismay even amongst the females whose
embraces he seeks. In this relentless and bloody character may be found
one of the most powerful and positive of the checks which operate to
the repression of this species within proper bounds; a character which
attaches, in a greater or less degree, to the whole _Mus_ genus, and in
which we may readily perceive the cause of the extirpation of the old
black rats of England, _Mus rathus_; for the large grey rats, having
superior bodily powers united to the same carnivorous propensities,
would easily conquer and destroy their black opponents wherever
they could be found, and whenever they met to dispute the title of
possession or of sovereignty.”

When the young rats begin to issue from their holes, the mother
watches, defends, and even fights with the cats, in order to save them.
A large rat is more mischievous than a young cat, and nearly as strong:
the rat uses her fore-teeth, and the cat makes most use of her claws;
so that the latter requires both to be vigorous and accustomed to
fight, in order to destroy her adversary.

The weasel, though smaller, is a much more dangerous and formidable
enemy to the rat, because it can follow it into its retreat. Its
strength being nearly equal to that of the rat, the combat often
continues for a long time, but the method of using their arms by the
opponents is very different. The rat wounds only by repeated strokes
with his fore-teeth, which are better formed for gnawing than biting;
and, being situated at the extremity of the lever or jaw, they have
not much force. But the weasel bites cruelly with the whole jaw, and,
instead of letting go its hold, sucks the blood from the wounded part,
so that the rat is always killed.


Considering the immense number of rats which form an article of
commerce with many of the lower orders, whose business it is to keep
them for the purpose of rat matches, I thought it necessary, for the
full elucidation of my subject, to visit the well-known public-house
in London, where, on a certain night in the week, a pit is built up,
and regular rat-killing matches take place, and where those who have
sporting dogs, and are anxious to test their qualities, can, after such
matches are finished, purchase half a dozen or a dozen rats for them to
practise upon, and judge for themselves of their dogs’ “performances.”

To quote the words printed on the proprietor’s card, “he is always at
his old house at home, as usual, to discuss the FANCY generally.”

I arrived at about eight o’clock at the tavern where the performances
were to take place. I was too early, but there was plenty to occupy my
leisure in looking at the curious scene around me, and taking notes of
the habits and conversation of the customers who were flocking in.

The front of the long bar was crowded with men of every grade of
society, all smoking, drinking, and talking about dogs. Many of them
had brought with them their “fancy” animals, so that a kind of “canine
exhibition” was going on; some carried under their arm small bull-dogs,
whose flat pink noses rubbed against my arm as I passed; others
had Skye-terriers, curled up like balls of hair, and sleeping like
children, as they were nursed by their owners. The only animals that
seemed awake, and under continual excitement, were the little brown
English terriers, who, despite the neat black leathern collars by which
they were held, struggled to get loose, as if they smelt the rats in
the room above, and were impatient to begin the fray.

There is a business-like look about this tavern which at once lets you
into the character of the person who owns it. The drinking seems to
have been a secondary notion in its formation, for it is a low-roofed
room without any of those adornments which are now generally considered
so necessary to render a public-house attractive. The tubs where the
spirits are kept are blistered with the heat of the gas, and so dirty
that the once brilliant gilt hoops are now quite black.

Sleeping on an old hall-chair lay an enormous white bulldog, “a
great beauty,” as I was informed, with a head as round and smooth as
a clenched boxing-glove, and seemingly too large for the body. Its
forehead appeared to protrude in a manner significant of water on the
brain, and almost overhung the short nose, through which the animal
breathed heavily. When this dog, which was the admiration of all
beholders, rose up, its legs were as bowed as a tailor’s, leaving a
peculiar pear-shaped opening between them, which, I was informed, was
one of its points of beauty. It was a white dog, with a sore look, from
its being peculiarly pink round the eyes, nose, and indeed at all the
edges of its body.

On the other side of the fire-place was a white bull-terrier dog, with
a black patch over the eye, which gave him rather a disreputable look.
This animal was watching the movements of the customers in front, and
occasionally, when the entrance-door was swung back, would give a growl
of inquiry as to what the fresh-comer wanted. The proprietor was kind
enough to inform me, as he patted this animal’s ribs, which showed
like the hoops on a butter-firkin, that he considered there had been a
“little of the greyhound in some of his back generations.”

About the walls were hung clusters of black leather collars, adorned
with brass rings and clasps, and pre-eminent was a silver dog-collar,
which, from the conversation of those about me, I learnt was to be the
prize in a rat-match to be “killed for” in a fortnight’s time.

As the visitors poured in, they, at the request of the proprietor “not
to block up the bar,” took their seats in the parlour, and, accompanied
by a waiter, who kept shouting, “Give your orders, gentlemen,” I
entered the room.

I found that, like the bar, no pains had been taken to render the room
attractive to the customers, for, with the exception of the sporting
pictures hung against the dingy paper, it was devoid of all adornment.
Over the fireplace were square glazed boxes, in which were the stuffed
forms of dogs famous in their day. Pre-eminent among the prints was
that representing the “Wonder” Tiny, “five pounds and a half in
weight,” as he appeared killing 200 rats. This engraving had a singular
look, from its having been printed upon a silk handkerchief. Tiny had
been a great favourite with the proprietor, and used to wear a lady’s
bracelet as a collar.

Among the stuffed heads was one of a white bull-dog, with tremendous
glass eyes sticking out, as if it had died of strangulation. The
proprietor’s son was kind enough to explain to me the qualities that
had once belonged to this favourite. “They’ve spoilt her in stuffing,
sir,” he said; “made her so short in the head; but she was the wonder
of her day. There wasn’t a dog in England as would come nigh her.
There’s her daughter,” he added, pointing to another head, something
like that of a seal, “but she wasn’t reckoned half as handsome as her
mother, though she was very much admired in her time.

“That there _is_ a dog,” he continued, pointing to one represented with
a rat in its mouth, “it was as good as any in England, though it’s so
small. I’ve seen her kill a dozen rats almost as big as herself, though
they killed _her_ at last; for sewer-rats are dreadful for giving dogs
canker in the mouth, and she wore herself out with continually killing
them, though we always rinsed her mouth out well with peppermint and
water while she were at work. When rats bite they are pisonous, and
an ulcer is formed, which we are obleeged to lance; that’s what killed

The company assembled in “the parlour” consisted of sporting men, or
those who, from curiosity, had come to witness what a rat-match was
like. Seated at the same table, talking together, were those dressed
in the costermonger’s suit of corduroy, soldiers with their uniforms
carelessly unbuttoned, coachmen in their livery, and tradesmen who had
slipped on their evening frock-coats, and run out from the shop to see
the sport.

The dogs belonging to the company were standing on the different
tables, or tied to the legs of the forms, or sleeping in their owners’
arms, and were in turn minutely criticised--their limbs being stretched
out as if they were being felt for fractures, and their mouths looked
into, as if a dentist were examining their teeth. Nearly all the
little animals were marked with scars from bites. “Pity to bring him
up to rat-killing,” said one, who had been admiring a fierce-looking
bull-terrier, although he did not mention at the same time what line in
life the little animal ought to pursue.

At another table one man was declaring that his pet animal was the
exact image of the celebrated rat-killing dog “Billy,” at the same time
pointing to the picture against the wall of that famous animal, “as he
performed his wonderful feat of killing 500 rats in five minutes and a

There were amongst the visitors some French gentlemen, who had
evidently witnessed nothing of the kind before; and whilst they
endeavoured to drink their hot gin and water, they made their
interpreter translate to them the contents of a large placard hung upon
a hatpeg, and headed--



About nine o’clock the proprietor took the chair in the parlour, at the
same time giving the order to “shut up the shutters in the room above,
and light up the pit.” This announcement seemed to rouse the spirits
of the impatient assembly, and even the dogs tied to the legs of the
tables ran out to the length of their leathern thongs, and their tails
curled like eels, as if they understood the meaning of the words.

“Why, that’s the little champion,” said the proprietor, patting a dog
with thighs like a grasshopper, and whose mouth opened back to its
ears. “Well, it _is_ a beauty! I wish I could gammon you to take a
‘fiver’ for it.” Then looking round the room, he added, “Well, gents,
I’m glad to see you look so comfortable.”


[_From a Photograph._]]

The performances of the evening were somewhat hurried on by the
entering of a young gentleman, whom the waiters called “Cap’an.”

“Now, Jem, when is this match coming off?” the Captain asked
impatiently; and despite the assurance that they were getting
ready, he threatened to leave the place if kept waiting much longer.
This young officer seemed to be a great “fancier” of dogs, for he
made the round of the room, handling each animal in its turn, feeling
and squeezing its feet, and scrutinising its eyes and limbs with such
minuteness, that the French gentlemen were forced to inquire who he was.

There was no announcement that the room above was ready, though
everybody seemed to understand it; for all rose at once, and
mounting the broad wooden staircase, which led to what was once
the “drawing-room,” dropped their shillings into the hand of the
proprietor, and entered the rat-killing apartment.

“The pit,” as it is called, consists of a small circus, some six feet
in diameter. It is about as large as a centre flower-bed, and is fitted
with a high wooden rim that reaches to elbow height. Over it the
branches of a gas lamp are arranged, which light up the white painted
floor, and every part of the little arena. On one side of the room
is a recess, which the proprietor calls his “private box,” and this
apartment the Captain and his friend soon took possession of, whilst
the audience generally clambered upon the tables and forms, or hung
over the sides of the pit itself.

All the little dogs which the visitors had brought up with them were
now squalling and barking, and struggling in their masters’ arms, as if
they were thoroughly acquainted with the uses of the pit; and when a
rusty wire cage of rats, filled with the dark moving mass, was brought
forward, the noise of the dogs was so great that the proprietor was
obliged to shout out--“Now, you that have dogs _do_ make ’em shut up.”

The Captain was the first to jump into the pit. A man wanted to sell
him a bull-terrier, spotted like a fancy rabbit, and a dozen of rats
was the consequent order.

The Captain preferred pulling the rats out of the cage himself, laying
hold of them by their tails and jerking them into the arena. He was
cautioned by one of the men not to let them bite him, for “believe me,”
were the words, “you’ll never forget, Cap’an; these ’ere are none of
the cleanest.”

Whilst the rats were being counted out, some of those that had been
taken from the cage ran about the painted floor and climbed up the
young officer’s legs, making him shake them off and exclaim, “Get out,
you varmint!” whilst others of the ugly little animals sat upon their
hind legs, cleaning their faces with their paws.

When the dog in question was brought forth and shown the dozen rats, he
grew excited, and stretched himself in his owner’s arms, whilst all the
other animals joined in a full chorus of whining.

“Chuck him in,” said the Captain, and over went the dog; and in a
second the rats were running round the circus, or trying to hide
themselves between the small openings in the boards round the pit.

Although the proprietor of the dog endeavoured to speak up for it, by
declaring “it was a good ’un, and a very pretty performer,” still it
was evidently not worth much in a rat-killing sense; and if it had not
been for his “second,” who beat the sides of the pit with his hand, and
shouted “Hi! hi! at ’em!” in a most bewildering manner, we doubt if
the terrier would not have preferred leaving the rats to themselves,
to enjoy their lives. Some of the rats, when the dog advanced towards
them, sprang up in his face, making him draw back with astonishment.
Others, as he bit them, curled round in his mouth and fastened on his
nose, so that he had to carry them as a cat does its kittens. It also
required many shouts of “Drop it--dead ’un,” before he would leave
those he had killed.

We cannot say whether the dog was eventually bought; but from its
owner’s exclaiming, in a kind of apologetic tone, “Why, he never saw a
rat before in all his life,” we fancy no dealings took place.

The Captain seemed anxious to see as much sport as he could, for he
frequently asked those who carried dogs in their arms whether “his
little ’un would kill,” and appeared sorry when such answers were given
as--“My dog’s mouth’s a little out of order, Cap’an,” or “I’ve only
tried him at very small ’uns.”

One little dog was put in the pit to amuse himself with the dead
bodies. He seized hold of one almost as big as himself, shook it
furiously till the head thumped the floor like a drumstick, making
those around shout with laughter, and causing one man to exclaim, “He’s
a good ’un at shaking heads and tails, ain’t he?”

Preparations now began for the grand match of the evening, in which
fifty rats were to be killed. The “dead ’uns” were gathered up by their
tails and flung into the corner. The floor was swept, and a big flat
basket produced, like those in which chickens are brought to market,
and under whose iron wire top could be seen small mounds of closely
packed rats.

This match seemed to be between the proprietor and his son, and the
stake to be gained was only a bottle of lemonade, of which the father
stipulated he should have first drink.

It was strange to observe the daring manner in which the lad introduced
his hand into the rat cage, sometimes keeping it there for more than a
minute at a time, as he fumbled about and stirred up with his fingers
the living mass, picking out, as he had been requested, “only the big

When the fifty animals had been flung into the pit, they gathered
themselves together into a mound which reached one-third up the sides,
and which reminded one of the heap of hair-sweepings in a barber’s shop
after a heavy day’s cutting. These were all sewer and water-ditch
rats, and the smell that rose from them was like that from a hot drain.

The Captain amused himself by flicking at them with his pocket
handkerchief, and offering them the lighted end of his cigar, which the
little creatures tamely snuffed at, and drew back from, as they singed
their noses.

It was also a favourite amusement to blow on the mound of rats, for
they seemed to dislike the cold wind, which sent them fluttering about
like so many feathers; indeed, whilst the match was going on, whenever
the little animals collected together, and formed a barricade as it
were to the dog, the cry of “Blow on ’em! blow on ’em!” was given by
the spectators, and the dog’s second puffed at them as if extinguishing
a fire, when they would dart off like so many sparks.

The company was kept waiting so long for the match to begin that
the impatient Captain again threatened to leave the house, and was
only quieted by the proprietor’s reply of “My dear friend, be easy,
the boy’s on the stairs with the dog;” and true enough we shortly
heard a wheezing and a screaming in the passage without, as if some
strong-winded animal were being strangled, and presently a boy entered,
carrying in his arms a bull-terrier in a perfect fit of excitement,
foaming at the mouth and stretching its neck forward, so that the
collar which held it back seemed to be cutting its throat in two.

The animal was nearly mad with rage--scratching and struggling to get
loose. “Lay hold a little closer up to the head or he’ll turn round and
nip yer,” said the proprietor to his son.

Whilst the gasping dog was fastened up in a corner to writhe its
impatience away, the landlord made inquiries for a stop-watch, and also
for an umpire to decide, as he added, “whether the rats were dead or
alive when they’re ‘killed,’ as Paddy says.”

When all the arrangements had been made the “second” and the dog jumped
into the pit, and after “letting him see ’em a bit,” the terrier was
let loose.

The moment the dog was “free,” he became quiet in a most business-like
manner, and rushed at the rats, burying his nose in the mound till he
brought out one in his mouth. In a short time a dozen rats with wetted
necks were lying bleeding on the floor, and the white paint of the pit
became grained with blood.

In a little time the terrier had a rat hanging to his nose, which,
despite his tossing, still held on. He dashed up against the sides,
leaving a patch of blood as if a strawberry had been smashed there.

“He doesn’t squeal, that’s one good thing,” said one of the lookers-on.

As the rats fell on their sides after a bite they were collected
together in the centre, where they lay quivering in their death-gasps!

“Hi, Butcher! hi, Butcher!” shouted the second, “good dog!
bur-r-r-r-r-h!” and he beat the sides of the pit like a drum till the
dog flew about with new life.

“Dead ’un! drop it!” he cried, when the terrier “nosed” a rat kicking
on its side, as it slowly expired of its broken neck.

“Time!” said the proprietor, when four of the eight minutes had
expired, and the dog was caught up and held panting, his neck stretched
out like a serpent’s, staring intently at the rats which still kept
crawling about.

The poor little wretches in this brief interval, as if forgetting their
danger, again commenced cleaning themselves, some nibbling the ends of
their tails, others hopping about, going now to the legs of the lad in
the pit, and sniffing at his trousers, or, strange to say, advancing,
smelling, to within a few paces of their enemy the dog.

The dog lost the match, and the proprietor, we presume, honourably paid
the bottle of lemonade to his son. But he was evidently displeased with
the dog’s behaviour, for he said, “He won’t do for me--he’s not one of
my sort! Here, Jim, tell Mr. G. he may have him if he likes; I won’t
give him house room.”

A plentiful shower of halfpence was thrown into the pit as a reward for
the second who had backed the dog.

A slight pause now took place in the proceedings, during which the
landlord requested that the gentlemen “would give their minds up to
drinking; you know the love I have for you,” he added jocularly, “and
that I don’t care for any of you;” whilst the waiter accompanied the
invitation with a cry of “Give your orders, gentlemen,” and the lad
with the rats asked if “any other gentleman would like any rats.”

Several other dogs were tried, and amongst them one who, from the
size of his stomach, had evidently been accustomed to large dinners,
and looked upon rat-killing as a sport and not as a business. The
appearance of this fat animal was greeted with remarks such as “Why
don’t you feed your dog?” and “You shouldn’t give him more than five
meals a-day.”

Another impatient bull-terrier was thrown into the midst of a dozen
rats. He did his duty so well, that the admiration of the spectators
was focussed upon him.

“Ah,” said one, “_he’d_ do better at a hundred than twelve;” whilst
another observed, “Rat-killing’s _his_ game, I can see;” while the
landlord himself said, “He’s a very pretty creetur’, and I’d back him
to kill against anybody’s dog at eight and a half or nine.”

The Captain was so startled with this terrier’s “cleverness,” that he
vowed that if she could kill fifteen in a minute “he’d give a hundred
guineas for her.”

It was nearly twelve o’clock before the evening’s performance
concluded. Several of the spectators tried their dogs upon two or
three rats, either the biggest or the smallest that could be found: and
many offers as to what “he wanted for the dog,” and many inquiries as
to “who was its father,” were made before the company broke up.

At last the landlord, finding that no “gentleman would like a few
rats,” and that his exhortations to “give their minds up to drinking”
produced no further effect upon the company, spoke the epilogue of the
rat tragedies in these words;--

“Gentlemen, I give a very handsome solid silver collar to be killed for
next Tuesday. Open to all the world, only they must be novice dogs, or
at least such as is not considered _phee_nomenons. We shall have plenty
of sport, gentlemen, and there will be loads of rat-killing. I hope to
see all my kind friends, not forgetting your dogs, likewise; and may
they be like the Irishman all over, who had good trouble to catch and
kill ’em, and took good care they didn’t come to life again. Gentlemen,
there is a good parlour down-stairs, where we meets for harmony and


The proprietor of one of the largest sporting public-houses in London,
who is celebrated for the rat-matches which come off weekly at his
establishment, was kind enough to favour me with a few details as
to the quality of those animals which are destroyed in his pit. His
statement was certainly one of the most curious that I have listened
to, and it was given to me with a readiness and a courtesy of manner
such as I have not often met with during my researches. The landlord
himself is known in pugilistic circles as one of the most skilful
boxers among what is termed the “light weights.”

His statement is curious, as a proof of the large trade which is
carried on in these animals, for it would seem that the men who make a
business of catching rats are not always employed as “exterminators,”
for they make a good living as “purveyors” for supplying the demands of
the sporting portion of London.

“The poor people,” said the sporting landlord, “who supply me with
rats, are what you may call barn-door labouring poor, for they are the
most ignorant people I ever come near. Really you would not believe
people could live in such ignorance. Talk about Latin and Greek,
sir, why English is Latin to them--in fact, I have a difficulty to
understand them myself. When the harvest is got in, they go hunting
the hedges and ditches for rats. Once the farmers had to pay 2_d._
a-head for all rats caught on their grounds, and they nailed them up
against the wall. But now that the rat-ketchers can get 3_d._ each by
bringing the vermin up to town, the farmers don’t pay them anything
for what they ketch, but merely give them permission to hunt them in
their stacks and barns, so that they no longer get their 2_d._ in the
country, though they get their 3_d._ in town.

“I have some twenty families depending upon me. From Clavering, in
Essex, I suppose I have hundreds of thousands of rats sent to me in
wire cages fitted into baskets. From Enfield I have a great quantity,
but the ketchers don’t get them all there, but travel round the country
for scores of miles, for you see 3_d._ a-head is money; besides, there
are some liberal farmers who will still give them a halfpenny a-head
into the bargain. Enfield is a kind of head-quarters for rat-ketchers.

“It’s dangerous work, though, for you see there is a wonderful deal of
difference in the specie of rats. The bite of sewer or water-ditch rats
is very bad. The water and ditch rat lives on filth, but your barn-rat
is a plump fellow, and he lives on the best of everything. He’s well
off. There’s as much difference between the barn and sewer-rats as
between a brewer’s horse and a costermonger’s. Sewer-rats are very bad
for dogs, their coats is poisonous.

“Some of the rats that are brought to me are caught in the warehouses
in the City. Wherever there is anything in the shape of provisions,
there you are sure to find Mr. Rat an intruder. The ketchers are paid
for ketching them in the warehouses, and then they are sold to me
as well, so the men must make a good thing of it. Many of the more
courageous kind of warehousemen will take a pleasure in hunting the
rats themselves.

“I should think I buy in the course of the year, on the average, from
300 to 700 rats a-week.” (Taking 500 as the weekly average, this gives
a yearly purchase of 26,000 live rats.) “That’s what I kill taking all
the year round, you see. Some first-class chaps will come here in the
day-time, and they’ll try their dogs. They’ll say, ‘Jimmy, give the dog
100.’ After he’s polished them off they’ll say, perhaps, ‘Hang it, give
him another 100.’ Bless you!” he added, in a kind of whisper, “I’ve
had noble ladies and titled ladies come here to see the sport--on the
quiet, you know. When my wife was here they would come regular, but now
she’s away they don’t come so often.

“The largest quantity of rats I’ve bought from one man was five
guineas’ worth, or thirty-five dozen at 3_d._ a-head, and that’s a
load for a horse. This man comes up from Clavering in a kind of cart,
with a horse that’s a regular phenomena, for it ain’t like a beast nor
nothing. I pays him a good deal of money at times, and I’m sure I can’t
tell what he does with it; but they _do_ tell me that he deals in old
iron, and goes buying it up, though he don’t seem to have much of a
head-piece for that sort of fancy neither.

“During the harvest-time the rats run scarcer you see, and the ketcher
turns up rat-ketching for harvest work. After the harvest rats gets
plentiful again.

“I’ve had as many as 2000 rats in this very house at one time. They’ll
consume a sack of barley-meal a week, and the brutes, if you don’t give
’em good stuff, they’ll eat one another, hang ’em!

“I’m the oldest canine fancier in London, and I’m the first that
started ratting; in fact, I know I’m the oldest caterer in rat-killing
in the metropolis. I began as a lad, and I had many noble friends,
and was as good a man then as I am now. In fact, when I was seventeen
or eighteen years of age I was just like what my boy is now. I used
at that time to be a great public charakter, and had many liberal
friends--very liberal friends. I used to give them rat sports, and I
have kept to it ever since. My boy can handle rats now just as I used
to then.

“Have I been bit by them? Aye, hundreds of times. Now, some people will
say, ‘Rub yourself over with caraway and stuff, and then rats won’t
bite you.’ But I give you my word and honour it’s all nonsense, sir.

“As I said, I was the first in London to give rat sports, and I’ve kept
to it ever since. Bless you, there’s nothing that a rat won’t bite
through. I’ve seen my lads standing in the pit with the rats running
about them, and if they haven’t taken the precaution to tie their
trousers round with a bit of string at the bottom, they’d have as many
as five or six rats run up their trouser-legs. They’ll deliberately
take off their clothes and pick them out from their shirts, and bosoms,
and breeches. Some people is amused, and others is horror-struck.
People have asked them whether they ain’t rubbed? They’ll say ‘Yes,’
but that’s as a lark; ’cos, sometimes when my boy has been taking
the rats out of the cage, and somebody has taken his attention off,
talking to him, he has had a bite, and will turn to me with his finger
bleeding, and say, ‘Yes, I’m rubbed, ain’t I, father? look here!’

“A rat’s bite is very singular, it’s a three-cornered one, like a
leech’s, only deeper, of course, and it will bleed for ever such a
time. My boys have sometimes had their fingers go dreadfully bad from
rat-bites, so that they turn all black and putrid like--aye, as black
as the horse-hair covering to my sofa. People have said to me, ‘You
ought to send the lad to the hospital, and have his finger took off;’
but I’ve always left it to the lads, and they’ve said, ‘Oh, don’t mind
it, father; it’ll get all right by and by.’ And so it has.

“The best thing I ever found for a rat-bite was the thick bottoms
of porter-casks put on as a poultice. The only thing you can do is
to poultice, and these porter bottoms is so powerful and draws so,
that they’ll actually take thorns out of horses’ hoofs and feet after

“In handling rats, it’s nothing more in the world but nerve that does
it. I should faint now if a rat was to run up my breeches, but I have
known the time when I’ve been kivered with ’em.

“I generally throw my dead rats away now; but two or three years since
my boys took the idea of skinning them into their heads, and they did
about 300 of them, and their skins was very promising. The boys was,
after all, obliged to give them away to a furrier, for my wife didn’t
like the notion, and I said, ‘Throw them away;’ but the idea strikes me
to be something, and one that is lost sight of, for the skins are warm
and handsome-looking--a beautiful grey.

“There’s nothing turns so quickly as dead rats, so I am obleeged to
have my dustmen come round every Wednesday morning; and regularly
enough they call too, for they know where there is a bob and a pot. I
generally prefers using the authorised dustmen, though the others come
sometimes--the flying dustmen they call ’em--and if they’re first, they
has the job.

“It strikes me, though, that to throw away so many valuable skins is a
good thing lost sight of.

“The rats want a deal of watching, and a deal of sorting. Now you can’t
put a sewer and a barn-rat together, it’s like putting a Roosshian and
a Turk under the same roof.

“I can tell a barn-rat from a ship-rat or a sewer-rat in a minute, and
I have to look over my stock when they come in, or they’d fight to the
death. There’s six or seven different kinds of rats, and if we don’t
sort ’em they tear one another to pieces. I think when I have a number
of rats in the house, that I am a lucky man if I don’t find a dozen
dead when I go up to them in the morning; and when I tell you that at
times--when I’ve wanted to make up my number for a match--I’ve given
21_s._ for twenty rats, you may think I lose something that way every
year. Rats, even now, is occasionally 6_s._ a-dozen; but that, I think,
is most inconsistent.

“If I had my will, I wouldn’t allow sewer ratting, for the rats in the
shores eats up a great quantity of sewer filth and rubbish, and is
another specie of scavenger in their own way.”

After finishing his statement, the landlord showed me some very curious
specimens of tame rats--some piebald, and others quite white, with pink
eyes, which he kept in cages in his sitting-room. He took them out from
their cages, and handled them without the least fear, and even handled
them rather rudely, as he showed me the peculiarities of their colours;
yet the little tame creatures did not once attempt to bite him. Indeed,
they appeared to have lost the notion of regaining their liberty, and
when near their cages struggled to return to their nests.

In one of these boxes a black and a white rat were confined together,
and the proprietor, pointing to them, remarked, “I hope they’ll
breed, for though white rats is very scarce, only occurring in fact by
a freak of nature, I fancy I shall be able, with time and trouble, to
breed ’em myself. The old English rat is a small jet-black rat; but the
first white rat as I heard of come out of a burial-ground. At one time
I bred rats very largely, but now I leaves that fancy to my boys, for
I’ve as much as I can do continuing to serve my worthy patrons.”



[_From a Photograph._]]

As I wished to obtain the best information about rat and vermin
destroying, I thought I could not do better now than apply to that
eminent authority “the Queen’s ratcatcher,” and accordingly I sought an
interview with Mr. “Jack” Black, whose hand-bills are headed--“V.R. Rat
and mole destroyer to Her Majesty.”

I had already had a statement from the royal bug-destroyer relative to
the habits and means of exterminating those offensive vermin, and I was
desirous of pairing it with an account of the personal experience of
the Queen of England’s ratcatcher.

In the sporting world, and among his regular customers, the Queen’s
ratcatcher is better known by the name of Jack Black. He enjoys the
reputation of being the most fearless handler of rats of any man
living, playing with them--as one man expressed it to me--“as if they
were so many blind kittens.”

The first time I ever saw Mr. Black was in the streets of London, at
the corner of Hart-street, where he was exhibiting the rapid effects
of his rat poison, by placing some of it in the mouth of a living
animal. He had a cart then with rats painted on the panels, and at the
tailboard, where he stood lecturing, he had a kind of stage rigged up,
on which were cages filled with rats, and pills, and poison packages.

Here I saw him dip his hand into this cage of rats and take out as many
as he could hold, a feat which generally caused an “oh!” of wonder to
escape from the crowd, especially when they observed that his hands
were unbitten. Women more particularly shuddered when they beheld him
place some half-dozen of the dusty-looking brutes within his shirt next
his skin; and men swore the animals had been tamed, as he let them run
up his arms like squirrels, and the people gathered round beheld them
sitting on his shoulders cleaning their faces with their front-paws, or
rising up on their hind legs like little kangaroos, and sniffing about
his ears and cheeks.

But those who knew Mr. Black better, were well aware that the animals
he took up in his hand were as wild as any of the rats in the sewers of
London, and that the only mystery in the exhibition was that of a man
having courage enough to undertake the work.

I afterwards visited Jack Black at his house in Battersea. I had some
difficulty in discovering his country residence, and was indebted to
a group of children gathered round and staring at the bird-cage in the
window of his cottage for his address. Their exclamations of delight at
a grey parrot climbing with his beak and claws about the zinc wires of
his cage, and the hopping of the little linnets there, in the square
boxes scarcely bigger than a brick, made me glance up at the door to
discover who the bird-fancier was; when painted on a bit of zinc--just
large enough to fit the shaft of a tax cart--I saw the words, “J.
Black, Rat Destroyer to Her Majesty,” surmounted by the royal initials,
V.R., together with the painting of a white rat.

Mr. Black was out “sparrer ketching,” as his wife informed me, for he
had an order for three dozen, “which was to be shot in a match” at some
tea-gardens close by.

When I called again Mr. Black had returned, and I found him kneeling
before a big, rusty iron-wire cage, as large as a sea-chest, and
transferring the sparrows from his bird-catching apparatus to the more
roomy prison.

He transacted a little business before I spoke to him, for the boys
about the door were asking, “Can I have one for a penny, master?”

There is evidently a great art in handling birds; for when Mr. Black
held one, he took hold of it by the wings and tail, so that the little
creature seemed to be sitting upright and had not a feather rumpled,
while it stretched out its neck and looked around it; the boys, on the
contrary, first made them flutter their feathers as rough as a hair
ball, and then half smothered them between their two hands, by holding
them as if they wished to keep them hot.

I was soon at home with Mr. Black. He was a very different man from
what I had expected to meet, for there was an expression of kindliness
in his countenance, a quality which does not exactly agree with one’s
preconceived notions of ratcatchers. His face had a strange appearance,
from his rough, uncombed hair, being nearly grey, and his eyebrows and
whiskers black, so that he looked as if he wore powder.

Mr. Black informed me that the big iron-wire cage, in which the
sparrows were fluttering about, had been constructed by him for rats,
and that it held over a thousand when full--for rats are packed like
cups, he said, one over the other. “But,” he added, “business is bad
for rats, and it makes a splendid havery; besides, sparrers is the rats
of birds, sir, for if you look at ’em in a cage they always huddles up
in a corner like rats in a pit, and they are a’most vermin in colour
and habits, and eats anything.”

The ratcatcher’s parlour was more like a shop than a family apartment.
In a box, with iron bars before it, like a rabbit-hutch, was a white
ferret, twisting its long thin body with a snake-like motion up and
down the length of its prison, as restlessly as if it were a miniature
polar bear.

When Mr. Black called “Polly” to the ferret, it came to the bars and
fixed its pink eyes on him. A child lying on the floor poked its
fingers into the cage, but Polly only smelt at them, and, finding them
not good to eat, went away.

Mr. Black stuffs animals and birds, and also catches fish for vivaria.
Against the walls were the furred and feathered remains of departed
favourites, each in its glazed box and appropriate attitude. There was
a famous polecat--“a first-rater at rats” we were informed. Here a
ferret “that never was equalled.” This canary “had earned pounds.” That
linnet “was the wonder of its day.” The enormous pot-bellied carp, with
the miniature rushes painted at the back of its case, was caught in the
Regent’s Park waters.

In another part of the room hung fishing-lines, and a badger’s skin,
and lead-bobs and curious eel-hooks--the latter as big as the curls on
the temples of a Spanish dancer, and from here Mr. Black took down a
transparent-looking fish, like a slip of parchment, and told me that
it was a fresh-water smelt, and that he caught it in the Thames--“the
first he ever heard of.” Then he showed me a beetle suspended to a
piece of thread, like a big spider to its web, and this he informed me
was the Thames beetle, “which either live by land or water.”

“You ketch ’em,” continued Mr. Black, “when they are swimming on their
backs, which is their nature, and when they turns over you finds ’em
beautifully crossed and marked.”

Round the room were hung paper bags, like those in which housewives
keep their sweet herbs. “All of them there, sir, contain cured fish for
eating,” Mr. Black explained to me.

“I’m called down here the Battersea otter,” he went on, “for I can go
out at four in the morning, and come home by eight with a barrowful of
freshwater fish. Nobody knows how I do it, because I never takes no
nets or lines with me. I assure them I ketch ’em with my hands, which I
do, but they only laughs increderlous like. I knows the fishes’ harnts,
and watches the tides. I sells fresh fish--perch, roach, dace, gudgeon,
and such-like, and even small jack, at threepence a pound, or what
they’ll fetch; and I’ve caught near the Wandsworth ‘Black Sea,’ as we
calls it, half a hundred weight sometimes, and I never took less than
my handkerchey full.”

I was inclined--like the inhabitants of Battersea--to be incredulous of
the ratcatcher’s hand-fishing, until, under a promise of secrecy, he
confided his process to me, and then not only was I perfectly convinced
of its truth, but startled that so simple a method had never before
been taken advantage of.

Later in the day Mr. Black became very communicative. We sat chatting
together in his sanded bird shop, and he told me all his misfortunes,
and how bad luck had pressed upon him, and driven him out of London.

“I was fool enough to take a public-house in Regent-street, sir,” he
said. “My daughter used to dress as the ‘Ratketcher’s Daughter,’ and
serve behind the bar, and that did pretty well for a time; but it was a
brewer’s house, and they ruined me.”

The costume of the “ratketcher’s daughter” was shown to me by her
mother. It was a red velvet bodice, embroidered with silver lace.

“With a muslin skirt, and her hair down her back, she looked wery
genteel,” added the parent.

Mr. Black’s chief complaint was that he could not “make an appearance,”
for his “uniform”--a beautiful green coat and red waistcoat--“were

Whilst giving me his statement, Mr. Black, in proof of his assertions
of the biting powers of rats, drew my attention to the leathern
breeches he wore, “as were given him twelve years ago by Captain B----.”

These were pierced in some places with the teeth of the animals, and
in others were scratched and fringed like the washleather of a street

His hands, too, and even his face, had scars upon them from bites.

Mr. Black informed me that he had given up tobacco “since a haccident
he met with from a pipe. I was smoking a pipe,” he said, “and a friend
of mine by chance jobbed it into my mouth, and it went right through to
the back of my palate, and I nearly died.”

Here his wife added, “There’s a hole there to this day you could put
your thumb into; you never saw such a mouth.”

Mr. Black informed me in secret that he had often, “unbeknown to his
wife,” tasted what cooked rats were like, and he asserted that they
were as moist as rabbits, and quite as nice.

“If they are shewer-rats,” he continued, “just chase them for two or
three days before you kill them, and they are as good as barn-rats, I
give you my word, sir.”

Mr. Black’s statement was as follows:--

“I should think I’ve been at ratting a’most for five-and-thirty year;
indeed, I may say from my childhood, for I’ve kept at it a’most all my
life. I’ve been dead near three times from bites--as near as a toucher.
I once had the teeth of a rat break in my finger, which was dreadful
bad, and swole, and putrified, so that I had to have the broken bits
pulled out with tweezers. When the bite is a bad one, it festers and
forms a hard core in the ulcer, which is very painful, and throbs very
much indeed; and after that core comes away, unless you cleans ’em out
well, the sores, even after they seemed to be healed, break out over
and over again, and never cure perfectly. This core is as big as a
boiled fish’s eye, and as hard as a stone. I generally cuts the bite
out clean with a lancet, and squeege the humour well from it, and
that’s the only way to cure it thorough--as you see my hands is all
covered with scars from bites.

“The worst bite I ever had was at the Manor House, Hornsey, kept by
Mr. Burnell. One day when I was there, he had some rats get loose, and
he asked me to ketch ’em for him, as they was wanted for a match that
was coming on that afternoon. I had picked up a lot--indeed, I had
one in each hand, and another again my knee, when I happened to come
to a sheaf of straw, which I turned over, and there was a rat there.
I couldn’t lay hold on him ’cause my hands was full, and as I stooped
down he ran up the sleeve of my coat, and bit me on the muscle of the
arm. I shall never forget it. It turned me all of a sudden, and made me
feel numb. In less than half-an-hour I was took so bad I was obleeged
to be sent home, and I had to get some one to drive my cart for me. It
was terrible to see the blood that came from me--I bled awful. Burnell
seeing me go so queer, says, ‘Here, Jack, take some brandy, you look
so awful bad.’ The arm swole, and went as heavy as a ton weight pretty
well, so that I couldn’t even lift it, and so painful I couldn’t bear
my wife to ferment it. I was kept in bed for two months through that
bite at Burnell’s. I was so weak I couldn’t stand, and I was dreadful
feverish--all warmth like. I knew I was going to die, ’cause I remember
the doctor coming and opening my eyes, to see if I was still alive.

“I’ve been bitten nearly everywhere, even where I can’t name to you,
sir, and right through my thumb nail too, which, as you see, always
has a split in it, though it’s years since I was wounded. I suffered
as much from that bite on my thumb as anything. It went right up to my
ear. I felt the pain in both places at once--a regular twinge, like
touching the nerve of a tooth. The thumb went black, and I was told I
ought to have it off; but I knew a young chap at the Middlesex Hospital
who wasn’t out of his time, and he said, ‘No, I wouldn’t, Jack;’ and
no more I did; and he used to strap it up for me. But the worst of it
was, I had a job at Camden Town one afternoon after he had dressed the
wound, and I got another bite lower down on the same thumb, and that
flung me down on my bed, and there I stopped, I should think, six weeks.

“I was bit bad, too, in Edwards-street, Hampstead-road; and that time
I was sick near three months, and close upon dying. Whether it was the
poison of the bite, or the medicine the doctor give me, I can’t say;
but the flesh seemed to swell up like a bladder--regular blowed like.
After all, I think I cured myself by cheating the doctor, as they calls
it; for instead of taking the medicine, I used to go to Mr. ----’s
house in Albany-street (the publican), and he’d say, ‘What’ll yer have,
Jack?’ and I used to take a glass of stout, and that seemed to give me
strength to overcome the pison of the bite, for I began to pick up as
soon as I left off doctor’s stuff.

“When a rat’s bite touches the bone, it makes you faint in a minute,
and it bleeds dreadful--ah, most terrible--just as if you had been
stuck with a penknife. You couldn’t believe the quantity of blood that
come away, sir.

“The first rats I caught was when I was about nine years of age.
I ketched them at Mr. Strickland’s, a large cow-keeper, in Little
Albany-street, Regent’s-park. At that time it was all fields and
meaders in them parts, and I recollect there was a big orchard on one
side of the sheds. I was only doing it for a game, and there was lots
of ladies and gents looking on, and wondering at seeing me taking the
rats out from under a heap of old bricks and wood, where they had
collected theirselves. I had a little dog--a little red ’un it was, who
was well known through the fancy--and I wanted the rats for to test my
dog with, I being a lad what was fond of the sport.

“I wasn’t afraid to handle rats even then; it seemed to come nat’ral to
me. I very soon had some in my pocket, and some in my hands, carrying
them away as fast as I could, and putting them into my wire cage. You
see, the rats began to run as soon as we shifted them bricks, and I had
to scramble for them. Many of them bit me, and, to tell you the truth,
I didn’t know the bites were so many, or I dare say I shouldn’t have
been so venturesome as I was.

“After that I bought some ferruts--four of them--of a man of the name
of Butler, what was in the rat-ketching line, and afterwards went out
to Jamaicer, to kill rats there. I was getting on to ten years of age
then, and I was, I think, the first that regularly began hunting rats
to sterminate them; for all those before me used to do it with drugs,
and perhaps never handled rats in their lives.

“With my ferruts I at first used to go out hunting rats round by
the ponds in Regent’s-park, and the ditches, and in the cow-sheds
roundabout. People never paid me for ketching, though, maybe, if they
was very much infested, they might give me a trifle; but I used to make
my money by selling the rats to gents as was fond of sport, and wanted
them for their little dogs.

“I kept to this till I was thirteen or fourteen year of age, always
using the ferruts; and I bred from them, too,--indeed, I’ve still got
the ‘strain’ (breed) of them same ferruts by me now. I’ve sold them
ferruts about everywhere; to Jim Burn I’ve sold some of the strain;
and to Mr. Anderson, the provision-merchant; and to a man that went to
Ireland. Indeed, that strain of ferruts has gone nearly all over the

“I never lost a ferrut out ratting. I always let them loose, and put a
bell on mine--arranged in a peculiar manner, which is a secret--and I
then puts him into the main run of the rats, and lets him go to work.
But they must be ferruts that’s well trained for working dwellings,
or you’ll lose them as safe as death. I’ve had ’em go away two houses
off, and come back to me. My ferruts is very tame, and so well trained,
that I’d put them into a house and guarantee that they’d come back
to me. In Grosvenor-street I was clearing once, and the ferruts went
next door, and nearly cleared the house--which is the Honourable Mrs.
F----’s--before they came back to me.

“Ferruts are very dangerous to handle if not well trained. They are
very savage, and will attack a man or a child as well as a rat. It
was well known at Mr. Hamilton’s at Hampstead--it’s years ago this
is--there was a ferrut that got loose what killed a child, and was
found sucking it. The bite of ’em is very dangerous--not so pisonous as
a rat’s--but very painful; and when the little things is hungry they’ll
attack anythink. I’ve seen two of them kill a cat, and then they’ll
suck the blood till they fills theirselves, after which they’ll fall
off like leeches.

“The weasel and the stoat are, I think, more dangerous than the ferrut
in their bite. I had a stoat once, which I caught when out ratting
at Hampstead for Mr. Cunningham, the butcher, and it bit one of my
dogs--Black Bess by name, the truest bitch in the world, sir--in the
mouth, and she died three days arterwards at the Ball at Kilburn. I was
along with Captain K----, who’d come out to see the sport, and whilst
we were at dinner, and the poor bitch lying under my chair, my boy
says, says he, ‘Father, Black Bess is dying;’ and had scarce spoke the
speech when she was dead. It was all through the bite of that stoat,
for I opened the wound in the lip, and it was all swole, and dreadful
ulcerated, and all down the throat it was inflamed most shocking, and
so was the lungs quite red and fiery. She was hot with work when she
got the bite, and perhaps that made her take the pison quicker.

“To give you a proof, sir, of the savage nature of the ferruts, I was
one night at Jimmy Shaw’s, where there was a match to come off with
rats, which the ferrut was to kill; and young Bob Shaw (Jim’s son) was
holding the ferrut up to his mouth and giving it spittle, when the
animal seized him by the lip, and bit it right through, and hung on as
tight as a vice, which shows the spitefulness of the ferrut, and how it
will attack the human frame. Young Shaw still held the ferrut in his
hand whilst it was fastened to his lip, and he was saying, ‘Oh, oh!’ in
pain. You see, I think Jim kept it very hard to make it kill the rats
better. There was some noblemen there, and also Mr. George, of Kensal
New-town, was there, which is one of the largest dog-fanciers we have.
To make the ferrut leave go of young Shaw, they bit its feet and tail,
and it wouldn’t, ’cos--as I could have told ’em--it only made it bite
all the more. At last Mr. George, says he to me, ‘For God’s sake, Jack,
take the ferrut off.’ I didn’t like to intrude myself upon the company
before, not being in my own place, and I didn’t know how Jimmy would
take it. Everybody in the room was at a standstill, quite horrerfied,
and Jimmy himself was in a dreadful way for his boy. I went up, and
quietly forced my thumb into his mouth and loosed him, and he killed a
dozen rats after that. They all said, ‘Bravo, Jack, you are a plucked
one;’ and the little chap said, ‘Well, Jack, I didn’t like to holla,
but it was dreadful painful.’ His lip swole up directly as big as a
nigger’s, and the company made a collection for the lad of some dozen
shillings. This shows that, although a ferrut will kill a rat, yet,
like the rat, it is always wicious, and will attack the human frame.

“When I was about fifteen, sir, I turned to bird-fancying. I was
very fond of the sombre linnet. I was very successful in raising
them, and sold them for a deal of money. I’ve got the strain of them
by me now. I’ve ris them from some I purchased from a person in the
Coal-yard, Drury-lane. I give him 2_l._ for one of the periwinkle
strain, but afterwards I heard of a person with, as I thought, a better
strain--Lawson of Holloway--and I went and give him 30_s._ for a bird.
I then ris them. I used to go and ketch the nestlings off the common,
and ris them under the old trained birds.

“Originally linnets was taught to sing by a bird-organ--principally
among the weavers, years ago,--but I used to make the old birds teach
the young ones. I used to molt them off in the dark, by kivering the
cages up, and then they’d learn from hearing the old ones singing, and
would take the song. If any did not sing perfectly I used to sell ’em
as cast-offs.

“The linnet’s is a beautiful song. There are four-and-twenty changes
in a linnet’s song. It’s one of the beautifullest song-birds we’ve
got. It sings ‘toys,’ as we call them; that is, it makes sounds which
we distinguish in the fancy as the ‘tollock eeke eeke quake le wheet;
single eke eke quake wheets, or eek eek quake chowls; eege pipe chowl;
laugh; eege poy chowls; rattle; pipe; fear; pugh and poy.’

“This seems like Greek to you, sir, but it’s the tunes we use in the
fancy. What we terms ‘fear’ is a sound like fear, as if they was
frightened; ‘laugh’ is a kind of shake, nearly the same as the ‘rattle.’

“I know the sounds of all the English birds, and what they say. I could
tell you about the nightingale, the black cap, hedge warbler, garden
warbler, petty chat, red start--a beautiful song-bird--the willow
wren--little warblers they are--linnets, or any of them, for I have
got their sounds in my ear and my mouth.”

As if to prove this, he drew from a side-pocket a couple of tin
bird-whistles, which were attached by a string to a button-hole. He
instantly began to imitate the different birds, commencing with their
call, and then explaining how, when answered to in such a way, they
gave another note, and how, if still responded to, they uttered a
different sound.

In fact, he gave me the whole of the conversation he usually carried
on with the different kinds of birds, each one being as it were in a
different language. He also showed me how he allured them to him, when
they were in the air singing in the distance, and he did this by giving
their entire song. His cheeks and throat seemed to be in constant
motion as he filled the room with his loud imitations of the lark, and
so closely did he resemble the notes of the bird, that it was no longer
any wonder how the little things could be deceived.

In the same manner he illustrated the songs of the nightingale, and
so many birds, that I did not recognise the names of some of them. He
knew all their habits as well as notes, and repeated to me the peculiar
chirp they make on rising from the ground, as well as the sound by
which he distinguishes that it is “uneasy with curiosity,” or that it
has settled on a tree. Indeed, he appeared to be acquainted with all
the chirps which distinguished any action in the bird up to the point
when, as he told me, it “circles about, and then falls like a stone to
the ground with its pitch.”

“The nightingale,” he continued, “is a beautiful song-bird. They’re
plucky birds, too, and they hear a call and answer to anybody; and
when taken in April they’re plucked enough to sing as soon as put in
a cage. I can ketch a nightingale in less than five minutes; as soon
as he calls, I calls to him with my mouth, and he’ll answer me (both
by night or day), either from a spinny (a little copse), a dell, or a
wood, wherever he may be. I make my scrapes, (that is, clear away the
dirt), set my traps, and catch ’em almost before I’ve tried my luck.
I’ve ketched sometimes thirty in a day, for although people have got
a notion that nightingales is scarce, still those who can distinguish
their song in the daytime know that they are plentiful enough--almost
like the lark. You see persons fancy that them nightingales as sings at
night is the only ones living, but it’s wrong, for many on them only
sings in the day.

“You see it was when I was about eighteen, I was beginning to get such
a judge about birds, sir. I sold to a butcher, of the name of Jackson,
the first young un that I made money out of--for two pounds it was--and
I’ve sold loads of ’em since for thirty shillings or two pounds each,
and I’ve got the strain by me now. I’ve also got by me now the bird
that won the match at Mr. Lockwood’s in Drury-lane, and won the return
match at my own place in High-street, Marabun. It was in the presence
of all the fancy. He’s moulted pied (pie-bald) since, and gone a little
white on the head and the back. We only sang for two pounds a side--it
wasn’t a great deal of money. In our matches we sing by both gas and
daylight. He was a master-baker I sang against, but I forget his name.
They do call him ‘Holy Face,’ but that’s a nick-name, because he’s very
much pock-marked. I wouldn’t sell that bird at all for anythink; I’ve
been offered ten pounds for it. Captain K---- put ten sovereigns down
on the counter for him, and I wouldn’t pick ’em up, for I’ve sold lots
of his strain for a pound each.

“When I found I was a master of the birds, then I turned to my rat
business again. I had a little rat dog--a black tan terrier of the
name of Billy--which was the greatest stock dog in London of that day.
He is the father of the greatest portion of the small black tan dogs
in London now, which Mr. Isaac, the bird-fancier in Princes-street,
purchased one of the strain for six or seven pounds; which Jimmy Massey
afterwards purchased another of the strain, for a monkey, a bottle of
wine, and three pounds. That was the rummest bargain I ever made.

“I’ve ris and trained monkeys by shoals. Some of mine is about now in
shows exhibiting; one in particular--Jimmy.

“One of the strain of this little black tan dog would draw a badger
twelve or fourteen lbs. to his six lbs., which was done for a wager,
’cos it was thought the badger had his teeth drawn, but he hadn’t, as
was proved by his biting Mr. P---- from Birmingham, for he took a piece
clean out of his trousers, which was pretty good proof, and astonished
them all in the room.

“I’ve been offered a sovereign a-pound for some of my little terriers,
but it wouldn’t pay me at that price, for they weren’t heavier than two
or three pounds. I once sold one of the dogs, of this same strain, for
fourteen pounds, to the Austrian Ambassador. Mrs. H---- the banker’s
lady, wished to get my strain of terriers, and she give me five pounds
for the use of him; in fact, my terrier dog was known to all the London
fancy. As rat-killing dogs, there’s no equal to that strain of black
tan terriers.

“It’s fifteen year ago since I first worked for Goverment. I found
that the parks was much infested with rats, which had underminded the
bridges and gnawed the drains, and I made application to Mr. Westley,
who was superintendent of the park, and he spoke of it, and then it was
wrote to me that I was to fulfil the siterwation, and I was to have
six pounds a-year. But after that it was altered, and I was to have
so much a-head, which is threepence. After that, Newton, what was a
warmint destroyer to her Majesty, dying, I wrote in to the Board of
Hordnance, when they appointed me to each station in London--that was,
to Regentsey-park-barracks, to the Knightsbridge and Portland-barracks,
and to all the other barracks in the metropolis. I’ve got the letter
now by me, in which they says ‘they is proud to appint me.’

“I’ve taken thirty-two rats out of one hole in the islands
in Regentsey-park, and found in it fish, birds, and loads of
eggs--duck-eggs, and every kind.

“It must be fourteen year since I first went about the streets
exhibiting with rats. I began with a cart and a’most a donkey; for it
was a pony scarce bigger; but I’ve had three or four big horses since
that, and ask anybody, and they’ll tell you I’m noted for my cattle.
I thought that by having a kind of costume, and the rats painted on
the cart, and going round the country, I should get my name about, and
get myself knowed; and so I did, for folks ’ud come to me, so that
sometimes I’ve had four jobs of a-day, from people seeing my cart. I
found I was quite the master of the rat, and could do pretty well what
I liked with him; so I used to go round Finchley, Highgate, and all the
sububs, and show myself, and how I handled the warmint.

“I used to wear a costume of white leather breeches, and a green coat
and scarlet waistkit, and a goold band round my hat, and a belt across
my shoulder. I used to make a first-rate appearance, such as was
becoming the uniform of the Queen’s rat-ketcher.

“Lor’ bless you! I’ve travell’d all over London, and I’ll kill rats
again anybody. I’m open to all the world for any sum, from one pound
to fifty. I used to have my belts painted at first by Mr. Bailey, the
animal painter--with four white rats; but the idea come into my head
that I’d cast the rats in metal, just to make more appearance for
the belt, to come out in the world. I was nights and days at it, and
it give me a deal of bother. I could manage it no how; but by my own
ingenuity and persewerance I succeeded. A man axed me a pound a-piece
for casting the rats--that would ha’ been four pound. I was very
certain that my belt, being a handsome one, would help my business
tremenjous in the sale of my composition. So I took a mould from a dead
rat in plaster, and then I got some of my wife’s sarsepans, and, by
G--, I casted ’em with some of my own pewter-pots.”

The wife, who was standing by, here exclaimed--

“Oh, my poor sarsepans! I remember ’em. There was scarce one left to
cook our wittels with.”

“Thousands of moulders,” continued Jack Black, “used to come to see me
do the casting of the rats, and they kept saying, ‘You’ll never do it,
Jack.’ The great difficulty, you see, was casting the heye--which is a
black bead--into the metal.

“When the belt was done, I had a great success; for, bless you, I
couldn’t go a yard without a crowd after me.

“When I was out with the cart selling my composition, my usual method
was this. I used to put a board across the top, and form a kind of
counter. I always took with me a iron-wire cage--so big a one, that Mr.
Barnet, a Jew, laid a wager that he could get into it, and he did. I
used to form this cage at one end of the cart, and sell my composition
at the other. There were rats painted round the cart--that was the only
show I had about the wehicle. I used to take out the rats, and put them
outside the cage; and used to begin the show by putting rats inside
my shirt next my buzzum, or in my coat and breeches pockets, or on my
shoulder--in fact, all about me, anywhere. The people would stand to
see me take up rats without being bit. I never said much, but I used to
handle the rats in every possible manner, letting ’em run up my arm,
and stroking their backs and playing with ’em. Most of the people used
to fancy they had been tamed on purpose, until they’d see me take fresh
ones from the cage, and play with them in the same manner. I all this
time kept on selling my composition, which my man Joe used to offer
about; and whenever a packet was sold, I always tested its wirtues by
killing a rat with it afore the people’s own eyes.

“I once went to Tottenham to sell my composition, and to exhibit with
my rats afore the country people. Some countrymen, which said they were
rat-ketchers, came up to me whilst I was playing with some rats, and
said--‘Ugh, you’re not a rat-ketcher; that’s not the way to do it.’
They were startled at seeing me selling the pison at such a rate, for
the shilling packets was going uncommon well, sir. I said, ‘No, I ain’t
a rat-ketcher, and don’t know nothink about it. You come up and show me
how to do it.’ One of them come up on the cart, and put his hand in the
cage, and curous enough he got three bites directly, and afore he could
take his hands out they was nearly bit to ribands. My man Joe, says
he, ‘I tell you, if we ain’t rat-ketchers, who is? We are the regular
rat-ketchers; my master kills ’em, and then I eats ’em’--and he takes
up a live one and puts its head into his mouth, and I puts my hand in
the cage and pulls out six or seven in a cluster, and holds ’em up in
the air, without even a bite. The countrymen bust out laughing; and
they said, ‘Well, you’re the best we ever see.’ I sold near 4_l._ worth
of composition that day.

“Another day, when I’d been out flying pigeons as well--carriers,
which I fancies to--I drove the cart, after selling the composition,
to the King’s Arms, Hanwell, and there was a feller there--a tailor
by trade--what had turned rat-ketcher. He had got with him some fifty
or sixty rats--the miserablest mangey brutes you ever seed in a
tub--taking ’em up to London to sell. I, hearing of it, was determined
to have a lark, so I goes up and takes out ten of them rats, and puts
them inside my shirt, next my buzzum, and then I walks into the parlour
and sits down, and begins drinking my ale as right as if nothink had
happened. I scarce had seated myself, when the landlord--who was in the
lay--says, ‘I know a man who’ll ketch rats quicker than anybody in the
world.’ This put the tailor chap up, so he offers to bet half-a-gallon
of ale he would, and I takes him. He goes to the tub and brings out a
very large rat, and walks with it into the room to show to the company.
‘Well,’ says I to the man, ‘why I, who ain’t a rat-ketcher, I’ve got
a bigger one here,’ and I pulls one out from my buzzum. ‘And here’s
another, and another, and another,’ says I, till I had placed the whole
ten on the table. ‘That’s the way I ketch ’em,’ says I,--‘they comes
of their own accord to me.’ He tried to handle the warmints, but the
poor fellow was bit, and his hands was soon bleeding fur’ously, and
I without a mark. A gentleman as knowed me said, ‘This must be the
Queen’s rat-ketcher,’ and that spilt the fun. The poor fellow seemed
regular done up, and said, ‘I shall give up rat-ketching, you’ve beat
me! Here I’ve been travelling with rats all my life, and I never see
such a thing afore.’

“When I’ve been in a mind for travelling I’ve never sold less than ten
shillings’ worth of my composition, and I’ve many a time sold five
pounds’ worth. Ten shillings’ worth was the least I ever sold. During
my younger career, if I’d had a backer, I might, one week with another,
have made my clear three pounds a-week, after paying all my expenses
and feeding my horse and all.

“I challenge my composition, and sell the art of rat-destroying,
against any chemical rat-destroyer in the world, for any sum--I don’t
care what it is. Let anybody, either a medical or druggist manufacturer
of composition, come and test with rats again me, and they’ll pretty
soon find it out. People pay for composition instead of employing
the Queen’s rat-ketcher, what kills the warmint and lays down his
composition for nothink into the bargain likewise.

“I also destroy black beedles with a composition which I always keep
with me again it’s wanted. I often have to destroy the beedles in
wine-cellars, which gnaw the paper off the bottles, such as is round
the champagne and French wine bottles. I’ve killed lots of beedles
too for bakers. I’ve also sterminated some thousands of beedles for
linen-drapers and pork-sassage shops. There’s two kinds of beedles, the
hard-shell and the soft-shell beedle. The hard-shell one is the worst,
and that will gnaw cork, paper, and anythink woollen. The soft-shell’d
one will gnaw bread or food, and it also lays its eggs in the food,
which is dreadful nasty.

“There’s the house ant too, which there is some thousands of people
as never saw--I sterminate them as well. There’s a Mrs. B. at the
William the Fourth public-house, Hampstead; she couldn’t lay her
child’s clothes down without getting ’em full of ants. They’ve got a
sting something in feel like a horse-fly’s, and is more annoying than
dangerous. It’s cockroaches that are found in houses. They’re dreadful
nasty things, and will bite, and they are equal to the Spanish flies
for blistering. I’ve tried all insects on my flesh to see how they
bite me. Cockroaches will undermine similar to the ant, and loosen the
bricks the same as the cricket. It’s astonishing how so small an insect
as them will scrape away such a quantity of mortar as they do--which
thing infests grates, floorings, and such-like.

“The beedle is a most ’strordinary thing, which will puzzle most people
to sterminate, for they lays sitch a lot of eggs as I would never
guarantee to do away with beedles--only to keep them clear; for if you
kills the old ones the eggs will rewive, and young ones come out of the
wainskitting and sitch-like, and then your employers will say, ‘Why you
were paid for sterminating, and yet here they are.’

“One night in August--the night of a very heavy storm, which, maybe,
you may remember, sir--I was sent for by a medical gent as lived
opposite the Load of Hay, Hampstead, whose two children had been
attacked by rats while they was sleeping in their little cots. I traced
the blood, which had left lines from their tails, through the openings
in the lath and plaster, which I follered to where my ferruts come out
of, and they must have come up from the bottom of the house to the
attics. The rats gnawed the hands and feet of the little children.
The lady heard them crying, and got out of her bed and called to the
servant to know what the child was making such a noise for, when they
struck a light, and then they see the rats running away to the holes;
their little night-gownds was kivered with blood, as if their throats
had been cut. I asked the lady to give me one of the night-gownds to
keep as a cur’osity, for I considered it a _phee_nomenon, and she give
it to me, but I never was so vexed in all my life as when I was told
the next day that a maid had washed it. I went down the next morning
and sterminated them rats. I found they was of the specie of rat
which we term the blood-rat, which is a dreadful spiteful feller--a
snake-headed rat, and infests the dwellings. There may have been some
dozens of ’em altogether, but it’s so long ago I a’most forget how many
I took in that house. The gent behaved uncommon handsome, and said,
‘Mr. Black, I can never pay you for this;’ and ever arterwards, when
I used to pass by that there house, the little dears when they see me
used to call out to their mamma, ‘O, here’s Mr. Ratty, ma!’ They were
very pretty little fine children--uncommon handsome, to be sure.

“I once went to Mr. Hollins’s, in Edward-street Regent’s-park--a
cow-keeper he was--where he was so infested that the cows could not
lay down or eat their food, for the rats used to go into the manger,
and fight at ’em. Mr. Hollins said to me, ‘Black, what shall I give
you to get rid of them rats?’ and I said to him, says I, ‘Well, Mr.
Hollins, you’re a poor man, and I leave it to you.’ (He’s got awful
rich since then.) I went to work, and I actually took out 300 rats from
one hole in the wall, which I had to carry them in my mouth and hands,
and under my arms, and in my buzzum and pockets, to take them to the
cage. I was bit dreadful by them, and suffered greatly by the bites;
but nothink to lay up for, though very painful to the hands. To pervent
the rats from getting out of the hole, I had to stop it up by putting
my breast again it, and then they was jumping up again me and gnawing
at my waistkit. I should think I sterminated 500 from them premises.
Ah! I did wonders round there, and everybody was talking of my feats.

“I’ll tell you about another cow-keeper’s, which Mr. Hollins was so
gratified with my skill what I had done, that he pays me handsome
and generous, and gives me a recommendation to Mrs. Brown’s, of
Camden-town, and there I sterminated above 700 rats; and I was a-near
being killed, for I was stooping down under the manger, when a cow
heerd the rats squeak, and she butts at me and sends me up again the
bull. The bull was very savage, and I fainted; but I was picked up and
washed, and then I come to.

“Whilst doing that job at Mrs. Brown’s I had to lie down on the ground,
and push my naked arm into the hole till I could reach the rats as I’d
driven up in the corner, and then pull them out with my hand. I was
dreadful bit, for I was obleeged to handle them anyhow; my flesh was
cut to ribands and dreadful lacerated.

“There was a man Mrs. Brown had got of the name of John, and he
wouldn’t believe about the rats, and half thought I brought ’em with
me. So I showed him how to ketch rats.

“You see rats have always got a main run, and from it go the branch
runs on each side like on a herring-bone, and at the end of the branch
runs is the bolt-holes, for coming in and out at. I instantly stopped
up all the bolt-holes and worked the rats down to the end of the main
run, then I broke up the branch runs and stopped the rats getting back,
and then, when I’d got ’em all together at the end of the main run, I
put my arm down and lifted them up. I have had at times to put half my
body into a hole and thrust down my arm just like getting rabbits out
of their burrers.

“Sometimes I have to go myself into the holes, for the rats make
such big ones, there’s plenty of room. There was a Mrs. Perry in
Albany-street, that kept an oil and coke shop--she were infested with
rats dreadful. Three of her shop-boys had been sent away on suspicion
of stealing fat, instead of which it was the rats, for between the
walls and the vault I found a hundred and a half of fat stowed away.
The rats was very savage, and I should think there was 200 of them. I
made a good bit of money by that job, for Mrs. Perry give the fat to me.

“I have had some good finds at times, rat-hunting. I found under one
floor in a gent’s house a great quantity of table napkins and silver
spoons and forks, which the rats had carried away for the grease on
’em--shoes and boots gnawed to pieces, shifts, aprons, gownds, pieces
of silk, and I don’t know what not. Sarvants had been discharged
accused of stealing them there things. Of course I had to give them up;
but there they was.

“I was once induced to go to a mews in Tavistock-place, near
Russell-square, which was reg’lar infested by rats. They had sent to a
man before, and he couldn’t do nothink with ’em, but I soon sterminated
them. The rats there had worried a pair of beautiful chestnut horses,
by gnawing away their hoofs and nearly driving them mad, which I saw
myself, and there was all their teeth-marks, for I could scarcely
believe it myself till I see it. I found them near a cart-load of
common bricks, under the floor, and near the partition of the stable,
which, when the men pulled the wood-work down, the coachman, says he,
‘Well, rat-ketcher, if you’d been employed years ago a deal more corn
would have gone into the horses.’

“This coachman give me a recommendation to a muffin-maker in
Hanway-yard, and I went there and killed the rats. But a most sing’lar
thing took place there; my ferret got away and run through into a house
in Oxford-street kept by a linen-draper, for the young men come to say
that the rat-ketcher’s ferret was in their shop, and had bit one of
their lady customers. I worked the ferrut through three times to make
sure of this; and each time my little dog told me it was true. You see
a well-trained dog will watch and stand and point to the ferrut working
under ground just as a pinter does to game; and although he’s above
ground, yet he’ll track the ferrut through the runs underneath by the
smell. If the ferrut is lost--which I tell by the dog being uneasy--I
say to the dog, ‘Hi, lost;’ and then he instantly goes on scent, and
smells about in every direction, and I follers him, till he stands
exactly over the spot where it may be, and then I have either to rise a
stone or lift a board to get him out.

“I’ve ratted for years for Mr. Hodges, of Hodges and Lowman’s,
in Regent-street; and he once said to me, that he was infested
dreadful with rats at the house, which he took for the children, at
Hampstead; so I went there, and witnessed, certainly, the most cur’ous
circumstance, which puzzles me to this day. I had to lay on my belly
half in the hole and pull out the rats; and, on looking at them, as I
brings them up, I am astonished to find that nearly every one of them
is blind, and has a speck in the eye. I was never so much astonished
in my life, for they was as a wall-eyed dog might be. I supposed it to
be from lightning (I couldn’t account for it no other ways), for at
that time there was very heavy lightning and floods up there, which
maybe you might remember, sir. They was chiefly of the blood-rat
specie--small snake-headed rats, with a big, fine tail. They was very
savage with me, and I had them run all over me before I ketched them.

“Rats are everywhere about London, both in rich and poor places. I’ve
ketched rats in 44 Portland-place, at a clergyman’s house there. There
was 200 and odd. They had underminded the oven so, that they could
neither bile nor bake; they had under-pinioned the stables, and let
every stone down throughout the premises, pretty well. I had to crawl
under a big leaden cistern which the rats had under-pinioned, and I
expected it would come down upon me every minute. I had one little
ferrut kill thirty-two rats under one stone, and I lifted the dead ones
up in the presence of the cook and the butler. He didn’t behave well to
me--the gent didn’t--for I had to go to my lawyer’s afore I could get
paid, and after the use of my skill; and I had to tell the lawyer I’d
pawn my bed to stick to him and get my earnings; but, after all, I had
to take one-third less than my bill. This, thinks I, isn’t the right
thing for Portland-place.

“Rats will eat each other like rabbits, which I’ve watched them, and
seen them turn the dead one’s skins out like pusses, and eat the flesh
off beautiful clean. I’ve got cages of iron-wire, which I made myself,
which will hold 1000 rats at a time, and I’ve had these cages piled
up with rats, solid like. No one would ever believe it; to look at a
quantity of rats, and see how they will fight and tear one another
about,--it’s astonishing, so it is! I never found any rats smothered,
by putting them in a cage so full; but if you don’t feed them every
day, they’ll fight and eat one another--they will, like cannibals.

“I general contracts with my customers, by the year, or month, or job.
There’s some gents I’ve worked for these fifteen years--sitch as Mr.
Robson, the coach-builder, Mivart’s Hotel, Shoulbreds’, Mr. Lloyds, the
large tobacconist, the Commercial Life Assurance, Lord Duncannon’s, and
I can’t recollect how many more. My terms is from one guinea to five
pounds per annum, according to the premises. Besides this, I have all
the rats that I ketch, and they sell for threepence each. But I’ve done
my work too well, and wherever I went I’ve cleared the rats right out,
and so my customers have fell off. I have got the best testimonials of
any man in London, and I could get a hatful more to-morrer. Ask anybody
I’ve worked for, and they’ll tell you about Jack Black.

“One night I had two hundred rats in a cage, placed in my
sitting-room, and a gent’s dog happened to get at the cage, and undid
the door, snuffing about, and let ’em all loose. Directly I come in I
knew they was loose by the smell. I had to go on my knees and stomach
under the beds and sofas, and all over the house, and before twelve
o’clock that night I had got ’em all back again into the cage, and
sold them after for a match. I was so fearful they’d get gnawing the
children, having sterminated them in a house where children had been

“I’ve turned my attention to everything connected with animals. I’ve
got the best composition for curing the mange in a horse or a dog,
which has reg’lar astonished medical gents. I’ve also been bit by
a mad dog--a black retriever dog, that died raving mad in a cellar
afterwards. The only thing I did was, I washed the wound with salt and
water, and used a turpentine poultice.”

Mrs. Black here interposed, exclaiming,--

“O dear me! the salt and water he’s had to his flesh, it ought to be as
hard as iron. I’ve seen him put lumps of salt into his wounds.”

Mr. Black then continued:--

“I never had any uneasiness from that bite of a mad dog; indeed, I
never troubled myself about it, or even thought of it.

“I’ve caught some other things besides rats in my time. One night, I
saw a little South African cat going along the New-road. I thought it
was a cur’ous specie of rat, and chased it, and brought it home with
me; but it proved to belong to Mr. Herring’s menagerie in the New-road,
so I let him have it back again.

“Another time I met with two racoons, which I found could handle
me just as well as I could handle a rat, for they did bite and
scratch awful. I put ’em in the cart, and brought them home in a
basket. I never found out to whom _they_ belonged. I got them in
Ratcliffe-highway, and no doubt some sailors had brought them over, and
got drunk, and let ’em loose. I tried them at killing rats, but they
weren’t no good at that.

“I’ve learnt a monkey to kill rats, but he wouldn’t do much, and only
give them a good shaking when they bit him. After I found the racoons
no good, I trained a badger to kill rats, and he was superior to any
dog, but very difficult in training to get him to kill, though they’ll
kill rabbits fast enough, or any other kind of game, for they’re rare
poachers are badgers. I used to call her Polly. She killed in my own
pit, for I used to obleege my friends that wouldn’t believe it possible
with the sight. She won several matches--the largest was in a hundred

“I also sterminate moles for her Majesty, and the Woods and Forests,
and I’ve sterminated some hundreds for different farmers in the
country. It’s a cur’ous thing, but a mole will kill a rat and eat it
afterwards, and two moles will fight wonderful. They’ve got a mouth
exactly like a shark, and teeth like saws; ah, a wonderful saw mouth.
They’re a very sharp-biting little animal, and very painful. A rat is
frightened of one, and don’t like fighting them at all.

“I’ve bred the finest collection of pied rats which has ever been
knowed in the world. I had above eleven hundred of them--all wariegated
rats, and of a different specie and colour, and all of them in
the first instance bred from the Norwegian and the white rat, and
afterwards crossed with other specie.

“I have ris some of the largest tailed rats ever seen. I’ve sent them
to all parts of the globe, and near every town in England. When I sold
’em off, three hundred of them went to France. I ketched the first
white rat I had at Hampstead; and the black ones at Messrs. Hodges and
Lowman’s, in Regent-street, and them I bred in. I have ’em fawn and
white, black and white, brown and white, red and white, blue-black and
white, black-white and red.

“People come from all parts of London to see them rats, and I supplied
near all the ‘happy families’ with them. Burke, who had the ‘happy
family’ showing about London, has had hundreds from me. They got very
tame, and you could do anythink with them. I’ve sold many to ladies
for keeping in squirrel cages. Years ago I sold ’em for five and ten
shillings a-piece, but towards the end of my breeding them, I let ’em
go for two-and-six. At a shop in Leicester-square, where Cantello’s
hatching-eggs machine was, I sold a sow and six young ones for ten
shillings, which formerly I have had five pounds for, being so docile,
like a sow sucking her pigs.”


He is a broad-shouldered, strongly-built man, with a stoop in his
shoulders, and a rather dull cast of features; from living so much in
the “shores” (sewers), his eyes have assumed a _peering_ kind of look,
that is quite rat-like in its furtiveness.

He answered our questions with great good humour, but in short
monosyllabic terms, peculiar to men who have little communion with
their fellows.

The “parlour” in which the man lives was literally swarming with
children when we paid him a visit (they were not all “belonging” to
him). Nor was it quite pleasant to find that the smell of the tea,
which had just been made, was overpowered by the odour of the rats
which he keeps in the same room.

The week’s wash was hanging across the apartment, and gave rather a
slovenly aspect to the room, not otherwise peculiar for its untidyness;
against the wall were pasted some children’s “characters,” which his
second son, who is at the coal-shed, has a taste for, and which, as
the “shoreman” observed, “is better than sweet-stuff for him, at all

A little terrier was jumping playfully about the room, a much more
acceptable companion than the bull-dog whose acquaintance we had been
invited to make (in the same court) by the “rat-killer.”

The furniture and appointments of the “parlour” were extremely
humble--not to say meagre in their character. After some trouble in
getting sufficiently lucid answers, the following was the result:--

“There are not so many rats about as there used to be--not a
five-hundredth part so many. I’ve seen long ago twenty or thirty in a
row near where the slaughter-houses are, and that like. I ketch them
all down the shores. I run after them and pick them up with my hand,
and I take my lantern with me.

“I have caught rats these six or seven years. When the money got to be
lowered, I took to ketching on them. One time I used to take a dog with
me, when I worked down St. John’s-wood way.

“They fetches all prices, does rats; some I get threepence a-piece for,
some twopence, some twopence-halfpenny--’cordin’ who has ’em.

“I works on the shores, and our time to leave off is four. I comes
home and gets my tea, and if there’s sale for them, why I goes out and
ketches a few rats. When I goes out I can ketch a dozen; but, years
ago, I could ketch two or three dozen without going so far, and that
shows there’s not so many now about.

“I finds some difficulty in ketching on them. If they gets into the
drain you can’t get ’em. Where the drains lay low to the shore it’s
most difficult, but where the drain is about two feet and a-half from
the shore you gets a better chance.

“Three or four dozen I used to ketch, but I haven’t ketched any this
last two or three weeks. In this hot weather people don’t like to be in
a room where ‘killing’ is going on; but in the winter time a man will
have his pint of beer and see a little sport that way. Three or four
year ago I did ketch a good many; there was a sale for ’em. I could go
and ketch two dozen in three hours, and that sooner than I can do a
dozen now. It’s varmint as wants to be destroyed.

“Rats’ll turn round when they finds theirselves beat, and sometimes
fly at your hand. Sometimes I’ve got bit--not very badly, though. To
tell the truth, I don’t like it. When they grip, they do holt so tight
before they’ll let go.

“I’ve been a shoreman these fifteen or sixteen year, ever since this
flushing commenced. I was put on by the Commissioners in Hatting
Garding; but the Commissioners is all done away with since Government
took to it. I’m employed by the parish now. Every parish has to do its
own flushing.

“We cleanses away all the soil what’s down below, and keeps the shore
as sweet as what we possibly can.

“Before I took to this life I was what they call a navvy; I used to
help to _make_ the shores, and before that, I was in the country at
farmers’ work.

“Ketching them rats ain’t all profit, ’cause you have to keep ’em and
feed ’em. I’ve some here, if I was to get sixpence a-piece for, why it
wouldn’t pay me for their feed. I give them barley generally, and bits
of bread.

“There’s a many about now ketchin’ who does nothink else, and who goes
down in the shores when they have no business there at all. They does
well by rats when they’ve good call for ’em. They can go down two or
three times a-day, and ketch a dozen and a half a time; but they can’t
do much now, there’s no killing going on. They takes ’em to beer-shops,
and sells ’em to the landlords, who gets their own price for ’em if
there’s a pit.

“Time ago you couldn’t get a rat under sixpence. But the tax on dogs
has done away wonderful with rat-killing. London would swarm with rats
if they hadn’t been ketched as they has been. I can go along shores and
only see one or two now, sometimes see none. Times ago I’ve drove away
twenty or thirty afore me. Round Newport-market I’ve seen a hundred
together, and now I go round there and perhaps won’t ketch one.

“As for poisonin’ ’em under buildings, that’s wrong; they’re sure to
lay there and rot, and then they smells so. No, pisoning a’n’t no good,
specially where there’s many on ’em.

“I’ve sold Jack Black a good many. He don’t ketch so many as he gets
killed. He’s what they call rat-ketcher to her Majesty.

“When I goes rat ketching, I generally takes a bag with me; a trap is
too much to lug about.

“Some parts of the shores I can find my way about better than I can
up above. I could get in nigh here and come out at High Park; only
the worst of it is, you’re always on the stoop. I never heerd talk of
anybody losing theirselves in the shores, but a stranger might.

“There’s some what we calls ‘gully-hunters’ as goes about with a sieve,
and near the gratings find perhaps a few ha’pence. Years ago we used
to find a little now and then, but we may go about now and not find
twopence in a week. I don’t think any shoreman ever finds much. But
years ago, in the city, perhaps a robbery might be committed, and then
they might be afraid of being found out, and chuck the things down the

“I come from Oxfordshire, about four miles from Henley-’pon-Thames. I
haven’t got now quite so many clods to tramp over, nor so many hills to

“I gets two shillings a-dozen if I sells the rats to a dealer, but if
I takes ’em to the pit myself I gets three shillings. Rats has come
down lately. There’s more pits, and they kills ’em cheaper; they used
to kill ’em at six shillings a-dozen.

“I’ve got five children. These here are not all belonging to me. Their
mother’s gone out a-nussing, and my wife’s got to mind ’em.

“My oldest son is sixteen. He’s off for a sailor. I had him on me for
two years doin’ nothink. He couldn’t get a place, and towards the
last he didn’t care about it. He _would_ go to sea; so he went to the
Marine School, and now he’s in the East Ingy Sarvice. My second is at a
coal-shed. He gets three shillings a-week; but, Lord, what’s that? He
eats more than that, let alone clothes, and he wears out such a lot of
shoe-leather. There’s a good deal of wear and tear, I can tell yer, in
carrying out coals and such-like.”


This man lived in a small cottage at the back of Bethnal Green-road,
and the little railed space in front of the humble dwelling was
littered with sundry evidences of the inmate’s ingenuity. Here was
a mechanical carriage the crippled father had made to drive himself
along, and a large thaumatrope, or disc of painted figures, that seemed
to move while revolving rapidly before the eye; and this, I afterwards
learnt, the ingenious cripple had made, as a street exhibition, for a
poor man, whom he was anxious to put in the way of doing something for

The principal apartment in the little two-roomed house was blocked up
with carpenters’ benches, and long planks were resting against the
wall, while the walls themselves were partly covered with tools and
patterns of the craft pursued; and in one corner there were heaps of
the penny mouse-traps and penny money-boxes, that formed the main
articles of manufacture.

In a little room adjoining this, and about the size of a hen-house, I
found the cripple himself in bed, but still sitting up with a small
desk-like bench before him, and engaged in the act of cutting and
arranging the wires for the little wooden traps in which he dealt. And
as I sat by his bedside he told me the following story:--

“I am,” he said, “a white-wood toy-maker, in a small way; that is, I
make a variety of cheap articles,--nothing beyond a penny,--in sawed
and planed pine-wood. I manufacture penny and halfpenny money-boxes,
penny and halfpenny toy bellows, penny carts, penny garden-rollers,
penny and halfpenny dolls’ tables and washhand-stands, chiefly for
baby-houses; penny dressers, with drawers, for the same purpose; penny
wheelbarrows and bedsteads; penny crossbows; and the mouse-trap that I
am about now. I make all the things I have named for warehouses--for
what are called the cheap Birmingham and Sheffield houses. I am
paid the same price for whatever I make, with the exception of the
mouse-trap. For the principal part of the penny articles that I make
I get 7_s._ for twelve dozen, that is 7_d._ a-dozen; and for the
halfpenny articles I get 3_s._ 6_d._, at the rate of 3-1/2_d._ a-dozen.
For the penny mouse-traps, however, I am paid only 1_l._ for thirty-six
dozen, and that’s a shilling less than I get for the same quantity of
the other shilling articles; whilst for the penny boxes I’m paid only
at the rate of a halfpenny each.

“You will please to look at that, sir,” he said, handing me his
account-book with one of his employers for the last year; “you will
see there that what I am saying is perfectly correct, for there is the
price put to every article; and it is but right that you should have
proof that what I’m a-telling you is the truth. I took of one master,
for penny mouse-traps alone, you perceive, 36_l._ 10_s._ from January
to December, 1849; but that is not all gain, you’ll understand. Out of
that I have to pay above one half for material. I think, altogether,
my receipts of the different masters I worked for last year came to
about 120_l._--I can’t lay my hands on the bills just now.--Yes,
it’s about 120_l._ I know, for our income,--that is, my clear gains
is about 1_l._ to 1_l._ 5_s._ every week. So, calculating more than
one half what I take to go for the expense for material, that will
bring it to just about to what I state. To earn the 25_s._ a-week,
you’ll understand, there are four of us engaged,--myself, my wife,
my daughter, and son. My daughter is eighteen, and my son eleven:
that is my boy, sir; he’s reading the _Family Friend_ just now. It’s
a little work I take in for my girl, for her future benefit. My girl
is as fond of reading as I am, and always was. My boy goes to school
every evening, and twice on a Sunday. I am willing that they should
find as much pleasure from reading as I have in my illness. I found
books often lull my pain. Yes, I have, indeed, for many hours. For nine
months I couldn’t handle a tool; and my only comfort was the love of
my family, and my books. I can’t afford them now, for I have no wish
to incur any extraneous expense, while the weight of the labour lies
on my family more than it does on myself. Over and over again, when I
have been in acute pain with my thigh, a scientific book, or a work
on history, or a volume of travels, would carry my thoughts far away,
and I should be happy in all my misery--hardly conscious that I had
a trouble, a care, or a pang to vex me. I always had love of solid
works. For an hour’s light reading, I have often turned to a work of
imagination, such as Milton’s _Paradise Lost_, and Shakspeare’s Plays;
but I prefer science to poetry. I think every working man ought to be
acquainted with general science. If he is a mechanic--let his station
be ever so simple,--he will be sure to find the benefit of it. It
gives a man a greater insight into the world and creation, and it makes
his labour a pleasure and a pride to him, when he can work with his
head as well as his hands. I think I have made, altogether, about one
hundred and six gross of mouse-traps for the master whose account I
have given you, and as many more for other employers, in the course
of the last year. I calculate that I made more than thirty thousand
mouse-traps from January to December, 1849. There are three or four
other people in London making penny mouse-traps, besides myself. I
reckon they may make among them near upon half as many as I do; and
that would give about forty-five or fifty thousand penny mouse-traps
made in London in the course of the year. I myself brought out the
penny mouse-trap in its improved shape, and with the improved lever
spring. I have no calculations as to the number of mice in the country,
or how soon we should have caught them if we go on at this rate; but
I think my traps have to do with that. They are bought more for toys
than for use, though they are good for mice as well as children; and
though we have so many dozen mouse-traps about the house, I can assure
you we are more troubled with mice here than most people. The four
of us here can make twenty-four dozen traps in the day, but that is
all we can get through comfortable. For eighteen dozen we get about
10_s._ at the warehouse, and out of that I reckon our clear gains are
near upon 4_s._, or a little less than 1_s._ a head. Take one with
the other, we can earn about a penny an hour; and if it wasn’t for me
having been a tailor originally, and applying some of my old tools to
the business, we shouldn’t get on so quick as we do. With my shears
I can cut twenty-four wires at a time, and with my thimble I thread
the wires through the holes in the sides. I make the springs, cut the
wires, and put them in the traps. My daughter planes the wood and
gauges out the sides and bottom, bores the wire-holes and makes the
door as well. My wife nails the frames ready for wiring, and my son
fixes the wires in their places when I have entered them; then the
wife springs them, after which the daughter puts in the doors and so
completes them. I can’t form an idea as to how many penny and halfpenny
money-boxes I made last year. I might have made, altogether, eight
thousand, or five thousand halfpenny and three thousand penny ones.
I was originally brought up to the tailoring business, but my master
failed, and my sight kept growing weaker every year; so, as I found a
good deal of trouble in getting employment at my own trade, I thought
I would take to the bird-cage making--I had been doing a little at
it before, as a pastime. I was fond of birds, and fonder still of
mechanics, so I was always practising my hands at some craft or other
in my over-time. I used to make dissected maps and puzzles, and so,
when standing for employment, I managed to get through the slack of
the year. I think it is solely due to my taste for mechanics and my
love of reading scientific books that I am able to live so comfortably
as I do in my affliction. After I took to bird-cage making, I found
the employment at it so casual that I could not support my family at
it. This led my mind to toy making, for I found that cheap toys were
articles of more general sale. Then I got my children and my wife to
help me, and we managed to get along somehow, for you see they were
learning the business, and I myself was not in much of a condition to
teach them, being almost as inexperienced at the trade as they were;
and, besides that, we were continually changing the description of toy
that we manufactured, so we had no time to perfect ourselves. One day
we were all at work at garden-rollers; the next, perhaps, we should be
upon little carts; then, may-be, we should have to go to dolls’ tables
or wheelbarrows: so that, with the continual changing the description
of toy that we manufactured from one thing to another, we had a great
difficulty in getting practised in anything. While we were all learning
you may imagine that, not being so quick then as we are now, we found
a great difficulty in making a living at the penny-toy business: often
we had merely dry bread for breakfast, tea, and supper, but we ate it
with a light heart, for I knew repining wouldn’t mend it, and I always
taught myself and those about me to bear our trials with fortitude.
At last I got to work regularly at the mouse-traps, and having less
changing we learnt to turn them out of hand quicker, and to make more
money at the business: that was about four years ago, and then I was
laid up with a strumous abscess in the thigh. This caused necrosis, or
decay of the thigh-bone, to take place, and it was necessary that I
should be confined to my bed until such time as a new thigh-bone was
formed, and the old decayed one had sloughed away. Before I lay up I
stood at the bench until I was ready to drop, for I had no one who
could plane the boards for me; and what could I do? If I didn’t keep
up, I thought we should all starve. The pain was dreadful, and the
anxiety of mind I suffered for my wife and children made it a thousand
times worse. I couldn’t bear the idea of going to the workhouse, and
I kept on my feet until I couldn’t stand no longer. My daughter was
only sixteen then, and I saw no means of escape. It was at that time
my office to prepare the boards for my family, and without that they
could do nothing. Well, sir, I saw utter ruin and starvation before us.
The doctor told me it would take four years before a new bone would be
formed, and that I must lay up all the while. What was to become of us
all in the mean time I could not tell. Then it was that my daughter,
seeing the pain I suffered both in body and mind, came to me, and told
me not to grieve, for that she would do all the heavy work for me, and
plane up the boards and cut out the work as I had done; but I thought
it impossible for her to get through such hard work, even for my sake.
I knew she could do almost anything that she set her mind to, but I
little dreamt that she would be able to compass that. However, with
the instinct of her affection--I can’t call it anything else (for she
learnt at once what it had taken me months to acquire), she planed and
shaped the boards as well as I myself could have done after years of
practice. The first board she did was as cleanly done as she can do
it now, and when you think of the difficulties she had to overcome,
what a mere child she was, and that she had never handled a plane
before, how she had the grain of the wood to find out, to learn the
right handling of her tools, and a many little niceties of touch that
workmen only can understand, it does seem to me as if some superior
Power had inspired her to aid me. I have often heard of birds building
their nests of the most beautiful structure, without ever having seen
one built before, and my daughter’s handiwork seemed to me exactly like
that. It was a thing not learnt by practice, but done in an instant,
without teaching or experience of any kind. She is the best creature
I ever knew or ever heard tell of on earth--at least, so she has been
to me all her life; aye, without a single exception. If it hadn’t been
for her devotion I must have gone to the workhouse, and perhaps never
been able to have got away from it, and had my children brought up as
paupers. Where she got the strength to do it is as much a mystery to me
as how she did it. Though she was but a mere child, so to speak, she
did the work of a grown man, and I assure you the labour of working at
the bench all day is heavy, even for the strongest workman, and my girl
is not over-strong now; indeed she was always delicate from a baby:
nevertheless she went through the labour, and would stand to the bench
the whole of the day, and with such cheerful good humour too that I
cannot but see the hand of the Almighty in it all. I never knew her
to complain of fatigue, or ever go to her work without a smile on her
face. Her only anxiety was to get done, and to afford me every comfort
in my affliction that she could. For three years and two months now
have I been confined to my bed, and for two years and a half of that
time I have not left it, even to breathe the fresh open air. Almost all
that period I have been suffering intense and continued pain from the
formation of abscesses in my thigh previous to the sloughing away of
the decayed bones. I have taken out of the sores at least two hundred
pieces, some as small as needles and some not less than an inch and
a half long, which required to be pulled out with tweezers from the
wound. Often, when I was getting a bit better and able to go about in
the cart you see there outside, with the gravel in it--(I made that on
this bed here, so as to be able to move about on it; the two front
wheels I made myself, and the two back were old ones that I repaired
here. I made the whole of the body, and my daughter planed up the
boards for me)--well, often when I could just get along in that, have
I gone about with a large piece of decayed bone projecting through my
thigh, in hopes that the jolting would force it through the wound. The
pain before the bone came away was often intense, especially when it
had to work its way through the thick of the muscle. Night after night
have I laid awake here. I didn’t wish, of course, to distress the minds
of my family any more than I could help. It would not have been fair;
so I bore all with patience, and since I have been here I have got
through a great deal of work in my little way. In bed, as I sit with my
little bench, I do my share of eight dozen of these penny traps a-day.
Last August I made a ‘thaumatrope’ for a young man that I had known
since a lad of twelve years of age; he got off work and couldn’t find
anything to turn his hand to, so I advised him to get up an exhibition:
anything was better than starving. He had a wife and two children, and
I can’t bear to see any one want, let alone the young ones; and so,
cripple as I was, I set to work here in my bed and made him a large
set of magic circles. I painted all the figures myself in this place,
though I had never handled a brush before, and that has kept him in
bread up to this time. I did it to cause him to exert himself, but now
he has got a situation, and is doing middling to what he has been:
there’s one thing though, a little money, with care, will go farther
than a great deal without it. I shall never be able to get about as I
used, for you see the knee is set stiff and the thigh-bone is arched
with the hip, so that the one leg is three inches shorter than the
other. The bone broke spontaneously, like a bit of rotten wood, the
other day, while I was rubbing my hand down my thigh, and in growing
together again it got out of straight. I am just able to stir about now
with a crutch and stick. I can sometimes treat myself to a walk about
the house and yard, but that is not often, and last Saturday night I
_did_ make a struggle to get out in the Bethnal Green-road, and there,
as I was coming along, my stick tripped against a stone and I fell. If
it hadn’t been for my crutch throwing me forward, I might have fallen
on my new bone and broken it again. But as it was, the crutch threw me
forward and saved me. My doctor tells me my new bone would bear a blow,
but I shouldn’t like to try after all I have gone through. I shall
not be about again till I get my carriage done, and that I intend to
construct so as to drive it with one hand, by means of a new ratchet
lever motion.”

The daughter of the toy-maker, with whom I spoke afterwards, and who
was rather “good-looking,” in the literal sense of the word, than
beautiful, said that she could not describe how it was that she had
learnt to plane and gauge the boards. It seemed to come to her all of
a sudden--quite natural-like, she told me; though, she added, it was
most likely her affection for her poor father that made her take to it
so quick. “I felt it deeply” she said, “to see him take to his bed,
and knew that I alone could save him from the workhouse. No! I never
felt tired over the work,” she continued, in answer to my questions,
“because I know that it is to make him comfortable.”

I should add, that I was first taken to this man by the surgeon who
attended him during his long suffering, and that gentleman not only
fully corroborated all I heard from his ingenious and heroic patient,
but spoke in the highest possible terms of both father and daughter.


These winged tormentors are not, like most of our apterous enemies,
calculated to excite disgust and nausea when we see or speak of them;
nor do they usually steal upon us during the silent hours of repose
(though the gnat or mosquito must be here excepted), but are many of
them very beautiful, and boldly make their attack upon us in open day,
when we are best able to defend ourselves.

The active fly, so frequently an unbidden guest at your table (Mouffet,
56), whose delicate palate selects your choicest viands, at one time
extending his proboscis to the margin of a drop of wine, and then
gaily flying to take a more solid repast from a pear or a peach--now
gambolling with his comrades in the air, now gracefully carrying his
furled wings with his taper feet--was but the other day a disgusting
grub, without wings, without legs, without eyes, wallowing, well
pleased, in the midst of a mass of excrement.

“The common house-fly,” says Kirby, “is with us sufficiently annoying
at the close of summer, so as to have led the celebrated Italian Ugo
Foscolo, when residing here, to call it one of the ‘three miseries of
life.’” But we know nothing of it as a tormentor, compared with the
inhabitants of southern Europe. “I met,” says Arthur Young, in his
interesting _Travels through France_, between Pradelles and Thurytz,
“mulberries and flies at the same time. By the term _flies_, I mean
those myriads of them which form the most disagreeable circumstances
of the southern climates. They are the first torments in Spain, Italy,
and the olive district of France; it is not that they bite, sting, or
hurt, but they buzz, teaze, and worry; your mouth, eyes, ears, and
nose are full of them: they swarm on every eatable--fruit, sugar,
everything is attacked by them in such myriads, that if they are not
incessantly driven away by a person who has nothing else to do, to eat
a meal is impossible. They are, however, caught on prepared paper, and
other contrivances, with so much ease and in such quantities, that
were it not for negligence they could not abound in such incredible
quantities. If I farmed in these countries, I should manure four or
five acres every year with dead flies. I have been much surprised
that the learned Mr. Harmer should think it odd to find, by writers
who treated of southern climates, that driving away flies was of
importance. Had he been with me in Spain and in Languedoc in July and
August, he would have been very far from thinking there was anything
odd in it.”--(_Young’s Travels in France_, i. 298.)

It is a remarkable, and, as yet, unexplained fact, that if nets of
thread or string, with meshes a full inch square, be stretched over the
open windows of a room in summer or autumn, when flies are the greatest
nuisance, not a single one will venture to enter from without; so that
by this simple plan, a house may be kept free from these pests, while
the adjoining ones which have not had nets applied to their windows
will swarm with them. In order, however, that the protection should
be efficient, it is necessary that the rooms to which it is applied
should have the light enter by _one side_ only; for in those which have
a thorough light, the flies, strange to say, pass through the meshes
without scruple.

For a fuller account of these singular facts, the reader is referred
to a paper by W. Spence, in _Trans. Ent. Soc._ vol. i. p. 1, and also
to one in the same work by the Rev. E. Stanley, late Lord Bishop of
Norwich, who, having made some of the experiments suggested by Mr.
Spence, found that by extending over the outside of his windows nets
of a very fine pack-thread, with meshes one inch and a quarter to the
square, so fine and comparatively invisible that there was no apparent
diminution either of light or the distant view, he was enabled for
the remainder of the summer and autumn to enjoy the fresh air with
open windows, without the annoyance he had previously experienced from
the intrusion of flies--often so troublesome that he was obliged on
the hottest days to forego the luxury of admitting the air by even
partially raising the sashes.

“But no sooner,” he observes, “had I set my nets than I was relieved
from my disagreeable visitors. I could perceive and hear them hovering
on the other side of my barriers; but though they now and then settled
on the meshes, I do not recollect a single instance of one venturing to
cross the boundary.”

“The number of house-flies,” he adds, “might be greatly lessened in
large towns, if the stable-dung in which their larvæ are chiefly
supposed to feed were kept in pits closed by trap-doors, so that the
females could not deposit their eggs in it. At Venice, where no horses
are kept, it is said there are no house-flies; a statement which I
regret not having heard before being there, that I might have inquired
as to its truth.”--(_Kirby and Spence’s Entom._ i. 102, 3.)

This short account of flies would be incomplete without a description
of their mode of proceeding when they regale themselves upon a piece
of loaf-sugar, and an account of the apparatus with which the Creator
has furnished them in order to enable them to walk on bodies possessing
smooth surfaces, and in any position.

“It is a remark[2] which will be found to hold good, both in animals
and vegetables, that no important motion or feeling can take place
without the presence of moisture. In man, the part of the eye which
is the seat of vision is always bedewed with moisture; the skin is
softened with a delicate oil; the sensitive part of the ear is filled
with a liquid; but moisture is still more abundant in our organs of
taste and smell than in any of the other senses. In the case of taste,
moisture is supplied to our mouth and tongue from several reservoirs
(_glands_) in their neighbourhood, whence pipes are laid and run to
the mouth. The whole surface, indeed, of the mouth and tongue, as
well as the other internal parts of our body, give out more or less
moisture; but besides this, the mouth, as we have just mentioned, has
a number of fountains expressly for its own use. The largest of these
fountains lies as far off as the ear on each side, and is formed of
a great number of round, soft bodies, about the size of garden-peas,
from each of which a pipe goes out, and all of these uniting together,
form a common channel on each side. This runs across the cheek, nearly
in a line with the lap of the ear and the corner of the mouth, and
enters the mouth opposite to the second or third of the double teeth
(_molares_) by a hole, into which a hog’s bristle can be introduced.
There are, besides, several other pairs of fountains, in different
parts adjacent, for a similar purpose.

[2] “Insect Miscellanies,” p. 36.

“We have been thus particular in our description, in order to
illustrate an analogous structure in insects, for they also seem to
be furnished with salivary fountains for moistening their organs of
taste. One of the circumstances that first awakened our curiosity with
regard to insects, was the manner in which a fly contrives to suck
up through its narrow sucker (_haustellum_) a bit of dry lump-sugar;
for the small crystals are not only unfitted to pass, from their
angularity, but adhere too firmly together to be separated by any
force the insect can exert. Eager to solve the difficulty, for there
could be no doubt of the fly’s sucking the dry sugar, we watched its
proceedings with no little attention; but it was not till we fell upon
the device of placing some sugar on the outside of a window, while
we looked through a magnifying-glass on the inside, that we had the
satisfaction of repeatedly witnessing a fly let fall a drop of fluid
upon the sugar, in order to melt it, and thereby render it fit to be
sucked up; on precisely the same principle that we moisten with saliva,
in the process of mastication, a mouthful of dry bread, to fit it for
being swallowed--the action of the jaws, by a beautiful contrivance of
Providence, preparing the moisture along the channels at the time it is
most wanted. Readers who may be disposed to think the circumstance of
the fly thus moistening a bit of sugar fanciful, may readily verify the
fact themselves in the way we have described. At the time when we made
this little experiment, we were not aware that several naturalists of
high authority had actually discovered by dissection the vessels which
supply the saliva in more than one species of insect.”

“In the case of their drinking fluids, like water, saliva is not
wanted; and it may be remarked, when we drink cold water it actually
astringes and shuts up the openings of the salivary pipes. Hence it is
that drinking does not quench thirst when the saliva is rendered viscid
and scanty by heat, by fatigue, or by the use of stimulant food and
liquor; and sometimes a draught of cold water, by carrying off all the
saliva from the mouth, and at the same time astringing the orifices
of the ducts, may actually produce thirst. Ices produce this effect
on many persons. It is, no doubt, in consequence of their laborious
exertions, as well as of the hot nature of their acid fluids producing
similar effects, that ants are so fond of water. We have seen one quaff
a drop of dew almost as large as its whole body; and when we present
those in our glass formicaries with water, they seem quite insatiable
in drinking it.”[3]

[3] “Insect Miscellanies,” p. 38.

Rennie, in his _Insect Miscellanies_, after describing the pedestrian
contrivances with which various insects are furnished, says,[4]--“The
most perfect contrivance of this kind, however, occurs in the domestic
fly (_Musca domestica_), and its congeners, as well as in several other
insects. Few can have failed to remark that flies walk with the utmost
ease along the ceiling of a room, and no less so upon a perpendicular
looking-glass; and though this were turned downwards, the flies would
not fall off, but could maintain their position undisturbed with their
backs hanging downwards. The conjectures devised by naturalists to
account for this singular circumstance, previous to the ascertaining of
the actual facts, are not a little amusing. ‘Some suppose,’ says the
Abbé de la Pluche, ‘that when the fly marches over any polished body,
on which neither its claws nor its points can fasten, it sometimes
compresses her sponge and causes it to evacuate a fluid, which fixes
it in such a manner as prevents its falling without diminishing the
facility of its progress; but it is much more probable that the sponges
correspond with the fleshy balls which accompany the claws of dogs and
cats, and that they enable the fly to proceed with a softer pace, and
contribute to the preservation of the claws, whose pointed extremities
would soon be impaired without this prevention.’ (_Spect. de la
Nat._ vol. i. p. 116.) ‘Its ability to walk on glass,’ says S. Shaw,
‘proceeds partly from some little ruggedness thereon, but chiefly from
a tarnish, or dirty, smoky substance, adhering to the surface; so that,
though the sharp points on the sponges cannot penetrate the surface of
the glass, it may easily catch hold of the tarnish.’ (_Nature Displ._
vol. iii. p. 98, Lond. 1823.) But,” adds Rennie, “it is singular
that none of these fanciers ever took the trouble to ascertain the
existence of either a gluten squeezed out by the fly, or of the smoky
tarnish on glass. Even the shrewd Réaumur could not give a satisfactory
explanation of the circumstance.”

[4] Ibid, p. 368.

“The earliest correct notion on this curious subject was entertained
by Derham, who, in mentioning the provision made for insects that
hang on smooth surfaces, says, ‘I might here name divers flies and
other insects who, besides their sharp-hooked nails, have also skinny
palms to their feet, to enable them to stick to glass and other smooth
bodies by means of the pressure of the atmosphere--after the manner
as I have seen boys carry heavy stones with only a wet piece of
leather clapped on the top of the stone.’ (_Physico-Theology_, vol.
ii. p. 194, note _b_, 11th edit.) The justly-celebrated Mr. White, of
Selborne, apparently without the aid of microscopical investigation,
adopted Derham’s opinion, adding the interesting illustration, that in
the decline of the year, when the flies crowd to windows and become
sluggish and torpid, they are scarcely able to lift their legs, which
seem glued to the glass, where many actually stick till they die;
whereas they are, during warm weather, so brisk and alert, that they
easily overcome the pressure of the atmosphere.”--(_Nat. Hist. of
Selborne_, vol. ii. p. 274.)

“This singular mechanism, however,” continues Rennie, “is not peculiar
to flies, for some animals a hundred times as large can walk upon glass
by the same means.” St. Pierre mentions “a very small lizard, about a
finger’s length, which climbs along the walls, and even along glass, in
pursuit of flies and other insects” (_Voyage to the Isle of France_,
p. 73); and Sir Joseph Banks noticed another lizard, named the Gecke
(_Lacerta Gecha_, LINN.), which could walk against gravity, and which
made him desirous of having the subject thoroughly investigated. On
mentioning it to Sir Everard Home, he and Mr. Bauer commenced a series
of researches, by which they proved incontrovertibly, that in climbing
upon glass, and walking along the ceilings with the back downwards, a
vacuum is produced by a particular apparatus in the feet, sufficient to
cause atmospheric pressure upon their exterior surface.

“The apparatus in the feet of the fly consists of two or three
membranous suckers, connected with the last joint of the foot by a
narrow neck, of a funnel-shape, immediately under the base of each
jaw, and movable in all directions. These suckers are convex above and
hollow below, the edges being margined with minute serratures, and the
hollow portion covered with down. In order to produce the vacuum and
the pressure, these membranes are separated and expanded, and when the
fly is about to lift its foot, it brings them together, and folds them
up, as it were, between the two claws. By means of a common microscope,
these interesting movements may be observed when a fly is confined in a
wine-glass.” (_Phil. Trans. for 1816_, p. 325.)

“It must have attracted the attention of the most incurious to see,
during the summer, swarms of flies crowding about the droppings of
cattle, so as almost to conceal the nuisance, and presenting instead a
display of their shining corslets and twinkling wings. The object of
all this busy bustle is to deposit their eggs where their progeny may
find abundant food; and the final cause is obviously both to remove
the nuisance, and to provide abundant food for birds and other animals
which prey upon flies or their larvæ.

“The same remarks apply with no less force to the ‘blow-flies,’ which
deposit their eggs, and in some cases their young, upon carcases. The
common house-fly (the female of which generally lays 144 eggs) belongs
to the first division, the natural food of its larvæ being horse-dung;
consequently, it is always most abundant in houses in the vicinity
of stables, cucumber-beds, &c., to which, when its numbers become
annoying, attention should be primarily directed, rather than having
recourse to fly-waters.”--(RENNIE’S _Insect Miscellany_, p. 265.)

Besides the _common_ house-fly, and the other genera of the dipterous
order of insects, there is another not unfrequent intruding visitor
of the fly kind which we must not omit to mention, commonly known as
the _blue-bottle_ (_Musca vomitoria_, LINN.). The disgust with which
these insects are generally viewed will perhaps be diminished when our
readers are informed that they are destined to perform a very important
part in the economy of nature. Amongst a number of the insect tribe
whose office it is to remove nuisances the most disgusting to the eye,
and the most offensive to the smell, the varieties of the blue-bottle
fly belong to the most useful.

“When the dead carcases of animals begin to grow putrid, every one
knows what dreadful miasmata exhale from them, and taint the air
we breathe. But no sooner does life depart from the body of any
creature--at least from any which, from its size, is likely to become
a nuisance--than myriads of different sorts of insects attack it, and
in various ways. First come the _histers_, and pierce the skin. Next
follow the _flesh-flies_, covering it with millions of eggs, whence in
a day or two proceed innumerable devourers. An idea of the despatch
made by these gourmands may be gained from the combined consideration
of their numbers, voracity, and rapid development. The larvæ of many
flesh-flies, as Redi ascertained, will in twenty-four hours devour
so much food, and gnaw so quickly, as to increase their weight two
hundred-fold! In five days after being hatched they arrive at their
full growth and size, which is a remarkable instance of the care of
Providence in fitting them for the part they are destined to act;
for if a longer time was required for their growth, their food would
not be a fit aliment for them, or they would be too long in removing
the nuisance it is given them to dissipate. Thus we see there was
some ground for Linnæus’s assertion, under _Musca vomitoria_, that
three of these flies will devour a dead horse as quickly as would a
lion.”--(KIRBY and SPENCE, i.)

The following extraordinary fact, given by Kirby and Spence, concerning
the voracity of the larvæ of the blow-fly, or blue-bottle (_Musca
vomitoria_), is worth while appending:--

“On Thursday, June 25th, died at Asbornby, Lincolnshire, John Page,
a pauper belonging to Silk-Willoughby, under circumstances truly
singular. He being of a restless disposition, and not choosing to
stay in the parish workhouse, was in the habit of strolling about the
neighbouring villages, subsisting on the pittance obtained from door to
door. The support he usually received from the benevolent was bread and
meat; and after satisfying the cravings of nature, it was his custom to
deposit the surplus provision, particularly the meat, between his shirt
and skin. Having a considerable portion of this provision in store, so
deposited, he was taken rather unwell, and laid himself down in a field
in the parish of Stredington; when, from the heat of the season at that
time, the meat speedily became putrid, and was of course struck by
the flies. These not only proceeded to devour the inanimate pieces of
flesh, but also literally to prey upon the living substance; and when
the wretched man was accidentally found by some of the inhabitants, he
was so eaten by the maggots, that his death seemed inevitable. After
clearing away, as well as they were able, these shocking vermin, those
who found Page conveyed him to Asbornby, and a surgeon was immediately
procured, who declared that his body was in such a state that dressing
it must be little short of instantaneous death; and, in fact, the man
did survive the operation but for a few hours. When first found, and
again when examined by the surgeon, he presented a sight loathsome in
the extreme. White maggots of enormous size were crawling in and upon
his body, which they had most shockingly mangled, and the removal of
the external ones served only to render the sight more horrid.” Kirby
adds, “In passing through this parish last spring, I inquired of the
mail-coachman whether he had heard this story; and he said the fact was
well known.”

One species of fly infests our houses (_Stomoxys calcitrans_), which
so nearly resembles the common house-fly (_Musca domestica_), that the
difference is not easily detected except by an entomologist; indeed
the resemblance is so close as to have led to the vulgar error that
the common house-fly occasionally indulges itself by a feast upon our
blood, after it has fed to satiety upon the delicacies which it picks
from our tables. It is even a greater torment than the horse-fly.

“This little pest,” says Kirby, referring to the _Stomoxys_, “I speak
feelingly, incessantly interrupts our studies and comfort in showery
weather, making us even stamp like the cattle by its attacks on our
legs, and if we drive it away ever so often, returning again and again
to the charge.” In Canada they are infinitely worse. “I have sat down
to write,” says Lambert, (who, though he calls it the house-fly, is
evidently speaking of the Stomoxys), “and have been obliged to throw
away my pen in consequence of their irritating bite, which has obliged
me every moment to raise my hand to my eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, in
constant succession. When I could no longer write, I began to read,
and was always obliged to keep one hand constantly on the move towards
my head. Sometimes, in the course of a few minutes, I would take
half-a-dozen of my tormentors from my lips, between which I caught them
just as they perched.”--(_Travels._ &c. i. 126.)

But of all the insect-tormentors of man, none are so loudly and
universally complained of as the species of the genus _Culex_, L.,
whether known by the name of gnats or mosquitos. It has been generally
supposed by naturalists that the mosquitos of America belong to the
Linnæan genus _Culex_; but Humboldt asserts that the term _mosquito_,
signifying _a little fly_, is applied there to a _Senicilium_, LATR.
(_Senicilia_, MEIG.), and that the _Culices_, which are equally
numerous and annoying, are called _Zancudoes_, which means _long-legs_.
The former, he says, are what the French call _Moustiques_, and the
latter _Maringouins_. (_Personal Narrative_, E. T., v. 93.)

Humboldt’s remark, however, refers only to South America. Mr. Westwood
informs us that _Mosquito_ is certainly applied to a species of _Culex_
in the United States, the inhabitants giving the name of _black_-fly
to a small _Senicilium_. Pliny, after Aristotle, distinguishes well
between _Hymenoptera_ and _Diptera_, when he says the former have their
sting in the _tail_, and the latter in the _mouth_; and that to the one
this instrument is given as the instrument of vengeance, and to the
other of avidity.

But the instrument of avidity in the genus of which I am speaking is
even more terrible than that of vengeance in most insects that are
armed with it. It instils into its wound a poison (as appears from the
consequent inflammation and tumour), the principal use of which is to
render the blood more fluid and fitter for suction. This weapon, which
is more complex than the sting of hymenopterous insects, consisting
of five pieces besides the exterior sheath--some of which seem simply
lancets, while others are barbed like the spiculæ of a bee’s sting--is
at once calculated for piercing the flesh and forming a syphon adapted
to imbibe the blood. There are several species of this genus whose
bite is severe; but none is to be compared to the common gnat (_Culex
pipiens_, L.), if, as has been generally affirmed, it be synonymous
with the mosquito, though, in all probability, several species are
confounded under both names.

In this country they are justly regarded as no trifling evil; for they
follow us to all our haunts, intrude into our most secret retirements,
assail us in the city and in the country, in our houses and in our
fields, in the sun and in the shade; nay, they pursue us to our
pillows, and keep us awake by the ceaseless hum of their rapid wings
(which, according to the Baron C. de Latour, are vibrated 3000 times
per minute), and their incessant endeavours to fix themselves upon our
face, or some uncovered part of our body; whilst, if in spite of them
we fall asleep, they awaken us by the acute pain which attends the
insertion of their oral stings, attacking with most avidity the softer
sex, and trying their temper by disfiguring their beauty.

In Marshland in Norfolk, the inhabitants are said to be so annoyed by
the gnats, that the better sort of them, as in many hot climates, have
recourse to a gauze covering for their beds, to keep them off during
the night.


I discovered a colony of “catch-’em-alive” boys residing in
Pheasant-court, Gray’s-inn-lane.

From the pleasing title given to this alley, one might almost be led
to imagine it was a very delightful spot, though it is only necessary
to look down the little bricken archway that marks its entrance, and
see the houses--dirty as the sides of a dust-bin, and with the patched
counterpanes and yellow sheets hanging from the windows--to feel
assured that it is one of the most squalid of the many wretched courts
that branch out from Gray’s-inn-lane.

I found the lads playing at “pitch and toss” in the middle of the paved
yard. They were all willing enough to give me their statements; indeed,
the only difficulty I had was in making my choice among the youths.

“Please, sir, I’ve been at it longer than him,” cried one with teeth
ribbed like celery.

“Please, sir, he ain’t been out this year with the papers,” said
another, who was hiding a handful of buttons behind his back.

“He’s been at shoe-blacking, sir; I’m the only reg’lar fly-boy,”
shouted a third, eating a piece of bread as dirty as London snow.

A big lad with a dirty face, and hair like hemp, was the first of
the “catch-’em-alive” boys who gave me his account of the trade. He
was a swarthy-featured boy, with a broad nose like a negro’s, and
on his temple was a big half-healed scar, which he accounted for by
saying that “he had been runned over” by a cab, though, judging from
the blackness of one eye, it seemed to have been the result of some
street-fight. He said:--

“I’m an Irish boy, and near turned sixteen, and I’ve been silling
fly-papers for between eight and nine year. I must have begun to sill
them when they first come out. Another boy first tould me of them, and
he’d been silling them about three weeks before me. He used to buy them
of a party as lives in a back-room near Drury-lane, what buys paper and
makes the catch ’em alive himself. When they first came out they used
to charge sixpence a-dozen for ’em, but now they’ve got ’em to twopence
ha’penny. When I first took to silling ’em, there was a tidy lot of
boys at the business, but not so many as now, for all the boys seem
at it. In our court alone I should think there was above twenty boys
silling the things.

“At first, when there was a good time, we used to buy three or four
gross together, but now we don’t do more than half a gross. As we
go along the streets we call out different cries. Some of us says,
‘Fly-papers, fly-papers, ketch ’em all alive.’ Others make a kind of
song of it, singing out, ‘Fly-paper, ketch ’em all alive, the nasty
flies, tormenting the baby’s eyes. Who’d be fly-blow’d, by all the
nasty blue-bottles, beetles, and flies?’

“People likes to buy of a boy as sings out well, ’cos it makes ’em

“I don’t think I sell so many in town as I do in the borders of the
country, about Highbury, Croydon, and Brentford. I’ve got some regular
customers in town about the City-prison and the Caledonian-road; and
after I’ve served them and the town custom begins to fall off, then I
goes to the country.

“We goes two of us together, and we takes about three gross. We keep
on silling before us all the way, and we comes back the same road.
Last year we sould very well in Croydon, and it was the best place for
gitting a price for them; they’d give a penny a-piece for ’em there,
for they didn’t know nothing about them. I went off one day at tin
o’clock and didn’t come home till two in the morning. I sould eighteen
dozen out in that d’rection the other day, and got rid of them before I
had got half-way.

“But flies are very scarce at Croydon this year, and we haven’t done so
well. There ain’t half as many flies this summer as last.

“Some people says the papers draws more flies than they ketches, and
that when one gets in, there’s twenty others will come to see him.

“It’s according to the weather as the flies is about. If we have a fine
day it fetches them out, but a cold day kills more than our papers.

“We sills the most papers to little cook-shops and sweetmeat-shops.
We don’t sill so many at private-houses. The public-houses is pretty
good customers, ’cos the beer draws the flies. I sould nine dozen at
one house--a school--at Highgate, the other day. I sould ’em two for
three-ha’pence. That was a good hit, but then t’other days we loses. If
we can make a ha’penny each we thinks we does well.

“Those that sills their papers at three a-penny buys them at St.
Giles’s, and pays only three-ha’pence a dozen for them, but they an’t
half as big and good as those we pays tuppence-ha’penny a dozen for.

“Barnet is a good place for fly-papers; there’s a good lot of flies
down there. There used to be a man at Barnet as made ’em, but I can’t
say if he do now. There’s another at Brentford, so it ain’t much good
going that way.

“In cold weather the papers keep pretty well, and will last for months
with just a little warming at the fire; for they tears on opening
when they are dry. You see we always carry them with the sticky sides
doubled up together like a sheet of writing-paper. In hot wither, if
you keep them folded up, they lasts very well; but if you opens them,
they dry up. It’s easy opening them in hot weather, for they comes
apart as easy as peeling a horrange.

“We generally carries the papers in a bundle on our arm, and we ties a
paper as is loaded with flies round our cap, just to show the people
the way to ketch ’em. We get a loaded paper given to us at a shop.

“When the papers come out first, we used to do very well with
fly-papers; but now it’s hard work to make our own money for ’em. Some
days we used to make six shillings a-day regular. But then we usen’t
to go out every day, but take a rest at home. If we do well one day,
then we might stop idle another day, resting. You see, we had to do our
twenty or thirty miles silling them to get that money, and then the
next day we was tired.

“The silling of papers is gradual fallen off. I could go out and sill
twenty dozen wonst where I couldn’t sill one now.

“I think I does a very grand day’s work if I yearns a shilling. Perhaps
some days I may lose by them. You see, if it’s a very hot day, the
papers gets dusty; and beside, the stuff gets melted and oozes out;
though that don’t do much harm, ’cos we gets a bit of whitening and
rubs ’em over.

“Four years ago we might make ten shillings a-day at the papers, but
now, taking from one end of the fly-paper sason to the other, which is
about three months, I think we makes about one shilling a-day out of
papers, though even that aint quite certain. I never goes out without
getting rid of mine, somehow or another, but then I am obleeged to walk
quick and look about me.

“When it’s a bad time for silling the papers, such as a wet, could day,
then most of the fly-paper boys goes out with brushes, cleaning boots.
Most of the boys is now out hopping. They goes reg’lar every year after
the sason is give over for flies.

“The stuff as they puts on the paper is made out of boiled oil and
turpentine and resin. It’s seldom as a fly lives more than five minutes
after it gets on the paper, and then it’s as dead as a house. The
blue-bottles is tougher, but they don’t last long, though they keeps on
fizzing as if they was trying to make a hole in the paper. The stuff is
only p’isonous for flies, though I never heard of any body as ever eat
a fly-paper.”

The second lad I chose from among the group of applicants was of a
middle age, and although the noisiest when among his companions, had no
sooner entered the room with me, than his whole manner changed. He sat
himself down, bent up like a monkey, and scarcely ever turned his eyes
from me. He seemed as nervous as if in a witness-box, and kept playing
with his grubby fingers till he had almost made them white.

“They calls me ‘Curley.’ I come from Ireland too. I’m about fourteen
year, and have been in this line now, sir, about five year. I goes
about the borders of the country. We general takes up the line about
the beginning of June, that is, when we gets a good summer. When we
gets a good close dull day like this, we does pretty well, but when we
has first one day hot, and then another rainy and could, a’ course we
don’t get on so well.

“The most I sould was one day when I went to Uxbridge, and then I sould
a gross and a half. I paid half-a-crown a gross for them. I was living
with mother then, and she give me the money to buy ’em, but I had to
bring her back again all as I took. I al’us give her all I makes,
except sixpence as I wants for my dinner, which is a kipple of pen’orth
of bread and cheese and a pint of beer. I sould that gross and a half
I spoke on at a ha’penny each, and I took nine shillings, so that I
made five and sixpence. But then I’d to leave London at three or four
o’clock in the morning, and to stop out till twelve o’clock at night.
I used to live out at Hammersmith then, and come up to St. Giles’s
every morning and buy the papers. I had to rise by half-past two in the
morning, and I’d get back again to Hammersmith by about six o’clock. I
couldn’t sill none on the road, ’cos the shops wasn’t open.

“The flies is getting bad every summer. This year they a’n’t half so
good as they was last year or the year before. I’m sure I don’t know
why there aint so many, but they aint so plentiful like. The best year
was three year ago. I know that by the quantity as my customers bought
of me, and in three days the papers was swarmed with flies.

“I’ve got regular customers, where I calls two or three times a week to
’em. If I was to walk my rounds over I could at the lowest sell from
six to eight dozen at ha’penny each at wonst. If it was nice wither,
like to-day, so that it wouldn’t come wet on me, I should make ten
shillings a-week regular, but it depends on the wither. If I was to put
my profits by, I’m sure I should find I make more than six shillings
a-week, and nearer eight. But the season is only for three months at
most, and then we takes to boot-cleaning. Near all the poor boys about
here is fly-paper silling in the hot weather, and boot-cleaners at
other times.

“Shops buys the most of us in London. In Barnet I sell sometimes as
much as six or seven dozen to some of the grocers as buys to sell
again, but I don’t let them have them only when I can’t get rid of ’em
to t’other customers. Butchers is very fond of the papers, to catch
the blue-bottles as gets in their meat, though there is a few butchers
as have said to me, ‘Oh, go away, they draws the flies more than they
ketches ’em.’ Clothes-shops, again, is very fond of ’em. I can’t tell
why they is fond of ’em, but I suppose ’cos the flies spots the goods.

“There’s lots of boys going silling ‘ketch ’em alive oh’s’ from
Golden-lane, and Whitechapel, and the Borough. There’s lots, too, comes
out of Gray’s-inn-lane and St. Giles’s. Near every boy who has nothing
to do goes out with fly-papers. Perhaps it aint that the flies is
falled off that we don’t sill so many papers now, but because there’s
so many boys at it.”

The most intelligent and the most gentle in his demeanour was a little
boy, who was scarcely tall enough to look on the table at which
I was writing. If his face had been washed, he would have been a
pretty-looking lad; for, despite the black marks made by his knuckles
during his last fit of crying, he had large expressive eyes, and his
features were round and plump, as though he were accustomed to more
food than his companions.

Whilst taking his statement I was interrupted by the entrance of a
woman, whose fears had been aroused by the idea that I belonged to the
Ragged School, and had come to look after the scholars. “It’s no good
you’re coming here for him, he’s off hopping to-morrow with his mother,
as has asked me to look after him, and it’s only your saxpence he’s

It was with great difficulty that I could get rid of this lady’s
company; and, indeed, so great appeared to be the fear in the court
that the object of my visit was to prevent the young gentlemen from
making their harvest trip into the country, that a murmuring crowd
began to assemble round the house where I was, determined to oppose me
by force, should I leave the premises accompanied by any of the youths.

“I’ve been longer at it than that last boy, though I’m only getting
on for thirteen, and he’s older than I’m; ’cos I’m little and he’s
big, getting a man. But I can sell them quite as well as he can, and
sometimes better, for I can holler out just as loud, and I’ve got
reg’lar places to go to. I was a very little fellow when I first went
out with them, but I could sell them pretty well then, sometimes three
or four dozen a-day. I’ve got one place, in a stable, where I can sell
a dozen at a time to countrypeople.

“I calls out in the streets, and I goes into the shops, too, and
calls out, ‘Ketch ’em alive, ketch ’em alive; ketch all the nasty
black-beetles, blue-bottles, and flies; ketch ’em from teazing the
baby’s eyes.’ That’s what most of us boys cries out. Some boys who is
stupid only says, ‘Ketch ’em alive,’ but people don’t buy so well from

“Up in St. Giles’s there is a lot of fly-boys, but they’re a bad
set, and will fling mud at gentlemen, and some prigs the gentlemen’s
pockets. Sometimes, if I sells more than a big boy, he’ll get mad and
hit me. He’ll tell me to give him a halfpenny and he won’t touch me,
and that if I don’t he’ll kill me. Some of the boys takes an open
fly-paper, and makes me look another way, and then they sticks the
ketch ’em alive on my face. The stuff won’t come off without soap and
hot water, and it goes black, and looks like mud. One day a boy had a
broken fly-paper, and I was taking a drink of water, and he come behind
me and slapped it up in my face. A gentleman as saw him give him a
crack with a stick and me twopence. It takes your breath away, until a
man comes and takes it off. It all sticked to my hair, and I couldn’t
rack (comb) right for some time.

“When we are selling papers we have to walk a long way. Some boys go as
far as Croydon, and all about the country; but I don’t go much further
than Copenhagen-fields, and straight down that way. I don’t like going
along with other boys, they take your customers away; for perhaps
they’ll sell ’em at three a-penny to ’em, and spoil the customers for
you. I won’t go with the big boy you saw ’cos he’s such a blackgeyard;
when he’s in the country he’ll go up to a lady and say, ‘Want a
fly-paper, marm?’ and if she says ‘No,’ he’ll perhaps job his head in
her face--butt at her like.

“When there’s no flies, and the ketch ’em alive’s is out, then I
goes tumbling. I can turn a cat’enwheel over on one hand. I’m going
to-morrow to the country, harvesting and hopping--for, as we says, ‘Go
out hopping, come in jumping.’ We start at three o’clock to-morrow,
and we shall get about twelve o’clock at night at Dead Man’s Barn. It
was left for poor people to sleep in, and a man there was buried in a
corner. The man had got six farms of hops; and if his son hadn’t buried
him there, he wouldn’t have had none of the riches.

“The greatest number of fly-papers I’ve sold in a day is about eight
dozen. I never sells no more than that; I wish I could. People won’t
buy ’em now. When I’m at it I makes, taking one day with another, about
ten shilling a-week. You see, if I sold eight dozen, I’d make four
shillings. I sell them at a penny each, at two for three-ha’pence, and
three for twopence. When they gets stale I sells ’em at three a-penny.
I always begin by asking a penny each, and perhaps they’ll say, ‘Give
me two for three-ha’pence.’ I’ll say, ‘Can’t, ma’am,’ and then they
pulls out a purse full of money and gives a penny.

“The police is very kind to us, and don’t interfere with us. If they
sees another boy hitting us they’ll take off their belts and hit ’em.
Sometimes I’ve sold a ketch ’em alive to a policeman; he’ll fold it up
and put it in his pocket to take home with him. Perhaps he’s got a kid,
and the flies teazes its eyes.

“Some ladies like to buy fly-cages better than ketch ’em alive’s,
because sometimes when they’re putting ’em up they falls in their
faces, and then they screams.”


In a small attic-room, in a house near Drury-lane, I found the “catch
’em alive” manufacturer and his family busy at their trade.

Directly I entered the house where I had been told he lodged, I knew
that I had come to the right address; for the staircase smelt of
turpentine as if it had been newly painted, the odour growing more and
more powerful as I ascended.

The little room where the man and his family worked was as hot as an
oven; for although it was in the heat of summer, still his occupation
forced him to have a fire burning for the purpose of melting and
keeping fluid the different ingredients he spread upon his papers.

When I opened the door of his room, I was at first puzzled to know how
I should enter the apartment; for the ceiling was completely hidden
by the papers which had been hung up to dry from the many strings
stretched across the place, so that it resembled a washerwoman’s
back-yard, with some thousands of red pocket-handkerchiefs suspended in
the air. I could see the legs of the manufacturer walking about at the
further end, but the other part of his body was hidden from me.

On his crying, “Come in!” I had to duck my head down, and creep under
the forest of paper strips rustling above us.

The most curious characteristic of the apartment was the red colour
with which everything was stained. The walls, floor, and tables were
all smeared with ochre, like the pockets of a drover. The papers that
were drying were as red as the pages of a gold-leaf book. This curious
appearance was owing to part of the process of “catch ’em alive” making
consisting in first covering the paper with coloured size, to prevent
the sticky solution from soaking into it.

The room was so poorly furnished, that it was evident the trade was
not a lucrative one. An old Dutch clock, with a pendulum as long
as a walking-stick, was the only thing in the dwelling which was
not indispensable to the calling. The chimneypiece--that test of
“well-to-do” in the houses of the poorer classes--had not a single
ornament upon it. The long board on which the family worked served
likewise as the table for the family meals, and the food they ate had
to be laid upon the red-smeared surface. There was but one chair, and
that the wife occupied; and when the father or son wished to sit down,
a tub of size was drawn out with its trembling contents from under the
work-table, and on this they rested themselves.

“We are called in the trade,” said the father, “fly-paper makers. They
used to put a nice name to the things once, and call ’em Egyptian
fly-papers, but now they use merely the word ‘fly-papers,’ or
‘fly-destroyers,’ or ‘fly-catchers,’ or ‘catch ’em alive, oh.’

“I never made any calculation about flies, and how often they breeds.
You see, it depends upon so many things how they’re produced: for
instance, if I was to put my papers on a dung-heap, I might catch some
thousands; and if I was to put a paper in an ice-well, I don’t suppose
I should catch one.

“I know the flies produce some thousands each, because if you look at
a paper well studded over with flies, you’ll see--that is, if you look
very carefully--where each fly has blown, as we call it, there’ll be
some millions on a paper, small grubs or little mites, like; for whilst
struggling the fly shoots forth the blows, and eventually these blows
would turn to flies.

“I have been at fly-catcher making for the last nine years. It’s almost
impossible to make any calculation as to the number of papers I make
during the season, and this is the season. If it’s fine weather, then
flies are plentiful, and the lads who sell the papers in the streets
keep me busy; but if it’s at all bad weather, then they turn their
attention to blacking boots.

“It’s quite a speculation, my business is, for all depends upon the
lads coming to me to buy, and there’s no certainty beyond. I every
season expect that these lads who bought papers of me the last year
will come back and deal with me again. First of all, these lads will
come for a dozen, or a kipple of dozen, of papers; and so it goes on
till perhaps they are able to sell half a gross a-day, and then from
that they will, if the weather is fine, get up to ten dozen, or perhaps
a gross, but seldom or never over that.

“In the very busiest and hottest time as is, I have, for about two or
three weeks, made as many as thirty-six gross of papers in a week. We
generally begins about the end of June or the beginning of July, and
then for five or six weeks we goes on very busy; after that it dies
out, and people gets tired of laying out their money.

“It’s almost impossible to get at any calculation of the quantity I
make. You see, to-day I haven’t sold a gross, and yesterday I didn’t
sell more than a gross; and the last three days I haven’t sold a single
paper, it’s been so wet. But last week I sold more than five gross
a-day,--it varies so. Oh yes, I sell more than a hundred gross during
the season. You may say, that for a month I make about five gross
a-day, and that--taking six days to the week, and thirty days to the
month--makes a hundred and thirty gross: and then for another month I
do about three gross a-day, and that, at the same calculation, makes
seventy-eight gross, or altogether one hundred and ninety-eight gross,
or 28,512 single papers, and that is as near as I can tell you.

“Sometimes our season lasts more than two months. You may reckon it
from the latter end of June to the end of August, or if the weather is
very hot, then we begins early in June, and runs it into September. The
prime time is when the flies gets heavy and stings--that’s when the
papers sells most.

“There’s others in the business besides myself; they lives up in St.
Giles’s, and they sells ’em rather cheaper. At one time the shopkeepers
used to make the papers. When they first commenced, they was sold at
twopence and threepence and fourpence a-piece, but now they’re down
to three a-penny in the streets, or a halfpenny for a single one. The
boys when they’ve got back the money they paid me for their stock, will
sell what papers they have left at anything they’ll fetch, because the
papers gets dusty and spiles with the dust.

“I use the very best ‘Times’ paper for my ‘catch ’em alives.’ I gets
them kept for me at stationers’ shops and liberaries, and such-like. I
pays threepence a-pound, or twenty-eight shillings the hundred weight.
That’s a long price, but you must have good paper if you want to make a
good article. I could get paper at twopence a-pound, but then it’s only
the cheap Sunday papers, and they’re too slight.

“The morning papers are the best, and will stand the pulling in opening
the papers; for we always fold the destroyers with the sticky sides
together when finished. The composition I use is very stiff; if the
paper is bad, they tear when you force them open for use. Some in the
trade cut up their newspapers into twelve for the full sheet, but I cut
mine up into only eight.

“The process is this. First of all the paper is sized and coloured. We
colour them by putting a little red lead into the size, because if the
sticky side is not made apparent the people wont buy ’em, ’cause they
might spile the furniture by putting the composition-side downwards.
After sizing the papers, they are hung up to dry, and then the
composition is laid on. This composition is a secret, and I’m obligated
to keep it so, for of course all the boys who come here would be trying
to make ’em, and not only would it injure me, but I’d warrant they’d
injure theirselves as well, by setting the house on fire. You may say
that my composition is made from a mixture of resinous substances.
Everything in making it depends upon using the proper proportions.
There’s some men who deal with me who know the substances to make the
composition from, but because they haven’t got the exact proportions of
the quantities, they can’t make it right.

“The great difficulty in making them is drying the papers after they
are sized. Some days when it’s fine they’ll dry as fast as you can hang
’em up a’most, and other days they won’t dry at all--in damp weather
’specially. There is some makers who sizes and colours their papers in
the winter, and then puts ’em to dry; and when the summer comes, then
they has only to put on the composition.

“I’m a very quick hand in the trade (if you can call it one, for it
only lasts three months at most, and is a very uncertain one, too;
indeed, I don’t know what you can style our business--it ain’t a
purfession and it ain’t a trade, I suppose it’s a calling): I’m a quick
hand I say at spreading the composition, and I can, taking the day
through, do about two gross an hour--that is, if the papers was sized
ready for me; but as it is, having to size ’em first, I can’t do more
than three gross a-day myself, but with my wife helping me we can do
such a thing as five gross a-day.

“It’s most important that the size should dry. Now those papers
(producing some covered with a dead red coating of the size
preparation) have been done four days, and yet they’re not dry,
although to you they appear so, but I can tell that they feel tough,
and not crisp as they ought to. When the size is damp it makes them
adhere to one another when I am laying the stuff on, and it sweats
through and makes them heavy, and then they tears when I opens them.

“When I’m working, I first size the entire sheet. We put it on the
table, and then we have a big brush and plaster it over. Then I gives
it to my wife, and she hangs it up on a line. We can hang up a gross at
a time here, and then the room is pretty full, and must seem strange to
anybody coming in, though to us it’s ordinary enough.”

The man was about to exhibit to us his method of proceeding, when his
attention was drawn off by a smell which the moving of the different
pots had caused. “How strong this size smells, Charlotte!” he said to
his wife.

“It’s the damp and heat of the room does it,” the wife replied; and
then the narrative went on.

“Before putting on the composition I cut up the papers into slips as
fast as possible, that don’t take long.”

“We can cut ’em in first style,” interrupted the wife.

“I can cut up four gross an hour,” said a boy, who was present.

“I don’t think you could, Johnny,” said the man. “Two gross is nearer
the mark, to cut ’em evenly.”

“It’s only seventy sheets,” remonstrated the lad, “and that’s only a
little more than one a minute.”

A pile of entire newspapers was here brought out, and all of them
coloured red on one side, like the leaves of the books in which
gold-leaf is kept.

Judging from the trial at cutting which followed, we should conclude
that the lad was correct in his calculation.

“When we put on the composition,” continued the catch-’em-alive maker,
“we has the cut slips piled up in a tall mound like, and then we have
a big brush, and dips it in the pot of stuff and rubs it in; we folds
each catcher up as we does it, like a thin slice of bread and butter,
and put it down. As I said before, at merely putting on the composition
I could do about two gross an hour.

“My price to the boys is twopence-halfpenny a dozen, or
two-and-sixpence a gross, and out of that I don’t get more than
ninepence profit, for the paper, the resin, and the firing for melting
the size and composition, all takes off the profit.

“This season nearly all my customers have been boys. Last season I had
a few men who dealt with me. The principal of those who buys of me is
Irish. A boy will sometimes sell his papers for a halfpenny each, but
the usual price is three a-penny. Many of the blacking-boys deal with
me. If it’s a fine day it don’t suit them at boot-cleaning, and then
they’ll run out with my papers; and so they have two trades to their
backs--one for fine, and the other for wet weather.

“The first man as was the inventor of these fly-papers kept a barber’s
shop in St. Andrew-street, Seven Dials, of the name of Greenwood or
Greenfinch, I forget which. I expect he diskivered it by accident,
using varnish and stuff, for stale varnish has nearly the same effect
as our composition. He made ’em and sold ’em at first at threepence and
fourpence a-piece. Then it got down to a penny. He sold the receipt to
some other parties, and then it got out through their having to employ
men to help ’em. I worked for a party as made ’em, and then I set to
work making ’em for myself, and afterwards hawking them. They was a
greater novelty then than they are now, and sold pretty well. Then men
in the streets, who had nothing to do, used to ask me where I bought
’em, and then I used to give ’em my own address, and they’d come and
find me.”


A numerous family of a large order of insects is but too well known,
both in gardens and houses, under the general name of Bugs (_Cimicidæ_)
most, if not all, of the species being distinguished by an exceedingly
disagreeable smell, particularly when pressed or bruised.

The sucking instrument of these insects has been so admirably dissected
and delineated by M. Savigny, in his “Theory of the Mouth of Six-legged
(_hexapod_) Insects,”[5] that we cannot do better than follow so
excellent a guide.

[5] “Mém. Anim. sans Vertébrat.” i. 36.

The sucker is contained in a sheath, and this sheath is composed
of four pieces, which, according to Savigny’s theory, represent an
under-lip much prolonged. The edges bend downwards, and form a canal
receiving the four bristles, which he supposes to correspond with the
two mandibles and the two lower jaws. It is probable that the two
middle of these bristles act as piercers, while the other two, being
curved at the extremity (though not at all times naturally so), assist
in the process of suction.

The plant-bugs are all furnished with wings and membranous wing-cases,
many of them being of considerable size, and decked in showy colours.
These differ in all those points from their congener, the bed-bug
(_Cimex lectularius_), which is small, without wings, and of a dull
uniform brown. The name is of Welsh origin, being derived from the same
root as _bug_-bear, and hence the passage in the Psalms, “thou shalt
not be afraid for _the terror_ by night,”[6] is rendered in Matthew’s
Bible, “thou shalt not nede to be afraide of any _bugs_ by night.”

[6] Ps. xci. 5.

In earlier times this insect was looked upon with no little fear,
no doubt because it was not so abundant as at present. “In the year
1503,” says Mouffet, “Dr. Penny was called in great haste to a little
village called Mortlake, near the Thames, to visit two noblemen who
were much frightened by the appearance of bug-bites, and were in fear
of I know not what contagion; but when the matter was known, and the
insects caught, he laughed them out of all fear.”[7] This fact, of
course, disproves the statement of Southall, that bugs were not known
in England before 1670.

[7] “Theatr. Insect.” 270.

Linnæus was of opinion, however, that the bug was not originally a
native of Europe, but had been imported from America. Be this as
it may, it seems to thrive but too well in our climate, though it
multiplies less in Britain than in the warmer regions of the Continent,
where it is also said to grow to a larger size, and to bite more
keenly. This insect, it is said, is never seen in Ireland.[8]

[8] J. R.

“Commerce,” says a learned entomologist, “with many good things, has
also introduced amongst us many great evils, of which noxious insects
form no small part; and one of her worst presents was, doubtless,
the disgusting animals called bugs. They seem, indeed,” he adds, “to
have been productive of greater alarm at first than mischief,--at
least, if we may judge from the change of name which took place upon
their becoming common. Their original English name was _Chinche_, or
_Wall-louse_; and the term _bug_, which is a Celtic word, signifying a
ghost or goblin, was applied to them after Ray’s time, most probably
because they were considered as ‘terrors by night.’ Hence our English
word _bug-bear_. The word in this sense often occurs in Shakspeare,
_Winter’s Tale_, act iii. sc. 2, 3; _Henry VI._ act v. sc. 2; _Hamlet_,
act v. sc. 2. See Douce’s _Illustrations of Shakspeare_, i. 329.”

Even in our own island these obtrusive insects often banish sleep.
“The night,” says Goldsmith, in his _Animated Nature_, “is usually
the season when the wretched have rest from their labour; but this
seems the only season when the bug issues from its retreats to make
its depredations. By day it lurks, like a robber, in the most secret
parts of the bed, takes the advantage of every chink and cranny to
make a secure lodgment, and contrives its habitation with so much art
that it is no easy matter to discover its retreat. It seems to avoid
the light with great cunning, and even if candles be kept burning,
this formidable insect will not issue from its hiding-place. But when
darkness promises security, it then issues from every corner of the
bed, drops from the tester, crawls from behind the arras, and travels
with great assiduity to the unhappy patient, who vainly wishes for
rest. It is generally vain to destroy one only, as there are hundreds
more to revenge their companion’s fate; so that the person who thus is
subject to be bitten (some individuals are exempt), remains the whole
night like a sentinel upon duty, rather watching the approach of fresh
invaders than inviting the pleasing approaches of sleep.”[9]

[9] Goldsmith’s “Animat. Nature,” iv. 198.

Mouffet assures us, that against these enemies of our rest in the
night our merciful God hath furnished us with remedies, which we may
fetch out of old and new writers, either to drive them away or kill
them.[10] The following is given as the best poison for bugs, by
Mr. Brande, of the Royal Institution:--Reduce an ounce of corrosive
sublimate (_perchloride of mercury_) and one ounce of white arsenic to
a fine powder; mix with it one ounce of muriate of ammonia in powder,
two ounces each of oil of turpentine and yellow wax, and eight ounces
of olive oil; put all these into a pipkin, placed in a pan of boiling
water, and when the wax is melted, stir the whole, till cold, in a
mortar.[11] A strong solution of corrosive sublimate, indeed, applied
as a wash, is a most efficacious bug-poison.

[10] “Theatr. Insect.”

[11] “Materia Medica,” Index.

Though most people dislike this insect, others have been known to
regard it with protecting care. One gentleman would never suffer the
bugs to be disturbed in his house, or his bedsteads removed, till, in
the end, they swarmed to an incredible degree, crawling up even the
walls of his drawing-room; and after his death millions were found in
his bed and chamber furniture.[12]

[12] Nicholson’s “Journal,” xvii. 40.

In the Banian hospital, at Surat, the overseers are said frequently to
hire beggars from the streets, at a stipulated sum, to pass the night
among bugs and other vermin, on the express condition of suffering them
to enjoy their feast without molestation.[13]

[13] Forbes, “Oriental Mem.” i.

The bed-bug is not the only one of its congeners which preys upon man.
St. Pierre mentions a bug found in the Mauritius, the bite of which
is more venomous than the sting of a scorpion, being succeeded by a
swelling as big as the egg of a pigeon, which continues for four or
five days.[14] Ray tells us that his friend Willoughby had suffered
severe temporary pain, in the same way, from a water-bug. (_Notonecta
glauca_, LINN.)[15]

[14] “Voyage to the Isle of France.”

[15] “Hist. Insect.” 58.

The winged insects of the order to which the bed-bug belongs often
inflict very painful wounds, and it is even stated, upon good
authority, that an insect of the order, commonly known in the West
Indies by the name of the _wheel-bug_, can communicate an electric
shock to the person whose flesh it touches. The late Major-General
Davies, R.A. (well known as a most accurate observer of nature and an
indefatigable collector of her treasures, as well as a most admirable
painter of them), having taken up this animal and placed it upon his
hand, assures us that it gave him, with its legs, a considerable shock,
as if from an electric jar, which he felt as high as his shoulders; and
then dropping the creature, he observed six marks upon his hand where
the six feet had stood.

Bugs are very voracious, and seem to bite most furiously in the autumn,
as if determined to feast themselves before they retire to their winter

There is another pernicious bed insect--the flea (_Pulex irritans_,
LINN.), which, being without wings, some of our readers may suppose to
be nearly allied to the bed-bug, though it does not belong even to the
same order, but to a new one (_Aphaniptera_, KIRBY), established on the
principle that the wings are obsolescent or inconspicuous.

Fleas, it may be worth remarking, are not all of one species; those
which infest animals and birds differing in many particulars from the
common bed-flea (_Pulex irritans_). As many as twelve distinct sorts
of fleas have been found in Britain alone.[16] The most annoying
species, however, is, fortunately, not indigenous, being a native
of the tropical latitudes, and variously named in the West Indies,
chigoe, jigger, nigua, tungua, and pique (_Pulex penetrans_, LINN.).
According to Stedman, “this is a kind of small sand-flea, which gets
in between the skin and the flesh without being felt, and generally
under the nails of the toes, where, while it feeds, it keeps growing
till it becomes of the size of a pea, causing no further pain than a
disagreeable itching. In process of time its operation appears in the
form of a small bladder, in which are deposited thousands of eggs, or
nits, and which, if it breaks, produce so many young chigoes, which
in course of time create running ulcers, often of very dangerous
consequence to the patient. So much so, indeed, that I knew a soldier,
the soles of whose feet were obliged to be cut away before he could
recover; and some men have lost their limbs by amputation, nay, even
their lives, by having neglected, in time, to root out these abominable
vermin.” Walton mentions that a Capuchin friar, in order to study
the history of the chigoe, permitted a colony of them to establish
themselves in his feet: but before he could accomplish his object his
feet mortified and had to be amputated.[17] No wonder that Cardan calls
the insect “a very shrewd plague.”[18]

[16] “Insect Transformations,” p. 393.

[17] Walton’s “Hispaniola.”

[18] “Subtilia,” lib. ix.

Several extraordinary feats of strength have been recorded of fleas
by various authors,[19] and we shall here give our own testimony to
a similar fact. At the fair of Charlton, in Kent, 1830, we saw a man
exhibit three fleas harnessed to a carriage in the form of an omnibus,
at least fifty times their own bulk, which they pulled along with great
ease; another pair drew a chariot. The exhibitor showed the whole first
through a magnifying glass, and then to the naked eye, so that we were
satisfied there was no deception. From the fleas being of large size
they were evidently all females.[20]

[19] “Insect Transformations,” p. 180.

[20] Introduction, i. 102.--J. R.

It is rarely, however, that we meet with fleas in the way of amusement,
unless we are of the singular humour of the old lady mentioned by Kirby
and Spence, who had a liking to them; “because,” said she, “I think
they are the prettiest little merry things in the world; I never saw a
dull flea in all my life.”

When Ray and Willoughby were travelling, they found “at Venice and
Augsburg fleas for sale, and at a small price too, decorated with
steel or silver collars round their necks. When fleas are kept in a
box amongst wool or cloth, in a warm place, and fed once a-day, they
will live a long time. When these insects begin to suck they erect
themselves almost perpendicularly, thrusting their sucker, which
originates in the middle of the forehead, into the skin. The itching
is not felt immediately, but a little afterwards. As soon as they
are full of blood, they begin to void a portion of it; and thus, if
permitted, they will continue for many hours sucking and voiding. After
the first itching no uneasiness is subsequently felt. Willoughby had a
flea that lived for three months, sucking in this manner the blood of
his hand; it was at length killed by the cold of winter.”[21]

[21] J. R.

According to Mouffet’s account of the sucker of the flea, “the point of
his nib is somewhat hard, that he may make it enter the better; and it
must necessarily be hollow, that he may suck out the blood and carry
it in.”[22] Modern authors, particularly Straus and Kirby, show that
Rösel was mistaken in supposing this sucker to consist of two pieces,
as it is really made up of seven. First, there is a pair of triangular
instruments, somewhat resembling the beak of a bird, inserted on each
side of the mouth, under the parts which are generally regarded as the
antennæ. Next, a pair of long sharp piercers (_scalpella_, KIRBY),
which emerge from the head below the preceding instruments; whilst a
pair of feelers (_palpi_), consisting of four joints, is attached to
these near their base. In fine, there is a long, slender tongue, like a
bristle, in the middle of these several pieces.

[22] “Theatre of Insects,” p. 1102.

Mouffet says, “the lesser, leaner, and younger the fleas are, the
sharper they bite,--the fat ones being more inclined to tickle and
play. They molest men that are sleeping,” he adds, “and trouble wounded
and sick persons, from whom they escape by skipping; for as soon as
they find they are arraigned to die, and feel the finger coming, on
a sudden they are gone, and leap here and there, and so escape the
danger; but so soon as day breaks they forsake the bed. They then creep
into the rough blankets, or hide themselves in rushes and dust, lying
in ambush for pigeons, hens, and other birds; also for men and dogs,
moles and mice, and vex such as pass by. Our hunters report that foxes
are full of them, and they tell a pretty story how they get quit of
them. The fox, say they, gathers some handfuls of wool from thorns and
briers, and wrapping it up, holds it fast in his mouth, then he goes by
degrees into a cold river, and dips himself down by little and little;
when he finds that all the fleas are crept so high as his head for fear
of drowning, and ultimately for shelter crept into the wool, he barks
and spits out the wool, full of fleas, and thus very froliquely being
delivered from their molestations, he swims to land.”[23]

[23] “Theatre of Insects,” p. 1102.

This is a little more doubtful even than the story told of Christina,
queen of Sweden, who is reported to have fired at the fleas that
troubled her with a piece of artillery, still exhibited in the Royal
Arsenal at Stockholm.[24] Nor are fleas confined to the old continent,
for Lewis and Clarke found them exceedingly harassing on the banks
of the Missouri, where it is said the native Indians are sometimes
compelled to shift their quarters, to escape their annoyance. They
are not acquainted, it would therefore seem, with the device of the
shepherds in Hungary, who grease their clothes with hog’s-lard to deter
the fleas;[25] nor with the old English preventive:

[24] Linnæus, “Lachesis Lapan.” ii. 32, note.

[25] “Travels.”

    “While wormwood hath seed, get a handful or twaine,
    To save against March, to make fleas refrain.
    Where chamber is swept, and wormwood is strown,
    Ne’er flea for his life dare abide to be known.”[26]

[26] Tusser, “Points of Goode Husbandry.”

Linnæus was in error in stating that the domestic cat (_Felis
maniculatus_, TEEMMINCK) is not infested with fleas; for on kittens in
particular they abound as numerously as upon dogs.[27]

[27] J. R.


The vending of bug-poison in the London streets is seldom followed as a
regular source of living. We have met with persons who remember to have
seen men selling penny packets of vermin poison, but to find out the
vendors themselves was next to an impossibility. The men seem merely to
take to the business as a living when all other sources have failed.
All, however, agree in acknowledging that there is such a street trade,
but that the living it affords is so precarious that few men stop at it
longer than two or three weeks.

Perhaps the most eminent firm of the bug-destroyers in London is that
of Messrs. Tiffin and Son; but they have pursued their calling in the
streets, and rejoice in the title of “Bug-Destroyers to Her Majesty and
the Royal Family.”

Mr. Tiffin, the senior partner in this house, most kindly obliged me
with the following statement. It may be as well to say that Mr. Tiffin
appears to have paid much attention to the subject of bugs, and has
studied with much earnestness the natural history of this vermin.

“We can trace our business back,” he said, “as far as 1695, when one
of our ancestors first turned his attention to the destruction of
bugs. He was a lady’s stay-maker--men used to make them in those days,
though, as far as that is concerned, it was a man that made my mother’s
dresses. This ancestor found some bugs in his house--a young colony
of them, that had introduced themselves without his permission, and
he didn’t like their company, so he tried to turn them out of doors
again, I have heard it said, in various ways. It is in history, and it
has been handed down in my own family as well, that bugs were first
introduced into England after the fire of London, in the timber that
was brought for rebuilding the city, thirty years after the fire, and
it was about that time that my ancestor first discovered the colony
of bugs in his house. I can’t say whether he studied the subject of
bug-destroying, or whether he found out his stuff by accident, but he
certainly _did_ invent a compound which completely destroyed the bugs,
and, having been so successful in his own house, he named it to some of
his customers who were similarly plagued, and that was the commencement
of the present connexion, which has continued up to this time.

“At the time of the illumination for the Peace, I thought I must have
something over my shop, that would be both suitable for the event and
to my business; so I had a transparency done, and stretched on a big
frame, and lit up by gas, on which was written--


“Our business was formerly carried on in the Strand, where both my
father and myself were born; in fact, I may say I was born to the bug

“I remember my father as well as possible; indeed, I worked with him
for ten or eleven years. He used, when I was a boy, to go out to his
work killing bugs at his customers’ houses with a sword by his side
and a cocked-hat and bag-wig on his head--in fact, dressed up like a
regular dandy. I remember my grandmother, too, when she was in the
business, going to the different houses, and seating herself in a
chair, and telling the men what they were to do, to clean the furniture
and wash the woodwork.

“I have customers in our books for whom our house has worked these
150 years; that is, my father and self have worked for them and their
fathers. We do the work by contract, examining the house every year.
It’s a precaution to keep the place comfortable. You see, servants are
apt to bring bugs in their boxes; and, though there may be only two or
three bugs perhaps hidden in the woodwork and the clothes, yet they
soon breed if left alone.

“We generally go in the spring, before the bugs lay their eggs; or, if
that time passes, it ought to be done before June, before their eggs
are hatched, though it’s never too late to get rid of a nuisance.

“I mostly find the bugs in the bedsteads. But, if they are left
unmolested, they get numerous and climb to the tops of the rooms,
and about the corners of the ceilings. They colonize anywhere they
can, though they’re very high-minded and prefer lofty places. Where
iron bedsteads are used the bugs are more in the _rooms_, and that’s
why such things are bad. They don’t keep a bug away from the person
sleeping. Bugs’ll come, if they’re thirty yards off.

“I knew a case of a bug who used to come every night about thirty or
forty feet--it was an immense large room--from a corner of the room to
visit an old lady. There was only one bug, and he’d been there for a
long time. I was sent for to find him out. It took me a long time to
catch him. In that instance I had to examine every part of the room,
and when I got him I gave him an extra nip to serve him out. The reason
why I was so bothered was, the bug had hidden itself near the window,
the last place I should have thought of looking for him, for a bug
never by choice faces the light; but when I came to inquire about it, I
found that this old lady never rose till three o’clock in the day, and
the window-curtains were always drawn, so that there was no light like.

“Lord! yes, I am often sent for to catch a single bug. I’ve had to go
many, many miles--even 100 or 200--into the country, and perhaps catch
only half-a-dozen bugs after all; but then that’s all that are there,
so it answers our employer’s purpose as well as if they were swarming.

“I work for the upper classes only; that is, for carriage company and
such-like approaching it, you know. I have noblemen’s names, the first
in England, on my books.

“My work is more method; and I may call it a scientific treating of the
bugs rather than wholesale murder. We don’t care about the thousands,
it’s the last bug we look for, whilst your carpenters and upholsterers
leave as many behind them, perhaps, as they manage to catch.

“The bite of the bug is very curious. They bite all persons the same(?)
but the difference of effect lays in the constitution of the parties.
I’ve never noticed that a different kind of skin makes any difference
in being bitten. Whether the skin is moist or dry, it don’t matter.
Wherever bugs are, the person sleeping in the bed is sure to be fed
on, whether they are marked or not; and as a proof, when nobody has
slept in the bed for some time, the bugs become quite flat; and, on
the contrary, when the bed is always occupied, they are round as a

“The flat bug is more ravenous, though even he will allow you time to
go to sleep before he begins with you; or at least until he thinks you
ought to be asleep. When they find all quiet, not even a light in the
room will prevent their biting; but they are seldom or ever found under
the bed-clothes. They like a clear ground to get off, and generally
bite round the edges of the nightcap or the nightdress. When they are
found _in_ the bed, it’s because the parties have been tossing about,
and have curled the sheets round the bugs.

“The finest and the fattest bugs I ever saw were those I found in a
black man’s bed. He was the favourite servant of an Indian general.
He didn’t want his bed done by me; he didn’t want it touched. His bed
was full of ’em, no beehive was ever fuller. The walls and all were the
same, there wasn’t a patch that wasn’t crammed with them. He must have
taken them all over the house wherever he went.

“I’ve known persons to be laid up for months through bug-bites. There
was a very handsome fair young lady I knew once, and she was much
bitten about the arms, and neck, and face, so that her eyes were so
swelled up she couldn’t see. The spots rose up like blisters, the same
as if stung with a nettle, only on a very large scale. The bites were
very much inflamed, and after a time they had the appearance of boils.

“Some people fancy, and it is historically recorded, that the bug
smells because it has no vent; but this is fabulous, for they _have_ a
vent. It is not the human blood neither that makes them smell, because
a young bug who has never touched a drop will smell. They breathe, I
believe, through their sides; but I can’t answer for that, though it’s
not through the head. They haven’t got a mouth, but they insert into
the skin the point of a tube, which is quite as fine as a hair, through
which they draw up the blood. I have many a time put a bug on the back
of my hand, to see how they bite; though I never felt the bite but
once, and then I suppose the bug had pitched upon a very tender part,
for it was a sharp prick, something like that of a leech-bite.

“I once had a case of lice-killing, for my process will answer as
well for them as for bugs, though it’s a thing I should never follow
by choice. Lice seem to harbour pretty much the same as bugs do. I
found them in the furniture. It was a nurse that brought them into the
house, though she was as nice and clean a looking woman as ever I saw.
I should almost imagine the lice must have been in her, for they say
there is a disease of that kind; and if the tics breed in sheep, why
should not lice breed in us? for we’re but live matter, too. I didn’t
like myself at all for two or three days after that lice-killing job,
I can assure you; it’s the only case of the kind I ever had, and I can
promise you it shall be the last.

“I was once at work on the Princess Charlotte’s own bedstead. I was in
the room, and she asked me if I had found anything, and I told her no;
but just at that minute I _did_ happen to catch one, and upon that she
sprang up on the bed, and put her hand on my shoulder, to look at it.
She had been tormented by the creature, because I was ordered to come
directly, and that was the only one I found. When the Princess saw it,
she said, ‘Oh, the nasty thing! That’s what tormented me last night;
don’t let him escape.’ I think he looked all the better for having
tasted royal blood.

“I also profess to kill beetles, though you can never destroy them so
effectually as you can bugs; for, you see, beetles run from one house
to another, and you can never perfectly get rid of them; you can only
keep them under. Beetles will scrape their way and make their road
round a fireplace, but how they manage to go from one house to another
I can’t say, but they _do_.

“I never had patience enough to try and kill fleas by my process; it
would be too much of a chivey to please me.

“I never heard of any but one man who seriously went to work selling
bug poison in the streets. I was told by some persons that he was
selling a first-rate thing, and I spent several days to find him
out. But, after all, his secret proved to be nothing at all. It was
train-oil, linseed and hempseed, crushed up all together, and the bugs
were to eat it till they burst.

“After all, secrets for bug-poisons ain’t worth much, for all depends
upon the application of them. For instance, it is often the case that
I am sent for to find out one bug in a room large enough for a school.
I’ve discovered it when the creature had been three or four months
there, as I could tell by his having changed his jacket so often--for
bugs shed their skins, you know. No, there was no reason that he should
have bred; it might have been a single gentleman or an old maid.

“A married couple of bugs will lay from forty to fifty eggs at one
laying. The eggs are oval, and are each as large as the thirty-second
part of an inch; and when together are in the shape of a caraway
comfit, and of a bluish-white colour. They’ll lay this quantity of eggs
three times in a season. The young ones are hatched direct from the
egg, and, like young partridges, will often carry the broken eggs about
with them, clinging to their back. They get their fore-quarters out,
and then they run about before the other legs are completely cleared.

“As soon as the bugs are born they are of a cream colour, and will
take to blood directly; indeed, if they don’t get it in two or three
days they die; but after one feed they will live a considerable time
without a second meal. I have known old bugs to be frozen over in a
horse-pond--when the furniture has been thrown in the water--and there
they have remained for a good three weeks; still, after they have got a
little bit warm in the sun’s rays they have returned to life again.

“I have myself kept bugs for five years and a half without food, and a
housekeeper at Lord H----’s informed me that an old bedstead that I was
then moving from a store-room was taken down forty-five years ago, and
had not been used since, but the bugs in it were still numerous, though
as thin as living skeletons. They couldn’t have lived upon the sap of
the wood, it being worm-eaten and dry as a bone.

“A bug will live for a number of years, and we find that when bugs are
put away in old furniture without food, they don’t increase in number;
so that, according to my belief, the bugs I just mentioned must have
existed forty-five years: besides, they were large ones, and very
dark-coloured, which is another proof of age.

“It is a dangerous time for bugs when they are shedding their skins,
which they do about four times in the course of a year; then they throw
off their hard shell and have a soft coat, so that the least touch will
kill them; whereas, at other times they will take a strong pressure.
I have plenty of bug-skins, which I keep by me as curiosities, of all
sizes and colours, and sometimes I have found the young bugs collected
inside the old ones’ skins for warmth, as if they had put on their
father’s great-coat. There are white bugs--albinoes you may call
’em--freaks of nature like.”


Cockroaches are even more voracious than crickets. A small species
(_Blatta Lapponica_, LINN.), occasionally met with about London, is
said to swarm numerously in the huts of the Laplanders, and will
sometimes, in conjunction with a carrion-beetle (_Silpha Lapponica_,
LINN.), devour, we are told, in a single day, their whole store of
dried fish.

In London, and many other parts of the country, cockroaches, originally
introduced from abroad, have multiplied so prodigiously as to be a
great nuisance. They are often so numerous in kitchens and lower rooms
in the metropolis as literally to cover the floor, and render it
impossible for them to move, except over each other’s bodies. This,
indeed, only happens after dark, for they are strictly night insects,
and the instant a candle is intruded upon the assembly they rush
towards their hiding-places, so that in a few seconds not one of the
countless multitude is to be seen.

In consequence of their numbers, independently of their carnivorous
propensities, they are driven to eat anything that comes in their
way; and, besides devouring every species of kitchen-stuff, they gnaw
clothes, leather, and books. They likewise pollute everything they
crawl over, with an unpleasant nauseous smell.

These “black-beetles,” however, as they are commonly called, are
harmless when compared with the foreign species, the giant cockroach
(_Blatta gigantea_), which is not content with devouring the stores of
the larder, but will attack human bodies, and even gnaw the extremities
of the dead and dying.--(Drury’s _Illustrations of Nat. Hist._ iii.

Cockroaches, at least the kind that is most abundant in Britain, hate
the light, and never come forth from their hiding-places till the
lights are removed or extinguished (the _Blatta Germanica_, however,
which abounds in some houses, is bolder, making its appearance in
the day, and running up the walls and over the tables, to the great
annoyance of the inhabitants). In the London houses, especially on the
ground-floor, they are most abundant, and consume everything they can
find--flour, bread, meat, clothes, and even shoes. As soon as light,
natural or artificial, appears, they all scamper off as fast as they
can, and vanish in an instant.

These pests are not indigenous to this country, and perhaps nowhere
in Europe, but are one of the evils which commerce has imported.
In Captain Cook’s last voyage, the ships, while at Husheine, were
infested with incredible numbers of these creatures, which it was found
impossible by any means to destroy. Every kind of food, when exposed
only for a few minutes, was covered with them, and pierced so full of
holes, that it resembled a honeycomb. They were so fond of ink that
they ate out the writing on labels. Captain Cook’s cockroaches were of
two kinds--the _Blatta Orientalis_ and _Germanica_.--(_Encyc. Britan._)

The following fact we give from Mr. Douglas’s _World of Insects_:--

“Everybody has heard of a haunted house; nearly every house in and
about London _is_ haunted. Let the doubters, if they have the courage,
go stealthily down to the kitchen at midnight, armed with a light and
whatever other weapon they like, and they will see that beings of
which Tam o’Shanter never dreamed, whose presence at daylight was only
a myth, have here ‘a local habitation and a name.’ Scared from their
nocturnal revels, the creatures run and scamper in all directions,
until, in a short time, the stage is clear, and, as in some legend of
_diablerie_, nothing remains but a most peculiar odour.

“These were no spirits, had nothing even of the fairy about them,
but were veritable cockroaches, or ‘black-beetles’--as they are more
commonly but erroneously termed--for they are not beetles at all. They
have prodigious powers of increase, and are a corresponding nuisance.
Kill as many as you will, except, perhaps, by poison, and you cannot
extirpate them--the cry is, ‘Still they come.’

“One of the best ways to be rid of them is to keep a hedgehog, to which
creature they are a favourite food, and his nocturnal habits make him
awake to theirs. I have known cats eat cockroaches, but they do not
thrive upon them.”

“One article of their food would hardly have been suspected,” says Mr.
Newman, in a note communicated to the Entomological Society, at the
meeting in February, 1855. “‘There is nothing new under the sun;’ so
says the proverb. I believed, until a few days back, that I possessed
the knowledge of a fact in the dietary economy of the cockroach of
which entomologists were not cognisant, but I find myself forestalled;
the fact is ‘as old as the hills.’ It is, that the cockroach seeks with
diligence and devours with great gusto the common bed-bug.

“I will not mention names, but I am so confident of the veracity of
the narrator, that I willingly take the entire responsibility of the
following narrative:--

“‘Poverty makes one acquainted with strange bedfellows;’ and my
informant bears willing testimony to the truth of the adage. He had not
been prosperous, and had sought shelter in a London boarding-house;
every night he saw cockroaches ascending his bed-curtains; every
morning he complained to his very respectable landlady, and invariably
received the comforting assurance that there was not a ‘black-beetle in
the house.’ Still he pursued his nocturnal investigations, and he not
only saw cockroaches running along the tester of the bed, but, to his
great astonishment, he positively observed one of them seize a bug, and
he therefore concluded, and not without some show of reason, that the
cockroach ascended the curtains with this especial object, and that the
more odoriferous insect is a favourite food of the major one.

“The following extract from Mr. Webster’s ‘Narrative of Foster’s
Voyage,’ corroborates this recent observation, and illustrates the
proverb which I have taken as my text: ‘Cockroaches, those nuisances
of ships, are plentiful at St. Helena, and yet, bad as they are, they
are more endurable than bugs. Previous to our arrival here in the
Chanticleer we had suffered great inconvenience from the latter; but
the cockroaches no sooner made their appearance than the bugs entirely
disappeared. The fact is, the cockroach preys upon them, and leaves no
sign or vestige of where they have been. So far, the latter is a most
valuable insect.’”

So great is the annoyance and discomfort arising from these insects
in Cockney households, that the author of a paper in the _Daily News_
discusses the best means of effecting their extirpation. The writer
of the article referred to avows his conviction, that the ingenious
individual who shall devise the means of effectually ridding our
houses of these insect pests will deserve to be ranked amongst the
benefactors of mankind. The writer details the various expedients
resorted to--hedgehogs, cucumber-peel, red wafers, phosphoric paste,
glazed basins or pie-dishes filled with beer, or a syrup of beer and
sugar, with bits of wood set up from the floor to the edge, for the
creatures to run up by, and then be precipitated into the fatal lake,
but believes that “none of these methods are fundamental enough for the
evil,” which, so far as he is yet aware, can only be effectually cured
by heating our houses by steam!


A firm, which has been established in London seven years, and which
manufactures exclusively poison known to the trade as the “Phosphor
Paste for the destruction of black-beetles, cockroaches, rats, mice,”
&c., were kind enough to give me the following information:--

“We have now sold this vermin poison for seven years, but we have
never had an application for our composition from any street-seller.
We have seen, a year or two since, a man about London who used to sell
beetle-wafers; but as we knew that kind of article to be entirely
useless, we were not surprised to find that he did not succeed in
making a living. We have not heard of him for some time, and have no
doubt he is dead, or has taken up some other line of employment.

“It is a strange fact, perhaps; but we do not know anything, or
scarcely anything, as to the kind of people and tradesmen who purchase
our poison--to speak the truth, we do not like to make too many
inquiries of our customers. Sometimes, when they have used more than
their customary quantity, we have asked, casually, how it was and to
what kind of business-people they disposed of it, and we have always
been met with an evasive sort of answer. You see tradesmen don’t like
to divulge too much; for it must be a poor kind of profession or
calling that there are no secrets in; and, again, they fancy we want
to know what description of trades use the most of our composition, so
that we might supply them direct from ourselves.

“From this cause we have made it a rule not to inquire curiously into
the matters of our customers. We are quite content to dispose of the
quantity we do, for we employ six travellers to call on chemists and
oilmen for the town trade, and four for the country.

“The other day an elderly lady from High-street, Camden Town, called
upon us: she stated that she was overrun with black-beetles, and wished
to buy some of our paste from ourselves, for she said she always found
things better if you purchased them of the maker, as you were sure to
get them stronger, and by that means avoided the adulteration of the
shopkeepers. But as we have said we would not supply a single box to
any one, not wishing to give our agents any cause for complaint, we
were obliged to refuse to sell to the old lady.

“We don’t care to say how many boxes we sell in the year; but we
can tell you, sir, that we sell more for beetle poisoning in the
summer than in the winter, as a matter of course. When we find that a
particular district uses almost an equal quantity all the year round,
we make sure that that is a rat district; for where there is not the
heat of summer to breed beetles, it must follow that the people wish to
get rid of rats.

“Brixton, Hackney, Ball’s Pond, and Lower Road, Islington, are the
places that use most of our paste, those districts lying low, and being
consequently damp. Camden Town, though it is in a high situation, is
very much infested with beetles; it is a clayey soil, you understand,
which retains moisture, and will not allow it to filter through like
gravel. This is why in some very low districts, where the houses are
built on gravel, we sell scarcely any of our paste.

“As the farmers say, a good fruit year is a good fly year; so we say,
a good dull, wet summer, is a good beetle summer; and this has been a
very fertile year, and we only hope it will be as good next year.

“We don’t believe in rat-destroyers; they profess to kill with weasels
and a lot of things, and sometimes even say they can charm them away.
Captains of vessels, when they arrive in the docks, will employ these
people; and, as we say, they generally use our composition, but as long
as their vessels are cleared of the vermin, they don’t care to know
how it is done. A man who drives about in a cart, and does a great
business in this way, we have reason to believe uses a great quantity
of our Phosphor Paste. He comes from somewhere down the East-end or
Whitechapel way.

“Our prices are too high for the street-sellers. Your street-seller
can only afford to sell an article made by a person in but a very
little better position than himself. Even our small boxes cost at the
trade price two shillings a dozen, and when sold will only produce
three shillings; so you can imagine the profit is not enough for the
itinerant vendor.

“Bakers don’t use much of our paste, for they seem to think it no use
to destroy the vermin--beetles and bakers’ shops generally go together.”


The house-cricket may perhaps be deemed a still more annoying insect
than the common cockroach, adding an incessant noise to its ravages.
Though it may not be unpleasant to hear for a short time “the cricket
chirrup in the hearth,” so constant a din every evening must greatly
interrupt comfort and conversation.

These garrulous animals, which live in a kind of artificial torrid
zone, are very thirsty souls, and are frequently found drowned in pans
of water, milk, broth, and the like. Whatever is moist, even stockings
or linen hung out to dry, is to them a _bonne bouche_; they will eat
the skimmings of pots, yeast, crumbs of bread, and even salt, or
anything within their reach. Sometimes they are so abundant in houses
as to become absolute pests, flying into the candles and even into
people’s faces.--(Kirby and Spence’s _Ent._ i. 206, 7.)

The house-cricket (_Acheta domestica_) is well known for its habit
of picking out the mortar of ovens and fire-places, where it not
only enjoys warmth, but can procure abundance of food. It is usually
supposed that it feeds on bread. M. Latreille says it only eats
insects, and it certainly thrives well in houses infested by the
cockroach; but we have also known it eat and destroy lamb’s-wool
stockings, and other woollen stuffs, hung near a fire to dry. Although
the food of crickets consists chiefly of vegetable substances, they
exhibit a propensity to carnivorous habits. The house-cricket thrives
best in the vicinity of a baker’s oven, where there are plenty of bread

Mouffet marvels at its extreme lankness, inasmuch as there is not
“found in the belly any superfluity at all, although it feed on the
moisture of flesh and fat of broth, to which, either poured out or
reserved, it runs in the night; yea, although it feed on bread, yet is
the belly always lank and void of superfluity.”--(_Theatre of Insects_,
p. 96.)

White of Selborne, again, says, “as one would suppose, from the
burning atmosphere which they inhabit, they are a thirsty race, and
show a great propensity for liquids, being frequently found dead in
pans of water, milk, broth, or the like. Whatever is moist they are
fond of, and therefore they often gnaw holes in wet woollen stockings
and aprons that are hung to the fire. These crickets are not only
very thirsty, but very voracious; for they will eat the scummings of
pots, yeast, bread, and kitchen offal, or sweepings of almost every
description.”--(_Nat. Hist. of Selborne._)

The cricket is evidently not fond of hard labour, but prefers those
places where the mortar is already loosened, or at least is new, soft,
and easily scooped out; and in this way it will dig covert channels
from room to room. In summer, crickets often make excursions from the
house to the neighbouring fields, and dwell in the crevices of rubbish,
or the cracks made in the ground by dry weather, where they chirp
as merrily as in the snuggest chimney-corner. Whether they ever dig
retreats in such circumstances we have not ascertained, though it is
not improbable they may do so for the purpose of making nests.

“Those,” says Mr. Gough of Manchester, “who have attended to the
manners of the hearth-cricket, know that it passes the hottest part of
the summer in sunny situations, concealed in the crevices of walls and
heaps of rubbish. It quits its summer abode about the end of August,
and fixes its residence by the fireside of kitchens or cottages,
where it multiplies its species, and is as merry at Christmas as
other insects in the dog-days. Thus do the comforts of a warm hearth
afford the cricket a safe refuge, not from death, but from temporary
torpidity, though it can support this for a long time, when deprived by
accident of artificial warmth.

“I came to a knowledge of this fact,” continues Mr. Gough, “by planting
a colony of these insects in a kitchen, where a constant fire was
kept through the summer, but which is discontinued from November till
June, with the exception of a day once in six or eight weeks. The
crickets were brought from a distance, and let go in this room, in
the beginning of September, 1806; here they increased considerably
in the course of two months, but were not heard or seen after the
fire was removed. Their disappearance led me to conclude that the
cold had killed them; but in this I was mistaken; for a brisk fire
being kept up for a whole day in the winter, the warmth of it invited
my colony from their hiding-place, but not before the evening; after
which they continued to skip about and chirp the greater part of the
following day, when they again disappeared--being compelled, by the
returning cold, to take refuge in their former retreats. They left
the chimney-corner on the 25th of May, 1807, after a fit of very hot
weather, and revisited their winter residence on the 31st of August.
Here they spent the summer merely, and at present (January, 1808) lie
torpid in the crevices of the chimney, with the exception of those days
on which they are recalled to a temporary existence by the comforts of
the fire.”--(Reeve, _Essay on the Torpidity of Animals_, p. 84.)

M. Bery St. Vincent tells us that the Spaniards are so fond of crickets
that they keep them in cages like singing-birds.--(_Dict. Classique
d’Hist. Nat. Art._, Grillon. Rennie’s _Insect Architecture_, 4th edit.
p. 242.)

Associated as is the chirping song of the cricket family of insects
with the snug chimney-corner, or the sunshine of summer, it affords
a pleasure which certainly does not arise from the intrinsic quality
of its music. “Sounds,” says White, “do not always give us pleasure
according to their sweetness and melody; nor do harsh sounds always
displease. Thus, the shrilling of the field-cricket (_Acheta
campestris_), though sharp and stridulous, yet marvellously delights
some hearers, filling their minds with a train of summer ideas of
everything that is rural, verdurous, and joyous.”--(_Nat. Hist. of
Selborne_, ii. 73.)

    “Sounds inharmonious in themselves, and harsh,
    Yet heard in scenes where peace for ever reigns,
    And only there, please highly for their sake.”

    COWPER, _Task_, Book I.

This circumstance, no doubt, causes the Spaniards to keep them in
cages, as we do singing-birds. White tells us that, if supplied with
moistened leaves, they will sing as merrily and loud in a paper cage as
in the fields; but he did not succeed in planting a colony of them in
the terrace of his garden, though he bored holes for them in the turf
to save them the labour of digging.

The hearth-cricket, again, though we hear it occasionally in the
hedge-banks in summer, prefers the warmth of an oven or a good fire,
and thence, residing as it were always in the torrid zone, is ever
alert and merry--a good Christmas fire being to it what the heat of the
dog-days is to others.

Though crickets are frequently heard by day, yet their natural time of
motion is only in the night. As soon as darkness prevails the chirping
increases, whilst the hearth-crickets come running forth, and are often
to be seen in great numbers, from the size of a flea to that of their
full stature.

Like the field-cricket, the hearth-crickets are sometimes kept for
their music; and the learned Scaliger took so great a fancy to their
song, that he was accustomed to keep them in a box in his study. It is
reported that in some parts of Africa they are kept and fed in a kind
of iron oven, and sold to the natives, who like their chirp, and think
it is a good soporific.--(Mouffet, _Theat. Insect._ 136.)

Milton, too, chose for his contemplative pleasures a spot where
crickets resorted:--

    “Where glowing embers through the room
    Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,
    Far from all resort of mirth,
    See the cricket on the hearth.”--_Il Penseroso._

Rennie, in his _Insect Miscellanies_, says, “We have been as
unsuccessful in transplanting the hearth-cricket as White was with the
field-crickets. In two different houses we have repeatedly introduced
crickets, but could not prevail on them to stay. One of our trials,
indeed, was made in summer, with insects brought from a garden-wall,
and it is probable they thought the kitchen fire-side too hot at that
season.”--(p. 82.)

The so-called _chirp_ of the cricket is a vulgar error. The instrument
(for so it may be styled) upon which the male cricket plays (the
female is mute) consists of strong nervures or rough strings in the
wing-cases, by the friction of which against each other a sound is
produced and communicated to the membranes stretched between them, in
the same manner as the vibrations caused by the friction of the finger
upon the tambourine are diffused over its surface. It is erroneously
stated in a popular work, that “the organ is a membrane, which in
contracting, by means of a muscle and tendon placed under the wings of
the insect, folds down somewhat like a fan;” and this, being “always
dry, yields by its motion a sharp piercing sound.”--(Bing, _Anim.
Biog._ iv. _6th edit._ Rennie’s _Insect Miscellanies_, p. 62.)




The performer of Punch that I saw was a short, dark, pleasant-looking
man, dressed in a very greasy and very shiny green shooting-jacket.
This was fastened together by one button in front, all the other
button-holes having been burst through. Protruding from his bosom, a
corner of the pandean pipes was just visible, and as he told me the
story of his adventures, he kept playing with the band of his very
limp and very rusty old beaver hat. He had formerly been a gentleman’s
servant, and was especially civil in his manners. He came to me with
his hair tidily brushed for the occasion, but apologised for his
appearance on entering the room. He was very communicative, and took
great delight in talking like Punch, with his call in his mouth, while
some young children were in the room, and who, hearing the well-known
sound of Punch’s voice, looked all about for the figure. Not seeing the
show, they fancied the man had the figure in his pocket, and that the
sounds came from it. The change from Punch’s voice to the man’s natural
tone was managed without an effort, and instantaneously. It had a very
peculiar effect.

“I am the proprietor of a Punch’s show,” he said. “I goes about with it
myself, and performs inside the frame behind the green baize. I have
a pardner what plays the music--the pipes and drum; him as you see’d
with me. I have been five-and-twenty year now at the business. I wish
I’d never seen it, though it’s _been_ a money-making business--indeed,
the best of all the street hexhibitions I may say. I am fifty years
old. I took to it for money gains--that was what I done it for. I
formerly lived in service--was a footman in a gentleman’s family.
When I first took to it, I could make two and three pounds a-day--I
could so. You see, the way in which I took first to the business was
this here--there was a party used to come and ‘cheer’ for us at my
master’s house, and her son having a hexhibition of his own, and being
in want of a pardner, axed me if so be I’d go out, which was a thing
that I degraded at the time. He gave me information as to what the
money-taking was, and it seemed to me that good, that it would pay me
better nor service. I had twenty pounds a-year in my place, and my
board and lodging, and two suits of clothes, but the young man told me
as how I could make one pound a-day at the Punch-and-Judy business,
after a little practice. I took a deal of persuasion, though, before
I’d join him--it was beneath my dignity to fall from a footman to
a showman. But, you see, the French gennelman as I lived with (he
were a merchant in the city, and had fourteen clerks working for him)
went back to his own country to reside, and left me with a written
kerrackter; but that was no use to me: though I’d fine recommendations
at the back of it, no one would look at it; so I was five months out
of employment, knocking about--living first on my wages and then on
my clothes, till all was gone but the few rags on my back. So I began
to think that the Punch-and-Judy business was better than starving
after all. Yes, I should think anything was better than that, though
it’s a business that, after you’ve once took to, you never can get out
of--people fancies you know too much, and won’t have nothing to say to
you. If I got a situation at a tradesman’s, why the boys would be sure
to recognise me behind the counter, and begin a shouting into the shop
(they _must_ shout, you know): ‘Oh, there’s Punch and Judy--there’s
Punch a-sarving out the customers!’ Ah, it’s a great annoyance being
a public kerrackter, I can assure you, sir; go where you will, it’s
‘Punchy, Punchy!’ As for the boys, they’ll never leave me alone till I
die, I know; and I suppose in my old age I shall have to take to the
parish broom. All our forefathers died in the workhouse. I don’t know
a Punch’s showman that hasn’t. One of my pardners was buried by the
workhouse; and even old Pike, the most noted showman as ever was, died
in the workhouse--Pike and Porsini. Porsini was the first original
street Punch, and Pike was his apprentice; their names is handed down
to posterity among the noblemen and footmen of the land. They both died
in the workhouse, and, in course, I shall do the same. Something else
_might_ turn up, to be sure. We can’t say what this luck of the world
is. I’m obliged to strive very hard--very hard indeed, sir, now, to get
a living; and then not to get it after all--at times, compelled to go
short, often.

“Punch, you know, sir, is a dramatic performance in two hacts. It’s a
play, you may say. I don’t think it can be called a tragedy hexactly;
a drama is what we names it. There is tragic parts, and comic and
sentimental parts, too. Some families where I performs will have it
most sentimental--in the original style; them families is generally
sentimental theirselves. Others is all for the comic, and then I has
to kick up all the games I can. To the sentimental folk I am obliged
to perform werry steady and werry slow, and leave out all comic words
and business. They won’t have no ghost, no coffin, and no devil; and
that’s what I call spiling the performance entirely. It’s the march
of hintellect wot’s a doing all this--it is, sir. But I was a going to
tell you about my first jining the business. Well, you see, after a
good deal of persuading, and being drew to it, I may say, I consented
to go out with the young man as I were a-speaking about. He was to give
me twelve shillings a-week and my keep, for two years certain, till
I could get my own show things together, and for that I was to carry
the show, and go round and _collect_. Collecting, you know, sounds
better than begging; the pronounciation’s better like. Sometimes the
people says, when they sees us a coming round, ‘Oh, here they comes
a-begging’--but it can’t be begging, you know, when you’re a hexerting
yourselves. I couldn’t play the drum and pipes, so the young man
used to do that himself, to call the people together before he got
into the show. I used to stand outside, and patter to the figures.
The first time that ever I went out with Punch was in the beginning
of August, 1825. I did all I could to avoid being seen. My dignity
was hurt at being hobligated to take to the streets for a living. At
fust I fought shy, and used to feel queer somehow, you don’t know how
like, whenever the people used to look at me. I remember werry well
the first street as ever I performed in. It was off Gray’s Inn, one of
them quiet, genteel streets, and when the mob began to gather round
I felt all-overish, and I turned my head to the frame instead of the
people. We hadn’t had no rehearsals aforehand, and I did the patter
quite permiscuous. There was not much talk, to be sure, required then;
and what little there was, consisted merely in calling out the names
of the figures as they came up, and these my master prompted me with
from inside the frame. But little as there was for me to do, I know
I never could have done it, if it hadn’t been for the spirits--the
false spirits, you see (a little drop of gin), as my master guv me in
the morning. The first time as ever I made my appearance in public, I
collected as much as eight shillings, and my master said, after the
performance was over, ‘You’ll do!’ You see I was partly in livery, and
looked a little bit decent like. After this was over, I kept on going
out with my master for two years, as I had agreed, and at the end of
that time I had saved enough to start a show of my own. I bought the
show of old Porsini, the man as first brought Punch into the streets of
England. To be sure, there was a woman over here with it before then.
Her name was----I can’t think of it just now, but she never performed
in the streets, so we consider Porsini as our real forefather. It isn’t
much more nor seventy years since Porsini (he was a werry old man when
he died, and blind) showed the hexhibition in the streets of London.
I’ve heerd tell that old Porsini used to take very often as much as ten
pounds a-day, and he used to sit down to his fowls and wine, and the
very best of everything, like the first gennelman in the land; indeed,
he made enough money at the business to be quite a tip-top gennelman,
that he did. But he never took care of a halfpenny he got. He was that
independent, that if he was wanted to perform, sir, he’d come at his
time, not your’n. At last, he reduced himself to want, and died in St.
Giles’s workhouse. Ah, poor fellow! he oughtn’t to have been allowed
to die where he did, after amusing the public for so many years.
Every one in London knowed him. Lords, dukes, princes, squires, and
wagabonds--all used to stop to laugh at his performance, and a funny
clever old fellow he was. He was past performing when I bought my show
of him, and werry poor. He was living in the Coal-yard, Drury-lane,
and had scarcely a bit of food to eat. He had spent all he had got in
drink, and in treating friends,--aye, any one, no matter who. He didn’t
study the world, nor himself neither. As fast as the money came it
went, and when it was gone, why, he’d go to work and get more. His show
was a very inferior one, though it were the fust--nothing at all like
them about now--nothing near as good. If you only had four sticks then,
it was quite enough to make plenty of money out of, so long as it was
Punch. I gave him thirty-five shillings for the stand, figures and all.
I bought it cheap, you see, for it was thrown on one side, and was of
no use to any one but such as myself. There was twelve figures and the
other happaratus, such as the gallows, ladder, horse, bell, and stuffed
dog. The characters was Punch, Judy, Child, Beadle, Scaramouch, Nobody,
Jack Ketch, the Grand Senoor, the Doctor, the Devil (there was no Ghost
used then), Merry Andrew, and the Blind Man. These last two kerrackters
are quite done with now. The heads of the kerrackters was all carved
in wood, and dressed in the proper costume of the country. There was
at that time, and is now, a real carver for the Punch business. He was
dear, but werry good and hexcellent. His Punch’s head was the best as I
ever seed. The nose and chin used to meet quite close together. A set
of new figures, dressed and all, would come to about fifteen pounds.
Each head costs five shillings for the bare carving alone, and every
figure that we has takes at least a yard of cloth to dress him, besides
ornaments and things that comes werry expensive. A good show at the
present time will cost three pounds odd for the stand alone--that’s
including baize, the frontispiece, the back scene, the cottage, and the
letter cloth, or what is called the drop-scene at the theatres. In the
old ancient style, the back scene used to pull up and change into a
gaol scene, but that’s all altered now.

[Illustration: PUNCH’S SHOWMEN.

[_From a Photograph._]]

“We’ve got more upon the comic business now, and tries to do more
with Toby than with the prison scene. The prison is what we calls the
sentimental style. Formerly Toby was only a stuffed figure. It
was Pike who first hit upon hintroducing a live dog, and a great hit
it were--it made a grand alteration in the hexhibition, for now the
performance is called Punch and Toby _as well_. There is one Punch
about the streets at present that tries it on with three dogs, but that
ain’t much of a go--too much of a good thing I calls it. Punch, as I
said before, is a drama in two hacts. We don’t drop the scene at the
end of the first--the drum and pipes strikes up instead. The first act
we consider to end with Punch being taken to prison for the murder of
his wife and child. The great difficulty in performing Punch consists
in the speaking, which is done by a call, or whistle in the mouth, such
as this here.” (He then produced the call from his waistcoat pocket.
It was a small flat instrument, made of two curved pieces of metal
about the size of a knee-buckle, bound together with black thread.
Between these was a plate of some substance (apparently silk), which
he said was a secret. The call, he told me, was tuned to a musical
instrument, and took a considerable time to learn. He afterwards took
from his pocket two of the small metallic plates unbound. He said the
composition they were made of was also one of the “secrets of the
purfession.” They were not tin, nor zinc, because “both of them metals
were poisons in the mouth, and hinjurious to the constitution.”) “These
calls,” he continued, “we often sell to gennelmen for a sovereign
a-piece, and for that we give ’em a receipt how to use them. They ain’t
whistles, but calls, or unknown tongues, as we sometimes names ’em,
because with them in the mouth we can pronounce each word as plain as
any parson. We have two or three kinds--one for out-of-doors, one for
in-doors, one for speaking and for singing, and another for selling.
I’ve sold many a one to gennelmen going along, so I generally keeps a
hextra one with me. Porsini brought the calls into this country with
him from Italy, and we who are now in the purfession have all learnt
how to make and use them, either from him or those as he had taught
’em to. I larnt the use of mine from Porsini himself. My master whom I
went out with at first would never teach me, and was werry partickler
in keeping it all secret from me. Porsini taught me the call at the
time I bought his show of him. I was six months in perfecting myself
in the use of it. I kept practising away night and morning with it,
until I got it quite perfect. It was no use trying at home, ’cause it
sounds quite different in the hopen hair. Often when I’ve made ’em at
home, I’m obliged to take the calls to pieces after trying ’em out
in the streets, they’ve been made upon too weak a scale. When I was
practising, I used to go into the parks, and fields, and out-of-the-way
places, so as to get to know how to use it in the hopen hair. Now I’m
reckoned one of the best speakers in the whole purfession. When I made
my first appearance as a regular performer of Punch on my own account,
I did feel uncommon narvous, to be sure: though I know’d the people
couldn’t see me behind the baize, still I felt as if all the eyes of
the country were upon me. It was as much as hever I could do to get
the words out, and keep the figures from shaking. When I struck up the
first song, my voice trembled so as I thought I never should be able
to get to the hend of the first hact. I soon, however, got over that
there, and at present I’d play before the whole bench of bishops as
cool as a cowcumber. We always have a pardner now to play the drum and
pipes, and collect the money. This, however, is only a recent dodge.
In older times we used to go about with a trumpet--that was Porsini’s
ancient style; but now that’s stopped. Only her majesty’s mails may
blow trumpets in the streets at present. The fust person who went out
with me was my wife. She used to stand outside, and keep the boys from
peeping through the baize, whilst I was performing behind it; and
she used to collect the money afterwards as well. I carried the show
and trumpet, and she the box. She’s been dead these five years now.
Take one week with another, all through the year, I should say I made
then five pounds regular. I _have_ taken as much as two pounds ten
shillings in one day in the streets; and I used to think it a bad day’s
business at that time if I took only one pound. You can see Punch has
been good work--a money-making business--and beat all mechanics right
out. If I could take as much as I did when I first began, what must
my forefathers have done, when the business was five times as good as
ever it were in my time? Why, I leaves you to judge what old Porsini
and Pike must have made. Twenty years ago I have often and often got
seven shillings and eight shillings for one hexhibition in the streets:
two shillings and three shillings I used to think low to get at one
collection; and many times I’d perform eight or ten times in a day. We
didn’t care much about work then, for we could get money fast enough;
but now I often show twenty times in the day, and get scarcely a bare
living at it arter all. That shows the times, you know, sir--what
things was and is now. Arter performing in the streets of a day we used
to attend private parties in the hevening, and get sometimes as much
as two pounds for the hexhibition. This used to be at the juvenile
parties of the nobility; and the performance lasted about an hour and
a half. For a short performance of half-an-hour at a gennelman’s house
we never had less than one pound. A performance outside the house was
two shillings and sixpence; but we often got as much as ten shillings
for it. I have performed afore almost all the nobility. Lord ---- was
particular partial to us, and one of our greatest patronizers. At the
time of the Police Bill I met him at Cheltenham on my travels, and he
told me as he had saved Punch’s neck once more; and it’s through him
principally that we are allowed to exhibit in the streets. Punch is
exempt from the Police Act. If you read the hact throughout, you won’t
find Punch mentioned in it. But all I’ve been telling you is about
the business as it was. What it _is_, is a werry different consarn.
A good day for us now seldom gets beyond five shillings, and that’s
between myself and my pardner, who plays the drum and pipes. Often
we are out all day, and get a mere nuffing. Many days we have been
out and taken nuffing at all--that’s werry common when we dwells upon
horders. By dwelling on horders, I means looking out for gennelmen
what want us to play in front of their houses. When we strike up in
the hopen street we take upon a haverage only threepence a show. In
course we _may_ do more, but that’s about the sum, take one street
performance with another. Them kind of performances is what we calls
‘short showing.’ We gets the halfpence and hooks it. A ‘long pitch’
is the name we gives to performances that lasts about half-an-hour or
more. Them long pitches we confine solely to street corners in public
thoroughfares; and then we take about a shilling upon a haverage, and
more if it’s to be got--we never turns away nuffing. ‘Boys, look up
your fardens,’ says the outside man; ‘it ain’t half over yet, we’ll
show it all through.’ The short shows we do only in private by-streets,
and of them we can get through about twenty in the day; that’s as much
as we can tackle--ten in the morning, and ten in the afternoon. Of the
long pitches we can only do eight in the day. We start on our rounds
at nine in the morning, and remain out till dark at night. We gets a
snack at the publics on our road. The best hours for Punch are in the
morning from nine till ten, because then the children are at home.
Arter that, you know, they goes out with the maids for a walk. From
twelve till three is good again, and then from six till nine; that’s
because the children are mostly at home at them hours. We make much
more by horders for performance houtside the gennelmen’s houses, than
we do by performing in public in the hopen streets. Monday is the best
day for street business; Friday is no day at all, because then the poor
people has spent all their money. If we was to pitch on a Friday, we
shouldn’t take a halfpenny in the streets, so we in general on that
day goes round for horders. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is the
best days for us with horders at gennelmen’s houses. We do much better
in the spring than at any other time in the year, excepting holiday
time, at Midsummer and Christmas. That’s what we call Punch’s season.
We do most at hevening parties in the holiday time, and if there’s a
pin to choose between them, I should say Christmas holidays was the
best. For attending hevening parties now we generally get one pound
and our refreshments--as much more as they like to give us. But the
business gets slacker and slacker every season. Where I went to ten
parties twenty years ago, I don’t go to two now. People isn’t getting
tired of our performances, but stingier--that’s it. Everybody looks at
their money now afore they parts with it, and gennelfolks haggles and
cheapens us down to shillings and sixpences, as if they was guineas in
the holden time. Our business is werry much like hackney-coach work;
we do best in vet vether. It looks like rain this evening, and I’m
uncommon glad on it, to be sure. You see, the vet keeps the children
in-doors all day, and then they wants something to quiet ’em a bit;
and the mothers and fathers, to pacify the dears, gives us a horder
to perform. It mustn’t rain cats and dogs--that’s as bad as no rain
at all. What we likes is a regular good, steady Scotch mist, for then
we takes double what we takes on other days. In summer we does little
or nothing; the children are out all day enjoying themselves in the
parks. The best pitch of all in London is Leicester-square; there’s
all sorts of classes, you see, passing there. Then comes Regent-street
(the corner of Burlington-street is uncommon good, and there’s a good
publican there besides). Bond-street ain’t no good now. Oxford-street,
up by Old Cavendish-street, or Oxford-market, or Wells-street, are
all favourite pitches for Punch. We don’t do much in the City. People
has their heads all full of business there, and them as is greedy
arter the money ain’t no friend of Punch’s. Tottenham-court-road, the
New-road, and all the henvirons of London, is pretty good. Hampstead,
tho’, ain’t no good; they’ve got too poor there. I’d sooner not go out
at all than to Hampstead. Belgrave-square, and all about that part, is
uncommon good; but where there’s many chapels Punch won’t do at all. I
did once, though, strike up hopposition to a street preacher wot was
a holding forth in the New-road and did uncommon well. All his flock,
as he called ’em, left him, and come over to look at me. Punch and
preaching is two different creeds--hopposition parties, I may say. We
in generally walks from twelve to twenty mile every day, and carries
the show, which weighs a good half-hundred, at the least. Arter great
exertion, our woice werry often fails us; for speaking all day through
the ‘call’ is werry trying, ’specially when we are chirruping up so
as to bring the children to the vinders. The boys is the greatest
nuisances we has to contend with. Wherever we goes we are sure of
plenty of boys for a hindrance; but they’ve got no money, bother
’em! and they’ll follow us for miles, so that we’re often compelled
to go miles to awoid ’em. Many parts is swarming with boys, such as
Vitechapel. Spitalfields, that’s the worst place for boys I ever come
a-near; they’re like flies in summer there, only much more thicker. I
never shows my face within miles of them parts. Chelsea, again, has
an uncommon lot of boys; and wherever we know the children swarm,
there’s the spots we makes a point of awoiding. Why, the boys is such a
hobstruction to our performance, that often we are obliged to drop the
curtain for ’em. They’ll throw one another’s caps into the frame while
I’m inside on it, and do what we will, we can’t keep ’em from poking
their fingers through the baize and making holes to peep through. Then
they _will_ keep tapping the drum; but the worst of all is, the most
of ’em ain’t got a farthing to bless themselves with, and they _will_
shove into the best places. Soldiers, again, we don’t like, they’ve got
no money--no, not even so much as pockets, sir. Nusses ain’t no good.
Even if the mothers of the dear little children has given ’em a penny
to spend, why the nusses takes it from ’em, and keeps it for ribbins.
Sometimes we can coax a penny out of the children, but the nusses knows
too much to be gammoned by us. Indeed, servants in generally don’t do
the thing what’s right to us--some is good to us, but the most of ’em
will have poundage out of what we gets. About sixpence out of every
half-crown is what the footman takes from us. We in generally goes into
the country in the summer time for two or three months. Watering-places
is werry good in July and August. Punch mostly goes down to the
sea-side with the quality. Brighton, though, ain’t no account; the
Pavilion’s done up with, and therefore Punch has discontinued his
visits. We don’t put up at the trampers’ houses on our travels, but
in generally inns is where we stays; because we considers ourselves
to be above the other showmen and mendicants. At one lodging-house
as I stopped at once in Warwick, there was as many as fifty staying
there what got their living by street performances--the greater part
were Italian boys and girls. There are altogether as many as sixteen
Punch-and-Judy frames in England. Eight of these is at work in London,
and the other eight in the country; and to each of these frames there
are two men. We are all acquainted with one another; are all sociable
together, and know where each other is, and what they are a-doing
on. When one comes home, another goes out; that’s the way we proceed
through life. It wouldn’t do for two to go to the same place. If two of
us happens to meet at one town, we jine, and shift pardners, and share
the money. One goes one way, and one another, and we meet at night, and
reckon up over a sociable pint or a glass. We shift pardners so as each
may know how much the other has taken. It’s the common practice for the
man what performs Punch to share with the one wot plays the drum and
pipes--each has half wot is collected; but if the pardner can’t play
the drum and pipes, and only carries the frame, and collects, then his
share is but a third of what is taken till he learns how to perform
himself. The street performers of London lives mostly in little rooms
of their own; they has generally wives, and one or two children, who
are brought up to the business. Some lives about the Westminster-road,
and St. George’s East. A great many are in Lock’s-fields--they are all
the old school that way. Then some, or rather the principal part of
the showmen, are to be found about Lisson-grove. In this neighbourhood
there is a house of call, where they all assembles in the evening.
There are a very few in Brick-lane, Spitalfields, now; that is mostly
deserted by showmen. The West-end is the great resort of all; for it’s
there the money lays, and there the showmen abound. We all know one
another, and can tell in what part of the country the others are. We
have intelligence by letters from all parts. There’s a Punch I knows on
now is either in the Isle of Man, or on his way to it.”

_Punch Talk._

“‘Bona parlare’ means language; name of patter. ‘Yeute munjare’--no
food. ‘Yeute lente’--no bed. ‘Yeute bivare’--no drink. I’ve ‘yeute
munjare,’ and ‘yeute bivare,’ and, what’s worse, ‘yeute lente.’ This is
better than the costers’ talk, because that ain’t no slang at all, and
this is a broken Italian, and much higher than the costers’ lingo. We
know what o’clock it is, besides.”

_Scene with two Punchmen._

“‘How are you getting on?’ I might say to another Punchman. ‘Ultra
cateva,’ he’d say. If I was doing a little, I’d say, ‘Bonar.’ Let us
have a ‘shant a bivare’--pot o’ beer. If we has a good pitch we never
tell one another, for business is business. If they know we’ve a
‘bonar’ pitch, they’ll oppose, which makes it bad.

“‘Co. and Co.’ is our term for partner, or ‘questa questa,’ as well.
‘Ultray cativa,’--no bona. ‘Slumareys’--figures, frame, scenes,
properties. ‘Slum’--call, or unknown tongue. ‘Ultray cativa slum’--not
a good call. ‘Tambora’--drum; that’s Italian. ‘Pipares’--pipes.
‘Questra homa a vardring the slum, scapar it, Orderly’--there’s someone
a looking at the slum. Be off quickly. ‘Fielia’ is a child; ‘Homa’ is
a man; ‘Dona,’ a female; ‘Charfering-homa’--talking-man, policeman.
Policeman can’t interfere with us, we’re sanctioned. Punch is exempt
out of the Police Act. Some’s very good men, and some on ’em are
tyrants; but generally speaking they’re all werry kind to us, and
allows us every privilege. That’s a flattery, you know, because you’d
better not meddle with them. Civility always gains its esteem.”

The man here took a large clasp-knife out of his breeches pocket.

“This here knife is part of Punch’s tools or materials, of great
utility, for it cannot be done without. The knife serves for a hammer,
to draw nails and drive them in again, and is very handy on a country
road to cut a beefsteak--not a mistake--Well, ye cannot cut a mistake,
can ye?--and is a real poor man’s friend to a certainty.

“This here is the needle that completes our tools (_takes out a needle
from inside his waistcoat collar_,) and is used to sew up our cativa
stumps, that is, Punch’s breeches and Judy’s petticoats, and his
master’s old clothes when they’re in holes. I likes to have everything
tidy and respectable, not knowing where I’m going to perform to, for
every day is a new day that we never see afore and never shall see
again; we do not know the produce of this world, being luxurant (that’s
moral), being humane, kind, and generous to all our society of life.
We mends our cativa and slums when they gets teearey (if you was to
show that to some of our line they’d be horrified; they can’t talk so
affluent, you know, in all kinds of black slums). Under the hedgeares,
and were no care varder us questa--‘questa’ is a shirt--pronunciation
for questra homa.

“Once, too, when I was scarpering with my culling in the monkey, I went
to mendare the cativa slums in a churchyard, and sat down under the
tombs to stitch ’em up a bit, thinking no one would varder us there.
But Mr. Crookshank took us off there as we was a sitting. I know I’m
the same party, ’cos Joe seen the print you know and draw’d quite
nat’ral, as now in print, with the slumares a laying about on all the
tombstones round us.”

_The Punchman at the Theatre._

“I used often when a youth to be very fond of plays and romances, and
frequently went to theatres to learn knowledge, of which I think there
is a deal of knowledge to be learnt from those places (that gives the
theatres a touch--helps them on a bit). I was very partial and fond of
seeing Romeau and Juliet; Otheller; and the Knights of St. John, and
the Pretty Gal of Peerlesspool; Macbeth and the Three Dancing Witches.
Don Goovarney pleased me best of all though. What took me uncommon were
the funeral purcession of Juliet--it affects the heart, and brings us
to our nat’ral feelings. I took my ghost from Romeau and Juliet; the
ghost comes from the grave, and it’s beautiful. I used to like Kean,
the principal performer. Oh, admirable! most admirable he were, and
especially in Otheller, for then he was like my Jim Crow here, and was
always a great friend and supporter of his old friend Punch. Otheller
murders his wife, ye know, like Punch does. Otheller kills her, ’cause
the green-eyed monster has got into his ’art, and he being so extremely
fond on her; but Punch kills his’n by accident, though he did not
intend to do it, for the Act of Parliament against husbands beating
wives was not known in his time. A most excellent law that there, for
it causes husbands and wives to be kind and natural one with the other,
all through the society of life. Judy irritates her husband, Punch, for
to strike the fatal blow, vich at the same time, vith no intention to
commit it, not knowing at the same time, being rather out of his mind,
vot he vas about. I hope this here will be a good example both to men
and wives, always to be kind and obleeging to each other, and that will
help them through the mainder with peace and happiness, and will rest
in peace with all mankind (that’s moral). It must be well worded, ye
know, that’s my beauty.”

_Mr. Punch’s Refreshment._

“Always Mr. Punch, when he performs to any nobleman’s juvenile parties,
he requires a little refreshment and sperrits before commencing,
because the performance will go far superior. But where teetotallers
is he plays very mournful, and they don’t have the best parts of the
dramatical performance. Cos pump vater gives a person no heart to
exhibit his performance, where if any sperrits is given to him he
woold be sure to give the best of satisfaction. I likes where I goes
to perform for the gennelman to ring the bell, and say to the butler
to bring this here party up whatever he chooses. But Punch is always
moderate; he likes one eye wetted, then the tother after; but he likes
the best: not particular to brandy, for fear of his nose of fading, and
afeerd of his losing the colour. All theatrical people, and even the
great Edmund Kean, used to take a drop before commencing performance,
and Punch must do the same, for it enlivens his sperrits, cheers his
heart up, and enables him to give the best of satisfaction imaginable.”

_The History of Punch._

“There are hoperas and romarnces. A romarnce is far different to a
hopera, you know; for one is interesting, and the other is dull and
void of apprehension. The romance is the interesting one, and of the
two I likes it the best; but let every one speak as they find--that’s
moral. Jack Sheppard, you know, is a romarnce, and a fine one; but
Punch is a hopera--a huproar, we calls it, and the most pleasing and
most interesting of all as was ever produced, Punch never was beat and
never will, being the oldest performance for many hundred years, and
now handed down to prosperity (there’s a fine moral in it, too).

“The history or origination of Punch--(never put yerself out of yer
way for me, I’m one of the happiest men in existence, and gives no
trouble)--is taken from Italy, and brought over to England by Porsini,
and exhibited in the streets of London for the first time from sixty
to seventy years ago; though he was not the first man who exhibited,
for there was a female here before him, but not to perform at all in
public--name unknown, but handed down to prosperity. She brought the
figures and frame over with her, but never showed ’em--keeping it an
unknown secret. Porsini came from Hitaly, and landed in England, and
exhibited his performance in the streets of London, and realized an
immense sum of money. Porsini always carried a rum-bottle in his pocket
(’cause Punch is a rum fellow, ye see, and he’s very fond of rum), and
drinked out of this unbeknown behind the baize afore he went into the
frame, so that it should lay in his power to give the audience a most
excellent performance. He was a man as gave the greatest satisfaction,
and he was the first man that brought a street horgan into England from
Hitaly. His name is handed down to prosperity among all classes of
society in life.

“At first, the performance was quite different then to what it is now.
It was all sentimental then, and very touching to the feelings, and
full of good morals. The first part was only made up of the killing of
his wife and babby, and the second with the execution of the hangman
and killing of the devil--that was the original drama of Punch, handed
down to prosperity for 800 years. The killing of the devil makes it one
of the most moral plays as is, for it stops Satan’s career of life, and
then we can all do as we likes afterwards.

“Porsini lived like the first nobleman in the land, and realized an
immense deal of money during his lifetime; we all considered him to be
our forefather. He was a very old man when he died. I’ve heard tell
he used to take very often as much as 10_l._ a-day, and now it’s come
down to little more than 10_d._; and he used to sit down to his fowls
and wine, and the very best of luxuriousness, like the first nobleman
in the world, such as a bottle of wine, and cetera. At last he reduced
himself to want, and died in the workhouse. Ah! poor fellow, he didn’t
ought to have been let die where he did, but misfortunes will happen
to all--that’s moral. Every one in London knowed him: lords, dukes,
squires, princes, and wagabones, all used to stop and laugh at his
pleasing and merry interesting performance; and a funny old fellow
he was, and so fond of his snuff. His name is writ in the annuals of
history, and handed down as long as grass grows and water runs--for
when grass ceases to grow, ye know, and water ceases to run, this world
will be no utility; that’s moral.

“Pike, the second noted street performer of Punch, was Porsini’s
apprentice, and he succeeded him after his career. He is handed down
as a most clever exhibitor of Punch and showman--’cause he used to
go about the country with waggons, too. He exhibited the performance
for many years, and at last came to decay, and died in the workhouse.
He was the first inventor of the live dog called Toby, and a great
invention it was, being a great undertaking of a new and excellent
addition to Punch’s performance--that’s well worded--we must place the
words in a superior manner to please the public.

“Then if, as you see, all our forefathers went to decay and died in
the workhouse, what prospect have we to look forward to before us
at the present time but to share the same fate, unless we meet with
sufficient encouragement in this life? But hoping it will not be so,
knowing that there is a new generation and a new exhibition, we hope
the public at large will help and assist, and help us to keep our head
above water, so that we shall never float down the river Thames, to be
picked up, carried in a shell, coroner’s inquest held, taken to the
workhouse, popped into the pithole, and there’s an end to another poor
old Punch--that’s moral.

“A footman is far superior to a showman, ’cause a showman is held to
be of low degrade, and are thought as such, and so circumstantiated as
to be looked upon as a mendicant; but still we are not, for collecting
ain’t begging, it’s only selliciting; ’cause parsons, you know (I
gives them a rub here), preaches a sermon and collects at the doors,
so I puts myself on the same footing as they--that’s moral, and it’s
optional, ye know. If I takes a hat round, they has a plate, and they
gets sovereigns where we has only browns; but we are thankful for all,
and always look for encouragement, and hopes kind support from all
classes of society in life.

“Punch has two kind of performances--short shows and long ones,
according to denare. Short shows are for cativa denare, and long
pitches for the bona denare. At the short shows we gets the ha’pence
and steps it--scafare, as we say; and at the long pitches ve keeps it
up for half an hour, or an hour, maybe--not particular, if the browns
tumble in well--for we never leave off while there’s a major solde
(that’s a halfpenny), or even a quartereen (that’s a farden), to be
made. The long pitches we fixes at the principal street-corners of
London. We never turn away nothink.

“‘Boys, look up your fardens,’ says the outside man; ‘it ain’t half
over yet, and we’ll show it all through.’

“Punch is like the income-tax gatherer, takes all we can get, and never
turns away nothink--that is our moral. Punch is like the rest of the
world, he has got bad morals, but very few of them. The showman inside
the frame says, while he’s a working the figures, ‘Culley, how are
you a getting on?’ ‘Very inferior indeed, I’m sorry to say, master.
The company, though very respectable, seems to have no pence among
’em.’ ‘What quanta denare have you chafered?’ I say. ‘Soldi major
quartereen;’ that means, three halfpence three fardens; ‘that is all I
have accumulated amongst this most respectable and numerous company.’
‘Never mind, master, the showman will go on; try the generosity of
the public once again.’ ‘Well, I think it’s of very little utility to
collect round again, for I’ve met with that poor encouragement.’ ‘Never
mind, master, show away. I’ll go round again and chance my luck; the
ladies and gentlemen have not seen sufficient, I think. Well, master,
I’ve got tres major’--that is, three half-pence--‘more, and now it’s
all over this time. Boys, go home and say your prayers,’ we says, and
steps it. Such scenes of life we see! No person would hardly credit
what we go through. We travel often yeute munjare (no food), and
oftentimes we’re in fluence, according as luck runs.

“We now principally dwells on orders at noblemen’s houses. The sebubs
of London pays us far better than the busy town of London. When
we are dwelling on orders, we goes along the streets chirripping
‘Roo-tooerovey ooey-ooey-ooerovey;’ that means, Any more wanted?
that’s the pronounciation of the call in the old Italian style.
Toorovey-to-roo-to-roo-toroo-torooey; that we does when we are dwelling
for orders mostly at noblemen’s houses. It brings the juvenials to
the window, and causes the greatest of attractions to the children
of noblemen’s families, both rich and poor: lords, dukes, earls, and
squires, and gentlefolks.

“‘Call-hunting,’--that’s another term for dwelling on orders--pays
better than pitching; but orders is wery casual, and pitching is a
certainty. We’re sure of a brown or two in the streets, and noblemen’s
work don’t come often. We must have it authentick, for we travels
many days and don’t succeed in getting one; at other times we are
more fluent; but when both combine together, it’s merely a living,
after all’s said and done, by great exertion and hard perseverance and
asidity, for the business gets slacker and slacker every year, and I
expect at last it will come to the dogs--not Toby, because he is dead
and gone. People isn’t getting tired with our performances; they’re
more delighted than ever; but they’re stingier. Everybody looks twice
at their money afore they parts with it.--That’s a rub at the mean
ones, and they wants it uncommon bad.

“And then, sometimes the blinds is all drawed down, on account of the
sun, and that cooks our goose; or, it’s too hot for people to stop and
varder--that means, see. In the cold days, when we pitch, people stops
a few minutes, drops their browns, and goes away about their business,
to make room for more. The spring of the year is the best of the four
seasons for us.

“A sailor and a lass half-seas over we like best of all. He will tip
his mag. We always ensure a few pence, and sometimes a shilling, of
them. We are fond of sweeps, too; they’re a sure brown, if they’ve got
one, and they’ll give before many a gentleman. But what we can’t abide
nohow is the shabby genteel--them altray cativa, and no mistake: for
they’ll stand with their mouths wide open, like a nut-cracker, and is
never satisfied, and is too grand even to laugh. It’s too much trouble
to carry ha’pence, and they’ve never no change, or else they’d give us
some; in fact, they’ve no money at all, they wants it all for, &c.”

_Mr. Punch’s Figures._

“This is Punch; this his wife, Judy. They never was married, not for
this eight hundred years--in the original drama. It is a drama in two
acts, is Punch. There was a Miss Polly, and she was Punch’s mistress,
and dressed in silks and satins. Judy catches Punch with her, and that
there causes all the disturbance. Ah, it’s a beautiful history; there’s
a deal of morals with it, and there’s a large volume wrote about it.
It’s to be got now.

“This here is Judy, their only child. She’s three years old come
to-morrow, and heir to all his estate, which is only a saucepan without
a handle.

“Well, _then_ I brings out the Beadle.

“Punch’s nose is the hornament to his face. It’s a great walue, and the
hump on his back is never to be got rid on, being born with him, and
never to be done without. Punch was silly and out of his mind--which is
in the drama--and the cause of his throwing his child out of winder,
vich he did. Judy went out and left him to nurse the child, and the
child gets so terrible cross he gets out of patience, and tries to sing
a song to it, and ends by chucking it into the street.

“Punch is cunning, and up to all kinds of antics, if he ain’t out of
his mind. Artful like. My opinion of Punch is, he’s very incentric,
with good and bad morals attached. Very good he was in regard to
benevolence; because, you see, in the olden style there was a blind
man, and he used to come and ax charity of him, and Punch used to pity
him and give him a trifle, you know. This is in the olden style, from
Porsini you know.

“The carving on his face is a great art, and there’s only one man as
does it reg’lar. His nose and chin, by meeting together, we thinks
the great beauty. Oh, he’s admirable!--He was very fond of hisself
when he was alive. His name was Punchinello, and we calls him Punch.
That’s partly for short and partly on account of the boys, for they
calls it Punch in hell O. ‘Oh, there’s Punch in hell,’ they’d say, and
gennelfolks don’t like to hear them words.

“Punch has very small legs and small arms. It’s quite out of portion,
in course; but still it’s nature, for folks with big bellies generally
has thin pins of their own.

“His dress has never been altered; the use of his high hat is to show
his half-foolish head, and the other parts is after the best olden

“Judy, you see, is very ugly. She represents Punch; cos, you see, if
the two comes together, it generally happens that they’re summat alike;
and you see it’s because his wife were so ugly that he had a mistress.
You see, a head like that there wouldn’t please most people.

“The mistress, Polly, dances with Punch, just like a lady in a
drawing-room. There ain’t no grievance between him and Judy on account
of Miss Polly, as she’s called. That’s the olden style of all, cos Judy
don’t know nothing about it.

“Miss Polly was left out because it wasn’t exactly moral; opinions has
changed: we ain’t better, I fancy. Such things goes on, but people
don’t like to let it be seen now, that’s the difference.

“Judy’s dress, you see, is far different, bless you, than Miss
Polly’s. Judy’s, you see, is bed-furniture stuff, and Polly’s all
silk and satin. Yes, that’s the way of the world,--the wife comes off

“The baby’s like his father, he’s his pet all over and the pride of his
heart; wouldn’t take all the world for it, you know, though he does
throw him out of window. He’s got his father’s nose, and is his daddy
all over, from the top of his head to the tip of his toe. He never was

“Punch, you know, is so red through drink. He’d look nothing if his
nose were not deep scarlet. Punch used to drink hard one time, and
so he does now if he can get it. His babby is red all the same, to

“This is the Beadle of the parish, which tries to quell all
disturbances but finds it impossible to do it. The Beadle has got a
very reddish nose. He is a very severe, harsh man, but Punch conquers
him. Ye see, he’s dressed in the olden style--a brown coat, with gold
lace and cock’d hat and all. He has to take Punch up for killing his
wife and babby; but Punch beats the Beadle, for every time he comes up
he knocks him down.

“This next one is the merry Clown, what tries his rig with Punch, up
and down--that’s a rhyme, you see. This is the merry Clown, that tries
his tricks all round. This here’s the new style, for we dwells more on
the comical now. In the olden time we used to have a scaramouch with a
chalk head. He used to torment Punch and dodge him about, till at last
Punch used to give him a crack on the head and smash it all to pieces,
and then cry out--‘Oh dear, Oh dear; I didn’t go to do it--it was an
accident, done on purpose.’ But now we do with Clown and the sausages.
Scaramouch never talked, only did the ballet business, dumb motions;
but the Clown speaks theatrical, comic business and sentimental. Punch
being silly and out of his mind, the Clown persuades Punch that he
wants something to eat. The Clown gets into the public-house to try
what he can steal. He pokes his head out of the window and says, ‘Here
you are, here you are;’ and then he asks Punch to give him a helping
hand, and so makes Punch steal the sausages. They’re the very best
pork-wadding sausages, made six years ago and warranted fresh, and ’ll
keep for ever.

“This here’s the poker, about which the Clown says, ‘Would you like
something hot?’ Punch says ‘Yes,’ and then the Clown burns Punch’s
nose, and sits down on it himself and burns his breeches. Oh, it’s a
jolly lark when I shows it. Clown says to Punch, ‘Don’t make a noise,
you’ll wake the landlord up.’ The landlord, you see, pretends to be

“Clown says, ‘You mustn’t hollar.’ ‘No,’ says Punch, ‘I wont;’ and
still he hollars all the louder.

“This is Jim Crow: ye see he’s got a chain but he’s lost his watch. He
let it fall on Fish-street Hill, the other day, and broke it all to
pieces. He’s a nigger. He says, ‘Me like ebery body;’ not ‘every,’ but
‘ebery,’ cos that’s nigger. Instead of Jim Crow we used formerly to
show the Grand Turk of Sinoa, called Shallaballah. Sinoa is nowhere,
for he’s only a substance yer know. I can’t find Sinoa, although I’ve
tried, and thinks it’s at the bottom of the sea where the black fish

“Jim Crow sprung from Rice from America, he brought it over here. Then,
ye see, being a novelty, all classes of society is pleased. Everybody
liked to hear ‘Jim Crow’ sung, and so we had to do it. The people used
to stand round, and I used to take some good money with it too, sir, on
Hay-hill. Everybody’s funny now-a-days, and they like comic business.
They won’t listen to anything sensible or sentimental, but they wants
foolishness. The bigger fool gets the most money. Many people says,
‘What a fool, you must look!’ at that I put my head back. ‘Come on.’ ‘I
shan’t. I shall stop a little longer.’

“This is the Ghost, that appears to Punch for destroying his wife and
child. She’s the ghost of the two together, or else, by rights, there
ought to be a little ghost as well, but we should have such a lot
to carry about. But Punch, being surprised at the ghost, falls into
exstericks--represented as such. Punch is really terrified, for he
trembles like a haspen leaf, cos he never killed his wife. He’s got no
eyes and no teeth, and can’t see out of his mouth; or _cannot_, rather.
Them cant words ain’t grammatical. When Punch sees the Ghost he lays
down and kicks the bucket, and represents he’s dead.

“The Ghost is very effective, when it comes up very solemn and
mournful-like in Romeau and Juliet. I took it from that, yer know:
there’s a ghost in that when she comes out of the grave. Punch sits
down on his seat and sings his merry song of olden times, and don’t
see the Ghost till he gets a tap on the cheek, and then he thinks it’s
somebody else; instead of that, when he turns round, he’s most terrible
alarmed, putting his arms up and out. The drum goes very shaky when the
Ghost comes up. A little bit of ‘The Dead March in Saul,’ or ‘Home,
sweet Home:’ anything like that, slow. We none on us likes to be
hurried to the grave.

“I now takes up the Doctor. This is the Doctor that cures all sick
maids and says, ‘Taste of my drugs before you die, you’ll say they are
well made.’ The Doctor always wears a white ermine wig: rabbit skin
wouldn’t do, we can’t go so common as that; it’s most costly, cos it
was made for him.

“After the Ghost has appeared Punch falls down, and calls loudly for
the Doctor, and offers 50,000_l._ for one; then the Doctor feels
his pulse and says, ‘Very unfortunate misfortune! I have forgot my
spectacles, cos I never had none. I can see all through it--the man’s
not dead.’

“The Doctor gives Punch physic. That’s stick-lickerish wot he
subscribes for him; but Punch don’t like it, though it’s a capital
subscription for a cure for the head-ache. (I dare say, Mr. Mayhew,
sir, you thinks me a very funny fellow.) Punch tries to pay the Doctor
back with his own physic, but he misses him every time. Doctors don’t
like to take their own stuff anyhow.

“This is the Publican as Punch steals the sausages from; he used
to be the Grand Turk of Senoa, or Shallaballah, afore the fashion
changed--for a new world always wants new things: the people are like
babies, they must have a fresh toy ye know, and every day is a new
day that we never seed before.--There’s a moral for you; it’ll make a
beautiful book when you comes to have the morals explained. Ye see you
might still fancy Punch was the Grand Turk, for he’s got his moustaches
still; but they’re getting so fashionable that even the publicans wears
’em, so it don’t matter.

“This tall figure is the hangman and finisher of the law, as does the
business in the twinkling of a bed-post. He’s like the income-tax
gatherer, he takes all in and lets none out, for a guilty conscience
needs no accusing. Punch being condemned to suffer by the laws of his
country, makes a mistake for once in his life, and always did, and
always will keep a-doing it. Therefore, by cunningness and artfulness,
Punch persuades Jack Ketch to show him the way--which he very
‘willingly doeth’--to slip his head into the noose, when Punch takes
the opportunity to pull the rope, after he has shown him the way, and
is exempt for once more, and quite free.

“Now this is the coffin, and this is the pall. Punch is in a great way,
after he’s hung the man, for assistance, when he calls his favourite
friend Joey Grimaldi, the clown, to aid and assist him, because he’s
afeard that he’ll be taken for the crime wot he’s committed. Then the
body is placed in the coffin; but as the undertaker ain’t made it long
enough, they have to double him up. The undertaker requests permission
to git it altered. Ye see it’s a royal coffin, with gold, and silver,
and copper nails; with no plates, and scarlet cloth, cos that’s
royalty. The undertaker’s forgot the lid of the coffin, ye see: we
don’t use lids, cos it makes them lighter to carry.

“This is the pall that covers him over, to keep the flies from biting
him. We call it St. Paul’s. Don’t you see, palls and Paul’s is the same
word, with a _s_ to it: it’s comic. That ’ud make a beautiful play,
that would. Then we take out the figures, as I am doing now, from the
box, and they exaunt with a dance. ‘Here’s somebody a-coming, make
haste!’ the Clown says, and then they exaunt, you know, or go off.

“This here is the Scaramouch that dances without a head, and yet has
got a head that’ll reach from here to St. Paul’s; but it’s scarcely
ever to be seen. Cos his father was my mother, don’t ye see. Punch
says that it’s a beautiful figure. I’ve only made it lately. Instead
of him we used to have a nobody. The figure is to be worked with four
heads, that’s to say one coming out of each arm, one from the body,
and one from the neck. (He touches each part as he speaks.) Scaramouch
is old-fashioned newly revived. He comes up for a finish, yer know.
This figure’s all for dancing, the same as the ghost is, and don’t say
nothing. Punch being surprised to see such a thing, don’t know what
to make on it. He bolts away, for ye see (whispering and putting up
two hands first, and then using the other, as if working Scaramouch),
I wants my two hands to work him. After Punch goes away the figure
dances to amuse the public, then he exaunts, and Punch comes up again
for to finish the remainder part of his performance. He sings as if
he’d forgot all that’s gone before, and wishes only to amuse the public
at large. That’s to show his silliness and simplicity. He sings comic
or sentimental, such as ‘God save the Queen;’--that’s sentimental;
or ‘Getting up stairs and playing on the fiddle;’ or ‘Dusty Bob;’ or
‘Rory O’More, with the chill off;’--them’s all comic, but ‘the Queen’s’

“This here is Satan,--we might say the devil, but that ain’t right,
and gennelfolks don’t like such words. He is now commonly called
‘Spring-heeled Jack;’ or the ‘Roosian Bear,’--that’s since the war. Ye
see he’s chained up for ever; for if yer reads, it says somewhere in
the Scripture that he’s bound down for two thousand years. I used to
read it myself once; and the figure shows ye that he’s chained up never
to be let loose no more. He comes up at the last and shows himself to
Punch, but it ain’t continued long, yer know, the figure being too
frightful for people to see without being frightened; unless we are on
comic business and showing him as Spring-heeled Jack, or the Roosian
Bear; and then we keeps him up a long time. Punch kills him, puts him
on the top of his stick, and cries, ‘Hooray! the devil’s dead, and we
can all do as we like! Good-by, farewell, and it’s all over!’ But the
curtain don’t come down, cos we haven’t got none.

“This here’s the bell. Stop a minute, I forgot: this is Punch’s comic
music, commonly called a peanner sixty,--not peanner forty, cos Punch
wants something out of the common way,--and it plays fifty tunes all at
once. This is the bell which he uses to rattle in the publican’s ears
when he’s asleep, and wakes his children all up after the nuss as put
’em to bed. All this is to show his foolishness and simplicity; for
it’s one of his foolish tricks and frolics for to amuse himself: but
he’s a chap as won’t stand much nonsense from other people, because his
morals are true, just, right, and sound; although he does kill his wife
and baby, knock down the Beadle, Jack Ketch, and the Grand Signor, and
puts an end to the very devil himself.”

_Description of Frame and Proscenium._

“‘Ladies and gents,’ the man says outside the show, afore striking up,
‘I’m now going to exhibit a preformance worthy of your notice, and far
superior to anythink you hever had a hopportunity of witnessing of
before.’ (I am a doing it now, sir, as if I was addressing a company
of ladies and gentlemen, he added, by way of parenthesis.) ‘This is
the original preformance of Punch, ladies and gents; and it will
always gain esteem. I am going to hintroduce a preformance worthy of
your notice, which is the dramatical preformance of the original and
old-established preformance of Punch, experienced many year. I merely
call your attention, ladies and gents, to the novel attraction which
I’m now about to hintroduce to you.

“‘I only merely place this happyratus up to inform you what I am about
to preform to you. The preformance will continue for upwards of one
hour--_provising as we meets with sufficient encouragement_. (That’s
business, ye know, master; just to give ’em to understand that we wants
a little assistance afore we begins.) It will surpass anythink you’ve
had the hopportunity of witnessing of before in all the hannuals of
history. I hope, ladies and gents, I am not talking too grammatical for
some of you.’

“That there is the address, sir,” he continued, “what I always gives
to the audience outside before I begins to preform--just to let the
respectable company know that I am a working for to get my living by
honest industry.

“‘Those ladies and gents,’ he then went on, as if addressing an
imaginary crowd, ‘what are a-standing round, a-looking at the
preformance, will, I hope, be as willing to give as they is to see.
There’s many a lady and gent now at the present moment standing around
me, perhaps, whose hearts might be good though not in their power.’
(This is Punch’s patter, yer know, outside; and when you has to say
all that yourself, you wants the affluency of a methodist parson to do
the talk, I can tell ye.) ‘Now boys, look up yer ha’pence! Who’s got a
farden or a ha’penny? and I’ll be the first brown towards it. I ain’t
particular if it’s a half-crown. Now, my lads, feel in your pockets and
see if you’ve got an odd copper. Here’s one, and who’ll be the next to
make it even? We means to show it all through, _provising we meets with
sufficient encouragement_.’ (I always sticks to them words, ‘sufficient
encouragement.’) ‘You’ll have the pleasure of seeing Spring-heeled
Jack, or the Roosian Bear, and the comical scene with Joey the clown,
and the fryingpan of sassages!’ (That’s a kind of gaggery.)

“I’ll now just explain to you, sir, the different parts of the frame.
This here’s the letter-cloth, which shows you all what we performs.
Sometimes we has wrote on it--




that fills up a letter-cloth; and Punch is a fancy for every person,
you know, whoever may fancy it. I stands inside here on this footboard;
and if there’s any one up at the winders in the street, I puts my foot
longways, so as to keep my nob out of sight. This here is the stage
front, or _proceedings_ (proscenium), and is painted over with flags
and banners, or any different things. Sometimes there’s George and the
Dragging, and the Rile Queen’s Arms, (we can have them up when we like,
cos we are sanctioned, and I’ve played afore the rile princes). But
anything for freshness. People’s tired of looking at the Rile Arms, and
wants something new to cause attraction, and so on.

“This here’s the playboard, where sits Punch. The scenes behind are
representing a garding scene, and the side-scenes is a house and a
cottage--they’re for the exaunts, you know, just for convenience. The
back scene draws up, and shows the prison, with the winders all cut
out, and the bars showing, the same as there is to a gaol; though I
never was in one in my life, and I’ll take good care I never shall be.

“Our speaking instrument is an unknown secret, cos it’s an ‘unknown
tongue,’ that’s known to none except those in our own purfession. It’s
a hinstrument like this which I has in my hand, and it’s tuned to
music. We has two or three kinds, one for out-doors, one for in-doors,
one for speaking, one for singing, and one that’s good for nothing,
except selling on the cheap. They ain’t whistles, but ‘calls,’ or
‘unknown tongues;’ and with them in the mouth we can pronounce each
word as plain as a parson, and with as much affluency.

“The great difficulty in preforming Punch consists in speaking with
this call in the mouth--cos it’s produced from the lungs: it’s all done
from there, and is a great strain, and requires sucktion--and that’s
brandy-and-water, or summat to moisten the whistle with.

“We’re bound not to drink water by our purfession, when we can get
anything stronger. It weakens the nerves, but we always like to keep
in the bounds of propriety, respectability, and decency. I drinks my
beer with my call in my mouth, and never takes it out, cos it exposes
it, and the boys (hang ’em!) is so inquisitive. They runs after us, and
looks up in our face to see how we speaks; but we drives ’em away with

“Punch is a dramatical performance, sir, in two acts, patronised by the
nobility and gentry at large. We don’t drop the scene at the end of
the first act, the drum and pipes strikes up instead. The first act we
consider to end with Punch being took to prison for the murder of his
wife and baby. You can pick out a good many Punch preformers, without
getting one so well versed as I am in it; they in general makes such
a muffing concern of it. A drama, or dramatical preformance, we calls
it, of the original preformance of Punch. It ain’t a tragedy; it’s both
comic and sentimental, in which way we think proper to preform it.
There’s comic parts, as with the Clown and Jim Crow, and cetera--that’s
including a deal more, yer know.

“It’s a pretty play Punch is, when preformed well, and one of the
greatest novelties in the world; and most ancient; handed down, too,
for many hundred years.

“The prison scene and the baby is what we calls the sentimental
touches. Some folks where I preforms will have it most sentimental, in
the original style. Them families is generally sentimental theirselves.
To these sentimental folks I’m obliged to preform werry steady and
werry slow; they won’t have no ghost, no coffin, and no devil; and
that’s what I call spiling the preformance entirely. Ha, ha!” he added,
with a deep sigh, “it’s the march of intellect that’s a doing all this:
it is, sir.

“Other folks is all for the comic, specially the street people; and
then we has to dwell on the bell scene, and the nursing the baby, and
the frying-pan, and the sassages, and Jim Crow.

“A few years ago Toby was all the go. Formerly the dog was only a
stuffed figure, and it was Mr. Pike what first hit upon introducing a
live animal; and a great hit it war. It made a surprising alteration in
the exhibition, for till lately the preformance was called Punch and
Toby as well. We used to go about the streets with three dogs, and that
was admirable, and it did uncommon well as a new novelty at first, but
we can’t get three dogs to do it now. The mother of them dogs, ye see,
was a singer, and had two pups what was singers too. Toby was wanted to
sing and smoke a pipe as well, shake hands as well as seize Punch by
the nose. When Toby was quiet, ye see, sir, it was the timidation of
Punch’s stick, for directly he put it down he flew at him, knowing at
the same time that Punch was not his master.

“Punch commences with a song. He does roo-too-rooey, and sings the
‘Lass of Gowrie’ down below, and then he comes up, saying, ‘Ooy-ey;
Oh, yes, I’m a coming. How do you do, ladies and gents?’--ladies
always first; and then he bows many times. ‘I’m so happy to see you,’
he says; ‘Your most obedient, most humble, and dutiful servant, Mr.
Punch.’ (Ye see I can talk as affluent as can be with the call in my
mouth.) ‘Ooy-ey, I wishes you all well and happy.’ Then Punch says
to the drum-and-pipes man, as he puts his hand out, ‘How do you do,
master?--play up; play up a hornpipe: I’m a most hexcellent dancer;’
and then Punch dances. Then ye see him a-dancing the hornpipe; and
after that Punch says to the pipes, ‘Master, I shall call my wife up,
and have a dance;’ so he sings out, ‘Judy, Judy! my pratty creetur!
come up stairs, my darling! I want to speak to you’--and he knocks on
the play-board.--‘Judy! Here she comes, bless her little heart!’

  _Enter_ JUDY.

_Punch._ What a sweet creature! what a handsome nose and chin! (_He
pats her on the face very gently._)

_Judy._ (_Slapping him._) Keep quiet, do!

_Punch._ Don’t be cross, my dear, but give me a kiss.

  _Judy._ Oh, to be sure, my love.      [_They kiss._

_Punch._ Bless your sweet lips! (_Hugging her._) This is melting
moments. I’m very fond of my wife; we must have a dance.

  _Judy._ Agreed.      [_They both dance._

_Punch._ Get out of the way! you don’t dance well enough for me. (_He
hits her on the nose._) Go and fetch the baby, and mind and take care
of it, and not hurt it. [_Judy exaunts._

_Judy._ (_Returning back with baby._) Take care of the baby, while I go
and cook the dumplings.

_Punch._ (_Striking Judy with his right hand._) Get out of the way!
I’ll take care of the baby.

  [_Judy exaunts._

_Punch_ (_sits down and sings to the baby_)--

    “Hush-a-by, baby, upon the tree-top,
    When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
    When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
    Down comes the baby and cradle and all.”

  [_Baby cries._

_Punch._ (_Shaking it._) What a cross boy! (_He lays it down on the
play-board, and rolls it backwards and forwards, to rock it to sleep,
and sings again._)

    “Oh, slumber, my darling, thy sire is a knight,
    Thy mother’s a lady so lovely and bright;
    The hills and the dales, and the tow’rs which you see,
    They all shall belong, my dear creature, to thee.”

(_Punch continues rocking the child. It still cries, and he takes it
up in his arms, saying_, What a cross child! I can’t a-bear cross
children. _Then he vehemently shakes it, and knocks its head up against
the side of the proceedings several times, representing to kill it, and
he then throws it out of the winder._)

  _Enter_ JUDY.

_Judy._ Where’s the baby?

_Punch._ (_In a lemoncholy tone._) I have had a misfortune; the child
was so terrible cross, I throwed it out of the winder. (_Lemontation
of Judy for the loss of her dear child. She goes into asterisks, and
then excites and fetches a cudgel, and commences beating Punch over the

_Punch._ Don’t be cross, my dear: I didn’t go to do it.

_Judy._ I’ll pay yer for throwing the child out of the winder. (_She
keeps on giving him knocks of the head, but Punch snatches the stick
away, and commences an attack upon his wife, and beats her severely._)

_Judy._ I’ll go to the constable, and have you locked up.

_Punch._ Go to the devil. I don’t care where you go. Get out of the
way! (_Judy exaunts, and Punch then sings, “Cherry ripe,” or “Cheer,
boys, cheer.” All before is sentimental, now this here’s comic. Punch
goes through his roo-too-to-rooey, and then the Beadle comes up._)

_Beadle._ Hi! hallo, my boy!

_Punch._ Hello, my boy. (_He gives him a wipe over the head with his
stick, which knocks him down, but he gets up again._)

_Beadle._ Do you know, sir, that I’ve a special order in my pocket to
take you up?

_Punch._ And I’ve a special order to knock you down. (_He knocks him
down with simplicity, but not with brutality, for the juvenial branches
don’t like to see severity practised._)

_Beadle._ (_Coming up again._) D’ye know, my boy, that I’ve an order to
take you up?

_Punch._ And I’ve an order I tell ye to knock you down. (_He sticks
him. Punch is a tyrant to the Beadle, ye know, and if he was took up he
wouldn’t go through his rambles, so in course he isn’t._)

_Beadle._ I’ve a warrant for you, my boy.

_Punch._ (_Striking him._) And that’s a warrant for you, my boy. (_The
Beadle’s a determined man, ye know, and resolved to go to the ends of
justice as far as possible in his power by special authority, so a
quarrel enshoos between them._)

_Beadle._ You are a blackguard.

_Punch._ So are you.

(_The Beadle hits Punch on the nose, and takes the law in his own
hands. Punch takes it up momentary; strikes the Beadle, and a fight
enshoos. The Beadle, faint and exhausted, gets up once more; then he
strikes Punch over the nose, which is returned pro and con._)

_Beadle._ That’s a good ’un.

_Punch._ That’s a better.

_Beadle._ That’s a topper. (_He hits him jolly hard._)

_Punch._ (_With his cudgel._) That’s a wopper. (_He knocks him out of
his senses, and the Beadle exaunts._)

  _Enter_ MERRY CLOWN.

 _Punch sings “Getting up Stairs,” in quick time, while the Clown is
 coming up. Clown dances round Punch in all directions, and Punch with
 his cudgel is determined to catch him if possible._

_Clown._ No bono, allez tooti sweet, Mounseer. Look out sharp! Make
haste! catch ’em alive! Here we are! how are you? good morning! don’t
you wish you may get it? Ah! coward, strike a white man! (_Clown keeps
bobbing up and down, and Punch trying to hit all the time till Punch is
exhausted nearly._)

(The Clown, ye see, sir, is the best friend to Punch, he carries him
through all his tricks, and he’s a great favorite of Punch’s. He’s too
cunning for him though, and knows too much for him, so they both shake
hands and make it up.)

_Clown._ Now it’s all fair; ain’t it, Punch?

_Punch._ Yes.

_Clown._ Now I can begin again.

(You see, sir, the Clown gets over Punch altogether by his artful ways,
and then he begins the same tricks over again; that is, if we wants a
long performance; if not, we cuts it off at the other pint. But I’m
telling you the real original style, sir.)

_Clown._ Good! you can’t catch me.

(_Punch gives him one whack of the head, and Clown exaunts, or goes

  _Enter_ JIM CROW.

 _Jim sings “Buffalo Gals,” while coming up, and on entering Punch hits
 him a whack of the nose backhanded, and almost breaks it._

_Jim._ What for you do that? Me nigger! me like de white man. Him did
break my nose.

_Punch._ Humbly beg your pardon, I did not go to help it.

(For as it had been done, you know, it wasn’t likely he could help it
after he’d done it--he couldn’t take it away from him again, could he?)

_Jim._ Me beg you de pardon. (For ye see, sir, he thinks he’s offended
Punch.) Nebber mind, Punch, come and sit down, and we’ll hab a song.

  JIM CROW _prepares to sing_.

_Punch._ Bravo, Jimmy! sing away, my boy--give us a stunner while
you’re at it.

  JIM _sings_.

    “I’m a roarer on the fiddle,
      Down in the ole Virginny;
    And I plays it scientific,
      Like Master Paganinni.”

_Punch._ (_Tapping him on the head._) Bravo! well done, Jimmy! give us
another bit of a song.

  _Jim._ Yes, me will.      [_Sings again._

    “Oh, lubly Rosa, Sambo come;
       Don’t you hear the banjo?
               Tum, tum, tum!”

Jim hits Punch with his head over the nose, as if butting at him,
while he repeats tum-tum-tum. Punch offended, beats him with the stick,
and sings--

    “Lubly Rosa, Sambo come;
      Don’t you hear the banjo?
              Tum, tum, tum!”

_Jim._ (_Rising._) Oh mi! what for you strike a nigger? (_Holding
up his leg._) Me will poke your eye out. Ready--shoot--bang--fire.
(_Shoves his leg into Punch’s eye._)

_Punch._ He’s poked my eye out! I’ll look out for him for the future.

Jim Crow excites, or exaunts. Exaunt we calls it in our purfession,
sir,--that’s going away, you know. He’s done his part, you know, and
ain’t to appear again.

Judy has died through Punch’s ill usage after going for the Beadle, for
if she’d done so before she could’nt ha’ fetched the constable, you
know,--certainly not. The beholders only believe her to be dead though,
for she comes to life again afterwards, because, if she was dead, it
would do away with Punch’s wife altogether--for Punch is doatingly fond
of her, though it’s only his fun after all’s said and done.

The Ghost, you see, is only a repersentation, as a timidation to soften
his bad morals, so that he shouldn’t do the like again. The Ghost, to
be sure, shows that she’s really dead for a time, but it’s not in the
imitation; for if it was, Judy’s ghost (the figure) would be made like

The babby’s lost altogether. It’s killed. It is supposed to be
destroyed entirely, but taken care of for the next time when called
upon to preform--as if it were in the next world, you know,--that’s

_Enter_ Ghost. Punch sings meanwhile ‘Home, sweet Home.’ (This is
original.) The Ghost repersents the ghost of Judy, because he’s killed
his wife, don’t you see, the Ghost making her appearance; but Punch
don’t know it at the moment. Still he sits down tired, and sings in the
corner of the frame the song of “Home, sweet Home,” while the Sperrit
appears to him.

Punch turns round, sees the Ghost, and is most terribly timidated.
He begins to shiver and shake in great fear, bringing his guilty
conscience to his mind of what he’s been guilty of doing, and at last
he falls down in a fit of frenzy. Kicking, screeching, hollering, and
shouting “Fifty thousand pounds for a doctor!” Then he turns on his
side, and draws hisself double with the screwmatics in his gills.
[_Ghost excites._

  _Enter_ DOCTOR.

Punch is represented to be dead. This is the dying speech of Punch.

_Doctor._ Dear me! bless my heart! here have I been running as fast as
ever I could walk, and very near tumbled over a straw. I heard somebody
call most lustily for a doctor. Dear me (_looking at Punch in all
directions, and examining his body_), this is my pertickler friend Mr.
Punch; poor man! how pale he looks! I’ll feel his pulse (_counts his
pulse_)--1, 2, 14, 9, 11. Hi! Punch, Punch, are you dead? are you dead?
are you dead?

_Punch._ (_Hitting him with his right hand over the nose, and knocking
him back._) Yes.

_Doctor._ (_Rubbing his nose with his hand._) I never heard a dead man
speak before. Punch, you are not dead!

_Punch._ Oh, yes I am.

_Doctor._ How long have you been dead?

_Punch._ About six weeks.

_Doctor._ Oh, you’re not dead, you’re only poorly; I must fetch you a
little reviving medicine, such as some stick-lickrish and balsam, and
extract of shillalagh.

_Punch._ (_Rising._) Make haste--(_he gives the Doctor a wipe on the
nose_)--make haste and fetch it. [_Doctor exaunts._

_Punch._ The Doctor going to get me some physic! I’m very fond of
brandy-and-water, and rum-punch. I want my physic; the Doctor never
brought me no physic at all. I wasn’t ill; it was only my fun. (_Doctor
reappears with the physic-stick, and he whacks Punch over the head no
harder than he is able, and cries_--)“There’s physic! physic! physic!
physic! physic! pills! balsaam! stick-lickerish!”

_Punch._ (_Rising and rubbing his head against the wing._) Yes; it is

(Ah! it’s a pretty play, sir, when it’s showed well--that it is--it’s
delightful to read the morals; I am wery fond of reading the morals, I

_Punch._ (_Taking the stick from the Doctor._) Now, I’ll give you
physic! physic! physic! (_He strikes at the Doctor, but misses him
every time._) The Doctor don’t like his own stuff.

_Punch._ (_Presenting his stick, gun-fashion, at Doctor’s head._) I’ll
shoot ye--one, two, three.

_Doctor._ (_Closing with Punch._) Come to gaol along with me.

(He saves his own life by closing with Punch. He’s a desperate
character is Punch, though he means no harm, ye know.) A struggle
enshoos, and the Doctor calls for help, Punch being too powerful for

_Doctor._ Come to gaol! You shall repent for all your past misdeeds.
Help! assistance! help, in the Queen’s name!

(He’s acting as a constable, the Doctor is, though he’s no business to
do it; but he’s acting in self-defence. He didn’t know Punch, but he’d
heard of his transactions, and when he came to examine him, he found it
was the man. The Doctor is a very sedate kind of a person, and wishes
to do good to all classes of the community at large, especially with
his physic, which he gives gratis for nothink at all. The physic is
called ‘Head-e-cologne, or a sure cure for the head-ache.’)

 _Re-enter_ BEADLE. (_Punch and the Doctor still struggling together._)

_Beadle._ (_Closing with them._) Hi, hi! this is him; behold the head
of a traitor! Come along! come to gaol!

_Punch._ (_A-kicking._) I will not go.

_Beadle._ (_Shouting._) More help! more help! more help! help! help!
Come along to gaol! come along! come along! More help! more help!

(Oh! it’s a good lark just here, sir, but tremendous hard work, for
there’s so many figures to work--and all struggling, too,--and you have
to work them all at once. This is comic, this is.)

_Beadle._ More help! be quick! be quick!

  _Re-enter_ JIM CROW.

_Jim Crow._ Come de long! come de long! come de long! me nigger, and
you beata me.

[_Exaunts all, Punch still singing out_, “I’ll not go.”


  _Change of Scene for Second Act._

Scene draws up, and discovers the exterior of a prison, with Punch
peeping through the bars, and singing a merry song of the merry bells
of England, all of the olden time. (That’s an olden song, you know;
it’s old ancient, and it’s a moral,--a moral song, you know, to show
that Punch is repenting, but pleased, and yet don’t care nothink at
all about it, for he’s frolicsome, and on the height of his frolic and
amusement to all the juveniles, old and young, rich and poor. We must
put all classes together.)

  _Enter Hangman Jack Ketch_, or Mr. GRABALL.

(That’s Jack Ketch’s name, you know; he takes all, when they gets in
his clutches. We mustn’t blame him for he must do his duty, for the
sheriffs is so close to him.)

 [_Preparation commences for the execution of Punch. Punch is still
 looking through the bars of Newgate._

The last scene as I had was Temple-bar Scene; it was a prison once, ye
know; that’s the old ancient, ye know, but I never let the others see
it, cos it shouldn’t become too public. But I think Newgate is better,
in the new edition, though the prison is suspended, it being rather too
terrific for the beholder. It was the old ancient style; the sentence
is passed upon him, but by whom not known; he’s not tried by one
person, cos nobody can’t.

_Jack Ketch._ Now, Mr. Punch, you are going to be executed by the
British and Foreign laws of this and other countries, and you are to be
hung up by the neck until you are dead--dead--dead.

_Punch._ What, am I to die three times?

_Jack._ No, no; you’re only to die once.

_Punch._ How is that? you said I was to be hung up by the neck till I
was dead--dead--dead? You can’t die three times.

_Jack._ Oh, no; only once.

_Punch._ Why, you said dead--dead--dead.

_Jack._ Yes; and when you are dead--dead--dead--you will be quite dead.

_Punch._ Oh! I never knowed that before.

_Jack._ Now, prepare yourself for execution.

_Punch._ What for?

_Jack._ For killing your wife, throwing your poor dear little innocent
baby out of the window, and striking the Beadle unmercifully over the
head with a mop-stick. Come on.

 [_Exaunt Hangman behind Scene, and re-enter, leading Punch slowly
 forth to the foot of the gallows. Punch comes most willingly, having
 no sense._

_Jack._ Now, my boy, here is the corfin, here is the gibbet, and here
is the pall.

_Punch._ There’s the corfee-shop, there’s giblets, and there’s St.

_Jack._ Get out, young foolish! Now then, place your head in here.

_Punch._ What, up here?

_Jack._ No; a little lower down.

(There’s quick business in this, you know; this is comic--a little
comic business, this is.)

_Punch._ (_Dodging the noose._) What, here?

_Jack._ No, no; in there (_showing the noose again_).

_Punch._ This way?

_Jack._ No, a little more this way; in there.

  [_Punch falls down, and pretends he’s dead._

_Jack._ Get up, you’re not dead.

_Punch._ Oh, yes I am.

_Jack._ But I say, no.

_Punch._ Please, sir, (_bowing to the hangman_)--(Here he’s an
hypocrite; he wants to exempt himself,)--do show me the way, for I
never was hung before, and I don’t know the way. Please, sir, to show
me the way, and I’ll feel extremely obliged to you, and return you my
most sincere thanks.

(Now, that’s well worded, sir; it’s well put together; that’s my
beauty, that is; I am obliged to study my language, and not have any
thing vulgar whatsoever. All in simplicity, so that the young children
may not be taught anything wrong. There arn’t nothing to be learnt from
it, because of its simplicity.)

_Jack._ Very well; as you’re so kind and condescending, I will
certainly oblige you by showing you the way. Here, my boy! now, place
your head in here, like this (_hangman putting his head in noose_);
this is the right and the proper way; now, you see the rope is placed
under my chin; I’ll take my head out, and I will place yours in (that’s
a rhyme) and when your head is in the rope, you must turn round to the
ladies and gentlemen, and say--Good-by; fare you well.

(Very slowly then--a stop between each of the words; for that’s not
driving the people out of the world in quick haste without giving ’em
time for repentance. That’s another moral, yer see. Oh, I like all the
morals to it.)

_Punch_ (_quickly pulling the rope_). Good-by; fare you well. (_Hangs
the hangman._) (What a hypocrite he is again, yer see, for directly
he’s done it he says: ‘Now, I’m free again for frolic and fun;’ calls
Joey, the clown, his old friend, because they’re both full of tricks
and antics: ‘Joey, here’s a man hung hisself;’--that’s his hypocrisy
again, yer see, for he tries to get exempt after he’s done it hisself.)

 _Enter_ CLOWN, _in quick haste, bobbing up against the gallows._

_Clown._ Dear me, I’ve run against a milk-post! Why, dear Mr. Punch,
you’ve hung a man! do take him down! How came you to do it?

_Punch._ He got wet through, and I hung him up to dry.

_Clown._ Dear me! why you’ve hung him up till he’s dried quite dead!

_Punch._ Poor fellow! then he won’t catch cold with the wet. Let’s put
him in this snuff-box. [_Pointing to coffin._

 [_Joey takes the figure down and gives it to Punch to hold, so as the
 body do not run away, and then proceeds to remove the gallows. In
 doing so he by accident hits Punch on the nose._

_Punch._ Mind what you are about! (for Punch is game, yer know, right
through to the back-bone.)

_Clown._ Make haste, Punch, here’s somebody a-coming! (They hustle his
legs and feet in; but they can’t get his head in, the undertaker not
having made the coffin large enough.)

_Punch._ We’d better double him up, place the pall on, and take the man
to the brave,--not the grave, but the brave: cos he’s been a brave man
in his time may be.--Sings the song of ‘Bobbing around,’ while with the
coffin he bobs Joey on the head, and exaunt.

  _Re-enter_ PUNCH.

_Punch._ That was a jolly lark, wasn’t it? Sings,--

    “I’d be a butterfly, born in a bower,
    Making apple-dumplings without any flour.”

All this wit must have been born in me, or nearly so; but I got a good
lot of it from Porsini and Pike--and gleanings, you know.

  [_Punch disappears and re-enters with bell._

_Punch._ This is my pianner-sixty: it plays fifty tunes all at one time.

 [_Goes to the landlord of the public-house painted on the side-scene,
 or cottage, represented as a tavern or hotel. The children of the
 publican are all a-bed. Punch plays up a tune and solicits for money._

 _Landlord wakes up in a passion through the terrible noise; pokes his
 head out of window and tells him to go away._

(There’s a little window, and a little door to this side-scene.) If
they was to play it all through, as you’re a writing, it ’ud open
Drury-lane Theatre.

_Punch._ Go away? Yes, play away! Oh, you means, O’er the hills and
far away. (He misunderstands him, wilfully, the hypocrite.) [_Punch
keeps on ringing his bell violently. Publican, in a violent passion,
opens the door, and pushes him away, saying, “Be off with you!”_]

_Punch._ I will not. (_Hits him over the head with the bell._) You’re
no judge of music. (_Plays away._)

Publican exaunts to fetch cudgel to pay him out. Punch no sooner sees
cudgel than he exaunts, taking his musical instrument with him. It’s
far superior to anything of the kind you did ever see, except ‘seldom.’
You know it’s silver, and that’s what we says ‘seldom;’ silver, you
know, is ‘seldom,’ because it’s seldom you sees it.

Publican comes out of his house with his cudgel to catch old Punch on
the grand hop. Must have a little comic.

Punch returns again with his bell, while publican is hiding secretly
for to catch him. Publican pretends, as he stands in a corner, to be
fast asleep, but keeps his eyes wide awake all the while, and says, ‘If
he comes up here, I’ll be one upon his tibby.’

Punch comes out from behind the opposite side, and rings his bell
violently. Publican makes a blow at him with his cudgel, and misses,
saying, “How dare you intrude upon my premises with that nasty, noisy

Punch, while publican is watching at this side-scene, appears over
at the other, with a hartful dodge, and again rings his bell loudly,
and again the publican misses him; and while publican is watching at
this side-scene, Punch re-enters, and draws up to him very slowly, and
restes his pianner-sixty on the board, while he slowly advances to him,
and gives him a whack on the head with his fist. Punch then disappears,
leaving his bell behind, and the landlord in pursession of his music.

_Landlord_ (_collaring the bell_). Smuggings! pursession is nine points
of the law! So this bell is mine, (_guarding over it with a stick_).
Smuggings! this is mine, and when he comes up to take this bell away, I
shall have him. Smuggings! it’s mine.

Punch re-enters very slowly behind the publican as he is watching the
bell, and snatching up the bell, cries out, ‘That’s mine,’ and exaunts
with it.

_Publican._ Dear me! never mind; I look after him; I shall catch him
some day or other. (_Hits his nose up against the post as he is going
away._) (That’s comic.) Oh, my nose! never mind, I’ll have him again
some time.

  [_Excite_ PUBLICAN.

  CLOWN _re-enters_ with PUNCH.

_Clown._ Oh, Punch, how are you?

_Punch._ I’m very glad to see you. Oh, Joey, my friend, how do you do?

_Clown._ Here, Punch, are you a mind for a lark? (_Peeping in at the
cottage window, represented as a public-house._) Are you hungry, Punch?
would you like something to eat?

_Punch._ Yes.

_Clown._ What would you like?

_Punch._ Not peculiar.

(Not particular, he means, you know; that’s a slip word.)

_Clown._ I’ll go up into the landlord, and see if he’s got anything to
eat. (_Exaunt into cottage, and poking his head of the window._) Here,
Punch; here’s the landlord fast asleep in the kitchen cellar; here’s a
lot of sausages hanging up here.

(Joey’s a-thieving; don’t you see, he’s a robbing the landlord now?)

Would you like some for supper, eh, Punch?

_Punch._ Yes, to be sure.

_Clown._ Don’t make a noise; you’ll wake the landlord.

_Punch_ (_whispering as loud as he can bawl through the window_). Hand
’em out here. (_Punch pulls them out of the window._)

_Clown._ What are we to fry them in? I’ll go and see if I can find a

 [_Exaunt from window, and re-appears with fryingpan, which he hands
 out of window for Punch to cook sausages in, and then disappears for a
 moment; after which he returns, and says, with his head out of window,
 ‘Would you like something hot, Punch?’_

_Punch._ Yes, to be sure.

(Punch is up to everything. He’s a helping him to rob the publican.
One’s as much in the mud as the other is in the mire.)

_Clown._ (_Thrusting red-hot poker out of window._) Here, lay
hold--Here’s a lark--Make haste--Here’s the landlord a coming. (_Rubs
Punch with it over the nose._)

_Punch._ Oh my nose!--that is a hot ’un.

  [_Takes poker._

_Clown._ (_Re-enters, and calls in at window._) Landlord, here’s a
fellow stole your sausages and fryingpan. (_Wakes up Landlord and

_Landlord._ (_Appears at window._) Here’s somebody been in my house and
axually stole my sausages, fryingpan, and red-hot poker!

(Clown exaunts when he has blamed it all to Punch. Joey stole ’em, and
Punch took ’em, and the receiver is always worse than the thief, for if
they was never no receivers there wouldn’t never be no thieves.)

_Landlord._ Seizing the sausages in Punch’s hand, says, How did you get
these here?

_Punch._ Joey stole ’em, and I took ’em.

_Landlord._ Then you’re both jolly thieves, and I must have my
property. A scuffle ensues. Punch hollars out, Joey! Joey! Here’s the
landlord a stealing the sausages!

(So you see Punch wants to make the landlord a thief so as to exempt
himself. He’s a hypocrite there again, you see again--all through the
piece he’s the master-piece. Oh a most clever man is Punch, and such an

(Punch, seizing the fryingpan, which has been on the play-board, knocks
it on the publican’s head; when, there being a false bottom to it, the
head goes through it, and the sausages gets about the Publican’s neck,
and Punch pulls at the pan and the sausages with veheminence, till the
landlord is exhausted, and exaunts with his own property back again;
so there is no harm done, only merely for the lark to return to those
people what belongs to ’em--What you take away from a person always
give to them again.)

  _Re-enter_ CLOWN.

_Clown._ Well, Mr. Punch, I shall wish you a pleasant good morning.

_Punch._ [_Hits him with his cudgel._] Good morning to you, Joey.

  _Exaunt_ JOEY.

Punch sits down by the side of the poker, and Scaramouch appears
without a head.

Punch looks, and beholds, and he’s frightened, and exaunts with the

Scaramouch does a comic dance, with his long neck shooting up and down
with the actions of his body, after which he exaunts.

Punch re-enters again with the poker, and places it beside of him, and
takes his cudgel in his hand for protection, while he is singing the
National Anthem of “God save the Queen and all the Royal Family.”

Satan then appears as a dream (and it is all a dream after all), and
dressed up as the Roossian Bear (leave Politics alone as much as you
can, for Punch belongs to nobody).

Punch has a dreadful struggle with Satan, who seizes the red-hot poker
and wants to take Punch away, for all his past misdeeds, and frolic and
fun, to the bottomless pit.

By struggling with Satan, Punch overpowers him, and he drops the poker,
and Punch kills him with his cudgel, and shouts “Bravo! Hooray! Satan
is dead,” he cries (we must have a good conclusion): “we can now all
do as we like!”--(That’s the moral, you see.) “Good-by, Ladies and
Gentlemen: this is the whole of the original performance of Mr. Punch:
and I remain still your most obedient and most humble servant to
command. Good-by, good-by, good-by. God bless you all. I return you my
most sincere thanks for your patronage and support, and I hope you’ll
come out handsome with your gold and silver.”

There is one Punch in France, but far different to the English Punch;
they exhibiting their figures in a different way by performing them
with sticks, the same as Scaramouch is done. They has a performing
Punch sitivated at the Boulevards, in Paris, where he has a certain
piece of ground allotted for him, with seats attached, being his own
freehold property; the passers-by, if they wish to see the performance,
they take their seat with the juveniles, sits down, and he performs
to them for what they think proper to give him. I never was over in
France, but I’ve heard talk of him a deal from foreigners who has
given us inflammation about it, vich they was so kind to do. They shows
the difference between English and French you know.


Every one who has resided for any time in London must have noticed
in the streets a large roomy show upon wheels, about four times as
capacious as those used for the performance of Punch and Judy.

The proprietor of one of these perambulating exhibitions was a person
of some 56 years of age, with a sprightly half-military manner; but he
is seldom seen by the public, on account of his habit of passing the
greater part of the day concealed within his theatre, for the purpose
of managing the figures. When he paid me a visit, his peculiar erect
bearing struck me as he entered. He walked without bending his knees,
stamped with his heels, and often rubbed his hands together as if
washing them with an invisible soap. He wore his hair with the curls
arranged in a Brutus, à la George the Fourth, and his chin was forced
up into the air by a high black stock, as though he wished to increase
his stature. He wore a frock coat buttoned at waist, and open on his
expanded chest, so as to show off the entire length of his shirt-front.

I could not help asking him, if he had ever served in the army. He,
however, objected to gratify my curiosity on that point, though it
was impossible from his reply not to infer that he had been in her
majesty’s service.

There was a mystery about his origin and parentage, which he desired
should remain undisturbed. His relations were all of them so
respectable, he said, that he did not wish to disgrace them by any
revelations he might make; thus implying that he considered his present
occupation a downfall in life.

“I followed it as my propensity,” he proceeded, “and though I have run
through three fortunes, I follow it still. I never knew the value of
money, and when I have it in my pocket I cannot keep it there. I have
spent forty-five pounds in three days.”

He seemed to be not a little fond of exhibiting his dolls, and
considered himself to be the only person living who knew anything of
the art. He said orders were sent to him from all parts of the country
to make the figures, and indeed some of them were so intricate, that he
alone had the secret of their construction.

He hardly seemed to like the Marionettes, and evidently looked upon
them as an interference with “the real original character” of the
exhibition. The only explanation he could give of the difference
between the Marionettes and the Fantoccini was, that the one had a
French title, and referred to dolls in modern costume, whilst the other
was an Italian word, and applied to dolls in fancy dresses.

He gave me the following interesting statement:--

“The Fantoccini,” he said, “is the proper title of the exhibition
of dancing dolls, though it has lately been changed to that of the
‘Marionettes,’ owing to the exhibition under that name at the Adelaide

“That exhibition at the Adelaide Gallery was very good in its way, but
it was nothing to be compared to the exhibition that was once given
at the Argyll Rooms in Regent-street, (that’s the old place that was
burned down). It was called ‘_Le petit Théâtre Matthieu_,’ and in my
opinion it was the best one that ever come into London, because they
was well managed. They did little pieces--heavy and light. They did
Shakespeare’s tragedies and farces, and singing as well; indeed, it
was the real stage, only with dolls for actors and parties to speak
for ’em and work their arms and legs behind the scenes. I’ve known one
of these parties take three parts--look at that for clever work--first
he did an old man, then an old woman, and afterwards the young man. I
assisted at that performance, and I should say it was full twenty years
ago, to the best of my recollection. After the Marionettes removed to
the Western Institution, Leicester-square, I assisted at them also. It
was a passable exhibition, but nothing out of the way. The figures were
only modelled, not carved, as they ought to be. I was only engaged to
exhibit one figure, a sailor of my own making. It was a capital one,
and stood as high as a table. They wanted it for the piece called the
‘Manager in Distress,’ where one of the performers is a sailor. Mine
would dance a hornpipe, and whip its hat off in a minute; when I had
finished performing it, I took good care to whip it into a bag, so
that they should not see how I arranged the strings, for they was very
backwards in their knowledge. When we worked the figures it was very
difficult, because you had to be up so high--like on the top of the
ceiling, and to keep looking down all the time to manage the strings.
There was a platform arranged, with a place to rest against.

“The first to introduce the Fantoccini into London--that is, into
London streets, mind you, going about--was Gray, a Scotchman. He was
a very clever fellow,--very good, and there was nothing but what was
good that belonged to it--scenery, dresses, theatre and all. He had a
frame then, no longer than the Punch frame now, only he had a labouring
man to carry it for him, and he took with him a box no larger than
a haberdasher’s box, which contained the figures, for they were not
more than nine inches high. Now my figures are two feet high, though
they don’t look it; but my theatre is ten feet high by six foot wide,
and the opening is four feet high. This Gray was engaged at all the
theatres, to exhibit his figures at the masquerades. Nothing went down
but Mr. Gray, and he put poor Punch up altogether. When he performed at
the theatres, he used to do it as a wind-up to the entertainment, after
the dancing was over, and they would clear the stage on purpose for
him, and then let down a scene with an opening in it, the size of his
theatre. On these occasions his figures were longer, about two feet,
and very perfect. There was juggling, and slack and tight rope-dancing,
and Punches, and everything, and the performance was never less than
one hour, and then it was done as quick as lightning, every morning,
and no feat longer than two or three minutes. It didn’t do to have
silly persons there.

“This Gray performed at Vauxhall when Bish, the lottery-man in
Cornhill, had it, and he went down wonderful. He also performed before
George the Fourth. I’ve heard say that he got ten pounds a-week when he
performed at Vauxhall, for they snatched him out of the streets, and
wouldn’t let him play there. It’s impossible to say what he made in
the streets, for he was a Scotchman and uncommon close. If he took a
hatfull, he’d say, ‘I’ve only got a few;’ but he did so well he could
sport his diamond rings on his fingers,--first rate--splendid.

“Gray was the first to exhibit gratis in the streets of London, but
he was not the first to work fantoccini figures. They had always been
exhibited at theatres before that. Old Porsini knowed nothing about
them--it was out of his business all together, for he was Punch and
nothing more. Gray killed Porsini and his Punch; regular shut him up.
A man of the name of Flocton from Birmingham was, to the best of my
knowledge, the first that ever had a fantoccini exhibition in England;
but he was only for theatres.

“At this time I had been playing in the orchestra with some travelling
comedians, and Mr. Seawood, the master, used among other things to
exhibit the dancing figures. He had a proscenium fitted up so that
he could open a twenty-foot theatre, almost large enough for living
persons. He had the splendidest figures ever introduced into this
country. He was an artist as well, splendid scene and transparent
painter; indeed, he’s worked for some of the first noblemen in
Cheltenham, doing up their drawing-rooms. His figures worked their
eyes and mouths by mechanism; according to what they had to say, they
looked and moved their eyes and mouths according; and females, if they
was singing, heaved their bosoms like Christians, the same as life.
He had a Turk who did the tight-rope without anybody being seen. He
always performed different pieces, and had a regular wardrobe with
him--beautiful dresses--and he’d dress ’em up to their parts, and then
paint their faces up with distemper, which dries in an hour. Somebody
came and told me that Gray was in London, performing in the streets,
and that’s what brought me out. I had helped Mr. Seawood to manage
the figures, and I knew something about them. They told me Gray had a
frame, and I said, ‘Well, it’s a bit of genius, and is a fortune.’ The
only figures they told me he had--and it was true--was a sailor, and
a Turk, and a clown, and what we calls a Polander, that’s a man that
tosses the pole. I left Seawood directly, and I went to my father and
got some money, and began instantly making my frame and figures. Mine
was about sixteen inches high, and I had five of ’em. I began very
strong. My fifth figure was a juggler. I was the second that ever came
out in the streets of London. It was at the time that George the Fourth
went to Scotland, and Gray went after him to try his luck, following
the royal family. As the king went out of London I came in. I first of
all put up at Peckham, just to lay to a bit and look about me. I’ll
tell you the reason. I had no one to play, and I couldn’t manage the
figures and do the music as well, consequently I had to seek after some
one to do the pandean pipes. I didn’t like to make my first appearance
in London without music. At last I met a party that used to play the
pipes at Vauxhall. I met him one day, and he says, ‘What are you up to
now?’ so I told him I had the fantoccini figures. He was a beautiful
pipe player, and I’ve never heard any one like him before or since. He
wouldn’t believe I had the figures, they was such a novelty. I told him
where I was staying, and he and his partner came over to see me, and I
performed the figures, and then we went on shares. He had worked for
Gray, and he knew all his houses where he used to perform, and I knew
nothing about these things. When Gray came back he found me performing
before one of his houses in Harley-street, where he always had five

“They was a tremendous success--wonderful. If we had a call at a house
our general price was two-and-sixpence, and the performance was, for a
good one, twenty minutes. Then there was the crowd for the collection,
but they was principally halfpence, and we didn’t care about them much,
though we have taken four shillings. We never pitched only to houses,
only stopping when we had an order, and we hadn’t occasion to walk far,
for as soon as the tune was heard, up would come the servants to tell
us to come. I’ve had three at me at once. I’ve known myself to be in
Devonshire-place, when I was performing there, to be there for three
hours and upwards, going from house to house. I could tell you how much
we took a-day. It was, after taking expenses, from four to five pounds
a-day. Besides, there was a labourer to whom we paid a guinea a-week to
carry a frame, and he had his keep into the bargain. Where Punch took a
shilling we’ve taken a pound.

“I recollect going down with the show to Brighton, and they actually
announced our arrival in the papers, saying, that among other public
amusements they had the Fantoccini figures from London. That’s a
fact. That was in the paper. We did well in Brighton. We have, I can
assure you, taken eighteen shillings and sixpence in half an hour,
corner-pitching, as we call it; that is, at the corner of a street
where there is a lot of people passing. We had such success, that the
magistrates sent the head-constable round with us, to clear away the
mob. If we performed before any gentleman’s place, there was this
constable to keep the place clear. A nasty busy fellow he was, too. All
the time we was at Brighton we made twenty pounds a-week clear, for
we then took only shillings and sixpences, and there was no fourpenny
pieces or threepenny bits in them times. We had gentlemen come up many
a time and offer to buy the whole concern, clear. What an idea, wasn’t
it? But we didn’t want to sell it, they couldn’t have given us our

“The crowd was always a great annoyance to us. They’d follow us for
miles, and the moment we pitched up they’d come and gather about, and
almost choke us. What was their ha’pence to us when we was taking our
half-crowns? Actually, in London, we walked three and four miles to get
rid of the mob; but, bless you! we couldn’t get rid of them, for they
was like flies after honey.

“We used to do a great business with evening parties. At Christmas we
have had to go three and four times in the same evening to different
parties. We never had less than a guinea, and I have had as much as
five pounds, but the usual price was two pounds ten shillings, and all
refreshments found you. I had the honour of performing before the Queen
when she was Princess Victoria. It was at Gloucester-house, Park-lane,
and we was engaged by the royal household. A nice berth I had of it,
for it was in May, and they put us on the landing of the drawing-room,
where the folding-doors opened, and there was some place close by where
hot air was admitted to warm the apartments; and what with the heat
of the weather and this ’ere ventilation, with the heat coming up the
grating-places, and my anxiety performing before a princess, I was
near baked, and the perspiration quite run off me; for I was packed
up above, standing up and hidden, to manage the figures. There was
the maids of honour coming down the stairs like so many nuns, dressed
all in white, and the princess was standing on a sofa, with the Duke
of Kent behind her. She was apparently very much amused, like others
who had seen them. I can’t recollect what we was paid, but it was very
handsome and so forth.

“I’ve also performed before the Baroness Rothschild’s, next the Duke of
Wellington’s, and likewise the Baron himself, in Grosvenor-place, and
Sir Watkyn W. Wynne, and half the nobility in England. We’ve been in
the very first of drawing-rooms.

“I shall never forget being at Sir Watkyn Wynne’s, for we was very
handsomely treated, and had the best of everything. It was in St.
James’s-square, and the best of mansions. It was a juvenile-party
night, and there was a juggler, and a Punch and Judy, and our
Fantoccini. One of the footmen comes up, and says he, ‘Would any of
you men like a jelly?’ I told him I didn’t care for none, but the
Punch-and-Judy man says--‘My missus is very partial to them.’ So the
footman asks--‘How will you carry it home?’ I suggested he should put
it in his hat, and the foolish fellow, half silly with horns of ale,
actually did, and wrapped it up in his pocket-handkerchief. There was a
large tumbler full. By and by he cries--‘Lord, how I sweat!’ and there
was the stuff running down his hair like so much size. We did laugh, I
can assure you.

“Fantoccini has fallen off now. It’s quite different to what it was.
I don’t think the people’s tired of it, but it ain’t such a novelty.
I could stop up a whole street if I liked, so that nothing could get
along, and that shows the people ain’t tired of it. I think it’s the
people that gave the half-crowns are tired of it, but those with the
ha’pence are as fond of it as ever. As times go, the performance is
worth two pounds a-week to me; and if it wasn’t, I couldn’t afford to
stop with it, for I’m very clever on the violin, and I could earn more
than thirty shillings a-week playing in bands. We still attend evening
parties, only it isn’t to princesses, but gentry. We depend more upon
evening parties. It isn’t street work, only if we didn’t go round
they’d think I was dead. We go to more than thirty parties a-year. We
always play according to price, whether it’s fifteen shillings, or ten
shillings, or a guinea. We don’t get many five-guinea orders now. The
last one was six months ago, to go twenty-eight miles into Kent, to a
gentleman’s house. When we go to parties, we take with us a handsome,
portable, fold-up frame. The front is beautiful, and by a first-rate
artist. The gentleman who done it is at the head of the carriage
department at a railway, and there’s the royal arms all in gold, and it
stands above ten feet high, and has wings and all, so that the music
and everything is invisible. It shuts up like a portfolio. The figures
are first-rate ones, and every one dressed according to the country,
whatever it may be, she is supposed to represent. They are in the best
of material, with satin and lace, and all that’s good.

“When we perform in the streets, we generally go through this
programme. We begins with a female hornpipe dancer; then there is a
set of quadrilles by some marionette figures, four females and no
gentleman. If we did the men we should want assistance, for four is as
much as I can hold at once. It would require two men, and the street
won’t pay for it. After this we introduces a representation of Mr.
Grimaldi the clown, who does tumbling and posturing, and a comic dance,
and so forth, such as trying to catch a butterfly. Then comes the
enchanted Turk. He comes on in the costume of a Turk, and he throws
off his right and left arm, and then his legs, and they each change
into different figures, the arms and legs into two boys and girls, a
clergyman the head, and an old lady the body. That figure was my own
invention, and I could if I like turn him into a dozen; indeed, I’ve
got one at home, which turns into a parson in the pulpit, and a clerk
under him, and a lot of little charity children, with a form to sit
down upon. They are all carved figures, every one of them, and my own
make. The next performance is the old lady, and her arms drop off and
turn into two figures, and the body becomes a complete balloon and car
in a minute, and not a flat thing, but round--and the figures get into
the car and up they go. Then there’s the tight-rope dancer, and next
the Indian juggler--Ramo Samee, a representation--who chucks the balls
about under his feet and under his arms, and catches them on the back
of his head, the same as Ramo Samee did. Then there’s the sailor’s
hornpipe--Italian Scaramouch (he’s the old style). This one has a long
neck, and it shoots up to the top of the theatre. This is the original
trick, and a very good one. Then comes the Polander, who balances a
pole and two chairs, and stands on his head and jumps over his pole;
he dresses like a Spaniard, and in the old style. It takes a quarter
of an hour to do that figure well, and make him do all his tricks.
Then comes the Skeletons. They’re regular first class, of course. This
one also was my invention, and I was the first to make them, and I’m
the only one that can make them. They are made of a particular kind of
wood. I’m a first-rate carver, and can make my three guineas any day
for a skull; indeed, I’ve sold many to dentists to put in their window.
It’s very difficult to carve this figure, and takes a deal of time. It
takes full two months to make these skeletons. I’ve been offered ten
pounds ten shillings for a pair, if I’d make ’em correct according to
the human frame. Those I make for exhibiting in the streets, I charge
two pounds each for. They’re good, and all the joints is correct, and
you may put ’em into what attitudes you like, and they walk like a
human being. These figures in my show come up through a trap-door,
and perform attitudes, and shiver and lie down, and do imitations of
the pictures. It’s a tragic sort of concern, and many ladies won’t
have ’em at evening parties, because it frightens the children. Then
there’s Judy Callaghan, and that ’livens up after the skeletons. Then
six figures jump out of her pockets, and she knocks them about. It’s a
sort of comic business. Then the next is a countryman who can’t get his
donkey to go, and it kicks at him and throws him off, and all manner of
comic antics, after Billy Button’s style. Then I do the skeleton that
falls to pieces, and then becomes whole again. Then there’s another
out-of-the-way comic figure that falls to pieces similar to the
skeleton. He catches hold of his head and chucks it from one hand to
the other. We call him the Nondescript. We wind up with a scene in Tom
and Jerry. The curtain winds up, and there’s a watchman prowling the
streets, and some of those larking gentlemen comes on and pitch into
him. He looks round and he can’t see anybody. Presently another comes
in and gives him another knock, and then there’s a scuffle, and off
they go over the watch-box, and down comes the scene. That makes the
juveniles laugh, and finishes up the whole performance merry like.

“I’ve forgot one figure now. I know’d there was another, and that’s the
Scotchman who dances the Highland fling. He’s before the watchman. He’s
in the regular national costume, everything correct, and everything,
and the music plays according to the performance. It’s a beautiful
figure when well handled, and the dresses cost something, I can tell
you; all the joints are counter-sunk--them figures that shows above the
knee. There’s no joints to be seen, all works hidden like, something
like Madame Vestris in Don Juan. All my figures have got shoes and
stockings on. They have, indeed. If it wasn’t my work, they’d cost a
deal of money. One of them is more expensive than all those in Punch
and Judy put together. Talk of Punch knocking the Fantoccini down!
Mine’s all show; Punch is nothing, and cheap as dirt.

“I’ve also forgot the flower-girl that comes in and dances with a
garland. That’s a very pretty figure in a fairy’s dress, in a nice
white skirt with naked carved arms, nice modelled, and the legs just
the same; and the trunks come above the knee, the same as them ballet
girls. She shows all the opera attitudes.

“The performance, to go through the whole of it, takes an hour and a
half; and then you mustn’t stand looking at it, but as soon as one
thing goes off the music changes and another comes on. That ain’t one
third, nor a quarter of what I can do.

“When I’m performing I’m standing behind, looking down upon the stage.
All the figures is hanging round on hooks, with all their strings ready
for use. It makes your arms ache to work them, and especially across
the loins. All the strength you have you must do, and chuck it out too;
for those four figures which I uses at evening parties, which dance the
polka, weighs six pounds, and that’s to be kept dangling for twenty
minutes together. They are two feet high, and their skirts take three
quarters of a yard, and are covered with spangles, which gives ’em
great weight.

“There are only two of us going about now with Fantoccini shows.
Several have tried it, but they had to knock under very soon. They soon
lost their money and time. In the first place, they must be musicians
to make the figures keep time in the dances; and, again, they must be
carvers, for it won’t pay to put the figures out to be done. I had
ten pounds the other day only to carve six figures, and the wood only
come to three shillings; that’ll give you some idea of what the carving

“Formerly I used to make the round of the watering-places, but I’ve got
quite enough to do in London now, and travelling’s very expensive, for
the eating and drinking is so very expensive. Now, at Ramsgate I’ve
had to pay half-a-guinea for a bed, and that to a man in my position
is more than I like. I always pays the man who goes along with me to
play the music, because I don’t go out every day, only when it suits
me. He gets as good as his twenty-three shillings a-week, according to
how business is, and that’s on an average as good as four shillings
a-day. If I’m very lucky I makes it better for him, for a man can’t be
expected to go and blow his life away into pandean pipes unless he’s
well paid for it.”


Until within the last ten or twelve years, the exhibition of guys
in the public thoroughfares every 5th of November, was a privilege
enjoyed exclusively by boys of from 10 to 15 years of age, and the
money arising therefrom was supposed to be invested at night in a small
pyrotechnic display of squibs, crackers, and catherine-wheels.

At schools, and at many young gentlemen’s houses, for at least a week
before the 5th arrived, the bonfires were prepared and guys built up.

At night one might see rockets ascending in the air from many of the
suburbs of London, and the little back-gardens in such places as the
Hampstead-road and Kennington, and, after dusk, suddenly illuminated
with the blaze of the tar-barrel, and one might hear in the streets
even banging of crackers mingled with the laughter and shouts of boys
enjoying the sport.

In those days the street guys were of a very humble character, the
grandest of them generally consisting of old clothes stuffed up with
straw, and carried in state upon a kitchen-chair. The arrival of the
guy before a window was announced by a juvenile chorus of “Please to
remember the 5th of November.” So diminutive, too, were some of these
guys, that I have even seen dolls carried about as the representatives
of the late Mr. Fawkes. In fact, none of these effigies were hardly
ever made of larger proportions than Tom Thumb, or than would admit of
being carried through the garden-gates of any suburban villa.

Of late years, however, the character of Guy Fawkes-day has entirely
changed. It seems now to partake rather of the nature of a London
May-day. The figures have grown to be of gigantic stature, and whilst
clowns, musicians, and dancers have got to accompany them in their
travels through the streets, the traitor Fawkes seems to have been
almost laid aside, and the festive occasion taken advantage of for the
expression of any political feeling, the guy being made to represent
any celebrity of the day who has for the moment offended against the
opinions of the people. The kitchen-chair has been changed to the
costermongers’ donkey-truck, or even vans drawn by pairs of horses. The
bonfires and fireworks are seldom indulged in; the money given to the
exhibitors being shared among the projectors at night, the same as if
the day’s work had been occupied with acrobating or nigger singing.

[Illustration: GUY FAWKES.]

The first guy of any celebrity that made its appearance in the London
streets was about the year 1844, when an enormous figure was paraded
about on horseback. This had a tall extinguisher-hat, with a broad red
brim, and a pointed vandyked collar, that hung down over a smock frock,
which was stuffed out with straw to the dimensions of a water-butt.
The figure was attended by a body of some half-dozen costermongers,
mounting many coloured cockades, and armed with formidable bludgeons.
The novelty of the exhibition ensured its success, and the “coppers”
poured in in such quantities that on the following year gigantic guys
were to be found in every quarter of the metropolis.

But the gigantic movement did not attain its zenith till the “No
Popery” cry was raised, upon the division of England into papal
bishoprics. Then it was no longer Fawkes, but Cardinal Wiseman and the
Pope of Rome who were paraded as guys through the London thoroughfares.

The figures were built up of enormous proportions, the red hat of
the cardinal having a brim as large as a loo-table, and his scarlet
cape being as long as a tent. Guy Fawkes seated upon a barrel marked
“Gunpowder” usually accompanied His Holiness and the Cardinal, but his
diminutive size showed that Guy now played but a secondary part in the
exhibition, although the lantern and the matches were tied as usual
to his radishy and gouty fingers. According to the newspapers, one of
these shows was paraded on the Royal Exchange, the merchants approving
of the exhibition to such an extent that sixpences, shillings, and
half-crowns were showered in to the hats of the lucky costers who had
made the speculation. So excited was the public mind, that at night,
after business was over, processions were formed by tradespeople
and respectable mechanics, who, with bands of music playing, and
banners flying, on which were inscribed anti-papal mottoes and
devices, marched through the streets with flaming torches, and after
parading their monster Popes and Cardinals until about nine o’clock at
night, eventually adjourned to some open space--like Peckham-rye or
Blackheath--where the guy was burned amid the most boisterous applauses.

Cardinal Wiseman and the Pope reappeared for several years in
succession, till at length the Russian war breaking out, the Guy-Fawkes
constructors had a fresh model to work upon. The Emperor of Russia
accordingly “came out” in the streets, in all forms and shapes;
sometimes as the veritable Nicholas, in jack-boots and leather
breeches, with his unmistakable moustache; and often as Old Nick, with
a pair of horns and a lengthy appendage in the form of a tail, with an
arrow-headed termination; and not unfrequently he was represented as a
huge bear crouching beneath some rude symbol of the English and French

On the 5th of November (1856) the guys were more of a political than a
religious character. The unfortunate Pope of Rome had in some instances
been changed for Bomba, though the Czar, His Holiness, and his British
representative the Cardinal, were not altogether neglected. The want
of any political agitation was the cause why the guys were of so
uninteresting a character.

I must not, however, forget to mention a singular innovation that was
then made in the recognised fashion of guy building--one of the groups
of figures exhibited being (strange to say) of a complimentary nature.
It consisted of Miss Nightingale, standing between an English Grenadier
and a French foot-soldier, while at her feet lay the guy between two
barrels marked “Gunpowder,” and so equivocally attired that he might be
taken for either the Emperor of Russia or the Pope of Rome.

At Billingsgate, a guy was promenaded round the market as early as
five o’clock in the morning, by a party of charity-boys, who appeared
by their looks to have been sitting up all night. It is well known to
the boys in the neighbourhood of the great fish-market, that the guy
which is first in the field reaps the richest harvest of halfpence from
the salesmen; and indeed, till within the last three or four years,
one fish-factor was in the habit of giving the bearers of the first
effigy he saw a half-crown piece. Hence there were usually two or three
different guy parties in attendance soon after four o’clock, awaiting
his coming into the market.

For manufacturing a cheap guy, such as that seen at Billingsgate, a
pair of old trousers and Wellington boots form the most expensive item.
The shoulders of the guys are generally decorated with a paper cape,
adorned with different coloured rosettes and gilt stars. A fourpenny
mask makes the face, and a proper cocked hat, embellished in the same
style as the cape, surrounds the rag head.

The general characteristics of all guys consists in a limpness and
roundness of limb, which give the form a puddingy appearance. All the
extremities have a kind of paralytic feebleness, so that the head leans
on one side like that of a dead bird, and the feet have an unnatural
propensity for placing themselves in every position but the right
one; sometimes turning their toes in, as if their legs had been put on
the wrong way, or keeping their toes turned out, as if they had been
“struck so” while taking their first dancing-lesson. Their fingers
radiate like a bunch of carrots, and the arms are as shapeless and
bowed as the monster sausage in a cook-shop window. The face is always
composed of a mask painted in the state of the most florid health, and
singularly disagreeing with the frightful debility of the body. Through
the holes for the eyes bits of rag and straw generally protrude, as
though birds had built in the sockets. A pipe is mostly forced into the
mouth, where it remains with the bowl downwards; and in the hands it
is customary to tie a lantern and matches. Whilst the guy is carried
along, you can hear the straw in his interior rustling and crackling,
like moving a workhouse mattrass. As a general rule, it may be added,
that guys have a helpless, drunken look.

When, however, the monster Guy Fawkeses came into fashion, considerably
greater expense was gone to in “getting up” the figures. Then the
feet were always fastened in their proper position, and although the
arrangement of the hands was never perfectly mastered, yet the fingers
were brought a little more closely together, and approached the digital
dexterity of the dummies at the cheap clothes marts.

For carrying the guys about, chairs, wheelbarrows, trucks, carts,
and vans are employed. Chairs and wheelbarrows are patronised by the
juvenile population, but the other vehicles belong to the gigantic

On the Surrey side a guy was exhibited in 1856 whose straw body was
encased in a coachman’s old great coat, covered with different colours,
as various as the waistcoat patterns on a tailor’s show-book. He was
wheeled about on a truck by three or four young men, whose hoarse
voices, when shouting “Please to remember the Guy,” showed their
regular occupation to be street-selling, for they had the same husky
sound as the “Eight a-groat fresh herrens,” in the Saturday night

In the neighbourhood of Walworth, men dressed up as guys were
dragged about on trucks. One of them was seated upon a barrel marked
“Gunpowder,” his face being painted green, and ornamented with an
immense false nose of a bright scarlet colour. I could not understand
what this guy was meant to represent, for he wore a sugarloaf hat with
an ostrich feather in it, and had on a soldier’s red coat, decorated
with paper rosettes as big as cabbages. His legs, too, were covered
with his own corduroy trowsers, but adorned with paper streamers and
bows. In front of him marched a couple of men carrying broomsticks, and
musicians playing upon a tambourine and a penny tin whistle.

The most remarkable of the stuffed figures of 1856 was one dressed in a
sheet, intended to represent the Rev. Mr. Spurgeon in a surplice! It
was carried about on a wooden stage by boys, and took very well with
the mob, for no sooner did the lads cry out,--

          “Remember, remember,
          The fifth of November,
    Old Spurgeon’s treason and plot!”

than a shout of laughter burst from the crowd, and the halfpence began
to pour in. Without this alteration in the November rhyme, nobody would
have been able to have traced the slightest resemblance between the guy
and the reverend gentleman whose effigy it was stated to be.

Further, it should be added, that the guy exhibitors have of late
introduced a new system, of composing special rhymes for the occasion,
which are delivered after the well-known “Remember, remember.” Those
with the figures of the Pope, for instance, sing,--

    “A penn’orth of cheese to feed the pope,
      A twopenny loaf to choke him,
    A pint of beer to wash it down,
      And a good large fagot to smoke him!”

I heard a party of costermongers, who had the image of His Imperial
Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias wabbling on their truck, sing in
chorus this home-manufactured verse,--

    “Poke an ingun in his eye--
      A squib shove up his nose, sirs;
    Then roast him till he’s done quite brown,
      And Nick to old Nick goes, sirs.”

With the larger guys little is usually said or done beyond exhibiting
them. In the crowded thoroughfares, the proprietors mostly occupy
themselves only with collecting the money, and never let the procession
stop for a moment. On coming to the squares, however, a different
course is pursued, for then they stop before every window where a head
is visible and sing the usual “Remember, remember,” winding up with a
vociferous hurrah! as they hold out their hats for the halfpence.

At the West-end, one of the largest guys of 1856 was drawn by a horse
in a cart. This could not have been less than fourteen feet high. Its
face, which was as big as a shield, was so flat and good-humoured
in expression that I at once recognised it as a pantomime mask, or
one used to hang outside some masquerade costumier’s shop door. The
coat was of the Charles the Second’s cut, and composed of a lightish
coloured paper, ornamented with a profusion of Dutch metal. There was
a sash across the right shoulder, and the legs were almost as long as
the funnel to a penny steamer, and ended in brown paper cavalier boots.
As the costermongers led it along, it shook like a load of straw. If it
had not been for the bull’s-eye lantern and lath matches, nobody would
have recognised in the dandy figure the effigy of the wretched Fawkes.

By far the handsomest turn-out of the day, at this time, was a group
of three figures, which promenaded Whitechapel and Bethnal-green.
They stood erect in a van drawn by a blind horse, and accompanied
by a “band” of _one_ performer on the drum and pandean pipes. Four
clowns in full costume made faces while they jumped about among the
spectators, and collected donations. All the guys were about ten
feet high. The centre one, intended for Fawkes himself, was attired
in a flowing cloak of crimson glazed calico, and his black hat was a
broad-brimmed sugarloaf, the pointed crown of which was like a model
of Langham-place church steeple, and it had a profusion of black hair
streaming about the face. The figures on either side of this were
intended for Lords Suffolk and Monteagle, in the act of arresting the
traitor, and accordingly appeared to be gently tapping Mr. Fawkes on
either shoulder. The bodies of their lordships were encased in gold
scale-armour, and their legs in silver ditto, whilst their heads were
covered with three-cornered cocked hats, surmounted by white feathers.
In the front of the van were two white banners, with the following
inscriptions in letters of gold:--




At the back of the van flaunted two flags of all nations. In addition
to the four clowns, there were several other attendants; one in
particular had the appearance of half a man and half a beast, his body
being clad in a green frock-coat, whilst his legs and feet were shaggy,
and made to imitate a bear’s.

The most remarkable part of this exhibition was the expression upon
the countenances of the figures. They were ordinary masks, and
consequently greatly out of proportion for the height of the figures.
There was a strong family resemblance between the traitor and his
arrestors; neither did Fawkes’s countenance exhibit any look of rage,
astonishment, or disappointment at finding his designs frustrated. Nor
did their lordships appear to be angry, disgusted, or thunderstruck at
the conspirator’s bold attempt.

In the neighbourhood of Bond-street the guys partook of a political
character, as if to please the various Members of Parliament who might
be strolling to their Clubs. In one barrow was the effigy of the
Emperor of the French, holding in his hands, instead of the lantern and
matches, a copy of the _Times_ newspaper, torn in half. I was informed
that another figure I saw was intended to represent the form of Bomba.

In the neighbourhood of Lambeth Palace the guys were of an
ecclesiastical kind, and such as it was imagined would be likely to
flatter the Archbishop of Canterbury into giving at least a half-crown.
One of these was drawn by two donkeys, and accompanied by drums and
pipes. It represented Cardinal Wiseman in the company of four members
of “the Holy Inquisition.” The Cardinal was dressed in the usual
scarlet costume, while the Inquisitors were robed in black with green
veils over their faces. In front of the cart was a bottle, labelled
“Holy Water,” which was continually turned round, so that the people
might discover that on the other side was printed “Whisky.”

The practice of burning guys, and lighting bonfires, and letting off
fireworks, is now generally discontinued, and particularly as regards
the public exhibitions at Blackheath and Peckham Rye. The greatest
display of fireworks, we are inclined to believe, took place in the
public streets of the metropolis, for up to twelve o’clock at night,
one might occasionally hear reports of penny cannons, and the jerky
explosions of crackers.


“I’m in the crock’ry line, going about with a basket and changing jugs,
and glass, and things, for clothes and that; but for the last eight
years I have, every Fifth of November, gone out with a guy. It’s a
good job for the time, for what little we lay out on the guy we don’t
miss, and the money comes in all of a lump at the last. While it lasts
there’s money to be made by it. I used always to take the guy about for
two days; but this last year I took him about for three.

“I was nineteen year old when I first went out with a guy. It was
seeing others about with ’em, and being out of work at the time, and
having nothing to sell, I and another chap we knocked up one between
us, and we found it go on pretty well, so we kept on at it. The first
one I took out was a very first-rater, for we’d got it up as well as we
could to draw people’s attention. I said, ‘It ain’t no good doing as
the others do, we must have a tip-topper.’ It represented Guy Fawkes in
black velvet. It was about nine feet high, and he was standing upright,
with matches in one hand and lantern in the other. I show’d this one
round Clerkenwell and Islington. It was the first big ’un as was ever
brought out. There had been paper ones as big, but ne’er a one dressed
up in the style mine was. I had a donkey and cart, and we placed it
against some cross-rails and some bits of wood to keep him steady. He
stood firm because he had two poles up his legs, and being lashed round
the body holding him firm to the posts--like a rock. We done better
the first time we went out than we do lately. The guy must have cost a
sovereign. He had a trunk-hose and white legs, which we made out of a
pair of white drawers, for fleshings and yellow boots, which I bought
in Petticoat-lane. We took over 3_l._ with him, which was pretty fair,
and just put us on again, for November is a bad time for most street
trades, and getting a few shillings all at once makes it all right till

“A pal of mine, of the name of Smith, was the first as ever brought out
a big one. His wasn’t a regular dressed-up one, but only with a paper
apron to hang down the front and bows, and such-like. He put it on a
chair, and had four boys to carry it on their shoulders. He was the
first, too, as introduced clowns to dance about. I see him do well, and
that’s why I took mine in hand.

“The year they was chalking ‘No Popery’ all about the walls I had one,
dressed up in a long black garment, with a red cross on his bosom. I’m
sure I don’t know what it meant, but they told me it would be popular.
I had only one figure, with nine bows, and that tidiwated all about
him. As we went along everybody shouted out ‘No Popery!’ Everybody
did. He had a large brimmed hat with a low crown in, and a wax mask. I
always had wax ones. I’ve got one at home now I’ve had for five year.
It cost two-and-sixpence. It’s a very good-looking face but rather sly,
with a great horse-hair beard. Most of the boys make their’n devils,
and as ugly as they can, but that wouldn’t do for Christians like as I
represent mine to be.

“One year I had Nicholas and his adviser. That was the Emperor of
Russia in big top-boots and white breeches, and a green coat on. I gave
him a good bit of mustachios--a little extra. He had a Russian helmet
hat on, with a pair of eagles on the top. It was one I bought. I bought
it cheap, for I only gave a shilling for it. I was offered five or six
for it afterwards, but I found it answer my purpose to keep. I had it
dressed up this year. The other figure was the devil. I made him of
green tinsel paper cut out like scale armour, and pasted on to his legs
to make it stick tight. He had a devil’s mask on, and I made him a pair
of horns out of his head. Over them was a banner. I was told what to do
to make the banner, for I had the letters writ out first, and then I
cut ’em out of tinsel paper and stuck them on to glazed calico. On this
banner was these words:--

      ‘What shall I do next?’
    ‘Why, blow your brains out!’

That took immensely, for the people said ‘That is wery well.’ It was
the time the war was on. I dare say I took between 3_l._ and 4_l._ that
time. There was three of us rowed in with it, so we got a few shillings

“The best one I ever had was the trial of Guy Fawkes. There was four
figures, and they was drawn about in a horse and cart. There was Guy
Fawkes, and two soldiers had hold of him, and there was the king
sitting in a chair in front. The king was in a scarlet velvet cloak,
sitting in an old arm-chair, papered over to make it look decent. There
was green and blue paper hanging over the arms to hide the ragged parts
of it. The king’s cloak cost sevenpence a-yard, and there was seven of
these yards. He had a gilt paper crown and a long black wig made out of
some rope. His trunks was black and crimson, and he had blue stockings
and red boots. I made him up out of my own head, and not from pictures.
It was just as I thought would be the best way to get it up, out of my
own head. I’ve seed the picture of Guy Fawkes, because I’ve got a book
of it at home. I never was no scholar, not in the least. The soldiers
had a breastplate of white steel paper, and baggy knee-breeches, and
top boots. They had a big pipe each, with a top cut out of tin. Their
helmets was the same as in the pictures, of steel paper, and a kind of
a dish-cover shape, with a peak in front and behind. Guy was dressed
the same kind as he was this year, with a black velvet dress and red
cloak, and red boots turning over at top, with lace sewed on. I never
made any of my figures frightful. I get ’em as near as I can to the
life like.

“I reckon that show was the best as I ever had about. I done very
well with it. They said it was a very good sight, and well got up. I
dare say it cost me, with one thing and another, pretty nigh 4_l._
to get up. There was two of us to shove, me and my brother. I know I
had a sovereign to myself when it was over, besides a little bit of

“This year I had the apprehension of Guy Fawkes by Lord Suffolk and
Monteagle. I’ve followed up the hist’ry as close as I can. Next year I
shall have him being burnt, with a lot of faggits and things about him.
This year the figures cost about 3_l._ getting up. Fawkes was dressed
in his old costume of black velvet and red boots. I bought some black
velvet breeches in Petticoat-lane, and I gave 1_s._ 9_d._ for the two
pair. They was old theatrical breeches. Their lordships was dressed
in gold scale-armour like, of cut-out paper pasted on, and their
legs imitated steel. They had three-corner cock’d hats, with white
feathers in. I always buy fierce-looking masks with frowns, but one
of them this year was a smiling--Lord Monteagle, I think. I took the
figures as near as I can form from a picture I saw of Guy Fawkes being
apprehended. I placed them figures in a horse and cart, and piled them
up on apple-chests to the level of the cart, so they showed all, their
feet and all. I bind the chests with a piece of table-cover cloth. The
first day we went out we took 2_l._ 7_s._, and the second we took 1_l._
17_s._, and the last day we took 2_l._ 1_s._ We did so well the third
day because we went into the country, about Tottenham and Edmonton.
They never witnessed such a thing down them parts. The drummer what I
had with me was a blind man, and well known down there. They call him
Friday, because he goes there every Friday, so what they usually gave
him we had. Our horse was blind, so we was obliged to have one to lead
him in front and another to lead the blind drummer behind. We paid the
drummer 16_s._ for the three days. We paid for two days 10_s._, and the
third one most of it came in, and we all went shares. It was a pony
more than a horse. I think we got about a 1_l._ a-piece clear, when we
was done on the Friday night. It took me six weeks getting up in my
leisure time. There was the Russian bear in front. He wore a monkey
dress, the same as in the pantomimes, and that did just as well for a
bear. I painted his face as near as I could get it, to make it look

“When I’m building up a guy we first gits some bags and things, and
cut ’em out to the shape of the legs and things, and then sew it up.
We sew the body and arms and all round together in one. We puts two
poles down for the legs and then a cross-piece at the belly and another
cross-piece at the shoulder, and that holds ’em firm. We fill the legs
with sawdust, and stuff it down with our hands to make it tight. It
takes two sacks of sawdust for three figures, but I generally have it
give to me, for I know a young feller as works at the wood-chopping. We
stand ’em up in the room against the wall, whilst we are dressing them.
We have lots of chaps come to see us working at the guys. Some will sit
there for many hours looking at us. We stuff the body with shavings and
paper and any sort of rubbish. I sew whatever is wanted myself, and in
fact my fingers is sore now with the thimble, for I don’t know how to
use a thimble, and I feel awkward with it. I design everything and cut
out all the clothes and the painting and all. They allow me 5_s._ for
the building. This last group took me six weeks,--not constant, you
know, but only lazy time of a night. I lost one or two days over it,
that’s all.

“I think there was more Guy Fawkeses out this year than ever was out
before. There was one had Guy Fawkes and Punch and a Clown in a cart,
and another was Miss Nightingale and two soldiers. It was meant to be
complimentary to that lady, but for myself I think it insulting to
bring out a lady like that as a guy, when she’s done good to all.

“They always reckon me to be about the first hand in London at building
a guy. I never see none like them, nor no one else I don’t think. It
took us two quire of gold paper and one quire of silver paper to do
the armour and the banner and other things. The gold paper is 6_d._
a-sheet, and the silver is 1_d._ a sheet. It wouldn’t look so noble if
we didn’t use the gold paper.

“This year we had three clowns with us, and we paid them 3_s._ a-day
each. I was dressed up as a clown, too. We had to dance about, and
joke, and say what we thought would be funny to the people. I had a
child in my arms made of a doll stuffed with shavings, and made to
represent a little boy. It was just to make a laugh. Every one I went
up to I told the doll to ask their uncle or their aunt for a copper. I
had another move, too, of calling for ‘Bill Bowers’ in the crowd, and
if I got into any row, or anything, I used to call to him to protect
me. We had no time to say much, for we kept on moving, and it loses
time to talk.

“We took the guy round Goswell-road and Pentonville the first day, and
on the second we was round Bethnal-green way, among the weavers. We
went that way for safety the second day, for the police won’t interrupt
you there. The private houses give the most. They very seldom give more
than a penny. I don’t suppose we got more than 3_s._ or 4_s._ in silver
all the three days.

“Sometimes we have rough work with the Irish going about with guys. The
‘No Popery’ year there was several rows. I was up at Islington-gate,
there, in the Lower-road, and there’s loads of Irish live up there, and
a rough lot they are. They came out with sticks and bricks, and cut
after us. We bolted with the guy. If our guy hadn’t been very firm,
it would have been jolted to bits. We always nailed straps round the
feet, and support it on rails at the waist, and lashed to the sides. We
bolted from this Irish mob over Islington-green, and down John-street
into Clerkenwell. My mate got a nick with a stone just on the head. It
just give him a slight hurt, and drawed the blood from him. We jumped
up in the donkey-cart and drove off.

“There was one guy was pulled out of the cart this year, down by Old
Gravel lane, in the Ratcliff-highway. They pulled Miss Nightingale
out of the cart and ran away with her, and regular destroyed the two
soldiers that was on each side of her. Sometimes the cabmen lash at
the guys with their whips. We never say anything to them, for fear we
might get stopped by the police for making a row. You stand a chance of
having a feather knocked off, or such-like, as is attached to them.

“There’s a lot of boys goes about on the 5th with sticks, and make
a regular business of knocking guys to pieces. They’re called
guy-smashers. They don’t come to us, we’re too strong for that, but
they only manage the little ones, as they can take advantage of. They
do this some of them to take the money the boys have collected. I have
had regular prigs following my show, to pick the pockets of those
looking on, but as sure as I see them I start them off by putting a
policeman on to them.

“When we’re showing, I don’t take no trouble to invent new rhymes, but
stick to the old poetry. There’s some do new songs. I usually sing

          ‘Gentlefolks, pray
          Remember this day;
      ’Tis with kind notice we bring
          The figure of sly
          And villanous Guy,
      Who wanted to murder the king.
          By powder and store,
          He bitterly swore,
      As he skulk’d in the walls to repair,
          The parliament, too,
          By him and his crew,
      Should all be blowed up in the air.

          But James, very wise,
          Did the Papists surprise,
      As they plotted the cruelty great;
          He know’d their intent,
          So Suffolk he sent
      To save both kingdom and state.
          Guy Fawkes he was found
          With a lantern underground,
      And soon was the traitor bound fast:
          And they swore he should die,
          So they hung him up high,
      And burnt him to ashes at last.
          So we, once a-year,
          Come round without fear,
      To keep up remembrance of this day;
          While assistance from you
          May bring a review
      Of Guy Fawkes a-blazing away.

      So hollo, boys! hollo, boys!
          Shout and huzza;
      So hollo, boys! hollo, boys!
          Keep up this day!
      So hollo, boys! hollo, boys!
          And make the bells ring!
    Down with the Pope, and God save the Queen!’

“It used to be King, but we say Queen now, and though it don’t rhyme,
it’s more correct.

“It’s very seldom that the police say anything to us, so long as we
don’t stop too long in the gangway not to create any mob. They join in
the fun and laugh like the rest. Wherever we go there is a great crowd
from morning to night.

“We have dinner on Guy Fawkes’ days between one and two. We go to
any place where it’s convenient for us to stop at, generally at some
public-house. We go inside, and leave some of the lads to look after
the guy outside. We always keep near the window, where we can look out
into the street, and we keep ourselves ready to pop out in a minute if
anybody should attack the guy. We generally go into some by-way, where
there ain’t much traffic. We never was interrupted much whilst we was
at dinner, only by boys chucking stones and flinging things at it; and
they run off as soon as we come out.

“There’s one party that goes out with a guy that sells it afterwards.
They stop in London for the first two days, and then they work their
way into the country as far as Sheerness, and then they sells the guy
to form part of the procession on Lord-mayor’s day. It’s the watermen
and ferrymen mostly buy it, and they carry it about in a kind of
merriment among themselves, and at night they burn it and let off
fireworks. They don’t make no charge for coming to see it burnt, but
it’s open to the air and free to the public.

“None of the good guys taken about on the 5th are burnt at night,
unless some gentlemen buy them. I used to sell mine at one time to the
Albert Saloon. Sometimes they’d give me 15_s._ for it, and sometimes
less, according to what kind of a one I had. Three years, I think, I
sold it to them. They used to burn it at first in the gardens at the
back, but after they found the gardens fill very well without it, so
they wouldn’t have any more.

“I always take the sawdust and shavings out of my guys, and save the
clothes for another year. The clothes are left in my possession to be
taken care of. I make a kind of private bonfire in our yard with the
sawdust and shavings, and the neighbours come there and have a kind of
a spree, and shove one another into the fire, and kick it about the
yard, and one thing and another.

“When I am building the guy, I begin about six weeks before 5th of
November comes, and then we subscribe a shilling or two each and buy
such things as we wants. Then, when we wants more, I goes to my pals,
who live close by, and we subscribe another shilling or sixpence each,
according to how we gets on in the day. Nearly all those that take out
guys are mostly street traders.

“The heaviest expense for any guy I’ve built was 4_l._ for one of four


“I always go out with a Guy Fawkes every year. I’m seventeen years
old, and I’ve been out with a guy ever since I can remember, except
last year; I didn’t then, because I was in Middlesex Hospital with
an abscess, brought on by the rheumatic fever. I was in the hospital
a month. My father was an undertaker; he’s been dead four months:
mother carries on the trade. He didn’t like my going out with guys,
but I always would. He didn’t like it at all, he used to say it was a
disgrace. Mother didn’t much fancy my doing it this year. When I was
a very little un, I was carried about for a guy. I couldn’t a been
more than seven years old when I first begun. They put paper-hangings
round my legs--they got it from Baldwin’s, in the Tottenham Court-road;
sometimes they bought, and sometimes got it give ’em; but they give a
rare lot for a penny or twopence. After that they put me on a apron
made of the same sort of paper--showy, you know--then they put a lot of
tinsel bows, and at the corners they cut a sort of tail like there is
to farriers’ aprons, and it look stunnin’; then they put on my chest
a tinsel heart and rosettes; they was green and red, because it shows
off. All up my arms I had bows and things to make a show-off. Then I
put on a black mask with a little red on the cheek, to make me look
like a devil: it had horns, too. Always pick out a devil’s mask with
horns: it looks fine, and frightens the people a’most. The boy that
dressed me was a very clever chap, and made a guy to rights. Why, he
made me a little guy about a foot high, to carry in my lap--it was
piecings of quilting like, a sort of patch-work all sewn together,--and
then he filled it with saw-dust, and made a head of shavings. He picked
the shavings small, and then sewed ’em up in a little bag; and then he
painted a face, and it looked wery well; and he made it a little tinsel
bob-tail coat, and a tinsel cap with two feathers on the top. It was
made to sit in a chair; and there was a piece of string tied to each
of the legs and the arms, and a string come behind; and I used to pull
it, and the legs and arms jumped up. I was put in a chair, and two old
broom-handles was put through the rails, and then a boy got in front,
and another behind, and carried me off round Holborn way in the streets
and squares. Every now and then they put me down before a window; then
one of ’em used to say the speech, and I used all the time to keep
pulling the string of my little guy, and it amused the children at the
winders. After they’d said the speech we all shouted hurrah! and then
some of them went and knocked at the door and asked ‘Please to remember
the guy;’ and the little children brought us ha’pence and pence; and
sometimes the ladies and gentlemen chucked us some money out of the
winder. At last they carried me into Russell-square. They put me down
before a gentleman’s house and begun saying the speech: while they was
saying it, up comes a lot o’ boys with sticks in their hands. One of
our chaps knowed what they was after, and took the little guy out of my
hand, and went on saying the speech. I kept all on sitting still. After
a bit one of these ’ere boys says, ‘Oh, it’s a dead guy; let’s have a
lark with it!’ and then one of ’em gives me a punch in the eye with his
fist, and then snatched the mask off my face, and when he’d pulled it
off he says, ‘Oh, Bill, it’s a live un!’ We was afraid we should get
the worst of it, so we run away round the square. The biggest one of
our lot carried the chair. After we’d run a little way they caught us
again, and says, ‘Now then, give us all your money;’ with that, some
ladies and gentlemen that see it all came up to ’em and says, ‘If you
don’t go we’ll lock you up;’ and so they let us go away. And so we went
to another place where they sold masks; and we bought another. Then
they asked me to be guy again, but I wouldn’t, for I’d got a black-eye
through it already. So they got another to finish out the day. When
we got home at night we shared 2_s._ a-piece. There was five of us
altogether; but I think they chisselled me. I know they got a deal more
than that, for they’d had a good many sixpences and shillings. People
usen’t to think much of a shilling that time a-day, because there
wasn’t any but little guys about then; but I don’t know but what the
people now encourage little guys most, because they say that the chaps
with the big ones ought to go to work.

“Next year I was out with a stuffed guy. They wanted me to be guy
again, because I wasn’t frightened easy, and I was lightish; but I
told ’em ‘No, I’ve had enough of being guy; I don’t be guy any more:
besides, I had such fine money for getting a whack in the eye!’ We
got on pretty well that year; but it gets wus and wus every year. We
got hardly anything this year; and next I don’t suppose we shall get
anything at all. These chaps that go about pitchin’ into guys we call
‘guy smashers;’ but they don’t do it only for the lark of smashing the
guys: they do it for the purpose of taking the boys’ money away, and
sometimes the clothes. If one of ’em has a hole in his boots, and he
sees a guy with a good pair on, he pretty soon pulls ’em of the guy and
hooks it off with ’em.

“After I’d been out with guys for three or four years, I got big enough
to go to work, and I used to go along with my brother and help him at
a coal-shed, carrying out coals. I was there ten months, and then one
night--a bitter cold night, it was freezing hard--we had a naphtha lamp
to light in the shop; and as me and my brother was doing it, either a
piece of the match dropped in or else he poured it over, I can’t say
which, but all at once it exploded and blowed me across the road and
knocked him in the shop all a-fire; and I was all a-fire, too--see how
it’s burnt my face and the hand I held the lucifer in. A woman run out
of the next shop with some wet sacks, and throw’d ’em upon me, but it
flared up higher then: water don’t put it out, unless it’s a mass of
water like a engine. Then a milkman run up and pulled off his cape
and throwed it over me, and that put it out; then he set me up, and I
run home, though I don’t know how I got there, and for two days after
I didn’t know anybody. Another man ran into the shop and pulled out
my brother, and we was both taken to the University Hospital. Two or
three people touched me, and the skin came off on their hands, and at
nine o’clock the next morning my brother died. When they took me to the
hospital they had no bed for me, and so they sent me home again, and
I was seven months before I got well. But I’ve never been to say well
since, and I shall never be fit for hard work any more.

“The next year I went out with a guy again, and I got on pretty well;
and so I’ve done every year since, except last. I’ve had several little
places since I got burnt, but they haven’t lasted long.

“This year I made a stunning guy. First of all I got a pair of my own
breeches--black uns--and stuffed ’em full of shavings. I tied the
bottoms with a bit of string. Then I got a black coat--that belonged
to another boy--and sewed it all round to the trousers; then we filled
that with shavings, and give him a good corporation. Then we got a
block, sich as the milliners have, and shoved that right in the neck
of the coat, and then we shoved some more shavings all round, to
make it stick in tight; and when that was done it looked just like
a dead man. I know something about dead men, because my father was
always in that line. Then we got some horsehair and some glue, and
plastered the head all round with glue, and stuck the horse-hair on to
imitate the hair of a man; then we put the mask on: it was a twopenny
one--they’re a great deal cheaper than they used to be, you can get a
very good one now for a penny--it had a great big nose, and it had two
red horns, black eyebrows, and red cheeks. I like devils, they’re so
ugly. I bought a good-looking un two or three years ago, and we didn’t
get hardly anything, the people said, ‘Ah! it’s too good-looking; it
don’t frighten us at all.’ Well, then, after we put on his mask we got
two gloves, one was a woollen un, and the other a kid un, and stuffed
them full of shavings, and tied ’em down to the chair. We didn’t have
no lantern, ’cos it keeps on falling out of his hands. After that we
put on an old pair of lace-up boots. We tied ’em on to the legs of
the breeches. The feet mostly twistes round, but we stopped that; we
shoved a stick up the leg of his breeches, and the other end into the
boot, and tied it, and then it couldn’t twist round very easy. After
that we put a paper hanging-cap on his head; it was silk-velvet kind
of paper, and decorated all over with tinsel bows. His coat we pasted
all over with blue and green tinsel bows and pictures. They was painted
theatrical characters, what we buy at the shop a ha’penny a sheet
plain, and penny a sheet coloured: we bought ’em plain, and coloured
them ourselves. A-top of his hat we put a hornament. We got some red
paper, and cut it into narrow strips, and curled it with the blade of
the scissors, and stuck it on like a feather. We made him a fine apron
of hanging-paper, and cut that in slips up to his knees, and curled
it with the scissors, the same as his feather, and decorated it with
stars, and bows, and things, made out of paper, all manner of colours,
and pieces of tinsel. After we’d finished the guy we made ourselves
cock’d hats, all alike, and then we tied him in a chair, and wrote
on his breast, ‘_Villanous Guy_.’ Then we put two broomsticks under
the chair and carried him out. There was four of us, and the two that
wasn’t carrying, they had a large bough of a tree each, with a knob at
the top to protect the guy. We started off at once, and got into the
squares, and put him in front of the gentlemen’s houses, and said this

        ‘Pray, gentlefolks, pray
        Remember this day,
    At which kind notice we bring
        This figure of sly,
        Old, villanous Guy,
    He wanted to murder the king.

        With powder in store,
        He bitterly swore
    By him in the vaults to compare,
        By him and his crew,
        And parliament, too,
    Should all be blow’d up in the air.

        So please to remember
        The fifth of November,
    The gunpowder treason and plot,
        I see no reason
        Why gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot.

              So hollo, boys! hollo, boys!
                Shout out the day!
              Hollo, boys! hollo, boys!
                Hollo, Hurrah!’

“After we’d finished our speech in one of the squares, and hollowed
Hurrah! the beadle come out, and said he’d give us the stick about our
backs, and the guy too, if we didn’t go away. So we went away, and got
into Russell-square and Bedford-square; but there was such a lot of
small guys out, that we did worse than ever we’d done before. When we
was in Southampton-street, Holborn, I finished the speech with ‘Down
with the Pope, and God save the Queen;’ so four shoe-black boys come
up, and says, says they, ‘What do you say, Down with the Pope and God
save the Queen for?’ And I says, ‘I didn’t mean no harm of it.’ With
that they makes use of some bad language, and told me they’d smash my
head and the guy’s too; and they was going to do it, when up comes a
boy that I knew, and I says to him, ‘They’re going to knock me about;’
so he says, ‘No they won’t;’ so then the boys made their reply, and
said they would. So I told ’em they was very fast about fighting, I’d
fight one of them; so with that they all got ready to pitch upon me:
but when they see this other boy stuck to me, they went off, and never
struck a blow. When we got home I opened the money-box and shared the
money; one had 5_d._, and two had 4-1/2_d._ each, and I had 7_d._
because I said the speech. At night we pulled him all to pieces, and
burnt his stuffing, and let off some squibs and crackers. I always used
to spend the money I got guying on myself. I used to buy sometimes
fowls, because I could sell the eggs. There is some boys that take out
guys as do it for the sake of getting a bit of bread and butter, but
not many as I knows of.

“It don’t cost much to make a guy. The clothes we never burns--they’re
generally too good: they’re our own clothes, what we wears at other
times; and when people burn a guy they always pull off any of the
things that’s of use fust; but mostly the guy gets pulled all to
pieces, and only the shavings gets burnt.”


A short, thick-set man, with small, puckered-up eyes, and dressed in an
old brown velveteen shooting-jacket, gave me an account of some bygone
exhibitions of the galantee show.

“My father was a soldier,” he said, “and was away in foreign parts,
and I and a sister lived with my mother in St. Martin’s workhouse.
I was fifty-five last New-year’s-day. My uncle, a bootmaker in St.
Martin’s-lane, took my mother out of the workhouse, that she might do
a little washing, and pick up a living for herself; and we children
went to live with my grandfather, a tailor. After his death, and after
many changes, we had a lodging in the Dials, and there ----, the sweep,
coaxed me with pudding one day, and encouraged me so well, that I
didn’t like to go back to my mother; and at last I was ’prenticed to
him from Hatton-Garden on a month’s trial, and I liked chimley-sweeping
for that month; but it was quite different when I was regularly
indentured. I was cruelly-treated then, and poorly fed, and had to turn
out barefooted between three and four many a morning in frost and snow.
In first climbing the chimleys, a man stood beneath me, and pushed me
up, telling me how to use my elbows and knees, and if I slipped, he
was beneath me and ketched me, and shoved me up again. The skin came
off my knees and elbows; here’s the marks now, you see. I suffered
a great deal, as well as Dan Duff, a fellow-sweep, a boy that died.
I’ve been to Mrs. Montague’s dinner in the Square on the 1st of May,
when I was a boy-sweep. It was a dinner in honour of her son having
been stolen away by a sweep.” (The man’s own words.) “I suppose there
were more than three hundred of us sweeps there, in a large green,
at the back of her house. I run away from my master once, but was
carried back, and was rather better used. My master then got me knee
and ankle-pads, and bathed my limbs in salt and water, and I managed
to drag on seven sorrowful years with him. I was glad to be my own man
at last, and I cut the sweep-trade, bought pandean pipes, and started
with an organ-man, as his mate. I saved money with the organ-man and
then bought a drum. He gave me five shillings a-week, and my wittles
and drink, washing and lodging; but there wasn’t so much music afloat
then. I left the music-man and went out with ‘Michael,’ the Italy bear.
Michael was the man’s name that brought over the bear from somewhere
abroad. He was a Italy man; and he used to beat the bear, and manage
her; they called her Jenny; but Michael was not to say roughish to
her, unless she was obstropelous. If she were, he showed her the large
mop-stick, and beat her with it--hard sometimes--specially when she
wouldn’t let the monkey get a top on her head; for that was a part of
the performance. The monkey was dressed the same as a soldier, but the
bear had no dress but her muzzle and chain. The monkey (a clever fellow
he was, and could jump over sticks like a Christian) was called Billy.
He jumped up and down the bear, too, and on his master’s shoulders,
where he set as Michael walked up and down the streets. The bear had
been taught to roll and tumble. She rolled right over her head, all
round a stick, and then she danced round about it. She did it at the
word of command. Michael said to her, ‘Round and round again.’ We fed
her on bread, a quartern-loaf every night after her work in half-a-pail
of water, the same every morning; never any meat--nothing but bread,
boiled ’tatoes, or raw carrots: meat would have made her savage. The
monkey was fed upon nuts, apples, gingerbread, or anything. Besides
them we had two dancing-dogs. The bear didn’t like them, and they were
kept on one side in performing. The dogs jumped through hoops, and
danced on their hind legs; they’re easyish enough trained. Sometimes
the butchers set bull-dogs, two or three at a time, at Jenny; and
Michael and me had to beat them off as well as the two other men that
we had with us. Those two men collected the money, and I played the
pipes and drum, and Michael minded the bear and the dogs and monkey.
In London we did very well. The West-end was the best. Whitechapel was
crowded for us, but only with ha’pence. I don’t know what Michael made,
but I had seven shillings a-week, with my wittles and lodging. Michael
done well. We generally had twenty to thirty shillings every night in
ha’pence, and used to give twenty-one shillings of it for a one-pound
note; for they was in then. When we’ve travelled in the country, we’ve
sometimes had trouble to get lodgings for the bear. We’ve had to sleep
in outhouses with her, and have sometimes frightened people that didn’t
know as we was there, but nothing serious. Bears is well-behaved enough
if they ain’t aggravated. Perhaps no one but me is left in England now
what properly understands a dancing-bear.

“Jenny wasn’t ever baited, but offers was made for it by sporting

“The country was better than London, when the weather allowed; but in
Gloucester, Cheltenham, and a good many places, we weren’t let in the
high streets.

“The gentlefolk in the balconies, both in town and country, where they
had a good sight, were our best friends.

“It’s more than thirty years ago--yes, a good bit more now; at Chester
races, one year, we were all taken, and put into prison: bear, and
dogs, and musicianer, and all--every one--because we played a day after
the races; that was Saturday.

“We were all in quod until Monday morning. I don’t know how the
authorities fed the bear. We were each in a separate cell, and I had
bread and cheese, and gruel.

“On Monday morning we were discharged, and the bear was shot by the
magistrate’s orders. They wanted to hang poor Jenny at first, but she
was shot, and sold to the hairdressers.

“I couldn’t stay to see her shot, and had to go into an alehouse on the
road. I don’t know what her carcase sold for. It wasn’t very fat.

“Michael and me then parted at Chester, and he went home rich to Italy,
taking his monkey and dogs with him, I believe.

“He lived very careful, chiefly on rice and cabbage, and a very little
meat with it, which he called ‘manesta.’ He was a very old man. I had
‘manesta’ sometimes, but I didn’t like it much. I drummed and piped my
way from Chester to London, and there took up with another foreigner,
named Green, in the clock-work-figure line.

“The figures were a Turk called Bluebeard, a sailor, a lady called Lady
Catarina, and Neptune’s car, which we called Nelson’s car as well; but
it was Neptune’s car by rights.

“These figures danced on a table, when taken out of a box. Each had its
own dance when wound up.

“First came my Lady Catarina. She, and the others of them, were full
two feet high. She had a cork body, and a very handsome silk dress,
or muslin, according to the fashion, or the season. Black in Lent,
according to what the nobility wore.

“Lady Catarina, when wound up, danced a reel for seven minutes, the
sailor a hornpipe, and Bluebeard shook his head, rolled his eyes, and
moved his sword, just as natural as life. Neptune’s car went either
straight or round the table, as it was set.

“We often showed our performances in the houses of the nobility, and
would get ten or twelve shillings at a good house, where there were

“I had a third share, and in town and country we cleared fifty
shillings a week, at least, every week, among the three of us, after
all our keep and expenses were paid.

“At Doncaster races we have taken three pounds in a-day, and four
pounds at Lincoln races.

“Country, in summer, is better than town. There’s now no such
exhibition, barring the one I have; but that’s pledged. It cost twenty
pounds at Mr. ----’s for the four figures without dress. I saved
money, which went in an illness of rheumatic gout. There’s no bears at
all allowed now. Times are changed, and all for the worser. I stuck
to the clock-work concern sixteen years, and knows all parts of the
country--Ireland, Scotland, Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Wight.

“A month before Christmas we used to put the figures by, for the
weather didn’t suit; and then we went with a galantee show of a magic
lantern. We showed it on a white sheet, or on the ceiling, big or
little, in the houses of the gentlefolk, and the schools where there
was a breaking-up. It was shown by way of a treat to the scholars.
There was Harlequin, and Billy Button, and such-like. We had ten and
sixpence and fifteen shillings for each performance, and did very well
indeed. I have that galantee show now, but it brings in very little.

“Green’s dead, and all in the line’s dead, but me. The galantee show
don’t answer, because magic lanterns are so cheap in the shops. When
we started, magic lanterns wasn’t so common; but we can’t keep hold
of a good thing in these times. It was a reg’lar thing for Christmas
once--the galantee shows.

“I can make, in a holiday time, twenty shillings a-week; but that’s
only at holiday times, and is just a mere casualty a few times a year.

“I do other jobs, when I can get ’em--at other times, I delivers bills,
carries boards, and helps at funerals.”


“The proper name of my exhibition,” said a showman of this class to me,
“is _Lez Hombres_, or the shades; that’s the proper name for it, for
Baron Rothschild told me so when I performed before him. We calls it
the Chinese galantee show. It was invented over there with the Chinese,
and some travellers went over there and see them doing it, and they
come over here and tell us about it. They didn’t do it as we do, you
know. As for doing pieces, we lick them out of the field. Them only did
the shadows, we do a piece with ’em.

“I should say, sir,--let me calculate--it is about twenty-six years
since the ombres first come out. Reduce it if you like, but that’s
the time. Thomas Paris was the first as come out with them. Then Jim
Macklin, and Paul Herring the celebrated clown, and the best showman
of Punch in the world for pantomime tricks--comic business, you know,
but not for showing in a gentleman’s house--was the next that ever come
out in the streets with the Chinese galantee show. I think it was his
own ingenuity that first gave him the notion. It was thoughts of mind,
you know,--you form the opinion in your own mind, you know, by taking
it from the Chinese. They met a friend of theirs who had come from
China, and he told him of the shadows. One word is as good as fifty, if
it’s a little grammatical--sound judgment. When it first come out, he
began with the scene called ‘Mr. Jobson the Cobbler,’ and that scene
has continued to be popular to the present day, and the best scene out.
He did it just equally the same as they do it now, in a Punch-and-Judy
frame, with a piece of calico stretched in front, and a light behind to
throw the shadows on the sheet.

“Paul Herring did excellent well with it--nothing less than 30_s._
or 2_l._ a-night. He didn’t stop long at it, because he is a stage
clown, and had other business to attend to. I saw him the first time he
performed. It was in the Waterloo-road, and the next night I were out
with one of my own. I only require to see a thing once to be able to do
it; but you must have ingenuity, or it’s no use whatsumdiver. Every one
who had a Punch-and-Judy frame took to it; doing the regular business
in the day and at night turning to the shadows. In less than a week
there were two others out, and then Paul Herring cut it. He only done
it for a lark. He was hard up for money and got it.

“I was the first that ever had a regular piece acted in his show. I
believe there’s nobody else as did, but only them that’s copied me.
They come and follow me, you understand, and copied me. I am the author
of ‘Cobbler Jobson,’ and ‘Kitty biling the Pot, or the Woodchopper’s
Frolic.’ There’s ‘Billy Button’s journey to Brentford on horseback, and
his favorite servant, Jeremiah Stitchem, in want of a situation.’ I’m
the author of that, too. It’s adapted from the equestrian piece brought
out at Astley’s. I don’t know who composed ‘the Broken Bridge.’ It’s
too far gone by to trace who the first author is, but it was adapted
from the piece brought out formerly at Drury-lane Theatre. Old ancient
gentlemen has told me so who saw it, when it was first brought out, and
they’re old enough to be my grandfather. I’ve new revised it.

“We in general goes out about 7 o’clock, because we gets away from
the noisy children--they place them to bed, and we gets respectable
audiences. We choose our places for pitching: Leicester-square is a
very good place, and so is Islington, but Regent-street is about the
principal. There’s only two of us about now, for it’s dying away. When
I’ve a mind to show I can show, and no mistake, for I’m better now than
I was twenty years ago.

“‘Kitty biling the Pot, or the Woodchopper’s Frolic,’ is this. The
shadow of the fireplace is seen with the fire alight, and the smoke
is made to go up by mechanism. The woodchopper comes in very hungry
and wants his supper. He calls his wife to ask if the leg of mutton is
done. He speaks in a gruff voice. He says, ‘My wife is very lazy, and
I don’t think my supper’s done. I’ve been chopping wood all the days
of my life, and I want a bullock’s head and a sack of potatoes.’ The
wife comes to him and speaks in a squeaking voice, and she tells him
to go and chop some more wood, and in half-an-hour it will be ready.
Exaunt. Then the wife calls the daughter Kitty, and tells her to see
that the pot don’t boil over; and above all to be sure and see that the
cat don’t steal the mutton out of the pot. Kitty says, ‘Yes, mother,
I’ll take particular care that the mutton don’t steal the cat out of
the pot.’ Cross-questions, you see--comic business. Then mother says,
‘Kitty, bring up the broom to sweep up the room,’ and Kitty replies,
‘Yes, mummy, I’ll bring up the room to sweep up the broom.’ Exaunt
again. It’s regular stage business and cross-questions. She brings
up the broom, and the cat’s introduced whilst she is sweeping. The
cat goes Meaw! meaw! meaw! and Kitty gives it a crack with the broom.
Then Kitty gets the bellows and blows up the fire. It’s a beautiful
representation, for you see her working the bellows, and the fire get
up, and the sparks fly up the chimney. She says, ‘If I don’t make haste
the mutton will be sure to steal the cat out of the pot.’ She blows
the fire right out, and says, ‘Why, the fire’s blowed the bellows out!
but I don’t mind, I shall go and play at shuttlecock.’ Child like, you
see. Then the cat comes in again, and says, Meaw! meaw! and then gets
up and steals the mutton. You see her drag it out by the claw, and she
burns herself and goes, spit! spit! Then the mother comes in and sees
the fire out, and says, ‘Where my daughter? Here’s the fire out, and
my husband’s coming home, and there isn’t a bit of mutton to eat!’ She
calls ‘Kitty, Kitty!’ and when she comes, asks where she’s been. ‘I’ve
been playing at shuttlecock.’ The mother asks, ‘Are you sure the cat
hasn’t stolen the mutton.’ ‘Oh, no, no, mother,’ and exaunt again.
Then the mother goes to the pot. She’s represented with a squint, so
she has one eye up the chimney and another in the pot. She calls out,
‘Where’s the mutton? It must be down at the bottom, or it has boiled
away.’ Then the child comes in and says, ‘Oh! mother, mother, here’s
a great he-she-tom cat been and gone off with the mutton.’ Then the
mother falls down, and calls out, ‘I shall faint, I shall faint! Oh!
bring me a pail of gin.’ Then she revives, and goes and looks in the
pot again. It’s regular stage business, and if it was only done on a
large scale would be wonderful. Then comes the correction scene. Kitty
comes to her, and her mother says, ‘Where have you been?’ and Kitty
says, ‘Playing at shuttlecock, mummy;’ and then the mother says, ‘I’ll
give you some shuttlecock with the gridiron,’ and exaunt, and comes
back with the gridiron; and then you see her with the child on her
knee correcting of her. Then the woodchopper comes in and wants his
supper, after chopping wood all the days of his life. ‘Where’s supper?’
‘Oh, a nasty big he-she-tom cat has been and stole the mutton out of
the pot.’ ‘What?’ passionate directly, you see. Then she says, ‘You
must put up with bread and cheese.’ He answers, ‘That don’t suit some
people,’ and then comes a fight. Then Spring-heeled Jack is introduced,
and he carries off the fireplace and pot and all. Exaunt. That’s the
end of the piece, and a very good one it was. I took it from Paris, and
improved on it. Paris had no workable figures. It was very inferior. He
had no fire. It’s a dangerous concern the fire is, for it’s done with
a little bit of the snuff of a candle, and if you don’t mind you go
alight. It’s a beautiful performance.

“Our exhibition generally begins with a sailor doing a hornpipe,
and then the tight-rope dancing, and after that the Scotch hornpipe
dancing. The little figures regularly move their legs as if dancing,
the same as on the stage, only it’s more cleverer, for they’re made
to do it by ingenuity. Then comes the piece called ‘Cobbler Jobson.’
We call it ‘the laughable, comic, and interesting scene of old Father
Jobson, the London cobbler; or, the old Lady disappointed of her
Slipper.’ I am in front, doing the speaking and playing the music on
the pandanean pipe. That’s the real word for the pipe, from the Romans,
when they first invaded England. That’s the first music ever introduced
into England, when the Romans first invaded it. I have to do the
dialogue in four different voices. There is the child, the woman, the
countryman, and myself, and there’s not many as can do it besides me
and another.

“The piece called Cobbler Jobson is this. It opens with the shadow of a
cottage on one side of the sheet, and a cobbler’s stall on the other.
There are boots and shoes hanging up in the windows of the cobbler’s
stall. Cobbler Jobson is supposed at work inside, and heard singing:

    ‘An old cobbler I am,
      And live in my stall;
    It serves me for house,
      Parlour, kitchen, and all.
    No coin in my pocket,
      No care in my pate,
    I sit down at my ease,
    And get drunk when I please.
          Hi down, hi derry down.’

“Then he sings again:

    ‘Last night I took a wife,
      And when I first did woo her,
    I vowed I’d stick through life
      Like cobblers’ wax unto her.
          Hi down, derry down down down.’

“Then the figure of a little girl comes in and raps at the door: ‘Mr.
Jobson, is my mamma’s slipper done?’ ‘No, miss, it’s not done; but if
you’ll call in half-an-hour it shall be well done, for I’ve taken the
soles off and put the upper leathers in a pail to soak.’ ‘What, in a
pail?’ ‘Yes, my dear, without fail.’ ‘Then you won’t disappint.’ ‘No,
my dear, I’d sooner a pot than a pint.’ ‘Then I may depend?’ ‘Yes, and
you won’t have it.’ He says this aside, so the girl don’t hear him.
Then Jobson begins to sing again. He comes in front and works. You see
his lapstone and the hammer going. He begins to sing:

    ‘’T’other morning for breakfast on bacon and spinnage,
    Says I to my wife, ‘I’m going to Greenwich;’
    Says she, ‘Dicky Hall, then I’ll go too!’
    Says I, ‘Mrs. Hall, I’ll be dished if you do.’
                Hi down, hi derry down.’

“Then the little girl comes in again to know if the slipper is done,
and as it isn’t, it’s ‘My dear, you must go without it.’ Then she
gets impertinent, and says, ‘I shan’t go with it, you nasty old waxy,
waxy, waxy, waxy, waxy! Oh, you nasty old ball of bristles and bunch
of wax!’ Then he tries to hit her, and she runs into the house, and as
soon as he’s at work she comes out again: ‘Ah, you nasty cobbler! who’s
got a lump of wax on his breeches? who sold his wife’s shirt to buy a
ha’porth of gin?’ Then the cobbler is regularly vexed, and he tries to
coax her into the stall to larrup her. ‘Here, my dear, here’s a lump
of pudden and a farden.’ ‘Oh, yes, you nasty old cobbler! you only want
to give me a lump of pudden on my back.’ ‘Here’s a penny, my dear, if
you’ll fetch it.’ ‘Chuck it here, and I’ll fetch it.’ At last she goes
into the stall, and she gets a hiding with the hammer. She cries out,
‘You nasty old cobbler waxy! waxy, waxy! I’ll go and tell my mother all
about it.’ That’s what we call the aggriwating scene; and next comes
the passionate scene.

“He begins singing one of his songs. He thinks he’s all right now he’s
got rid of the girl.

“Then comes in the old lady, shaking with rage. ‘How dare you to strike
my child in this here kind of a manner! Come out of the stall, or I’ll
pull you out neck and crop!’ Then Jobson is in a funk, and expects
a hiding. ‘Oh, mum! I’m very sorry, but your child said, I skinned
a cat for ninepence, and called me cobbler waxy, waxy, waxy.’ ‘I
won’t believe a word of it, Mr. Jobson.’ ‘Yes, mum, your child’s very
insaulting.’ ‘How dare you strike the chick? You nasty old villain!
I’ll tear the eyes out of you.’

“A fight then commences between them, and the old lady gets the worst
of it. Then they make it up, and they’ll have some gin. ‘I’ll be a
penny to your threepence,’ says the cobbler; and the old lady says,
‘Oh, I can always treat myself.’ Then there’s another fight, for
there’s two fights in it. The old lady gets the worst of it, and runs
into the cottage, and then old Jobson cries, ‘I’d better be off, stall
and all, for fear she should come back with the kitchen poker.’ That
finishes up the scene, don’t you see, for he carries off the stall with

“Cobbler Jobson is up to the door, I think. It’s first rate; it only
wants elaborating. ‘Billy Button’ is a very laughable thing, and
equally up to the door. There’s another piece, called ‘Billy Waters,
the celebrated London Beggar;’ and that’s a great hit. There’s the
‘Bull-baiting.’ That’s all the scenes I know of. I believe I am the
only man that knows the words all through. ‘Kitty biling the pot’ is
one of the most beautifullest scenes in the world. It wants expounding,
you know; for you could open it the whole length of the theatre. I
wanted to take Ramsgate Theatre, and do it there; but they wanted 2_l._
a-night, and that was too much for me. I should have put a sheet up,
and acted it with real figures, as large as life.

“When I was down at Brighton, acting with the Chinese galantee show, I
was forced to drop performing of them. Oh dear! oh dear! don’t mention
it. You’d have thought the town was on fire. You never saw such an
uproar as it made; put the town in such an agitation, that the town
authorities forced me to desist. I filled the whole of North-street,
and the people was pressing upon me so, that I was obliged to run away.
I was lodging at the Clarence Hotel in North-street, at the time. I
ran off down a side-street. The next day the police come up to me and
tell me that I mustn’t exhibit that performance again.

“I shall calculate it at 5_s._ a-night, when I exhibit with the ombres.
We don’t go out every night, for it’s according to the weather; but
when we do, the calculation is 5_s._ every night. Sometimes it is
10_s._, or it may be only 2_s._ 6_d._; but 5_s._ is a fair balance.
Take it all the year round, it would come to 9_s._ a-week, taking the
good weather in the bad. It’s no use to exaggerate, for the shoe is
sure to pinch somewhere if you do.

“We go out two men together, one to play the pipes and speak the
parts, and the other to work the figures. I always do the speaking and
the music, for that’s what is the most particular. When we do a full
performance, such as at juvenile parties, it takes one about one hour
and a quarter. For attending parties we generally gets a pound, and,
perhaps, we may get three or four during the Christmas holiday-time, or
perhaps a dozen, for it’s according to the recommendation from one to
another. If you goes to a gentleman’s house, it’s according to whether
you behave yourself in a superior sort of a manner; but if you have any
vulgarity about you you must exaunt, and there’s no recommendation.

“Tom Paris, the first man that brought out the ombres in the streets,
was a short, stout man, and very old. He kept at it for four or five
years, I believe, and he made a very comfortable living at it, but he
died poor; what became of him I do not know. Jim Macklin I’ve very
little knowledge of. He was a stage performer, but I’m not aware what
he did do. I don’t know when he died, but he’s dead and gone; all the
old school is dead and gone--all the old ancient performers. Paul
Herring is the only one that’s alive now, and he does the clown. He’s a
capital clown for tricks; he works his own tricks: that’s the beauty of

“When we are performing of an evening, the boys and children will annoy
us awful. They follow us so that we are obliged to go miles to get away
from them. They will have the best places; they give each other raps
on the head if they don’t get out of each other’s way. I’m obliged to
get fighting myself, and give it them with the drumsticks. They’ll
throw a stone or two, and then you have to run after them, and swear
you’re going to kill them. There’s the most boys down at Spitalfields,
and St. Luke’s, and at Islington; that’s where there’s the worst boys,
and the most audaciousest. I dare not go into St. Luke’s; they spile
their own amusement by making a noise and disturbance. Quietness is
everything; they haven’t the sense to know that. If they give us any
money it’s very trifling, only, perhaps, a farden or a halfpenny, and
then it’s only one out of a fifty or a hundred. The great business
is to keep them quiet. No; girls ain’t better behaved than boys; they
was much wus. I’d sooner have fifty boys round me than four girls. The
impertinence of them is above bearing. They come carrying babies, and
pushing, and crowding, and tearing one another to pieces. ‘You’re afore
me--I was fust--No you wasn’t--Yes I was’--and that’s the way they go
on. If a big man comes in front I’m obliged to ask him to go backwards,
to let the little children to see. If they’re drunk, perhaps they
won’t, and then there’s a row, and all the children will join in. Oh,
it’s dreadful erksome!

“I was once performing on Islington-green, and some drunken people,
whilst I was collecting my money, knocked over the concern from wanton
mischief. They said to me, ‘We haven’t seen nothing, master.’ I said,
‘I can see you; and haven’t you got a brown?’ Then they begun laughing,
and I turned round, and there was the show in a blaze, and my mate
inside a kicking. I think it was two or three drunken men did it, to
injure a poor man from gaining his livelihood from the sweat of his
brow. That’s eighteen years ago.

“I was up at Islington last week, and I was really obliged to give
over on account of the children. The moment I put it down there was
thousands round me. They was sarcy and impertinent. There was a good
collection of people, too. But on account of the theatrical business we
want quiet, and they’re so noisy there’s no being heard. It’s morals is
everything. It’s shameful how parents lets their children run about the
streets. As soon as they fill their bellies off they are, till they are
hungry again.

“The higher class of society is those who give us the most money. The
working man is good for his penny or halfpenny, but the higher class
supports the exhibition. The swells in Regent-street ain’t very good.
They comes and looks on for a moment, and then go on, or sometimes they
exempt themselves with ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve got no pence.’ The best is
the gentlemen; I can tell them in a minute by their appearance.

“When we are out performing, we in generally burn three candles at
once behind the curtain. One is of no utility, for it wants expansion,
don’t you see. I don’t like naphtha or oil-lamps, ’cos we’re confined
there, and it’s very unhealthy. It’s very warm as it is, and you must
have a eye like a hawk to watch it, or it won’t throw the shadows. A
brilliant light and a clean sheet is a great attraction, and it’s the
attraction is everything. In the course of the evening we’ll burn six
penny candles; we generally use the patent one, ’cos it throws a clear
light. We cut them in half. When we use the others I have to keep a
look-out, and tell my mate to snuff the candles when the shadows get
dim. I usually say, ‘Snuff the candles!’ out loud, because that’s a
word for the outside and the inside too, ’cos it let the company know
it isn’t all over, and leads them to expect another scene or two.”


“I am the only man in London--and in England, I think--who is
exhibiting the figuer of méchanique; that is to say, leetle figuers,
that move their limbs by wheels and springs, as if they was de living
cretures. I am a native of Parma in Italy, where I was born; that is,
you understand, I was born in the Duchy of Parma, not in the town
of Parma--in the campagne, where my father is a farmer; not a large
farmer, but a little farmer, with just enough land for living. I used
to work for my father in his fields. I was married when I have 20 years
of age, and I have a child aged 10 years. I have only 30 years of age,
though I have the air of 40. Pardon, Monsieur! all my friends say I
have the air of 40, and you say that to make me pleasure.

“When I am with my father, I save up all the money that I can, for
there is very leetle business to be done in the campagne of Parma, and
I determine myself to come to Londres, where there is affair to be
done. I like Londres much better than the campagne of Parma, because
there is so much affairs to be done. I save up all my money. I become
very économique. I live of very leetle, and when I have a leetle money,
I say adieu to my father and I commence my voyages.

“At Paris I buy a box of music. They are made at Genève these box of
music. When I come to Londres, I go to the public-house--the palais de
gin, you understand--and there I show my box of music--yes, musical box
you call it--and when I get some money I live very économique, and then
when it become more money I buy another machine, which I buy in Paris.
It was a box of music, and on the top it had leetle figuers, which do
move their eyes and their limbs when I mounts the spring with the key.
And then there is music inside the box at the same time. I have three
leetle figuers to this box: one was Judith cutting the head of the
infidel chief--what you call him?--Holeferones. She lift her arm with
the sword, and she roll her eyes, and then the other hand is on his
head, which it lifts. It does this all the time the music play, until I
put on another figuer of the soldat which mounts the guard--yes, which
is on duty. The soldat goes to sleep, and his head falls on his bosom.
Then he wake again and lift his lance and roll his eyes. Then he goes
to sleep again, so long until I put on the other figuer of the lady
with the plate in the hand, and she make salutation to the company for
to ask some money, and she continue to do this so long as anybody give
her money. All the time the music in the box continues to play.

“I take a great quantity of money with these figuers, 3_s._ a-day, and
I live very économique until I put aside a sum large enough to buy the
figuers which I exhibit now.

“My most aged child is at Parma, with my father in the campagne, but my
wife and my other child, which has only 18 months of age, are with me
in Londres.

“It is two months since I have my new figuers. I did have them sent
from Germany to me. They have cost a great deal of money to me; as much
as 35_l._ without duty. They have been made in Germany, and are very
clever figures. I will show them to you. They perform on the round
table, which must be level or they will not turn round. This is the
Impératrice of the French--Eugénie--at least I call her so, for it is
not like her, because her cheveleure is not arranged in the style of
the Impératrice. The infants like better to see the Impératrice than a
common lady, that is why I call her the Imperatrice. She holds one arm
in the air, and you will see she turns round like a person waltzing.
The noise you hear is from the wheels of the méchanique, which is under
her petticoats. You shall notice her eyes do move as she waltz. The
next figure is the carriage of the Emperor of the French, with the
Queen and Prince Albert and the King de Sardaigne inside. It will run
round the table, and the horses will move as if they gallop. It is a
very clever méchanique. I attache this wire from the front wheel to the
centre of the table, or it would not make the round of the table, but
it would run off the side and break itself. My most clever méchanique
is the elephant. It does move its trunk, and its tail, and its legs, as
if walking, and all the time it roll its eyes from side to side like a
real elephant. It is the cleverest elephant of méchanique in the world.
The leetle Indian on the neck, who is the driver, lift his arm, and
in the pavilion on the back the chieftain of the Indians lift his bow
and arrow to take aim, and put it down again. That méchanique cost me
very much money. The elephant is worth much more than the Impératrice
of the French. I could buy two--three--Impératrice for my elephant. I
would like sooner lose the Impératrice than any malheur arrive to my
elephant. There are plenty more Impératrice, but the elephant is very
rare. I have also a figuer of Tyrolese peasant. She go round the table
a short distance and then turn, like a dancer. I must get her repaired.
She is so weak in her wheels and springs, which wind up under her
petticoats, like the Impératrice. She has been cleaned twice, and yet
her méchanique is very bad. Oh, I have oiled her; but it is no good,
she must be taken to pieces.

“When I sent to Germany to get these méchanique made for me, I told the
mechanician what I desired, and he made them for me. I invented the
figuers out of my own head, and he did the méchanique. I have voyaged
in Holland, and there I see some méchanique, and I noticed them, and
then I gave the order to do so and so. My elephant is the best of my
leetle figures; there is more complication.

“I first come to England eighteen years ago, before I was married, and
I stop here seven years; then I go back again to Parma, and then I come
back again to England four years ago, and here I stop ever since.

“I exhibit my leetle figures in the street. The leetle children like to
see my figuers méchanique dance round the table, and the carriage, with
the horses which gallop; but over all they like my elephant, with the
trunk which curls up in front, like those in the Jardin des Plantes, or
what you call it Zoological Gardens.

“When I am in the street I have two men beside myself, one plays the
organ, and the other carry the box with the méchanique figuers inside,
and I carry the table. The box with the méchanique is in weight about
80 lbs. English, and there are straps at the back for the arms to go
through. It is as large as a chest of drawers, for the leetle figures
are eighteen inches high, and each has a compartment to itself. I pay
my men 1_l._ a-month, besides lodge, clean, and grub him.

“The organ for the music is mine. I have another organ, with a horse to
draw it, which I want to sell; for the horse, and the two men to play
it, destroy all the profits.

“When I make my figuers to play in the street I must make the table
level, for they will not mount up a hill, because the méchanique is
not sufficiently strong for that. I go to the West-end to show my
leetle figures to the gentlemans and ladies, and their families; and
I go to the East-end to the families of the work-people. I also go
to Brixton and Hoxton, where they are severe for religion. They like
my figures because they are moral, and their children can see them
without sinning. But everywhere my figures have much success. Of all
the places, I prefer, rather, Regent-street, and there I go to the
leetle streets, in the corners, close by the big street. If I calcule
how much money I receive for all the year,--but I have only had them
two months,--it is six shillings by day regularly. Sometime I take ten
shillings, and sometimes four shillings, but it settles itself to six
shillings a-day. After paying for my men, and to clean, lodge, and grub
them, I have three shillings for myself.

“In wet weather, when it makes rain, or when there is fog, I cannot
quit my house to show my figures, for the humidity attack the springs
and wheels of the méchanique: besides, when it falls rain the dresses
of my figuers are spoiled; and the robes of the Impératrice and the
Tyrolese peasant are of silk and velvet bodies, with spangles, and they
soon spoil. They cost me much money to repair their springs,--never
less than eight shillings for each time: my peasant has been arranged
twice in her springs. It was a watchmaker who arranged her, and he had
to take all her inside out; and you know what those kind of people
charge for their time.

“Sometimes, when I am out with my figuers, the ladies ask me to perform
my figuers before their windows, to show them to their families. The
leetle children look through the window, and then they cannot hear the
movement of the méchanique, and the figuers look like living. When the
organ play a valtz to the Impératrice, he has to turn the handle quick
at the commencement, when the spring is strong in the méchanique, and
she turn quick; and to make the music slow when she turn less often,
when the springs get weak at the end. This makes it have the look of
being true to one living,--as if she danced to the music, although the
organ play to her dancing. I always mount the figures with the key

“I have never performed to a school of young scholars, but I have
visited evening-parties of children with my méchanique. For that they
give me sometimes 8_s._, sometimes 10_s._, just as they are generous.
My méchanique require nearly one hour to see them to perfection. The
Impératrice of the French is what they admire more than the paysanne
of Tyrol. The dress of the Impératrice has a long white veil behind
her hairs, but her costume is not so soignée as the peasant’s, for she
has no spangles; but they like to see the Impératrice of the French,
and they excuse her toilet because she is noble. My elephant is the
greatest delight for them, because it is more complicated in its
méchanique. I have always to mount with the key the springs in its
inside at least three times before they are fatigued with admiring it.

“I never perform in the streets during the night, because the air is
damp, and it causes injures to my méchanique; besides, I must have
lights to show off the costume of my figuers, and my table is not large

“It is not only the leetle children that admire my méchanique, but
persons of a ripe age. I often have gentlemen and ladies stand round
my table, and they say ‘Very clever!’ to see the lady figuers valtz,
but above all when my elephant lift his trunk. The leetle children will
follow me a long way to see my figuers, for they know we cannot carry
the box far without exhibiting, on account of its weight. But my table
is too high for them, unless they are at a distance to see the figuers
perform. If my table was not high, the leetle children would want to
take hold of my figuers. I always carry a small stick with me; and when
the leetle children, who are being carried by other leetle children,
put their hand to my figuers, I touch them with stick, not for to hurt
them, but to make them take their hand away and prevent them from doing
hurt to my méchanique.

“When the costume of my Impératrice is destroyed by time and wear, my
wife makes new clothes for her. Yes, as you say, she is the dress-maker
of the Impératrice of the French, but it is not the Emperor who pays
the bill, but myself. The Impératrice--the one I have, not that of the
Emperor--does not want more than half a yard of silk for a petticoat.
In the present style of fashion I make her petticoat very large and
full, not for the style, but to hide the méchanique in her inside.”


“It must be about eight years since I first exhibited the telescope. I
have three telescopes now, and their powers vary from about 36 to 300.
The instruments of the higher power are seldom used in the streets,
because the velocity of the planets is so great that they almost escape
the eye before it can fix it. The opening is so very small, that
though I can pass my eye on a star in a minute, an ordinary observer
would have the orb pass away before he could accustom his eye to the
instrument. High power is all very well for separating stars, and so
forth; but I’m like Dr. Kitchener, I prefer a low power for street
purposes. A street-passer likes to see plenty of margin round a star.
If it fills up the opening he don’t like it.

“My business is a tailor. I follow that business now. The exhibiting
don’t interfere with my trade. I work by day at tailoring, and then, at
this time of the year (26th Oct. 1856), I go out with the instrument
about six o’clock. You see I can, with a low power, see Jupiter rise.
It is visible at about half-past five, but it gets above the horizon,
out of the smoke, about a quarter past six. Saturn rises about ten.

“From a boy I was fond of philosophical instruments. I was left an
orphan when I was ten years of age; indeed, I haven’t a relation in the
world that I’m aware of, only excepting my wife’s family. My mother
died the same year as the Princes Charlotte (1818) for I can remember
her being in mourning for her. My name is a very peculiar one--it is
Tregent. This will show you that it is. I some time ago advertised
an instrument for sale, and I had a letter from gentleman living in
Liverpool. He said that he was sitting down to lunch and he took up the
paper, and cried out, ‘Good God! here’s my name.’ He sent for paper
and pens and wrote off at once. He asked whether I was a relation of
Tregent, the great chronometer maker. He said he always thought he was
the only Tregent in England. He said he was a bachelor, and hoped I was
too. Perhaps he wanted the name to die out. His father, he told me,
kept a paper-mill. We corresponded a long time, till I was tired, and
then one day a friend of mine said, ‘Let me write to him, and I’ll tell
him that if he wants any more information he must pay your expenses
down to Liverpool, and you’ll pay him a visit.’ This letter was sent,
and by and by comes an answer, telling me that I was no gentleman to
make such a proposition, and then the matter dropped.

“When I was six years old I was brought up to tailoring. I was kept
very close to work--always on the board, working. I even took my
meals there. I don’t consider it was hard, for it was done for my own
benefit. If there was no work going on I used to be made to learn
verses out of the Bible. I highly respected my master, for I consider
this was done for my benefit. He died in the country, and I was sorry
for it; for if I had known it, I would have gone anywhere to see him
buried--ay, even if it had been a hundred miles off. I stopped with
this party till I was ten years old.

“The next party I was with I was ’prenticed to, but he failed when I
had been with him three or four years, and then I had more the keeping
of him than he of me; I had that resolve in me even at that young age.

“After I finished my ’prentice articles I went with my society card
on the tramp. I went all through Yorkshire, going to the tailors’
houses of call, where the clubs are held, and a certain sum of money
subscribed weekly, to relieve what are called tramps. In some towns I
worked for months--such as Leeds. What is called ‘a tramp’ by tailors,
means a man searching for work about the country. After I got back to
London I went to my trade again, and I was particularly fortunate in
getting good situations. Whenever I was out of work I’d start off to
the country again. I was three years in Brighton, doing well, and I had
six men under me.

“It’s about eight years ago that I first exhibited in the streets. It
was through a friend of mine that I did this. Me and my wife was at
Greenwich-hill one Sunday. I was looking through a pocket-telescope of
mine, and he says, ‘Look through mine.’ I did so, and it was a very
good one; and then he says, ‘Ah, you should see one I’ve got at home;
it’s an astronomical one, and this is terrestrial.’ I did so, and went
and saw it. The first planet I saw was Venus. She was in her horns
then, like the moon. She exhibits the same phases as the moon, as does
also Mercury; sometimes horns, sometimes half a sphere, and so on; but
they’re the only two planets that’s known that does so. When I saw
this, I said, ‘Well, I must have something of this sort.’ I went to a
telescope-maker up at Islington, and I made a bargain with him, and he
was to make me a day-and-night telescope for five suits of clothes.
Well, I bought the cloth, and raised all the money to complete my part
of the contract, and then, when the telescope was finished, it wasn’t
worth a d----. You might as well have looked through a blacking-bottle.
When I told him of it he said he couldn’t help it. It was worth
something to look at, but not to look through. I pawned it for 15_l._
and sold the ticket for 5_l._ The gentleman who bought it was highly
satisfied with it till he found it out. I took this one out in the
streets to exhibit with, but it was quite useless, and showed nothing;
you could see the planetary bodies, but it defined nothing. The stars
was all manner of colours and forks. The bodies look just like a
drawing in chalk smudged out. The people who looked through complained,
and wouldn’t come and look again, and that’s why I got rid of it.

“The next telescope I had made was by the manufacturer who made the one
my friend first showed me. That maker has taken some hundred of pounds
of me since then; indeed, I’ve had eleven five or six feet telescopes
of him, and his name is Mr. Mull, of 13 Albion-place, Clerkenwell, and
the value of each of the object-glasses was, on the average, 30_l._,
though he charged me only trade-price, so I got them for less.

“The first telescope that was of any good that I exhibited with in the
streets was worth to me 25_l._ If you was to go to Dollond he would
have charged 105_l._ on a common tripod stand. I had it done under my
own direction, and by working myself at it, I got it very cheap. It
wasn’t good enough for me, so I got rid of it. I’ve got so nice about
object glasses and their distinct vision, and the power they bear, that
I have never rested content until I have a telescope that would suit
the first astronomer.

“I’ve got one now that will bear a magnifying power 300 times, and has
an object-glass 4-1/4 inches diameter, with a focal length of 5 feet
6 inches. The stand is made of about 250 pieces of brass-work, and
has ratchet action, with vertical and horizontal movement. It cost me
80_l._ and Ross, Featherstone-buildings, would charge 250_l._ for it.
I’m so initiated into the sort of thing, that I generally get all my
patterns made, and then I get the castings made, and then have them
polished. The price of the object-glass is 30_l._ I’m going to take
that one out next week. It will weigh about 1-1/2 cwt. My present one
is a very fine instrument indeed. I’ve nothing but what is excellent.
You can see Jupiter and his satellites, and Saturn and his belt. This
is a test for it. Supposing I want to see Polaris--that’s the small
star that revolves once in 180 years round the pole. It isn’t the pole
star. It isn’t visible to the naked eye. It’s one of the tests for a
telescope. My instrument gives it as small as a pin’s point. There’s
no magnifying power with a telescope upon stars. Of course they make
them more brilliant, and give some that are not visible to the naked
eye, for hundreds and thousands will pass through the field in about
an hour. They also separate double stars, and penetrate into space,
nebula, and so on; but they don’t increase the size of stars, for the
distance is too great.

“I’ve worked about five years with this last one that I’ve now. It
weighs, with the stand, about 1 cwt., and I have to get somebody to
help me along with it. One of my boys in general goes along with me.


[_From a Photograph._]]

“It depends greatly upon the weather as to what business I do. I’ve
known the moon for a month not to be visible for twenty days out of
the lunation. I’ve known that for three moons together, the atmosphere
is so bad in London. When I do get a good night I have taken 35_s._;
but then I’ve taken out two instruments, and my boy has minded one. I
only charge a penny a peep. Saturdays, and Mondays, and Sundays, are
the best nights in my neighbourhood, and then I can mostly reckon on
taking 20_s._ The other nights it may be 7_s._ or 8_s._, or even only
2_s._ 6_d._ Sometimes I put up the instrument when it’s very fine,
and then it’ll come cloudy, and I have to take it down again and go
home. Taking the year round, I should think I make 125_l._ a-year by
the telescope. You see my business, as a tailor, keeps me in of a day,
or I might go out in the day and show the sun. Now to-day the sun was
very fine, and the spots showed remarkably well, and if I’d been out I
might have done well. I sold an instrument of mine once to a fireman
who had nothing to do in the day, and thought he could make some money
exhibiting the telescope. He made 8_s._ or 10_s._ of an afternoon on
Blackfriar’s-bridge, showing the dome of St. Paul’s at the time they
were repairing it.

“When the instrument is equatoreally mounted and set to time, you can
pick out the stars in the day-time, and they look like black specs. I
could show them.

“People can’t stop looking through the telescope for long at a time,
because the object is soon out of the field, because of the velocity
of the earth’s motion and the rapidity at which the planets travel
round the sun. Jupiter, for instance, 26,000 miles an hour, and Saturn
29,000, soon removes them from the field of the telescope. I have to
adjust the telescope before each person looks through. It has, I fancy,
hurt my eyes very much. My eyesight has got very weak through looking
at the moon, for on a brilliant night it’s like a plate of silver, and
dazzles. It makes a great impression on the retina of the eye. I’ve
seen when looking through the telescope a black spec, just as if you
had dropped a blot of ink on a piece of paper. I’ve often had dancing
lights before my eyes, too--very often. I find a homœopathic globule of
belladonna very excellent for that.

“When I exhibit, I in general give a short lecture whilst they are
looking through. When I am not busy I make them give me a description,
for this reason: others are listening, and they would sooner take the
word of the observer than mine. Suppose I’m exhibiting Jupiter, and I
want to draw customers, I’ll say, ‘How many moons do you see?’ They’ll
answer, ‘Three on the right, and one on the left,’ as they may be at
that time. Perhaps a rough standing by will say, ‘Three moons! that’s
a lie! there’s only one, everybody knows.’ Then, when they hear the
observer state what he sees, they’ll want to have a peep.

“When I’m busy, I do a lecture like this. We’ll suppose I’m exhibiting
Saturn. Perhaps we had better begin with Jupiter, for the orbit of
Saturn’s satellites is so extensive that you can never see them all
without shifting the glass: indeed it’s only in very fine climates,
such as Cincinnati, where the eight may be observed, and indeed up to a
late period it was believed there were only seven.

“When the observer sees Jupiter, I begin: ‘Do you see the planet, sir?’
‘Yes.’ ‘I introduce to you Jupiter with all his four satellites. It
is distant 600 millions of miles from the sun, and its diameter is
about 7900 miles. It travels round the sun at about 27,000 miles an
hour, and its orbit is over four years, and of course its seasons are
four times the length of ours, the summer lasting for a year instead
of three months.’ One night an Irishman, who was quite the gentleman,
came to me rather groggy, and he says,--‘Old boy, what are you looking
at?’ ‘Jupiter,’ says I. ‘What’s that?’ says he. ‘A planet you may call
it, sir,’ says I; ‘and the price is one penny.’ He paid me and had a
look, and then he cries out, ‘What a deception is this! By J---- it’s a
moon, and you call it a star!’ ‘There are four moons,’ said I. ‘You’re
another,’ said he; ‘there’s a moon and four stars. You ought to be took
up for deception.’ After a time he had another look, and then he was
very pleased, and would bring out gin from a neighbouring public-house,
and if he brought one, he brought seven.

“Another time, a man was looking through; and I had a tripod stand
then, and one of the legs was out, and he pushed the tube and down
it came right in his eye. He gave a scream and shouted out, ‘My God!
there’s a star hit me slap in the eye!’

“Another night an old woman came up to me, and she says, ‘God bless
you, sir; I’m so glad to see you. I’ve been looking for you ever such
a time. You charge a penny, don’t you? I’m a charwoman, sir, and would
you believe it, I’ve never had a penny to spare. What are you looking
at? The moon? Well, I must see it.’ I told her she should see it for
nothing, and up she mounted the steps. She was a heavy lusty woman, and
I had to shove her up with my shoulder to get up the steps. When she
saw the moon she kept on saying, ‘Oh, that’s beautiful! well, it is
beautiful! And that’s the moon, is it? Now, do tell me all about it.’
I told her all about Mount Tycho, and about the light of the sun being
seen on the mountain tops, and so on. When she’d looked for a time,
she said, ‘Well, your instrument is a finer one than my master’s, but
it don’t show so much as his, for he says he can see the men fighting
in it.’ This made me laugh so, I very nearly let her tumble by taking
my shoulder away from under her. But when she came down the steps, she
said something quite moved me. She threw her hands up and cried, ‘If
this moon is so beautiful and wonderful, what must that God be like who
made it?’ And off she went. It was very fine, wasn’t it?

“Sometimes when I’m exhibiting there is quite a crowd collects. I’ve
seen them sitting down on the curb smoking and drinking, whilst they
are waiting for their turns to have a peep. They’ll send to the
public-house for beer, and then they’ll stop for hours. Indeed, I’ve
had my business quite interfered with by the mob, for they don’t go
away after having their look. I seldom stop out after 12 o’clock at

“Sometimes when I have been exhibiting, the parties have said it was
all nonsense and a deception, for the stars was painted on the glass.
If the party has been anything agreeable, I’ve taken the trouble to
persuade him. I’ve, for instance, placed the star on the very edge of
the glass, and then they’ve seen it travel right across the field; and
as I’ve told them, if it was painted it couldn’t move and disappear
from the lens.

“Most of the spectators go away quite surprised and impressed with what
they have seen. Some will thank me a dozen times over. Some will say,
‘Well, my penny is well laid out. I shouldn’t have credited it with my
own eyes.’ Others, but there are very few of them, won’t believe when
they have looked. Some, when I can see the moon on their eye as they
look in, swear they don’t see it. Those I let go on and don’t take
their money, for the penny is no object. When I tell the people what
the wonders of the heavens are, and how each of these planets is a
world, they go away wonderfully grateful and impressed.

“I went down to Portsmouth with my telescope at the time the fleet
sailed under Sir Charles Napier, and the Queen led them out in her
yacht. I took a great deal of money there. I didn’t exhibit in the
day-time: I didn’t trouble myself. I took two guineas showing the yacht
the day she sailed, and at night with the moon. The other nights, with
the moon and planets only, I took from 12_s._ to 14_s._ I refused
15_s._ for one hour, for this reason. A lady sent her servant to ask me
to go to her house, and my price is one guinea for to go out, whether
for an hour, or two, or three; but she first offered me 10_s._, and
then the next night 15_s._ Then I found I should have to carry my
instrument, weighing one cwt., two miles into the country, and up hill
all the way; so, as I was sure of taking more than 10_s._ where I
was, I wouldn’t for an extra shilling give myself the labour. I took
12_s._ 6_d._ as it was. At Portsmouth a couple of sailors came up, and
one had a look, and the other said ‘What is there to see?’ I told him
the moon, and he asked the price. When I said ‘One penny,’ he says,
‘I aint got a penny, but here’s three halfpence, if that’s the same
to you;’ and he gives it, and when I expected he was about to peep,
he turns round and says, ‘I’ll be smothered if I’m going to look down
that gallows long chimney! You’ve got your money, and that’s all your
business.’ So you see there are some people who are quite indifferent
to scientific exhibitions.

“There are, to the best of my knowledge, about four men besides myself,
going about with telescopes. I don’t know of any more. Of these there’s
only one of any account. I’ve seen through them all, so I may safely
say it. I consider mine the best in London exhibiting. Mine is a very
expensive instrument. Everything depends upon the object-glass. There’s
glasses on some which have been thrown aside as valueless, and may have
been bought for two or three pounds.

“The capital required to start a telescope in the streets all depends
upon the quantity of the object-glass, from 3_l._ to 50_l._ for the
object-glass alone.

“Nobody, who is not acquainted with telescopes, knows the value of
object-glasses. I’ve known this offer to be made--that the object-glass
should be placed in one scale and gold in the other to weigh it down,
and then they wouldn’t. The rough glass from Birmingham--before it
is worked--only 12 inches in diameter, will cost 96_l._ Chance, at
Birmingham, is the principal maker of the crown and flint for optical
purposes. The Swiss used formerly to be the only makers of optical
metal of any account, and now Birmingham has knocked them out of the
field: indeed they have got the Swiss working for them at Chance’s.

“You may take a couple of plates of the rough glass to persons ignorant
of their value, and they are only twelve inches in diameter, and he
would think one shilling dear for them, for they only look like the
bits you see in the streets to let light through the pavement. These
glasses are half flint and half crown, the flint for the concave, and
the crown for the convex side. Their beauty consists in their being
pure metal and quite transparent, and not stringy. Under the high
magnifying power we use you see this directly, and it makes the object
smudgy and distorts the vision.

“After getting the rough metal it takes years to finish the
object-glass. They polish it with satin and putty. The convex has to be
done so correctly, that if the lens is the 100th part of an inch out
its value is destroyed.

“The well-known object-glass which was shown in the Great Exhibition of
1851, was in Mr. Ross’s hands (of Featherstone-buildings, Holborn,) for
four years before it was finished. It was very good, and done him great
credit. He is supposed to have lost by the job, for the price is all
eat up by wages pretty near.

“The observatory on Wandsworth-common is a complete failure, owing
to the object-glass being a bad one. It belongs to the Rev. Mr.
Cragg. The tube is 72 feet long, I believe, and shaped like a cigar,
bulging at the sides. He wanted to have a new object-glass put in, and
what do you think they asked him at Birmingham for the rough metal
alone?--2000_l._! It is 24 inches in diameter. Mr. Ross asks 6000_l._,
I was told, to make a new one--finished for him.

“The making of object-glasses is dreadful and tedious labour. Men
have been known to go and throw their heads under waggon wheels, and
have them smashed, from being regularly worn out with working an
object-glass, and not being able to get the convex right. I was told by
a party that one object-glass was in hand for 14 years.

“The night of the eclipse of the moon, (the 13th October, 1856,) when
it was so well seen in London, I took 1_l._ 1_d._ at 1_d._ each. I
might as well have took 2_l._ by charging 2_d._, but being so well
known then I didn’t make no extra charge. They were forty deep, for
everybody wished to see. I had to put two lads under the stand to
prevent their being trod to death. They had to stay there for two hours
before they could get a peep, and so indeed had many others to do the
same. A friend of mine didn’t look at all, for I couldn’t get him near.
They kept calling to the one looking through the tube, ‘Now, then, make
haste, you there.’ They nearly fought for their turns. They got pushing
and fighting, one crying, ‘I was first,’ and, ‘Now it’s my turn.’ I
was glad when it was over, I can assure you. The buttons to my braces
were dragged off my back by the pressure behind, and I had to hold up
my breeches with my hand. The eclipse lasted from 21 minutes past 9 to
25 minutes past 12, and in that time 247 persons had a peep. The police
were there to keep order, but they didn’t interfere with me. They are
generally very good to me, and they seem to think that my exhibition
improves the minds of the public, and so protect me.

“When I went to Portsmouth, I applied to Mr. Myers the goldsmith,
a very opulent and rich man there, and chairman of the Esplanade
Committee at Southsea, and he instantly gave me permission to place
my stand there. Likewise the mayor and magistrates of Portsmouth, to
exhibit in the streets.”


“I exhibit with a microscope that I wouldn’t take fifty guineas for,
because it suits my purpose, and it is of the finest quality. I earn
my living with it. If I were to sell it, it wouldn’t fetch more than
15_l._ It was presented to me by my dear sister, who went to America
and died there. I’ll show you that it is a valuable instrument. I’ll
tell you that one of the best lens-makers in the trade looked through
it, and so he said, ‘I think I can improve it for you;’ and he made me
a present of a lens, of extreme high power, and the largest aperture
of magnifying power that has ever been exhibited. I didn’t know him at
the time. He did it by kindness. He said, after looking through, ‘It’s
very good for what it professes, but I’ll make you a present of a lens
made out of the best Swiss metal.’ And he did so from the interest he
felt in seeing such kinds of exhibitions in the streets. With the glass
he gave me I can see cheese-mites as distinctly as possible, with their
eight legs and transparent bodies, and heads shaped like a hedgehog’s.
I see their jaw moving as they eat their food, and can see them lay
their eggs, which are as perfect as any fowl’s, but of a bright blue
colour; and I can also see them perform the duties of nature. I can
also see them carry their young on their backs, showing that they have
affection for their offspring. They lay their eggs through their ribs,
and you can tell when they are going to lay for there is a bulging
out just by the hips. They don’t sit on their eggs, but they roll
them about in action till they bring forth their object. A million of
these mites can walk across a flea’s back, for by Lardner’s micrometer
the surface of a flea’s back measures 24 inches from the proboscis to
the posterior. The micrometer is an instrument used for determining
microscopic power, and it is all graduated to a scale. By Lardner’s
micrometer the mite looks about the size of a large black-beetle, and
then it is magnified 100,000 times. This will give you some idea of the
power and value of my instrument. Three hundred gentlemen have viewed
through it in one week, and each one delighted; so much so, that many
have given double the money I have asked (which was a penny), such was
the satisfaction my instrument gave.

“My father was a minister and local preacher in the Wesleyan
Methodists. He died, poor fellow, at 27 years of age, therefore I never
had an opportunity of knowing him. He was a boot and shoe maker. Such
was the talent which he possessed, that, had it not been for his being
lamed of one foot (from a fall off a horse), he would have been made a
travelling minister. He was a wonderful clever man, and begun preaching
when he was 21. He was the minister who preached on the occasion of
laying the foundation-stone of Hoxton Chapel, and he drew thousands of
people. I was only two years old when he died, and my mother was left
with five of us to bring up. She was a visitor of the sick and the
dying for the Strangers’ Benevolent Fund, and much respected for her
labours. After my father’s death she was enabled to support her family
of one son and four daughters by shoe-binding. She was married twice
after my father’s death, but she married persons of quite opposite
principles and opinions to her own, and she was not comfortable with
them, but left them, and always found shelter under her son’s roof,
where she died triumphantly happy.

“I was apprenticed when I was 13 years of age to a shoemaker, who was
a profound philosopher, and very fond of making experiments and of
lecturing on various branches of science. I could produce bills--I
have them at home--such as that at the Friar’s-mount Sunday-school,
some six or seven years ago, where it states that William Knock,
minister and lecturer, will lecture on zoology and natural history.
He’s about 70 now. Electricity is his favourite science. Whilst I was
his apprentice, he had an observatory built at the top of his house in
Underwood-street, Spitalfields, for the purpose of taking astronomical
observations. My being in his house, and seeing him so busy with his
instruments, gave me a great taste for science. I was his assistant
when he went lecturing. I was apprenticed with him for five years. He
was a kind and good master, and very affectionate. He encouraged me in
my scientific studies, and gave me access to his library, which was
immense, and consisted of 3000 volumes. Amongst other employment I
used to copy out sermons for him, and he gave me a penny each, which
by saving up enabled me to buy a watch of him for 5_l._ 5_s._ He was a
shoemaker and manufacturer of ladies and children’s boots and shoes, so
that he might have made from his 2_l._ to 3_l._ a-week, for he was not
a journeyman, but an employer.

“After I was out of my time I went to Mr. Children, a bootmaker of
Bethnal-green-road, well known in that locality. My master had not
sufficient employment for me. One night this Mr. Children went to hear
a lecture on astronomy by Dr. Bird, and when he came home he was so
delighted with what he had seen, that he began telling his wife all
about it. He said, ‘I cannot better explain to you the solar system,
than with a mop,’ and he took the mop and dipped it into a pail of
water, and began to twirl it round in the air, till the wet flew
off it. Then he said, ‘This mop is the sun, and the spiral motion
of the water gives the revolutions of the planets in their orbits.’
Then, after a time, he cried out, ‘If this Dr. Bird can do this, why
shouldn’t I?’ He threw over his business directly, to carry out the
grand object of his mind. He was making from 3_l._ to 4_l._ a-week, and
his wife said, ‘Robert, you’re mad!’ He asked me if I knew anything
of astronomy, and I said, ‘Sir, my old master was an astronomer and
philosopher.’ Then I got books for him, and I taught him all I knew of
the science of astronomy. Then he got a magic-lantern with astronomical
slides. The bull’s-eye was six inches in diameter, so they were very
large, so that they gave a figure of twelve feet. For the signs of the
zodiac he had twelve separate small lanterns, with the large one in the
centre to show the diverging rays of the sun’s light. He began with
many difficulties in his way, for he was a very illiterate man, and had
a vast deal to contend with, but he succeeded through all. He wrote to
his father and got 500_l._, which was his share of the property which
would have been left him on his parent’s death. At his first lecture he
made many mistakes, such as, ‘Now, gentlemen, I shall present to your
notice the _consternations_,’ at which expression the company cried,
‘Hear, hear,’ and one said, ‘We are all in a consternation here, for
your lamp wants oil.’ Yet he faced all this out. I was his assistant. I
taught him everything. When I told him of his mistake he’d say, ‘Never
mind, I’ll overcome all that.’ He accumulated the vast sum of 6000_l._
by lecturing, and became a most popular man. He educated himself, and
became qualified. When he went into the country, he had Archbishops
and Bishops, and the highest of the clergy, to give their sanction and
become patrons of his lectures. He’s now in America, and become a great

“After I left Mr. Children, I connected myself with a Young Men’s
Improvement Meeting. Previous to that, I had founded a Sunday-school
in the New Kent-road. Deverell-street Sabbath-schools were founded by
me, and I was for fourteen years manager of it, as well as performer
of the funeral service in that place; for there was a chapel, and
burying-ground and vaults, attached to the schools, and I became the
officiating minister for the funeral service. Three thousand children
have been educated at these schools, and for fourteen years I lectured
to them every Sunday on religious subjects. With the tutors and the
eldest scholars I formed a Young Men’s Improvement Meeting. I became
the president of that meeting, and their lecturer. I lectured on the
following subjects,--Natural History, Electricity, Astronomy, and

“At this time I was a master-shoemaker, and doing a business of fifty
guineas a-week, of which ten were profit. I built large workshops at
the back of my house, which cost me 300_l._ Unfortunately, I lent my
name to a friend for a very large amount, and became involved in his
difficulties, and then necessity compelled me to have recourse to
street-exhibitions for a living. When I was in affluent circumstances
I had a library of 300 volumes, on scientific subjects mostly, and
from them I have gleaned sufficient information to qualify me for
street-exhibition, and thereby enable me to earn more money than most
individuals in such circumstances.

“I began my street-life with exhibiting a telescope, and here is
the origin of my doing so. I had a sister living at the west-end of
the town who was a professed cook, and I used to visit her three
times a-week. One night I saw a man in the Regent-circus exhibiting
a telescope. I went up to him, and I said, ‘Sir, what is the object
to-night?’ And he told me it was Jupiter. I was very much interested
with looking at Jupiter, and I stopped with that man for two hours,
conversing with him, and I saw exactly how much he took. Then I
thought, ‘Why shouldn’t I do this?’ So I wrote to my brother-in-law,
and I told him this man was taking at the rate of 1_d._ per minute, and
I offered, if he would provide me with a telescope, that I should be
very happy and contented to take half of the receipts as my share, and
give him the other for the use of his instrument. He did so, and bought
a telescope which cost him 14_l._ I took up my stand on London-bridge,
and did very well, taking on the average 6_s._ a-night. I gave up the
telescope for this reason,--my brother-in-law was going to America,
and was anxious to call in all his money. The telescope was sold, and
my sister, the professed cook, fearing that I should be left without a
means of living, bought for me a microscope out of her own earnings,
which cost her 5_l._ She said to me, ‘The microscope is better than the
telescope, for the nights are so uncertain.’ She was quite right, for
when the telescopes have been idle for three months at a time, I can
exhibit my microscope day and night. She gave it to me as a mark of her
respect. She died in America, just after she arrived. That instrument
has enabled me to support an afflicted and aged mother, and to bury her
comfortably when she died.

“My microscope contains six objects, which are placed on a wheel at the
back, which I turn round in succession. The objects are in cell-boxes
of glass. The objects are all of them familiar to the public, and
are as follows:--1. The flea. 2. The human hair, or the hair of the
head. 3. A section of the old oak tree. 4. The animalculæ in water.
5. Cheese-mites. And 6. The transverse section of cane used by
schoolmasters for the correction of boys.

“I always take up my stand in the day-time in Whitechapel, facing the
London Hospital, being a large open space, and favourable for the solar
rays--for I light up the instrument by the direct rays of the sun. At
night-time I am mostly to be found on Westminster-bridge, and then I
light up with the best sperm oil there is. I am never interfered with
by the police; on the contrary, they come and have a look, and admire
and recommend, such is the interest excited.

“The first I exhibit is the flea, and I commence a short lecture as
follows:--‘Gentlemen,’ I says, ‘the first object I have to present
to your notice is that of a flea. I wish to direct your attention
especially to the head of this object. Here you may distinctly perceive
its proboscis or dart. It is that which perforates the cuticle or human
skin, after which the blood ascends by suction from our body into that
of the flea. Thousands of persons in London have seen a flea, have felt
a flea, but have never yet been able by the human eye to discover that
instrument which made them sensible of the flea about their person,
although they could not catch the old gentleman. This flea, gentlemen,
by Dr. Lardner’s micrometer, measures accurate 24 inches in length, and
11 across the back. My instrument, mark you, being of high magnifying
power, will not show you the whole of the object at once. Mark you,
gentlemen, this is not the flea of the dog or the cat, but the human
flea, for each differ in their formation, as clearly proved by this
powerful instrument. For they all differ in their form and shape, and
will only feed upon the animal on which they are bred. Having shown you
the head and shoulders, with its dart, I shall now proceed to show you
the posterior view of this object, in which you may clearly discover
every artery, vein, muscle and nerve, exact like a lobster in shape,
and quite as large as one at 2_s._ 6_d._’ That pleases them, you know;
and sometimes I add, to amuse them, ‘An object of that size would make
an excellent supper for half-a-dozen persons.’ That pleases them.

“One Irishwoman, after seeing the flea, threw up her arms and screamed
out, ‘O J----! and I’ve had hundreds of them in my bed at once.’ She
got me a great many customers from her exclamations. You see, my
lecture entices those listening to have a look. Many listeners say,
‘Ain’t that true, and philosophical, and correct?’ I’ve had many give
me 6_d._ and say, ‘Never mind the change, your lecture is alone worth
the money.’

“I’ll now proceed to No. 2. ‘The next object I have to present to your
notice, gentlemen, is that of the hair of the human head. You perceive
that it is nearly as large as yonder scaffolding poles of the House of
Lords.’ I say this when I am on Westminster-bridge, because it refers
to the locality, and is a striking figure, and excites the listeners.
‘But mark you, it is not, like them, solid matter, through which no
ray of light can pass.’ That’s where I please the gentlemen, you know,
for they say, ‘How philosophical!’ ‘You can readily perceive, mark
you, that they are all tubes, like tubes of glass; a proof of which
fact you have before you, from the light of the lamp shining direct
through the body of the object, and that light direct portrayed in the
lens of your eye, called the retina, on which all external objects are
painted.’ ‘Beautiful!’ says a gentleman. ‘Now, if the hair of the head
be a hollow tube, as you perceive it is, then what caution you ought
to exercise when you place your head in the hands of the hairdresser,
by keeping your hat on, or else you may be susceptible to catch cold;
for that which we breathe, the atmosphere, passing down these tubes,
suddenly shuts to the doors, if I may be allowed such an expression,
or, in other words, closes the pores of the skin and thereby checks the
insensible perspiration, and colds are the result. Powdering the head
is quite out of date now, but if a little was used on those occasions
referred to, cold in the head would not be so frequent.’ What do you
think of that? I never had an individual complain of my lecture yet.

“Now comes No. 3. ‘This, gentlemen, is the brave old oak, a section
of it not larger than the head of a pin. Looking at it through
this powerful instrument, you may accurately perceive millions of
perforations, or pores, through which the moisture of the earth rises,
in order to aid its growth. Of all the trees of the forest, none is so
splendid as the brave old oak. This is the tree that braves the battle
and the breeze, and is said to be in its perfection at 100 years.
Who that looks at it would not exclaim, in the language of the song,
‘Woodman, spare that tree, and cut it not down?’ Such is the analogy
existing between vegetable and animal physiology, that a small portion
of the cuticle or human skin would present the same appearance, for
there are millions of pores in the human skin which a grain of sand
is said to cover; and here are millions of perforations through which
the moisture of the earth is said to rise to aid the growth of the
tree. See the similitude between the vegetable and animal physiology.
Here is the exhibition of nature--see how it surpasses that of art.
See the ladies at the Great Exhibition admiring the shawls that came
from India: yet they, though truly deserving, could not compare with
this bit of bark from the brave old oak. Here is a pattern richer and
more deserving than any on any shawl, however wonderful. Where is the
linendraper in this locality that can produce anything so beautiful as
that on this bit of bark? Such are the works of art as compared with
those of nature.’

“No. 4 is the animalculæ in water. ‘Gentlemen, the object now before
you is a drop of water, that may be suspended on a needle’s point,
teeming with millions of living objects. This one drop of water
contains more inhabitants than the globe on which I stand. See the
velocity of their motion, the action of their stomachs! the vertebræ is
elegantly marked, like the boa-constrictor in the Zoological Gardens.
They are all moving with perfect ease in this one drop, like the mighty
monsters of the vast deep.’

“One on occasion a gentleman from St. Thomas’s Hospital disputed my
statement about it’s being only one drop of water, so I said to the
gent: ‘If you will accompany me to some coffee-house the drop of water
shall be removed, and perhaps what you see you may believe,’ which he
did, and he paid me 1_s._ for my experiment. He told me was a doctor,
and I told him I was surprised that he was not better acquainted
with the instrument; for, said I, ‘how can you tell the effects of
inoculation on the cuticle, or the disease called the itch, unless
you are acquainted with such an instrument?’ He was quite ashamed as
he paid me for my trouble. I tell this anecdote on the bridge, and I
always conclude with, ‘Now, gentlemen, whilst I was paid 1_s._ by the
faculty for showing one object alone, I am only charging you 1_d._ for
the whole six.’ Then I address myself to the person looking into the
microscope, and say, ‘What do you think of this one drop of water,
sir?’ and he says, ‘Splendid!’ Then I add, ‘Few persons would pass and
re-pass this instrument without having a glance into it, if they knew
the wonders I exhibit;’ and the one looking says, ‘That’s true, very

“The next object is the cheese-mite--No. 5. I always begin in this
way,--‘Those who are unacquainted with the study of entomology declare
that these mites are beetles, and not mites; but could I procure a
beetle with eight legs, I should present it to the British Museum as a
curiosity.’ This is the way I clench up the mouths of those sceptics
who would try to ridicule me, by showing that I am philosophic. ‘Just
look at them. Notice, for instance, their head, how it represents
the form of an hedgehog. The body presents that of the beetle shape.
They have eight legs and eight joints. They have four legs forward
and four legs back; and they can move with the same velocity forwards
as they can back, such is their construction. They are said to be
moving with the velocity of five hundred steps in one minute. Read
Blair’s ‘Preceptor,’ where you may see a drawing of the mite accurately
given, as well as read the description just given.’ A cheesemonger in
Whitechapel brought me a few of these objects for me to place in my
microscope. He invited his friends, which were taking supper with him,
to come out and have a glance at the same objects. He gave me sixpence
for exhibiting them to him, and was highly gratified at the sight of
them. I asked him how he could have the impudence to sell them for a
lady’s supper at 10_d._ a-pound. The answer he gave me was,--‘What the
eye cannot see the heart never grieves.’ Then I go on,--‘Whilst this
lady is extending her hand to the poor, and doing all the relief in her
power, she is slaying more living creatures with her jaw-bone than ever
Samson did with his.’ If it’s a boy looking through, I say, ‘Now, Jack,
when you are eating bread and cheese don’t let it be said that you slay
the mites with the jaw-bone of an ass. Cultivate the intellectual and
moral powers superior to the passions, and then you will rise superior
to that animal in intellect.’ ‘Good,’ says a gentleman, ‘good; here’s
sixpence for you;’ and another says, ‘Here’s twopence for you, and I’m
blessed if I want to see anything after hearing your lecture.’ Then I
continue to point out the affection of the mite for its young. ‘You see
fathers looking after their daughters, and mothers after their sons,
when they are taking their walks; and such is their love for their
young, that when the young ones are fatigued with their journey the
parents take them up on their backs. Do you not see it?’ And then some
will say, ‘I’ll give a penny to see that;’ and I’ve had four pennies
put in my hand at once to see it. Excitement is everything in this
world, sir.

“Next comes the cane--No. 6. ‘The object before you, gentlemen, is
a transverse section of cane,--common cane,--such, mark you, as is
used by schoolmasters for the correction of boys who neglect their
tasks, or play the wag.’ I make it comic, you know. ‘This I call the
tree of knowledge, for it has done more for to learn us the rules
of arithmetic than all the vegetable kingdom combined. To it we may
attribute the rule of three, from its influence on the mind,’--that
always causes a smile,--‘just look at it for one moment. Notice, in
the first place, its perforations. Where the human hand has failed to
construct a micrometer for microscopic or telescopic purposes, the
spider has lent its web in one case, and the cane in the other. Through
the instrumentality of its perforations, we may accurately infer the
magnifying power of other objects, showing the law of analogy. The
perforations of this cane, apart from this instrument, would hardly
admit a needle’s point, but seem now large enough for your arm to
enter. This cane somewhat represents a telescopic view of the moon at
the full, when in conjunction with the sun, for instance. Here I could
represent inverted rocks and mountains. You may perceive them yourself,
just as they would be represented in the moon’s disc through a powerful
telescope of 250 times, such as I have exhibited to a thousand persons
in St. Paul’s Churchyard. On the right of this piece of cane, if you
are acquainted with the science of astronomy, you may depicture very
accurately Mount Tycho, for instance, representing a beautiful burning
mountain, like Mount Vesuvius or Etany, near the fields of Naples.
You might discover accurately all the diverging streaks of light
emanating from the crater. Further on to the right you may perceive
Mount St. Catherine, like the blaze of a candle rushing through the
atmosphere. On the left you may discover Mount Ptolemy. Such is a
similar appearance of the moon’s mountainous aspect. I ask you, if the
school-boy had but an opportunity of glancing at so splendid an object
as the cane, should he ever be seen to shed a tear at its weight?’

“This shows that I am scientific, and know astronomy. The last part
makes them laugh.

“This is the mode in which I exhibit my instrument, and such is the
interest been excited in the public mind, that though a penny is the
small charge which I make, that amount has been doubled and trebled
by gentlemen who have viewed the instrument; and on one occasion a
clergyman in the Commercial-road presented me with half-a-sovereign,
for the interest he felt at my description, as well as the objects
presented to his view. It has given universal satisfaction.

“I don’t go out every night with my instrument. I always go on the
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, for those are the nights when
I take most money, especially on the Monday and Saturday. The Monday
and Saturday are generally 6_s._, Tuesdays about 5_s._, and Wednesdays
about 2_s._ 6_d._ Then the Thursday averages 1_s._ 8_d._, and the
Fridays, in some localities, where the men are paid on that night, are
equal to Saturday. Such are the benefits arising from night exhibition.
In the day it comes to rather more. I’ve been to Greenwich, and on the
One-tree Hill I’ve done more with the sun light than the night light.
Taking the changes of weather, such as rain and cold bleak nights, and
such weather as isn’t suitable to such an exhibition, I may say safely
that my income amounts to 80_l._ a-year. The capital required for such
a business amounts to from 10_l._ to 20_l._ My instrument only cost
5_l._; but it was parted with to raise money;--and I wouldn’t take
50_l._ for it. It was my sister’s son-in-law who sold it. It was a
gift more than a sale. You can buy a very good microscope for 10_l._,
but a great deal, of course, is required in choosing it; for you may
buy a thing not worth 20_s._ You’d have an achromatic microscope for
20_l._ It costs me about 4_d._ a-week for oil, the best sperm, at
1_s._ 4_d._ the pint; and a quarter of a pint will last me the week.
I get my specimens in London. I prepare them all myself, and always
keep a stock by me. For the sake of any gentleman who may have any
microscope, and wish to procure excellent living specimens of mites and
animalculæ in water, may do so in this way. (This is a secret which
I give from a desire which I feel to afford pleasure to gentlemen of
a scientific mind.) Get mites from a cheesemonger. Mites differ in
their shape and form, according to the cheese they are taken from. The
Stilton-cheese differs from the Dutch-cheese mite, and so does that of
the aristocratic Cheshire, as I call it. In order to rise them clear
and transparent, take a wooden box, of 2-1/2 inches deep and 2-1/2
inches in diameter, with a thick screw-lid, and let the lid take off
half-way down. Place the dust in the bottom of the box, damp the thread
of the screw-lid, to make it air-tight. The mites will ascend to the
lid of the box. Four or five hours afterwards unscrew the lid gently,
and, removing it, let it fall gently on a piece of writing paper. The
mites crawl up to the lid, and by this way you get them free from dust
and clean. To make the animalculæ water, I draw from the bottom of the
water-tub a small quantity of water, and I put about a handful of new
hay in that water. I expose it to the influence of the solar light, or
some gentle heat, for three or four hours. Skim off its surface. After
washing your hands, take your finger and let one drop of the hay-water
fall on the glass, and then add to it another drop of pure water to
make it more transparent. This information took me some years of
experience to discover. I never read it or learnt it from any one, but
found it out myself; but all liberal scientific men like to share their

“It’s impossible for me to say how many people have looked through
my instrument, but they must be counted by tens of thousands. I have
had 160 looking through in one night, or 13_s._ 4_d._ worth. This
was on a peculiar occasion. They average about 6_s._ worth. If I
could get out every night I should do well. As it is, I am obliged to
work at my trade of shoemaking to keep myself: for you must take it
into consideration, that there are some nights when I cannot show my
exhibition. Very often I have a shilling or sixpence given to me as a
present by my admirers. Many a half-crown I’ve had as well.

“One night I was showing over at the Elephant and Castle, and I saw
a Quaker gentleman coming along, and he said to me, ‘What art thee
showing to night, friend?’ So I told him; and he says, ‘And what doth
thee charge, friend?’ I answered, ‘To the working man, sir, I am
determined to charge no more than a penny; but to a gentleman, I always
leave it to their liberality.’ So he said, ‘Well, I like that, friend;
I’ll give thee all I have.’ And he put his hand into his pocket, and he
pulled out five penny pieces. You see that is what I always do; and it
meets with its reward.”


Concerning these, I received the subjoined narrative from a man of
considerable experience in the “profession:”--

“Being a cripple, I am obliged to exhibit a small peep-show. I lost
the use of this arm ever since I was three months old. My mother died
when I was ten years old, and after that my father took up with an
Irishwoman, and turned me and my youngest sister (she was two years
younger than me) out into the streets. My father had originally been a
dyer, but was working at the fiddle-string business then. My youngest
sister got employment at my father’s trade, but I couldn’t get no
work, because of my crippled arms. I walked about till I fell down in
the streets for want. At last a man, who had a sweetmeat-shop, took
pity on me. His wife made the sweetmeats, and minded the shop while he
went out a-juggling in the streets, in the Ramo Samee line. He told
me as how, if I would go round the country with him, and sell prints
while he was a-juggling in the public-houses, he’d find me in wittles
and pay my lodging. I joined him, and stopped with him two or three
year. After that, I went to work for a werry large waste-paper dealer.
He used to buy up all the old back numbers of the cheap periodicals
and penny publications, and send me out with them to sell at a farden
a-piece. He used to give me fourpence out of every shilling, and I done
very well with that, till the periodicals came so low, and so many
on ’em, that they wouldn’t sell at all. Sometimes I could make 15_s._
on a Saturday night and a Sunday morning, a-selling the odd numbers
of periodicals, such as ‘Tales of the Wars,’ ‘Lives of the Pirates,’
‘Lives of the Highwaymen,’ &c. I’ve often sold as many as 2000 numbers
on a Saturday night in the New Cut, and the most of them was works
about thieves, and highwaymen, and pirates. Besides me there was three
others at the same business. Altogether, I dare say, my master alone
used to get rid of 10,000 copies of such works on a Saturday night and
Sunday morning. Our principal customers was young men. My master made
a good bit of money at it. He had been about 18 years in the business,
and had begun with 2_s._ 6_d._ I was with him 15 year on and off, and
at the best time I used to earn my 30_s._ a-week full at that time. But
then I was foolish, and didn’t take care of my money. When I was at
the ‘odd-number business,’ I bought a peep-show. I gave 2_l._ 10_s._
for it. I had it second-hand. I was persuaded to buy it. A person as
has got only one hand, you see, isn’t like other folks, and the people
said it would always bring me a meal of victuals, and keep me from
starving. The peep-shows was a-doing very well then (that’s about five
or six years back), when the theaytres was all a shilling to go into
them whole price, but now there’s many at 3_d._ and 2_d._, and a good
lot at a penny. Before the theaytres lowered, a peep-showman could make
3_s._ or 4_s._ a-day, at the least, in fine weather, and on a Saturday
night about double that money. At a fair he could take his 15_s._ to
1_l._ a-day. Then there was about nine or ten peep-shows in London.
These were all back-shows. There are two kinds of peep-shows, which
we call ‘back-shows’ and ‘caravan-shows.’ The caravan-shows are much
larger than the others, and are drawn by a horse or a donkey. They
have a green-baize curtain at the back, which shuts out them as don’t
pay. The showmen usually lives in these caravans with their families.
Often there will be a man, his wife, and three or four children, living
in one of these shows. These caravans mostly go into the country, and
very seldom are seen in town. They exhibit principally at fairs and
feasts, or wakes, in country villages. They generally go out of London
between March and April, because some fairs begin at that time, but
many wait for the fairs at May. Then they work their way right round,
from village to town. They tell one another what part they’re a-going
to, and they never interfere with one another’s rounds. If a new hand
comes into the business, they’re werry civil, and tells him what places
to work. The carawans comes to London about October, after the fairs is
over. The scenes of them carawan shows is mostly upon recent battles
and murders. Anything in that way, of late occurrence, suits them.
Theatrical plays ain’t no good for country towns, ’cause they don’t
understand such things there. People is werry fond of the battles in
the country, but a murder wot is well known is worth more than all the
fights. There was more took with Rush’s murder than there has been even
by the Battle of Waterloo itself. Some of the carawan-shows does werry
well. Their average taking is 30_s._ a-week for the summer months.
At some fairs they’ll take 5_l._ in the three days. They have been
about town as long as we can recollect. I should say there is full 50
of these carawan-shows throughout the country. Some never comes into
London at all. There is about a dozen that comes to London regular
every winter. The business in general goes from family to family. The
cost of a carawan-show, second-hand, is 40_l._; that’s without the
glasses, and them runs from 10_s._ to 1_l._ a-piece, because they’re
large. Why, I’ve knowed the front of a peep-show, with the glasses,
cost 60_l._; the front was mahogany, and had 36 glasses, with gilt
carved mouldings round each on ’em. The scenes will cost about 6_l._
if done by the best artist, and 3_l._ if done by a common hand. The
back-shows are peep-shows that stand upon trussels, and are so small
as to admit of being carried on the back. The scenery is about 18
inches to 2 foot in length, and about 15 inches high. They have been
introduced about fifteen or sixteen years. The man as first brought ’em
up was named Billy T----; he was lame of one leg, and used to exhibit
little automaton figures in the New Cut. On their first coming out, the
oldest back-showman as I know on told me they could take 15_s._ a-day.
But now we can’t do more than 7_s._ a-week, run Saturday and all the
other days together,--and that’s through the theayters being so low.
It’s a regular starving life now. We has to put up with the hinsults of
people so. The back-shows generally exhibits plays of different kinds
wot’s been performed at the theayters lately. I’ve got many different
plays to my show. I only exhibit one at a time. There’s ‘Halonzer the
Brave and the Fair Himogen;’ ‘The Dog of Montargis and the Forest of
Bondy;’ ‘Hyder Halley, or the Lions of Mysore;’ ‘The Forty Thieves’
(that never done no good to me); ‘The Devil and Dr. Faustus;’ and
at Christmas time we exhibit pantomimes. I has some other scenes as
well. I’ve ‘Napoleon’s Return from Helba,’ ‘Napoleon at Waterloo,’
‘The Death of Lord Nelson,’ and also ‘The Queen embarking to start for
Scotland, from the Dockyard at Voolich.’ We takes more from children
than grown people in London, and more from grown people than children
in the country. You see, grown people has such remarks made upon them
when they’re a-peeping through in London, as to make it bad for us
here. Lately I have been hardly able to get a living, you may say.
Some days I’ve taken 6_d._, others 8_d._, and sometimes 1_s._--that’s
what I call a good day for any of the week-days. On a Saturday it
runs from 2_s._ to 2_s._ 6_d._ Of the week-days, Monday or Tuesday
is the best. If there’s a fair on near London, such as Greenwich,
we can go and take 3_s._, and 4_s._, or 5_s._ a-day, so long as it
lasts. But after that, we comes back to the old business, and that’s
bad enough; for, after you’ve paid 1_s._ 6_d._ a-week rent, and 6_d._
a-week stand for your peep-show, and come to buy a bit of coal, why
all one can get is a bit of bread and a cup of tea to live upon. As
for meat, we don’t see it from one month’s end to the other. My old
woman, when she is at work, only gets five fardens a-pair for making
a pair of drawers to send out for the convicts, and three half-pence
for a shirt; and out of that she has to find her own thread. There are
from six to eight scenes in each of the plays that I shows; and if the
scenes are a bit short, why I puts in a couple of battle-scenes; or I
makes up a pannerammer for ’em. The children _will_ have so much for
their money now. I charge a halfpenny for a hactive performance. There
is characters and all--and I explains what they are supposed to be
a-talking about. There’s about six back-shows in London. I don’t think
there’s more. It don’t pay now to get up a new play. We works the old
ones over and over again, and sometimes we buys a fresh one of another
showman, if we can rise the money--the price is 2_s._ and 2_s._ 6_d._
I’ve been obligated to get rid on about twelve of my plays, to get a
bit of victuals at home. Formerly we used to give a hartist 1_s._ to
go in the pit and sketch off the scenes and figures of any new play
that was a-doing well, and we thought ’ud take, and arter that we used
to give him from 1_s._ 6_d._ to 2_s._ for drawing and painting each
scene, and 1_d._ and 1-1/2_d._ each for the figures, according to the
size. Each play costs us from 15_s._ to 1_l._ for the inside scenes
and figures, and the outside painting as well. The outside painting in
general consists of the most attractive part of the performance. The
New-Cut is no good at all now on a Saturday night; that’s through the
cheap penny hexhibitions there. Tottenham-court-road ain’t much account
either. The street-markets is the best of a Saturday night. I’m often
obliged to take bottles instead of money, and they don’t fetch more
than threepence a dozen. Sometimes I take four dozen of bottles in a
day. I lets ’em see a play for a bottle, and often two wants to see
for one large bottle. The children is dreadful for cheapening things
down. In the summer I goes out of London for a month at a stretch.
In the country I works my battle-pieces. They’re most pleased there
with my Lord Nelson’s death at the battle of Trafalgar. ‘That there
is,’ I tell ’em, ‘a fine painting, representing Lord Nelson at the
battle of Trafalgar.’ In the centre is Lord Nelson in his last dying
moments, supported by Capt. Hardy and the chaplain. On the left is
the hexplosion of one of the enemy’s ships by fire. That represents a
fine painting, representing the death of Lord Nelson at the battle of
Trafalgar, wot was fought on the 12th of October, 1805. I’ve got five
glasses, they cost about 5_s._ a-piece when new, and is about 3-1/2
inches across, with a 3-foot focus.”


A man who, as he said, “had all his life been engaged in the profession
of Acrobat,” volunteered to give me some details of the life led and
the earnings made by this class of street-performers.

He at the present moment belongs to a “school” of five, who are dressed
up in fanciful and tight-fitting costumes of white calico, with blue
or red trimmings; and who are often seen in the quiet by-streets
going through their gymnastic performances, mounted on each other’s
shoulders, or throwing somersaults in the air.

He was a short, wiry-built man, with a broad chest, which somehow or
another seemed unnatural, for the bones appeared to have been forced
forward and dislocated. His general build did not betoken the great
muscular strength which must be necessary for the various feats which
he has to perform; and his walk was rather slovenly and loutish than
brisk and springy, as one would have expected. He wore the same brown
Chesterfield coat which we have all seen him slip over his professional
dress in the street, when moving off after an exhibition.

His yellow hair reached nearly to his shoulders, and not being confined
by the ribbon he usually wears across his forehead in the public
thoroughfare, it kept straggling into his eyes, and he had to toss it
back with a jerk, after the fashion of a horse with his nose-bag.

He was a simple, “good-natured” fellow, and told his story in a
straightforward manner, which was the more extraordinary, as he
prefaced his statement with a remark, “that all in his ‘school,’ (the
professional term for a gang or troop,) were terribly against his
coming; but that as all he was going to say was nothing but the truth,
he didn’t care a fig for any of ’em.”

It is a singular fact, that this man spoke fluently both the French
and German languages; and, as will be seen in his statement, he has
passed many years of his life abroad, performing in several circuses,
or “pitching” (exhibiting in the streets) in the various large towns of
Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, Switzerland, and France.

The following is the history of his life, from his earliest
remembrance,--from two years old, indeed,--down to his present age,

“I am what is known as a street-posturer, or acrobat. I belong to a
school of five, and we go about the streets doing pyramids, bending,
juggling, and la perche.

“I’ve been at acrobating for these thirty-five years, in London and all
parts of England, as well as on the Continent, in France and Germany,
as well as in Denmark and Sweden; but only in the principal towns,
such as Copenhagen and Stockholm; but only a little, for we come back
by sea almost directly. My father was a tumbler, and in his days very
great, and used to be at the theatres and in Richardson’s show. He’s
acted along with Joe Grimaldi. I don’t remember the play it was in,
but I know he’s acted along with him at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, at the
time there was real water there. I have heard him talk about it. He
brought me regular up to the profession, and when I first came out I
wasn’t above two years old, and father used to dance me on my hands in
Risley’s style, but not like Risley. I can just recollect being danced
in his hands, but I can’t remember much about it, only he used to throw
me a somersault with his hand. The first time I ever come out by myself
was in a piece called ‘Snowball,’ when I was introduced in a snowball;
and I had to do the splits and strides. When father first trained me,
it hurt my back awfully. He used to take my legs and stretch them, and
work them round in their sockets, and put them up straight by my side.
That is what they called being ‘cricked,’ and it’s in general done
before you eat anything in the morning. O, yes, I can remember being
cricked, and it hurt me terrible. He put my breast to his breast, and
then pulled my legs up to my head, and knocked ’em against my head and
cheeks about a dozen times. It seems like as if your body was broken in
two, and all your muscles being pulled out like India rubber.

“I worked for my father till I was twelve years of age, then I was
sold for two years to a man of the name of Tagg, another showman,
who took me to France. He had to pay father 5_l._ a-year, and keep
me respectable. I used to do the same business with him as with
father,--splits, and such-like,--and we acted in a piece that was wrote
for us in Paris, called “Les deux Clowns anglais,” which was produced
at the Porte St. Antoine. That must have been about the year 1836. We
were dressed up like two English clowns, with our faces painted and
all; and we were very successful, and had plenty of flowers thrown to
us. There was one Barnet Burns, who was showing in the Boulevards, and
called the New Zealand Chief, who was tattooed all over his body. He
was very kind to me, and made me a good many presents, and some of the
ladies were kind to me. I knew this Barnet Burns pretty well, because
my master was drunk all day pretty well, and he was the only Englishman
I had to speak to, for I didn’t know French.

“I ran away from Tagg in Paris, and I went with the ‘Frères de
Bouchett,’ rope-dancers, two brothers who were so called, and I had
to clown to the rope. I stopped with them three years, and we went
through Belgium and Holland, and done very well with them. They was my
masters, and had a large booth of their own, and would engage paraders
to stand outside the show to draw the people; but they did all the
performances themselves, and it was mostly at the fairs.

“From them I came to England, and began pitching in the street. I
didn’t much like it, after being a regular performer, and looked upon
it as a drop. I travelled right down by myself to Glasgow fair. I kept
company with Wombwell’s show,--only working for myself. You see they
used to stop in the towns, and draw plenty of people, and then I’d
begin pitching to the crowd. I wasn’t lonely because I knew plenty
of the wild-beast chaps, and, besides, I’ve done pretty well, taking
two or three shillings a day, and on a Saturday and Monday generally
five or six. I had a suit of tights, and a pair of twacks, with a few
spangles on, and as soon as the people came round me I began to work.

“At Glasgow I got a pound a day, for I went with Mr. Mumford, who had
some dancing dolls showing at the bottom of the Stone buildings. The
fair is a week. And after that one of our chaps wrote to me that there
was a job for me, if I liked to go over to Ireland and join Mr. Batty,
who had a circus there. They used to build wooden circuses in them
days, and hadn’t tents as now. I stopped a twelvemonth with him, and we
only went to four towns, and the troupe did wonders. Mr. Hughes was the
manager for Mr. Batty. There was Herr Hengler, the great rope-dancer
among the troupe, and his brother Alfred, the great rider, as is dead
now, for a horse kicked him at Bristol, and broke his arm, and he
wouldn’t have it cut off, and it mortified, and he died.

“When I left Ireland I went back to Glasgow, and Mr. David Miller gave
the school I had joined an engagement for three months. We had 6_l._
a-week between four of us, besides a benefit, which brought us 2_l._
each more. Miller had a large penny booth, and had taken about 12_l._
or 14_l._ a-night. There was acting, and our performances. Alexander,
the lessee of the Theatre Royal, prevented him, for having acted, as
he also did Anderson the Wizard of the North, who had the Circus, and
acted as well, and Mumford; but they won the day.

“I left Glasgow with another chap, and we went first to Edinburgh and
then to Hamburgh, and then we played at the Tivoli Gardens. I stopped
abroad for fourteen years, performing at different places through
France and Switzerland, either along with regular companies or else by
ourselves, for there was four on us, in schools. After Hamburgh, we
went to Copenhagen, and then we joined the brother Prices, or, as they
call ’em there, Preece. We only did tumbling and jumping up on each
other’s shoulders, and dancing the pole on our feet, what is called
in French ‘trankr.’ From there we joined the brothers Layman,--both
Russians they was,--who was very clever, and used to do the ‘pierrot;’
the French clown, dressed all in white,--for their clown is not like
our clown,--and they danced the rope and all. The troupe was called
the Russian pantomimists. There we met Herr Hengler again, as well as
Deulan the dancer, who was dancing at the Eagle and at the theatres as
Harlekin; and Anderson, who was one of the first clowns of the day, and
a good comic singer, and an excellent companion, for he could make puns
and make poems on every body in the room. He did, you may recollect,
some few years ago, throw himself out of winder, and killed himself. I
read it in the newspapers, and a mate of mine afterwards told me he was
crazy, and thought he was performing, and said, “Hulloa, old feller!
I’m coming!” and threw himself out, the same as if he’d been on the

“In Paris and all over Switzerland we performed at the fairs, when
we had no engagements at the regular theatres, or we’d pitch in the
streets, just according. In Paris we was regular stars. There was only
me and R----, and we was engaged for three months with Mr. Le Compte,
at his theatre in the Passage Choiseul. It’s all children that acts
there; and he trains young actors. He’s called the ‘Physician to the
King;’ indeed, he is the king’s conjurer.

“I’m very fond of France; indeed, I first went to school there, when I
was along with Tagg. You see I never had no schooling in London, for
I was so busy that I hadn’t no time for learning. I also married in
France. My wife was a great bender (used to throw herself backwards on
her hands and make the body in a harch). I think she killed herself at
it; indeed, as the doctors telled me, it was nothing else but that. She
would keep on doing it when she was in the family way. I’ve many a time
ordered her to give over, but she wouldn’t; she was so fond of it; for
she took a deal of money. She died in childbed at St. Malo, poor thing!

“In France we take a deal more money than in England. You see they
all give; even a child will give its mite; and another thing, anybody
on a Sunday may take as much money as will keep him all the week, if
they like to work. The most money I ever took in all my life was at
Calais, the first Sunday cavalcade after Lent: that is the Sunday after
Mardi-gras. They go out in a cavalcade, dressed up in carnival costume,
and beg for the poor. There was me, Dick S----, and Jim C---- and his
wife, as danced the Highland fling, and a chap they calls Polka, who
did it when it first came up. We pitched about the streets, and we took
700 francs all in half-pence--that is, 28_l._--on one Sunday: and you
mustn’t work till after twelve o’clock, that is grand mass. There were
liards and centimes, and half-sous, and all kinds of copper money,
but very little silver, for the Frenchmen can’t afford it; but all
copper money change into five-franc pieces, and it’s the same to me.
The other chaps didn’t like the liards, so I bought ’em all up. They’re
like button-heads, and such-like; and they said they wouldn’t have
that bad money, so I got more than my share: for after we had shared
I bought the heap of liards, and gave ten francs for the heap, and I
think it brought me in sixty francs; but then I had to run about to
all the little shops to get five-franc pieces. You see, I was the only
chap that spoke French; so, you see, I’m worth a double share. I always
tell the chaps, when they come to me, that I don’t want nothink but my
share; but then I says, ‘You’re single men, and I’m married, and I must
support my children;’ and so I gets a little out of the hôtel expenses,
for I charges them 1_s._ 3_d._ a-day, and at the second-rate hôtels I
can keep them for a shilling. There’s three or four schools now want
me to take them over to France. They calls me ‘Frenchy,’ because I can
talk French and German fluently--that’s the name I goes by.

“I used to go to all the fêtes in Paris along with my troupe. We have
been four and we have been five in one troupe, but our general number
is four, for we don’t want any more than four; for we can do the three
high and the spread, and that’s the principal thing. Our music is
generally the drum and pipes. We don’t take them over with us, but
gets Italians to do it. Sometimes we gets a German band of five to
come for a share, for you see they can’t take money as we can, for our
performance will cause children to give, and with them they don’t think
about it, not being so partial to music.

“Posturing to this day is called in France ‘Le Dislocation anglais;’
and indeed the English fellows is the best in the world at posturing:
we can lick them all. I think they eat too much bread; for though
meat’s so cheap in the south of France (2_d._ a-lb.), yet they don’t
eat it. They don’t eat much potatoes either; and in the south they
gives them to the pigs, which used to make me grumble, I’m so fond of
them. Chickens, too, is 7_d._ the pair, and you may drink wine at 1_d._
the horn.

“At St. Cloud fête we were called ‘Les Quatre Frères anglais,’ and we
used to pitch near the Cascade, which was a good place for us. We have
shared our 30_s._ each a-day then easy; and a great deal of English
money we got then, for the English is more generous out of England.
There was the fête St. Germain, and St. Denis, and at Versailles, too;
and we’ve done pretty well at each, as well as at the Champs Elysées
on the 1st of May, as used to be the fête Louis-Philippe. On that fête
we were paid by the king, and we had fifty francs a man, and plenty to
eat and drink on that day; and every poor man in Paris has two pound of
sausages and two pounds of bread, and two bottles of wine. But we were
different from that, you know. We had a _déjeûné_, with fish, flesh,
and fowl, and a dinner fit for a king, both brought to us in the Champs
Elysées, and as much as ever we liked to drink all day long--the best
of wine. We had to perform every alternate half-hour.

“I was in Paris when Mr. Macready come to Paris. I was engaged with my
troupe at the Porte St. Martin, where we was called the Bedouin Arabs,
and had to brown our faces. I went to see him, for I knew one of the
actors. He was very good, and a beautiful house there was--splendid.
All my other partners they paid. The price was half-a-guinea to the
lowest place. The French people said he was very good, but he was
mostly supported by the English that was there. An engagement at the
Porte St. Martin was 1000 francs a-week for five of us; but of course
we had to leave the streets alone during the four weeks we was at the

“I was in Paris, too, at the revolution in 1848, when Louis-Philippe
had to run off. I was in bed, about two o’clock in the morning, when
those that began the revolution was coming round--men armed; and they
come into everybody’s bed-room and said, ‘You must get up, you’re
wanted.’ I told them I was English; and they said, ‘It don’t matter;
you get your living here, and you must fight the same as we fight for
our liberty.’ They took us--four English as was in the same gang as I
was with--to the Barrière du Trône, and made us pick up paving-stones.
I had to carry them; and we formed four barricades right up to the
Faubourg St. Antoine, close to the Bastille. We had sometimes a bit
of bread and a glass of wine, or brandy, and we was four nights and
three days working. There was a great deal of chaff going on, and they
called me ‘le petit Supplier’ posturer, you know--but they was of all
countries. We was put in the back-ground, and didn’t fire much, for
we was ordered not to fire unless attacked; and we had only to keep
ground, and if anything come, to give warning; but we had to supply
them with powder and ammunition of one sort and another. There was one
woman--a very clever woman--from Normandy, who used to bring us brandy
round. She died on the barricade; and there’s a song about her now. I
was present when part of the throne was burned. After that I went for
a tour in Lorraine; and then I was confined in Tours for thirty-four
days, for the Republicans passed a bill that all foreigners were to be
sent home to their own countries; and, indeed, several manufactories
where English worked had to stop, for the workmen was sent home.


“I came back to England in 1852, and I’ve been pitching in the streets
ever since. I’ve changed gangs two or three times since then; but
there’s five in our gang now. There’s three high for ‘pyramids,’ and
‘the Arabs hang down;’ that is, one a-top of his shoulders, and
one hanging down from his neck; and ‘the spread,’ that’s one on the
shoulders, and one hanging from each hand; and ‘the Hercules,’ that is,
one on the ground, supporting himself on his hands and feet; whilst one
stands on his knees, another on his shoulders, and the other one a-top
of them two, on their shoulders. There’s loads of tricks like them that
we do, that would a’most fill up your paper to put down. There’s one
of our gang dances, an Englishman, whilst the fifth plays the drum and
pipes. The dances are mostly comic dances; or, as we call them, ‘comic
hops.’ He throws his legs about and makes faces, and he dresses as a

“When it’s not too windy, we do the perch. We carry a long fir pole
about with us, twenty-four feet long, and Jim the strong man, as they
calls me, that is I, holds the pole up at the bottom. The one that
runs up is called the sprite. It’s the bottom man that holds the pole
that has the dangerous work in la perche. He’s got all to look to.
Anybody, who has got any courage, can run up the pole; but I have to
guide and balance it; and the pole weighs some 20 lbs., and the man
about 8 stone. When it’s windy, it’s very awkward, and I have to walk
about to keep him steady and balance him; but I’m never frightened, I
know it so well. The man who runs up it does such feats as these; for
instance, ‘the bottle position,’ that is only holding by his feet, with
his two arms extended; and then ‘the hanging down by one toe,’ with
only one foot on the top of the pole, and hanging down with his arms
out, swimming on the top on his belly; and ‘the horizontal,’ as it is
called, or supporting the body out sideways by the strength of the
arms, and such-like, winding up with coming down head fust.

“The pole is fixed very tightly in a socket in my waistband, and it
takes two men to pull it out, for it gets jammed in with his force on
a-top of it. The danger is more with the bottom one than the one a-top,
though few people would think so. You see, if he falls off, he is sure
to light on his feet like a cat; for we’re taught to this trick; and
a man can jump off a place thirty feet high, without hurting himself,
easy. Now if the people was to go frontwards, it would be all up with
me, because with the leverage and its being fixed so tight to my
stomach, there’s no help for it, for it would be sure to rip me up and
tear out my entrails. I have to keep my eyes about me, for if it goes
too fur, I could never regain the balance again. But it’s easy enough
when you’re accustomed to it.

“The one that goes up the pole can always see into the drawing-rooms,
and he’ll tell us where it’s good to go and get any money, for he can
see the people peeping behind the curtains; and they generally give
when they find they are discovered. It’s part of his work to glance
his eyes about him, and then he calls out whilst he is up, ‘to the
right,’ or ‘the left,’ as it may be; and although the crowd don’t
understand him, we do.

“Our gang generally prefer performing in the West-end, because there’s
more ‘calls’ there. Gentlemen looking out of window see us, and call
to us to stop and perform; but we don’t trust to them, even, but make
a collection when the performance is half over; and if it’s good we
continue, and make two or three collections during the exhibition.
What we consider a good collection is 7_s._ or 8_s._; and for that we
do the whole performance. And besides, we get what we call ‘ringings’
afterwards; that’s halfpence that are thrown into the ring. Sometimes
we get 10_s._ altogether, and sometimes more and sometimes less; though
it’s a very poor pitch if it’s not up to 5_s._ I’m talking of a big
pitch, when we go through all our ‘slang,’ as we say. But then we
have our little pitches, which don’t last more than a quarter of an
hour--our flying pitches, as we call them, and for them 5_s._ is an
out-and-outer, and we are well contented if we get half-a-crown. We
usually reckon about twenty pitches a-day, that’s eight before dinner
and twelve after. It depends greatly upon the holidays as to what
we makes in the days. If there’s any fairs or feasts going on we do
better. There’s two days in the week we reckon nothing, that’s Friday
and Saturday. Friday’s little good all day long, and Saturday’s only
good after six o’clock, when wages have been paid. My share may on the
average come to this:--Monday, about 7_s._ or 8_s._, and the same for
Tuesday. Then Wednesday and Thursday it falls off again, perhaps 3_s._
or 4_s._; and Friday ain’t worth much; no more is Saturday. We used to
go to Sydenham on Saturdays, and we would find the gents there; but now
it’s getting too late, and the price to the Palace is only 2_s._ 6_d._,
when it used to be 5_s._, and that makes a wonderful difference to us.
And yet we like the poor people better than the rich, for it’s the
half-pence that tells up best. Perhaps we might take a half-sovereign,
but it’s very rare, and since 1853 I don’t remember taking more than
twenty of them. There was a Princess--I’m sure I’ve forgotten her name,
but she was German, and she used to live in Grosvenor-square--she used
to give us half-a-sovereign every Monday during three months she was
in London. The servants was ordered to tell us to come every Monday
at three o’clock, and we always did; and even though there was nobody
looking, we used to play all the same; and as soon as the drum ceased
playing, there was the money brought out to us. We continued playing
to her till we was told she had gone away. We have also had sovereign
calls. When my gang was in the Isle of Wight, Lord Y---- has often give
us a sovereign, and plenty to eat and drink as well.

“I can’t say but what it’s as good as a hundred a-year to me; but I
can’t say, it’s the same with all posturers: for you see I can talk
French, and if there’s any foreigners in the crowd I can talk to them,
and they are sure to give something. But most posturers make a good
living, and if they look out for it, there are few but make 30_s._

“Posturing as it is called (some people call it contortionists, that’s
a new name; a Chinese nondescript--that’s the first name it came out
as, although what we calls posturing is a man as can sit upon nothing;
as, for instance, when he’s on the back of two chairs and does a split
with his legs stretched out and sitting on nothing like)--posturing
is reckoned the healthiest life there is, because we never get the
rheumatics; and another thing, we always eat hearty. We often put on
wet dresses, such as at a fair, when they’ve been washed out clean,
and we put them on before they’re dry, and that’s what gives the
rheumatism; but we are always in such a perspiration that it never
affects us. It’s very violent exercise, and at night we feels it in
our thighs more than anywhere, so that if it’s damp or cold weather it
hurts us to sit down. If it’s wet weather, or showery, we usually get
up stiff in the morning, and then we have to ‘crick’ each other before
we go out, and practise in our bed-rooms. On the Sunday we also go out
and practise, either in a field, or at the ‘Tan’ in Bermondsey. We used
to go to the ‘Hops’ in Maiden-lane, but that’s done away with now.

“When we go out performing, we always take our dresses out with us,
and we have our regular houses appointed, according to what part of
the town we play in, if in London; and we have one pint of beer a man,
and put on our costume, and leave our clothes behind us. Every morning
we put on a clean dress, so we are obliged to have two of them, and
whilst we are wearing one the other is being washed. Some of our men
is married, and their wives wash for them, but them as isn’t give the
dress to anybody who wants a job.

“Accidents are very rare with posturers. We often put our hip-bone out,
but that’s soon put right again, and we are at work in a week. All our
bones are loose like, and we can pull one another in, without having no
pullies. One of my gang broke his leg at Chatham race-course, through
the grass being slippery, and he was pitched down from three high; but
we paid him his share, just the same as if he was out with us;--it
wouldn’t do if we didn’t, as a person wouldn’t mount in bad weather.
That man is getting on nicely,--he walks with a crutch though,--but
he’ll be right in another month, and then he’ll only be put to light
work till he’s strong. He ought not to be walking out yet, but he’s so
daring there’s no restraining him. I, too, once broke my arm. I am a
hand-jumper; that is, I a’most always light on my hands when I jump. I
was on a chair on a top of a table, and I had to get into the chair
and do what we call the frog, and jump off it, coming down on my hands.
Everything depends upon how you hold your arms, and I was careless,
and didn’t pay attention, and my arm snapped just below the elbow. I
couldn’t work for three months. I was at Beauvais, in France, at the
time, but the circus I was with supported me.

“My father’s very near seventy-six, and he has been a tumbler for fifty
years; my children are staying with him, and he’s angry that I won’t
bring them up to it: but I want them to be some trade or another,
because I don’t like the life for them. There’s so much suffering
before they begin tumbling, and then there’s great temptation to drink,
and such-like. I’d sooner send them to school, than let them get their
living out of the streets. I’ve one boy and two girls. They’re always
at it at home, indeed; father and my sister-in-law say they can’t keep
them from it. The boy’s very nimble.

“In the winter time we generally goes to the theatres. We are a’most
always engaged for the pantomimes, to do the sprites. We always
reckon it a good thirteen-weeks’ job, but in the country it’s only
a month. If we don’t apply for the job they come after us. The
sprites in a pantomime is quite a new style, and we are the only
chaps that can do it,--the posturers and tumblers. In some theatres
they find the dresses. Last winter I was at Liverpool, and wore a
green dress, spangled all over, which belonged to Mr. Copeland, the
manager. We never speak in the play, but just merely rush on, and
throw somersaults, and frogs, and such-like, and then rush off again.
Little Wheeler, the greatest tumbler of the day, was a posturer in the
streets, and now he’s in France doing his 10_l._ a-week, engaged for
three years.”


There is but one person in London who goes about the street doing what
is termed “The Risley performance,” and even he is rarely to be met

Of all the street professionals whom I have seen, this man certainly
bears off the palm for respectability of attire. He wore, when he
came to me, a brown Chesterfield coat and black continuations, and
but for the length of his hair, the immense size of his limbs, and
the peculiar neatness of his movements, it would have been impossible
to have recognized in him any of those characteristics which usually
distinguish the street performer. He had a chest which, when he chose,
he could force out almost like a pouter pigeon. The upper part of his
body was broad and weighty-looking. He asked me to feel the muscle of
his arm, and doubling it up, a huge lump rose, almost as if he had a
cocoa-nut under his sleeve; in fact, it seemed as fully developed as
the gilt arms placed as signs over the gold-beaters’ shops.

Like most of the street professionals, he volunteered to exhibit before
me some of his feats of strength and agility. He threw his head back
(his long hair tossing about like an Indian fly-whisk) until his head
touched his heels, and there he stood bent backward, and nearly double,
like a strip of whalebone. Then he promenaded round the room, walking
on his hands, his coat-tails falling about his shoulders, and making
a rare jingle of half-pence the while, and his legs dangling in front
of him as limp as the lash of a cart-whip. I refused to allow him to
experiment upon me, and politely declined his obliging offer to raise
me from the ground, “and hold me at arm’s-length like a babby.”

When he spoke of his parents, and the brothers who performed with
him, he did so in most affectionate terms, and his descriptions of
the struggles he had gone through in his fixed determination to be a
tumbler, and how he had worked to gain his parents’ consent, had a
peculiarly sorrowful touch about them, as if he still blamed himself
for the pain he had caused them. Farther, whenever he mentioned his
little brothers, he always stopped for two or three minutes to explain
to me that they were the cleverest lads in London, and as true and
kind-hearted as they were talented.

He was more minute in his account of himself than my space will permit
him to be; for as he said, “he had a wonderful rememoryation, and could
recollect anything.”

With the omission of a few interesting details, the following is the
account of the poor fellow’s life:--

“My professional name is Signor Nelsonio, but my real one is Nelson,
and my companions know me as ‘Leu,’ which is short for Lewis. I can
do plenty of things beside the Risley business, for it forms only one
part of my entertainment. I am a strong man, and a fire-king, and a
stone-breaker by the fist, as well as being sprite, and posturer, and
doing ‘la perche.’

“Last Christmas (1855) I was, along with my two brothers, engaged at
the Theatre Royal, Cheltenham, to do the sprites in the pantomime. I
have brought the bill of the performances with me to show it you. Here
you see the pantomime is called ‘THE IMP OF THE NORTH, or THE GOLDEN
BASON; and HARLEQUIN and THE MILLER’S DAUGHTER.’ In the pantomimical
transformations it says, ‘SPRITES--BY THE NELSON FAMILY:’ that’s me and
my two brothers.

“The reason why I took to the Risley business was this. When I was a
boy of seven I went to school, and my father and mother would make me
go; but, unfortunately, I was stubborn, and would not. I said I wanted
to do some work. ‘Well,’ said they, ‘you shan’t do any work not yet,
till you’re thirteen years old, and you shall go to school.’ Says I, ‘I
will do work.’ Well, I wouldn’t; so I plays the truant. Then I goes to
amuse myself, and I goes to Haggerstone-fields in the Hackney-road, and
then I see some boys learning to tumble on some dung there. So I began
to do it too, and I very soon picked up two or three tricks. There was
a man who was in the profession as tumbler and acrobat, who came there
to practise his feats, and he see me tumbling, and says he, ‘My lad,
will you come along with me, and do the Risley business, and I’ll buy
you your clothes, and give you a shilling a-week besides?’ I told him
that perhaps mother and father wouldn’t let me go; but says he, ‘O,
yes they will.’ So he comes to our house; and says mother, ‘What do
you want along with my boy?’ and he says, ‘I want to make a tumbler of
him.’ But she wouldn’t.

“My father is a tailor, but my uncle and all the family was good
singers. My uncle was leader of the Drury-lane band, and Miss Nelson,
who came out there, is my cousin. They are out in Australia now,
doing very well, giving concerts day and night, and clearing by both
performances one hundred and fifty pounds, day and night (and sooner,
more than less), as advertised in the paper which they sent to us.

“One day, instead of going to school, I went along with this man into
the streets, and then he did the Risley business, throwing me about on
his hands and feet. I was about thirteen years old then. Mother asked
me at night where I had been, and when I said I had been at school, she
went and asked the master and found me out. Then I brought home some
dresses once, and she tore them up, so I was forced to drop going out
in the streets. I made some more dresses, and she tore those up. Then
I got chucking about, à la Risley, my little brother, who was about
seven years old; and says mother, ‘Let that boy alone, you’ll break his
neck.’ ‘No, I shan’t,’ say I, and I kept on doing till I had learnt him
the tricks.

“One Saturday night, father and mother and my eldest brother went to
a concert-room. I had no money, so I couldn’t go. I asked my little
brother to go along with me round some tap-rooms, exhibiting with me.
So I smuggled him out, telling him I’d give him lots of cakes; and
away we went, and we got about seven shillings and sixpence. I got
home before father and mother come home. When they returned, father
says, ‘Where have you been?’ Then I showed the money we had got; he was
regular astonished, and says he ‘How is this? you can do nothing, you
ain’t clever!’ I says, ‘Oh, ain’t I? and it’s all my own learning:’
so then he told me, that since he couldn’t do nothing else with me, I
should take to it as my profession, and stick to it.

“Soon after I met my old friend the swallower again, in Ratcliffe
highway. I was along with my little brother, and both dressed up in
tights and spangled trunks. Says he, ‘Oh, you will take to tumbling
will you? Well, then, come along with me, and we’ll go in the country.’
Then he took us down to Norwich (to Yarmouth); then he beat me, and
would give me no clothes or money, for he spent it to go and get
drunk. We not sending any money home, mother began to wonder what had
become of me; so one night, when this man was out with a lot of girls
getting drunk, I slipt away, and walked thirty miles that night, and
then I began performing at different public-houses, and so worked my
way till I got back to London again. My little brother was along with
me, but I carried him on my shoulders. One day it came on to rain
awful, and we had run away in our dresses, and then we was dripping. I
was frightened to see little Johnny so wet, and thought he’d be ill.
There was no shed or barn or nothing, and only the country road, so I
tore on till we came to a roadside inn, and then I wrung his clothes
out, and I only had fourpence in my pocket, and I ordered some rum
and water hot, and made him drink. ‘Drink it, it’ll keep the cold out
of you.’ When we got out he was quite giddy, and kept saying, ‘Oh,
I’m so wet!’ With all these misfortunes I walked, carrying the little
chap across my shoulders. One day I only had a halfpenny, and Johnny
was crying for hunger, so I goes to a fellow in a orchard and say I,
‘Can you make me a ha’path of apples?’ He would take the money, but
he gave a cap-full of fallings. I’ve walked thirty-eight miles in one
day carrying him, and I was awfully tired. On that same day, when we
got to Colchester, we put up at the Blue Anchor, and I put Johnny into
bed, and I went out myself and went the round of the public-houses.
My feet was blistered, but I had my light tumbling slippers on, and I
went to work and got sixteen pence-halfpenny. This got us bread and
cheese for supper and breakfast, and paid threepence each for the bed;
and the next day we went on and performed in a village and got three
shillings. Then, at Chelmsford we got eight shillings. I bought Johnny
some clothes, for he had only his tights and little trunks, and though
it was summer he was cold, especially after rain. The nearer we got to
London the better we got off, for they give us then plenty to eat and
drink, and we did pretty well for money. After I passed Chelmsford I
never was hungry again. When we got to Romford, I waited two days till
it was market-day, when we performed before the country people and got
plenty of money and beer; but I never cared for the beer. We took four
shillings and sixpence. I wouldn’t let Johnny take any beer, for I’m
fond of him, and he’s eleven now, and the cleverest little fellow in
England; and I learnt him everything he knows out of my own head, for
he never had no master. We took the train to London from Romford (one
shilling and sixpence each), and then we went home.

“When we got back, mother and father said they knew how it would be,
and laughed at us. They wanted to keep us at home, but I wouldn’t, and
they was forced to give way. In London I stopped still for a long time,
at last got an engagement at two shillings a-night at a penny gaff in
Shoreditch. It was Sambo, a black man, what went about the streets
along with the Demon Brothers--acrobats--that got me the engagement.

“One night father and mother came to see me, and they was frightened
to see me chucking my brother about; and she calls out, ‘Oh, don’t do
that! you’ll break his back.’ The people kept hollaring out, ‘Turn that
woman out!’ but she answers, ‘They are my sons--stop ’em!’ When I bent
myself back’ards she calls out, ‘Lord! mind your bones.’

“After this I noticed that my other brother, Sam, was a capital hand
at jumping over the chairs and tables. He was as active as a monkey;
indeed he plays monkeys now at the different ballets that comes out
at the chief theatres. It struck me he would make a good tumbler, and
sure enough he is a good one. I asked him, and he said he should; and
then he see me perform, and he declared he would be one. He was at my
uncle’s then, as a carver and gilder. When I told father, says he, ‘Let
’em do as they like, they’ll get on.’ I said to him one day, ‘Sam,
let’s see what you’re like:’ so I stuck him up in his chair, and stuck
his legs behind his head, and kept him like that for five minutes. His
limbs bent beautiful, and he didn’t want no cricking.

“I should tell you, that before that he done this here. You’ve heard of
Baker, the red man, as was performing at the City of London Theatre;
well, Sam see the cut of him sitting in a chair with his legs folded,
just like you fold your arms. So Sam pulls down one of the bills with
the drawing on it, and he says, ‘I can do that,’ and he goes home and
practises from the engraving till he was perfect. Then he showed me,
and says I, ‘That’s the style! it’s beautiful! you’ll do.’

“Then we had two days’ practice together, and we worked the
double-tricks together. Then, I learned him style and grace, what
I knowed myself; such as coming before an audience and making the
obedience; and by and by says I to him, ‘We’ll come out at a theatre,
and make a good bit of money.’

“Well, we went to another exhibition, and we came out all three
together, and our salary was twenty-five shillings a-week, and we was
very successful. Then we got outside Peter’s Theatre at Stepney fair,
the last as ever was, for it’s done away with now; we did very well
then; they give us twelve shillings a-day between us for three days. We
did the acrobating and Risley business outside the parade, and inside
as well. Sam got on wonderful, for his mind was up to it, and he liked
the work. I and my brothers can do as well as any one in this business,
I don’t care who comes before us. I can do upwards of one hundred and
twenty-one different tricks in tumbling, when I’m along with those
little fellows. We can do the hoops and glasses--putting a glass of
beer on my forehead, and going through hoops double, and lying down and
getting up again without spilling it. Then there’s the bottle-sprite,
and the short stilts, and globe running and globe dancing, and chair
tricks; perform with the chairs; and the pole trick--_la perche_--with
two boys, not one mind you.

“We’ve been continuing ever since at this Risley business. I lay down
on a carpet, and throw then summersets from feet to feet. I tell you
what the music plays to it,--it’s the railway overtime, and it begins
now and then quicker and quicker, till I throw them fast as lightning.
Sam does about fifty-four or fifty-five of these summersets one after
another, and Johny does about twenty-five, because he’s littler. Then
there’s standing upright, and stand ’em one in one hand and one on the
other. Then I throws them up in summersets, and catch ’em on my palm,
and then I chuck ’em on the ground.

“The art with me lying on the ground is that it takes the strength,
and the sight to see that I catch ’em properly; for if I missed, they
might break their necks. The audience fancies that it’s most with them
tumbling, but every thing depends upon me catching them properly. Every
time they jump, I have to give ’em a jerk, and turn ’em properly. It’s
almost as much work as if I was doing it myself. When they learn at
first, they do it on a soft ground, so as not to hurt theirselves.
It don’t make the blood come to the head lying down so long on my
back--only at first.

“I’ve done the Risley business first at penny exhibitions, and after
that I went to fairs; then I went round the country with a booth--a man
named Manly it was; but we dropped that, ’cos my little brother was
knocked up, for it was too hard work for the little fellow building
up and taking down the booth sometimes twice in a-day, and then going
off twenty miles further on to another fair, and building up again
the next day. Then we went pitching about in the main streets of the
towns in the country. Then I always had a drum and pipes. As soon
as a crowd collected I’d say, ‘Gentlemen, I’m from the principal
theatres in London, and before I begin I must have five shillings in
the ring.’ Then we’d do some, and after that, when half was over, I’d
say, ‘Now, gentlemen, the better part is to come, and if you make it
worth my while, I go on with this here entertainment;’ then, perhaps,
they’d give me two shillings more. I’ve done bad and done good in the
country. In one day I’ve taken two pounds five shillings, and many days
we’ve not taken eight shillings, and there was four of us, me and my
two brothers and the drummer, who had two-and-sixpence a-day, and a
pot of beer besides. Take one week with another we took regular two
pounds five shillings, and out of that I’d send from twenty to thirty
shillings a-week home to my parents. Oh, I’ve been very good to my
parents, and I’ve never missed it. I’ve been a wild boy too, and yet
I’ve always taken care of father and mother. They’ve had twelve in
family and never a stain on their character, nor never a key turned on
them, but are upright and honourable people.

“At a place called Brenford in Norfolk--where there’s such a lot of
wild rabbits--we done so well, that we took a room and had bills
printed and put out. We charged threepence each, and the room was
crowded, for we shared twenty-five shillings between us. When the
people see’d me and my brothers come on dressed all in red, and tumble
about, they actually swore we were devils, and rushed out of the place;
so that, though there was a room full, there was only two stopped to
see the performances. One old man called out, ‘O wenches’--they call
their wives wenches--‘come out, they be devils.’ We came out with red
faces and horns and red dresses, and away they went screaming. There
was one woman trampled on and a child knocked out of her arms. In some
of these country towns they’re shocking strict, and never having seen
anything of the kind, they’re scared directly.

“About six months ago I went to Woolwich with the boys, and there was
a chap that wanted to fight me, because I wouldn’t go along with him.
So, I says, ‘We won’t have no fighting;’ so I went along with him to
Gravesend, and then we asked permission of the mayor, ’cos in country
towns we often have to ask the mayor to let us go performing in the
streets. There we done very well, taking twenty-five shillings in the
day. Then we worked up by Chatham, and down to Herne-bay, and Ramsgate;
and at Ramsgate we stopped a week, doing uncommon well on the sands,
for the people on the chairs would give sixpence and a shilling, and
say it was very clever, and too clever to be in the streets. We did
Margate next, and then Deal, and on to Dover by the boat. At Dover,
the mayor wouldn’t let us perform, and said if he catched us in the
streets he’d have us took up. We were very hard up. So I said to Sam,
‘You must go out one way and I and Johnny the other, and busk in
the public-house.’ Sam got eight shillings and sixpence and I four
shillings. But I had a row with a sailor, and I was bruised and had
to lay up. When I was better we moved to Folkestone. There was the
German soldiers there, and we did very well. I went out one day with
our carpet to a village close by, and some German officers made us
perform, and gave us five shillings, and then we went the round of the
beer-shops, and altogether we cleared five pounds before we finished
that day. We also went up to the camp, where the tents was, and I asked
the colonel to let me perform before the men, and he said, ‘Well it
ain’t usual, but you may if you like.’ The officers we found was so
pleased they kept on giving us two-shilling pieces, and besides we had
a lot of foreign coin, which we sold to a jeweller for ten shillings.

“I worked my way on to Canterbury and Winchester, and then, by a deal
of persuasion I got permission to perform in the back-streets, and we
done very well. Then we went on to Southampton. There was a cattle
fair, on--Celsey fair is, I think, the name of it; and then I joined
another troupe of tumblers, and we worked the fair, and after that went
on to Southampton; and when we began working on the Monday, there was
another troupe working as well. After we had pitched once or twice,
this other troupe came and pitched opposition against us. I couldn’t
believe it at first, but when I see which was their lay, then says I,
‘Now I’ll settle this.’ We was here, as it was, and they came right on
to us--there, as it may be. So it was our dinner-time, and we broke up
and went off. After dinner we came out again, and pitched the carpet in
a square, and they came close to us again, and as soon as they struck
up, the people run away to see the new ones. So I said ‘I don’t want
to injure them, but they shan’t injure us.’ So I walked right into the
middle of their ring, and threw down the carpet, and says I, ‘Now,
ladies and gentlemen, the best performance is the one that deserves
best support, and I’ll show you what I can do.’ I went to work with
the boys, and was two hours doing all my tumbling tricks. They was
regularly stunned. The silver and the halfpence covered the carpet
right over, as much as it would hold. I think there was three pounds.
Then I says, ‘Now you’ve seen the tumbling, now see the perche.’ They
had a perche, too; it was taller than mine; but, as I told them, it
was because I couldn’t get no higher a one. So I went to work again,
and cries I, ‘Now, both boys up;’ though I had only stood one on up to
that time, and had never tried two of ’em. Up they goes, and the first
time they come over, but never hurt theirselves. It was new to me, you
see. ‘Up again, lads,’ says I; and up they goes, and did it beautiful.
The people regular applauded, like at a theatre. Down came the money
in a shower, and one gentleman took his hat round, and went collecting
for us. Says I to this other school, ‘You tried to injure us, and what
have you got by it? I beat you in tumbling, and if you can match the
perche, do it.’ Then they says, ‘We didn’t try to injure you; come and
drink a gallon of beer.’ So off we went, and the police told ’em to
choose their side of the town and we would take ours. That settled the
opposition, and we both done well.

“I’ve done the Risley in the streets of London, more so than at
theatres and concerts. The stone paving don’t hurt so much as you would
think to lie down. We don’t do it when it’s muddy. The boys finds
no difference whatsumever in springing off the stones. It pays very
well at times, you know; but we don’t like to do it often, because
afterwards they don’t like to appreciate you in concerts and theatres,
and likewise penny exhibitions.

“My brother Sam can jump like a frog, on his hands, through his
legs, out of a one-pair window; and little Johnny throws out of a
one-pair-of-stairs window a back summerset.

“It’s astonishing how free the bones get by practice. My brother Sam
can dislocate his limbs and replace them again; and when sleeping in
bed, I very often find him lying with his legs behind his neck. It’s
quite accidental, and done without knowing, and comes natural to him,
from being always tumbling. Myself, I often in my dreams often frighten
my wife by starting up and half throwing a summersault, fancying I’m at
the theatre, and likewise I often lie with my heels against my head.

“We are the only family or persons going about the streets doing the
Risley. I’ve travelled all through England, Scotland, and Wales, and
I don’t know anybody but ourselves. When we perform in the London
theatres, which we do when we can get an engagement, we get six or
seven pounds a-week between us. We’ve appeared at the Pavilion two
seasons running; likewise at the City of London, and the Standard, and
also all the cheap concerts in London. Then we are called ‘The Sprites’
by the Nelson family will appear; or, ‘The Sprites of Jupiter;’ or,
‘Sons of Cerea;’ or, ‘Air-climbers of Arabia!’

“Taking all the year round, I dare say my income comes to about
thirty-five shillings or two pounds, and out of that I have to find


“I have been in the profession for about thirteen years, and I am
thirty-two next birthday. Excepting four years that I was at sea, I’ve
been solely by the profession. I’m what is termed a strong man, and
perform feats of strength and posturing. What is meant by posturing is
the distortion of the limbs, such as doing the splits, and putting your
leg over your head and pulling it down your back, a skipping over your
leg, and such-like business. Tumbling is different from posturing, and
means throwing summersets and walking on your hands; and acrobating
means the two together, with mounting three stories high, and balancing
each other. These are the definitions I make.

“I was nineteen before I did anything of any note at all, and got
what I call a living salary. Long before that I had been trying the
business, going in and out of these free concerts, and trying my hand
at it, fancying I was very clever, but disgusting the audience, for
they are mostly duffers at these free concerts; which is clearly the
case, for they only do it for a pint every now and then, and depend
upon passing the hat round after their performance. I never got much at
collections, so I must have been a duffer.

“My father is an architect and builder, and his income now is never
less than a thousand a-year. Like a fool, I wouldn’t go into his
office: I wish I had. I preferred going to sea. I was always hankering
after first one vessel and then another. I used to be fond of going
down to the docks, and such-like, and looking at the vessels. I’d
talk with the sailors about foreign countries, and such-like, and my
ambition was to be a sailor. I was the scabby sheep of the family, and
I’ve been punished for it. I never went into the governor’s office; but
when I was about fourteen I was put to a stonemason, for I thought I
should like to be a carver, or something of that sort. I was two years
there, and I should have done very well if I had stayed, for I earned a
guinea a-week when I left.

“Before I went to the stonemason I was at the Victoria, taking
checks--when there was any. I had an uncle there who kept the saloon
there. I was always very partial to going to the theatre, for all our
people are chapel people, and that I never liked. My father’s parlour
is always smothered with ministers, and mine with tumblers, and that’s
the difference. I used to go and see my uncle at the Vic., so as to get
to the theatre for nothing. I wasn’t paid for taking the checks, but I
knew the check-taker, and he’d ask me to help him, and I was too glad
to get inside a theatre to refuse the job. They were doing dreadful
business. It was under Levi, and before Glossop’s time. It was before
the glass curtain come out. The glass curtain was a splendid thing. It
went straight up, never wound. You can even now see where the roof was
highered to receive it. Levi has got the Garrick now. They say he’s not
doing much.

“The first thing I did was at a little beer-shop, corner of
Southwark-bridge-road and Union-street. I had seen Herbert do the
Grecian statues at the Vic., in ‘Hercules, King of Clubs,’ and it
struck me I could do ’em. So I knew this beer-shop, and I bought
half-a-crown’s worth of tickets to be allowed to do these statues.
It was on a boxing-night, I remember. I did them, but they were
dreadful bad. The people did certainly applaud, but what for, I don’t
know, for I kept shaking and wabbling so, that my marble statue was
rather ricketty; and there was a strong man in the room, who had been
performing them, and he came up to me and said that I was a complete
duffer, and that I knew nothing about it at all. So I replied, that
he knew nothing about his feats of strength, and that I’d go and beat
him. So I set to work at it; for I was determined to lick him. I got
five quarter-of-hundred weights, and used to practice throwing them at
a friend’s back-yard in the Waterloo-road. I used to make myself all
over mud at it, besides having a knock of the head sometimes. At last
I got perfect chucking the quarter hundred, and then I tied a fourteen
pound weight on to them, and at last I got up half-hundreds. I learnt
to hold up one of them at arm’s length, and even then I was obliged to
push it up with the other hand. I also threw them over my head, as well
as catching them by the ring.

“I went to this beer-shop as soon as I could do, and came out. I wasn’t
so good as he was at lifting, but that was all he could do; and I did
posturing with the weights as well, and that licked him. He was awfully
jealous, and I had been revenged. I had learnt to do a split, holding
a half-hundred in my teeth, and rising with it, without touching the
ground with my hands. Now I can lift five, for I’ve had more practice.
I had tremendous success at this beer-shop.

“It hurt me awfully when I learnt to do the split with the weight on
my teeth. It strained me all to pieces. I couldn’t put my heels to the
ground not nicely, for it physicked my thighs dreadful. When I was hot
I didn’t feel it; but as I cooled, I was cramped all to bits. It took
me nine months before I could do it without feeling any pain.

“Another thing I learnt to do at this beer-shop was, to break the
stone on the chest. This man used to do it as well, only in a very
slight way--with thin bits and a cobbler’s hammer. Now mine is regular
flagstones. I’ve seen as many as twenty women faint seeing me do it.
At this beer-shop, when I first did it, the stone weighed about three
quarters of a hundred, and was an inch thick. I laid down on the
ground, and the stone was put on my chest, and a man with a sledge
hammer, twenty-eight pounds weight, struck it and smashed it. The way
it is done is this. You rest on your heels and hands and throw your
chest up. There you are, like a stool, with the weight on you. When you
see the blow coming, you have to give, or it would knock you all to

“When I was learning to do this, I practised for nine months. I got
a friend of mine to hit the stone. One day I cut my chest open doing
it. I wasn’t paying attention to the stone, and never noticed that it
was hollow; so then when the blow came down, the sharp edges of the
stone, from my having nothing but a fleshing suit on, cut right into
the flesh, and made two deep incisions. I had to leave it off for about
a month. Strange to say, this stone-breaking never hurt my chest or
my breathing; I rather think it has done me good, for I’m strong and
hearty, and never have illness of any sort.

“The first time I done it I was dreadful frightened. I knew if I didn’t
stop still I should have my brains knocked out, pretty well. When I saw
the blow coming I trembled a good bit, but I kept still as I was able.
It was a hard blow, for it broke the bit of Yorkshire paving, about an
inch thick, into about sixty pieces.

“I got very hard up whilst I was performing at this beer-shop. I had
run away from home, and the performances were only two nights a-week,
and brought me in about six shillings. I wasn’t engaged anywhere else.
One night, a Mr. Emanuel, who had a benefit at the Salmon Saloon,
Union-street, asked me to appear at his benefit. He had never seen
me, but only heard of my performances. I agreed to go, and he got out
the bills, and christened me Signor C----; and he had drawings made
of the most extravagant kind, with me holding my arms out with about
ten fifty-six-pound weights hanging to them by the rings. He had the
weights, hammers, and a tremendous big stone chained outside the door,
and there used to be mobs of people there all day long looking at it.

“This was the first success I made. Mr. Emanuel gave five shillings for
the stone, and had it brought up to the saloon by two horses in a cart
to make a sensation. It weighed from four to five hundred weight. I
think I had such a thing as five men to lift it up for me.

“I had forgotten all about this engagement, and I was at the
coffee-house where I lodged. The fact was, I was in rags, and so shabby
I didn’t like to go, and if he hadn’t come to fetch me I should not
have gone. He drove up in his chaise on the night in question to this
coffee-shop, and he says, ‘Signor C----, make haste; go and change your
clothes, and come along.’ I didn’t know at first he was speaking to
me, for it was the first time I had been Signor C----. Then I told him
I had got my best suit on, though it was very ragged, and no mistake
about it, for I remember there was a good hole at each elbow. He seemed
astonished, and at last proposed that I should wear his great-coat; but
I wouldn’t, because, as I told him, his coat would be as well known at
the saloon as he himself was, and that it didn’t suit me to be seen in
another’s clothes. So he took me just as I was. When we got there, the
landlady was regularly flabbergastered to see a ragged fellow like me
come to be star of the night. She’d hardly speak to me.

“There was a tremendous house, and they had turned above a hundred
away. When I got into the saloon, Emanuel says, ‘What’ll you have to
drink?’ I said, ‘Some brandy;’ but my landlord of the coffee-house,
who had come unbeknown to me, he grumbles out, ‘Ask him what he’ll
have to eat, for he’s had nothing since the slice of bread-and-butter
for breakfast.’ I trod on his toe, and says, ‘Keep quiet, you fool!’
Emanuel behaved like a regular brick, and no mistake. He paid for the
supper and everything. I was regularly ashamed when the landlord let it
out though. That supper put life into me, for it almost had the same
effect upon me as drink.

“It soon got whispered about in the saloon that I was the strong man,
and everybody got handing me their glasses; so I was regularly tipsy
when it was time to go on, and they had put me off to the last on
purpose to draw the people and keep them there drinking.

“I had a regular success. When the women saw the five men put the stone
on my chest, they all of them called out, ‘Don’t! don’t!’ It was a
block like a curb, about a foot thick, and about a four feet six inches
long. I went with Emanuel to buy it. I had never tried such a big one
before. It didn’t feel so heavy on the chest, for, you see, you’ve got
such out-and-out good support on your hands and heels. I’ve actually
seen one man raise a stone and another a waggon. It’s the purchase done
it. I’ve lifted up a cart-horse right off his legs.

“The stone broke after six blows with a twenty-eight pound
sledge-hammer. Then you should have heard the applause. I thought it
would never give over. It smashed all to atoms, just like glass, and
there was the people taking away the bits to keep as a remembrance.

“As I went out the landlady asked me to have a bottle of soda-water.
The landlady was frightened, and told me she had felt sure I should be
killed. I was the second that ever done stone-breaking in England or
abroad, and I’m the first that ever did such a big one. The landlady
was so alarmed that she wouldn’t engage me, for she said I must be
killed one of the nights. Her behaviour was rather different as I went
out to when I came in.

“I, of course, didn’t go on in my rags. I had a first-rate stage dress.

“After this grand appearance I got engaged at Gravesend fair by
Middleton, and there I had eight shillings a-day, and I stopped with
him three weeks over the fair. I used to do my performances outside on
the parade, never inside. I had to do the stone-breaking about nine
or ten times a-day. They were middling stones, some larger and some
smaller, and the smaller ones about half-a-hundred weight, I suppose.
Any man might bring his stone and hammer, and break it himself. The
one who struck was generally chosen from the crowd; the biggest chap
they could find. I’ve heard ’em say to me, ‘Now, old chap, I’ll smash
you all to bits; so look out!’ The fact is, the harder they strike the
better for me, for it smashes it at once, and don’t keep the people in

“It was at Gravesend that I met with my second and last accident. With
the cutting of the chest, it is the only one I ever had. The feller
who came up to break the stone was half tipsy and missed his aim, and
obliged me by hitting my finger instead of the stone. I said to him,
‘Mind what you are doing,’ but I popped my hand behind me, and when I
got up I couldn’t make out what the people was crying out about, till
I looked round at my back and then I was smothered in blood. Middleton
said, ‘Good God! what’s the matter?’ and I told him I was hit on the
finger. When the cry was given of ‘All in to begin,’ I went into a
booth close by and had some brandy, and got a doctor to strap up the
finger, and then I went on with the parade business just the same. It
didn’t pain me nothing like what I should have thought. It was too hard
a knock to pain me much. The only time I felt it was when the doctor
dressed it, for it gave me pepper taking the plaster off.

“I was at Gravesend some time, and I went to work again stone-masoning,
and I had a guinea a-week, and in the evening I used to perform at the
Rose Inn. I did just as I liked there. I never charged ’em anything.
I lived in the house and they never charged me anything. It was a
first-rate house. If I wanted five shillings I’d get it from the
landlord. I was there about eleven months, and all that time I lived
there and paid nothing. I had a benefit there, and they wouldn’t even
charge me for printing the bills, or cards, or anything. It was quite
a clear benefit, and every penny taken at the doors was given to me.
I charged a shilling admittance, and the room was crowded, and they
was even on the stairs standing tip-toe to look at me. I wanted some
weights, and asked a butcher to lend ’em to me, and he says, ‘Lend ’em
to you! aye, take the machine and all if it’ll serve you.’ I was a
great favourite, as you may guess.

“After Gravesend I came up to London, and went and played the monkey
at the Bower Saloon. It was the first time I had done it. There was
all the monkey business, jumping over tables and chairs, and all
mischievous things; and there was climbing up trees, and up two
perpendicular ropes. I was dressed in a monkey’s dress; it’s made of
some of their hearth-rugs; and my face was painted. It’s very difficult
to paint a monkey’s face. I’ve a great knack that way, and can always
manage anything of that sort.

“From the Bower I went on to Portsmouth. I’d got hard up again, for
I’d been idle for three months, for I couldn’t get any money, and I
never appear under price. I walked all the way to Portsmouth, carrying
a half-hundred weight, besides my dress, all the way; I played at the
tap-rooms on the road. I did pretty middling, earned my living on the
road, about two shillings a-day. When I got to Portsmouth I did get a
job, and a good job it was, only one shilling and sixpence a-night; but
I thought it better to do that than nothing. I only did comic singing,
and I only knew two songs, but I set to and learnt a lot. I am very
courageous, and if I can’t get my money one way, I will another. With
us, if you’ve got a shilling, you’re a fool if you spend that before
you have another. I stopped at this public-house for two months, and
then a man who came from Portsea, a town close by, came one night, and
he asked me what I was doing. He had heard of what I could do, and he
offered me two pounds a-week to go with him and do the strong business.
He kept the Star Inn at Portsea. I stopped there such a thing as two
years, and I did well. I had great success, for the place was cramm’d
every night. For my benefit, Major Wyatt and Captain Holloway gave me
their bespeak, and permission for the men to come. The admission was
sixpence. Half the regiment marched down, and there was no room for the
public. I was on the stage for two hours during my performances. I was
tired, and fainted away as dead as a hammer after the curtain fell.

“Among other things I announced that I should, whilst suspended from
the ceiling, lift a horse. I had this horse paraded about the town for
a week before my night. There was such a house that numbers of people
was turned away, and a comic singer who was performing at a house
opposite, he put out an announcement that he too would lift a horse,
and when the time came he brought on a clothes-horse.

“The way I did the horse was this: I was hanging by my ankles, and the
horse was on a kind of platform under me. I had two sheets rolled up
and tied round the horse like belly-bands, and then I passed my arms
through them and strained him up. I didn’t keep him long in the air,
only just lifted him off his legs. In the midst of it the bandage got
off his eyes, and then, what with the music and the applauding, the
poor brute got frightened and begun plunging. I couldn’t manage him at
all whilst he was kicking. He got his two hind legs over the orchestra
and knocked all the float-lights out. They kept roaring, ‘Bring him
out! bring him out!’ as if they thought I was going to put him under
my arm--a thundering big brute. I was afraid he’d crack his knees, and
I should have to pay for him. The fiddler was rather uneasy, I can
tell you, and the people began shifting about. I was frightened, and
so I managed to pop part of the sheet over his head, and then I gave a
tremendous strain and brought him back again.

“How the idea of lifting a horse ever came into my head, I don’t know.
It came in a minute; I had never tried it before. I knew I should have
a tremendous purchase. The fact is, I had intended to do a swindle by
having lines passed down my dress, and for somebody behind to pull the
ropes and help me. The town was in an uproar when I announced I should
do it.

“It was at my benefit that I first broke stones with my fist. I don’t
know whose original notion it was. I was not the first; there’s a trick
in it. It’s done this way: anybody can do it. You take a cobbler’s
lapstone, and it’s put on a half-hundred weight; you must hold it half
an inch above, and then the concussion of the fist coming down smashes
it all to bits. Any one can do it.

“I cleared about eight pounds by my benefit. I was a regular swell in
those days. The white coats had just come up, and I had one made with
two-shilling pieces for buttons, and with polished-leather Wellington’s
I’d walk about the town, the king of the place.

“I’ve been down to Manchester performing. I’ve been, too, to the
Standard Theatre as well as the Victoria and the Marylebone. People
won’t believe I really do break the stone on my chest. Some ask me what
I wear under my dress, though the fact is, that if I had anything hard
there, it would just about kill me, for it’s by yielding to the blow
that I save myself. I actually gammoned one chap that the stones were
made of small pieces stuck together with paste, and he offered to give
me any sum to tell him what the paste was made of.

“When I’m engaged for a full performance I do this. All the weights,
and the stone and the hammer, are ranged in front of the stage. Then I
come on dressed in silk tights with a spangled trunk. Then I enter at
the back of the stage, and first do several feats of posturing, such
as skipping through my leg or passing it down my back, or splits. Then
I take a ladder and mount to the top, and stand up on it, and hold
one leg in my hand, shouldering it; and then I give a spring with the
other leg, and shoot off to the other side of the stage and squash down
with both legs open, doing a split. It’s a very good trick, and always
gets a round. Then I do a trick with a chair standing on the seat, and
I take one foot in my hand and make a hoop of the leg, and then hop
with one leg through the hoop of the other, and spring over the back
and come down in a split on the other side. I never miss this trick,
though, if the chair happens to be ricketty, I may catch the toe, but
it doesn’t matter much.

“Then I begin my weight business. I take one half-hundred weight and
hold it up at arm’s-length; and I also hold it out perpendicularly, and
bring it up again and swing it two or three times round the head, and
then throw it up in the air and catch it four or five times running;
not by the ring, as others do, but in the open hand.

“The next trick is doing the same thing with both hands instead of one,
that is with two weights at the same time; and then, after that, I take
up a half-hundred by the teeth, and shouldering the leg at the same,
and in that style I fall down into the splits. Then I raise myself up
gradually, till I’m upright again. After I’m upright I place the weight
on my forehead, and lay down flat on my back with it, without touching
with the hands. I take it off when I’m down and place it in my mouth,
and walk round the stage like a Greenwich-pensioner, with my feet
tucked up like crossing the arms, and only using my knees. Then I tie
three together, and hold them in the mouth, and I put one in each hand.
Then I stand up with them and support them. It’s an awful weight, and
you can’t do much exhibiting with them.

“When I was at Vauxhall, Yarmouth, last year, I hurt my neck very badly
in lifting those weights in the mouth. It pulled out the back of my
neck, and I was obliged to give over work for months. It forced my head
over one shoulder, and then it sunk, as if I’d got a stiff neck. I did
nothing to it, and only went to a doctor-chap, who made me bathe the
neck in hot water. That’s all.

“One of my most curious tricks is what I call the braces trick. It’s a
thing just like a pair of braces, only, instead of a button, there’s a
half-hundred weight at each end, so that there are two behind and two
in front. Then I mount on two swinging ropes with a noose at the end,
and I stretch out my legs into a split, and put a half-hundred on each
thigh, and take up another in my mouth. You may imagine how heavy the
weight is, when I tell you that I pulled the roof of a place in once
at Chelsea. It was a exhibition then. The tiles and all come down, and
near smothered me. You must understand, that in these tricks I have to
put the weights on myself, and raise them from the ground, and that
makes it so difficult.

“The next, and the best, and most difficult trick of all is, I have a
noose close to the ceiling, in which I place one of my ankles, and I’ve
another loose noose with a hook at the end, and I place that on the
other ankle. Two half-hundreds are placed on this hook, and one in each
hand. The moment these weights are put on this ankle, it pulls my legs
right apart, so that they form a straight line from the ceiling, like
a plumb-line, and my body sticks out at the side horizontally, like a
T-square sideways. I strike an attitude when I have the other weights
in my hand, and then another half-hundred is put in my mouth, and I am
swung backwards and forwards for about eight or twelve times. It don’t
hurt the ankle, because the sling is padded. At first it pulls you
about, and gives you a tremendous ricking. After this rope-performance
I take a half-hundred and swing it round about fifty times. It goes
as rapidly as a wheel, and if I was to miss my aim I should knock my
brains out. I have done it seventy times, but that was to take the
shine out of an opposition fellow.

“I always wind up with breaking the stone, and I don’t mind how
thick it is, so long as it isn’t heavy enough to crush me. A common
curb-stone, or a Yorkshire-flag, is nothing to me, and I’ve got so
accustomed to this trick, that once it took thirty blows with a
twenty-eight pound sledge-hammer to break the stone, and I asked for a
cigar and smoked it all the while.

“I’ll tell you another trick I’ve done, and that’s walking on the
ceiling. Of course I darn’t do it in the Professor Sands’ style, for
mine was a dodge. Professor Sands used an air-exhausting boot, on the
model of a fly’s foot, and it was a legitimate performance indeed;
he and another man, to whom he gave the secret of his boots, are the
only two who ever did it. The chap that came over here wasn’t the real
Sands. The fact is well known to the profession, that Sands killed
himself on his benefit night in America. After walking on the marble
slab in the Circus, somebody bet him he couldn’t do it on any ceiling,
and he for a wager went to a Town-hall, and done it, and the ceiling
gave way, and he fell and broke his neck. The chap that came over here
was Sands’ attendant, and he took the name and the boots, and came over
as Professor Sands.

“The first who ever walked on the ceiling, by a dodge, was a man of the
name of Herman, a wizard, who wound up his entertainment at the City of
London by walking on some planks suspended in the air. I was there, and
at once saw his trick. I knew it was a sleight-of-hand thing. I paid
great attention and found him out.

“I then went to work in this way. I bought two planks about thirteen
foot long, and an inch thick. In these planks I had small traps, about
two inches long by one inch wide, let into the wood, and very nicely
fitted, so that the cracks could not be seen. The better to hide the
cracks, I had the wood painted marble, and the blue veins arranged on
the cracks. These traps were bound on the upper side with iron hooping
to strengthen them. Then I made my boots. They were something like
Chinese boots, with a very thick sole, made on the principle of the
bellows of an accordion. These bellows were round, about the size of
a cheese-plate, and six inches deep. To the sole of the boot I had an
iron plate and a square tenter-hook riveted in.

“Then came the performance. There was no net under me, and the planks
was suspended about twenty feet from the stage. I went up on the ladder
and inserted the hook on one boot into the first trap. The sucker to
the boot hid the hook, and made it appear as if I held by suction.
The traps were about six inches apart, and that gave me a very small
step. The hooks being square ones--tenter-hooks--I could slip them
out easily. It had just the same appearance as Sands, and nobody ever
taught me how to do it. I did this feat at the Albion Concert-rooms,
just opposite the Effingham Saloon. I had eighteen shillings a-week
there for doing it. I never did it anywhere else, for it was a bother
to carry the planks about with me. I did it for a month, every night
three times. One night I fell down. You see you can never make sure,
for if you swung a little, it worked the hook off. I always had a chap
walking along under me to catch me, and he broke my fall, so that I
didn’t hurt myself. I ran up again, and did it a second time without an
accident. There was tremendous applause. I think I should have fallen
on my hands if the chap hadn’t been there.

“If the Secretary of State hadn’t put down the balloon business, I
should a made a deal of money. There is danger of course, but so there
is if you’re twenty or thirty feet. They do it now fifty feet high,
and that’s as bad as if you were two hundred or a mile in the air. The
only danger is getting giddy from the height, but those who go up are
accustomed to it.

“I sold the ceiling-walking trick to another fellow for two pounds,
after I had done with it, but he couldn’t manage it. He thought he was
going to do wonders. He took a half-hundred weight along with him, but
he swung like a pendulum, and down he come.

“Why this walking on the ceiling of mine was very near the same as what
Harvey Leach did at the Surrey as the gnome fly. He was a tremendous
clever fellow. His upper part of the body was very perfectly made, but
his legs was so short, they weren’t more than eighteen inches long.
That’s why he walked as much on his hands as his legs. That ‘What is
It,’ at the Egyptian Hall killed him. They’d have made a heap of money
at it if it hadn’t been discovered. He was in a cage, and wonderfully
got up. He looked awful. A friend of his comes in, and goes up to the
cage, and says, ‘How are you, old fellow?’ The thing was blown up in a
minute. The place was in an uproar. It killed Harvey Leach, for he took
it to heart and died.

“I reckon Astley’s is the worst money for any man. If a fellow wants to
be finished up, let him go there. It doesn’t pay so well as the cheap
concerts, unless a man is a very great star, and they must give him his

“There are six men, including myself, who do the strong business.
That’s all I’m beware of in London, or England. Sometimes they change
their names, and comes out as Herrs, or Signors, or Monsieurs, but they
are generally the same fellows. Most of our foreigners in England come
out of Tower-street. There was a house of call there for professionals
of all nations, but that ‘public’ is done up now, and they mostly go to
the Cooper’s Arms now.

“If a strong man properly understands his business, and pays attention
to his engagements, his average earnings will be about two pounds ten
shillings a-week. As it is, they now make less than thirty shillings,
but they spend it so readily that it doesn’t go so far as a working
man’s pound. There’s plenty of people to ask you, ‘What’ll you have?’
but if you’re anything of a man you’re obliged to return the compliment
at some time. The swells get hold of you. Perhaps a bottle of wine is
called for, and then another; well, then a fellow must be no good if
he doesn’t pay for the third when it comes, and the day’s money don’t
run to it, and you’re in a hole.”


The juggler from whom I received the following account, was spoken of
by his companions and friends as “one of the cleverest that ever came
out.” He was at this time performing in the evening at one of the chief
saloons on the other side of the water.

He certainly appears to have been successful enough when he first
appeared in the streets, and the way in which he squandered the amount
of money he then made is a constant source of misery to him, for he
kept exclaiming in the midst of his narrative, “Ah! I might have been a
gentleman now, if I hadn’t been the fool I was then.”

As a proof of his talents and success he assured me, that when Ramo
Samee first came out, he not only learned how to do all the Indian’s
tricks, but also did them so dexterously, that when travelling “Samee
has often paid him ten shillings not to perform in the same town with

He was a short man, with iron-grey hair, which had been shaved high
upon the temples to allow him to assume the Indian costume. The skin
of the face was curiously loose, and formed deep lines about the chin,
whilst in the cheeks there were dimples, or rather hollows, almost
as deep as those on a sofa cushion. He had a singular look, from his
eyebrows and eyes being so black.

His hands were small and delicate, and when he took up anything, he did
it as if he were lifting the cup with the ball under it.

“I’m a juggler,” he said, “but I don’t know if that’s the right term,
for some people call conjurers jugglers; but it’s wrong. When I was
in Ireland they called me a “manulist,” and it was a gentleman wrote
the bill out for me. The difference I makes between conjuring and
juggling is, one’s deceiving to the eye and the other’s pleasing to the
eye--yes, that’s it--it’s dexterity.

“I dare say I’ve been at juggling 40 years, for I was between 14 and 15
when I begun, and I’m 56 now. I remember Ramo Samee and all the first
process of the art. He was the first as ever I knew, and very good
indeed; there was no other to oppose him, and he must have been good
then. I suppose I’m the oldest juggler alive.

“My father was a whitesmith, and kept a shop in the Waterloo-road, and
I ran away from him. There was a man of the name of Humphreys kept a
riding-school in the Waterloo-road (there was very few houses there
then, only brick-fields--aye, what is the Victoria theatre now was then
a pin-factory and a hatter’s; it wasn’t opened for performance then),
and I used to go to this riding-school and practise tumbling when the
horse-dung was thrown out, for I was very ambitious to be a tumbler.
When I used to go on this here dung-heap, sometimes father would want
me to blow the fire or strike for him, and he’d come after me and catch
me tumbling, and take off his apron and wallop me with it all the way
home; and the leather strings used to hurt, I can tell you.

“I first went to work at the pin-factory, where the Coburg’s built now,
and dropped tumbling then. Then I went to a hatter’s in Oakley-street,
and there I took to tumbling again, and used to get practising on the
wool-packs (they made the hats then out of wool stuff and hare-skins,
and such-like, and you couldn’t get a hat then under 25_s._); I
couldn’t get my heart away from tumbling all the time I was there,
for it was set on it. I’d even begin tumbling when I went out on
errands, doing hand-spring, and starts-up (that’s laying on your back
and throwing yourself up), and round-alls (that’s throwing yourself
backwards on to your hands and back again to your feet), and walking on
my hands. I never let any of the men see me practise. I had to sweep
the warehouse up, and all the wool was there, and I used to have a go
to myself in the morning before they was up.

“The way I got into my professional career was this: I used to have to
go and get the men’s beer, for I was kept for that. You see, I had to
go to the men’s homes to fetch their breakfasts, and the dinners and
teas--I wish I had such a place now. The men gave me a shilling a-week,
and there was twelve of them when in full work, and the master gave me
4_s._ 6_d._ Besides that they never worked on a Monday, but I was told
to fetch their food just the same, so that their wives mightn’t know;
and I had all their twelve dinners, breakfasts, and so on. I kept about
six of the boys there, and anybody might have the victuals that liked,
for I’ve sometimes put ’em on a post for somebody to find.

“I was one day going to fetch the men’s beer when I meets another boy,
and he says, ‘You can’t walk on your hands.’ ‘Cant I!’ says I, and I
puts down the cans and off I started, and walked on my hands from one
end of the street to the other, pretty nigh. Mr. Sanders, the rider,
one of the oldest riders that was (before Ducrow’s time, for Ducrow
was a ’prentice of his, and he allowed Sanders 30_s._ a-week for all
his lifetime), was passing by and he see me walking on my hands, and
he come up and says, ‘My boy, where do you belong to?’ and I answers,
‘My father;’ and then he says, ‘Do you think he’d let you come along
with me?’ I told him I’d go and ask; and I ran off, but never went to
father--you’ll understand--and then in a minute or two I came back and
said, ‘Father says yes, I may go when I thinks proper;’ and then Mr.
Sanders took me to Lock’s-fields, and there was a gig, and he drove me
down to Ware, in Hertfordshire.

“You may as well say this here. The circusses at that time wasn’t as
they are now. They used to call it in the profession moulding, and the
public termed it mountebanking. Moulding was making a ring in a field,
for there was no booths then, and it comes from digging up the mould
to make it soft for the horses’ feet. There was no charge for seeing
the exhibition, for it was in a field open to the public; but it was
worked in this way: there was prizes given away, and the tickets to the
lottery were 1_s._ each, and most of the people bought ’em, though they
weren’t obligated to do so. Sometimes the prizes would be a five-pound
note, or a silver watch, maybe, or a sack of flour, or a pig. They used
to take the tickets round in a hat, and everybody saw what they drawed.
They was all prizes--perhaps a penny ring--but there was no blanks. It
was the last night that paid best. The first and second nights Sanders
would give them a first-rate prize; but when the last night came, then
a half-crown article was the highest he’d give away, and that helped to
draw up. I’ve know’d him give 4_l._ or 5_l._ away, when he’d not taken
2_l._ Mr. Sanders put me to tumbling in the ring. I could tumble well
before I went with him, for I’d practised on this dung-heap, and in
this hatter’s shop. I beat all his apprentices what he had. He didn’t
give me anything a-week, only my keep, but I was glad to run away and
be a showman. I was very successful in the ring-tumbling, and from that
I got to be clever on the stilts and on the slack-rope, or, as they
call it in the profession, the waulting-rope. When I was ragged I used
to run home again and get some clothes. I’ve many a time seen him burst
out into tears to see me come home so ragged. ‘Ah,’ he’d say, ‘where
have you been now?--tumbling, I suppose.’ I’d answer, ‘Yes, father;’
and then he’d say, ‘Ah, your tumbling will bring you to the gallows.’
I’d stop with him till he gave me some fresh clothes, and then I’d bolt
again. You see I liked it. I’d go and do it for nothing. Now I dread
it; but it’s too late, unfortunately.

“I ran away from Sanders at last, and went back to father. One night
I went to the theatre, and there I see Ramo Samee doing his juggling,
and in a minute I forgot all about the tumbling, and only wanted to
do as he did. Directly I got home I got two of the plates, and went
into a back-room and began practising, making it turn round on the
top of a stick. I broke nearly all the plates in the house doing
this--that is, what I didn’t break I cracked. I broke the entire set
of a dozen plates, and yet couldn’t do it. When mother found all her
plates cracked, she said, ‘It’s that boy;’ and I had a good hiding.
Then I put on my Sunday suit and bolted away again. I always bolted
in my best clothes. I then went about tumbling in the public-houses,
till I had got money enough to have a tin plate made with a deep rim,
and with this tin plate I learnt it, so that I could afterwards do it
with a crockery one. I kept on my tumbling till I got a set of wooden
balls turned, and I stuck brass coffin-nails all over them, so that
they looked like metal when they was up; and I began teaching myself
to chuck them. It took a long time learning it, but I was fond of it,
and determined to do it. I was doing pretty well with my tumbling,
making perhaps my 3_s._ or 4_s._ a-night, so I was pretty well off.
Then I got some tin knives made, and learnt to throw them: and I bought
some iron rings, and bound them with red and blue tape, to make them
look handsome; and I learnt to toss them the same as the balls. I
practised balancing pipes, too. Every time I went into a public-house
I’d take a pipe away, so it didn’t cost me anything. I dare say I was
a twelvemonth before I could juggle well. When I could throw the three
balls middling tidy I used to do them on the stilts, and that was more
than ever a man attempted in them days; and yet I was only sixteen or
seventeen years of age. I must have been summut then, for I went to
Oxford fair, and there I was on my stilts, chucking my balls in the
public streets, and a gentleman came up to me and asked me if I’d take
an engagement, and I said ‘Yes, if it was a good un’--for I was taking
money like smoke; and he agreed to give me a pound a-day during the
fair; it was a week fair. I had so much money, I didn’t know what to do
with it. I actually went and bought a silk neckerchief for every day in
the week, and flash boots, and caps, and everything I could see, for
I never had so much money as in them days. The master, too, made his
share out of me, for he took money like dirt.

“From Oxford I worked my way over to Ireland. I had got my hand into
juggling now, but I kept on with my old apparatus, though I bought a
new set in Dublin. I used to have a bag and bit of carpet, and perform
in streets. I had an Indian’s dress made, with a long horse-hair tail
down my back, and white bag-trousers, trimmed with red, like a Turk’s,
tied right round at the ankles, and a flesh-coloured skull-cap. My
coat was what is called a Turkish fly, in red velvet, cut off like a
waistcoat, with a peak before and behind. I was a regular swell, and
called myself the Indian Juggler. I used to perform in the barracks
twice a-day, morning and evening. I used to make a heap of money. I
have taken, in one pitch, more than a pound. I dare say I’ve taken
3_l._ a-day, and sometimes more indeed; I’ve saved a waggon and a booth
there,--a very nice one,--and the waggon cost me 14_l._ second-hand;
one of Vickry’s it was, a wild-beast waggon. I dare say I was six
months in Dublin, doing first-rate. My performances was just the same
then as they is now; only I walked on stilts, and they was new then,
and did the business. I was the first man ever seed in Ireland, either
juggling or on the stilts.

“I had a drum and pipes, and I used to play them myself. I played
any tune,--anythink, just what I could think of, to draw the crowd
together; then I’d mount the stilts and do what I called ‘a drunken
frolic,’ with a bottle in my hand, tumbling about and pretending to be
drunk. Then I’d chuck the balls about, and the knives, and the rings,
and twirl the plate. I wound up with the ball, throwing it in the air
and catching it in a cup. I didn’t do any balancing pipes on my nose,
not whilst on the stilts.

“I used to go out one day on the stilts and one on the ground, to do
the balancing. I’d balance pipes, straws, peacocks’ feathers, and the
twirling plate.

“It took me a long time learning to catch the ball in the cup. I
practised in the fields or streets; anywhere. I began by just throwing
the ball a yard or two in the air, and then went on gradually. The
first I see do the ball was a man of the name of Dussang, who came over
with Ramo Samee. It’s a very dangerous feat, and even now I’m never
safe of it, for the least wind will blow it to the outside, and spoil
the aim. I broke my nose at Derby races. A boy ran across the ring, and
the ball, which weighs a quarter of a pound, was coming right on him,
and would have fallen on his head, and perhaps killed him, and I ran
forward to save him, and couldn’t take my aim proper, and it fell on my
nose, and broke it. It bled awfully, and it kept on for near a month.
There happened to be a doctor looking on, and he came and plastered it
up; and then I chucked the ball up again, (for I didn’t care what I
did in them days), and the strain of its coming down made it burst out
again. They actually gived me money not to throw the ball up any more.
I got near a sovereign, in silver, give me from the Grand Stand, for
that accident.

“At Newcastle I met with another accident with throwing the ball. It
came down on my head, and it regularly stunned me, so that I fell down.
It swelled up, and every minute got bigger, till I a’most thought I had
a double head, for it felt so heavy I could scarce hold it up. I was
obliged to knock off work for a fortnight.

“In Ireland I used to make the people laugh, to throw up raw potatoes
and let them come down on my naked forehead and smash. People give
more money when they laugh. No, it never hurt my forehead, it’s got
hardened; nor I never suffered from headaches when I was practicing.

“As you catch the ball in the cup, you are obliged to give, you know,
and bend to it, or it would knock the brains out of you pretty well. I
never heard of a man killing himself with the ball, and I’ve only had
two accidents.

“I got married in Ireland, and then I started off with the booth and
waggon, and she used to dance, and I’d juggle and balance. We went to
the fairs, but it didn’t answer, and we lost all; for my wife turned
out a very bad sort of woman. She’s dead now, through drink. I went to
the Isle of Man from Ireland; I had practised my wife in the stilts,
and learnt her how to use them, and we did well there. They never
see such a thing in their lives, and we took money like dirt. They
christened us the ‘Manx Giants.’ If my wife had been like my present
one, I should be a made gentleman by this time; but she drank away my
booth, and waggon, and horse, and all.

“I saved up about 20_l._ in the Isle of Man; and from there we went
to Scotland, and there my wife died,--through drink. That took away
all the money I had saved. We didn’t do much in Scotland, only in one
particular town,--that’s Edinburgh,--on New-year’s day. We took a
good deal of money, 2_l._ I think; and we carried coppers about in a
stocking with me.

“I travelled about in England and Wales when I married my second wife.
She’s a strong woman, and lifts 700 lbs. by the hair of her head.

“When I got back to London I hadn’t a shilling in my pocket, though my
wife was very careful of me; but times got bad, and what not. We got a
situation at 12_s._ a day, and all collections, at Stepney fair, which
would sometimes come to a pound, and at others 30_s._; for collections
is better than salary any days: that set us up in a little house, which
we’ve got now.

“I’m too old now to go out regularly in the streets. It tires me too
much, if I have to appear at a penny theatre in the evening. When I
do go out in the streets, I carry a mahogany box with me, to put my
things out in. I’ve got three sets of things now, knives, balls, and
cups. In fact, I never was so well off in apparatus as now; and many of
them have been given to me as presents, by friends as have gi’n over
performing. Knives, and balls, and all, are very handsome. The balls,
some a pound, and some 2 lbs. weight, and the knives about 1-1/2 lbs.

“When I’m out performing, I get into all the open places as I can. I
goes up the Commercial-road and pitches at the Mile-end-gate, or about
Tower-hill, or such-like. I’m well known in London, and the police
knows me so well they very seldom interfere with me. Sometimes they
say, ‘That’s not allowed, you know, old man!’ and I say, ‘I shan’t be
above two or three minutes,’ and they say, ‘Make haste, then!’ and then
I go on with the performance.

“I think I’m the cleverest juggler out. I can do the pagoda, or the
canopy as some calls it; that is a thing like a parasol balanced by the
handle on my nose, and the sides held up by other sticks, and then with
a pea-shooter I blow away the supports. I also do what is called ‘the
birds and bush,’ which is something of the same, only you knock off the
birds with a pea-shooter. The birds is only made of cork, but it’s
very difficult, because you have to take your balance agin every bird
as falls; besides, you must be careful the birds don’t fall in your
eyes, or it would take away your sight and spoil the balance. The birds
at back are hardest to knock off, because you have to bend back, and at
the same time mind you don’t topple the tree off.

“These are the only feats we perform in balancing, and the juggling is
the same now as ever it was, for there ain’t been no improvements on
the old style as I ever heerd on; and I suppose balls and knives and
rings will last for a hundred years to come yet.

“I and my wife are now engaged at the ‘Temple of Mystery’ in Old
Street-road, and it says on the bills that they are ‘at present
exhibiting the following new and interesting talent,’ and then they
calls me ‘The Renowned Indian Juggler, performing his extraordinary
Feats with Cups, Balls, Daggers, Plates, Knives, Rings, Balancing, &c.

“After the juggling I generally has to do conjuring. I does what they
call ‘the pile of mags,’ that is, putting four halfpence on a boy’s
cap, and making them disappear when I say ‘Presto, fly!’ Then there’s
the empty cups, and making ’taters come under ’em, or there’s bringing
a cabbage into a empty hat. There’s also making a shilling pass from
a gentleman’s hand into a nest of boxes, and such-like tricks: but it
ain’t half so hard as juggling, nor anything like the work.

“I and my missis have 5_s._ 6_d._ a-night between us, besides a
collection among the company, which I reckon, on the average, to be
as good as another pound a-week, for we made that the last week we

“I should say there ain’t above twenty jugglers in all England--indeed,
I’m sure there ain’t--such as goes about pitching in the streets and
towns. I know there’s only four others besides myself in London,
unless some new one has sprung up very lately. You may safely reckon
their earnings for the year round at a pound a-week, that is, if they
stick to juggling; but most of us joins some other calling along with
juggling, such as the wizard’s business, and that helps out the gains.

“Before this year, I used to go down to the sea-side in the summer,
and perform at the watering-places. A chap by the name of Gordon is at
Ramsgate now. It pays well on the sands, for in two or three hours,
according to the tides, we picks up enough for the day.”


“I call myself a wizard as well; but that’s only the polite term for
conjurer; in fact, I should think that wizard meant an astrologer, and
more of a fortune-teller. I was fifteen years of age when I first began
my professional life; indeed I opened with Gentleman Cooke at the
Rotunda, in Blackfriars’-road, and there I did Jeremiah Stitchem to his
Billy Button.

“My father held a very excellent situation in the Customs, and lived
at his ease, in very affluent circumstances. His library alone was
worth two hundred pounds. I was only ten years of age when my father
died. He was a very gay man, and spent his income to the last penny.
He was a very gay man, very gay. After my mother was left a widow, the
library was swept off for a year’s rent. I was too young to understand
it’s value, and my mother was in too much grief to pay attention to
her affairs. Another six-months’ rent sold up the furniture. We took a
small apartment close in the neighbourhood. My mother had no means, and
we were left to shift for ourselves. I was a good boy, and determined
to get something to do. The first day I went out I got a situation at
four shillings a-week, to mind the boots outside a boot-maker’s shop in
Newington Causeway. The very first week I was there I was discharged,
for I fell asleep on my stool at the door, and a boy stole a pair of
boots. From there I went to a baker’s, and had to carry out the bread,
and for four years I got different employments, as errand boy or

“For many years the mall opposite Bedlam was filled with nothing else
but shows and show-people. All the caravans and swing-boats, and what
not, used to assemble there till the next fair was on. They didn’t
perform there, it was only their resting-place. My mother was living
close by, and every opportunity I had I used to associate with the
boys belonging to the shows, and then I’d see them practising their
tumbling and tricks. I was so fond of this that I got practising with
these boys. I’d go and paint my face as clown, and although dressed in
my ordinary clothes I’d go and tumble with the rest of the lads, until
I could do it as well as they could. I did it for devilment, that’s
what I call it, and that it was which first made me think of being a

“From there I heard of a situation to sell oranges, biscuits, and
ginger-beer, at the Surrey Theatre. It was under Elliston’s management.
I sold the porter up in the gallery, and I had three-halfpence out of
every shilling, and I could make one shilling and sixpence a-night;
but the way I used to do it at that time was this: I went to fetch the
beer, and then I’d get half-a-gallon of table-beer and mix it with the
porter; and I tell you, I’ve made such a thing as fifteen shillings
of a boxing-night. I alone could sell five gallons of a night; but
then their pints at that time was tin measures, and little more than
half-a-pint: besides, I’d froth it up. It was threepence a pint, and a
wonderful profit it must have been. From there I got behind the scenes
as supernumerary, at the time Nelson Lee was manager of the supers.

“At this time the Rotunda in the Blackfriars’-road was an hotel kept
by a Mr. Ford. Mr Cook rented certain portions of the building, and
went to a wonderful expense building a Circus there. The history of the
Rotunda is that at one time it was a museum, and the lecture-hall is
there to the present day. It’s a beautiful building, and the pillars
are said to be very valuable, and made of rice. It’s all let to one
party, a Frenchman, but he keeps the lecture-hall closed. When Cook
took the Rotunda I asked him for an engagement, and he complied. I
was mad for acting. I met with great success as Jeremiah Stitchem;
and the first week he gave me one pound. Cook didn’t make a good
thing of it. Nobody could get their money, and the circus was closed.
Then a Mr. Edwards took it. He was an optician, and opened it as a
penny exhibition, with a magic lantern and a conjurer. Now comes how
I became a conjurer. I couldn’t tear myself away from the Rotunda. I
went there and hovered about the door day and night. I wanted to get
a situation there. He knew me when I was in the circus, and he asked
me what I was a-doing of. I said, ‘Nothing, sir.’ Then he offered to
give me one of the door-keeper’s places, from ten in the morning till
eleven at night, for three shillings a-day, and I took it. One day the
conjurer that was there didn’t come, but they opened the doors just the
same, and there was an immense quantity of people waiting there. They
couldn’t do nothing without the conjurer. He always left his apparatus
there of a night, in a bag. Well, this Edwards, knowing that I could
do a few tricks, he came up to me and asks whether I knew where the
wizard lived. I didn’t, and Edwards says, ‘What am I to do? I shall
have to return this money: I shall go mad.’ I said I could do a few
tricks; and he says, ‘Well, go and do it.’ The people was making a row,
stamping and calling out, ‘Now then, is this here wizard coming?’ When
I went in, I give great satisfaction. I went and did all the tricks,
just as the other had done it. At that time it was the custom to say
after each performance, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to inform you
that I get no salary here, and only have to rely upon your generosity
for a collection.’ When the plate went round I got one shilling and
sixpence. ‘Hulloa!’ I said to myself, ‘is this the situation?’ Then
I sold some penny books, explaining how the tricks was done, and I
got sixpence more. That was two shillings. I had four shillings a-day
besides, and they would have sometimes twenty houses of a day, and I
have seen thirty. The houses were not always very good. Sometimes we’d
perform to seven or to twenty. It all told up. It was at night we did
the principal work,--crowded upwards of two hundred there. We weren’t
in the Circus, but in the Rotunda. I’d make fifteen shillings a-night
then. I got a permanent engagement then. I made too much money. I went
and bought a pack of cards and card-boxes, and a pea-caddy for passing
peas from a handkerchief to a vase, and linking-rings, and some tape.
That, with tying knots in a silk handkerchief, concluded the whole
of my performances. In fact, it was all I knew. My talking helped
me immensely, for I could patter well to them, and the other wizard

“I left the Rotunda in consequence of the party having other novelties.
He had Ambrosini, who done the sticks and string balls; but I was there
three or four years, and that’s a long time to be at one place. Then I
joined a street-performer. He used to do the fire-proof business, such
as eating the link, and the burning tow, and so on. Then I manufactured
a portable table: it folded up, and I could carry it under my arm. It
was as large as an ordinary dressing-table. We went in equal shares.
I was dressed with ballet shirt, and braces, with spangled tights and
fleshings. We pulled our coats off when we begun to perform. All the
tricks we carried in a bag.

“The first pitch we made was near Bond-street. He began with his part
of the performance whilst I was dressing up the table. It was covered
with black velvet with fringe, and the apparatus ranged on it. After
him I began my performance, and he went round for the nobbings. I did
card tricks, such as the sautez-le-coup with the little finger. It’s
dividing the pack in half, and then bringing the bottom half to the
top; and then, if there’s a doubt, you can convey the top card to the
bottom again; or if there’s any doubt, you can bring the pack to its
original position. It was Lord de Roos’ trick. He won heaps of money at
it. He had pricked cards. You see, if you prick a card at the corner,
card-players skin their finger at the end, so as to make it sensitive,
and they can tell a pricked card in a moment. Besides sautez-le-coup, I
used to do innumerable others, such as telling a named card by throwing
a pack in the air and catching the card on a sword point. Then there
was telling people’s thoughts by the cards. All card tricks are feats
of great dexterity and quickness of hand. I never used a false pack
of cards. There are some made for amateurs, but professionals never
use trick cards. The greatest art is what is termed forcing, that is,
making a party take the card you wish him to; and let him try ever so
well, he will have it, though he’s not conscious of it. Another feat of
dexterity is slipping the card, that is, slipping it from top, bottom,
or centre, or placing one or two cards from the top. If you’re playing
a game at all-fours and you know the ace of clubs is at the bottom, you
can slip it one from the top, so that you know your partner opposite
has it. These are the only two principal things in card tricks, and if
you can do them dexteriously you can do a great part of a wizard’s art.
Sautez-le-coup is the principal thing, and it’s done by placing the
middle finger in the centre of the pack, and then with the right hand
working the change. I can do it with one hand.

“We did well with pitching in the streets. We’d take ten shillings of
a morning, and then go out in the afternoon again and take perhaps
fifteen shillings of nobbings. The footmen were our best customers in
the morning, for they had leisure then. We usually went to the squares
and such parts at the West-end. This was twenty years ago, and it
isn’t anything like so good now, in consequence of my partner dying of
consumption; brought on, I think, by fire eating, for he was a very
steady young fellow and not at all given to drink. I was for two years
in the streets with the fire-eating, and we made I should say such a
thing as fifty shillings a-week each. Then you must remember, we could
have made more if we had liked; for some mornings, if we had had a good
day before, we wouldn’t go out if it was raining, or we had been up
late. I next got a situation, and went to a wax-works to do conjuring.
It was a penny exhibition in the New Cut, Lambeth. I had four shillings
a-day and nobbings--a collection, and what with selling my books,
it came to ten shillings a-day, for we had never less than ten and
often twenty performances a-day. They had the first dissecting figure
there--a Samson--and they took off the cranium and showed the brains,
and also the stomach, and showed the intestines. It was the first ever
shown in this country, and the maker of it had (so they say) a pension
of one hundred pounds a year for having composed it. He was an Italian.

“We were burnt down at Birmingham, and I lost all my rattle-traps.
However, the inhabitants made up a subscription which amply repaid me
for my loss, and I then came to London, hearing that the Epsom races
was on at the time, which I wouldn’t have missed Epsom races, not at
that time, not for any amount of money, for it was always good to
one as three pounds, and I have had as much as seven pounds from one
carriage alone. It was Lord Chesterfield’s, and each gentleman in it
gave us a sov. I went down with three acrobats to Epsom, but they were
dealing unfair with me, and there was something that I didn’t like
going on; so I quarrelled with them and joined with another conjurer,
and it was on this very occasion we got the seven pounds from one
carriage. We both varied in our entertainments; because, when I had
done my performance, he made a collection; and when he had done I got
the nobbings. We went to Lord Chesterfield’s carriage on the hill, and
there I did the sovereign trick. ‘My Lord, will you oblige me with the
temporary loan of a sovereign?’ ‘Yes, old fellow: what are you going
to do with it?’ I then did passing the sovereign, he having marked
it first; and then, though he held it tightly, I changed it for a
farthing. I did this for Lord Waterford and Lord Waldegrave, and the
whole of them in the carriage. I always said, ‘Now, my Lord, are you
sure you hold it?’ ‘Yes, old fellow.’ ‘Now, my Lord, if I was to take
the sovereign away from you without you knowing it, wouldn’t you say I
was perfectly welcome to it?’ He’d say, ‘Yes, old fellow; go on.’ Then,
when he opened the handkerchief he had a farthing, and all of them made
me a present of the sovereign I had performed with.

“Then we went to the Grand Stand, and then after our performance they’d
throw us halfpence from above. We had our table nicely fitted up. We
wouldn’t take halfpence. We would collect up the coppers, perhaps five
or six shillings worth, and then we’d throw the great handful among the
boys. ‘A bit of silver, your honours, if you please;’ then sixpence
would come, and then a shilling, and in ten minutes we would have a
sovereign. We must have earned our six pounds each that Epsom Day; but
then our expenses were heavy, for we paid three shillings a-night for
our lodging alone.

“It was about this time that I took to busking. I never went into
tap-rooms, only into parlours; because one parlour would be as good as
a dozen tap-rooms, and two good parlours a-night I was quite satisfied
with. My general method was this: If I saw a good company in the
parlour, I could tell in a moment whether they were likely to suit me.
If they were conversing on politics it was no good, you might as well
attempt to fly. I have many a-time gone into a parlour, and called for
my half-quartern of gin and little drop of cold water, and then, when I
began my performances, it has been ‘No, no! we don’t want anything of
that kind,’ and there has been my half hour thrown away. The company I
like best are jolly-looking men, who are sitting silently smoking, or
reading the paper. I always got the privilege of performing by behaving
with civility to my patrons. Some conjurers, when the company ain’t
agreeable, will say, ‘But I will perform;’ and then comes a quarrel,
and the room is in future forbid to that man. But I, if they objected,
always said, ‘Very well, gentlemen, I’m much obliged to you all the
same: perhaps another time. Bad to-night, better next night.’ Then when
I came again some would say, ‘I didn’t give you anything the other
night, did I? Well, here’s a fourpenny bit,’ and so on.

“When I went into a parlour I usually performed with a big dice, three
inches square. I used to go and call for a small drop of gin and
water, and put this dice on the seat beside me, as a bit of a draw.
Directly I put it down everybody was looking at it. Then I’d get into
conversation with the party next to me, and he’d be sure to say, ‘What
the deuce is that?’ I’d tell him it was a musical box, and he’d be
safe to say, ‘Well, I should like to hear it, very much.’ Then I’d
offer to perform, if agreeable, to the company; often the party would
offer to name it to the company, and he’d call to the other side of
the room, (for they all know each other in these parlours) ‘I say, Mr.
So-and-so, have you any objection to this gentleman showing us a little
amusement?’ and they are all of them safe to say, ‘Not in the least.
I’m perfectly agreeable if others are so;’ and then I’d begin. I’d pull
out my cards and card-boxes, and the bonus genius or the wooden doll,
and then I’d spread a nice clean cloth (which I always carried with me)
on the table, and then I’d go to work. I worked the dice by placing it
on the top of a hat, and with a penknife pretending to make an incision
in the crown to let the solid block pass through. It is done by having
a tin covering to the solid dice, and the art consists in getting the
solid block into the hat without being seen. That’s the whole of the
trick. I begin by striking the block to show it is solid. Then I place
two hats one on the other, brim to brim. Then I slip the solid dice
into the under hat, and place the tin covering on the crown of the
upper one. Then I ask for a knife, and pretend to cut the hat-crown
the size of the tin-can on the top, making a noise by dragging my nail
along the hat, which closely resembles cutting with a knife. I’ve
often heard people say, ‘None of that!’ thinking I was cutting their
hat. Then I say, ‘Now, gentlemen, if I can pass this dice through the
crown into the hat beneath, you’ll say it’s a very clever deception,’
because all conjurers acknowledge that they deceive; indeed, I always
say when I perform in parlours, ‘If you can detect me in my deceptions
I shall be very much obliged to you by naming it, for it will make me
more careful; but if you can’t, the more credit to me.’ Then I place
another tin-box over the imitation dice; it fits closely. I say,
‘Presto--quick--begone!’ and clap my hands three times, and then lift
up the tin-cases, which are both coloured black inside, and tumble the
wooden dice out of the under hat. You see, the whole art consists in
passing the solid block unseen into the hat.

“The old method of giving the order for the things to pass was this:
‘Albri kira mumma tousha cocus co shiver de freek from the margin under
the crippling hook,’ and that’s a language.”


“IN London I had a great quantity of parlours where I was known and
allowed to perform. One night I’d take the West-end, and another the
East-end. Sometimes I have done four or five houses of an evening, and
I have had to walk miles for that--to Woolwich and back for instance,
or to Edmonton and back--and occasionally I’d only come home with
1_s._ 6_d._ I have also had 8_s._ from one parlour only, and then I’d
consider that a night’s performance, and come home again.

“I remember one very peculiar circumstance which happened to me whilst
I was out busking. There is a house at the bottom of York-street,
Westminster, where they wouldn’t allow any other conjurer but me. I
was very friendly with the landlord, and I went there regularly every
week, and I’d invariably take such a thing as 2_s._ or 3_s._ out of the
room. If I found only a small muster in the parlour, I’d say, ‘I’ll
come another evening,’ and go off to another parlour in Pimlico. One
night the company in the parlour said, after I had been performing,
‘What a pity it is that one of your talent doesn’t take a large room
somewhere, and we’d patronise you.’ ‘Why,’ says the landlord, ‘he can
have my large room up-stairs if he likes.’ I agreed to it, and says,
‘Well, gentlemen, we’ll have it next Wednesday evening, if you think
proper.’ The landlord didn’t tell his wife that there was a performance
to take place on the Wednesday evening. When I went to this house to
the appointment, there were about thirty assembled. The landlord was
out. When we asked the landlady for the room, she wouldn’t, and we had
all the difficulty in the world before we got the apartment. I wanted a
large table-cloth to dress up my stand, for I have, in order to perform
some of my tricks, to make a bag with the end of the table-cloth
to drop things into. We sent the waiter to ask for this cloth, and
says she, ‘I ain’t going to lend no conjurers table-cloths.’ Then a
gentleman says, ‘Oh, nonsense, I’ll soon get you a table-cloth. She’ll
lend me one in a minute.’ He goes to the bar, but the reply she made
was, ‘I’m surprised at Mr. W. having such a performance up there, and
no table-cloth shall you have from me.’ He came up-stairs, and said he
had been grossly insulted at the bar; and then another gentleman said,
‘Well, this young man shan’t be disappointed, and we’ll see if we can’t
find another house down the street, and move it to there, and we’ll
all go.’ One went out, and came back and said he’d not only got a very
large room and everything required, but the landlord had four friends
in the bar who’d join our company. I made altogether about 1_l._ that
night, for I made no charge, and it was altogether contribution. None
of that company ever returned to that house again, so he lost the whole
of his parlour customers. I could never go into that house again, and
I really was sorry for the landlord, for it wasn’t his fault. This is
a very good proof that it is to the advantage of landlords to allow
respectable performers to visit their parlours.

“At others times I have sometimes gone into a parlour and found the
customers talking politics. If it was a very good company, and I saw
good business, I’d try to break the thread of the discussion by saying
when there was a pause in the debate, ‘Gentlemen, would you like to see
some of my performances, such as walking round the ceiling with my head
down?’ Then they’d say, ‘Well, that’s very curious; let’s see you.’ Of
course I couldn’t do this, and I only said it to attract notice. Then
I’d do my card-tricks, and make a collection, and, after that, remark
that as the ceiling-walking performance was a dangerous one, I must
have a sovereign; of course they wouldn’t give this, and I’d take my

“One night, in Oxford-street, I met a singer, and he says, ‘Where are
you going?’ I told him I was hunting for a good parlour, and he told
me he had just left a good company at such and such a house. I thanked
him, and I went there. It was up a long passage, and I entered the room
without asking the landlord’s permission, and I called for a glass of
porter. As soon as I saw the waiter out of the room I made my appeal
to the company. They were all of them agreeable and most happy to
see my performances. After I’d done my performance I went to make a
collection, and they said, ‘Oh, certainly not; we thought you’d done it
for your own amusement; we never give anything to anybody.’ I lost one
hour of the best time of the night. I said, ‘Very good, gentlemen, I’m
satisfied if you are.’ It was an agreed plan with the landlord, for he
came into the room; and he says, ‘What, another one!’ and he seized me
by the neck and pushed me out. As soon as I got outside I met another
conjurer, and he asked where I’d been. I thought I’d let him be served
the same as I was, so I showed him the house, and told him he could
make a second ‘nobbings’ as we term it. I stopped outside peeping over
the glass, and presently I see him being pushed out by the landlord
as I had been. We had a hearty laugh, and then we started off to
Regent-street, to one of our principal houses, but there wasn’t a soul
in the room. It was a house in a back-street, where none but grooms and
footmen resort to. But we was determined to have some money that night,
as both our families wanted it--both him and me did.

“Passing a tobacconist’s shop in Regent-street, we saw three gents
conversing with the lady behind the counter. I told him I’ll go in, get
a pickwick here, and see if I can’t have a performance in the front of
this counter. These things only wants an introduction; so I looks at my
pickwick, and says I, ‘This a pickwick? why I swallows such as these;’
and I apparently swallowed it. One of them says, ‘You don’t mean to say
you swallowed it?’ ‘Certainly I did, sir,’ I replied; and then he makes
me do it again. Then I told them I’d show them something more wonderful
still, so I said, ‘Have you gentlemen such a thing as a couple of
half-crowns about you?’ they gave me the money, and I did the trick of
passing the money from hand to hand. I said to them, ‘Can you tell me
which hand the money’s in?’ says he, ‘Why, anybody can see it’s in that
one.’ ‘No, sir,’ says I, ‘I think not.’ ‘If it ain’t,’ says he, ‘you
may keep ’em.’ Then I opened both hands, and they were in neither, and
he asked where they was then; so I told him I’d given him them back
again, which of course he denied, and appeared much surprised. Then
I took ’em out of his cravat. It’s a very clever trick, and appears
most surprising, though it’s as simple as possible, and all done by
the way in which you take them out of the cravat; for you keep them
palmed, and have to work ’em up into the folds. Of course I returned
the half-crowns to him, but when I heard him say you may keep them I
did feel comfortable, for that was something to the good. My friend
outside was looking through the window, and I could see him rubbing his
hands with glee; I got another half-crown out of them gentlemen before
I’d done with them, for I showed ’em a trick with some walking-sticks
which were lying on the counter, and also cut the tape in two and made
it whole again, and such-like performances. When a fellow is on his
beam-ends, as I was then, he must keep his eyes about him, and have
impudence enough for anything, or else he may stop and starve. The
great art is to be able to do tricks with anything that you can easily
get hold of. If you take up a bit of string from a counter, or borrow
a couple of shillings of a gentleman, your tricks with them startles
him much more than if you had taken them out of your own pocket, for he
sees there’s been no preparation. I got ten shillings out of these two
gents I spoke of, and then I and my mate went and busked in a parlour,
and got fivepence more; so that we shared five and twopence-ha’penny

“I have often made a good deal of money in parlours by showing how
I did my little tricks, such as cutting the tape and passing the
half-crowns. Another thing that people always want to know is the
thimble-rig trick. Of course it doesn’t matter so much showing how
these tricks are done, because they depend upon the quickness and
dexterity of handling. You may know how an artist paints a picture, but
you mayn’t be able to paint one yourself.

“I never practised thimble-rigging myself, for I never approved of it
as a practice. I’ve known lots of fellows who lived by it. Bless you!
they did well, never sharing less than their 4_l._ or 5_l._ every day
they worked. This is the way it’s done. They have three thimbles, and
they put a pea under two of ’em, so that there’s only one without the
pea. The man then begins moving them about and saying, ‘Out of this one
into that one,’ and so on, and winds up by offering to ‘lay anything,
from a shilling to a pound,’ that nobody can tell which thimble the
pea is under. Then he turns round to the crowd, and pretends to be
pushing them back, and whilst he’s saying, ‘Come, gentlemen, stand
more backwarder,’ one of the confederates, who is called ‘a button,’
lifts up one of the thimbles with a pea under it, and laughs to those
around, as much as to say, ‘We’ve found it out.’ He shows the pea two
or three times, and the last time he does so, he removes it, either
by taking it up under his forefinger nail or between his thumb and
finger. It wants a great deal of practice to do this nicely, so as not
to be found out. When the man turns to the table again the button says,
‘I’ll bet you a couple of sovereigns I know where the pea is. Will any
gentleman go me halves?’ Then, if there’s any hesitation, the man at
the table will pretend to be nervous and offer to move the thimbles
again, but the button will seize him by the arm, and shout as if he was
in a passion, ‘No, no, none of that! It was a fair bet, and you shan’t
touch ’em.’ He’ll then again ask if anybody will go him halves, and
there’s usually somebody flat enough to join him. Then the stranger is
asked to lift up the thimble, so that he shouldn’t suspect anything,
and of course there’s no pea there. He is naturally staggered a bit,
and another confederate standing by will say calmly, ‘I knew you was
wrong; here’s the pea;’ and he lifts up the thimble with the second pea
under it. If nobody will go shares in the ‘button’s’ bet, then he lifts
up the thimble and replaces the pea as he does so, and of course wins
the stake, and he takes good care to say as he pockets the sovereign,
‘I knew it was there; what a fool you was not to stand in.’ The second
time they repeat the trick there’s sure to be somebody lose his money.
There used to be a regular pitch for thimble-riggers opposite Bedlam,
when the shows used to put up there. I saw a brewer’s collector lose
7_l._ there in less than half-an-hour. He had a bag full of gold,
and they let him win the three first bets as a draw. Most of these
confederates are fighting-men, and if a row ensues they’re sure to get
the best of it.

“A very good place where I used to go busking was at Mother Emmerson’s
in Jermyn-street. There used to be all sorts of characters there,
jugglers, and singers, and all sorts. It was a favourite house of
the Marquis of Waterford, and he used to use it nearly every night.
I’ve seen him buy a pipe of port, and draw tumblers of it for any
body that came in, for his great delight was to make people drunk. He
says to Mrs. Emmerson, ‘How much do you want for that port, mother?’
and then he wrote a cheque for the amount and had it tapped. He was
a good-hearted fellow, was my Lord; if he played any tricks upon
you, he’d always square it up. Many a time he’s given me half-a-pint
of brandy, saying, ‘That’s all you’ll get from me.’ Sometimes I’d
say to him, ‘Can I show you a few tricks, my Lord?’ and then, when
I’d finished, I knew he never gave money if you asked him for it,
so I’d let him abuse me, and order me out of the house as a humbug;
and then, just as I’d got to the door, he’d call me back and give me
half-a-sovereign. I’ve seen him do some wonderful things. I’ve seen him
jump into an old woman’s crockeryware-basket, while she was carrying
it along, and smash everything. Sometimes he’d get seven or eight cabs
and put a lot of fiddlers and other musicians on the roofs, and fill
’em with anybody that liked, and then go off in procession round the
streets, he driving the first cab as fast as he could and the bands
playing as loud as possible. It’s wonderful the games he’d be up to.
But he always paid handsomely for whatever damage he did. If he swept
all the glasses off a counter, there was the money to make ’em good
again. Whenever I did any tricks before him, I took good care not to
produce any apparatus that I cared for, or he’d be sure to smash it.

“One night I hadn’t a penny in the world, and at home I knew they
wanted food; so I went out to busk, and I got over in the Old
Kent-road, and went to a house there called the Green Man. I walked
into the parlour; and though I hadn’t a penny in my pocket, I called
for four pen’orth of rum and water. I put my big dice down upon the
table by the side of me, and begun sipping my rum, and I could see
everybody looking at this dice, and at last, just as I expected,
somebody asked what it was. So I says--‘Gentlemen, I get my living
this way, and if you like, I shall be happy to show you a few of my
deceptions for your entertainment.’ They said, ‘Certainly, young man,
we are perfectly agreeable.’ Ah! I thought to myself, thank heaven
that’s all right, for I owed for the rum and water you see, and if
they’d refused, I don’t know what I should have done. I pulled out my
nice clean cloth and laid it upon the table, and to work I went. I had
only done one or two tricks, when in comes the waiter, and directly
he sees me he cries out, ‘We don’t allow no conjurers or anything of
that kind here,’ and I had to pack up again. When he’d gone the company
said, ‘Go on, young man, it’s all right now;’ so I out with my cloth
again; then in came the landlord, and says he, ‘You’ve already been
told we don’t allow none of you conjurer fellows here,’ and I had to
put up a second time. When he’d gone, the gents told me to begin again.
I had scarcely spread my cloth when in comes the landlord again, in a
towering rage, and shouts out, ‘What, at it again! Now you be off;’
so I said, ‘I only did it to oblige the company present, who were
agreeable, and that I hadn’t yet finished my rum and water, which
wasn’t paid for.’ ‘Not paid for?’ says he; ‘No,’ says I: ‘but I’m
waiting here for a friend, and he’ll pay for it.’ You may imagine my
feelings, without a penny in my pocket. ‘Don’t let me catch you at it
again, or I’ll give you in charge,’ says he. Scarcely had he left again
when the company began talking about it, and saying it was too bad to
stop me; so one of them rings the bell, and when the landlord comes
in he says, ‘Mr. Landlord, this young person has been very civil, and
conducted himself in a highly respectable manner, and has certainly
afforded us a great deal of amusement; now why should you object to his
showing us some tricks?’ ‘Thank heavens,’ thought I to myself, ‘I’m
saved, and the rum will be paid for.’ The landlord’s manner altered all
of a sudden, and says he, ‘Oh, certainly, gentlemen! certainly! if it’s
your wish, I don’t mind the young man’s being here; though I make it
a rule to keep my parlour select.’ Then I set to work and did all my
tricks comfortably, and I made a collection of 7_s._ 6_d._ Then I rang
the bell like a lord, and I put down a shilling to pay for the rum and
water, and saying, ‘Gentlemen, I’m very much obliged to you for your
patronage,’ to which they replied, ‘Not at all, young man,’ I walked
past the bar to leave. Then the landlord comes up to me and says,
shaking his fist, and blue in the face with rage, ‘If ever I catch you
here again, you d---- rogue, I’ll give you to a policeman.’ So, without
more ado, I walks round to the other door, and enters the parlour again
and tells the company, and they had in the landlord and blowed him well
up. This will just show you the risks we have to run when out busking
for a living, and what courage is wanted to speculate upon chances.

“There are very few conjurers out busking now. I don’t know above
four; one of ’em has had the best chances in the world of getting on;
but he’s a very uneducated man, and that has stood in his way, though
he’s very clever, and pr’aps the best hand at the cups and balls of
any man in England. For instance, once he was at a nobleman’s party,
giving his entertainment, and he says such a thing as this:--‘You see,
my lords and ladies, I have a tatur in this hand, and a tatur in that;
now I shall pass ’em into this handkercher.’ Of course the nobleman
said to himself, ‘Tatur! handkercher! why, who’s this feller?’ You
may depend upon it he was never asked there any more; for every thing
in a wizard’s business depends upon graceful action, and his style of
delivery, so that he may make himself agreeable to the company.

“When a conjurer’s out busking, he may reckon upon making his 20_s._
a-week, taking the year round; pr’aps, some weeks, he won’t take more
than 12_s._ or 15_s._; but then, at other times, he may get 6_s._
or 8_s._ in one parlour alone, and I have taken as much as 1_l._ by
teaching gentlemen how to do the tricks I had been performing. I have
sometimes walked my twenty miles a-day, and busked at every parlour I
came to, (for I never enter tap-rooms,) and come home with only 1_s._
6_d._ in my pocket. I have been to Edmonton and back and only earned
1_s._, and then, pr’aps, at eleven the same night, when I was nearly
done up, and quite dispirited with my luck, I’ve turned into one of the
parlours in town and earned my 6_s._ in less than an hour, where I’d
been twelve only earning one.”



This person came to me recommended by one of my street acquaintances
as the “pluckiest fire-eater going,” and that as he was a little
“down at heel,” he should be happy for a consideration to give me any
information I might require in the “Salamander line.”

He was a tall, gaunt man, with an absent-looking face, and so pale that
his dark eyes looked positively wild.

I could not help thinking, as I looked at his bony form, that fire
was not the most nutritious food in the world, until the poor fellow
explained to me that he had not broken his fast for two days.

He gave the following account of himself:--

“My father was a barber--a three-ha’penny one--and doing a good
business, in Southwark. I used to assist him, lathering up the chins
and shaving ’em--torturing, I called it. I was a very good light hand.
You see, you tell a good shaver by the way he holds the razor, and the
play from the wrist. All our customers were tradesmen and workmen,
but father would never shave either coalheavers or fishermen, because
they always threw down a penny, and said there was plenty of penny
barbers, and they wouldn’t give no more. The old man always stuck up
for his price to the day of his death. There was a person set up close
to him for a penny, and that injured us awful. I was educated at St.
George’s National and Parochial School, and I was a national lad,
and wore my own clothes; but the parochials wore the uniform of blue
bob-tailed coats, and a badge on the left side. When they wanted to
make an appearance in the gallery of the church on charity-sermon days,
they used to make all the nationals dress like the parochials, so as
to swell the numbers up. I was too fond of entertainments to stick to
learning, and I used to step it. Kennington common was my principal
place. I used, too, to go to the outside of the Queen’s-bench and pick
up the racket-balls as they was chucked over, and then sell them for
three-ha’pence each. I got promoted from the outside to the inside;
for, from being always about, they took me at threepence a-day, and
gave me a bag of whitening to whiten the racket-balls. When I used to
hop the wag from school I went there, which was three times a-week,
which was the reg’lar racket-days. I used to spend my threepence in
damaged fruit--have a pen’orth of damaged grapes or plums--or have a
ha’porth of wafers from the confectioner’s. Ah, I’ve eat thousands and
thousands of ha’porths. It’s a kind of a paste, but they stick like
wafers--my father’s stuck a letter many a time with ’em. They goes at
the bottom of the russetfees cake--ah, ratafees is the word.

“I got so unruly, and didn’t attend to school, so I was turned out,
and then I went to help father and assist upon the customers. I was
confined so in the shop, that I only stopped there three months, and
then I run away. Then I had no home to go to, but I found a empty cart,
situated in Red-cross-street, near the Borough-market, and there I
slept for five nights. Then Greenwich fair came on. I went round the
fair, and got assisting a artist as was a likeness-cutter, and had
a booth, making black profiles. I assisted this man in building his
booth, and he took a great fancy to me, and kept me as one of his own.
He was a shoemaker as well, and did that when fair was over. I used to
fetch his bristles and leather, and nuss the child. He lived near the
Kent-road; and one day as I was going out for the leather, I fell upon
mother, and she solaced me, and took me home; and then she rigged me
out, and kept me, till I run away again; and that was when Greenwich
fair came on again, for I wanted to go back then. At the fair I got to
be doorsman and grease-pot boy inside a exhibition, to let the people
out and keep the lamps. I got a shilling a-day for my attendance during
fair time, and I travelled with them parties for five months. That
was Peterson’s, the travelling comedian, or what we call a ‘mumming
concern.’ When we got to Bexley, I thought I should like to see a piece
called ‘Tricks and Trials,’ then being performed at the Surrey Theatre,
so I cut away and come up to London again. There I got employment at a
japanner, boiling up the stuff. I made a little bit of an appearance,
and then I went home. I had learnt three or four comic songs, and I
used to go singing at consart-rooms. I was a reg’lar professional. I
went a busking at the free consart-rooms, and then go round with the
cap. I principally sing ‘The Four-and-nine,’ or ‘The Dark Arches,’ or
‘The Ship’s Carpenter,’ and ‘The Goose Club.’

“It was at one of these free consart-rooms that I first saw a chap
fire-eating. You see, at a free consart-room the professionals ain’t
paid, no more do the audience to come in, but the performers are
allowed to go round with a cap for their remuneration. They are the
same as the cock-and-hen clubs. This fire-eater was of the name of
West, and I know’d him afore, and he used to ask me to prepare the
things for him. His performance was, he had a link a-light in his
hand, and he used to take pieces off with a fork and eat it. Then he
would get a plate with some sulphur, light it, place it under his
nose, and inhale the fumes that rose from it; and then he used to eat
it with a fork whilst a-light. After that he’d get a small portion of
gunpowder, put it in the palm of his hand, and get a fusee to answer
for a quick-match, to explode the powder, and that concluded the
performance--only three tricks. I was stunned the first time I see him
do it; but when I come to prepare the things for him, I got enlightened
into the business. When his back was turned, I used to sniff at the
sulphur on the sly. I found it rather hard, for the fumes used to get
up your head, and reg’lar confuse you, and lose your memory. I kept on
the singing at consarts, but I practised the fire-eating at home. I
tried it for the matter of two months, before I found the art of it.
It used to make me very thick in my voice; and if I began it before
breakfast it used to make you feel ill: but I generally began it after
meals. I tried the link and sulphur till I got perfect in these two.
It blistered my mouth swallowing the fire, but I never burnt myself
seriously at it.

“After I learnt those, I got travelling again with a man that swallowed
a poker, of the name of Yates. One of his tricks was with tow. He’d get
some, and then get a fryingpan, and he’d put the tow in the fire-pan,
and he’d get some ground rosin and brimstone together and put them on
top of the tow in the pan. Then, when he’d set light to it, he used to
bring it on the outside of the show and eat it with a knife and fork,
while I held the pan. I learnt how to do the trick; this was when he
had done with it, and I’d take it away. Then I used to eat the portion
that was left in the pan, till I became the master of that feat.

“When I left Yates I practised again at home until I was perfect, and
then I went about doing the performance myself. The first place that I
attempted was at the Fox and Cock, Gray’s-inn-lane, and I was engaged
there at three shillings a-night, and with collections of what people
used to throw to me I’d come away with about seven shillings and
sixpence. I was very successful indeed, and I stopped there for about
seven months, doing the fire-business; and I got another job at the
same place, for one of the potmen turned dishonest, and the master gave
me eight shillings a-week to do his work as well. I have continued ever
since going to different concert-rooms, and giving my performances.
My general demand for a night’s engagement is four shillings and six
pen’orth of refreshment. When I perform I usually have a decanter of
ale and two glasses upon the table, and after every trick I sit down
whilst an overture is being done and wash my mouth out, for it gets
very hot. You’re obliged to pause a little, for after tasting one
thing, if the palate doesn’t recover, you can’t tell when the smoke is

“I wore a regular dress, a kind of scale-armour costume, with a red
lion on the breast. I do up my moustache with cork, and rouge a bit.
My tights is brown, with black enamel jack-boots. On my head I wears
a king’s coronet and a ringlet wig, bracelets on my wrists, and a red
twill petticoat under the armour dress, where it opens on the limps.

“For my performances I begin with eating the lighted link, an ordinary
one as purchased at oil-shops. There’s no trick in it, only confidence.
It won’t burn you in the inside, but if the pitch falls on the outside,
of course it will hurt you. If you hold your breath the moment the
lighted piece is put in your mouth, the flame goes out on the instant.
Then we squench the flame with spittle. As we takes a bit of link in
the mouth, we tucks it on one side of the cheek, as a monkey do with
nuts in his pouch. After I have eaten sufficient fire I take hold of
the link, and extinguish the lot by putting the burning end in my
mouth. Sometimes, when I makes a slip, and don’t put it in careful, it
makes your moustache fiz up. I must also mind how I opens my mouth,
’cos the tar sticks to the lip wherever it touches, and pains sadly.
This sore on my hand is caused by the melted pitch dropping on my
fingers, and the sores is liable to be bad for a week or eight days.
I don’t spit out my bits of link; I always swallow them. I never did
spit ’em out, for they are very wholesome, and keeps you from having
any sickness. Whilst I’m getting the next trick ready I chews them up
and eats them. It tastes rather roughish, but not nasty when you’re
accustomed to it. It’s only like having a mouthful of dust, and very

“My next trick is with a piece of tow with a piece of tape rolled up
in the interior. I begin to eat a portion of this tow--plain, not
a-light--till I find a fitting opportunity to place the tape in the
mouth. Then I pause for a time, and in the meantime I’m doing a little
pantomime business--just like love business, serious--till I get the
end of this tape between my teeth, and then I draws it out, supposed
to be manufactured in the pit of the stomach. After that--which always
goes immensely--I eat some more tow, and inside this tow there is what
I call the fire-ball--that is, a lighted fusee bound round with tow
and placed in the centre of the tow I’m eating--which I introduce at a
fitting opportunity. Then I blows out with my breath, and that sends
out smoke and fire. That there is a very hard trick, for it’s according
how this here fire-ball bustes. Sometimes it bustes on the side, and
then it burns all the inside of the mouth, and the next morning you can
take out pretty well the inside of your mouth with your finger; but if
it bustes near the teeth, then it’s all right, for there’s vent for it.
I also makes the smoke and flame--that is, sparks--come down my nose,
the same as coming out of a blacksmith’s chimney. It makes the eyes
water, and there’s a tingling; but it don’t burn or make you giddy.

“My next trick is with the brimstone. I have a plate of lighted
sulphur, and first inhale the fumes, and then devour it with a fork
and swallow it. As a costermonger said when he saw me do it, ‘I say,
old boy, your game ain’t all brandy.’ There’s a kind of a acid, nasty,
sour taste in this feat, and at first it used to make me feel sick; but
now I’m used to it, and it don’t. When I puts it in my mouth it clings
just like sealing-wax, and forms a kind of a dead ash. Of a morning,
if I haven’t got my breakfast by a certain time, there’s a kind of a
retching in my stomach, and that’s the only inconvenience I feel from
swallowing the sulphur for that there feat.

“The next is, with two sticks of sealing-wax and the same plate. They
are lit by the gas and dropped on one another till they are bodily
a-light. Then I borrow either a ring of the company, or a pencil-case,
or a seal. I set the sealing-wax a-light with a fork, and I press the
impression of whatever article I can get with the tongue, and the seal
is passed round to the company. Then I finish eating the burning wax.
I always spits that out after, when no one’s looking. The sealing-wax
is all right if you get it into the interior of the mouth, but if it
is stringy, and it falls, you can’t get it off, without it takes away
skin and all. It has a very pleasant taste, and I always prefer the
red, as it’s flavour is the best. Hold your breath and it goes out,
but still the heat remains, and you can’t get along with that so fast
as the sulphur. I often burn myself, especially when I’m bothered in
my entertainment; such as any person talking about me close by, then I
listen to ’em perhaps, and I’m liable to burn myself. I haven’t been
able to perform for three weeks after some of my burnings. I never let
any of the audience know anything of it, but smother up the pain, and
go on with my other tricks.

“The other trick is a feat which I make known to the public as one of
Ramo Samee’s, which he used to perform in public-houses and tap-rooms,
and made a deal of money out of. With the same plate and a piece of dry
tow placed in it, I have a pepper-box, with ground rosin and sulphur
together. I light the tow, and with a knife and fork I set down to it
and eat it, and exclaim, ‘This is my light supper.’ There isn’t no
holding the breath so much in this trick as in the others, but you must
get it into the mouth any how. It’s like eating a hot beef-steak when
you are ravenous. The rosin is apt to drop on the flesh and cause a
long blister. You see, we have to eat it with the head up, full-faced;
and really, without it’s seen, nobody would believe what I do.

“There’s another feat, of exploding the gunpowder. There’s two ways of
exploding it. This is my way of doing it, though I only does it for my
own benefits and on grand occasions, for it’s very dangerous indeed
to the frame, for it’s sure to destroy the hair of the head; or if
anything smothers it, it’s liable to shatter a thumb or a limb.

“I have a man to wait on me for this trick, and he unloops my dress and
takes it off, leaving the bare back and arms. Then I gets a quarter of
a pound of powder, and I has an ounce put on the back part of the neck,
in the hollow, and I holds out each arm with an orange in the palm of
each hand, with a train along the arms, leading up to the neck. Then
I turns my back to the audience, and my man fires the gunpowder, and
it blew up in a minute, and ran down the train and blew up that in my
hands. I’ve been pretty lucky with this trick, for it’s only been when
the powder’s got under my bracelets, and then it hurts me. I’m obliged
to hold the hand up, for if it hangs down it hurts awful. It looks like
a scurvy, and as the new skin forms, the old one falls off.

“That’s the whole of my general performance for concert business, when
I go busking at free concerts or outside of shows (I generally gets a
crown a-day at fairs). I never do the gunpowder, but only the tow and
the link.

“I have been engaged at the Flora Gardens, and at St. Helena Gardens,
Rotherhithe, and then I was Signor Salamander, the great fire-king
from the East-end theatres. At the Eel-pie-house, Peckham, I did the
‘terrific flight through the air,’ coming down a wire surrounded by
fire-works. I was called Herr Alma, the flying fiend. There was four
scaffold-poles placed at the top of the house to form a tower, just
large enough for me to lie down on my belly, for the swivels on the
rope to be screwed into the cradle round my body. A wire is the best,
but they had a rope. On this cradle were places for the fire-works to
be put in it. I had a helmet of fire on my head, and the three spark
cases (they are made with steel-filings, and throw out sparks) made of
Prince of Wales feathers. I had a sceptre in my hand of two serpents,
and in their open mouths they put fire-balls, and they looked as if
they was spitting fiery venom. I had wings, too, formed from the ankle
to the waist. They was netting, and spangled, and well sized to throw
off the fire. I only did this two nights, and I had ten shillings
each performance. It’s a momentary feeling coming down, a kind of
suffocation like, so that you must hold your breath. I had two men to
cast me off. There was a gong first of all, knocked to attract the
attention, and then I made my appearance. First, a painted pigeon, made
of lead, is sent down the wire as a pilot. It has moveable wings. Then
all the fire-works are lighted up, and I come down right through the
thickest of ’em. There’s a trap-door set in the scene at the end, and
two men is there to look after it. As soon as I have passed it, the men
shut it, and I dart up against a feather-bed. The speed I come down at
regularly jams me up against it, but you see I throw away this sceptre
and save myself with my hands a little. I feel fagged for want of
breath. It seems like a sudden fright, you know. I sit down for a few
minutes, and then I’m all right.

“I’m never afraid of fire. There was a turner’s place that took fire,
and I saved that house from being burned. He was a friend of mine,
the turner was, and when I was there, the wife thought she heard the
children crying, and asked me to go up and see what it was. As I went
up I could smell fire worse and worse, and when I got in the room it
was full of smoke, and all the carpet, and bed-hangings, and curtains
smouldering. I opened the window, and the fire burst out, so I ups with
the carpet and throw’d it out of window, together with the blazing
chairs, and I rolled the linen and drapery up and throw’d them out. I
was as near suffocated as possible. I went and felt the bed, and there
was two children near dead from the smoke; I brought them down, and a
medical man was called, and he brought them round.

“I don’t reckon no more than two other fire-kings in London beside
myself. I only know of two, and I should be sure to hear of ’em if
there were more. But they can only do three of the tricks, and I’ve got
novelties enough to act for a fortnight, with fresh performances every
evening. There’s a party in Drury-lane is willing to back me for five,
fifteen, or twenty pounds, against anybody that will come and answer to
it, to perform with any other man for cleanness and cleverness, and to
show more variety of performance.

“I’m always at fire-eating. That’s how I entirely get my living, and I
perform five nights out of the six. Thursday night is the only night,
as I may say, I’m idle. Thursday night everybody’s fagged, that’s the
saying--Got no money. Friday, there’s many large firms pays their men
on, especially in Bermondsey.

“I’m out of an engagement now, and I don’t make more than eleven
shillings a-week, because I’m busking; but when I’m in an engagement my
money stands me about thirty-five shillings a-week, putting down the
value of the drink as well--that is, what’s allowed for refreshment.
Summer is the worst time for me, ’cos people goes to the gardens. In
the winter season I’m always engaged three months out of the six. You
might say, if you counts the overplus at one time, and minus at other
time, that I makes a pound a-week. I know what it is to go to the
treasury on a Saturday, and get my thirty shillings, and I know what it
is to have the landlord come with his ‘Hallo! hallo! here’s three weeks
due, and another week running on.’

“I was very hard up at one time--when I was living in Friar-street--and
I used to frequent a house kept by a betting-man, near the St. George’s
Surrey Riding-school. A man I knew used to supply this betting-man with
rats. I was at this public-house one night when this rat-man comes up
to me, and says he, ‘Hallo! my pippin; here, I want you: I want to make
a match. Will you kill thirty rats against my dog?’ So I said, ‘Let me
see the dog first;’ and I looked at his mouth, and he was an old dog;
so I says, ‘No, I won’t go in for thirty; but I don’t mind trying at
twenty.’ He wanted to make it twenty-four, but I wouldn’t. They put the
twenty in the rat-pit, and the dog went in first and killed his, and
he took a quarter of an hour and two minutes. Then a fresh lot were
put in the pit, and I began; my hands were tied behind me. They always
make an allowance for a man, so the pit was made closer, for you see
a man can’t turn round like a dog; I had half the space of the dog.
The rats lay in a cluster, and then I picked them off where I wanted
’em, and bit ’em between the shoulders. It was when they came to one
or two that I had the work, for they cut about. The last one made me
remember him, for he gave me a bite, of which I’ve got the scar now. It
festered, and I was obliged to have it cut out. I took Dutch drops for
it, and poulticed it by day, and I was bad for three weeks. They made a
subscription in the room of fifteen shillings for killing these rats.
I won the match, and beat the dog by four minutes. The wager was five
shillings, which I had. I was at the time so hard up, I’d do anything
for some money; though, as far as that’s concerned, I’d go into a pit
now, if anybody would make it worth my while.”


He was quite a young man, and, judging from his countenance, there was
nothing that could account for his having taken up so strange a method
of gaining his livelihood as that of swallowing snakes.

He was very simple in his talk and manner. He readily confessed that
the idea did not originate with him, and prided himself only on being
the second to take it up. There is no doubt that it was from his being
startled by the strangeness and daringness of the act that he was
induced to make the essay. He said he saw nothing disgusting in it;
that people liked it; that it served him well in his “professional”
engagements; and spoke of the snake in general as a reptile capable of
affection, not unpleasant to the eye, and very cleanly in its habits.

“I swallow snakes, swords, and knives; but, of course, when I’m engaged
at a penny theatre I’m expected to do more than this, for it would only
take a quarter of an hour, and that isn’t long enough for them. They
call me in the perfession a ‘Sallementro,’ and that is what I term
myself; though p’raps it’s easier to say I’m a ‘swallower.’

“It was a mate of mine that I was with that first put me up to
sword-and-snake swallowing. I copied off him, and it took me about
three months to learn it. I began with a sword first--of course not a
sharp sword, but one blunt-pointed--and I didn’t exactly know how to do
it, for there’s a trick in it. I see him, and I said, ‘Oh, I shall set
up master for myself, and practise until I can do it.’

“At first it turned me, putting it down my throat past my swallow,
right down--about eighteen inches. It made my swallow sore--very
sore, and I used lemon and sugar to cure it. It was tight at first,
and I kept pushing it down further and further. There’s one thing, you
mustn’t cough, and until you’re used to it you want to very bad, and
then you must pull it up again. My sword was about three-quarters of an
inch wide.

“At first I didn’t know the trick of doing it, but I found it out this
way. You see the trick is, you must oil the sword--the best sweet oil,
worth fourteen pence a pint--and you put it on with a sponge. Then, you
understand, if the sword scratches the swallow it don’t make it sore,
’cos the oil heals it up again. When first I put the sword down, before
I oiled it, it used to come up quite slimy, but after the oil it slips
down quite easy, is as clean when it comes up as before it went down.

“As I told you, we are called at concert-rooms where I perform the
‘Sallementro.’ I think it’s French, but I don’t know what it is
exactly; but that’s what I’m called amongst us.

“The knives are easier to do than the sword because they are shorter.
We puts them right down till the handle rests on the mouth. The sword
is about eighteen inches long, and the knives about eight inches in the
blade. People run away with the idea that you slip the blades down your
breast, but I always hold mine right up with the neck bare, and they
see it go into the mouth atween the teeth. They also fancy it hurts
you; but it don’t, or what a fool I should be to do it. I don’t mean
to say it don’t hurt you at first, ’cos it do, for my swallow was very
bad, and I couldn’t eat anything but liquids for two months whilst I
was learning. I cured my swallow whilst I was stretching it with lemon
and sugar.

“I was the second one that ever swallowed a snake. I was about
seventeen or eighteen years old when I learnt it. The first was Clarke
as did it. He done very well with it, but he wasn’t out no more than
two years before me, so he wasn’t known much. In the country there is
some places where, when you do it, they swear you are the devil, and
won’t have it nohow.

“The snakes I use are about eighteen inches long, and you must first
cut the stingers out, ’cos it might hurt you. I always keep two or
three by me for my performances. I keep them warm, but the winter kills
’em. I give them nothing to eat but worms or gentles. I generally keep
them in flannel, or hay, in a box. I’ve three at home now.

“When first I began swallowing snakes they tasted queer like. They
draw’d the roof of the mouth a bit. It’s a roughish taste. The scales
rough you a bit when you draw them up. You see, a snake will go into
ever such a little hole, and they are smooth one way.

“The head of the snake goes about an inch and a half down the throat,
and the rest of it continues in the mouth, curled round like. I hold
him by the tail, and when I pinch it he goes right in. You must cut the
stinger out or he’ll injure you. The tail is slippery, but you nip it
with the nails like pinchers. If you was to let him go, he’d go right
down; but most snakes will stop at two inches down the swallow, and
then they bind like a ball in the mouth.

“I in generally get my snakes by giving little boys ha’pence to go and
catch ’em in the woods. I get them when I’m pitching in the country.
I’ll get as many as I can get, and bring ’em up to London for my

“When first caught the snake is slimy, and I have to clean him by
scraping him off with the finger-nail as clean as I can, and then
wiping him with a cloth, and then with another, until he’s nice and
clean. I have put ’em down slimy, on purpose to taste what it was like.
It had a nasty taste with it--very nasty.

“I give a man a shilling always to cut the stinger out--one that knows
all about it, for the stinger is under the tongue. It was this Clark I
first see swallow a snake. He swallowed it as it was when he caught it,
slimy. He said it was nasty. Then he scraped it with his nail and let
it crawl atween his hands, cleaning itself. When once they are cleaned
of the slime they have no taste. Upon my word they are clean things,
a’most like metal. They only lives on worms, and that ain’t so nasty;
besides, they never makes no mess in the box, only frothing in the
mouth at morning and evening: but I don’t know what comes from ’em, for
I ain’t a doctor.

“When I exhibit, I first holds the snake up in the air and pinches the
tail, to make it curl about and twist round my arm, to show that he is
alive. Then I holds it above my mouth, and as soon as he sees the hole
in he goes. He goes wavy-like, as a ship goes,--that’s the comparison.
You see, a snake will go in at any hole. I always hold my breath whilst
his head is in my swallow. When he moves in the swallow, it tickles a
little, but it don’t make you want to retch. In my opinion he is more
glad to come up than to go down, for it seems to be too hot for him. I
keep him down about two minutes. If I breathe or cough, he draws out
and curls back again. I think there’s artfulness in some of them big
snakes, for they seem to know which is the master. I was at Wombwell’s
menagerie of wild beasts for three months, and I had the care of a big
snake, as thick round as my arm. I wouldn’t attempt to put that one
down my throat, I can tell you, for I think I might easier have gone
down his’n. I had to show it to the people in front of the carriages
to draw ’em in, at fair time. I used to hold it up in both hands, with
my arms in the air. Many a time it curled itself three or four times
round my neck and about my body, and it never even so much as squeeged
me the least bit. I had the feeding on it, and I used to give it the
largest worms I could find. Mr. Wombwell has often said to me, ‘It’s
a dangerous game you’re after, and if you don’t give the snake plenty
of worms and make it like you, it’ll nip you some of these times.’
I’m sure the snake know’d me. I was very partial to it, too. It was a
furren snake, over spots, called a boa-constructor. It never injured
me, though I’m told it is uncommon powerful, and can squeege a man up
like a sheet of paper, and crack his bones as easy as a lark’s. I’m
tremendous courageous, nothing frightens me; indeed, I don’t know what
it is to be afraid.

“The one I was speaking of I have often held up in the air in both
hands, and it was more than four yards long, and let it curl round my
neck in five or six twirls. It was a boa-constructor, and I believe it
know’d me, and that’s why it didn’t hurt me, for I feed him. He had
nothing but long great worms, and he grew to know me.

“My performance with the snake is always very successful. The women is
frightened at first, but they always stop to see, and only hide their
eyes. There’s no danger as long as you keep hold.

“I generally perform at concert-rooms, and penny theatres, and cheap
circuses, and all round the country, such as in the street, or at
farm-houses, or in tap-rooms. I have done it in the streets of London
too, and then I’m dressed-up in fleshing tights, skin dress, and
trunks. I carry the snake in a box. When I swallow it some holloa out,
‘O my God, don’t do that!’ but when I’m finished, they say, ‘It’s
hardly wonderful to be believed,’ and give money.

“I generally mix up the sword-and-snake performances with my other
ones; and it’s the same in the streets.

“Sometimes I go out to tap-rooms in my every-day dress, with the snake
in my pocket, and a sword. Then I go and offer to show my performance.
First I’ll do some tumbling, and throw a somerset over a table. Then
I takes out the snake and say, ‘Gentlemen, I shall now swallow a live
snake, anybody is at liberty to feel it.’ I have--according to the
company, you know--made such a thing as five shillings, or one shilling
and sixpence, or whatever it may be, by snake-swallowing alone.

“I’m the only one in London who can swallow a snake. There’s nobody
else besides me. It requires great courage. I’ve great courage. One
night I was sleeping in a barn at a public-house, called the Globe,
at Lewes, seven miles from Brighton. A woman who had cut her throat
used to haunt the place. Well, I saw her walking about in a long white
shroud, the doors opening and shutting before her. A man who was in the
room with us jumped up in his bed and cried, ‘Tumblers!’

“I must tell you one thing before you finish, just to prove what
tremendous courage I’ve got. I was out showing the sword-and-snake
swallowing in the country, and I travelled down to near Lewes, which
is seven miles from Brighton, and there I put up at a house called
the Falcon. We slept in a barn, and at night, when all was asleep
except myself, I see a figure all in white come into the room with
her throat cut, and her face as white as chalk. I knowed she was a
apperition, ’cos I’d been told the house was haunted by such. Well, in
she come, and she stopped and looked at me, seeing that I was awake.
The perspiration poured out of me like a shower; but I warn’t afeard,
I’ve that courage. I says, ‘God help me!’ for I knew I’d done no harm
as I could call to mind; so I hadn’t no fear of ghosts and such-like
spirits. No, I’m certain it wern’t no fancy of mine, ’cos others see
it as well as me. There was a mate in the same room, and he woke up
and sees the ghosts, and up he jumps in bed and cries out: ‘Tumblers!
Tumblers! here’s a woman haunting us!’ I told him to lie down and go to
sleep, and hold his noise. Then I got out of bed, and it wanished past
me, close as could be,--as near as I am to this table. The door opened
itself to let her out, and then closed again. I didn’t feel the air
cold like, nor nothing, nor was there any smell or anythink. I’m sure I
wasn’t dreaming, ’cos I knows pretty well when I’m awake. Besides the
doors kept bouncing open, and then slamming-to again for more than an
hour, and woke everybody in the room. This kept on till one o’clock.
Yet, you see, though the sweat run down me to that degree I was wetted
through, yet I had that courage I could get out of bed to see what the
spirit was like. I said, ‘God help me! for I’ve done no harm as I knows
of,’ and that give me courage.”

Whilst the “Salamentro” told me this ghost story, he spoke it in a half
voice, like that of a nervous believer in such things. When he had
finished he seemed to have something on his mind, for after a moment’s
silence he said, in a confidential tone, “Between ourselves, sir, I’m a
Jew.” I then asked him if he thought the ghost was aware of it, and had
visited him on that account, and the following was his reply: “Well,
it ain’t unlikely; for, you see, some of our scholars know what to say
to the poor things, and they know what to do to rest ’em. Now, pr’aps
she thought I knew these secrets,--but, I’m no scholard--for, you see,
we Jews always carry prayers about with us to keep off evil spirits.
That’s one reason why I was so bold as to go up to her.”


He was a melancholy-looking man, with the sunken eyes and other
characteristics of semi-starvation, whilst his face was scored with
lines and wrinkles, telling of paint and premature age.

I saw him performing in the streets with a school of acrobats soon
after I had been questioning him, and the readiness and business-like
way with which he resumed his professional buffoonery was not a little
remarkable. His story was more pathetic than comic, and proved that the
life of a street clown is, perhaps, the most wretched of all existence.
Jest as he may in the street, his life is literally no joke at home.

“I have been a clown for sixteen years,” he said, “having lived totally
by it for that time. I was left motherless at two years of age, and my
father died when I was nine. He was a carman, and his master took me
as a stable-boy, and I stayed with him until he failed in business. I
was then left destitute again, and got employed as a supernumerary at
Astley’s, at one shilling a-night. I was a ‘super’ some time, and got
an insight into theatrical life. I got acquainted, too, with singing
people, and could sing a good song, and came out at last on my own
account in the streets, in the Jim Crow line. My necessities forced me
into a public line, which I am far from liking. I’d pull trucks at one
shilling a-day, rather than get twelve shillings a-week at my business.
I’ve tried to get out of the line. I’ve got a friend to advertise for
me for any situation as groom. I’ve tried to get into the police, and
I’ve tried other things, but somehow there seems an impossibility to
get quit of the street business. Many times I have to play the clown,
and indulge in all kinds of buffoonery, with a terrible heavy heart.
I have travelled very much, too, but I never did over-well in the
profession. At races I may have made ten shillings for two or three
days, but that was only occasional; and what is ten shillings to keep a
wife and family on, for a month maybe? I have three children, one now
only eight weeks old. You can’t imagine, sir, what a curse the street
business often becomes, with its insults and starvations. The day
before my wife was confined, I jumped and labour’d doing Jim Crow for
twelve hours--in the wet, too--and earned one shilling and threepence;
with this I returned to a home without a bit of coal, and with only
half-a-quartern loaf in it. I know it was one shilling and threepence;
for I keep a sort of log of my earnings and my expenses; you’ll see
on it what I’ve earn’d as clown, or the funnyman, with a party of
acrobats, since the beginning of this year.”

He showed me this log, as he called it, which was kept in small
figures, on paper folded up as economically as possible. His latest
weekly earnings were, 12_s._ 6_d._, 1_s._ 10_d._, 7_s._ 7_d._, 2_s._
5_d._, 3_s._ 11-1/2_d._, 7_s._ 7-1/2_d._, 7_s._ 9-1/4_d._, 6_s._
4-1/2_d._, 10_s._ 10-1/2_d._, 9_s._ 7_d._, 6_s._ 1-1/2_d._, 15_s._
6-1/4_d._, 6_s._ 5_d._, 4_s._ 2_d._, 12_s._ 10-1/4_d._, 15_s._
5-1/2_d._, 14_s._ 4_d._ Against this was set off what the poor man had
to expend for his dinner, &c., when out playing the clown, as he was
away from home and could not dine with his family. The ciphers intimate
the weeks when there was no such expense, or in other words, those
which had been passed without dinner. 0, 0, 0, 0, 2_s._ 2-1/2_d._,
3_s._ 9-1/4_d._, 4_s._ 2_d._, 4_s._ 5_d._, 5_s._ 8-1/4_d._, 5_s._
11-1/4_d._, 4_s._ 10-1/2_d._, 2_s._ 8-3/4_d._, 3_s._ 7-3/4_d._, 3_s._
4-1/4_d._, 6_s._ 5-1/4_d._, 4_s._ 6-3/4_d._, 4_s._ 3_d._ This account
shows an average of 8_s._ 6-1/2_d._ a-week as the gross gain, whilst,
if the expenses be deducted, not quite six shillings remain as the
average weekly sum to be taken home to wife and family.

“I dare say,” continued the man, “that no persons think more of their
dignity than such as are in my way of life. I would rather starve than
ask for parochial relief. Many a time I have gone to my labour without
breaking my fast, and played clown until I could raise dinner. I have
to make jokes as clown, and could fill a volume with all I knows.”

He told me several of his jests; they were all of the most venerable
kind, as for instance:--“A horse has ten legs: he has two fore legs
and two hind ones. Two fores are eight, and two others are ten.” The
other jokes were equally puerile, as, “Why is the City of Rome,” (he
would have it Rome), “like a candle wick? Because it’s in the midst
of Greece.” “Old and young are both of one age: your son at twenty is
young, and your horse at twenty is old: and so old and young are the
same.” “The dress,” he continued, “that I wear in the streets consists
of red striped cotton stockings, with full trunks, dotted red and
black. The body, which is dotted like the trunks, fits tight like a
woman’s gown, and has full sleeves and frills. The wig or scalp is made
of horse-hair, which is sown on to a white cap, and is in the shape of
a cock’s comb. My face is painted with dry white lead. I grease my skin
first and then dab the white paint on (flake-white is too dear for us
street clowns); after that I colour my cheeks and mouth with vermilion.
I never dress at home; we all dress at public-houses. In the street
where I lodge, only a very few know what I do for a living. I and my
wife both strive to keep the business a secret from our neighbours.
My wife does a little washing when able, and often works eight hours
for sixpence. I go out at eight in the morning and return at dark. My
children hardly know what I do. They see my dresses lying about, but
that is all. My eldest is a girl of thirteen. She has seen me dressed
at Stepney fair, where she brought me my tea (I live near there); she
laughs when she sees me in my clown’s dress, and wants to stay with me:
but I would rather see her lay dead before me (and I had two dead in
my place at one time, last Whitsun Monday was a twelvemonth) than she
should ever belong to my profession.”

I could see the tears start from the man’s eyes as he said this.

“Frequently when I am playing the fool in the streets, I feel very sad
at heart. I can’t help thinking of the bare cupboards at home; but
what’s that to the world? I’ve often and often been at home all day
when it has been wet, with no food at all, either to give my children
or take myself, and have gone out at night to the public-houses to
sing a comic song or play the funnyman for a meal--you may imagine
with what feelings for the part--and when I’ve come home I’ve call’d
my children up from their beds to share the loaf I had brought back
with me. I know three or more clowns as miserable and bad off as
myself. The way in which our profession is ruined is by the stragglers
or outsiders, who are often men who are good tradesmen. They take to
the clown’s business only at holiday or fair time, when there is a
little money to be picked up at it, and after that they go back to
their own trades; so that, you see, we, who are obliged to continue
at it the year through, are deprived of even the little bit of luck
we should otherwise have. I know only of another regular street clown
in London besides myself. Some schools of acrobats, to be sure, will
have a comic character of some kind or other, to keep the pitch up;
that is, to amuse the people while the money is being collected: but
these, in general, are not regular clowns. They are mostly dressed and
got up for the occasion. They certainly don’t do anything else but the
street comic business, but they are not pantomimists by profession.
The street clowns generally go out with dancers and tumblers. There
are some street clowns to be seen with the Jacks-in-the-greens; but
they are mostly sweeps, who have hired their dress for the two or three
days, as the case may be. I think there are three regular clowns in the
metropolis, and one of these is not a professional: he never smelt the
sawdust, I know, sir. The most that I have known have been shoemakers
before taking to the business. When I go out as a street clown, the
first thing I do is a comic medley dance; and then after that I crack a
few jokes, and that is the whole of my entertainment. The first part of
the medley dance is called ‘the good St. Anthony’ (I was the first that
ever danced the polka in the streets); then I do a waltz, and wind up
with a hornpipe. After that I go through a little burlesque business. I
fan myself, and one of the school asks me whether I am out of breath?
I answer, ‘No, the breath is out of me.’ The leading questions for
the jokes are all regularly prepared beforehand. The old jokes always
go best with our audiences. The older they are, the better for the
streets. I know, indeed, of nothing new in the joking way; but even if
there was, and it was in anyway deep, it would not do for the public
thoroughfares. I have read a great deal of ‘Punch,’ but the jokes are
nearly all too high there; indeed, I can’t say I think very much of
them myself. The principal way in which I’ve got up my jokes is through
associating with other clowns. We don’t make our jokes ourselves; in
fact, I never knew one clown who did. I must own that the street clowns
like a little drop of spirits, and occasionally a good deal. They are
in a measure obligated to it. I can’t fancy a clown being funny on
small beer; and I never in all my life knew one who was a teetotaller.
I think such a person would be a curious character, indeed. Most of
the street clowns die in the workhouses. In their old age they are
generally very wretched and poverty-stricken. I can’t say what I think
will be the end of me. I daren’t think of it, sir.”

A few minutes afterwards I saw this man dressed as Jim Crow, with his
face blackened, dancing and singing in the streets as if he was the
lightest-hearted fellow in all London.


The “professional” from whom I elicited my knowledge of penny-gaff
clowning is known among his companions as “Funny Billy.” He appeared
not a little anxious to uphold the dignity of the penny theatre,
frequently assuring me that “they brought things out there in a style
that would astonish some of the big houses.” His whole being seemed
wrapped up in these cheap dramatic saloons, and he told me wonderful
stories of first-class actors at “The Effingham,” or of astonishing
performers at “The Bower,” or “Rotunda.” He was surprised, too, that
the names of several of the artistes there were not familiar to me,
and frequently pressed me to go and see so-and-so’s “Beadle,” or hear
so-and-so sing his “Oh! don’t I like my Father!”

Besides being a clown, my informant was also “an author,” and several
of the most successful ballets, pantomimes, and dramas, that of late
years have been brought out at the City gaffs, have, I was assured,
proceeded from “his pen.”

In build, even in his every-day clothes, he greatly resembles a
clown--perhaps from the broadness of his chest and high-buttoned
waistcoat, or from the shortness and crookedness of his legs; but he
was the first I had seen whose form gave any indication of his calling.

Since the beginning of this year (1856) he has given up clowning, and
taken to pantalooning instead, for “on last boxing-day,” he informed
me, “he met with an accident which dislocated his jaw, and caused a
swelling in his cheek as if he had an apple inside his mouth.” This he
said he could conceal in his make-up as a pantaloon, but it had ruined
him for clown.

His statement was as follows:--

“I’m a clown at penny gaffs and the cheap theatres, for some of the
gaffs are twopence and threepence--that’s as high as they run. The
Rotunda in the Blackfriars’-road is the largest in London, and that
will hold one thousand comfortably seated, and they give two in one
evening, at one penny, twopence, and threepence, and a first-class
entertainment it is, consisting of a variety of singing and dancing,
and ballets, from one hour and a-half to two hours. There are no penny
theatres where speaking is legally allowed, though they do do it to a
great extent, and at all of ’em at Christmas a pantomime is played, at
which Clown and Pantaloon speaks.

“The difference between a penny-gaff clown and a fair, or, as we call
it, a canvas clown, is this,--at the fairs the principal business is
outside on the parade, and there’s very little done (seldom more than
two scenes) inside. Now at the penny gaffs they go through a regular
pantomime, consisting of from six to eight scenes, with jumps and all
complete, as at a regular theatre; so that to do clown to one of them,
you must be equal to those that come out at the regular theatres; and
what’s more, you must strain every nerve; and what’s more still, you
may often please at a regular theatre when you won’t go down at all at
a penny gaff. The circus clown is as different from a penny-gaff clown
as a coster is from a tradesman.

“What made me turn clown was this. I was singing comic songs at the
Albion Saloon, Whitechapel, and playing in ballets, and doing the
scene-painting. Business was none of the best. Mr. Paul Herring, the
celebrated clown, was introduced into the company as a draw, to play
ballets. The ballet which he selected was ‘The Barber and Beadle;’ and
me being the only one who played the old men on the establishment,
he selected me to play the Beadle to his Barber. He complimented me
for what I had done, when the performance was over, for I done my
uttermost to gain his applause, knowing him to be such a star, and
what he said was--I think--deserved. We played together ballets for
upwards of nine months, as well as pantomimes, in which I done the
Pantaloon; and we had two clear benefits between us, in which we
realised three pounds each, on both occasions. Then Mr. Paul Herring
was engaged by Mr. Jem Douglass, of the Standard, to perform with the
great clown, Mr. Tom Matthews, for it was intended to have two clowns
in the piece. He having to go to the Standard for the Christmas, left
about September, and we was without a clown, and it was proposed that I
should play the clown. I accepted the offer, at a salary of thirty-five
shillings a-week, under Hector Simpson, the great pantomimist--who was
proprietor. This gentleman was well known as the great dog-and-bear man
of Covent Garden, and various other theatres, where he played Valentine
and Orson with a living bear. He showed me various things that I were
deficient in, and with what I knew myself we went on admiringly well;
and I continued at it as clown for upwards of a year, and became a
great favourite.

“I remember clowning last Christmas (1856) particularly, for it was
a sad year for me, and one of the busiest times I have ever known.
I met with my accident then. I was worked to death. First of all, I
had to do my rehearsals; then I had the scene-painting to go on with,
which occupied me night and day, and what it brought me in was three
shillings a-day and three shillings a-night. The last scene, equal
to a pair of flats, was only given to me to do on Christmas-eve, to
accomplish by the boxing-day. I got them done by five o’clock at
Christmas morning, and then I had to go home and complete my dress,
likewise my little boy’s, who was engaged to sing and play in ballets
at two shillings a-night; and he was only five years old, but very
clever at singing, combating, and ballet performing, as also the
illustrations of the Grecian statues, which he first done when he was
two and a half years old.

“The pantomime was the original Statue Blanche, as performed by Joe
Grimaldi, as Mr. Hector Simpson had produced it--for it was under his
superintendence--at Covent Garden Theatre. It’s title was, ‘The Statue
Blanche, or Harlequin and the Magic Cross.’ I was very successful on
the boxing-night, but on the second occasion of my acting in it I
received an accident, which laid me up for three months, and I was not
off my bed for ten weeks.

“I had, previous to this, played clown very often, especially on the
Saturday evenings, for the Jews, for I was a great favourite with them;
so far, that I knew they would go far and near to serve me. I had
performed in ‘Harlequin Blue Beard,’ and ‘Harlequin Merry Milliners, or
The Two Pair of Lovers,’ and several others, from eight to ten of them;
but that was during the summer season. But I had never had a chance of
coming out at Christmas before, and to me it was quite an event, and
there’s no doubt I should have prospered in it only for my accident.

“This accident was occasioned by this. During the comic scene--the
scene of the stripping of the child--they allowed an inexperienced
person to play the part of the Beadle, and the doll for the child was
stuffed with oak sawdust, and weighed twenty-six pounds. He took it
up by the leg and struck me a blow in the face, which dislocated the
jaw-bone, and splintered it all to pieces. I went through the pantomime
with the remnants of the broken jaw still in my face, having then
four hours to perform, for we played sixteen houses that boxing-day,
to upwards of from three to four thousand people, and we began at
half-past eleven in the day, and terminated at twelve at night. I had
met with great approbation the whole of the time, and it was a sad
event for me. It was quite accidental was my accident, and of course I
bore the man no malice for one, but more blamed the manager for letting
him come on.

“When I had done that night, after my blow, I felt very fatigued, and
my face was very sore. I was completely jaw-locked, and I imagined I
had caught a cold. It hurt me awfully every time I closed my teeth,
but I drowned my feelings in a little brandy, and so forth; and the
next night I resumed my clowning. After I had done that evening, I
found I was so very bad I could hardly move; and going home with my
wife and children, I was obliged to sit down every other yard I took,
which occupied me very near two hours to do the mile and a quarter.
I went to bed, and never got up again for ten weeks, for it brought
on fever again. Ah! what I have suffered, God, and God only, knows!
When the doctor came, he said I were under a very severe fever, and he
thought I had caught a cold, and that I had the erysiphilas, my face
being so swollen that it hung on my shoulders as they propped me up
with pillows. He knew nothing about it. He made ’em bathe my face with
poppy-heads, and wash my mouth out with honey, which drove me out of
my mind, for I was a fortnight deranged. My wife told me, that whilst
I was mad I had behaved very ill to her--poor thing!--for I wouldn’t
let anybody come near me but her; and when she’d come I’d seize her
by the hair, and fancy she was the man who had broke my jaw; and once
I near strangled her. I was mad, you know. Ah! what I suffered then,
nobody knows. Through that accident my wife and children has had many a
time to go without victuals. Everything was sold then to keep me from
the workhouse--even my poor little children’s frocks. My poor wife
saved my life, if anybody did, for three doctors gave me up. I don’t
believe they knew what I had. The teeth was loose, but the mouth was
closed, and I couldn’t open it. They thought I had an abscess there,
and they cut me three or four times in the neck to open the gathering.
At last they found out the jaw-bone was smashed. When I got better,
the doctor told me he could do nothing for me, but give me a letter to
Dr. Fergusson, at the King’s College Hospital. I went to him, and he
examined and probed the jaw through the incision under the gland of the
neck, and then he said he must take the jaw out. I said I would consult
my friends and hear what they said first; and with the idea of such an
operation, and being so weak, I actually fainted down in the passage as
I was leaving.

“Ah! fancy my distress to make such a hit, and everybody to compliment
me as they did, and to see a prospect of almost coining money, and then
suddenly to be thrown over, and be told it was either life or death for

“I wouldn’t undergo the operation. So I went home, and here comes
fortitude. I pulled out the teeth with a pair of cobbler’s pincers, and
cut open my face with a penknife to take out the bits of bone. If I
hadn’t been a prudent, sober man, I should have died through it.

“There was a friend of mine who was like a brother to me, and he stuck
to me every inch. There was lots of professionals I had supported in
their illness, and they never come near me; only my dear friend, and
but for him I should have died, for he saved up his money to get me
port wine and such things.

“Many a time I’ve gone out when I was better to sing comic songs at
concerts, when I could feel the bits of bone jangling in my mouth. But,
sir, I had a wife and family, and they wanted food. As it was, my poor
wife had to go to the workhouse to be confined. At one time I started
off to do away with myself. I parted with my wife and children, and
went to say good-by to my good friend, and it was he who saved my life.
If it hadn’t been for him it would have been a gooser with me, for I
was prepared to finish all. He walked about with me and reasoned me
out of it, and says he, ‘What on earth will become of the wife and the

“I’m sufficiently well now to enable me to resume my old occupation,
not as Clown but as Pantaloon.

“Altogether--taking it all in all--I was three years as clown, and very
successful and a great favourite with the Jews. My standing salary
for comic singing and clown was eighteen shillings a-week; but then
at Christmas it was always rose to thirty shillings or thirty-five
shillings. Then I did the writing and painting, such as the placards
for the outside; such as, ‘This saloon is open this evening,’ and
such-like; and that, on the average, would bring me in eight shillings

“There was seven men and three females in my company when we played
‘Harlequin Blue Beard,’ for that’s the one I shall describe to you, and
that we played for a considerable time. I was manager at the time, and
I always was liked by the company, for I never fined them or anything
like that; for, you see, I knew that to take sixpence from a poor man
was to take a loaf of bread from the children.

“This pantomime was of my own writing, and I managed the chorus and
the dances, and all. I painted the scenery, too, and moulded the
masks--about six altogether--and then afterwards played clown. All this
was included in my salary of eighteen shillings a-week, and that was
the top price of the company.

“The first scene was with a cottage on the left hand and with the
surrounding country in the back; three rows of waters, with the distant
view of Blue Beard’s castle. Enters the lover (he’s the Harlequin) in a
disguise dressed as a Turk; he explains in the pantomime that he should
like to make the lady in the cottage his bride (which is Fatima, and
afterwards Columbine). He goes to the cottage and knocks three times,
when she appears at the window. She comes out and dances with him. At
the end of the dance the old man comes in, to the tune of ‘Roast Beef
of Old England.’ He wears a big mask, and is the father to Fatima, and
afterwards Pantaloon. He drives lover off stage, and is about to take
Fatima back to cottage, when castle gates at back opens and discovers
Blue Beard in gondola, which crosses the stage in the waters. Blue
Beard wears a mask and a tremendous long sword, which takes two men to
pull out. He’s afterwards Clown, and I played the part.

“Several other gondolas cross stage, and when the last goes off the
chorus begins in the distance, and increases as it approaches, and is

    ‘In fire or in water, in earth or in air:
    Wake up, old Blue Beard, these good things to share:
    Wake up! wake up! wake up old Blue Beard, these good things to share.’

“Then comes Blue Beard’s march, and enter troops, followed by
Shackaback in a hurry. He’s Blue Beard’s servant. He bears on his
shoulder an immense key, which he places in the middle of stage. He
then comes to the front with a scroll, which he exhibits, on which is

    ‘Blue Beard comes this very day,
    A debt of gratitude to pay:
    Aye, you needn’t trouble, it is all right,
    He intends to wed Fatima this very night.’

At which they all become alarmed, and in an immense hurry of music
enters Blue Beard majestically. He sings, to the tune of ‘The Low-back

    ‘When first I saw that lady,
    As you may plainly see,
    I thought she was the handsomest girl
    As ever there could be;
    Such a cheerful chubby girl was she,
    With such a pair of eyes,
    With such a mouth, and such a nose,
    That she did me so surprise:
    Which made me cry out,
                                    Ha! Ha!’

“The lover from the side says:

    ‘You’re no credit to your dada.’

“Then Blue Beard looks round fiercely, and his mask is made with eyes
to work with strings:

    ‘But I shall him surprise
    When I opens my eyes,’

(and he opens a tremendous pair of saucer eyes),

    ‘That talks of my dear dada.’

Then the music goes ‘Ha! ha!’ As he draws his sword into the army of
four men, Shackaback gets it on the nose.

“Then Blue Beard goes direct to the old man and embraces him, and
shows him a big purse of money. He then goes to the young lady, but
she refuses him, and says she would sooner wed the young trooper. The
old man gets in a rage, when enters Demon unseen by all; he waves over
their heads; they then catch hold of hands and dance round the key
again, to the tune of ‘The Roast Beef of Old England.’ Then begins a
chorus which is thus, to the tune of ‘Stoney Batter:’

        ‘Round this magic key
        Gaily let us trudge it;
        Hoping something new
    Will be brought to our Christmas budget.

        But a song about a key,
        Is but a doleful matter,
        So we’ll sing one of our own,
        And we’ll call it Stoney Batter.
                        Ri too loo ral loo.’

(Fairies from the side:)

    ‘Ri too loo ral rido.’


    ‘Ri too loo ral roo, loo ral lido.’

“After dancing round key, Blue Beard orders two of the troops to seize
the girl and carry her to the castle. Then they catch hands and begin
singing, to the time of ‘Fine Young Bachelors:’

    ‘Here’s a jolly lot of us,
    Fine Turkish gentlemen;
    With plenty of money in our purse,
    Fine Turkish gentlemen,’ &c. &c.

“And the scene closes on this. Then the lover just crosses, so as
to give time to arrange the back scene. He vows vengeance on Blue
Beard. Then scene opens, and discovers a chamber with Fatima on couch,
and Demon behind with a large heart, on the scene over which is in
illuminated letters:

    ‘Whosoe’er this dagger takes,
    The magic spells of Blue Beard breaks.’

The large key is placed at the foot of the couch on which she is
laying. We don’t introduce the haunted chamber scenes, as it would have
been too lengthened; but it was supposed that she had been there and
examined it, and terror had overcome her and she had swooned. That’s
when the audience sees her. We couldn’t do all the story at a penny
gaff, it was too long. To return to the plot.

“Enter Fairy, who dances round the stage, and sees the heart. She goes
and snatches the dagger; then a loud crash, and the key falls to pieces
on the stage.

“I had five shillings given me as a present for that scene, for I had
painted the scene all arches, and round every pillar was a serpent
with fire coming from the mouth. I produced that pantomime, so that
altogether it did not cost thirty shillings, because each man found his
own dress, don’t you see.

“After the crash enters Blue Beard. He says the lady has broken the
key, and he is about to kill her; when enter lover, and he has a
terrific combat, in which they never hit a blow (like a phantom-fight);
but the lover is about to be struck to the ground, when enters Fairy,
who speaks these words:

    ‘Hold! turn and turn is the Yorkshire way.
    You think ours. Now your dog shall have its day.

“Then the scene falls, and discovers a fairy palace at back, with
fairies, who sing:

    ‘Come, listen, gentle lover,
      Come, listen unto me;
    Be guided by our fairy queen,
      Who gained your liberty.’

“They all look dismayed at one another, and go to the sides ready for
changing their dresses for the comic work.

“The Fairy Queen then says:

    ‘You, the true lover, I think knows no sin,
    Therefore grace our pantomime as Harlequin.’

“And turning to the lady she adds:

    ‘Nay, young lady, do not pine,
    But attend him as his faithful Columbine.’

“Turning to Blue Beard:

    ‘You, Blue Beard, a man of great renown,
    Shall grace our pantomime as Christmas Clown.’

“Then Clown comes forward, and cries: ‘Halla! ha, ha, ha! here we are!
Shobbus is out;’ (that’s the Jewish Sunday); and, oh dear! how they
used to laugh at that!

“Then she turns to the old man:

    ‘You, old man, you’ve been a silly loon,
    Attend him as slippery fidgetty Pantaloon!’

“Then as she’s going off she says:

    ‘Ah! I’d almost forgotten;
    Never mind, it is all right;
    Demon of the magic key,
    Attend as Sprite.’

“Then the fairies sing:

    ‘We fairies dance, we fairies sing,
    Whilst the silver moon is beaming;
    We fairies dance, we fairies sing,
    To please our Fairy Queen.’

“Then there is blue fire, and the scene closes, and the comic business

“Clown dances first with Harlequin, and at the end of trip hollars out:
‘Ha, here we are!’ Then he sings out, each time Harlequin beats him,
‘A, E, I,’ (Pantaloon drops in and gets a blow, O!); and Clown says,
‘Tuppence! all right, you owe me nothing; I shan’t give you no change.’

“Then there’s a photography scene, and Clown comes on and says, ‘Here,
I say, what shall we do for a living?’ Then Pantaloon says, ‘We’ll
become dancing-masters.’ The Clown says, ‘They’ll take likenesses.’

“‘Ah, here’s somebody coming!’

“Enter a swell with white ducks, and a blacking-boy follows, says,
‘Clean your boots, sir?’ Clown asks him to clean his. As the boy is
beginning, Harlequin bangs him, and he knocks the boy over. Next bang
he gets he hits Pantaloon, and says he did it. Pantaloon says, ‘I
never touched you;’ and Clown replies, ‘Then don’t do it again.’ Then
I’d give ’em a rub up on the smoking mania. I’d say to boy, ‘Here,
boy, take this farden to get yourself a pipe of tobacco, little boys
is fond of smoking;’ and Pantaloon would add, ‘Yes, men’s left off.’
Boy goes off to buy the tobacco, and leaves his blacking-box, which
Clown promises to take care of and clean the boots. He hollows out,
‘Clean your boots?’ and Pantaloon puts his foot down, and gets his
toes rapped. Enter a lady, who asks where she can have her portrait
taken,--Yes, marm; over there,--Clown steals parcel. When lady is
gone, Clown discovers parcel to contain blank cards. This is what
he takes the portraits on, and it was at a time when they was all
the rage at a shilling. Clown then says, he’s taking portraits, and
makes a camera out of the blacking-box. He cuts a hole in the box,
and sticks the blacking-bottle for a lens. Then he places the box on
Pantaloon’s back for a stand. Then, of course, Clown knocks him over,
and he asks what that’s for. ‘Why, if you’re a stand, what do you fall
for? I never see such a stand.’ Then ladies and gentlemen come in to
have their portraits taken, and Clown smears the cards with blacking
and gives it, and asks a shilling; when they grumble and won’t pay, he
rubs the blacking in their faces. General row, and the scene changes
to a street-scene. There’s another trip by Harlequin and Columbine,
and enters Clown in a hurry with six fish, and he meets Pantaloon.
‘Look’ee here, what I’ve found!’ ‘Oh, fair halves!’ ‘All right! sit
down, and you shall have them.’ Pantaloon declines, and Clown knocks
him down, and they begin sharing fish. ‘There’s one for you and one for
me, another for you and another for me, another for you and another
for me.’ ‘How many have you got?’ asks Clown, and Pantaloon says,
‘One--two--three.’ Clown says, ‘No! you’ve got more than three.’ Then,
taking one up, he asks, ‘How many is that?’--‘One.’ Taking another up,
‘How many’s that?’ Pantaloon exclaims, ‘Two!’ Clown says, ‘Then two
and one is three,’ and takes up another, and asks how many that is.
Pantaloon exclaims, ‘Three!’ Clown says, ‘Then three and three makes
six.’ Clown then counts his own, and says, ‘I’ve only got three; you
must give me these three to make me six. That’s fair halves. Ain’t you
satisfied?’ ‘No!’ ‘Then take that,’ and he knocks him over with a fish.

“The next scene is a public-house--‘The Freemasons’ Arms, a select
club held here.’ After trip by Harlequin and Columbine, enters Clown
and Pantaloon. ‘Look’ee here! it’s a public-house! let’s have half a
pint of half-and-half.’ Clown hollows, ‘Now ramrod!’ meaning landlord,
and he comes on. ‘Why don’t you attend to gentlemen?’ ‘What’s your
pleasure, sir?’ ‘Half a pint of half-and-half for me and my friend.’
He brings a tumbler, which Harlequin breaks, and it comes in half.
‘Hallo!’ cries Clown; ‘this is rum half-and-half! Here’s half for you
and half for me.’

“Then they say, ‘I say, here’s somebody coming.’ Enter two Freemasons,
who give each other the sign by shaking both hands, bumping up against
each other, whispering in each other’s ear, and going into the
public-house. Clown then calls the landlord, and says he belongs to the
club. Landlord asks him for the sign. Clown says he’s got it over the
door. He then takes Pantaloon and shakes his hands, and bumps him, and
asks if that is the sign. The landlord says ‘No.’ ‘Is that it?’ ‘No,
this is,’ and he gives Clown a spank; and he passes it to Pantaloon,
and knocks him down. ‘That’s the sign; now we’ve got it between us.’
‘Yes, and I’ve got the best half.’

“Clown says, ‘Never mind, we will get in;’ and he goes to the door and
knocks, when the club descends and strikes them on the head. Clown then
tells Pantaloon to go and knock, and he’ll watch and see where it comes
from. The club comes down again, and knocks Pantaloon on the head; but
Clown sees from whence it comes and pulls a man in fleshings out of the
window. Clown and Pantaloon pursues him round stage, and he knocks them
both over, and jumps through a trap in the window with a bottle on it,
marked ‘Old Tom,’ and a scroll falls down, written ‘Gone to blazes.’
Pantaloon follows, and flap falls, on which is written, ‘To be left
till called for.’ Clown is about to follow, when gun fires and scroll
falls with ‘Dead letter’ on it. Pantaloon is bundled out by landlord
and others; general row; policemen springing rattles, fireworks, &c.

“There are from four to five comic scenes like this. But it would take
too long to describe them. Besides, we don’t do the same scenes every
evening, but vary them each night.

“Then comes the catch, or the dark scene, in which Clown, Pantaloon,
Harlequin, and Columbine are in the dark, and seize one another.

    ‘Hold! you’ve done your best with all your might,
    And we’ll give our friends a charge another night.’

“You see the poetry is always beautifully adapted to ourselves. They’ve
very clever fairies.

“We in generally finale with that there:

    ‘We fairies dance, we fairies sing,
    Whilst the silver moon is beaming;
    We fairies dance, we fairies sing,
    And we have pleased our Fairy Queen.’

“Then the bell rings, and the man who keeps order cries out, ‘Pass out!
pass out!’

“The performance generally takes from one hour and a half to an hour
and three-quarters, and we do three of ’em a night. It makes the
perspiration run off you, and every house I have a wet shirt. The only
rest I have is with my boy singing ‘Hot codlins.’ When they call for
the song I say, ‘Yes, yes; all right; you shall have them; only there’s
a chip of mine will sing it for me,’ and I introduce my little boy--of
four then--to sing.

“The general pay for Clowns at penny exhibitions is averaging
from twenty to twenty-five shillings a-week. You can say without
exaggeration, that there are twenty of these penny exhibitions in
London. They always produce a new pantomime at Christmas; and all the
year round, in summer as well as winter, they bring ’em out, when
business is shy, for a draw, which they always find them answer.

“A Clown that can please at a penny gaff, is capable of giving
satisfaction at any theatre, for the audience is a very difficult one
to entertain. They have no delicacy in ’em, and will hiss in a moment
if anything displeases them.

“A pantomime at a penny exhibition will run at Christmas three weeks
or a month, if very successful; and during that time it’s played to
upwards of twelve hundred persons a-night, according to the size of the
house, for few penny ones hold more than four hundred, and that’s three
times a-night. The Rotunda in the Blackfriars’-road, and the Olympic
Circus in the Lower Marsh, Lambeth, do an immense business, for they
hold near a thousand each, and that’s three thousand spectators the

“When the pantomime is on we only do a little comic singing before it
begins playing.”


A tall, fine-looking young fellow, with a quantity of dark hair, which
he wore tucked behind his ears, obliged me with his experience as a
clown at the fairs. He came to me dressed in a fashionable “paletot,”
of a gingerbread colour, which, without being questioned on the
subject, he told me he had bought in Petticoat Lane for three shillings.

I have seldom seen a finer-built youth than this clown, for he was
proportioned like a statue. The peculiarity of his face was that, at
the junction of the forehead with the nose there was a rising, instead
of a hollow, somewhat like that which is seen in Roman antiquities.

His face, whilst talking, was entirely without emotion, and he detailed
the business outside the show, on the parade, in a sing-song voice,
like a child saying its lesson; and although he often said “This makes
’em shout with laughter,” his own face remained as solemn as a parish

He furnished me with the following particulars of his life:--

“On and off, I’ve been clowning these twelve year. Previous to that
time, I have done busking in public-houses, and comic singing, and
ballet performing at penny exhibitions; as well as parading outside
shows at fairs. I’ve done clowning at near every place, at fairs and
in the streets, along with a school of acrobats, and at circuses, and
at penny gaffs, and at the Standard, and such-like. I first commenced
some twelve years ago, at Enfield fair. It was a travelling concern I
was with,--the ‘Thespian Temple,’ or Johnson’s Theatre,--where I was
engaged to parade on the outside as a walking gentleman. There was no
clown for the pantomime, for he had disappointed us, and of course
they couldn’t get on without one; so, to keep the concern going, old
Johnson, who knew I was a good tumbler, came up to me, and said ‘he had
_nanti vampo_, and your _nabs_ must _fake_ it;’ which means,--We have
no clown, and you must do it. So I done the clowning on the parade, and
then, when I went inside, I’d put on a pair of Turkish trousers, and a
long cloak, and hat and feathers, to play ‘Robert, duke of Normandy,’
in the first piece.

“You see the performances consisted of all gag. I don’t suppose anybody
knows what the words are in the piece. Everybody at a show theatre is
expected to do general business, and when you’re short of people (as
we was at Johnson’s, for we played ‘Robert, duke of Normandy,’ with
three men and two girls), Clown is expected to come on and slip a cloak
over his dress, and act tragedy in the first piece. We don’t make up so
heavy for the clown for fairs, only a little dab of red on the cheeks,
and powder on the face; so we’ve only just got to wipe off the ‘slop’
when it’s in the way. You looks rather pale, that’s all. The dress is
hidden by the one we put over it.

“The plot of ‘Robert, duke of Normandy,’ is this: He and his slave
Piccolo come in; and after a little business between them, all gagging,
he says, ‘Slave! get back to the castle!’ he answers, ‘Your orders
shall be attended to!’ Then he says, ‘At the peril of your life, and
prevent the fair Angeline to escape!’ That’s the first scene. In the
second, two of Robert’s slaves attack his rival, and then Robert rushes
in and pretends to save him. He cries ‘Hold! two to one!’ The men go
off, saying, ‘Well, we part as friends! when next we meet, we meet as
foes!’ As soon as Robert leaves the rival the lady comes in, and tells
him she is flying from Robert’s castle, and that Robert has seduced
her, and seeks her life. She tells him that the man who just left him
is he. ‘It is false!’ he says; ‘that is my friend!’ She cries, ‘Test
him!’ ‘But how?’ he asks. She replies, ‘Follow me to the statue, at the
bottom of the grove, and then I will tell you!’ Then the third comes
on. Enter Robert and slave, and the marble statue discovered: that is,
it is supposed to be, but it is only Angeline dressed up. He gives the
slave instructions to put a ring on the finger of the statue--for he is
supposed to have dealings with Old Nick, and that every time he put a
ring on the statue he can demand a victim. He tells the slave to place
a ring on the finger, and pronounce these words: ‘When it may please
your most gracious majesty to seek your husband, to find a victim, you
will find him here!’ ‘No, no, not here--there!’ pointing to Robert.
The Duke half draws his sword, and exclaims, ‘Slave! what ho!’ without
touching him. Enters the rival, who demands satisfaction of Robert; who
says, ‘What can I do to satisfy you?’ for he’s in a deuce of a go now.
He then tells him to kneel to the statue, and swear he is not Robert,
duke of Normandy. Instead of that he calls to the servant, and tells
him to put the ring on; but Robert, the Duke, is in a deuce of a way,
tearing his hair. The servant does it, and exclaims, ‘I have done it;
but would you believe it, when I placed it on the finger, the finger
became collapsed!’ Robert cries, ‘Slave, thou art a liar! if I find
that it is false I will cleave thee to the earth!’ Robert examines the
finger, and exclaims, ‘Alas! it is too true!’ and he kneels to the
statue and says, ‘I swear that I am’--and he’s going to say, ‘not duke
of Normandy,’ but the statue is too quick for him, and adds, ‘Robert,
duke of Normandy!’ And then the comic slave pops his head round, and
pronounces, ‘Oh, the devil!’ Then the rival stabs him, and he falls
down wounded, and then he’s triumphant; and a pen’orth of blue fire
finishes the piece; and then ding! ding! dong! and down goes the
curtain. We always have blue fire,--a pen’orth each house,--and that
makes it go. Sometimes there are two friends in the piece; but it all
depends upon whether the piece is powerfully cast or not. We usually
knocks the two friends into one, or does away with ’em all together.
‘Robert, duke of Normandy,’ is a never-failing fair piece, and we
always does it every year. That and ‘Blue Beard, or Female Curiosity,’
and ‘Fair Rosamond, or the Bower of Woodstock,’ are our stock pieces.
After the curtain has been down three minutes it goes up again, and the
heavy goes in and says,--

    ‘Elves of the mountain, dale, and dell,
    This young maid to please within her cell,
    Attend unto us, one and all--
    Listen to your potent master’s call.’

“Then all of us at the sides put their fingers in their mouths and howl
like Indians. There’s generally a cue given of ‘Now, demons.’ After
that the heavy man says:--

    ‘You, young man, that knows no sin,
    Appear as russet-booted Harlequin.’

We called him russet-booted, because he had been playing the lover in
the first piece. At Richardson’s they called him ‘Spangled Harlequin,’
but old Johnson couldn’t do that, he hadn’t no wardrobe. Then the heavy
man continues:--

    ‘And you, young maid, no longer pine,
    Attend him as his faithful Columbine.’

Then he goes on:--

    ‘Two more slaves will I rise from out the unfathomable deep,
    Who for a long time have been in perpetual sleep;
    They, too, shall share my boon--
    Appear as Clown and tottering Pantaloon.
    Now away! begin your magic sport,
    And bring me back a good report.’

Then I cried, ‘Hulloa! here we are!’ and the sports begin.

“The first _trip_, as we calls it--a dance, to use your terms--is
Harlequin comes in with Columbine for a hornpipe. If he can’t dance,
Clown, as soon as he begins, cries, ‘Here we are!’ and rushes in and
drives them off.

“After that, Clown runs on and says, ‘Here we are!’ and knocks
Pantaloon down; who exclaims, ‘Oh! ain’t I got the tooth-ache!’ Clown
says, ‘Let me feel your tooth. Oh, it’s quite loose! I’ll get a bit
of string and soon have it out.’ Clown goes off for string, Pantaloon
singing out, ‘Murder! murder!’ Clown returns with string and a pistol,
and then ties the string, and cries, ‘Here goes one, and now it’s two,
and here goes three,’ and fires and pulls a wooden tooth, as big as
your fist, with four sharp prongs to it. I’ve had these teeth often
as big as a quartern loaf, but I’m talking of my first appearance.
Pantaloon says, ‘Here, that’s my tooth!’ and Clown replies, ‘So it
is,’ and hits him on the head with it. Then he asks Pantaloon if he’s
better; but he answers, ‘No, I’m worse. Oh! oh! I’ve got a cold in my
gum!’ Then a red-hot poker is introduced, and he burns him with it all
round the stage. That concludes the first scene. Then there’s another
trip, a would-be polka or so; and then comes the bundle-scene. Enter
a Yorkshireman--it’s mostly Harlequins do this, because most of the
others are outside parading, to keep the crowd together--he’s got a
smockfrock on and russet boots at Johnson’s, and he says, ‘I’ve coome
up here to Lunnon to see my Dolly. I feel rather dry, and I’ll just gi’
in here to get half-a-point of yale. I’ll just leave my bunnel outside,
and keep a strict eye on it, for they say as how Lunnon has plenty
of thieves in it.’ Enter Clown, very cautiously. He sees the bundle,
and calls Pantaloon. He tells Pantaloon, ‘I must have it, because I
want it.’ He goes and picks up the bundle, and says to Pantaloon,
‘I shouldn’t wonder but what this bundle belongs to----’ ‘Me,’ the
Yorkshireman says, and the Clown says, ‘Ah, I thought so;’ and then he
takes Pantaloon’s hand, and says, ‘Come along, little boy, we shall get
into trouble,’ and leads him off. They come on again, and this time
Clown tells Pantaloon to get it; so he goes and picks up the bundle,
and Yorkshireman knocks him down. Clown runs off and Pantaloon after.
Clown then returns on his belly, drawing himself on with his hands. He
gets the bundle in his mouth, and is just going off when Yorkshireman
turns round, and Clown seeing him, gives the bundle to Pantaloon, and
says, ‘Hold this.’ Yorkshireman seizes Clown and tells him he wants his
bundle. Pantaloon having run away with it, Clown says, ‘I haven’t got
it, starch me’ (that means, ‘search me’); and there is a regular run
over the stage crying ‘Hot beef! hot beef!’ (instead of ‘Stop thief!’)
The Yorkshireman collars Pantaloon, and says, ‘I’ll take you to the
station-house,’ and Clown exclaims, ‘Yes, and I’ll take this bundle
down the lane’ (meaning Petticoat-lane, because there is a sale for
anything there). Then comes the catch-scene as we call it; that is,
they all come on in the dark, Clown singing, ‘Puss, puss! have you seen
my pussy?’ Then in pops the fairy, and cries, ‘Hold! your magic sports
is run, and thus I step between.’ Pantaloon adds, ‘Aye, it’s all so
gay;’ and Clown cries, ‘Yes, and all serene;’ and the fairy says, ‘And
with my magic wand I change the scene.’ Then everybody sings:--

      ‘Now our pantomime’s done,
      Here’s an end to our fun,
    We shall shortly commence again:
      Our tricks are o’er,
      And we’re friends once more,
    We shall shortly commence again.’

“Then the curtain falls, and Clown puts his head out on one side and
exclaims, ‘It’s all,’ and Pantaloon pops out at the other side and
adds, ‘over.’

“The handing man, who has done Robert, then shouts out from the top,
‘Pass out!’ in a sepulchral voice, and a door opens in the side of the
stage for the people to leave by. That day I was with old Johnson--we
used to call him ‘Snuffy Johnson,’ ’cos he carried a lot of snuff
in his waistcoat pocket--we were very busy, and there was a good
many people waiting on the outside to come in, so we only did about
two of them regular performances; and then about six o’clock in the
evening the crowd got so great, old Johnson used to hollow through
the parade-door, over people’s heads, ‘John Aderley,’ just as we had
commenced playing, and that meant ‘Cut it short.’ We used to finish it
up sharp then, and finish all up in six or seven minutes. We used to
knock Robert the Devil into a very little space, doing the scenes, but
cutting them short; and as for the pantomime, we had scarcely commenced
with ‘Two more slaves will I rise from out the unfathomable deep,’ than
we were singing, ‘Our pantomime’s done, here’s an end to our fun.’
Sometimes the people would grumble awful, and at others they laughed to
see how they was swindled.

“I got on very fair on my first appearance as Clown, considering the
circumstances, but I had, you see, four of the best parading comic men
opposing me. There was Teddy W---- as Silly Billy, and Black Sambo as
Black Fop, and Funny Felix as ring clown, and Steve Sanderson, another
clown, at Frazier’s Circus, next door to us; and we didn’t stand much
chance at clowning alongside of them, as they’re the best paraders
out. Besides, Frazier’s booth took nearly all the ground up; and as we
drawed up on the ground (that is, with the parade-carriages) late on
Sunday evening, we were obliged to have a plot next to the Circus, and
we had the town pump right in the audience part, close to the first
seat in the gallery, and the Obelisk--or rather a cross it is--took up
one side of the stage, which next day we used as the castle in Blue
Beard, when the girl gets up on a ladder to the top of the railings,
which had a shutter on ’em, and that was Fatima looking out from the
spire of the castle for her Salem. Ah! ’twas a great hit, for we put an
old scene round it, and it had a capital effect.

“What we do when we go out clowning to a travelling theatre is this.
This is what I did at Enfield: we arrived late and drawed up the
parade-carriages on the ground, which the gov. had gone on a-head
to secure. Then we went to sleep for awhile--pitched on a shutter
underneath the parade-carriages, for it had been wet weather, and we
couldn’t sleep on the canvas for the booth, for it had been sopped
with rain at Edmonton fair. As soon as it was break of day we begun
getting up the booth, and being short-handed it took us till three
o’clock before we was ready. First we had to measure our distances
and fix the parade-waggons. Then we planted our king pole on the one
in the centre; then we put our back-pole on the one near the parade;
then we put on our ridge at top, and our side-rails; and then we put
our side-ridges, and sling our rafters. We then roll the tilt up,
which is for the roof, and it gets heavy with dirt, and we haul it
up to the top and unroll it again and fasten it again; then we fix
the sides up, with shutters about six feet square, which you see on
the top of the travelling parade-carriages. We fixes up the theatre
and the seats which we take with us. All the scenes roll up, and is
done up in bundles. The performers drop under the parade-waggons, and
there’s a sacking up to divide the men’s part from the women. There’s a
looking-glass--sometimes an old bit or a two-penny one starred, or any
old thing we can get hold of--and the gov. gives you out your dress. We
always provide our own slips and such-like.

“When we parade outside, it all depends upon what kind of Pantaloon
you’ve got with you, as to what business you can make. When we first
come out on the parade all the company is together, and we march round,
form a half-circle, or dress it, as we say, while the band plays ‘Rule
Britannia,’ or some other operatic air. Then the manager generally
calls out, ‘Now, Mr. Merryman, state the nature of the performances to
be given here to-day.’ Then I come forward, and this is the dialogue:
‘Well, Mr. Martin, what am I to tell them?’ ‘The truth, sir! what
they’ll see here to-day.’ ‘Well, if they stop long enough they’ll see
a great many people, I shouldn’t wonder.’ ‘No, no, sir, I want you to
tell them what they’ll see inside our theatre.’ ‘Well, sir, they’ll
see a splendid drama by first-rate performers, of Robert Dooke of
Normandy, with a variety of singing and dancing, with a gorgeous and
comic pantomime, with new dresses and scenery, and everything combined
to make this such an entertainment as was never before witnessed in
this town, and all for the small charge of three shillings.’ ‘No,
no, Mr. Merryman, threepence.’ ‘What! threepence? I shan’t perform
at a threepenny show.’ And then I pretend to go down the steps as if
leaving; he pulls me back, and says, ‘Come here, sir; what are you
going to do?’ ‘I shan’t spoil my deputation playing for threepence.’
‘But you must understand, Merryman, we intend giving them one and all
a treat, that the working-classes may enjoy theirselves as well as
noblemen.’ ‘Then if that’s the case I don’t mind, but only for this

“Then I begin spouting again and again, always ending up with ‘to be
witnessed for the low charge of threepence.’ Then Pantaloon comes up
to say what he’s going to do, and I give him the ‘nap,’ and knock him
on his back. He cries ‘I’m down,’ and I turn him over and pick him up,
and say, ‘And now you’re up.’ Then the company form a half set and do a
quadrille. When they have scrambled through that, Clown will do a comic
dance, and then some burlesque statues. This is the way them statues
are done: I go inside and get a birch-broom, and put a large piece of
tilt or old cloth round me, and stand just inside the curtains at the
entrance from the parade, ready to come out when wanted. Then the male
portion of the company get just to the top of the steps, and Pantaloon
says to one of them, ‘Did you speak?’ He says, ‘When?’ and Pantaloon
says, ‘Now;’ and the whole lot make a noise, hollowing out, ‘Oh, oh,
oh!’ as if they was astonished, but it’s only to attract attention.
Then the gong strikes, and the trumpets flourishes, and everybody
shouts, ‘Hi, hi! look here!’ Then, naturally, all the people turn
towards the caravan to see what’s up. Then they clear a passage-way
from the front to the entrance and back, and bring me forth with this
bit of cloth before me. The music flourishes again, and they make a
tremendous tumult, crying out, ‘Look here! look here!’ and when all are
looking I drop the cloth, and then I stand in the position of Hercules,
king of Clubs, with a birch-broom across my shoulders, and an old hat
on a-top of my wig. Then the band strikes up the statue music, and
I goes through the statues; such as Ajax defying the lightning, and
Cain killing his brother Abel; and it finishes up with the fighting
and dying Gladiator. As a finale I do a back-fall, and pretend to be
dead. The company then picks me up and carry me, lying stiff, on their
shoulders round the parade. They carry me inside, and shout out, ‘All
in to begin; now we positively commence.’ Then they drive everybody in
off the parade. When the public have taken their seats then we come
strolling out, one at a time, till we all get out on the parade again,
because the place isn’t sufficiently full. It’s what we call ‘making
a sally.’ The checktakers at the door prevent anybody leaving if they
want to come out again.

“Then I get up to some nonsense again. Perhaps I’ll get up a lot of
boys out of the fair, and make ’em sit on the parade in a row, and keep
a school, as I call it. I get an old property fiddle, and I tell them,
when I play they must sing. Then I give out a hymn. The bow has a lot
of notches in it, and there’s a bit of wood sticking up in the fiddle;
so that when I plays it goes ‘ricketty, ricketty,’ like. This is the
hymn I gives out:--

    ‘When I can shoot my rifle clear
      At pigeons in the skies,
    I’ll bid farewell to pork and peas,
      And live on pigeon pies.’

“Of course, when they sings, they make a horrible noise, or even if
they dont, I begin to wallop them with my bow. I then tell them I must
teach them something easier first. Then I give them--

    ‘Alas! old Grimes is dead and gone,
      We ne’er shall see him more;
    He used to wear a old great coat
      All buttoned down before.’

Then I finish up by putting on the boys a lot of masks, and some have
old soldiers’ coats; and I give them implements of war, such as old
brooms or sticks, and then I put them through their military exercises.
I stand in front, with the birch-broom as my gun, and I tell them
they must do as I do. Then I cry, ‘File arms,’ and all mark their own
muskets. I tell them to lay them all down; and after they have laid
down their arms I tell them to shoulder arms, which makes a shout,
because they haven’t got no arms. One boy, who is put up to it, says,
‘I’ve got no arms;’ I go up to him and catch hold of his arms, and
ask him what he calls ‘these here.’ Then I make him put them on his
shoulders, and tell him, that’s ‘shoulder arms.’ Then I tell them to
ground arms, and I do it at the time, stooping down and putting my
arms on the ground. I then call them to attention, and up comes the
Pantaloon on a basket-horse, and I tell them they are going to be
reviewed by the Duke. I give them all the implements again, and put
them to stand attention. Pantaloon gallops round them, reviewing. He
wears a large flap cocked-hat and soldier’s old coat. He makes a bit
of fun with his horse, making it kick, and breaking the ranks of my
soldiers. Then I quarrel with him about that, and he says, ‘He’s a
right to do as he likes, because he’s my superior horse-ifer.’ Then
he orders me to the other end of the parade, to stand attention, with
my back towards the boys. Then he tells them to ride about face and
charge, and they all run and charge me in behind. They run two or three
times round the parade, still charging me, until I run inside to the
theatre, and all the company shout out, ‘All in to begin; we are now
positively to commence.’ We then get them in off the parade again, and
if the place is full begin; if not, we gradually crawl out again one
by one, and one of the girls dances a hornpipe or a Highland fling. We
then make a sally, ‘All in again,’ and by that time we generally begin.

“This is the parade business that is most popular at fairs; we do a few
other things, but they are all much of a muchness. It’s very hard work;
and I have worked, since being with Snuffy Johnson, seventeen hours of
a-day; but then we have not had so much to do on the outside. Sometimes
I’ve been so tired at night, that I’ve actually laid down in my dress
and never washed, but slept like that all night.

“The general pay for a clown, during fair-time, is 5_s._ or 6_s._
a-day, but that usually ends in your moving on the first day; then
4_s._ on the second, and, perhaps, 3_s._ on the third. The reason is,
that the second and third day is never so good as the first. The excuse
is, that business is not so good, and expenses are heavy; and if you
don’t like it, you needn’t come again. They don’t stand about what
you agree for; for instance, if it’s a wet day and you don’t open,
there’s no pay. Richardson’s used, when the old man was alive, to be
more money, but now it’s as bad as the rest of ’em. If you go on shares
with a sharing company it averages about the same. We always share
at the drum-head at night, when all’s over. It’s usually brought out
between the stage and the bottom seat of the gallery. The master or
missus counts out the money. The money on the drum-head may, if it’s a
good fair, come to 16_l._ or 18_l._, or, as it most usually is, 9_l._
or 10_l._ I have known us to share 1_l._ a-piece afore now; and I’ve
known what it is to take 10_d._ for a share. We usually take two fairs
a-week, or we may stay a night or two after the fair’s over, and have a
bespeak night. The wages of a clown comes to--if you average it--1_l._
a-week all the year round, and that’s puffing it at a good salary, and
supposing you to be continually travelling. Very likely, at night we
have to pull down the booth after performing all day, and be off that
night to another fair--15 or 16 miles off it may be--and have to build
up again by the next afternoon. The women always ride on the top of
the parade carriages, and the men occasionally riding and shoving up
behind the carriages up hill. The only comfort in travelling is a short
pipe, and many a time I’ve drowned my woes and troubles in one.

“The scene of sharing at the drum-head is usually this,--while the
last performance is going on the missus counts up the money; and she
is supposed to bring in all the money she has taken, but that we don’t
know, and we are generally fiddled most tremendous. When the theatre’s
empty, she, or him, generally says, ‘Now lads, please, now ladies!
it’s getting late;’ and when they have all mustered it’s generally
the cry, ‘We’ve had a bad fair!’ The people seldom speak. She then
takes the number of the company,--we generally averages some sixteen
performers,--and after doing so she commences sharing, taking up two
or three shares, according to the ground-rent; one then to herself for
taking money; then for the husband being there, (for they don’t often
perform); then they takes shares for the children, for they makes
them go on for the fairies, and on our parade. Snuffy Johnson used to
take two shares for the wardrobes and fittings, and that is the most
reasonable of any of ’em, for they mostly take double that; indeed, we
always took six. Then there are two shares for ground-rent, and two for
travelling expenses. The latter two shares depend entirely upon the
fair; for the expenses are just the same whether we takes money or not,
so that if it’s a bad fair, more has to be deducted, and that’s the
worse for us, on both sides. That makes twelve or thirteen shares to
be deducted before the men touch a penny for themselves. Any strolling
professional who reads that will say, ‘Well, ’tis very considerate; for
it’s under the mark, and not over.’

“When we have finished at one fair, if we want to go to another the
next day, as soon as the people have gone in for the last performance
we commence taking down the pay-box, and all the show-fittings on the
outside, and all that isn’t wanted for the performance. As soon as the
mummers have done their first slang, if they are not wanted in the
pantomime they change themselves and go to work pulling down. When the
pantomime’s over, every one helps till all’s packed up; then sharing
takes place, and we tramp on by night to the next fair. We then camp as
well as we can till daylight, if it isn’t morning already, and to work
we go building for the fair; and in general, by the time we’ve done
building, it’s time to open.

“I’ve travelled with ‘Star’s Theatre Royal,’ and ‘Smith and Webster’s,’
(alias Richardson’s), and ‘Frederick’s Theatre,’ and ‘Baker’s
Pavilion,’ and ‘Douglass’s travelling Shakspearian Saloon;’ (he’s got
scenes from Shakspear’s plays all round the front, and it’s the most
splendid concern on the road), and I’ve done the comic business at all
of them. They are all conducted on the same principle, and do the same
kind of business, as that I’ve described to you.

“When we’re travelling it depends upon the business as to what we eat.
They talk of strolling actors living so jollily and well, but I never
knew it fall to my share. What we call a mummer’s feed is potatoes
and herrings, and they always look out for going into a town where
there’s plenty of fresh herrings. A fellow we called Nancy Dawson was
the best hand at herrings. I’ve known him go into a tavern and ask
for the bill of fare, and shout out, ‘Well, Landlord, what have you
got for dinner?’ Perhaps he’d say, ‘There’s beef and veal, sir, very
nice--just ready;’ and then he’d say, ‘No, I’m sick of meat; just get
me a nice bloater!’ and if it came to much more than a penny there was
a row. If we are doing bad business, and we pass a field of swedes,
there’s a general rush for the pull. The best judges of turnips is
strolling professionals. I recollect, in Hampshire, once getting into
a swede field, and they was all blighted: we pulled up a hundred, I
should think, but when we cut them open they was all flaxy inside, and
we, after all, had to eat the rind. We couldn’t get a feed. Sausages
and fagots (that’s made of all the stale sausages and savaloys, and
unsightly bits of meat what won’t sell) is what we gets hold of
principally. The women have to make shifts as we do. We always get
plenty of beer, even when we can’t get money; for we can sing a song or
so, and then the yokels stand something: besides, there’s hardly a town
we go into without some of the yokels being stage-struck, and they feel
quite delighted to be among the professionals, and will give us plenty
of beer if we’ll talk to them about acting.

“It’s impossible to say how many clowns there are working at canvas
theatres. There’s so many meddling at it,--not good uns, but trying
to be. I can mention fifty, I am sure, by name. I shouldn’t think you
would exaggerate, if you was to say there was from one hundred and
fifty to two hundred who call themselves clowns. Many of the first-rate
clowns now in London have begun at strolling. There’s Herring, and
Lewis, and Nelson, and plenty more, doing well now.

“It’s a hard life, and many’s the time we squeedge a laugh out, when
it’s like killing us to do it. I’ve never known a man break down at a
fair, done up, for, you see, the beer keeps us up; but I’ve known one
chap to faint on the parade from exhaustion, and then get up, as queer
as could be, and draw twopence and go and have a fish and bread. A
woman at an oyster-stall alongside of the theatre give him a drop of
beer. He was hearty and hungry, and had only joined lately,--regular
hard up; so he went two days without food. When we shared at night he
went and bought a ham-bone, and actually eat himself asleep, for he
dropped off with the bone in his hand.”


A man who had passed many years of his life as jester at the cheap
circuses, or penny equestrian shows frequenting the fairs in the
neighbourhood of London, obliged me with the following details:--

“There are only two kinds of clowns, the stage and the circus clown,
only there is different denominations: for instance, the clown at the
fair and the clown at the regular theatre, as well as the penny gaff
(when they give pantomimes there), are one and the same kind of clown,
only better or worse, according to the pay and kind of performance;
but it’s the same sort of business. Now the circus clown is of the
same kind as those that go about with schools of acrobats and negro
serenaders. He is expected to be witty and say clever things, and
invent anything he can for the evening’s performance; but the theatre
clown is expected to do nothing but what enters into the business of
the piece. Them two are the main distinctions we make in the perfession.

“I’ve travelled along with only two circuses; but then it’s the time
you stop with them, for I was eighteen months along with a man of the
name of Johnson, who performed at the Albion, Whitechapel, and in
Museum-street, opposite Drury-lane (he had a penny exhibition then),
and for above two years and a half along with Veale, who had a circus
at the Birdcage, Hackney-road, and at Walworth.

“At Museum-street we only had one ‘prad,’ which is slang for pony,
although we used to introduce all the circus business. We had jugglers,
and globe-runners, and tight-rope dancers also. We never had no ring
built, but only sawdust on the stage, and all the wings taken out. They
used to begin with a chant and a hop (singing and dancing), after which
there was tight-rope hopping. As soon as ever the rope was drawn up,
Johnson, who had a whip in his hand, the same as if it was a regular
circus, used to say, ‘Now, Mr. Merryman.’ Then I’d run on and answer,
‘Here I am, sir, all of a lump, as the old man said what found the
sixpence. I’m up and dressed, like a watchbox. What shall I have the
pleasure for to come for to go, for to go for to fetch, for to fetch
for to carry, to oblige you?’ I usually wore a ring dress, with red
rings round my trunks, and a fly to correspond. The tights had straight
red lines. My wig was a white one with a red comb. Then Johnson would
say, ‘Have the pleasure to announce Madame Leone.’ Then I give it:
‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is Madame Leone, a young lady that threw
her clothes into bed and hung herself upon the door-nail.’ Then she
just gets up on the rope, and I go and sit down as if I was going to
sleep. Mr. Johnson then says, ‘Come, sir, you’re going to sleep; you’ve
got your eyes shut.’ I answer, ‘I beg your pardon, sir, I was not
asleep.’ And then he says I was, and I contradict him, and add, ‘If I
had my eyes shut, I am the first of the family that went to sleep so.’
Then he asks how that is? and I reply, ‘Because they were afraid of
having their pockets picked;’ and he says, ‘Nonsense! all your family
was very poor, there was nothing in their pockets to pick;’ and I add,
‘Yes, but there was the stitches though.’ All these puns and catches
goes immense. ‘Now, sir,’ he continues, ‘chalk the rope.’ I say, ‘Whose
place is it?’ and he replies, ‘The fool’s.’ ‘Then do it yourself,’ I
answer. And then we go on in this style. He cries, ‘What did you say,
sir?’ ‘I said I’d do it myself.’ ‘Now, Madame Leone, are you ready?’
and she nods; and then I tell the music to toodelloo and blow us up.
She then does a step or two--a little of the polka--and retires, and
I am told to chalk the rope again, and this is our talk: ‘Oh dear, oh
dear! there’s no rest for the wicked. Sir, would you be so kind, so
obliging, as to inform me why I chalk the top of the rope?’ ‘To prevent
the young lady from slipping down, sir.’ ‘Oh, indeed! then I’ll chalk
underneath the rope.’ He then asks, ‘What are you doing of, sir?’ ‘Why
didn’t you tell me when I chalked the top it’s to prevent the young
lady from slipping down?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Then I chalked underneath, to
prevent her from slipping up again. Would you oblige me with your
hand?’ Then I look at it and say, ‘Plenty of corns in it; you’ve done
some hard work in your time.’ ‘I have, sir.’ ‘Beautiful nails, too;’
and then I rub the chalk on his hand, and when he asks what I’m doing
of, I say ‘Chalking it.’ ‘What for, sir?’ ‘Why, sir, to keep it from
slipping into other people’s pockets.’ Then he gives me a click of whip
and says, ‘Out of the way, sir! Now, Madame Leone, proceed.’

“When she’s finished the dance I cry, ‘Now I’ll get on the rope and
have a try,’ and I mount very courageously, crying,

    ‘I’d be a butcher’s boy,
      Born in the Borough,
    Beef-steaks to-day
      And mutton chops to-morrow.’

“Then I find the rope move, and pretend to be frightened, and cry, ‘O
Lord, don’t! it shakes.’ Then I ask, ‘Mr. Johnson, will you chalk my
pulse and hand me up the barber’s-pole?’ and when I’ve got it I say,
‘Here’s a nice ornament on a twelfth-cake.’ I also ask him, ‘I say,
sir, did you ever know some of my friends was first-rate rope-dancers?’
‘No, sir.’ ‘Oh yes, sir, they danced to some of the large houses.’
‘What house was that, sir? was it Victoria?’ ‘I know nothing about
Victoria, sir; you must ask Albert.’ ‘Perhaps, sir, it was the
Garrick.’ ‘Oh, catch my brother dancing in a garret.’ ‘Perhaps, sir,
it was Covent Garden.’ ‘No, sir, he never danced in no garden, nor a
lane neither.’ ‘Perhaps, sir, it was the Haymarket.’ ‘No, sir; nor the
Corn-market.’ ‘I see, sir, you can’t remember the house.’ ‘No, sir;
I’ll tell you, sir, it’s a high stone building between Holborn and
Newgate-market.’ ‘Oh, you mean Newgate.’ ‘Yes, sir; don’t you remember
we were both in there for pot stealing?’ ‘Come down here, sir, and I’ll
give you a flogging.’ ‘You mean to say, sir, you’ll give me a flogging
if I come down?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Then, sir, I shall remain where I am.’
I then tell the music to toodelloo and blow us up, and I attempt to
dance, and he lets the rope down, which throws me on to my back. He
asks, ‘Are you hurt?’ and I reply, ‘No, I’m killed.’ ‘Get up, sir.’
‘I’ll not move, sir.’ ‘I’ll give you the whip, sir.’ ‘That’s no use,
sir; I’ve made a bargain with it, that if I don’t touch it it won’t
touch me. Oh, ain’t I bad! I’ve got the cobbler’s marbles, or else the
hen-flew-out-of-the-window.’ ‘Here’s a policeman coming!’ and then I
jumps up in a minute, and ask, ‘Where?’

“Then I go to his whip, and touch it. ‘What’s this, Mr. Johnson?’ ‘My
whip, sir.’ ‘I’ll tell you what it is, Mr. Johnson, I’ll bet you a
bottle of blacking and a three-out brush, that you can’t say ‘my whip’
to three questions that I shall put to you.’ ‘I’ll take you, sir.’
I then take the whip from him, and say, ‘Providing, sir, you was to
meet a poor blind old man, and you was to give him a ha’penny, and you
was to meet me and make me a present of a 5_l._ note, what would you
deserve?’ He says, ‘My whip, sir.’ ‘Yes, sir; that’s one to you. I say,
sir, you’ve got a daughter, and if she was to marry and get a great
deal of money, what would you deserve?’ ‘My whip, sir.’ ‘Certainly,
sir; that’s two to you. Now, sir, providing you was a top of that rope,
and I was to undo the rope and let you down, and I was to give you the
cobbler’s marbles with the hen-flew-out-of-the-window, and tell you
that a policeman was a-coming, what should I deserve?’ Then he don’t
like to say, ‘My whip,’ and stammers out; at last he says it, and then
I beat him round the stage till he runs off. Then I lay it down and cry
cock-a-doodle-do, crowing for victory, and he creeps in and gets the
whip again, and then lashes me.

[Illustration: CIRCUS CLOWN AT FAIR.]

“After juggling and globes, we always did ‘a laughable sketch entitled
Billy Button’s ride to Brentford,’ and I used to be Jeremiah Stitchem,
a servant of Billy Button’s, that comes for a ‘sitiation.’ It opens
this way. Jeremiah makes applications for this situation. He asks,
‘What can you do?’ ‘Everythink and nothink.’ ‘Can you clean plates?’
‘I can break ’em.’ ‘Can you run errands?’ ‘All ways.’ He is engaged at
4_s._ a-week and his board; and then comes some comic business about
a letter coming by post. Billy tells him to bring him a light to read
this letter, and he sets fire to it. This letter is from Brentford,
saying that his sister’s ill and that he’s wanted directly. He goes to
a livery stable and asks for a lady’s pony, at the same time saying he
wants it quiet. The man says he’s got three: one that is blind, and
threw the last gentleman that rode it into a ditch, and Billy won’t
have that. The other is lame of one leg, and he don’t like that, for
he wants a lady’s pony that is very quiet. Then this stable-keeper
recommends this pony, saying it’s very quiet, but it’s a kicker. Then
first he gets up the wrong way, and the head comes round to the tail of
the horse; Jerry then tells him he’s wrong, and then offers to give him
a ‘bung up,’ and chucks him right over the pony’s back on to the ground
on the other side. He then gets on properly, ready for starting, and
tells Jerry he may expect him home in a day or two. He tries to start
the pony, but it won’t go. Jerry takes a needle and pretends to stick
it into the pony’s flank, which causes it to kick and rear until he
throws Billy Button off; and then the pony chases Jerry round the stage
with his mouth open to bite him. Then there’s a regular confusion, and
that winds it up.

“If that pony catched you he’d give it you, too. He caught hold of me
one night by my trousers, and nearly shook my life out of me. It hurt
me, but everybody roared and thought it all right. After that I hit
upon a dodge. I used to have a roll of calico tacked on to my back, and
the pony would catch hold of it and pull out about four yards of what
looked like a shirt. Those ponies are very playful, and may be taught

“The stage-clown’s dress is what we term full dresses, with a wig and
a tail, but the circus clown’s is merely the top-knot, and the ring
dress, as if they are spangled they are always on the twist, something
in the style of the serpent. They don’t do the red half-moon on the
cheek, like stage clowns, but they have just a dab, running up to the
cheek-bone. A stage-clown’s dress costs from 5_l._ to 10_l._; but a
circus clown can make a suit complete, with pumps and all, for from
30_s._ to 35_s._ There’s such a thing as fourteen or fifteen yards of
canvas in a stage-clown’s full dress; and that’s without exaggerating.

“Veal’s was the best circus I was at; there they had six prads (horses)
and two ponies, and the performers were the best then of the day;
for they had Monsieur Ludowic, a Frenchman, and the best bare-back
juggler about. Mr. Moffat’s troupe, and Mr. Emery’s, was there also.
Mr. Douglas was clown along with me, and little Ned and Sam was the
tumblers. We had a large tent and regular circus, and could accommodate
1500 or 1600 people. I had 35_s._ a-week all the time I was there,
(near 2-1/2 years), and it wasn’t much, considering the work, for I had
to produce all the pantomimes and act as ballet-master as well.

“It is, and it ain’t, difficult to ride round a circus standing up.
I’ve known one man, who had never rode before in all his life, and
yet went on one night, when they were short of hands, and done the
Olympians to the best of his abilities, without falling off, though he
felt very nervous. For these scenes they go slowly. You have to keep
your eye fixed on the horse’s head. I’ve been in a circus so long, and
yet I can’t ride. Even following the horse round the ring makes me feel
so giddy at times, that I have had to catch hold of the tent-pole in
the middle just to steady myself.

“I wasn’t the regular principal clown at Veal’s--only on occasions;
I was the speaking clown and jester. I used to do such things as
those:--For instance, there is a act--which is rode--called ‘The
Shipwrecked Sailors,’ where he rides round the ring, introducing the
shipwreck hornpipe, and doing a pantomime of giving a imitation of the
sinking of the ship, and his swimming and returning safe on shore.
Between the parts I used to say to the ring-master, ‘Are you aware,
sir, that I’ve been to sea?’ He’d say, ‘No, sir.’ Then we’d go on:
‘Yes, sir; I once took a voyage to the Ickney Nockney Islands, off
Bulbusen, just by the Thames Tunnel, in the mud.’ ‘Indeed, sir!’ ‘Yes,
sir; and I’ve seen some wonderful sights, sir, in my time.’ ‘Indeed,
sir!’ ‘Yes, sir: on this occasion it come so cold, that as the captain
was on the quarter-deck, as he gave the word of command to the men, the
words dropped out of his mouth lumps of ice on the deck. The ship would
have been lost, had I not had the presence of mind to pick the words
up, put them into a fryingpan, and warm them over the galley-fire:
and as they thawed, so I gave the word of command to the men.’ ‘Dear
me, sir! that was a wonderful sight!’ ‘It was indeed, sir!’ ‘I don’t
believe a word of it.’ ‘Ah, sir, if you’d have been there, you’d have
seen it yourself.’ ‘I don’t believe a word of it, Mr. Merryman.’ ‘Oh!
come, sir, you must believe some.’ ‘Well, I believe a part it.’ ‘Then
I believe the other part, sir, and so that makes the lot.’ ‘That’s
right, sir.’ ‘Well, sir, I went for another voyage; and going through
the Needles our vessel sprung a leak; not an onion, a leak; and she got
a hole in her side.’ ‘She, sir?’ ‘Yes, sir, the ship; so the pumps was
put to work; but as fast as they pumped the water out it came in at the
hole, and the ship was sinking, when the captain came on deck and asked
if there was any man courageous enough to stop the hole. Of course,
sir, I was there.’ ‘But you’re not courageous.’ ‘Ain’t I, sir? try me.’
‘Now,’ says he, ‘if there’s any man will stop this hole, to him will I
give the hand of my daughter and 150_l._’ So away I went down in the
hold, and there was more than about 15 foot of water, and I pops my
head in the hole until they got the vessel ashore. So you see, sir, I
had the hand of his daughter and the 150_l._ ‘That was a good job for
you, Mr. Merryman.’ ‘No, sir; it was a bad job.’ ‘How was that, sir?’
‘Because when I was married I found that she was a cream of tartar.’
‘Then, sir, you had the money; that was a good job for you.’ ‘No, sir;
that was a bad job, sir.’ ‘How so?’ ‘I bought some sheep and oxen, and
they died of the rot.’ ‘Ah! that was a bad job, Mr. Merryman.’ ‘No,
sir; it was a good job; for shoes were very dear, and I sold the hides
for more than I gave for the cattle.’ ‘Well, that was a good job.’ ‘No,
sir, that was a bad job: for I built houses with the money and they got
burned down.’ ‘Indeed, sir! that was a _very_ bad job for you.’ ‘Oh no,
sir; it was a very good job, because my wife got burnt in them, and,
you see, I got rid of a tormenting wife.’

“There’s another famous gag ring-jesters always do, and I was very
successful with it. After the act of horsemanship is over, when the
ring-master is about leaving the ring, I say, ‘Allow me to go first,
sir;’ and he replies, ‘No, sir, I never follow a fool.’ Then we go
on:--‘I always do,’ meaning him. ‘What did you say, sir?’ ‘That’s
quite true, sir.’ ‘I say, sir, did ever you see my sweetheart?’ ‘No,
sir.’ ‘There she is, sir; that nice young girl sitting there.’ ‘I
don’t see her.’--‘Yes, there, sir, a-winking at me now. Ah! you little
ducksey, ducksey, ducksey!’ ‘I don’t see her, sir.’ Then I gets him to
the middle of the ring, and whilst he is pretending to stare in the
direction I pointed to, I bolt off, saying, ‘I never follows a fool.’

“At fairs we do pretty well, and a circus always pays better than an
acting-booth. We are always on salaries, and never go upon shares.
The actors often say we look down upon them, and think them beneath
our notice; and I dare say it’s true, to a great extent. I’ve heard
our chaps cry out, ‘Won’t you be glad when herrings are cheap?’ or,
‘How were you off for bits of candle and lumps of coke last night at
sharing?’ Then, no doubt, we live better at circuses, for we do our
steaks and onions, and all that sort of thing; and, perhaps, that makes
us cheeky.

“Some jesters at circuses get tremendous engagements. Mr. Barry, they
say, had 10_l._ a-week at Astley’s; and Stonalfe, with his dogs, is,
I should think, equal to him. There’s another, Nelson, too, who plays
on the harmonicon, and does tunes on bits of wood--the same as went
on the water in a tub drawn by geese, when the bridge broke down at
Yarmouth--he’s had as much as 15_l._ a-week on a regular travelling

“There ain’t so many jesters as tumbling clowns. I think it’s because
they find it almost too much for them; for a jester has to be ready
with his tongue if anything goes wrong in the ring. I shouldn’t think
there was more than from thirty to forty jesters in England. I reckon
in this way. There are from ten to fifteen circuses, and that’s
allowing them two jesters each. In the threepenny circus, such as
Clarke’s or Frazier’s, the salary for a jester is about 2_l._ a-week,
take the year round.”


The character of “Silly Billy” is a kind of clown, or rather a
clown’s butt; but not after the style of Pantaloon, for the part is
comparatively juvenile. Silly Billy is supposed to be a schoolboy,
although not dressed in a charity-boy’s attire. He is very popular with
the audience at the fairs; indeed, they cannot do without him. “The
people like to see Silly Billy,” I was told, “much more than they do
Pantaloon, for he gets knocked about more though, but he gives it back
again. A good Silly,” said my informant, “has to imitate all the ways
of a little boy. When I have been going to a fair, I have many a time
stopped for hours watching boys at play, learning their various games,
and getting their sayings. For instance, some will go about the streets

    ‘Eh, higgety, eh ho!
    Billy let the water go!’

which is some song about a boy pulling a tap from a water-butt, and
letting the water run. There’s another:

    ‘Nicky nickey nite,
    I’ll strike a light!’

I got these both from watching children whilst playing. Again, boys
will swear ‘By the liver and lights of a cobbler’s lapstone!’ and their
most regular desperate oath is,

    ‘Ain’t this wet? ain’t it dry?
    Cut my throat if I tells a lie.’

They’ll say, too ‘S’elp my greens!’ and ‘Upon my word and say so!’ All
these sayings I used to work up into my Silly Billy, and they had their

“I do such things as these, too, which is regularly boyish, such as
‘Give me a bit of your bread and butter, and I’ll give you a bit of
my bread and treacle.’ Again, I was watching a lot of boys playing at
pitch-button, and one says, ‘Ah, you’re up to the rigs of this hole;
come to my hole--you can’t play there!’ I’ve noticed them, too, playing
at ring-taw, and one of their exclamations is ‘Knuckle down fair, and
no funking.’ All these sayings are very useful to make the character
of Silly Billy perfect. Bless you, sir, I was two years studying boys
before I came out as Silly Billy. But then I persevere when I take a
thing in hand; and I stick so close to nature, that I can’t go far
wrong in that line. Now this is a regular boy’s answer: when somebody
says ‘Does your mother know you’re out?’ he replies, ‘Yes, she do; but
I didn’t know the organ-man had lost his monkey!’ That always went

“It’s impossible to say when Silly Billy first come out at fairs, or
who first supported the character. It’s been popular ever since a fair
can be remembered. The best I ever saw was Teddy Walters. He’s been at
all the fairs round the universe--England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales,
and France. He belonged to a circus when he went abroad. He’s done
Silly Billy these forty year, and he’s a great comic singer beside. I
was reckoned very clever at it. I used to look it by making up so young
for it. It tires you very much, for there’s so much exertion attached
to it by the dancing and capering about. I’ve done it at the fairs, and
also with tumblers in the street; only, when you do it in the street,
you don’t do one-half the business.

“The make-up for a Silly Billy is this: Short white trousers and shoes,
with a strap round the ankle, long white pinafore with a frill round
the neck, and red sleeves, and a boy’s cap. We dress the head with the
hair behind the ears, and a dab of red on the nose and two patches of
black over the eyebrows. When I went to the fair I always took three
pairs of white trousers with me. The girls used to get up playing larks
with me, and smearing my white trousers with gingerbread. It’s a very
favourite character with the women--they stick pins into you, as if you
were a pin-cushion. I’ve had my thighs bleeding sometimes. One time,
during Greenwich, a ugly old woman came on the parade and kissed me,
and made me a present of a silver sixpence, which, I needn’t say, was
soon spent in porter. Why, I’ve brought home with me sometimes toys
enough to last a child a fortnight, if it was to break one every day,
such as carts and horses, cock and breeches, whistles, &c. You see,
Silly Billy is supposed to be a thievish sort of a character, and I
used to take the toys away from the girls as they were going into the
theatre, and then I’d show it to the Clown and say, ‘Oh, look what that
nice lady’s give me! I shall take it home to my mother.’

“I’ve done Silly Billy for Richardson’s, and near every booth of
consequence. The general wages is from 5_s._ to 7_s._ 6_d._ the day,
but my terms was always the three half-crowns. When there’s any fairs
on, I can always get a job. I always made it a rule never to go far
away from London, only to Greenwich or Gravesend, but not farther, for
I can make it better in town working the concert-rooms. There are some
who do nothing but Silly Billy; and then, if you take the year round,
it comes to three days’ work a-week. The regular salary doesn’t come
to more than a pound a-week, but then you make something out of those
who come up on the parade, for one will chuck you 6_d._, some 1_s._ and
2_s._ 6_d._ We call those parties ‘prosses.’ I have had such a thing
as 5_s._ give to me. We are supposed to share this among the company,
and we generally do. These are the ‘nobbings,’ and may send up your
earnings to as much as 25_s._ a-week, besides drink, which you can
have more given to you than you want.

“When we go about the streets with tumblers, we mostly only sing a
song, and dance, and keep the ring whilst the performance is going on.
We also ‘nob,’ or gather the money. I never heard of a Silly Billy
going out busking in tap-rooms and that. The tumblers like the Silly
Billy, because the dress is attractive; but they are getting out of
date now, since the grotesque clown is so much in the street. I went
about with a school termed ‘The Demons,’ and very clever they was,
though they’ve all broke up now, and I don’t know what’s become of
them. There were four of them. We did middling, but we could always
manage to knock up such a thing as 20_s._ each a-week. I was, on and
off, about six months with them. After their tumbling, then my turn
would begin. The drummer would say: ‘Turn and turn about’s fair play.
Billy, now it’s your turn. A song from Billy; and if we meet with any
encouragement, ladies and gentlemen, the young man here will tie his
legs together and chuck several summersets.’ Then I’d sing such a song
as ‘Clementina Clements,’ which begins like this:

          ‘You talk of modest girls,
            Now I’ve seen a few,
          But there’s none licks the one
            I’m sticking up to.
          But some of her faults
            Would make some chaps ill;
          But, with all her faults,
            Yes, I love her still.
    Such a delicate duck was Clementina Clements;
    Such a delicate duck I never did see.’

“There’s one verse where she won’t walk over a potato-field because
they’ve got eyes, and another when she faints at seeing a Dutch doll
without clothes on. Then she doesn’t like tables’ legs, and all such as
that, and that’s why she is ‘such a delicate duck.’ That song always
tells with the women. Then I used to sing another, called ‘What do men
and women marry for?’ which was a very great favourite. One verse that
went very well was:

    ‘If a good wife you’ve got,
      (But there’s very few of those,)
    Your money goes just like a shot:
      They’re everlasting wanting clothes.
    And when you’ve bought ’em all you can,
      Of course you cannot buy them more;
    They cry, Do you call yourself a man?
      Was this what we got married for?’

“When I danced, it was merely a comic dance--what we call a ‘roley
poley.’ Sometimes, when we had been walking far, and pitching a good
many times, the stones would hurt my feet awful with dancing.

“Pitching with tumblers is nothing compared to fair-parading. There
you are the principal of the comic men after Clown, for he’s first. We
have regular scenes, which take twenty minutes working through. When
the parade is slack, then comes the Silly Billy business. There’s a
very celebrated sketch, or whatever you call it, which Clown and Silly
Billy do together, taking off mesmerism.

“Clown comes on, dressed up in a tall white hat, and with a cloak on.
He says that he has just arrived from the island of Mititti, and that
he’s the great Doctor Bokanki, the most celebrated mesmeriser in the
world. He says, ‘Look at me. Here I am. Ain’t I mesmerised elephants?
Ain’t I mesmerised monkeys? and ain’t I going to mesmerise him?’ He
then tells Silly Billy to sit in the chair. Then he commences passing
his hands across his eyes. He asks Billy, ‘What do you see, Billy?’
He turns his face, with his shut eyes, towards the crowd, and says,
‘A man with a big nose, sir, and such a many pimples on his face.’
‘And now what do you see, Billy?’ ‘Oh, ain’t that gal a-winking at
me! You be quiet, or I’ll tell my mother.’ ‘Now what do you see,
Billy?’ ‘Nothink.’ Then the doctor turns to the crowd, and says, ‘Now,
ladies and gentlemen, I shall touch him on the fakement at the back
of his head which is called a bump. Oh, my eyes! ain’t Billy’s head
a-swelling! This bump, ladies and gentlemen, is called a organ--not a
church nor yet a chapel organ, nor yet one of them they grind in the
street. And here’s another organ,’ he says, putting his hand on Billy’s
stomach. ‘This here is called his wittling department organ, or where
he puts his grub. I shall now touch him on another fakement, and make
him sing.’ Then he puts his finger on Billy’s head, and Billy sings:

    ‘As I one day was hawking my ware,
    I thought I’d invent something novel and rare;
    For as I’m not green, and I know what’s o’clock,
    So I’ll have a go in at the pine-apple rock.
                      Tol de ro lay, tol de ro lay.’

“Then Billy becomes quiet again, and the doctor says, ‘I’ll now, ladies
and gentlemen, touch him on another fakement, and cause Billy to cry.
This here is his organ of the handling department.’ Then he takes
Billy’s finger and bites it, and Billy begins to roar like a town bull.
Then the doctor says, ‘I’ll now, ladies and gentlemen, touch him on
another fakement, whereby the youth can tell me what I’ve got in my
hand.’ He then puts his hand in his coat-tail pocket, and says, ‘Billy,
what have I got in my hand?’ and Billy says, ‘Ah, you nasty beast! why
it’s a--it’s a--it’s a--oh, I don’t like to say!’ They do this a lot
of times, Billy always replying, ‘Oh, I don’t like to say!’ until at
last he promises that, if he won’t tell his mother, he will; and then
he says, ‘It’s a small-tooth comb.’ ‘Very right, Billy; and what’s in
it?’ ‘Why, one of them ’ere things that crawls.’ ‘Very right, Billy;
and what is it?’ ‘Why, it’s a--it’s a black-beetle.’ ‘Very right,
Billy; look again. Do you see anything else?’ ‘There’s some crumbs.’
Then he tells Billy, that as he is such a good boy he’ll bring him to;
and Billy says, ‘Oh, don’t, please, sir; one’s quite enough.’ Then he
brings him to, and Billy says, ‘Oh, ain’t it nice! Oh, it’s so golly!
Here, you young woman, I wish you’d let me touch your bumps.’ Then, if
the people laugh, he adds, ‘You may laugh, but it gives you a all-over
sort of a feeling, as if you had drunk three pints of pickling vinegar.’

“That’s a very favourite scene; but I haven’t give it you all, for it
would fill a volume. It always makes a hit; and Billy has a rare chance
of working comic attitudes and so on when the doctor touches his bumps.

“There’s another very celebrated scene for Silly Billy. It’s what we
call the preaching scene. Silly Billy mounts up a ladder, and Clown
holds it at the bottom, and looks through the steps. Clown has to do
the clerk to Billy’s parson. Billy begins by telling the clerk that
he must say ‘Barley sugar’ at the end of every sentence he preaches.
Billy begins in this way:--‘Keyind brethren, and you fair damsels,’
and he’s supposed to be addressing the chaps and gals on the parade,
‘I hope that the text I shall give you will be a moral to you, and
prevent you from eating the forbidden sweets of--’ ‘Barley sugar!’ ‘No,
you fool--sin! and that will put you in the right path as you walk
through the fields of--’ ‘Barley sugar!’ ‘No; virtue, you fool! My
text is taken from the epistle of Thomas to the Ethiopians, the first
chapter, and two first slices off a leg of mutton, where it says so
beautifully--’ ‘Barley sugar!’ ‘No, no; that’s not it! Now it come to
go along in the first year in the first month, two days before that,
as we was journeying through the land of--’ ‘Barley sugar!’ ‘No, no,
you fool! keep quiet. Flowerpotamia, we met a serpent, and from his
mouth was issuing--’ ‘Barley sugar!’ ‘No, no! fire.’ Then all the
people on the parade jump up and shout, ‘Where?’ Then Billy says, ‘Oh,
my sister’s tom-cat, here’s a congregation! Sit down.’ When they are
all quiet again, Billy goes on: ‘Now this I say unto you--’ ‘Barley
sugar!’ ‘Keep quiet, will you!’ and he hits Clown with his foot. ‘Two
shall be well and two shall be queer. Oh, ain’t I ill! Go, men of
little understanding, and inherit a basin of pea-soup at the cook-shop,
together with--’ ‘Barley sugar!’ ‘No such thing!--my blessing. Unto you
will I give nothing, and unto you just half as much--’ ‘Barley sugar!’
‘Hold your tongue! You that have had nothing shall give it back again,
and you that had nothing at all, you shall keep it. Now let us sing--’
‘Barley sugar!’ ‘No; a song.’ Then Billy tells them to get their books,
and they take up pint pots, or whatever they can get. ‘Let us sing,’
and they all jump up, and they all begin:

        ‘If I was a drayman’s horse
          One quarter of the year,
    I’d put my tail where my head ought to be,
          And I’d drink up all the--’

‘Barley sugar!’--‘Hold your tongue!--beer.’ After all of them have
sung, Billy says, ‘Now let us say,’ and all of them howl, ‘Aye, aye.’

    ‘Now is the winter of our discontent--
    We have not enough money to pay our rent;
    And by all the clouds that tip our house,
    We’ve not enough food to feed a ----’

‘Barley sugar!’ ‘Yes, barley sugar,’ says Billy. Then all
the congregation cries--‘O--o--o--o;’ and Clown says,
‘Bar--bar--bar--barley sugar,’ and he is so much affected he weeps and
goes to wipe his eyes, and lets the ladder fall, and down comes Billy.
He gives sundry kicks, and then pretends to be dying. The congregation
say, ‘Peace be with you, Billy,’ and he answers, ‘Yes, peas-pudding
and fried taters;’ and the Clown howls out, ‘Barley sugar!’ When Billy
is dead, if business isn’t very good, they put the body on the ladder,
and form a procession. The music goes at the head and plays a hornpipe,
slowly, and then they leave the booth, and parade through the fair
among the people, with Clown as chief mourner. The people are bursting
their sides, and wherever we go they follow after. All the mourners
keep crying, ‘Oh, oh, oh, Billy’s dead!’ and then Billy turns round,
and sometimes says, ‘Don’t be fools! it’s only a lark:’ or else, ‘Don’t
tell mother; she’ll give me a hiding.’ This procession business always
brings a flock behind us, and fills the theatre, or goes a great way
towards it. When I have been Silly Billy, and representing this scene,
and been carried through the fair, I’ve been black and blue from the
girls coming up and pinching me through the ladder. The girls are
wonderfully cheeky at fairs, and all for a lark. They used to get me
so precious wild, I couldn’t help coming to life, and say, ‘Quiet, you
hussies!’ But it were no good, for they’d follow you all about, and
keep on nipping a fellow.

“Another celebrated scene or sketch is the teetotal one, and a rich
one it is. Billy is supposed to have joined the temperance parties.
He calls for a tub to preach upon, and he says he will consider it a
favour if they could let it be a water-butt. They lift Billy on to
the tub, and a cove--Clown generally--sits under to take the chair of
the meeting. Then the paraders stand about, and I begin: ‘Ladies and
gentlemen, waking friends, and lazy enemies, and Mr. Chairman, what
I’m about to tell you I’m a stanch teetotaler.’ ‘Hear, hear, hear,’
everybody cries. ‘I have been so for now two--’ and the Clown suggests
‘Years.’ ‘No, minutes. I’d have you avoid water as you would avoid a
bull that wasn’t in a chaney-shop.’ ‘Hear, hear, hear.’ ‘I once knew
a friend of mine who drank water till he was one solid mass of ice;
and he drank tea till the leaves grew out of his nose.’ ‘Oh, oh, hear,
hear.’ ‘He got so fat, you couldn’t see him. This, my friends, comes of
tea-drinking!’ ‘Hear, hear, hear.’ ‘I hope, kind friends, this will be
a lesson to you to avoid drinking too much’--Then the chairman jumps
up and says, ‘Beer!’ ‘No, no; tea. Drink in moderation, and never drink
more than I do. Two pots of ale, three pints of porter, four glasses of
gin, five of rum, and six of brandy, is enough for any man at one time.
Don’t drink more, please.’ ‘Hear, hear, hear.’ ‘That will cause you
to be in the height of bloom. Your nose will blossom; your eyes will
be bright as two burnt holes in a blanket; your head will swell till
no hat will fit it. These are facts, my friends; undeniable facts, my
kind friends.’ ‘Hear, hear, hear.’ ‘You will get so fat, you’ll take
up the pavement to walk. I believe, and I trust, that what I have said
will not convince you that teetotalism and coffeetotalism are the best
things ever invented. Sign the pledge. The pledge-book is here. You
must all pay a penny; and if you don’t keep up your payments, you will
be scratched. With these few remarks I now conclude my address to you,
hoping that every friend among you is so benevolent as to subscribe
a pot of beer. I shall be happy to drink it, to show you how awful a
thing it is not to become a teetotaller.’ Then they all rush forward to
sign the pledge, and they knock Clown over, and he tumbles Silly Billy
into the barrel up to his neck. Then we all sing

        ‘I likes a drop of good beer,
        I likes a drop of good beer;
    And hang their eyes if ever they tries
        To rob a poor man of his beer.’

And that ends the meeting.

“I was in Greenwich fair, doing Silly Billy, when the celebrated
disturbance with the soldiers took place. I was at Smith and Webster’s
booth (Richardson’s that was), and our clown was Paul Petro. He had
been a bit of a fighting man. He was bending down for Silly Billy to
take a jump over him, and some of the soldiers ran up and took the
back. They knocked his back as they went over, and he got shirtey.
Then came a row. Four of them pitched into Paul, and he cries out for
help. The mob began to pelt the soldiers, and they called out to their
comrades to assist them. A regular confusion ensued. The soldiers
tumbled us about, and took off their belts. They cut Paul’s forehead
right open. I was Silly Billy, and I got a broomstick, and when one
of the soldiers gave me a lick over the face with his belt, I pitched
him over on the mob with my broomstick. I was tumbled down the steps
among the mob, and hang me if they didn’t pitch into me too! I got the
awfullest nose you ever see. There was I, in my long pinafore, a-wiping
up the blood, and both my eyes going as black as plums. I cut up a side
place, and then I sat down to try and put my nose to rights. Lord, how
I did look about for plaster! When I came back there was all the fair
a fighting. The fighting-men came out of their booths and let into the
soldiers, who was going about flourishing their belts and hitting
everybody. At last the police came; two of them was knocked down, and
sent back on stretchers: but at last, when a picket was sent for, all
the soldiers--there was about forty of them--were walked off. They got
from six to nine months’ imprisonment; and those that let into the
police, eighteen months. I never see such a sight. It was all up with
poor Silly Billy for that fair, for I had to wrap my face up in plaster
and flannel, and keep it so for a week.

“I shouldn’t think there were more than a dozen Silly Billys going
about at the present time; and out of them there ain’t above three
first-raters. I know nearly all of them. When fairs ain’t on they go
about the streets, either with schools of tumblers or serenaders; or
else they turn to singing at the concerts. To be a good Silly Billy, it
requires a man with heaps of funniment and plenty of talk. He must also
have a young-looking face, and the taller the man the better for it.
When I go out I always do my own gag, and I try to knock out something
new. I can take a candle, or a straw, or a piece of gingerbread, or
any mortal thing, and lecture on it. At fairs we make our talk rather
broad, to suit the audience.

“Our best sport is where a girl comes up on the parade, and stands
there before going inside--we have immense fun with her. I offer to
marry her, and so does Clown, and we quarrel as to who proposed to the
young woman first. I swear she’s my gal, and he does the same. Then we
appeal to her, and tell her what we’ll give her as presents. It makes
immense fun. The girls always take it in good part, and seem to enjoy
it as much as the mob in front. If we see that she is in any ways shy
we drop it, for it’s done for merriment, and not to insult; and we
always strive to amuse and not to abuse our friends.”


“Billy Barlow,” is another supposed comic character, that usually
accompanies either the street-dancers or acrobats in their
peregrinations. The dress consists of a cocked-hat and red feather,
a soldier’s coat (generally a sergeant’s with sash), white trowsers
with the legs tucked into Wellington boots, a large tin eye-glass, and
an old broken and ragged umbrella. The nose and cheeks are coloured
bright red with vermilion. The “comic business” consists of the songs
of the “Merry Month of May,” and “Billy Barlow,” together with a few
old conundrums and jokes, and sometimes (where the halfpence are very
plentiful) a “comic” dance. The following statement concerning this
peculiar means of obtaining a living I had from a man whom I had seen
performing in the streets, dressed up for the part, but who came to
me so thoroughly altered in appearance that I could hardly recognise
him. In plain clothes he had almost a respectable appearance, and was
remarkably clean and neat in his attire. Altogether, in his undress,
he might have been mistaken for a better kind of mechanic. There
was a humorous expression, however, about his mouth, and a tendency
to grimace, that told the professional buffoon. “I go about now as
Billy Barlow,” he said; “the character of Billy Barlow was originally
played at the races by a man who is dead. He was about ten years at
the street business, doing nothing else than Billy Barlow in the
public thoroughfares, and at fairs and races. He might have made a
fortune had he took care on it, sir; but he was a great drunkard, and
spent all he got in gin. He died seven years ago--where most of the
street-performers ends their days--in the workhouse. He was formerly
a potman at some public-house, and got discharged, and then took to
singing comic songs about the streets and fairs. The song of ‘Billy
Barlow’ (which was very popular then) was among the lot that he sung,
and that gave his name. He used to sing, too, the song of ‘I hope I
don’t intrude;’ and for that he dressed up as Paul Pry, which is the
reason of the old umbrella, the eye-glass, and the white trowsers
tucked into the boots, being part of the costume at present. Another
of his songs was the ‘Merry Month of May,’ or ‘Follow the Drum;’ and
for that he put on the soldier’s coat and cocked-hat and feather,
which we wears to this day. After this he was called ‘General Barlow.’
When he died, one or two took to the same kerachter, and they died
in the workhouse, like us all. Two months ago I thought I’d take to
it myself, as there was a vacancy in the purfession. I have been for
thirty years at the street business, off and on. I am fifty now. I was
a muffin and biscuit-baker by trade; but, like the rest on us, I got
fond of a roving life. My father was a tailor by trade, but took to
being a supernumerary at Covent Garden Theayter, where my uncle was
a performer, and when I was nine years old I played the part of the
child in ‘Pizarro,’ and after that I was one of the devils what danced
round my uncle in ‘Mother Goose.’ When I was fourteen year old my uncle
apprenticed me to the muffin business, and I stuck to it for five
years; but when I was out of my time I made up my mind to cut it, and
take to performing. First I played clown at a booth, for I had always a
taste for the comic after I had played the devil, and danced round my
uncle in the Covent-garden pantomime. Some time after that I took to
play the drum and pipes; and since then I have been chiefly performing
as musicianer to different street exhibitions. When business is bad in
the winter or wet weather, I make sweetmeats, and go about the streets
and sell them. I never made muffins since I left the business; you see,
I’ve no stove nor shop for that, and never had the means of raising
them. Sweetmeats takes little capital--toffy, brandy-balls, and Albert
rock isn’t expensive to get up. Besides, I’m known well among the
children in the streets, and they likes to patronise the purfession
for sweetmeats, even though they won’t give nothing while you’re a
performing; I’ve done much the same since I took to the Billy Barlow,
as I did before at the street business. We all share alike, and that’s
what I did as the drum and pipes. I never dress at home. My wife (I’m
a married man) knows the part I play. She came to see me once, and
laughed at me fit to bust. The landlord nor the fellow-lodgers where
I live--I have a room to myself--ain’t aware of what I do; I sneaks
my things out, and dresses at a public-house. It costs us a pot for
dressing and a pot for undressing. We has the use of the tap-room for
that. I’m like the rest of the world at home--or rather more serious,
maybe,--though, thank God, I don’t want for food; things is cheap
enough now; and if I can’t get a living at the buffoonery business,
why I tries sweetmeats, and between the two I do manage to grab on
somehow, and that’s more than many of my purfession can do. My pardner
(a street-dancer whom he brought with him) must either dance or starve;
and there’s plenty like him in the streets of London. I only know of
one other Barlow but me in the business, and he’s only taken to it
after me. Some jokes ain’t fit for ladies to listen to, but wot I says
is the best-approved jokes--such as has been fashionable for many
years, and can’t give no offence to no one. I say to the musician,
‘Well, master, can you tell me why are the Thames Tunnel and Hungerford
Suspension Bridge like two joints badly done?’ He’ll say, ‘No, Mr.
Barlow;’ and then I give him the answer: ‘Because one is over-done, and
the other is under-done.’ Then I raise my umbrella, saying, ‘I think
I’m purwided against the weather;’ and as the umbrella is all torn
and slit, it raises a laugh. Some days I get six shillings or seven
shillings as my share; sometimes not a quarter of the money. Perhaps
I may average full eighteen shillings a-week in the summer, or more;
but not a pound. In the winter, if there’s a subsistence, that’s all.
Joking is not natural to me, and I’m a steady man; it’s only in the
way of business, and I leave it on one side when I’ve got my private
apparel on. I never think of my public character if I can help it,
until I get my show-dress on, and I’m glad to get it off at night; and
then I think of my home and children, and I struggle hard for them, and
feel disgust oft enough at having been a tom-fool to street fools.”


What are called strolling actors are those who go about the country and
play at the various fairs and towns. As long as they are acting in a
booth they are called canvas actors; but supposing they stop in a town
a few days after a fair, or build up in a town where there is no fair,
that constitutes what is termed private business.

“We call strolling acting ‘mumming,’ and the actors ‘mummers.’ All
spouting is mumming. A strolling actor is supposed to know something
of everything. He doesn’t always get a part given to him to learn, but
he’s more often told what character he’s to take, and what he’s to do,
and he’s supposed to be able to find words capable of illustrating the
character; in fact, he has to ‘gag,’ that is, make up words.

“When old Richardson was alive, he used to make the actors study their
parts regularly; and there’s Thorne and Bennett’s, and Douglas’s, and
other large travelling concerns, that do so at the present time; but
where there’s one that does, there’s ten that don’t. I was never in one
that did, not to study the parts, and I have been mumming, on and off,
these ten years.

“There’s very few penny gaffs in London where they speak; in fact, I
only know one where they do. It ain’t allowed by law, and the police
are uncommon sewere. They generally play ballets and dumb acting,
singing and dancing, and such-like.

“I never heard of such a thing as a canvas theatre being prosecuted for
having speaking plays performed, so long as a fair is going on, but if
it builds at other times I have known the mayor to object to it, and
order the company away. When we go to pitch in a town, we always, if
it’s a quiet one, ask permission of the mayor to let us build.

“The mummers have got a slang of their own, which parties connected
with the perfession generally use. It is called ‘mummers’ slang,’ and I
have been told that it’s a compound of broken Italian and French. Some
of the Romanee is also mixed up with it. This, for instance, is the
slang for ‘Give me a glass of beer,’--‘Your nabs sparkle my nabs,’ ‘a
drop of beware.’ ‘I have got no money’ is, ‘My nabs has nanti dinali.’
I’ll give you a few sentences.

“‘Parni’ is rain; and ‘toba’ is ground.

“‘Nanti numgare’ is--No food.

“‘Nanti fogare’ is--No tobacco.

“‘Is his nabs a bona pross?’--Is he good for something to drink?

“‘Nanti, his nabs is a keteva homer’--No, he’s a bad sort.

“‘The casa will parker our nabs multi’ means,--This house will tumble

“‘Vada the glaze’ is--Look at the window.

“These are nearly all the mummers’ slang words we use; but they apply
to different meanings. We call breakfast, dinner, tea, supper, all of
them ‘numgare;’ and all beer, brandy, water, or soup, are ‘beware.’ We
call everybody ‘his nabs,’ or ‘her nabs.’ I went among the penny-ice
men, who are Italian chaps, and I found that they were speaking a lot
of mummers’ slang. It is a good deal Italian. We think it must have
originated from Italians who went about doing pantomimes.

“Now, the way we count money is nearly all of it Italian; from one
farthing up to a shilling is this:--

“‘Patina, nadsa, oni soldi, duey soldi, tray soldi, quatro soldi,
chinqui soldi, say soldi, seter soldi, otter soldi, novra soldi, deshra
soldi, lettra soldi, and a biouk.’ A half-crown is a ‘metsa carroon;’ a
‘carroon’ is a crown; ‘metsa punta’ is half-a-sovereign; a ‘punta’ is a
pound. Even with these few words, by mixing them up with a few English
ones, we can talk away as fast as if we was using our own language.

“Mumming at fairs is harder than private business, because you have to
perform so many times. You only wear one dress, and all the actor is
expected to do is to stand up to the dances outside and act in. He’ll
have to dance perhaps sixteen quadrilles in the course of the day,
and act about as often inside. The company generally work in shares,
or if they pay by the day, it’s about four or five shillings a-day.
When you go to get engaged, the first question is, ‘What can you do?’
and the next, ‘Do you find your own properties, such as russet boots,
your dress, hat and feathers, &c.?’ Of course they like your dress
the better if it’s a showy one; and it don’t much matter about its
corresponding with the piece. For instance, Henry the Second, in ‘Fair
Rosamond,’ always comes on with a cavalier’s dress, and nobody notices
the difference of costume. In fact, the same dresses are used over and
over again for the same pieces. The general dress for the ladies is a
velvet skirt with a satin stomacher, with a gold band round the waist
and a pearl band on the forehead. They, too, wear the same dresses
for all the pieces. A regular fair show has only a small compass of
dresses, for they only goes to the same places once in a-year, and of
course their costumes ain’t remembered.

“The principal fair pieces are ‘Blue Beard,’ ‘Robert, duke of
Normandy,’ and ‘Fair Rosamond, or the Bowers of Woodstock.’ I recollect
once they played ‘Maria Martin,’ at a fair, in a company I was with,
and we played that in cavalier costume; and so we did ‘The Murder at
Stanfield Hall,’ Rush’s affair, in dresses of the time of Charles the

“An actor’s share will average for a fair at five shillings a-day, if
the fair is anything at all. When we don’t work we don’t get paid, so
that if we only do one fair a-week, that’s fifteen shillings, unless we
stop to do a day or two private business after the fair.

“‘Fair Rosamond’ isn’t so good a piece as ‘Blue Beard,’ for that’s
a great fair piece, and a never-failing draw. Five years ago I was
with a company--Star and Lewis were the acting managers. Then ‘Blue
Beard’ was our favourite piece, and we played it five fairs out of
six. ‘Fair Rosamond’ is too sentimental. They like a comedy man, and
the one in ‘Fair Rosamond’ isn’t nothing. They like the secret-chamber
scene in ‘Blue Beard.’ It’s generally done by the scene rolling up and
discovering another, with skeletons painted on the back, and blue fire.
We always carried that scene with us wherever we went, and for the
other pieces the same scenes did. At Star’s, our scenes were somewhat
about ten feet wide and eight feet high. They all rolled up, and there
were generally about four in working order, with the drop curtain,
which made five.

“You may put the price of a good fair theatrical booth down at from
fifty pounds to two hundred and fifty pounds. There’s some of them more
expensive still. For instance, the paintings alone on the front of
Douglas’s Shakesperian theatre, must have cost seventy pounds; and his
dress must have cost a deal, for he’s got a private theatre at Bolton,
and he works them there as well as at fairs.

“The ‘Bottle Imp’ is a very effective fair piece. It opens with a scene
of Venice, and Willebald and Albert, which is the comedy man and the
juvenile. The comic man’s principal line is, ‘I’ll tell your mother,’
every time Albert wants to go and see his sweetheart, or if he’s doing
anything that he thinks improper. In the first act Albert goes to his
sweetheart’s house, and the father consents to their union, provided
he can gain so many ducats. Albert then finds out a stranger, who
is Nicolo, who asks him to gamble with him at dice: Albert says he
is poor. Nicolo says he once was poor, but now he has great wealth.
He then tells Albert, that if he likes he can be rich too. He says,
‘Have you not heard of imps and bottle imps?’ ‘Stuff!’ says Albert;
‘me, indeed! a poor artist; I have heard of such things, but I heed
them not.’ ‘But, boy,’ says Nicolo, ‘I have that in my possession will
make you rich indeed; a drop of the elixir in this bottle, rubbed on
the outside, will give you all you require; and if ever you wish to
part with it, you must sell it for less than you gave.’ He gives three
ducats for it, and as he gives the money the demon laughs from the
side, ‘Ha! ha! ha! mine, mine!’ Albert looks amazed. Nicolo says, ‘Ah,
youth! may you know more happiness than I have whilst I had that in
my possession:’ and then he goes off. Albert then tries the power of
the bottle. He says, ‘What, ho! I wish for wine,’ and it’s shoved on
from the side. As he is drinking, Willebald exclaims, ‘O dear, O dear!
I’ve been looking for my master. O that I were only safe back again
in Threadneedle-street! I’ll never go hunting pretty girls again. Oh,
won’t I tell his mother!’ ‘How now, caitiff!--Leave me!’ says Albert.
‘All right,’ says Willebald; ‘I’ll leave you--won’t I tell your mother!’

“When Willebald goes, Albert wishes for sleep, and the Bottle Imp
replies, ‘All your wishes shall be gratified, excepting one. Sleep
you cannot have while I am in your possession.’ The demon then seizes
him by the throat, and Albert falls on stage, demon exulting over him.
Enter Willebald, who, seeing the demon, cries, ‘Murder! murder! Oh,
won’t I tell their mothers!’ and that ends the first act.

“In the second and last act, Albert gives Willebald instructions
to sell the bottle; ‘but it is to be for less than three ducats.’
Willebald says, ‘No marine-storekeeper would give three ducats for
an old bottle;’ but he goes off shouting, out ‘Who’ll buy a bottle?
Who’ll buy a bottle?’ In the next scene, Willebald is still shouting
his bottle for sale, with folks laughing off stage and dogs barking.
He says, ‘Ah! laugh away. It’s well to be merry, but I’m obliged to
cry--Who’ll buy a bottle?’ He then says he’s ‘not going walking about
all day selling a bottle;’ and then he says he’s got two ducats, and
he’ll buy the bottle himself, sooner than trudge about Venice. Then he
says, ‘Oh, Mr. Bottle, here are the ducats; now you are mine.’ Then
the demon cries, ‘Mine, mine!’ He says it was only the wind. Then he
says, ‘Oh, how I wish I was at home again, and heard my little brothers
and sisters singing!’ And instantly from the sides you hear, ‘Boys and
girls come out to play!’ Then Willebald says, ‘I wish you’d hold your
tongue, you little brutes!’ and they cease. Next he complains that
he’s so poor, and he wishes it would rain gold on him, and then down
comes a shower. Then in comes Albert, who asks whether the bottle has
been sold; and Willebald replies that it’s all right. ‘Thank heavens,’
cries Albert; ‘but yet I pity the miserable wretch who has bought it.’
‘What do you mean? O dear, O dear! to frighten one so! I’ll tell your
mother!’ ‘Know ye not, caitiff!’ continues Albert, ‘that that bottle
contains a demon? O what a weight hast thou removed from my heart!’
As Willebald is deploring his lot, enter a poor man, who asks for a
drink of water; and Willebald tells him he can’t give him any water,
but he has an elixir he shall have very cheap. The old man replies
that he hasn’t got more than a petani, which is the sixtieth part of
a farthing. However, Willebald sells him the bottle; and as it’s the
smallest coin in the world, and the bottle can’t go no cheaper, the
demon rushes in and seizes the beggar, who turns out to be Nicolo, the
first who sold the bottle. As he is being carried off, Willebald cries
out, ‘For shame, you ugly devil! to treat the old gentleman like that!
Won’t I tell your mother!’ and down comes the curtain.

“The ‘Bottle Imp’ is a very successful romantic drama. There’s plenty
of blue fire in it. The ‘Bottle Imp’ have it at every entrance that
fellow do. There is some booths that are fonder of the ‘Bottle Imp’
than any other piece. We played it at Bill Weale’s theatre more than
any other drama. The imp is always acted by a man in a cloak with a
mask on. You can see his cavalier boots under his cloak, but that don’t
matter to holiday folk when once they know it’s intended to be a demon.

“It’s a very jolly life strolling, and I wouldn’t leave it for any
other if I had my choice. At times it’s hard lines; but for my part
I prefer it to any other. It’s about fifteen shillings a-week for
certain. If you can make up your mind to sleep in the booth, it ain’t
such bad pay. But the most of the men go to lodgings, and they don’t
forget to boast of it. ‘Where do you lodge?’ one’ll ask. ‘Oh, I lodged
at such a place,’ says another; for we’re all first-rate fellows, if
you can get anybody to believe us.

“Mummers’ feed is a herring, which we call a pheasant. After
performance we generally disperse, and those who have lodgings go to
’em; but if any sleep in the booth, turn in. Perhaps there’s a batch of
coffee brought forwards, a subscription supper of three. The coffee and
sugar is put in a kettle and boiled up, and then served up in what we
can get: either a saucepan lid, or a cocoa-nut shell, or a publican’s
pot, or whatever they can get. Mummers is the poorest, flashest, and
most independent race of men going. If you was to offer some of them a
shilling they’d refuse it, though the most of them would take it. The
generality of them is cobblers’ lads, and tailors’ apprentices, and
clerks, and they do account for that by their having so much time to
study over their work.

“Private business is a better sort of acting. There we do nearly the
entire piece, with only the difficult parts cut out. We only do the
outline of the story, and gag it up. We’ve done various plays of
Shakspeare in this way, such as ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Othello,’ but only on
benefit occasions. Then we go as near as memory will let us, but we
must never appear to be stuck for words. Our prices of admission in the
country for private business is threepence and sixpence, or sometimes
sixpence or one shilling, for it all depends upon the town, but in
London it’s oftener one penny and twopence. We only go to the outskirts
and act there, for they won’t allow us in the streets. The principal
parts for pitching the booth for private business in London, is about
Lock’s-fields, Walworth. We opened there about six years ago last

“Our rehearsals for a piece are the funniest things in the world.
Perhaps we are going to play ‘The Floating Beacon, or The Weird Woman
of the Wreck.’ The manager will, when the night’s performance is over,
call the company together, and he’ll say to the low-comedyman, ‘Now,
you play Jack Junk, and this is your part: you’re supposed to fetch
Frederick for to go to sea. Frederick gets capsized in the boat, and
gets aboard of the floating beacon. You go to search for him, and the
smugglers tell you he’s not aboard, and they give you the lie; then
you say, ‘What, the lie to a English sailor!’ and you chuck your quid
in his eye, saying, ‘I’ve had it for the last fourteen days, and now I
scud it with a full sail into your lubberly eye.’ Then you have to get
Frederick off.’

“Then the manager will turn to the juvenile, and say, ‘Now, sir, you’ll
play Frederick. Now then, Frederick, you’re in love with a girl, and
old Winslade, the father, is very fond of you. You get into the boat
to go to the ship, and you’re wrecked and get on to the beacon. You’re
very faint, and stagger on, and do a back fall. You’re picked up by
the weird woman, and have some dialogue with her; and then you have
some dialogue with the two smugglers, Ormaloff and Augerstoff. You
pretend to sleep, and they’re going to stab you, when the wild woman
screams, and you awake and have some more dialogue. Then they bring
a bottle, and you begin drinking. You change the cups. Then there’s
more dialogue, and you tackle Ormaloff. Then you discover your mother
and embrace. Jack Junk saves you. Form a picture with your mother, the
girl, and old Winslade, and Jack Junk over you.’

“That’s his part, and he’s got to put it together and do the talk.

“Then the manager turns to Ormaloff and Augerstoff, and says: ‘Now, you
two play the smugglers, do you hear? You’re to try and poison the young
fellow, and you’re defeated.’

“Then he say to the wild woman: ‘You’re kept as a prisoner aboard the
beacon, where your husband has been murdered. You have refused to
become the wife of Ormaloff. Your child has been thrown overboard. You
discover him in Frederick, and you scream when they are about to stab
him, and also when he’s about to drink. Make as much of it as you can,
please; and don’t forget the scream.’

“‘Winslade, you know your part. You’ve only got to follow Junk.’

“‘You’re to play the lady, you Miss. You’re in love with Frederick. You
know the old business: ‘What! to part thus? Alas! alas! never to this
moment have I confessed I love you!’’

“That’s a true picture of a mumming rehearsal, whether it’s fair or
private business. Some of the young chaps stick in their parts. They
get the stage-fever and knocking in the knees. We’ve had to shove them
on to the scene. They keep on asking what they’re to say. ‘Oh, say
anything!’ we tell ’em, and push ’em on to the stage.

“If a man’s not gifted with the gab, he’s no good at a booth. I’ve been
with a chap acting ‘Mary Woodbine,’ and he hasn’t known a word of his
part. Then, when he’s stuck, he has seized me by the throat, and said,
‘Caitiff! dog! be sure thou provest my wife unfaithful to me.’ Then I
saw his dodge, and I said, ‘Oh, my lord!’ and he continued--‘Give me
the proof, or thou hadst best been born a dog.’ Then I answered, ‘My
lord, you wrong your wife, and torture me;’ and he said, ‘Forward,
then, liar! dog!’ and we both rushed off.

“We were acting at Lock’s-fields, Walworth, once, doing private
business, when we got into trouble, and were all put into prison for
playing without a license. We had built up in a piece of private
ground--in a dust-yard known as Calf’s--and we had been there eleven
months doing exceedingly well. We treated the policeman every night,
and gave him as much, with porter and money, that was equal to one
shilling a-night, which was taken up from the company. It was something
like a penny a-piece for the policeman, for we were rather afraid of
something of the kind happening.

“It was about the time that ‘Oliver Twist’ was making such a success
at the other theatres, and so we did a robbery from it, and brought
out our version as ‘The Golden Farmer.’ Instead of having an artful
dodge, we called our comic character Jimmy Twitcher, and made him do
all the artful-dodgery business. We had three performances a-night in
those days. We was in our second performance, and Jimmy Twitcher was
in the act of getting through the window, and Hammer, the auctioneer,
was asleep, saying in his sleep, ‘Knock ’em down! going! going! gone!’
when I saw the police in private clothes rising from the front seats,
and coming towards the stage. They opened the side door, and let the
other police in, about forty of them. Then the inspector said, ‘Ladies
and gentlemen, I forbid any of you to move, as I arrest those people
for performing without a license.’ Nobody moved. Three police took hold
of me, one at each arm, and one at the back of the neck. They wouldn’t
allow us to change our dresses, nor to take our other clothes, though
they were close by. They marched us off to the Walworth station, along
with about a hundred of the spectators, for some of them got away.
My wife went to fetch my clothes for me, and they took her, too, and
actually locked her up all night, though she was so near her pregnancy
that the doctor ordered her pillows to sleep on. In the morning they
took us all before the magistrate. The audience were fined one shilling
a-head, or seven days; but they paid the shilling. We were all fined
twenty shillings, or fourteen days. Some paid, but I couldn’t raise it,
so I was walked off.

“We were all in an awful fright when we found ourselves in the
police-cell that night. Some said we should get six months, others
twelve, and all we could say was, ‘What on earth will our old women do?’

“We were all in our theatrical costumes. I was Hammer, the auctioneer,
dressed in a long white coat, with the swallow-tails touching the
ground, and blue bottoms. I had a long figured chintz waistcoat, and a
pair of drab knee-breeches, grey stockings, and low shoes, and my hat
was a white one with a low crown and broad brim, like a Quaker’s. To
complete it, I wore a full bushy wig. As we were being walked off from
Walworth to Kennington-lane, to go before the magistrate, the tops of
the houses and the windows were full of people, waiting to see us come
along in our dresses. They laughed more than pitied us. The police got
pelted, and I caught a severe blow by accident, from a turnip out of a
greengrocer’s shop.

“I served all the time at Kingston, in my theatrical dress. I had
nothing but bread and water all the time, with gruel for breakfast
and supper. I had to pick oakum and make mats. I was only there two
days before I was made deputy-wardsman, for they saw I was a decent
sort of fellow. I was very much cut up, thinking of the wife so near
her confinement. It was very hard, I thought, putting us in prison
for getting our bread, for we never had any warning, whatever our
master may have had. I can tell you, it was a nail in my coffin, these
fourteen days, and one of us, of the name of Chau, did actually die
through it, for he was of a very delicate constitution, and the cold
laid hold of him. Why, fellows of our life and animation, to be shut up
like that, and not allowed to utter a word, it was dreadful severe.

“At this time a little penny work came out, entitled the ‘Groans of
the Gallows.’ I was working at an establishment in Whitechapel, and it
was thought that something fresh would be a draw, and it was suggested
that we should play this ‘Groans of the Gallows,’ for everything about
hanging was always a hit. There was such a thing as ten people in the
piece, and five was prominent characters. We got it written by one
of the company, and it was called ‘The Groans of the Gallows, or The
Hangman’s Career, illustrated with pictures.’ This is how we brought
it out. After an overture, the curtain rose and discovered a group on
the stage, all with pots and pipes, gin measures, &c. They sing, ‘We
won’t go home till morning,’ and ‘Kightly’s a jolly good fellow.’ Here
the hangman is carousing with them, and his wife comes in and upbraids
him with his intoxicating habits, and tells him that he spends all the
money instead of purviding food for the children. A quarrel ensues, and
he knocks her down with a quart pot and kills her. I was the hangman.
There is then a picture of amazement from all, and he’s repenting of
what he’s done. He then says, ‘This comes of a little drinking. From
the half-pint to the pint, from the pint to the pot, and so on, till
ruin stares me in the face. Not content with starving my children, I
have murdered my wife. Oh that this may be a moral to all!’

“The officers come in and arrest him, when enters the sheriff, who
tells him that he has forfeited his life; but that there is a vacancy
for the public executioner, and that if he will accept the office his
life shall be spared. He accepts the office, and all the characters
groan at him. This ends the first scene. In the second enters Kightly
and two officers, who have got him and accuse him of murder. He
is taken off proclaiming his innocence. Scene the third. Kightly
discovered at table in condemned cell, a few months supposing to have
elapsed. The bell is tolling, and the hour of seven is struck. Enter
sheriffs with hangman, and they tell him to do his duty. They then
leave him, and he speaks thus: ‘At length, then, two little months only
have elapsed, and you, my friend and pot-companion, aye, and almost
brother, are the first victim that I have to execute for murder,’--and
I shudder you know--‘which I know you are innocent of. Am _I_ not a
murderer, and do I not deserve hanging more than you? but the law will
have it’s way, and I, the tool of that law, must carry it into force.
It now becomes my painful duty to pinion your arms.’ Then I do so, and
it makes such a thrill through the house. ‘I now take you from this
place to your execution, where you will be suspended for one hour, and
then it is my duty to cut you down. Have you any request to make?’ He
cries ‘None!’ and I add, ‘Then follow me.’ I always come on to that
scene with a white night-cap and a halter on my arm. All the audience
was silent as death as I spoke, and with tears in their eyes. Scene
the fourth. Gallows being erected by workmen. That’s a picture, you
know, our fixing the top beam with a hammer, another at the bottom,
and a third arranging the bolt at the top. The bell still tolling, you
know. Ah, it brought it home to one or two of them, I can tell you.
As soon as the workmen have finished they go off. Enter procession of
sheriff, parson, hangman, and the victim, with two officers behind.
The parson asks the victim if he has any request to make, and he still
says ‘None,’ only he is innocent. The sheriffs then tell the hangman
to do his duty. He then places the white cap over the man’s head, and
the noose about his neck, and is about leaving to draw the bolt, when
I exclaim, ‘Something here tells me that I ought not to hang this man.
He is innocent, and I know it. I cannot, and I will not take his life.’
Enter officer in haste, with pardon for Kightly. I then say, ‘Kightly,
you are free; live and be happy, and I am----’ Here the sheriff adds,
‘Doomed to the galleys for life.’ That’s because I refused to kill him,
you know. I then exclaim, ‘Then I shall be happy, knowing that I have
not taken this man’s life, and be thus enabled to give up the office of
executioner and it’s most horrid paraphernalia.’ Then there’s blue fire
and end of piece.

“That piece was very successful, and run for three weeks. It drew in a
deal of money. The boys used to run after me in the streets and call
me Calcraft, so great was the hit I made in the part. On one occasion a
woman was to be hung, and I was going along Newgate, past the prison,
on the Sunday evening. There was a quantity of people congregated, and
some of the lads then recognised me from seeing me act in the ‘Groans
from the Gallows,’ and they sung out ‘Here comes Calcraft!’ Every eye
was turned towards me. Some said, ‘No, no; that ain’t him;’ but the
boys replied, ‘Oh, yes it is; that’s the man that played it at the
gaff.’ Of course I mizzled, for fear of a stone or two.

“The pay of an actor in private business varies from two shillings and
sixpence to three shillings, and each man is also supposed to sing
two songs in each performance, which makes three performances a night
besides performing a sketch. Your engagement lasts as long as you suit
the audience; for if you’re a favourite you may have such a thing as
nine months at a time. Whenever we have a benefit it’s a ticket one,
which amounts to two hundred tickets and your night’s salary, which
generally brings you in a pound, with your pay included. There’s one in
the company generally has a benefit every Thursday, so that your turn
comes once in about six months, for the musicians, and the checktakers,
and all has their turn.

“The expense of putting a new piece on the stage is not more than a
pound, and that includes new scenery. They never do such a thing as
buy new dresses. Perhaps they pay such a thing as six shillings a-week
for their wardrobe to hire the dresses. Some gives as much as ten
shillings; but then, naturally, the costume is more showy. All that
we are supposed to find is russet boots, a set of fleshings, a ballet
shirt, and a wig.

“Town work is the more quiet and more general-business like. There’s
no casualty in it, for you’re not in shares, but on salaries, and
after your work there’s your money, for we are paid nightly. I have
known as much as thirty-five shillings a-week given at one of these
theatres, when the admission is only a penny and twopence. Where I was
at it would hold from six to seven hundred people, and there was three
performances a-night; and, indeed, on Saturdays and Mondays generally
four. We have no extra pay for extra performances. The time allowed for
each representation is from one hour to an hour and three-quarters.
If we find there is a likelihood of a fourth house, we leave out a
song each singer, and that saves half an hour. As soon as one house is
turned out another comes in, for they are always waiting outside the
doors, and there is a rush immediately the house is empty. We begin at
six and are over by a few minutes before twelve. When we do speaking
pieces we have to do it on the sly, as we should be stopped and get
into trouble.”


“The Ballet,” said a street-dancer to me, “is a very favourite
amusement with the people who go to cheap penny theatres. They are
all comic, like pantomimes; indeed, they come under that term, only
there’s no comic scenes or transformations. They’re like the story of a
pantomime, and nothing else. Nearly all the popular clowns are famous
for their ballet performances; they take the comic parts mostly, and
the pantaloons take the old men’s parts. Ballets have been favourites
in this country for forty or fifty year. There is always a comic part
in every ballet. I have known ballets to be very popular for ever since
I can remember,--and that’s thirty years. At all the gaffs, where they
are afraid to speak their parts, they always have a ballet. Every one
in London, and there are plenty of them, have one every night, for it’s
very seldom they venture upon a talking play.

“In all ballets the costume is fanciful. The young ladies come on in
short petticoats, like them at the opera. Some of the girls we have
are the same as have been in the opera corps-de-ballet. Mr. Flexmore,
the celebrated clown, is a ballet performer, and there’s not a greater
man going for the ballet that he appears in, called ‘The Dancing
Scotchman.’ There’s Paul Herring, too; he’s very famous. He’s the only
man I know of that can play Punch, for he works the speaker in his
mouth; and he’s been a great Punch-and-Judy man in his time. He’s very
clever in ‘The Sprite of the Vineyard, or the Merry Devil of Como.’
They’ve been playing it at Cremorne lately, and a very successful
affair it was.

“When a professional goes to a gaff to get an engagement, they in
general inquires whether he is a good ballet performer. Everything
depends upon that. They also acts ballets at some of the concert-rooms.
At the Rising Sun, Knightsbridge, as well as the Brown Bear,
Knightsbridge, they play them for a week at a time, and then drop them
for a fortnight for a change, and perhaps have tumblers instead; then
they have them again for a week, and so on. In Ratcliffe Highway, at
Ward’s Hoop and Grapes, and also the Albion, and the Prince Regent,
they always play ballets at stated intervals. Also the Effingham
Saloon, Whitechapel, is a celebrated ballet-house. The admission to all
these houses is 2_d._ I believe. At the Highway, when the ships are up
and the sailors ashore, business is very brisk, and they are admitted
to the rooms gratuitously; and a fine thing they make of them, for
they are good-hearted fellows and don’t mind what money they spend.
I’ve known one who was a little way gone to chuck half-a-crown on the
stage to some actor, and I’ve known others to spend a pound at one
bit,--standing to all round! One night, when I was performing ballets
at the Rising Sun, Knightsbridge, Mr. Hill, the Queen’s coachman,
threw me two half-crowns on to the stage. We had been supposed to be
fighting,--I and my mate,--and to have got so exhausted we fell down,
and Mr. Hill came and poured three glasses of port-wine negus down our
throats as we laid. I’ve repeatedly had 1_s._ and 6_s._ thrown to me by
the grooms of the different people of nobility, such as the Russells
and various other families.

“A good ballet performer will get averaging from a pound to 35_s._
a-week. They call Paul Herring a star, and he is one, for he always
draws wherever he goes. I generally get my 25_s._, that’s my running
price, though I try for my 30_s._; but 25_s._ is about my mark. I have
always made Paul Herring my study, and I try to get to perform with
him, for he’s the best clown of the day, and a credit to work with.

“It’s impossible to say how many ballet performers there are. There
are such a host of them it’s impossible to state that, for they change
so. Then a great many are out of employment until Christmas, for that
generally fills the vacancies up. My wife does a little in ballets,
though she is principally a poses plastique girl. I married my wife off
the table.

“One of the most successful ballets is the Statue Blanche. It has been
performed at every theatre in London, both the cheap and the regular.
The Surrey is an enormous place for it. It came out, I believe, in
Grimaldi’s time. It was played a fortnight ago at the Bower, and I took
the part of the old man, and I was very successful; so far so, that I
got a situation for Christmas. It’s an excellent plot, and runs an hour
and a quarter to play.

“It begins with a romantic view, with a cottage on the right hand, and
white palings round it, and a quantity of straw laying on the stage.
The villagers and the lover come on. Lover goes to cottage door and
knocks three times, when lady appears at window. He ballets to her,
‘Will you come down here and dance?’ She comes, and they all do a
country dance. At the end of the dance the old man is heard to cough
inside cottage. He opens the window and sees the girl outside, and
shakes his fist at her. The lover hides behind the lady. He comes out
and sends his daughter into cottage, and sends the lover off about his
business. He refuses to do so. The old man makes a blow at him with his
stick; he makes another, when lover bobs down and stick strikes Pierrot
in the face, and knocks him down. This Pierrot is the Simpkin of the
ballet, and he’s dressed in white, with long sleeves, and a white
face, and white scalp on his head. The ballet is from the French, and
its real title is ‘La Statue Blanche,’ though we call it ‘The Statue

“Lover is driven off stage, and old man picks up Simpkin, and ballets
to him that he’s very sorry but he thought it was the lover, and tells
him to hide under the straw which is on the stage, and that if the
lover comes again to lay hold of him, to call assistance. He hides, and
old man goes into cottage.

“Lover comes again with villagers carrying flails, and they begin to
thresh this straw with Simpkin under it. They thresh him round stage.
He knocks at door three times, and the third blow knocks old man in the
face. Out he comes staggering. The old man threatens to sack lover.
He goes into cottage and brings out lover’s bundle, and throws it to
lover, and sends him away. The lover appeals to old man, but all to no
use. The lover then ballets to him that he has got no money, so the
old man hands his purse, which Simpkin takes and carries up stage. The
lover still asks for money, and the old man is astonished, and then
turns round and sees Simpkin, and makes him return it. Exit old man and
Simpkin into cottage, leaving lover on stage. He leans against wing
very disconsolate, when an artist comes on with a scrap-book to sketch
the scene. He asks the lover what is the matter, and then he tells
him he has a plan if lover will become a sketcher; and if he likes to
do so, he will make a statue of him and sell him to the old man, as
he deals in antiquities, and by that plan he will be able to gain the
girl. They go off, and another old man comes on and knocks at door,
which old father opens, and thinking it is lover tumbles him over. He
then says he’s very sorry for mistaking him for the lover. They make
it up, and the old man says he has plenty of money, and has come to
marry the daughter. They embrace, and old father invites old man to
step inside and have something to drink. As the second old man is going
in, the Simpkin jumps over his head and hides; and old man swears it is
the lover, and hunts for him, but can’t find him, and enters cottage.
The second scene has got the tea business in it, and the blacking of
the old lover’s face. The comic business here is, they are having tea,
and Simpkin is waiting on them, and does every thing very clumsy. He
carries on the old business of stirring the tea up with a candle, and
then he puts the dirty kettle on the cloth and makes a mark; so he
thinks for a minute, and then wipes the bottom of the kettle with the
old lover’s handkerchief when he is not looking. Then Simpkin steals
the milk-jug, and as he is drinking the old father hits him on the
stomach, and makes him sputter in old lover’s face, who instantly
snatches up the dirty handkerchief to wipe his face, and blacks it all
over with the soot from the bottom of the kettle. Then there is some
comic business about Simpkin breaking the tea-things, and bursting a
coat in two; and then scene changes to a romantic view, with a pedestal
in the centre, and statue on it. The old father comes on with the girl
and Simpkin, and the villagers, who have all come to view the statue.
The old man then calls the artist, and tells him to wind up the statue
that he may see how it works. The statue does several positions, and
the old man buys it. They all go off but Simpkin, the lady, and the
old man. (The statue is still on the pedestal, you know.) The old man
cautions Simpkin not to touch the statue, for he’s going away. As soon
as he is gone, Simpkin goes and winds it up until he breaks the spring.
Then in comes the old man again, and the fool goes to a corner and
pretends to be asleep. He is pulled up by the ear and shown what he
has done, and is about to be beaten, when girl intercedes and puts the
statue to rights. They go off, leaving Simpkin with the statue. Lady
returns, and statue jumps down and embraces her. The statue then takes
off his helmet and wig, and chucks it at Simpkin, and rushes off with
girl, and the clown mounts the pedestal. Enter old man, who ballets
that he’ll have a turn as nobody is there. He goes and looks at statue,
and perceives that he is in a different position. He turns the handle
and Simpkin jumps about, burlesquing what the lover has done. Then
Simpkin jumps down, and pushes the old man round stage with a club in
his hand. Old man sings out ‘Murder!’ when lover returns with girl and
stops Simpkin from knocking him down. They tell the old man they are
married, and he joins their hands, and a general dance winds up the

“That’s one of the most successful ballets ever imagined, and in
its time has drawn thousands and thousands to see it. I don’t know
who wrote the ballet, but I should imagine it was the property of
Grimaldi’s father, who was a great pantomimist.

“There’s a new ballet, called ‘The Dream before the Wedding, or the
Ploughboy turned Sailor.’ That one depends more upon the lover than the
comic man. There’s another, called ‘The Boatman of the Ohio.’ That’s
a comic nigger ballet, in which the banjo and bones are introduced;
and there’s a very funny duet song, to the tune of ‘Roley poley.’ They
both hide in a clock-case to hide from the old man, and they frighten
each other, for they put their ugly black faces out and take each other
for the devil. Then there’s ‘The Barber and the Beadle.’ The barber is
one of Paul Herring’s favourite characters. I’ve done the beadle to
his barber. There’s a very first-rate scene in it with the fop,--Jemmy
Green he’s called, a cockney sort of a fellow,--and this barber has to
shave him, and cuts his nose, and ties him in a chair, and shoves the
soap-suds in his mouth. This fop is arranging with the father about the
daughter, and the barber ties a line to a pole and fishes off the old
man’s wig. The beadle is the father of the girl. It goes immense. I’ve
played in it during my time more than 400 times.

“Another famous ballet is ‘The Cobbler and the Tailor.’ There’s a
celebrated fight in that, between the tailor with his sleeve-board and
goose, and the cobbler with his clam and his awl. The tailor tries
to burn me with the goose, and he hunts me all about. We are about
twenty minutes fighting. It’s a never-failing fight, that is. The
sleeve-boards are split to make a noise at each knock, and so is the
clam. There’s one, two, three, four, and a crack on the nob. We keep it
up till both are supposed to fall down exhausted. Then there’s crowing
‘Cock-a-doodle-doo’ at each other. We enjoy it just as much as the
audience do, for it’s very funny. Although the shirt is sticking to our
backs with perspiration, we enter into the sport quite like them in
front. We generally prefer winter for this ballet, for it’s hot work;
or if it’s in the open air, like in gardens, then it’s very delightful.

“One of the principal things in ballet performing is to be able to do
the raps, or slaps, well and quickly. A fellow gives me a clap on the
face in the piece, then I have to slap my hands together, and make a
noise as if he had given me a tremendous knock down. Of course, the
closer the sound is to the blow, the better is the effect; and the
art is to do it close. That’s what we call good working. The people,
of course, follow with their eye the fist of the striker, and the one
struck has his arms down in front, and claps them together. It is the
same work as they do in the pantomimes. Another trick is hitting the
knuckles when fighting, also striking on the head. That’s done by
holding the stick close to the pate, and that takes the blow. On the
knuckles the striker aims just above the fingers. It wants a quick eye.
A fellow caught me on the nose, at the Bower, the other night, and took
the skin off the tip; and there’s the mark now, you see. The principal
distinction between pantomimes and ballets is that there are more
cascades, and trips, and valleys in pantomimes, and none in ballets.

“A trip is a dance between Harlequin and the Columbine; and cascades
and valleys are trundling and gymnastic performances, such as tumbling
across the stage on wheels, and catching hold of hands and twirling

“We have done a kind of speaking ballet, where there is a little
singing and talking just to help out the plot. It is a kind of
pantomime sketch. It is entitled, ‘The Magic Mirror, or how to reclaim
a drunken Servant.’ I was the author of it, for I’m generally engaged
expressly to get up ballets, and occasionally they expect me to do
a new one for them. I get from 25_s._ to 30_s._ a-week for such an
engagement. The scene opens with a chamber in the front of the stage,
with a candle on the table nearly burnt out. The clock strikes four.
A servant in livery is waiting up for his other servant. He yawns
and does the sleepy business. Then he says, ‘Whenever it is Thomas’s
day out he stops so very late; master has threatened to discharge
him, and he will get the sack. Would that I could reclaim him! I will
endeavour to do so. I wish he would return.’ And that’s the cue for
the other one off the stage to begin singing ‘I’ve been roving, I’ve
been roving,’ &c. Then the honest servant says, ‘He comes! Now then
to form a magic looking-glass, wherein he can see his errors. Now to
procure four pieces of timber.’ He does so, and makes a square frame or
strainer. ‘Now for a few tacks.’ He gets them, and then takes a gauze
curtain down from the window, and places it on the back of the frame,
which forms a looking-glass. Then lights is turned down on stage, and
he puts a candle behind the mirror, which illuminates this gauze, you
see. He then hides behind the glass.

“Thomas comes in very tipsy. He does the drunken business, and then
says, ‘I’ve had the best of cheer. I’ve been down to farmer Cheer’s,
and had the best of ale, and some good gin, and better brandy;’ at
which the man behind the frame echoes, ‘Better brandy.’ Thomas is
alarmed. He looks around and says, ‘That was the echo.’ To which the
voice replies, ‘That was the echo.’ Then they repeat this business;
Thomas getting still more nervous. He says, ‘Well, I declare, I’m
getting quite melancholy. I’ll see what singing can do to rouse me a
little.’ He then begins,--

    ‘’Tis love that rules the courts and the city,
      It rules both the high and the low;
    But sometimes--the more is the pity--
      Young Cupid won’t rosin his bow.
            Won’t rosin his bow.’

“The glass takes up ‘Rosin his bo-o-o-o-w.’ The time this is going on,
the other servant is dressing himself to represent the other; combing
his hair, and painting his face, and everything. Thomas gets quite I
don’t know how; and he says, ‘I wonder if I look frightened?’ And he
goes to the glass, and the other appears at the same time, and it looks
like the reflection in the glass. I’ve had some fools imagine it was
the reflection. Thomas says ‘Oh, I look very nice!’ and as he speaks
the other opens his mouth too. Then Thomas says, ‘Why I’ve got some
black on my nose!’ and he goes to wipe it, and the form behind imitates

“He then goes down the stage and returns to glass again. There’s a
deal of business carried on. At last Thomas sees the figure turn round
whilst he’s looking in front, and then he exclaims, ‘That’s not me! My
waistcoat ain’t split up the back! I’ll smash the glass.’ He knocks
down the gauze, and out pops the figure, yelling ‘Ah! I’m the glass
imp!’ Thomas falls down on the stage, and as the imp walks about, one
off the side at the wing thumps the ground at each step with a piece
of wood, to mark the steps. Then the servant says, ‘Fe fi fo fum, I
smell the blood of an Englishman;’ and Thomas answers, ‘Oh no, Mr.
Ghost, I ain’t an Englishman; I’m a Irish woman;’ and there’s a shout
at that, of course. The servant continues,--‘Let him be alive, let him
be dead,’--and Thomas says ‘I’m as dead as a red herring!’ and there’s
another shout. The fellow-servant then catches hold of Thomas by the
hair of the head, and tells him to follow him below. Thomas replies ‘Oh
don’t! please, don’t, Mr. Ghost! I’ll do anything but follow you below,
though you are so good-looking.’ ‘Will you promise to come home early
for the future?’ ‘I will.’ ‘And never drink no more brandy nor stout?’
‘I will.’ The fellow-servant shouts in a hoarse voice, ‘Nay, Slave!
not I will, but I will not.’ ‘Not.’ ‘Enough! rise and look at me.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t for the world.’ ‘Don’t you know me?’ ‘Oh no! no! no!
I never saw you before.’ ‘It’s all right, I’m your friend James: your
fellow-servant!’ Then Thomas gets up and sees him, and begins laughing.
‘Oh, I wasn’t frightened: I knew you all the time.’ The other cove then
shouts, ‘Fe fi fo fum;’ and down goes Thomas on his face and screams
‘Murder! murder!’ Then James says, ‘Oh, it’s only me; look!’ Then
Thomas looks and says, ‘Well, I declare I thought you was the glass
imp.’ ‘No, I only played this prank to reclaim you. Has it had its
effect?’ ‘It has.’ ‘Then I have gained my end, since you are reformed;
and I hope you are reformed.’ ‘I am; and I hope it will be a lesson to
my friends in front, and that they will never take a drop too much.’
Then they sing together--

    ‘Troubles all, great and small,
      You must think not of the past;
    For life is short, and mirth and sport
            Cannot ever last.
            Cannot ever last.
            Cannot ever last.’

“That pantomimic farce always goes down with wonderful success. It
has a regular round of applause, which is everybody clapping as hard
as they can. Some of the tavern-keepers, in whose concert-rooms we
done this ballet pantomime, don’t much like the wind-up to this
piece,--about hoping our friends will take a lesson, and not drink too
much. At one place the landlord happened to come just as that line was
spoke, and he told me he’d fine me sixpence if I done it again. ‘Why,
I ain’t sold a dozen pots of beer through it,’ he says. So I agreed
with him to alter the tag to this,--‘and not drink no more than you can
carry, for that never did any one any harm, but more is injurious.’
At some of these rooms, if a song is going too long and no drinking,
the landlord will come in, and hold his hand up, as a cue for us to
leave off and let the drinking begin again. Then the waiters looks the
audience up again with their ‘Give your orders, gentlemen; give your

“This ballet pantomime was quite an innovation, and isn’t strictly
ballet, but in the same line.

“Of all ballets, the one that has found the longest run is the ‘Statue
Blanche.’ I’ve known it to go a month. All the young ladies in these
pieces are regular ballet-girls, and all ‘turned out;’ that is, taught
to stand with their dancing position. You know all of them is supposed
to be able to kick their nose with their knees. You know they crick
them when young, the same as a contortionist or acrobat. They are
always practising. You see them in the green-room kicking their legs
about. The men have to do the same, except the comic characters that
don’t dance. Paul Herring is very clever at these things, and don’t
want no practising. He can scratch his head with his foot. He’s the
finest clown that ever trod in shoe-leather.

“The green-rooms at the concert-rooms are very tidy. Even at the penny
gaffs the men and women have separate rooms. The women there have got
their decency the same as at a theatre, and they wouldn’t go there if
there wasn’t separate dressing-rooms. In fact, they keep themselves
more from the men than the men from them, for they are all madames; and
though they only keep a wheelbarrow, they carry themselves as if they
had a coach.

“At the concert-rooms they have always a useful set of scenery, about
similar to that at the penny gaffs. At some of them you don’t get so
good scenery as at the gaffs. There’s in general a romantic scene,
and a cottage, and so forth, and that’s all that’s wanted. There’s a
regular proscenium to the theatres, with lights in front and all. The
most usual manner is to have a couple of figures at the sides holding
lights, and curtains behind them, because it answers for the ballets
and also for the singing. At some of the concert-rooms there’s no
side-entrance to the stage, and then you have to go across the audience
dressed in your costume, before you can get on to the stage. It’s
horrid, that is. I’ve done it many and many a time at Knightsbridge.
It’s very bad, for everything depends upon being discovered when the
curtain draws up. Some of the people will say, ‘Oh, that’s nothing;
I’ve seen him before.’

“I have repeatedly seen people in front go to the stage and offer their
glass to the actor to drink. We are forbid to receive them, because it
interferes with business; but we do take it. I’ve seen drink handed on
to the stage from three to four times a-night.

“Sometimes, when a dance has pleased the audience, or an acrobat, or a
bottle equilibrist, they’ll throw halfpence on to the stage, to reward
the performer. We sometimes do this for one another, so as to give the
collection a start. We are forbidden to take money when it is thrown on
to us, but we do. If a sixpence comes, we in general clap our foot on
to it, and then your mate gives you a rap on the face, and we tumble
down and put it in our mouth, so that the proprietor shan’t see us. If
he saw it done, and he could find it, he’d take it away if he could.
I have known a man pick up as much as 3_s._ after a dance. Then there
are generally some one who is not engaged on the establishment, and he
comes for what we term ‘the nobbings,’ that’s what is throw’d to him.
I’ve known a clog-dancer, of the name of Thompson, to earn as much as
10_s._ of a night at the various concert-rooms. He’s very clever, and
may be seen any night at the Hoop and Grapes, Ratcliffe-highway. He
does 108 different steps, and 51 of them are on his toes.

“There’s in general from five to six people engaged in a concert-room
performances, and for professionals alone that’ll come to from 30_s._
to 2_l._ a-night for expenses for actors and singers. That’s putting
down nothing for the conductor, or musicians, or gas. Some of them
charge 2_d._ or 1_d._ admission, but then there’s something extra put
on to the drink. Porter is 5_d._ a pot, and fourpenny ale is charged
6_d._; besides, you can’t have less than 6_d._ worth of gin-and-water.
At such a room as the Nag’s Head in Oxford-street, I’ve known as
many as from 200 to 300 go there in the evening; and the Standard,
Pimlico, will hold from 400 to 450 people, and I’ve seen that full for
nights together. There they only have merely a platform, and seldom do
ballets, or Grecian statues, dancing, gymnastics, and various other
entertainments, such as ventriloquism. There the admission is 4_d._,
and on benefit occasions 6_d._”


“I am the father of two little girls who perform on the tight-rope
and on stilts. My wife also performs, so that the family by itself
can give an entertainment that lasts an hour and a half altogether.
I don’t perform myself, but I go about making the arrangements and
engagements for them. Managers write to me from the country to get up
entertainments for them, and to undertake the speculation at so much.
Indeed I am a manager. I hire a place of amusement, and hire it at
so much; or if they won’t let it, then I take an engagement for the
family. I never fancied any professional work myself, except, perhaps,
a bit of sculpture. I am rather partial to the poses plastiques, but
that’s all.

“Both my little girls are under eight years of age, and they do the
stilt-waltzing, and the eldest does the tight-rope business as well.
Their mother is a tight-rope dancer, and does the same business as
Madame Sayin used to appear in, such as the ascension on the rope
in the midst of fireworks. We had men in England who had done the
ascension before Madame Sayin came out at Vauxhall, but I think she was
the first woman that ever did it in this country. I remember her well.
She lodged at a relation of mine during her engagement at the Gardens.
She was a ugly little woman, very diminutive, and tremendously pitted
with the small-pox. She was what may be called a horny woman, very
tough and bony. I’ve heard my father and mother say she had 20_l._
a-night at Vauxhall, and she did it three times a-week; but I can’t
vouch for this, as it was only hearsay.

“My eldest little girl first began doing the stilts in public when
she was three-and-a-half years old. I don’t suppose she was much more
than two-and-a-half years old when I first put her on the stilts. They
were particularly short, was about four foot from the ground, so that
she came to about as high as my arms. It was the funniest thing in the
world to see her. She hadn’t got sufficient strength in her knees to
keep her legs stiff, and she used to wabble about just like a fellow
drunk, and lost the use of his limbs. The object of beginning so soon
was to accustom it, and she was only on for a few minutes once or
twice a-day. She liked this very much, in fact so much, that the other
little ones used to cry like blazes because I wouldn’t let them have
a turn at them. I used to make my girl do it, just like a bit of fun.
She’d be laughing fit to crack her sides, and we’d be laughing to see
her little legs bending about. I had a new dress made for her, with a
spangled bodice and gauze skirt, and she always put that on when she
was practising, and that used to induce her to the exercise. She was
pleased as Punch when she had her fine clothes on. When she wasn’t
good, I’d say to her, ‘Very well, miss, since you’re so naughty, you
shan’t go out with us to perform; we’ll teach your little sister, and
take her with us, and leave you at home.’ That used to settle her in a
moment, for she didn’t like the idea of having the other one take her

“Some people, when they teach their children for any entertainment,
torture the little things most dreadful. There is a great deal of
barbarity practised in teaching children for the various lines. It’s
very silly, because it only frightens the little things, and some
children often will do much more by kindness than ill-usage. Now there
are several children that I know of that have been severely injured
whilst being trained for the Risley business. Why, bless your soul, a
little thing coming down on it’s head, is done for the remainder of
it’s life. I’ve seen them crying on the stage, publicly, from being
sworn at and bullied, where they would have gone to it laughing, if
they had only been coaxed and persuaded.

“Now my little things took to it almost naturally. It was bred and born
in them, for my father was in the profession before me, and my wife’s
parents were also performers. We had both my little girls on the stilts
before they were three years old. It’s astonishing how soon the leg
gets accustomed to the stilts, for in less than three months they can
walk alone. Of course, for the first six weeks that they are put on we
never leave go of their hands. The knees, which at first is weak and
wabbly, gets strong, and when once that is used to the pad and stump
(for the stilts are fastened on to just where the garter would come),
then the child is all right. It does not enlarge the knee at all, and
instead of crooking the leg, it acts in a similar way to what we see in
a child born with the cricks, with irons on. I should say, that if any
of my children have been born knock-kneed, or bow-legged, the stilts
have been the means of making their legs straight. It does not fatigue
their ankles at all, but the principal strain is on the hollow in the
palm of the foot, where it fits into the tread of the stilt, for that’s
the thing that bears the whole weight. If you keep a child on too long,
it will complain of pain there; but mine were never on for more than
twenty minutes at a time, and that’s not long enough to tire the foot.
But one gets over this feeling.

“I’ve had my young ones on the stilts amusing themselves in my
back-yard for a whole afternoon. They’ll have them on and off three or
four times in a hour, for it don’t take a minute or two to put them on.
They would put them on for play. I’ve often had them asking me to let
them stop away from school, so as to have them on.

“My wife is very clever on the stilts. She does the routine of military
exercise with them on. It’s the gun exercise. She takes one stilt
off herself, and remains on the other, and then shoulders the stilt
she has taken off, and shows the gun practice. She’s the only female
stilt-dancer in England now. Those that were with her when she was a
girl are all old women now. All of my family waltz and polka on stilts,
and play tamborines whilst they dance. The little girls dance with
their mother.

“It took longer to teach the children to do the tight-rope. They were
five years old before I first began to teach them. The first thing I
taught them to walk upon was on a pole passed through the rails at
the back of two chairs. When you’re teaching a child, you have not
got time to go driving stakes into the ground to fix a rope upon. My
pole was a bit of one of my wife’s broken balance-poles. It was as
thick as a broom handle, and not much longer. I had to lay hold of the
little things’ hands at first. They had no balance-pole to hold, not
for some months afterwards. My young ones liked it very much; I don’t
know how other persons may. It was bred in them. They couldn’t stand
even upright when first they tried it, but after three months they
could just walk across it by themselves. I exercised them once every
day, for I had other business to attend to, and I’d give them a lesson
for just, perhaps, half an hour at dinner time, or of an evening a bit
after I came home. My wife never would teach them herself. I taught
my wife rope-dancing, and yet I could not do it; but I understood it
by theory, though not by experience. I never chalked my young ones’
feet, but I put them on a little pair of canvas pumps, to get the feet
properly formed to grasp the rope, and to bend round. My wife’s feet,
when she is on the rope, bend round from continual use, so that they
form a hollow in the palm of the foot, or the waist of the foot as some
call it. My girls’ feet soon took the form. The foot is a little bit
tender at first, not to the pole, because that is round and smooth, but
the strands of the rope would, until the person has had some practice,
blister the foot if kept too long on it. I never kept my young ones on
the pole more than twenty minutes at a time, for it tired me more than
them, and my arms used to ache with supporting them. Just when they got
into the knack and habit of walking on the pole, then I shifted them
to a rope, which I fixed up in my back-yard. The rope has to be a good
cable size, about one-and-a-half inches in diameter. I always chalked
the rope; chalk is of a very rough nature, and prevents slipping. The
sole of the pump is always more or less hard and greasy. We don’t rough
the soles of the pumps, for the rope itself will soon make them rough,
no matter how bright they may have been. My rope was three feet six
inches from the ground, which was a comfortable height for me to go
alongside of the children. I didn’t give them the balance-pole till
they were pretty perfect without it. It is a great help, is the pole.
The one my wife takes on the rope with her is eighteen feet long. Some
of the poles are weighted at both ends, but ours are not. My young ones
were able to dance on the rope in a twelvemonth’s time. They wern’t a
bit nervous when I highered the rope in my yard. I was underneath to
catch them. They seemed to like it.

“They appeared in public on the tight-rope in less than a twelvemonth
from their first lesson on the broom-stick on the backs of the chairs.
My girl had done the stilts in public when she was only three years
and six months old, so she was accustomed to an audience. It was in a
gardens she made her first performance on the rope, and I was under her
in case she fell. I always do that to this day.

“Whenever I go to fairs to fulfil engagements, I always take all my
own apparatus with me. There is the rope some twenty yards long, and
then there’s the pulley-blocks for tightening it, and the cross-poles
for fixing it up, and the balance-poles. I’m obliged to have a cart to
take them along. I always make engagements, and never go in shares, for
I don’t like that game. I could have lots of jobs at that game if I
liked. There’s no hold on the proprietor of the show. There’s a share
taken for this, and a share for this, so that before the company come
to touch any money, twenty shares are gone out of thirty, and only ten
left for the performers. I have had a pound a-day for myself and family
at a fair. At the last one I went to, a week ago, we took somewhere
about 25_s._ a-day. When it isn’t too far from London, we generally
come home at night, but otherwise we go to a tavern, and put up there.

“I only go to circuses when we are at fairs. I never had a booth of my
own. The young ones and my wife walk about the parade to make a show
of the entire company, but unless business is very bad, and a draw is
wanted, my little ones don’t appear on the stilts. They have done so,
of course, but I don’t like them to do so, unless as a favour.

“In the ring, their general performance is the rope one time, and then
reverse it and do the stilts. My wife and the girls all have their
turns at the rope, following each other in their performances. The
band generally plays quadrilles, or a waltz, or anything; it don’t
matter what it is, so long as it is the proper time. They dance and
do the springs in the air, and they also perform with chairs, seating
themselves on it whilst on the rope, and also standing up on the chair.
They also have a pair of ladders, and mount them. Then again they dance
in fetters. I am there underneath, in evening costume, looking after
them. They generally wind up their tight-rope performance by flinging
away the balance-pole, and dancing without it to quick measure.

“One of my little girls slipped off once, but I caught her directly
as she came down, and she wasn’t in the least frightened, and went on
again. I put her down, and she curtsied, and ran up again. Did she
scream? Of course not. You can’t help having a slip off occasionally.

“When they do the stilts, the young ones only dance waltzes and
polkas, and so on. They have to use their hands for doing the graceful
attitudes. My wife, as I said before, does the gun exercise besides
dancing, and it’s always very successful with the audience, and goes
down tremendously. The performances of the three takes about twenty
minutes, I think, for I never timed it exactly. I’ve been at some fairs
when we have done our performances eighteen times a-day, and I’ve been
at some where I’ve only done it four or six, for it always depends upon
what business is being done. That’s the truth. When the booth is full,
then the inside performance begins, and until it is, the parade work is
done. There are generally persons engaged expressly to do the parade

“I never knew my girls catch cold at a fair, for they are generally
held in hot weather, and the heat is rather more complained of than
the cold. My young ones put on three or four different dresses during
a fair--at least mine do. I don’t know what others do. Each dress is a
different colour. There is a regular dressing-room for the ladies under
the parade carriages, and their mother attends to them.


[_From a Sketch._]]

“Very often after their performances they get fruit and money thrown to
them into the ring. I’ve known seven or eight shillings to be thrown
to them in coppers and silver, but it’s seldom they get more than a
shilling or so. I’ve known ladies and gentlemen wait for them when they
went to take off their dresses after they have done, and give them five
or six shillings.

“When we go to fairs, I always pack the young ones off to bed about
nine, and never later than ten. They don’t seem tired, and would like
to stop up all night, I should think. I don’t know how it is with other

“I send my young ones to school every day when there is no business
on, and they are getting on well with their schooling. When we go to a
country engagement, then I send them to a school in the town if we stop
any time.

“Ours is, I think, the only family doing the rope-dancing and
stilt-vaulting. I don’t know of any others, nor yet of any other
children at all who do it.

“Stilt-vaulting is dying out. You never see any children going about
the streets as you did formerly. There never was so much money got as
at that stilt-vaulting in the streets. My wife’s family, when she was
young, thought nothing of going out of an afternoon, after dinner,
and taking their three or four pounds. They used to be as tall up as
the first-floor windows of some of the houses. It must be very nearly
twenty years since I remember the last that appeared. It isn’t that
the police would stop it, but there’s nobody to do it. It’s a very
difficult thing to do, is walking about at that tremendous height. If
you fall you’re done for. One of my little ones fell once--it was on
some grass, I think--but she escaped without any hurt, for she was
light, and gathered herself up in a heap somehow.

“There used to be a celebrated Jellini family, with a similar
entertainment to what I give. They were at the theatres mostly, and
at public gardens, and so on. They used to do ballets on stilts, and
had great success. That must be forty years ago. There used to be the
Chaffs family too, who went about the streets on stilts. They had music
with them, and danced in the public thoroughfares. Now there is nothing
of the kind going on, and it’s out of date.

“I have been abroad, in Holland, travelling with a circus company. I’ve
also visited Belgium. The children and my wife were very much liked
wherever they went. I was on an engagement then, and we had 11_l._
a-week, and I was with them seven weeks. They paid our travelling
expenses there, and we paid them home.”


Street reciters are somewhat scarce now-a-days, and I was a long time
before meeting with one; for though I could always trace them through
their wanderings about the streets, and learn where they had been
seen the night before, still I could never find one myself. I believe
there are not more than ten lads in London,--for they seem to be all
lads,--who are earning a livelihood by street-reciting.

At length I heard that some street actors, as they call themselves,
lived in a court in the City. There were two of them--one a lad, who
was dressed in a man’s ragged coat and burst boots, and tucked-up
trowsers, and seemingly in a state of great want; and the other
decently enough attired in a black paletot with a flash white-and-red
handkerchief, or “fogle,” as the costermongers call it, jauntily
arranged so as to bulge over the closely-buttoned collar of his coat.
There was a priggish look about the latter lad, while his manner
was “cute,” and smacked of Petticoat-lane; and though the other one
seemed to slink back, _he_ pushed himself saucily forward, and at once
informed me that he belonged “to the profession” of street declaimer.
“I and this other boy goes out together,” he said, as he took a short
pipe from his mouth; and in proof of his assertion, he volunteered that
they should on the spot give me a specimen of their histrionic powers.

I preferred listening to the modest boy. He was an extremely
good-looking lad, and spoke in a soft voice, almost like a girl’s. He
had a bright, cheerful face, and a skin so transparent and healthy, and
altogether appeared so different from the generality of street lads,
that I felt convinced that he had not long led a wandering life, and
that there was some mystery connected with his present pursuits. He
blushed when spoken to, and his answers were nervously civil.

When I had the better-natured boy alone with me, I found that he had
been well educated; and his statement will show that he was born of
respectable parents, and the reason why he took to his present course
of life. At first he seemed to be nervous, and little inclined to talk;
but as we became better acquainted, he chatted on even faster than
my pen could follow. He had picked up several of the set phrases of
theatrical parlance, such as, “But my dream has vanished in air;” or,
“I felt that a blight was on my happiness;” and delivered his words
in a romantic tone, as though he fancied he was acting on a stage. He
volunteered to show me his declamatory powers, and selected “Othello’s
Apology.” He went to the back of the room, and after throwing his
arms about him for a few seconds, and looking at the ceiling as if to
inspire himself, he started off.

Whilst he had been chatting to us his voice was--as I said before--like
a girl’s; but no sooner did he deliver his, “Most potent, grave, and
reverend Signiors,” than I was surprised to hear him assume a deep
stomachic voice--a style evidently founded upon the melo-dramatic
models at minor theatres. His good-looking face, however, became
flushed and excited during the delivery of the speech, his eyes rolled
about, and he passed his hands through his hair, combing it with his
fingers till it fell wildly about his neck like a mane.

When he had finished the speech he again relapsed into his quiet ways,
and resuming his former tone of voice, seemed to think that an apology
was requisite for the wildness of his acting, for he said, “When I act
Shakspeare I cannot restrain myself,--it seems to master my very soul.”

He had some little talent as an actor, but was possessed of more
memory than knowledge of the use of words. Like other performers, he
endeavoured to make his “points” by dropping his voice to almost a
whisper when he came to the passage, “I’ faith ’twas strange, ’twas
passing strange.”

In answer to my questions he gave me the following statement:--

“I am a street reciter, that is, I go about the streets and play
Shakspeare’s tragedies, and selections from poets. The boys in the
streets call me Shakspeare. The first time they called me so I smiled
at them, and was honoured by the name, though it’s only passing! it’s
only fleet!

“I was born in Dublin, and my father was in the army, and my mother was
a lady’s nurse and midwife, and used to go out on urgent business, but
only to ladies of the higher classes. My mother died in Dublin, and my
father left the army and became a turnkey in Dublin prison. Father left
Dublin when I was about ten years of age, and went to Manchester. Then
I went into an office--a herring-store, which had agents at Yarmouth
and other fishing-ports; and there I had to do writing. Summer-time
was our busiest time, for we used to have to sit up at night waiting
for the trains to come in with the fish. I used to get 3_d._ an hour
for every hour we worked over, and 6_d._ in the morning for coffee,
and 8_s._ 6_d._ standing wages, whether I worked or played. I know all
about herrings and herring-packing, for I was two years there, and the
master was like a father to me, and would give me money many times,
Christmas-boxes, and new-years’ gifts, and such-like. I might have been
there now, and foreman by this time, in the Isle of Man, where we had a
house, only I was too foolish--going to theatres and such-like.

“You see, I used, before I went out as clerk, to go to a school in
Manchester, where the master taught recitation. We used to speak
pieces from Uwin’s ‘Elocution,’ and we had to get a piece off to
elocution, and attitude, and position; indeed, elocution may be said
to be position and attitude. We used to do ‘The Downfall of Poland,’
and ‘Lord Ullen’s Daughter,’ and ‘My name is Norval,’ and several
others--‘Rolla,’ and all them. Then we used to speak them one at a
time, and occasionally we would take different parts, such as the
‘Quarrel of Brutus,’ and ‘Cassius,’ and ‘Rolla,’ and the ‘American
Patriot,’ and such-like. I will not boast of myself, but I was
one of the best in the class, though since I have gone out in the
streets it has spoiled my voice and my inclinations, for the people
likes shouting. I have had as many as 500 persons round me in the
Walworth-road at one time, and we got 4_s._ between us; and then we
lost several halfpence, for it was night, and we could not see the
money that was thrown into the ring. We did the ‘Gipsy’s Revenge,’ and
‘Othello’s Apology.’

“Whilst I was at the herring-stores I used to be very fond of the
theatre, and I’d go there every night if I could, and I did nearly
manage to be there every evening. I’d save up my money, and if I’d
none I’d go to my master and ask him to let me have a few halfpence;
and I’ve even wanted to go to the play so much that, when I couldn’t
get any money, I’d sell my clothes to go. Master used to caution me,
and say that the theatre would ruin me, and I’m sure it has. When
my master would tell me to stop and do the books, I’d only just run
them over at night and cast them up as quickly as I could, and then
I’d run out and go to the twopenny theatre on the Victoria-bridge,
Manchester. Sometimes I used to perform there for Mr. Row, who was the
proprietor. It was what is called a travelling ‘slang,’ a booth erected
temporarily. I did William Tell’s son, and I’ve also done the ‘Bloody
Child’ in Macbeth, and go on with the witches. It was a very little
stage, but with very nice scenery, and shift-scenes and all, the same
as any other theatre. On a Saturday night he used to have as many as
six houses; start off at three o’clock, after the factory hands had
been paid off. I never had any money for acting, for though he offered
me half-a-sovereign a-week to come and take a part, yet I wouldn’t
accept of it, for I only did it for my own amusement like. They used to
call me King Dick.

“My master knew I went to the theatre to act, for he sent one of the
boys to follow me, and he went in front and saw me acting in Macbeth,
and he went and told master, because, just as the second act was over,
he came right behind the scenes and ordered me out, and told me I’d
have to get another situation if I went there any more. He took me home
and finished the books, and the next morning I told him I’d leave, for
I felt as if it was my sole ambition to get on to the stage, or even
put my foot on it; I was so enamoured of it. And it is the same now,
for I’d do anything to get engaged--it’s as if a spell was on me. Just
before I left he besought me to remain with him, and said that I was
a useful hand to him, and a good boy when I liked, and that he wanted
to make a gentleman of me. He was so fond of me that he often gave me
money himself to go to a theatre; but he said too much of it was bad.

“After I left him I went with another boy to go to sea. I forgot all
about the theatre, for it agitated my feelings when I left him, and
I wished I had been back, for I’d been with him eighteen months, and
he’d been like a father to me; but I was too ashamed to see him again.
This boy and me started for Scarborough, and he had no money, and I had
5_s._, that was all between us; but I had a black suit of clothes cost
2_l._ 10_s._, which my master had made me a present of, for excelling
the foreman in making up the books--for the foreman was 208 hands of
herrings (five herrings make a hand) short in one week; and then I took
the books the next week, and I was only four herrings short, and master
was so pleased that he bestowed upon me a present of a new suit of

“I parted with my companion for this reason. One day, after we had
been walking, we were so hungry we could eat anything, and I had been
accustomed to never being hungry, so that I was very much exhausted
from fatigue, for we had walked thirty miles that day, only eating
one piece of bread, which I got at a public-house where I gave a
recitation. We came to a farm-house at a place called Bishop Wilton,
in Yorkshire, and he went inside the door to beg for something to eat.
There was a young lady came out and talked to him and gave him some
bread, and then she saw me and had compassion on me, because I looked
respectable and was so miserable. We told her we were cousins, and had
left our fathers and mothers (for we didn’t like to say we had left our
masters), and she said, ‘Poor boys! your parents will be fretting after
you; I’d go back, if I was you.’ She gave him a large bit of bread,
and then she gave me a big bit of cold plum-pudding. My companion
wanted half my pudding besides his own bread, and I preferred to give
him part of the pudding and not have any bread; but he wouldn’t, and
struck out at me. I returned it, and then we fought, and an old woman
came out with a stick and beat us both, and said we were incorrigible
young beggars, and couldn’t be very hungry or we shouldn’t fight that
way. Then I parted from my companion, and he took the direct road to
Scarborough, and I went to York. I saw him afterwards when I returned
to Manchester. His father left him 200_l._, and he’s doing very well in
a good situation in a commercial office.

“I got bound for six years to sea to a shipowner at Scarborough, but
the mate behaved very bad to me and used me brutally. I couldn’t use
the ropes as well as he thought I might, although I learned the compass
and all the ropes very soon. The captain was a very good man, but I
daren’t tell him for fear of the mate. He used to beat me with the
rope’s end--sometimes the lead-rope--that was his usual weapon, and he
used to leave marks on me. I took the part of Hamlet, and, instead of
complaining, I thought of that part where he says,

    ‘And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
    Than fly to others that we know not of.’

That’s the best play of Shakspeare; he outdoes himself there.

“When the brig got to Scheidam, in Holland, five miles off Rotterdam,
I ran away. The vessel was a collier, and whilst they were doing the
one, two, three, and pulling up the coals, I slipped over the side and
got to shore. I walked to Rotterdam, and there I met an Irish sailor
and told him all, and he told me to apply to the British Consul and
say that I had been left ashore by a Dutch galliot, which had sailed
the day before for Jersey. The Consul put me in a boarding-house--a
splendid place, with servants to wait on you, where they gave me
everything, cigars and all, for everybody smokes there--little boys
scarce higher than the table--and cigars are only a cent each--and five
cents make a penny. I was like a gentleman then, and then they put me
in the screw steamer, the Irwell, and sent me back to Hull.

“When I got to Manchester again, I went in my sailor-clothes to see
my old master. He was very glad to see me, and asked me if I wanted
anything to eat, and sent out for ale for me, and was so glad to see
me that he gave me money. He took me back again at higher wages,
10_s._--which was 1_s._ 6_d._ over--and I stopped there eight months,
until they wrote to me from Dublin that father was very ill, and that I
was to come over directly. So I went, and was by him when he died. He
was sixty-two years of age, and left 400_l._ to my sister, which she is
to have when she comes of age. He quarrelled with me because he was a
Catholic, and I didn’t follow that persuasion, and he disowned me; but,
just before he died, he blessed me, and looked as if he wanted to say
something to me, but he couldn’t, for the breath was leaving him.

“When I returned to Manchester I found my master had taken another
servant, as he expected I should stop in Dublin, and there was no
vacancy; but he recommended me to another merchant, and there I was
put in the yard to work among the herrings, as he didn’t know my
capabilities; but, in a short time I was put in the shop as boy, and
then I was very much in favour with the master and the missus, and
the son, and he used to bring me to concerts and balls, and was very
partial to me; and I used to eat and drink with them at their own
table. I’ve been foolish, and never a friend to myself, for I ran away
from them. A lad told me that London was such a fine place, and induced
me to sell my clothes and take the train; and here I’ve been for about
eight months knocking about.

“As long as my money lasted I used to go to the theatre every
night--to the Standard, and the City-road, and the Britannia; but
when it was gone I looked then to see what I might do. At first I
tried for a situation, but they wouldn’t take me, because I couldn’t
get a recommendation in London. Then I formed a resolution of giving
recitations from Shakspeare and the other poets in public-houses, and
getting a living that way.

“I had learned a good deal of Shakspeare at school; and besides, when I
was with my master I had often bought penny copies of Shakspeare, and I
used to study it in the office, hiding it under the book I was writing
in; and, when nobody was looking, studying the speeches. I used to go
and recite before the men in the yard, and they liked it.

“The first night I went out I earned 4_s._, and that was a great
cheer to my spirits. It was at a public-house in Fashion-street. I
went into the tap-room and asked the gentlemen if they would wish
to hear a recitation from Shakspeare, and they said, ‘Proceed.’ The
first part I gave them was from Richard the Third: ‘Now is the winter
of our discontent;’ and then they clapped me and made me do it over
again. Then I performed Hamlet’s ‘Soliloquy on the Immortality of the
Soul,’ and they threw down 2_s._ in coppers, and one gentleman gave me

“I’ve continued giving recitations from Shakspeare and selections from
the poets ever since, and done very well, until I became ill with a
cold, which made my voice bad, so that I was unable to speak. I’ve been
ill now a fortnight, and I went out last night for the first time,
along with another young fellow who recites, and we got 1_s._ 6_d._
between us in the ‘Gipsy’s Revenge.’ We went to a public-house where
they were having ‘a lead,’ that is a collection for a friend who is
ill, and the company throw down what they can for a subscription, and
they have in a fiddle and make it social. But it was not a good ‘lead,’
and poorly attended, so we did not make much out of the company.

“When I go out to recite, I generally go with another boy, and we take
parts. The pieces that draw best with the public are, ‘The Gipsy’s
Revenge,’ ‘The Gold Digger’s Revenge,’ ‘The Miser,’ ‘The Robber,’ ‘The
Felon,’ and ‘The Highwayman.’ We take parts in these, and he always
performs the villain, and I take the noble characters. He always dies,
because he can do a splendid back-fall, and he looks so wicked when
he’s got the moustaches on. I generally draws the company by giving
two or three recitations, and then we perform a piece; and whilst he
goes round with the hat, I recite again. My favourite recitations are,
‘Othello’s Apology,’ beginning with ‘Most potent, grave, and reverend
Signiors,’ and those from Hamlet, Richard III., and Macbeth. Of the
recitations I think the people prefer that from Othello, for the ladies
have often asked me to give them that from Othello (they like to hear
about Desdemona), but the gentlemen ask for that from Hamlet, ‘To be,
or not to be?’

“My principal place for giving performances is the Commercial-road,
near Limehouse, but the most theatrically inclined neighbourhood is the
Walworth-road. The most money I ever took at one time in the streets
was 4_s._ in the Walworth-road.

“The best receipts I ever had was got in a public-house near
Brick-lane, for I took 12_s._, and I was alone. There was a ‘lead’ up
there for a friend, and I knew of it, and I had my hair curled and got
myself decently habited, I was there for about three or four hours, and
in the intervals between the dances I used to recite. There were girls
there, and they took my part, though they made me drink so much I was
nearly tipsy.

“The only theatrical costume I put on is moustachios, and I take a
stick to use as a sword. I put myself into attitudes, and look as
fierce as I can. When first the people came to hear me they laughed,
and then they became quiet; and sometimes you could hear a pin drop.

“When I am at work regularly--that’s when I am in voice and will--I
make about 10_s._ a-week, if there’s not much rain. If it’s wet, people
don’t go to the public-houses, and they are my best paying audiences.
The least I have ever taken in a week is about 6_s._

“There isn’t many going about London reciting. It is a very rare class
to be found; I only know about four who live that way, and I have heard
of the others from hearsay--not that I have seen them myself.

“I’m very fond of music, and know most of the opera. That organ’s
playing something by Verdi; I heard it at the theatre at Dublin. I
amuse them sometimes in the kitchen at my lodgings by playing on a
penny tin whistle. I can do ‘Still, so gently,’ from ‘La Sonnambula,’
and hornpipes, and jigs, and Scotch airs, as well as ‘Cheer boys,
cheer,’ and ‘To the West,’ and many others. They get me to play when
they want to dance, and they pay me for them. They call me Shakspeare
by name.”


An intelligent man gave me the following account of his experience as
a blind reader. He was poorly dressed, but clean, and had not a vulgar

“My father died when I was ten years old, and my mother in the
coronation year, 1838. I am now in my thirty-eighth year. I was a
clerk in various offices. I was not born blind, but lost my sight
four years ago, in consequence of aneurism. I was a fortnight in the
Ophthalmic Hospital, and was an out-patient for three months. I am
a married man, with one child, and we did as well as we could, but
that was very badly, until every bit of furniture (and I had a house
full of good furniture up to that time) went. At last I thought I
might earn a little by reading in the street. The Society for the
Indigent Blind gave me the Gospel of St. John, after Mr. Freer’s
system, the price being 8_s._; and a brother-in-law supplied me with
the Gospel of St. Luke, which cost 9_s._ In Mr. Freer’s system the
regular alphabet letters are not used, but there are raised characters,
thirty-four in number, including long and short vowels; and these
characters express sounds, and a sound may comprise a short syllable.
I learned to read by this system in four lessons. I first read in
public in Mornington-crescent. For the first fortnight or three weeks
I took from 2_s._ 6_d._ to 2_s._ 9_d._ a-day--one day I took 3_s._
My receipts than fell to something less than 18_d._ a-day, and have
been gradually falling ever since. Since the 1st of January, this
year, I haven’t averaged more than 2_s._ 6_d._ a-week by my street
reading and writing. My wife earns 3_s._ or 4_s._ a-week with her
needle, slaving with a ‘sweater’ to a shirtmaker. I have never read
anywhere but in Euston-square and Mornington-crescent. On Whit-Monday
I made 2_s._ 0-1/2_d._, and that, I assure you, I reckon real good
holiday earnings; and I read until I was hoarse with it. Once I
counted at Mornington-crescent, as closely as I could, just out of
curiosity and to wile away the time, above 2000 persons, who passed
and re-passed without giving me a halfpenny. The working people are
my best friends, most decidedly. I am tired of the streets; besides,
being half-starved. There are now five or six blind men about London,
who read in the streets. We can read nothing but the Scriptures, as
‘blind printing,’--so it’s sometimes called--has only been used in
the Scriptures. I write also in the streets, as well as read. I use
Wedgwood’s manifold writer. I write verses from Scripture. There was no
teaching necessary for this. I trace the letters from my knowledge of
them when I could see. I believe I am the only blind man who writes in
the streets.”


“I am an Italian, domiciled at Genoa, and I speak very little French,
only just enough to ask for things--to get my life with, you know.
Genoa is the most rich town of Piedmont, but it is not the most jolie.
Oh no! no! no! Turin is the most beautiful, oh yes! It is a long street
of palaces. You know Turin is where the King of Sardinia, with the
long moustaches, lives. Has Monsieur been to Turin? No! Ah, it is a
great sight! Perhaps Monsieur has seen Genoa? No! Ah you have a great
pleasure to come. Genoa is very rich, but Turin is very beautiful. I
prefer Turin.

“I was a soldier in my country. Oh, not an officer. I was in the 2nd
battalion of the Bassolein, nearly the same as the Chasseurs de
Vincennes in France. It is the first regiment in Piedmont. We had a
green uniform with a roll collar, and a belt round one shoulder, and
a short rifle. We had a feather one side of our hats, which are of
felt. Ah, c’était bien joli ça! We use long bullets, Minié ones. All
the army in my country are under four brothers, who are all generals,
and Ferdinando Marmora is the commander-in-chief--the same that was in
the Crimea. Nearly all my companions in the Bassolein regiment were
from the Tyrol. Ah, they shoot well! They never miss. They always kill.
Sacré Dieu!

“I was wounded at the bataille de Pescare, against the Austrians.
We gained the battle and entered the town. The General Radetzky was
against us. He is a good general, but Ferdinando Marmora beat him.
Ferdinando was wounded by a ball in the cheek. It passed from left to
right. He has the mark now. Ah, he is a good general. I was wounded.
Pardon! I cannot say if it was a bal de canon or a bal de fusil. I was
on the ground like one dead. I fell with my leg bent behind me, because
they found me so. They tell me, that as I fell I cried, ‘My God! my
God!’ but that is not in my memory. After they had finished the battle
they took up the wounded. Perhaps I was on the ground twelve hours,
but I do not know exactly. I was picked up with others and taken to
the hospital, and then one day after my leg decomposed, and it was
cut directly. All the bone was fracassé, vairy beaucoup. I was in the
hospital for forty days. Ah! it was terrible. To cut the nerves was
terrible. They correspond with the head. Ah, horrible! They gave me
no chloroform. Rien! rien! No, nor any dormitore, as we call it in
Italian, you know,--something in a glass to drink and make you sleep.
Rien! rien! If I had gone into the Hôpital des Invalides, I should
have had 20 sous a-day; but I would not, and now my pension is 12 sous
a-day. I am paid that now; whether I am here or there, it is the same.
My wife receives the 12 sous whilst I am here. I shall not stop here
long. The langue is too difficult. No, I shall not learn it, because at
the house where I lodge we speak Italian, and in the streets I speak to
no one.

“I have been to France, but there the policemen were against me. They
are bêtes, the policemen français. The gentlemen and ladies all all
good. As I walked in the streets with my crutch, one would say, ‘Here,
poor fellow, are two sous;’ or, ‘Come with me and have some wine.’ They
are good hearts there. Whilst I was going to Paris I walk on my leg. I
also even now and then find good occasions for mounting in a voiture. I
say to them, ‘Monsieur, accord me the relief of a ride?’ and they say,
‘Yes, come, come.’

“In England no police interfere with me. Here it is good. If the police
say to me ‘Go on, go on,’ I say, ‘Pardon, Monsieur,’ and move away.
I never ask any body for money. I work in the streets, and do my gun
exercise, and then I leave it to the Bon Dieu to make them give me
something. I never ask.

“I have been very unfortunate. I have a tumour come under the arm where
I rest on my crutch. It is a tumour, as they call it in France, but I
do not know what it is named in English. I went to the hospital of San
Bartolommeo and they cut it for me. Then I have hurt my stomach, from
the force of calling out the differing orders of commanding, whilst I
am doing my gun exercises in the streets. I was two months in my bed
with my arm and my stomach being bad. Some days I cannot go out, I am
so ill. I cannot drink beer, it is too hot for me, and gets to my head,
and it is bad for my stomach. I eat fish: that is good for the voice
and the stomach. Now I am better, and my side does not hurt me when I
cry out my commanding orders. If I do it for a long time it is painful.

“Ah, pauvre diable! to stop two months in my bed, June, August! The
most beautiful months. It was ruin to me.

“After I have gone out for one day, I am forced to rest for the next
one. Monday I go out, because I repose on the Sunday. Then all goes
well, I am strong in my voice. But I cannot travailler two days
following. It is not my leg, that is strong. It is my stomach, and the
pains in my side from crying out my commandements. When I go out I make
about 10_s._ a-week. Yes, it comes to that. It is more than 1_s._ a-day.

“I have a cold. I go out one day when it blew from the north, and the
next day I was ill. It makes more cold here than at Genoa, but at Turin
in the winter it is more cold than here. It is terrible, terrible. A
servant brings in a jug of water, and by-and-by it has ice on its top.
I find the bourgeois and not the militaires give the most money. All
the persons who have voyagé in France and Italy will give me money--not
much, you know, but to me fortune, fortune! If I see a foreigner in the
crowd I speak to him. I know the face of an étranger tout-de-suite.
Some say to me, ‘Vous parlez Français?’ ‘Oui Monsieur.’ Others ask
me, ‘You speak Italian?’ ‘Si, Signor.’ I never, when I go through my
exercise, begin by addressing the people. If I told them I had been a
soldier in the army of Sardinia, they would not understand me. Yes,
some of the words sound the same in French and English, such as army
and soldat, but I have not the heart to beg. I have been soldier, and I
cannot take off my cap and beg. I work for what they give me. They give
me money and I give them my exercise. I sometimes have done my exercise
before a great crowd of people, and when it is done nobody will give me
money, and my heart sinks within me. I stand there honteux. One will
then in pity throw a sou, but I cannot pick it up, for I will not sell
my pride for a penny. If they hand it to me, then I take it, and am
pleased with their kindness. But I have only one leg, and to throw the
penny on the ground is cruel, for I cannot bend down, and it hurts my
pride to put such money in my pocket.

“The little children do not annoy me in the streets, because I never
do my exercise until they are at school. Between one and two I never
do my exercise, because the little children they are going to their
lessons. They never mock me in the streets, for I have been unfortunate
to lose my legs, and nobody will mock a miserable infortuné. The carts
of the butchers and the bakers, which carry the meat and the bread, and
go so fast in the streets, they frighten me when I do my exercises.
They nearly écrasé the gens. Tenez! Yesterday I go to the chemin de
fer de Birmingham, to the open space before the station, and then I do
my exercise. All the people come to their windows and collect about to
see me. I walk about like a soldier--but only on my one leg, you know,
hopping--and I do my exercise with my crutch for my gun. I stand very
steady on one leg. There was a coachman of a cab, and he continued to
drive his horse at me, and say, ‘Go on! go on!’ There was no policeman,
or he would not have dared to do it, for the policemen protect me. Le
bête! I turn upon him, and cry, ‘Bête! take care, bête!’ But he still
say, ‘Get on.’ The cheval come close to my back whilst I hop on my one
leg to avoid him. At last I was very tired, and he cried out always,
‘Get on! get on!’ So I cried out for help, and all the ladies run
out from their houses and protect me. They said, ‘Poor fellow! poor
fellow!’ and all gave me a half sou. If I had had five shillings in my
pocket, I would have gone to a journal and reported that bête, and had
the fellow exposed; but I had not five shillings, so I could not go to
a journal.

“When I do my exercise, this what I do. I first of all stand still on
one leg, in the position of a militaire, with my crutch shouldered
like a gun. That is how I accumulate the persons. Then I have to do
all. It makes me laugh, for I have to be the general, the capitaines,
the drums, the soldiers, and all. Pauvre diable! I must live. It is
curious, and makes me laugh.

“I first begin my exercises by doing the drums. I beat my hands
together, and make a noise like this--‘hum, hum! hum, hum, hum! hum,
hum! hum, hum! hu-u-u-m!’ and then the drums go away and I do them in
the distance. You see I am the drummers then. Next I become the army,
and make a noise with my foot, resembling soldiers on a march, and I
go from side to side to imitate an army marching. Then I become the
trumpeters, but instead of doing the trumpets I whistle their music,
and the sound comes nearer and nearer, and gets louder and louder,
and then gradually dies away in the distance, as if a bataillon was
marching in front of its general. I make a stamping with my foot, like
men marching past. After that I become the officiers, the capitaines
and the lieutenants, as if the general was passing before them, and my
crutch becomes my sword instead of my gun. Then I draw it from my side,
and present it with the handle pointed to my breast. Then I become
the general, and I gives this order: ‘Separate bataillons three steps
behind--un, deux, trois!’ and I instantly turn to the army again and
give three hops to the side, so that the general may walk up and down
before me and see how the soldiers are looking. Then I in turn become
the officier who gives the commands, and the soldiers who execute
them. It hurts my voice when I cry out these commands. They must be
very loud, or all the army would not hear them. I can be heard a long
way off when I call them out. I begin with ‘PORTEZ AR-R-R-MES!’ that
is, ‘Carry arms,’ in England. Then I lift my crutch up on my left side
and hold it there. Then comes ‘PRESENT AR-R-RMES!’ and then I hold
the gun--my crutch, you know--in front of me, straight up. The next
is, ‘REPOSE AR-R-RMES!’ and I put to my hip, with the barrel leaning
forwards. When I say, barrel, it’s only my crutch, you understand.
Then I shout, ‘Un, deux, trois! GROUND AR-R-RMS!’ and let the top of
my crutch slide on to the road, and I stamp with my toes to resemble
the noise. Afterwards I give the command, ‘PORTEZ AR-R-RMES!’ and then
I carry my arms again in my left hand, and slap my other hand hard
down by my right side, like a veritable soldier, and stand upright in
position. Whilst I am so I shout, ‘SEPARATE THE COLUMNS! UN, DEUX,
TR-R-ROIS!’ and instantly I hop on my one leg three times backwards,
so as to let the general once more walk down the ranks and inspect
the men. As soon as he is supposed to be near to me, I shout ‘PRÉSENT
AR-R-RMES!’ and then I hold my gun--the crutch, you comprehend--in
front of me. Then, as soon as the general is supposed to have passed,
I shout out, ‘REPOSE AR-R-RMES!’ and I let the crutch slant from the
right hip, waiting until I cry again ‘GROUND AR-R-R-RMS! UN, DEUX,
TR-R-ROIS!’ and then down slides the crutch to the ground.

“Next I do the other part of the review. I do the firing now, only, you
comprehend, I don’t fire, but only imitate it with my crutch. I call
out ‘GROUND AR-R-RMS!’ and let the top of my crutch fall to the earth.
After that I shout, ‘LOAD AR-R-RMS! UN, DEUX, TR-R-ROIS!’ and I pretend
to take a cartouche from my side, and bite off the end, and slip it
down the barrel of my crutch. Next I give the command, ‘DRAW RAMRODS!
UN, DEUX, TR-R-ROIS!’ and then I begin to ram the cartridge home to the
breech of the barrel. Afterwards I give the command, ‘COCK AR-R-RMS!’
and then I pretend to take a percussion cap from my side-pocket, and I
place it on the nipple and draw back the hammer. Afterwards I shout,
‘POINT AR-R-RMS!’ and I pretend to take aim. Next I shout, ‘RECOVER
AR-R-RMS!’ that is, to hold the gun up in the air, and not to fire.
Then I give orders, such as ‘POINT TO THE LEFT,’ or ‘Point to the
right,’ and whichever way it is, I have to twist myself round on my one
leg, and take an aim that way. Then I give myself the order to ‘FIRE!’
and I imitate it by a loud shout, and then rattling my tongue as if the
whole line was firing. As quickly as I can call out I shout, ‘RECOVER
AR-R-RMS!’ and I put up my gun before me to resist with my bayonet
any charge that may be made. Then I shout out, ‘DRAW UP THE RANKS AND
RECEIVE THE CAVALRY!’ and then I work myself along on my one foot, but
not by hopping; and there I am waiting for the enemy’s horse, and ready
to receive them. Often, after I have fired, I call out ‘CHAR-R-RGE!’
and then I hop forwards as fast as I can, as if I was rushing down upon
the enemy, like this. Ah! I was nearly charging through your window; I
only stopped in time, or I should have broken the squares in reality.
Such a victory would have cost me too dear. After I have charged the
enemy and put them to flight, then I draw myself up again, and give the
order to ‘FORM COLUMNS!’ And next I ‘CARRY AR-R-RMS,’ and then ‘PRESENT

“Oh, I have forgotten one part. I do it after the charging. When I have
returned from putting the enemy to flight, I become the general calling
his troops together. I shout, ‘AR-R-RMS ON THE SHOULDER!’ and then I
become the soldier, and let my gun rest on my shoulder, the same as
when I am marching. Then I shout, ‘MARCH!’ and I hop round on my poor
leg, for I cannot march, you comprehend, and I suppose myself to be
defiling before the general. Next comes the order ‘Halt!’ and I stop

“It does not fatigue me to hop about on one leg. It is strong as iron.
It is never fatigued. I have walked miles on it with my crutch. It only
hurts my chest to holloa out the commands, for if I do not do it with
all my force it is not heard far off. Besides, I am supposed to be
ordering an army, and you must shout out to be heard by all the men;
and although I am the only one, to be sure, still I wish to make the
audience believe I am an army.

“One day I was up where there is the Palace of the Regina, by the park,
with the trees--a very pretty spot, with a park corner, you know. I was
there, and I go by a street where the man marks the omnibus which pass,
and I go down a short street, and I come to a large place where I do
my exercises. A gentleman say to me, ‘Come, my friend,’ and I go into
his house, and he give me some bread, and some meat, and some beer,
and a shilling, and I do my exercises for him. That is the only house
where I was called to perform inside. He spoke Italian, and French, and
English, so that I not know which country he belongs to. Another day I
was doing my exercises and some little children called to their mamma,
‘Oh, look! look! come here! the soldier! the soldier!’ and the dame
said to me, ‘Come here and perform to my little boys;’ and she gave me
sixpence. Those are my fortunes, for to-day I may take two or three
shillings, and to-morrow nothing but a few miserable sous; or perhaps I
am ill in my stomach with shouting, and I cannot come out to work for
my living.

“When it is cold it makes the end of my leg, where it’s cut off, begin
to tremble, and then it almost shakes me with its shivering, and I am
forced to go home, for it is painful.

“I have been about fourteen months. They wanted 4_s._ to bring me from
Boulogne to London; but I had no money, so at the bureau office they
gave me a ticket for nothing. Then I came straight to London. When I
came to London I couldn’t speak English, and I knew no one; had no
money, and didn’t know where to lodge. That is hard--bien dur. I bought
some bread and eat it, and then in the evening I met an Italian, who
plays on the organ, you know; and he said, ‘Come with me;’ and he took
me to his lodgings, and there I found Italians and Frenchmen, and I was
happy. I began to work the next day at my exercises.

“One day I was in the quarter of the palaces, by the park, you know,
and I began my exercises. I could not speak English, and a policeman
came to me and said, ‘Go on!’ What’s that? I thought. He said, ‘Go on!’
again, and I couldn’t comprehend, and asked him, ‘Parlate Italiano?’
and he kept on saying, ‘Go on!’ This is drôle, I thought; so I said,
‘Vous parlez Français?’ and he still said, ‘Go on!’ What he meant I
couldn’t make out, for I didn’t know English, and I had only been here
a week. I thought he wanted to see my exercises, so I began, ‘Portez
ar-r-r-mes!’ and he still said, ‘Go on!’ Then I laughed, and made some
signs to follow him. Oh, I thought, it is some one else who wants to
see my exercises; and I followed him, enchanted with my good fortune.
But, alas! he took me to a police office. There I had an interpreter,
and I was told I must not do my exercises in the street. When I told
them I was a soldier in the army of the ally of England, and that I had
been wounded in battle, and lost my leg fighting for my country, they
let me go; and since the policemen are very kind to me, and always say,
‘Go on,’ with much politeness. I told the magistrate in Italian, ‘How
can England, so rich and so powerful, object to a pauvre diable like
me earning a sou, by showing the exercises of the army of its ally?’
The magistrate laughed, and so did the people, and I said, ‘Good day,’
and made my reverence and left. I have never been in a prison. Oh,
no! no! no! no! no! What harm could I do? I have not the power to be
a criminal, and I have the heart to be an honest man, and live by my

“I have travelled in the country. I went to Cheltenham and Bristol. I
walked very little of the way. I did my exercises at one place, and
then I got enough to go to another town. Ah, it is beautiful country
out there. I went to Bristol. I made 7_s._ in two days there. But I
don’t like the country. It does not suit me. I prefer London.

“I one day did my exercises by--what do you call it? where the people
go up--high, high--no, not St. Paul’s--no, by a bridge, where there is
an open space. Yes, the monument of Nelson; and then, O! what a crowd!
To the right and the left, and to the front and behind, an immense
crowd to see my exercises. I made a good deal of money that day. A
great deal. The most that I ever did.

“I make about 8_s._ a-week regularly; I make more than that some weeks,
but I often don’t go out for a week, because in the rain nobody will
come to see my exercises. Some weeks I make 15_s._, but others not
5_s._ But I must make 8_s._ to be able to pay for lodgings, and food,
and washing, and clothes, and for my shoe; for I only want one. I give
3_d._ a-day for my lodgings; but then we have a kitchen, and a fire in
it, where we go and sit. There are a great many paysans there, a great
many boys, where I lodge, and that gives me pain to see them; for they
have been brought over from their country, and here they are miserable,
and cannot speak a word of English, and are made to work for their
master, who takes the money. Oh! it’s make me much pain.

“I cannot say if there are any others who do their exercises in the
streets; but I have never seen any. I am, I think, the only stranger
who does his exercises. It was my own idea. I did it in France whilst
I was travelling; but it was only once or twice, for it was défendu to
do it; and the policemen are very severe. Ils sont bêtes, les policemen
en France. The gentlemens and ladies very good heart, and give a poor
diable des sous, or offer wine to pauvre diable qui a perdu sa jambe en
combattant pour sa patrie; mais les policemen sont bêtes. Ah, bêtes! so
bêtes I can’t tell you.”


Concerning street musicians, they are of multifarious classes. As
a general rule, they may almost be divided into the tolerable and
the intolerable performers, some of them trusting to their skill
in music for the reward for their exertions, others only making a
_noise_, so that whatever money they obtain is given them merely as an
inducement for them to depart. The well-known engraving by Hogarth,
of “the enraged musician,” is an illustration of the persecutions
inflicted in olden times by this class of street performers; and in the
illustrations by modern caricaturists we have had numerous proofs, that
up to the present time the nuisance has not abated. Indeed, many of
these people carry with them musical instruments, merely as a means of
avoiding the officers of the Mendicity Society, or in some few cases as
a signal of their coming to the persons in the neighbourhood, who are
in the habit of giving them a small weekly pension.

These are a more numerous class than any other of the street performers
I have yet dealt with. The musicians are estimated at 1000, and the
ballad singers at 250.

The street musicians are of two kinds, the skilful and the blind. The
former obtain their money by the agreeableness of their performance,
and the latter, in pity for their affliction rather than admiration
of their harmony. The blind street musicians, it must be confessed,
belong generally to the rudest class of performers. Music is not used
by them as a means of pleasing, but rather as a mode of soliciting
attention. Such individuals are known in the “profession” by the name
of “pensioners;” they have their regular rounds to make, and particular
houses at which to call on certain days of the week, and from which
they generally obtain a “small trifle.” They form, however, a most
peculiar class of individuals. They are mostly well-known characters,
and many of them have been performing in the streets of London for
many years. They are also remarkable for the religious cast of their
thoughts, and the comparative refinement of their tastes and feelings.


One of the most deserving and peculiar of the street musicians was
an old lady who played upon a hurdy-gurdy. She had been about the
streets of London for upwards of forty years, and being blind, had
had during that period four guides, and worn out three instruments.
Her cheerfulness, considering her privation and precarious mode of
life, was extraordinary. Her love of truth, and the extreme simplicity
of her nature, were almost childlike. Like the generality of blind
people, she had a deep sense of religion, and her charity for a woman
in her station of life was something marvellous; for, though living
on alms, she herself had, I was told, two or three little pensioners.
When questioned on this subject, she laughed the matter off as a jest,
though I was assured of the truth of the fact. Her attention to her
guide was most marked. If a cup of tea was given to her after her
day’s rounds, she would be sure to turn to the poor creature who led
her about, and ask, “You comfortable, Liza?” or “Is your tea to your
liking, Liza?”

When conveyed to Mr. Beard’s establishment to have her daguerreotype
taken, she for the first time in her life rode in a cab; and then her
fear at being pulled “back’ards” as she termed it (for she sat with her
back to the horse), was almost painful. She felt about for something
to lay hold of, and did not appear comfortable until she had a firm
grasp of the pocket. After her alarm had in a measure subsided, she
turned to her guide and said, “We must put up with those trials, Liza.”
In a short time, however, she began to find the ride pleasant enough.
“Very nice, ain’t it Liza?” she said; “but I shouldn’t like to ride on
them steamboats, they say they’re shocking dangerous; and as for them
railways, I’ve heard tell they’re dreadful; but these cabs, Liza, is
very nice.” On the road she was continually asking “Liza” where they
were, and wondering at the rapidity at which they travelled. “Ah!” she
said, laughing, “if I had one of these here cabs, my ‘rounds’ would
soon be over.” Whilst ascending the high flight of stairs that led to
the portrait-rooms, she laughed at every proposal made to her to rest.
“There’s twice as many stairs as these to our church, ain’t there,
Liza?” she replied when pressed. When the portrait was finished she
expressed a wish to feel it.

The following is the history of her life, as she herself related it,
answering to the variety of questions put to her on the subject:--

“I was born the 4th April, 1786 (it was Good Friday that year), at
a small chandler’s shop, facing the White Horse, Stuart’s-rents,
Drury-lane. Father was a hatter, and mother an artificial-flower
maker and feather finisher. When I was but a day old, the nurse took
me out of the warm bed and carried me to the window, to show some
people how like I was to father. The cold flew to my eyes and I caught
inflammation in them. Owing to mother being forced to be from home all
day at her work, I was put out to dry-nurse when I was three weeks old.
My eyes were then very bad, by all accounts, and some neighbours told
the woman I was with, that Turner’s cerate would do them good. She
got some and put it on my eyes, and when poor mother came to suckle
me at her dinner-hour, my eyes was all ‘a gore of blood.’ From that
time I never see afterwards. She did it, poor woman, for the best; it
was no fault of her’n, and I’m sure I bears her no malice for it. I
stayed at home with mother until I was thirteen, when I was put to the
Blind-school, but I only kept there nine months; they turned me out
because I was not clever with my hands, and I could not learn to spin
or make sash-lines; my hands was ocker’d like. I had not been used at
home to do anything for myself--not even to dress myself. Mother was
always out at her work, so she could not learn me, and no one else
would, so that’s how it was I was turned out. I then went back to my
mother, and kept with her till her death. I well remember that; I heard
her last. When she died I was just sixteen year old. I was sent to the
Union--‘Pancridge’ Union it was--and father with me (for he was ill
at the time). He died too, and left me, in seven weeks after mother.
When they was both gone, I felt I had lost my only friends, and that
I was all alone in the world and blind. But, take it altogether, the
world has been very good to me, and I have much to thank God for and
the good woman I am with. I missed mother the most, she was so kind to
me; there was no one like her; no, not even father. I was kept in the
Union until I was twenty; the parish paid for my learning the ‘cymbal:’
God bless them for it, I say. A poor woman in the workhouse first asked
me to learn music; she said it would always be a bit of bread for me;
I did as she told me, and I thank her to this day for it. It took me
just five months to learn the--cymbal, if you please--the hurdy-gurdy
ain’t it’s right name. The first tune I ever played was ‘God save the
King,’ the Queen as is now; then ‘Harlequin Hamlet,’ that took me a
long time to get off; it was three weeks before they put me on a new
one. I then learnt ‘Moll Brook;’ then I did the ‘Turnpike-gate’ and
‘Patrick’s day in the morning:’ all of them I learnt in the Union. I
got a poor man to teach me the ‘New-rigged ship.’ I soon learnt it,
because it was an easy tune. Two-and-forty years ago I played ‘The Gal
_I_ left behind me.’ A woman learnt it me; she played my cymbal and I
listened, and so got it. ‘Oh, Susannah!’ I learnt myself by hearing it
on the horgan. I always try and listen to a new tune when I am in the
street, and get it off if I can: it’s my bread. I waited to hear one
to-day, quite a new one, but I didn’t like it, so I went on. ‘Hasten
to the Wedding’ is my favourite; I played it years ago, and play it
still. I like ‘Where have you been all the night?’ it’s a Scotch tune.
The woman as persuaded me to learn the cymbal took me out of the Union
with her; I lived with her, and she led me about the streets. When she
died I took her daughter for my guide. She walked with me for more than
five-and-twenty year, and she might have been with me to this day,
but she took to drinking and killed herself with it. She behaved very
bad to me at last, for as soon as we got a few halfpence she used to
go into the public and spend it all; and many a time I’m sure she’s
been too tipsy to take me home. One night I remember she rolled into
the road at Kensington, and as near pulled me with her. We was both
locked up in the station-house, for she couldn’t stand for liquor, and
I was obligated to wait till she could lead me home. It was very cruel
of her to treat me so, but, poor creature, she’s gone, and I forgive
her I’m sure. I’d many guides arter her, but none of them was honest
like Liza is: I don’t think she’d rob me of a farden. Would you, Liza?
Yes, I’ve my reg’lar rounds, and I’ve kept to ’em for near upon fifty
year. All the children like to hear me coming along, for I always plays
my cymbal as I goes. At Kentish-town they calls me Mrs. Tuesday, and
at Kensington I’m Mrs. Friday, and so on. At some places they likes
polkas, but at one house I plays at in Kensington they always ask me
for ‘Haste to the Wedding.’ No, the cymbal isn’t very hard to play; the
only thing is, you must be very particular that the works is covered
up, or the halfpence is apt to drop in. King David, they say, played on
one of those here instruments. We’re very tired by night-time; ain’t
we, Liza? but when I gets home the good woman I lodges with has always
a bit of something for me to eat with my cup of tea. She’s a good soul,
and keeps me tidy and clean. I helps her all I can; when I come in, I
carries her a pail of water up-stairs, and such-like. Many ladies as
has known me since they was children allows me a trifle. One maiden
lady near Brunswick-square has given me sixpence a week for many a
year, and another allows me eighteenpence a fortnight; so that, one way
and another, I am very comfortable, and I’ve much to be thankful for.”

It was during one of old Sarah’s journeys that an accident occurred,
which ultimately deprived London of the well-known old hurdy-gurdy
woman. In crossing Seymour-street, she and her guide Liza were knocked
down by a cab, as it suddenly turned a corner. They were picked up
and placed in the vehicle (the poor guide dead, and Sarah with her
limbs broken), and carried to the University Hospital. Old Sarah’s
description of that ride is more terrible and tragic than I can hope
to make out to you. The poor blind creature was ignorant of the fate
of her guide, she afterwards told us, and kept begging and praying to
Liza to speak to her as the vehicle conveyed them to the asylum. She
shook her, she said, and intreated her to say if she was hurt, but not
a word was spoken in answer, and then she felt how terrible a privation
was her blindness; and it was not until they reached the hospital,
and they were lifted from the cab, that she knew, as she heard the
people whisper to one another, that her faithful attendant was dead.
In telling us this, the good old soul forgot her own sufferings for
the time, as she lay with both her legs broken beneath the hooped
bed-clothes of the hospital bed; and when, after many long weeks, she
left the medical asylum, she was unable to continue her playing on
the hurdy-gurdy, her hand being now needed for the crutch that was
requisite to bear her on her rounds.


[_From a Daguerreotype by_ BEARD.]]

The shock, however, had been too much for the poor old creature’s
feeble nature to rally against, and though she continued to hobble
round to the houses of the kind people who had for years allowed
her a few pence per week, and went limping along musicless through the
streets for some months after she left the hospital, yet her little
remaining strength at length failed her, and she took to her bed in a
room in Bell-court, Gray’s-inn-lane, never to rise from it again.


A quiet-looking man, half-blind, and wrapped in a large, old, faded
black-cotton great-coat, made the following statement, having first
given me some specimens of his art:--

“I imitate all the animals of the farm-yard on my fiddle: I imitate
the bull, the calf, the dog, the cock, the hen when she’s laid an egg,
the peacock, and the ass. I have done this in the streets for nearly
twelve years. I was brought up as a musician at my own desire. When
a young man (I am now 53) I used to go out to play at parties, doing
middling until my sight failed me; I then did the farm-yard on the
fiddle for a living. Though I had never heard of such a thing before,
by constant practice I made myself perfect. I studied from nature, I
never was in a farm-yard in my life, but I went and listened to the
poultry, anywhere in town that I could meet with them, and I then
imitated them on my instrument. The Smithfield cattle gave me the study
for the bull and the calf. My peacock I got at the Belvidere-gardens
in Islington. The ass is common, and so is the dog; and them I studied
anywhere. It took me a month, not more, if so much, to acquire what I
thought a sufficient skill in my undertaking, and then I started it
in the streets. It was liked the very first time I tried it. I never
say what animal I am going to give; I leave that to the judgment of
the listeners. They could always tell what it was. I could make 12_s._
a-week the year through. I play it in public-houses as well as in the
streets. My pitches are all over London, and I don’t know that one
is better than another. Working-people are my best friends. Thursday
and Friday are my worst days; Monday and Saturday my best, when I
reckon 2_s._ 6_d._ a handsome taking. I am the only man who does the


A hale-looking blind man, with a cheerful look, poorly but not
squalidly dressed, gave me the subjoined narrative. He was led by a
strong, healthy-looking lad of 15, his stepson:--

“I have been blind since within a month of my birth,” he said, “and
have been 23 years a street performer. My parents were poor, but they
managed to have me taught music. I am 55 years old. I was one of a
street-band in my youth, and could make my 15_s._ a-week at it. I
didn’t like the band, for if you are steady yourself you can’t get
others to be steady, and so no good can be done. I next started a piano
in the streets; that was 23 years ago. I bought a chaise big enough
for an invalid, and having had the body removed, my piano was fitted
on the springs and the axle-tree. I carried a seat, and could play
the instrument either sitting or standing, and so I travelled through
London with it. It did pretty well; in the summer I took never less
than 20_s._, and I have taken 40_s._ on rare occasions, in a week;
but the small takings in the winter would reduce my yearly average to
15_s._ a-week at the utmost. I played the piano, more or less, until
within these three or four years. I started the bells that I play now,
as near as I can recollect, some 18 years ago. When I first played
them, I had my 14 bells arranged on a rail, and tapped them with my
two leather hammers held in my hands in the usual way. I thought next
I could introduce some novelty into the performance. The novelty I
speak of was to play the violin with the bells. I had hammers fixed on
a rail, so as each bell had its particular hammer; these hammers were
connected with cords to a pedal acting with a spring to bring itself
up, and so, by playing the pedal with my feet, I had full command of
the bells, and made them accompany the violin, so that I could give
any tune almost with the power of a band. It was always my delight in
my leisure moments, and is a good deal so still, to study improvements
such as I have described. The bells and violin together brought me
in about the same as the piano. I played the violoncello with my
feet also, on a plan of my own, and the violin in my hand. I had the
violoncello on a frame on the ground, so arranged that I could move the
bow with my foot in harmony with the violin in my hand. The last thing
I have introduced is the playing four accordions with my feet. The
accordions are fixed in a frame, and I make them accompany the violin.
Of all my plans, the piano, and the bells and violin, did the best, and
are the best still for a standard. I can only average 12_s._ a-week,
take the year through, which is very little for two.”


I had the following narrative from a stout blind woman, with a very
grave and even meditative look, fifty-six years old, dressed in a clean
cotton gown, the pattern of which was almost washed out. She was led
by a very fine dog (a Scotch colley, she described it), a chain being
affixed to the dog’s leather collar. A boy, poor and destitute, she
said, barefooted, and wearing a greasy ragged jacket, with his bare
skin showing through the many rents, accompanied her when I saw her.
The boy had been with her a month, she supporting him. She said:--

“I have been blind twelve years. I was a servant in my youth, and
in 1824 married a journeyman cabinet-maker. I went blind from an
inflammation two years before my husband died. We had five children,
all dead now--the last died six years ago; and at my husband’s death I
was left almost destitute. I used to sell a few laces in the street,
but couldn’t clear 2_s._ 6_d._ a-week by it. I had a little help from
the parish, but very rarely; and at last I could get nothing but an
order for the house. A neighbour--a tradesman--then taught me at his
leisure to play the violin, but I’m not a great performer. I wish I
was. I began to play in the streets five years ago. I get halfpennies
in charity, not for my music. Some days I pick up 2_s._, some days only
6_d._, and on wet days nothing. I’ve often had to pledge my fiddle for
2_s._--I could never get more on it, and sometimes not that. When my
fiddle was in pledge, I used to sell matches and laces in the streets,
and have had to borrow 1-1/2_d._ to lay in a stock. I’ve sometimes
taken 4_d._ in eight hours. My chief places, when I’ve only the dog to
lead me, are Regent-street and Portland-place; and, really, people are
very kind and careful in guiding and directing me,--even the cabmen!
may God bless them!”


A stout, hale-looking blind man, dressed very decently in coloured
clothes, and scrupulously clean, gave me the following details:--

“I am one of the three blind Scotchmen who go about the streets
in company, playing the violoncello, clarionet, and flute. We are
really Highlanders, and can all speak Gaelic; but a good many London
Highlanders are Irish. I have been thirty years in the streets of
London; one of my mates has been forty years,--he’s sixty-nine;--the
other has been thirty years. I became partially blind, through an
inflammation, when I was fourteen, and was stone-blind when I was
twenty-two. Before I was totally blind I came to London, travelling
up with the help of my bagpipes, guided by a little boy. I settled in
London, finding it a big place, where a man could do well at that time,
and I took a turn every now and then into the country. I could make
14_s._ a-week, winter and summer through, thirty years ago, by playing
in the streets; now I can’t make 6_s._ a-week, take winter and summer.
I met my two mates, who are both blind men,--both came to England for
the same reason as I did,--in my journeyings in London; and at last we
agreed to go together,--that’s twenty years ago. We’ve been together,
on and off, ever since. Sometimes, one of us will take a turn around
the coast of Kent, and another round the coast of Devon; and then join
again in London, or meet by accident. We have always agreed very well,
and never fought. We,--I mean the street-blind,--tried to maintain a
burying and sick-club of our own; but we were always too poor. We live
in rooms. I don’t know one blind musician who lives in a lodging-house.
I myself know a dozen blind men, now performing in the streets of
London; these are not all exactly blind, but about as bad; the most
are stone-blind. The blind musicians are chiefly married men. I don’t
know one who lives with a woman unmarried. The loss of sight changes a
man. He doesn’t think of women, and women don’t think of him. We are
of a religious turn, too, generally. I am a Roman Catholic; but the
other Scotch blind men here are Presbyterians. The Scotch in London
are our good friends, because they give us a little sum altogether,
perhaps; but the English working-people are our main support: it is
by them we live, and I always found them kind and liberal,--the most
liberal in the world as I know. Through Marylebone is our best round,
and Saturday night our best time. We play all three together. ‘Johnny
Cope’ is our best-liked tune. I think the blind Scotchmen don’t come
to play in London now. I can remember many blind Scotch musicians, or
pipers, in London: they are all dead now! The trade’s dead too,--it is
so! When we thought of forming the blind club, there was never more
than a dozen members. These were two basket-makers, one mat-maker,
four violin-players, myself, and my two mates; which was the number
when it dropped for want of funds; that’s now fifteen years ago. We
were to pay 1_s._ a-month; and sick members were to have 5_s._ a-week,
when they’d paid two years. Our other rules were the same as other
clubs, I believe. The blind musicians now in London are we three;
C----, a Jew, who plays the violin; R----, an Englishman, who plays the
violin elegantly; W----, a harp player; T----, violin again; H----,
violin (but he plays more in public-houses); R----, the flute; M----,
bagpipes; C----, bagpipes; K----, violin: that’s all I know myself.
There’s a good many blind who play at the sailors’ dances, Wapping
and Deptford way. We seldom hire children to lead us in the streets;
we have plenty of our own, generally--I have five! Our wives are
generally women who have their eyesight; but some blind men,--I know
one couple,--marry blind women.”


Of the Irish Pipers, a well-dressed, middle-aged man, of good
appearance, wearing large green spectacles, led by a young girl, his
daughter, gave me the following account:--

“I was eleven years old when I lost my sight from cold, and I was
brought up to the musical profession, and practised it several years
in Ireland, of which country I am a native. I was a man of private
property,--small property--and only played occasionally at the
gentle-people’s places; and then more as a guest--yes, more indeed
than professionally. In 1838 I married, and began to give concerts
regularly; I was the performer, and played only on the union pipes
at my concerts. I’m acknowledged to be the best performer in the
world, even by my own craft,--excuse what seems self-praise. The union
pipes are the old Irish pipes improved. In former times there was no
chromatic scale; now we have eight keys to the chanter, which produce
the chromatic scale as on the flute, and so the pipes are improved in
the melody, and more particularly in the harmony. We have had fine
performers of old. I may mention Caroll O’Daly, who flourished in the
15th century, and was the composer of the air that the Scotch want to
steal from us, ‘Robin Adair,’ which is ‘Alleen ma ruen,’ or ‘Ellen, my
dear.’ My concerts in Ireland answered very well indeed, but the famine
reduced me so much that I was fain to get to England with my family,
wife and four children; and in this visit I have been disappointed,
completely so. Now I’m reduced to play in the streets, and make very
little by it. I may average 15_s._ in the week in summer, and not half
that in winter. There are many of my countrymen now in England playing
the pipes, but I don’t know one respectable enough to associate with;
so I keep to myself, and so I cannot tell how many there are.”


Concerning these, a respectable man gave me the following details:--

“I was brought up to the musical profession, and have been a
street-performer 22 years, and I’m now only 26. I sang and played the
guitar in the streets with my mother when I was four years old. We
were greatly patronised by the nobility at that time. It was a good
business when I was a child. A younger brother and I would go out
into the streets for a few hours of an evening, from five to eight,
and make 7_s._ or 8_s._ the two of us. Ours was, and is, the highest
class of street music. For the last ten years I have been a member of
a street band. Our band is now four in number. I have been in bands
of eight, and in some composed of as many as 25; but a small band
answers best for regularity. With eight in the band it’s not easy to
get 3_s._ a-piece on a fine day, and play all day, too. I consider that
there are 1000 musicians now performing in the streets of London; and
as very few play singly, 1000 performers, not reckoning persons who
play with niggers or such-like, will give not quite 250 street bands.
Four in number is a fair average for a street band; but I think the
greater number of bands have more than four in them. All the better
sort of these bands play at concerts, balls, parties, processions,
and water excursions, as well as in the streets. The class of men
in the street bands is, very generally, those who can’t read music,
but play by ear; and their being unable to read music prevents their
obtaining employment in theatres, or places where a musical education
is necessary; and yet numbers of street musicians (playing by ear)
are better instrumentalists than many educated musicians in the
theatres. I only know a few who have left other businesses to become
musicians. The great majority--19-20ths of us, I should say--have been
brought regularly up to be street-performers. Children now are taught
very early, and seldom leave the profession for any other business.
Every year the street musicians increase. The better sort are, I
think, prudent men, and struggle hard for a decent living. All the
street-performers of wind instruments are short-lived. Wind performers
drink more, too, than the others. They must have their mouths wet,
and they need some stimulant or restorative after blowing an hour in
the streets. There are now twice as many wind as stringed instruments
played in the streets; fifteen or sixteen years ago there used to be
more stringed instruments. Within that time new wind instruments have
been used in the streets. Cornopeans, or cornet-à-pistons, came into
vogue about fourteen years ago; opheicleides about ten years ago (I’m
speaking of the streets); and saxhorns about two years since. The
cornopean has now quite superseded the bugle. The worst part of the
street performers, in point of character, are those who play before
or in public-houses. They drink a great deal, but I never heard of
them being charged with dishonesty. In fact, I believe there’s no
honester set of men breathing than street musicians. The better class
of musicians are nearly all married men, and they generally dislike
to teach their wives music; indeed, in my band, and in similar bands,
we wouldn’t employ a man who was teaching his wife music, that she
might play in the streets, and so be exposed to every insult and every
temptation, if she’s young and pretty. Many of the musicians’ wives
have to work very hard with their needles for the slop-shops, and earn
very little in such employ; 3_s._ a-week is reckoned good earnings, but
it all helps. The German bands injure our trade much. They’ll play for
half what we ask. They are very mean, feed dirtily, and the best band
of them, whom I met at Dover, I know slept three in a bed in a common
lodging-house, one of the very lowest. They now block us out of all the
country places to which we used to go in the summer. The German bands
have now possession of the whole coast of Kent and Sussex, and wherever
there are watering-places. I don’t know anything about their morals,
excepting that they don’t drink. An English street-performer in a good
and respectable band will now average 25_s._ a-week the year through.
Fifteen years ago he could have made 3_l._ a-week. Inferior performers
make from 12_s._ to 15_s._ a-week. I consider Regent-street and such
places our best pitches. Our principal patrons in the parties’ line are
tradesmen and professional men, such as attorneys: 10_s._ a-night is
our regular charge.”


Next come the German Bands. I had the following statement from a
young flaxen-haired and fresh-coloured German, who spoke English very

“I am German, and have been six year in zis country. I was nearly
fourteen when I come. I come from Oberfeld, eighteen miles from
Hanover. I come because I would like to see how it was here. I heard
zat London was a goot place for foreign music. London is as goot a
place as I expect to find him. There was other six come over with me,
boys and men. We come to Hull, and play in ze country about half a
year; we do middling. And zen we come to London. I didn’t make money
at first when I come, I had much to learn; but ze band, oh! it did
well. We was seven. I play ze clarionet, and so did two others; two
play French horns, one ze trambone, and one ze saxhorn. Sometime we
make 7_s._ or 8_s._ a-piece in a-day now, but the business is not so
goot. I reckon 6_s._ a-day is goot now. We never play at fairs, nor
for caravans. We play at private parties or public ball-rooms, and are
paid so much a dance--sixpence a dance for ze seven of us. If zare is
many dances, it is goot; if not, it is bad. We play sheaper zan ze
English, and we don’t spent so much. Ze English players insult us, but
we don’t care about that. Zey abuse us for playing sheap. I don’t know
what zair terms for dances are. I have saved money in zis country, but
very little of it. I want to save enough to take me back to Hanover.
We all live togeder, ze seven of us. We have three rooms to sleep
in, and one to eat in. We are all single men, but one; and his wife,
a German woman, lives wis us, and cooks for us. She and her husband
have a bedroom to themselves. Anysing does for us to eat. We all join
in housekeeping and lodging, and pay alike. Our lodging costs 2_s._
a-week each, our board costs us about 15_s._ a-week each; sometime
rather less. But zat include beer; and ze London beer is very goot, and
sometime we drink a goot deal of it. We drink very little gin, but we
live very well, and have goot meals every day. We play in ze streets,
and I zink most places are alike to us. Ladies and gentlemen are our
best friends; ze working people give us very little. We play opera
tunes chiefly. We don’t associate with any Englishmen. Zare are three
public-houses kept by Germans, where we Germans meet. Sugar-bakers and
other trades are of ze number. There are now five German brass-bands,
with thirty-seven performers in zem, reckoning our own, in London.
Our band lives near Whitechapel. I sink zare is one or two more German
bands in ze country. I sink my countrymen, some of them, save money;
but I have not saved much yet.”


A well-looking young man, dressed in full Highland costume, with modest
manners and of slow speech, as if translating his words from the Gaelic
before he uttered them, gave me these details:--

“I am a native of Inverness, and a Grant. My father was a soldier, and
a player in the 42nd. In my youth I was shepherd in the hills, until my
father was unable to support me any longer. He had 9_d._ a-day pension
for seventeen years’ service, and had been thrice wounded. He taught me
and my brither the pipes; he was too poor to have us taught any trade,
so we started on our own accounts. We travelled up to London, had only
our pipes to depend upon. We came in full Highland dress. The tartan is
cheap there, and we mak it up oursels. My dress as I sit here, without
my pipes, would cost about 4_l._ in London. Our mithers spin the tartan
in Inverness-shire, and the dress comes to maybe 30_s._, and is better
than the London. My pipes cost me three guineas new. It’s between five
and six years since I first came to London, and I was twenty-four last
November. When I started, I thought of making a fortune in London;
there was such great talk of it in Inverness-shire, as a fine place
with plenty of money; but when I came I found the difference. I was
rather a novelty at first, and did pretty well. I could make 1_l._
a-week then, but now I can’t make 2_s._ a-day, not even in summer.
There are so many Irishmen going about London, and dressed as Scotch
Highlanders, that I really think I could do better as a piper even in
Scotland. A Scotch family will sometimes give me a shilling or two when
they find out I am a Scotchman. Chelsea is my best place, where there
are many Scotchmen. There are now only five real Scotch Highlanders
playing the bagpipes in the streets of London, and seven or eight
Irishmen that I know of. The Irishmen do better than I do, because they
have more face. We have our own rooms. I pay 4_s._ a-week for an empty
room, and have my ain furniture. We are all married men, and have no
connexion with any other street musicians. ‘Tullochgorum,’ ‘Moneymusk,’
‘The Campbells are comin’,’ and ‘Lord Macdonald’s Reel,’ are among the
performances best liked in London. I’m very seldom insulted in the
streets, and then mostly by being called an Irishman, which I don’t
like; but I pass it off just as well as I can.”


“I was full corporal in the 93rd Southern Highlanders, and I can get
the best of characters from my commanding officers. If I couldn’t get
a good character I wouldn’t be orderly to the colonel; and wherever he
and the lady went, I was sure to be with them. Although I used to wear
the colonel’s livery, yet I had the full corporal’s stripes on my coat.
I was first orderly to Colonel Sparkes of the 93rd. He belonged to
Dublin, and he was the best colonel that ever belonged to a regiment.
After he died I was orderly to Colonel Aynsley. This shows I must
have been a good man, and have a good character. Colonel Aynsley was
a good friend to me, and he always gave me my clothes, like his other
private servants. The orderly’s post is a good one, and much sought
after, for it exempts you from regimental duty. Colonel Aynsley was a
severe man on duty, but he was a good colonel after all. If he wasn’t
to be a severe man he wouldn’t be able to discharge the post he had
to discharge. Off duty he was as kind as anybody could be. There was
no man he hated more than a dirty soldier. He wouldn’t muddle a man
for being drunk, not a quarter so much as for dirty clothing. I was
reckoned the cleanest soldier in the regiment; for if I was out in a
shower of rain, I’d polish up my brass and pipeclay my belt, to make it
look clean again. Besides, I was very supple and active, and many’s the
time Colonel Aynsley has sent me on a message, and I have been there
and back, and when I’ve met him he’s scolded me for not having gone,
for I was back so quick he thought I hadn’t started.

“Whilst I was in the regiment I was attacked with blindness; brought
on, I think, by cold. There was a deserter, that the policemen took up
and brought to our barracks at Weedon, where the 93rd was stationed in
1852. It was very wet weather, and he was brought in without a stitch
on him, in a pair of breeches and a miserable shirt--that’s all. He was
away two years, but he was always much liked. No deserters ever escape.
We made a kit up for this man in less than twenty minutes. One gave him
a kilt, another a coat, and I gave him the shoes off my feet, and then
went to the regiment stores and got me another pair. Soldiers always
help one another; it’s their duty to such a poor, miserable wretch as
he was.

“This deserter was tried by court-martial, and he got thirty-one days
in prison, and hard labour. He’d have had three months, only he gave
himself up. He was so weak with lying out, that the doctor wouldn’t
let him be flogged. He’d have had sixty lashes if he’d been strong.
Ah! sixty is nothing. I’ve seen one hundred and fifty given. When this
man was marched off to Warwick gaol I commanded the escort, and it
was a very severe day’s rain that day, for it kept on from six in the
morning till twelve at night. It was a twenty-one miles’ march; and
we started at six in the morning, and arrived at Warwick by four in
the afternoon. The prisoner was made to march the distance in the same
clothes as when he gave himself up. He had only a shirt and waistcoat
on his back, and that got so wet, I took off my greatcoat and gave
it to him to wear to warm him. They wouldn’t let him have the kit of
clothes made up for him by the regiment till he came out of prison.
From giving him my greatcoat I caught a severe cold. I stood up by a
public-house fire and dried my coat and kilt, and the cold flew to the
small of my back. After we had delivered our prisoner at Warwick we
walked on to Coventry--that’s ten miles more. We did thirty-one miles
that day in the rain. After we got back to barracks I was clapped in
hospital. I was there twenty-one days. The doctor told me I shouldn’t
leave it for twenty-eight days, but I left it in twenty-one, for I
didn’t like to be in that same place. My eyes got very blood-shot, and
I lost the sight of them. I was very much afraid that I’d never see a
sight with my eyes, and I was most miserable. I used to be, too, all
of a tremble with a shiver of cold. I only stopped in the regiment
for thirty-one days after I came out of hospital, and then I had my
discharge. I could just see a little. It was my own fault that I had
my discharge, for I thought I could do better to cure myself by going
to the country doctors. The men subscribed for me all the extra money
of their pay,--that’s about 4_d._ each man,--and it made me up 10_l._
When I told Colonel Aynsley of this, says he, ‘Upon my word, M‘Gregor,
I’m as proud of it as if I had 20,000_l._’ He gave me a sovereign out
of his own pocket. Besides that, I had as many kilts given me as have
lasted me up to this time. My boy is wearing the last of ’em now.

“At Oxford I went to a doctor, and he did me a deal of good; for now I
can read a book, if the thread of it isn’t too small. I can read the
Prayer-book, or Bible, or newspaper, just for four hours, and then I go

“I’ve served in India, and I was at the battles of Punjaub, 1848, and
Moultan, 1849. Sir Colin Campbell commanded us at both, and says he,
‘Now, my brave 93rd, none of your nonsense here, for it must be death
and glory here to-day;’ and then Serjeant Cameron says, ‘The men are
all right, Sir Colin, but they’re afraid you won’t be in the midst of
them;’ and says he, ‘Not in the midst of them! I’ll be here in ten
minutes.’ Sir Colin will go in anywhere; he’s as brave an officer as
any in the service. He’s the first into the fight and the last out of

“Although I had served ten years, and been in two battles, yet I was
not entitled to a pension. You must serve twenty-one years to be
entitled to 1_s._ 0-1/2_d._ I left the 93rd in 1852, and since that
time I’ve been wandering about the different parts of England and
Scotland, playing on the bagpipes. I take my daughter Maria about with
me, and she dances whilst I play to her. I leave my wife and family in
town. I’ve been in London three weeks this last time I visited it. I’ve
been here plenty of times before. I’ve done duty in Hyde-Park before
the 46th came here.

“I left the army just two years before the war broke out, and I’d
rather than twenty thousand pounds I’d been in my health to have gone
to the Crimea, for I’d have had more glory after that war than ever
any England was in. Directly I found the 93rd was going out, I went
twice to try and get back to my old regiment; but the doctor inspected
me, and said I wouldn’t be fit for service again. I was too old at the
time, and my health wasn’t good, although I could stand the cold far
better than many hundreds of them that were out there, for I never
wear no drawers, only my kilt, and that very thin, for it’s near worn.
Nothing at all gives me cold but the rain.

“The last time I was in London was in May. My daughter dances the
Highland fling and the sword-dance called ‘Killim Callam.’ That’s the
right Highland air to the dance--with two swords laid across each
other. I was a good hand at it before I got stiff. I’ve done it before
all the regiment. We’d take two swords from the officers and lay them
down when they’ve been newly ground. I’ve gone within the eighth of an
inch of them, and never cut my shoe. Can you cut your shoes? aye, and
your toes, too, if you’re not lithe. My brother was the best dancer in
the army: so the Duke of Argyle and his lady said. At one of the prize
meetings at Blair Athol, one Tom Duff, who is as good a dancer as from
this to where he is, says he, ‘There’s ne’er a man of the Macgregor
clan can dance against me to-day!’ and I, knowing my brother Tom--he
was killed at Inkermann in the 93rd--was coming, says I, ‘Don’t be
sure of that, Tom Duff, for there’s one come every inch of the road
here to-day to try it with you.’ He began, and he took an inch off his
shoes, and my brother never cut himself at all; and he won the prize.

“My little girl dances that dance. She does it pretty, but I’d be
rather doubtful about letting her come near the swords, for fear she’d
be cutting herself, though I know she could do it at a pinch, for she
can be dancing across two baccy-pipes without breaking them. When I’m
in the streets, she always does it with two baccy-pipes. She can dance
reels, too, such as the Highland fling and the reel Hoolow. They’re the
most celebrated.

“Whenever I go about the country I leave my wife and family in London,
and go off with my girl. I send them up money every week, according
to what I earn. Every farthing that I can spare I always send up. I
always, when I’m travelling, make the first part of my journey down
to Hull in Yorkshire. On my road I always stop at garrison towns, and
they always behave very well to me. If they’ve a penny they’ll give
it to me, either English, Scotch, or Irish regiments; or I’d as soon
meet the 23d Welsh Fusiliers as any, for they’ve all been out with me
on service. At Hull there is a large garrison, and I always reckon
on getting 3_s._ or 4_s._ from the barracks. When I’m travelling, it
generally comes to 15_s._ a-week, and out of that I manage to send the
wife 10_s._ and live on 5_s._ myself. I have to walk all the way, for
I wouldn’t sit on a rail or a cart for fear I should lose the little
villages off the road. I can do better in many of them than I can in
many of the large towns. I tell them I am an old soldier. I don’t go
to the cottages, but to the gentlemen’s houses. Many of the gentlemen
have been in the army, and then they soon tell whether I have been
in service. Some have asked me the stations I have been at, and who
commanded us; and then they’ll say, ‘This man is true enough, and every
word of it is truth.’

“I’ve been in Balmoral many a dozen of times. Many a time I’ve passed
by it when it was an old ruin, and fit for nothing but the ravens and
the owls. Balmoral is the fourth oldest place in Scotland. It was built
before any parts of Christianity came into the country at all. I’ve
an old book that gives an account of all the old buildings entirely,
and a very old book it is. Edinbro’ Castle is the oldest building, and
then Stirling Castle, and then Perth Castle, and then Balmoral. I’ve
been there twice since the Queen was there. If I’d see any of the old
officers that I knew at Balmoral, I’d play then, and they might give me
something. I went there more for curiosity, and I went to see the Queen
come out. She was always very fond of the 93rd. They’d fight for her in
any place, for there isn’t a man discharged after this war but they’re
provided for.

“I do pretty well in London, taking my 4_s._ a-day, but out of that
I must pay 1_s._ 9_d._ a-week lodging-money, for I can’t go into
apartments, for if I did it would be but poorly furnished, for I’ve no
beds, or furniture, or linen.

“I can live in Scotland much cheaper than here. I can give the children
a good breakfast of oatmeal-porridge every morning, and that will in
seven weeks make them as fat as seven years of tea and coffee will do
here. Besides, in Scotland, I can buy a very pretty little stand-up
bedstead for 2_s._, which here would come to 4_s._ I’m thinking of
sending my family down to Scotland, and sending them the money I earn
in London. They’ll have to walk to Hull and then take the boat. They
can get to Aberdeen from there. We shall have to work the money on the

“When I go out working with the little girl, I get out about nine in
the summer and ten in the winter. I can’t work much more than four
hours a-day on the pipes, for the blowing knocks me up and leaves me
very weak. No, it don’t hurt my chest, but I’ll be just quite weak.
That’s from my bad health. I’ve never had a day’s health ever since I
left the regiment. I have pains in my back and stitches in the side. My
girl can’t dance without my playing, so that when I give over she must
give over too. I sometimes go out with two of my daughters. Lizzy don’t
dance, only Maria. I never ax anybody for money. Anybody that don’t
like to give we never ax them.

“I can’t eat meat, for it won’t rest on my stomach, and there’s nothing
I take that goes so well with me as soup. I live principally on bread,
for coffee or tea won’t do for me at all. If I could get a bit of meat
that I like, such as a small fowl, or the like of that, it would do
with me very well; but either bacon or beef, or the like of that, is
too strong for me. I’m obliged to be very careful entirely with what
I eat, for I’m sick. A lady gave me a bottle of good old foreign port
about three months ago, and I thought it did me more good than all the
meat in the world.

“When I’m in London I make about 4_s._ a-day, and when I’m in the
country about 15_s._ a-week. My old lady couldn’t live when I travel
if it wasn’t for my boy, who goes out and gets about 1_s._ a-day.
Lord Panmure is very good to him, and gives him something whenever he
meets him. I wouldn’t get such good health if I stopped in London. Now
there’s Barnet, only eleven miles from St. Giles’s, and yet I can get
better health in London than I can there, on account of it’s being on
rising ground and fresh air coming into it every minute.

“I never be a bit bad with the cold. It never makes me bad. I’ve been
in Canada with the 93d in the winter. In the year ’43 was a very
fearful winter indeed, and we were there, and the men didn’t seem to
suffer anything from the cold, but were just as well as in any other
climate or in England. They wore the kilt and the same dress as in
summer. Some of them wore the tartan trowsers when they were not on
duty or parade, but the most of them didn’t--not one in a dozen, for
they looked upon it as like a woman. There’s nothing so good for the
cold as cold water. The men used to bathe their knees and legs in the
cold water, and it would make them ache for the time, but a minute
or two afterwards they were all right and sweating. I’ve many a time
gone into the water up to my neck in the coldest days of the year, and
then when I came out and dried myself, and put on my clothes, I’d be
sweating afterwards. There can’t be a better thing for keeping away
the rheumatism. It’s a fine thing for rheumatism and aches to rub the
part with cold frosty water or snow. It makes it leave him and knocks
the pains out of his limbs. Now, in London, when my hands are so cold
I can’t play on my pipes, I go to a pump and wash them in the frosty
water, and then dry them and rub them together, and then they’re as
warm as ever. The more a man leans to the fire the worse he is after.
It was leaning to a fire that gave me my illness.

“The chanter of the pipes I play on has been in my family very near 450
years. It’s the oldest in Scotland, and is a heir-loom in our family,
and they wouldn’t part with it for any money. Many’s a time the Museum
in Edinburgh has wanted me to give it to them, but I won’t give it to
any one till I find myself near death, and then I’ll obligate them to
keep it. Most likely my youngest son will have it, for he’s as steady
as a man. You see, the holes for the fingers is worn as big round as
sixpences, and they’re quite sharp at the edges. The ivory at the end
is the same original piece as when the pipe was made. It’s breaking
and splitting with age, and so is the stick. I’ll have my name and
the age of the stick engraved on the sole of the ivory, and then, if
my boy seems neglectful of the chanter, I’ll give it to the Museum at
Edinburgh. I’ll have German silver rings put round the stick, to keep
it together, and then, with nice waxed thread bound round it, it will
last for centuries yet.

“This chanter was made by old William McDonnall, who’s been dead these
many hundred years. He was one of the best pipe-makers that’s in all
Scotland. There’s a brother of mine has a set of drones made by him,
and he wouldn’t give them for any sit of money. Everybody in Scotland
knows William McDonnall. Ask any lad, and he’ll tell you who was the
best pipe-maker that ever lived in Scotland--aye, and ever will live.
There’s many a farmer in Scotland would give 30_l._ for a set of pipes
by old William McDonnall, sooner than they’d give 30_s._ for a set
of pipes made now. This chanter has been in our family ever since
McDonnall made it. It’s been handed down from father to son from that
day to this. They always give it to the eldest. William McDonnall
lived to be 143 years old, and this is the last chanter he made. A
gentleman in London, who makes chanters, once gave me a new one, merely
for letting him take a model of my old one, with the size of the bore
and the place for the holes. You tell a good chanter by the tone, and
some is as sweet as a piano. My old chanter has got rather too sharp
by old age, and it’s lost its tone; for when a stick gets too sharp a
sound, it’s never no good. This chanter was played by my family in the
battles of Wallace and Bruce, and at the battle of Bannockburn, and
every place whenever any of the Macgregor clan fought. These are the
traditions given from family to family. I heard it from my father, and
now I tell my lads, and they know it as well as I do myself. My great
grandfather played on this stick when Charley Stuart, the Pretender,
came over to Scotland from France, and he played on it before the
Prince himself, at Stirling and the Island of Skye, and at Preston Pans
and Culloden. It was at Preston Pans that the clans were first formed,
and could be told by their tartans--the Macgregors, and the Stuart, and
the Macbeths, and the Camerons, and all of them. I had three brothers
older than me, but I’ve got this chanter, for I begged it of them. It’s
getting too old to play on, and I’ll have a copper box made for it, and
just carry it at my side, if God is good to me, and gives me health to
live three weeks.

“About my best friends in London are the French people,--they are
the best I can meet, they come next to the Highlanders. When I meet
a Highlander he will, if he’s only just a labouring man, give me a
few coppers. A Highlander will never close his eye upon me. It’s the
Lowlander that is the worst to me. They never takes no notice of me
when I’m passing: they’ll smile and cast an eye as I pass by. Many
a time I’ll say to them when they pass, ‘Well, old chap, you don’t
like the half-naked men, I know you don’t!’ and many will say, ‘No, I
don’t!’ I never play the pipes when I go through the Lowlands,--I’d as
soon play poison to them. They never give anything. It’s the Lowlanders
that get the Scotch a bad name for being miserable, and keeping their
money, and using small provision. They’re a disgrace to their country.

“The Highlander spends his money as free as a duke. If a man in the
93rd had a shilling in his pocket, it was gone before he could turn
it twice. All the Lowlanders would like to be Highlanders if they
could, and they learn Gaelic, and then marry Highland lassies, so as
to become Highlanders. They have some clever regiments composed out of
the Lowlanders, but they have only three regiments and the Highlanders
have seven; yet there’s nearly three to one more inhabitants in the
Lowlands. It’s a strange thing, they’d sooner take an Irishman into a
Highland regiment than a Lowlander. They owe them such a spleen, they
don’t like them. Bruce was a Lowlander, and he betrayed Wallace; and
the Duke of Buccleuch, who was a Lowlander, betrayed Stuart.

“I never go playing at public-houses, for I don’t like such places. I
am not a drinker, for as much whisky as will fill a teaspoon will lay
me up for a day. If I take anything, it’s a sup of porter. I went once
into a public-house, and there was a woman drinking in it, and she was
drunk. It was the landlord told me to come inside. She told me to leave
the house, and I said the master told me to come: then she took up one
of these pewter pots and hit me in the forehead. It was very sore for
three weeks afterwards, and made a hole. I wouldn’t prosecute her.

“My little boy that goes about is fourteen years old, and he’s as
straight and well-formed as if he was made of wax-work. He’s the one
that shall have the chanter, if anybody does; but I’m rather doubtful
about it, for he’s not steady enough, and I think I’ll leave it to a

“If I had a good set of pipes, there’s not many going about the streets
could play better; but my pipes are not in good order. I’ve got three
tunes for one that the Queen’s piper plays; and I can play in a far
superior style, for he plays in the military style. McKay, the former
piper to her majesty, he was reckoned as good a player as there is
in Scotland. I knew him very well, and many and many a time I’ve
played with him. He was took bad in the head and obliged to go back to
Scotland. He is in the Isle of Skye now. I belong to Peterhead. If I
had a good set of pipes I wouldn’t be much afraid of playing with any
of the pipers.

“In the country towns I would sometimes be called into Highland
gentlemen’s houses, to play to them, but never in London.

“I make all my reeds myself to put in the stick. I make them of Spanish
cane. It’s the outer glazed bark of it. The nearer you go to the shiny
part, the harder the reed is, and the longer it lasts. In Scotland they
use the Spanish cane. I have seen a man, at one time, who made a reed
out of a piece of white thorn, and it sounded as well as ever a reed I
saw sound; but I never see a man who could make them, only one.”


“My father is a Highlander, and was born in Argyllshire, and there,
when he was 14 or 15, he enlisted for a piper into the 92nd. They wear
the national costume in that regiment--the Campbell tartan. Father
married whilst he was in Scotland. We are six in family now, and my big
brother is 17, and I’m getting on for 15--a little better than 14. We
and another brother of 10, all of us, go about the streets playing the

“Father served in India. It was after I was born (and so was my other
brother of 10) that the regiment was ordered over there. Mother came up
to England to see him off, and she has stopped in London ever since.
Father lost a leg in the Punjaub war, and now he receives a pension
of 1_s._ a-day. Mother had a very bad time of it whilst father was
away; I don’t know the reason why, but father didn’t send her any
money. All her time was taken up looking after us at home, so she
couldn’t do any work. The parish allowed her some money. She used to
go for some food every week. I can remember when we were so hard up.
We lived principally on bread and potatoes. At last mother told Jim he
had better go out in the streets and play the bagpipes, to see what
he could pick up. Father had left some pipes behind him, small ones,
what he learnt to play upon. Jim wasn’t dressed up in the Highland
costume as he is now. He did very well the first time he went out; he
took about 10_s._ or so. When mother saw that she was very pleased,
and thought she had the Bank of England tumbled into her lap. Jim
continued going out every day until father came home. After father lost
his leg he came home again. He had been absent about eighteen months.
The pipers always go into action with the regiment. When they are
going into the field they play in front of the regiment, but when the
fighting begins they go to the side. He never talks about his wound.
I never heard him talk about it beyond just what I’ve said; as to how
they go into war and play the regiment into the field. I never felt
much curiosity to ask him about it, for I’m out all day long and until
about 10 o’clock at night, and when I get home I’m too tired to talk; I
never think about asking him how he was wounded.

“When father came home from India he brought 10_l._ with him. He
didn’t get his pension not till he got his medal, and that was a good
while after--about a year after, I should say. This war they gave
the pension directly they got home, but the other war they didn’t.
Jim still continued playing in the streets. Then father made him a
Highland suit out of his old regimentals. He did better then; indeed
he one day brought home a pound, and never less than five, or nine
or ten, shillings. Next, father made me a suit, and I used to go out
with Jim and dance the fling to his bagpipes. I usen’t to take no
carpet with me, but dance in the middle of the road. I wear father’s
regimental-belt to this day, only he cut it down smaller for me.
Here’s his number at the end of it, 62, and the date, 1834--so it’s
twenty-two years old, and it’s strong and good now, only it’s been
white buff leather, and my father’s blacked it. We didn’t take much
more money going out together, but we took it quicker and got home
sooner. Besides, it was a help to mother to get rid of me. We still
took about 10_s._ a-day, but it got lesser and lesser after a time. It
was a couple of years after we come out that it got lesser. People got
stingier, or perhaps they was accustomed to see us, and was tired of
the dancing. Whilst I was doing the dancing, father, when I got home
of a night, used to teach me the bagpipes. It took me more than twelve
months to learn to play. Now I’m reckoned a middling player.

“When I could play I went out with my big brother, and we played
together; we did the tunes both together. No, I didn’t do a bass, or
anything of that; we only played louder when we was together, and so
made more noise, and so got more attention. In the day-time we walked
along the streets playing. We did better the two playing together than
when I danced. Sometimes gentlemen would tell us to come to their
houses and play to ’em. We’ve often been to General Campbell’s and
played to him, whilst he was at dinner sometimes, or sometimes after.
We had 5_s._ or half-a-sovereign, according to the time we stopped
there. There was about six or seven gentlemen like this, and we go to
their houses and play for them. We get from one shilling to five for
each visit. When we go inside and play to them it’s never less than
5_s._ They are all Scotch gentlemen that we go to see, but we have done
it for one Englishman, but he’s the only one.

“When my little brother John was old enough to go out, father made him
a Highland suit, and then he went out along with my big brother and
danced to his playing, and I went out by myself. I did pretty well, but
not so well as when I was with Jim. We neither did so well as when we
were together, but putting both our earnings together we did better,
for the two separated took more than the two joined.

“My little sister Mary has been out with me for the last month. Father
made her a suit. It’s a boy’s, and not a girl’s costume, and she goes
along with me. Whilst I play, she goes up to ladies and gentlemen
and asks for the money. They generally give her something. She never
says anything, only makes a bow and holds out her little hand. It was
father’s notion to send her out. He said, ‘She may as well go out with
one of you as be stopping at home.’ She stops out as long as I do. She
doesn’t get tired, at least she never tells me she is. I always carry
her home at night on my back. She is eight years old, and very fond of
me. I buy her cakes as we go along. We dine anywhere we can. We have
bread and cheese, and sometimes bread and meat. Besides, she’s very
often called over and given something to eat. I’ve got regular houses
where they always give me dinner. There’s one in Eaton-place where
the servants are Scotch, and at the Duke of Argyle’s, out Kensington
way, and another at York-terrace, Camden-town. It’s generally from
Scotch servants I get the food, except at the Duke’s, and he orders me
a dinner whenever I come that way. It ain’t the Lowland Scotch give
me the food, only the Highland Scotch. Highlanders don’t talk with a
drawl, only Lowlanders. I can tell a Highlander in a minute. I speak a
few words of Gaelic to him.

“So you see I never have occasion to buy my dinner, unless I’m out at
a place where I am too far to go, but I generally work up to my eating

“It’s about three years now since I’ve been out playing the pipe. Jim
and Johnny go together, and I go with Mary. Between the two we take
about 5_s._ a-day, excepting on Saturdays. I get home by ten, and have
supper and then go to bed; but Jim he sometimes doesn’t come till very
late, about one in the morning. At night we generally go down to the
Haymarket, and play before the public-houses. The ladies and gentlemen
both give us money. We pick up more at night-time than in the day. Some
of the girls then make the gentlemen give us money. They’ll say, ‘Give
the little fellow a penny.’ The highest I ever had given me at one
time was a Scotch lady at a hotel in Jermyn-street, and she gave me a
sovereign. I’ve often had half-a-crown give me in the Haymarket. It’s
always from Scotch gentlemen. English have given me a shilling, but
never more; and nearly all we take is from Scotch people. Jim says the
same thing, and I always found it so.

“I’ve had a whole mob round me listening. Some of them will ask for
this tune, and some for that. I play all Scotch tunes. ‘The Campbells
are coming’ is the chief air they like. Some ask for the ‘Loch Harbour
no more.’ That’s a sentimental air. ‘The Highland Fling,’ that is very
popular; ‘Money Musk,’ and the ‘Miss Drummond of Perth’ is another they
like very much. Another great favourite is ‘Maggie Lauder.’ That’s a
song. When I play in a gentleman’s room I don’t put the drone on, but
only play on the chanter, or what you would call the flute part of it.
I cut off the drone, by putting the finger in the tall pipe that stands
up against the shoulder, which we call the drone pipe. The wind goes
up there; and if you stop it up, it don’t sound. A bagpipes has got
five pipes--the chanter, the drone pipe, the two tenor pipes, and the
blow-stick, through which you send the wind into the bag, which is of
sheep-skin, covered with green baize. Every set of pipes is all alike.
That’s the true Highland pipe. When I’m playing in the streets I put
the drone on, and I can be heard miles off. I’ve very often had a horse
shy at me. He won’t pass me sometimes, or if they do, they shy at me.

“I get the reeds which go inside my pipes, and which make the noise,
from the Duke of Argyle’s piper. He’s a good friend to me, and very
fond of me. They’re made of thin pieces of split cane, and it’s the
wind going through them that makes them jar and give the music. Before
I play, I have to wet them. They last me six or seven months, if I take
care of them. The Duke of Argyle’s piper never grumbles when I go for
new ones. When I go to him he makes me play to him, to see how I’ve
got on with my music. He’s a splendid player, and plays from books.
I play by ear. His pipes are of ebony, and with a silver chanter or
flute-pipe. He plays every day to the Duke while he’s at dinner. My
pipes are made out of cocoa-nut wood.

“I know the Duke very well. He’s very kind to his clan. He’s Campbell
clan, and so am I. He never spoke to me; but he told the servants to
give me dinner every time I came that way. The servants told me the
Duke had promised me my dinner every time I came. When I touch my
bonnet, he always nods to me. He never gave me only a shilling once,
but always my dinner. That’s better for me.

“I wear the regular Highland costume, but I don’t wear the Campbell
plaid, only the Stuart, because it’s cheaper. My kilt ain’t a regular
one, because it’s too dear for me. In a soldier’s kilt it’s reckoned
there’s thirty-two yards; mine has only got two and a half. My philibeg
ought by rights to be of badgers’ skin, with a badger’s head on the
top, and with tassels set in brass caps; but my philibeg is only
sheep-skin. The centre is made up to look like the real one. Father
makes all our clothes. He makes the jackets, and the belts even, down
to the German silver buckles, with the slide and the tip. He cuts them
out of sheet metal. He casts our buttons, too, in pewter. They are
square ones, you see, with a Highlander on them. He makes our shoes,
too, with the little buckle in front. Mother knits the stockings. They
are mixed--red and blue mixed. I wear out about three a-year. She
makes about twelve pairs a-year for us all. We buy our tartan and our
bonnets, but make the pewter thistles at the side and the brooch which
fastens the scarf on one shoulder. A suit of clothes lasts about twelve
months, so that father has to make four suits a-year for us all; that
is for Jim, myself, Johnny, and Mary. The shoes last, with repairing,
twelve months. There’s twenty buttons on each coat. Father has always
got something to do, repairing our clothes. He’s not able to go out for
his leg, or else he’d go out himself; and he’d do well playing, for
he’s a first-rate piper, but not so good as the Duke’s.

“We go about with our bare legs, and no drawers on. I never feel cold
of my legs; only of my fingers, with playing. I never go cold in the
legs. None of the Highlanders ever wear drawers; and none but the rich
in Scotland wear stockings and shoes, so that their legs are altogether

“When I’m marching through the streets, and playing on the pipes, I
always carry my head high up in the air, and throw my legs out well.
The boys will follow for miles--some of them. The children very often
lose theirselves from following me such a way. Even when I haven’t
my pipes with me the boys will follow me in a mob. I’ve never been
ill-treated by boys, but a drunken man, often on a Saturday night,
gives me a push or a knock. You see, they’ll begin dancing around me,
and then a mob will collect, and that sets the police unto me; so I
always play a slow tune when drunken men come up, and then they can’t
dance. They’ll ask for a quick tune, and as I won’t play one, they’ll
hit me or push me about. The police never interfere unless a mob
collects, and then they are obliged, by their regulations, to interfere.

“I never carried a dirk, or a sword, or any thing of that. My brother
used to have one in his stocking; but one day he was called up into a
public house, where there was a lot of French butlers and footmen, and
they would have him to play; and when he had for some time they begun
to pull him about, and they broke his pipes and snapped the chanter in
two; so Jim pulled out his dirk, and they got frightened. They tried
to take it from him, but they couldn’t. He’s a bold fellow, and would
do anything when he’s in a passion. He’d have stuck one of the French
fellows if he could. When father heard of it he took the dirk away, for
fear Jim should get into mischief.

“When I’ve been playing the pipes for long I get very thirsty. It’s
continually blowing into the bag. I very seldom go and get any beer;
only at dinner half-a-pint. I go to a pump and have a drink of water.
At first it made me feel sick, blowing so much; but I very soon got
used to it. It always made me feel very hungry, blowing all day long; I
could eat every two or three hours. It makes your eyes very weak, from
the strain on them. When I first went out with my brother, playing, I
used to have to leave off every now and then and have a rest, for it
made my head ache. The noise doesn’t affect the hearing, nor has it
Jim: but my father’s quite deaf of the left ear, where the drones goes.
I never have the drones on, only very seldom. When I have them on I
can’t hear anything for a few seconds after I leave off playing.

“Sometimes, of wet nights, I go into public-houses and play. Some
publicans won’t let you, for the instrument is almost too loud for a
room. If there’s a Scotchman in the tap-room he’ll give me something. I
do well when there’s good company. I only go there when it rains, for
my usual stand of an evening is in the Haymarket.

“The bagpipes I play on were sent from Edinburgh. Father wrote for
them, and they cost 30_s._ They are the cheapest made. There are some
sets go as high as a 100_l._ They are mounted with gold and silver. The
Duke of Argyle’s piper must have paid 100_l._ for his, I should say,
for they are in silver. The bag is covered with velvet and silk fringe.
There’s eight notes in a long pipes. You can’t play them softly, and
they must go their own force.

“I know all those pipers who regular goes about playing the pipes in
London. There’s only four, with me and my brother--two men and us two.
Occasionally one may pass through London, but they don’t stop here more
than a day or two. I know lots of them who are travelling about the
country. There’s about twenty in all. I take about 15_s._ a-week, and
Jim does the same. That’s clear of all expenses, such as for dinner,
and so on. We sometimes take more, but it’s very odd that we seldom has
a good week both of us together. If he has a good week, most likely
I don’t. It comes, taking all the year round, to about 15_s._ a-week
each. We both of us give whatever we may earn to father. We never go
out on a Sunday. Whenever I can get home by eight o’clock I go to a
night-school, and I am getting on pretty well with my reading and
writing. Sometimes I don’t go to school for a week together. It’s
generally on the Wednesday and Thursday nights that I can get to
school, for they are the worst nights for working in the streets. Our
best nights are Saturday and Monday, and then I always take about 5_s._
Tuesday it comes to about 3_s._; but on Wednesday, and Thursday, and
Friday, it don’t come to more than 2_s._ 6_d._; that’s if I am pretty
lucky; but some nights I don’t take above 6_d._; and that’s how I put
it down at 15_s._ a-week, taking the year round. Father never says
anything if I don’t take any money home, for he knows I’ve been looking
out for it: but if he thought I’d been larking and amusing myself, most
likely he’d be savage.”


“I play on the same instrument as the Savoyards play, only, you
understand, you can have good and bad instruments; and to have a good
one you must put the price. The one I play on cost me 60 francs in
Paris. There are many more handsome, but none better. This is all that
there is of the best. The man who made it has been dead sixty years. It
is the time that makes the value of it.

“My wife plays on the violin. She is a very good player. I am her
second husband. She is an Italian by birth. She played on the violin
when she was with her first husband. He used to accompany her on the
organ, and that produced a very fine effect.

“The hurdy-gurdy is like the violin--it improves with age. My wife
told me that she once played on a very old violin, and the difference
between that and her own was curious for sound. She was playing, with
her husband accompanying her on the organ, near the château of an old
marquis; and when he heard the sound of the violin he asked them in.
Then he said, ‘Here, try my violin,’ and handed her the old violin. My
wife said that when she touched it with the bow, she cried, ‘Ah, how
fine it is!’ It was the greatest enjoyment she had known for years. You
understand, the good violins all bridge where the bridge is placed, but
the new violins sink there, and the tune is altered by it. They call
the violins that sink ‘consumptive’ ones.

“I am Dijon. The vineyard of Clos Nangent is near to Dijon. You have
heard of that wine. Oh, yes, of course you have! That clos belongs to a
young man of twenty-two, and he could sell it for 2,500,000 francs if
he liked. At Dijon the bottles sell for 7 francs.

“My mother and father did not live happily together. My father died
when I had three years, and then my mother, who had only twenty years
of age, married again, and you know how it often happens, the second
father does not love the first family of his wife. Some Savoyards
passed through our village, and I was sold to them. I was their slave
for ten years. I learnt to play the hurdy-gurdy with them. I used to
accompany an organ. I picked out note for note with the organ. When I
heard an air, too, which I liked, I used to go to my room and follow
the air from my memory upon the instrument. I went to Paris afterwards.

“You see I play on only one string in my hurdy-gurdy. Those which
the Savoyards play have several strings, and that is what makes them
drone. The hurdy-gurdy is the same as the violin in principle. You see
the wheel of wood which I turn with the handle is like its bow, for
it grates on the string, and the keys press on the string like the
fingers, and produce the notes. I used to play on a droning hurdy-gurdy
at first, but one night I went into a café at Paris, and the gentlemen
there cried out, ‘Ah! the noise!’ Then I thought to myself--I had
fifteen years--if I play on one string it will not produce so much
noise as on two. Then I removed one string, and when I went the next
night the gentlemen said, ‘Ah, that is much better!’ and that is why I
play on one string.

“I used to sing in Paris. I learnt all that of new in the style of
romances, and I accompanied myself on my hurdy-gurdy. At Paris I met
my wife. She was a widow then. I told her that I would marry her when
her mourning was over, which lasted nine months. I was not twenty
then. I went about playing at the cafés, and put by money. But when we
went to be married, the priests would not marry us unless we had our
parents’ consents. I did not know whether my mother was dead. I hunted
everywhere. As I could not find out, I lived with my wife the same as
if we had been married. I am married to her now, but my children were
all born before marriage. At last I went to the Catholic priest at
Dover, and told him my life, and that I had four children, and wished
to marry my wife, and he consented to marry us if I would get the
consent of the priest of the place where I had lived last. That was
Calais, and I wrote to the priest there, and he gave his consent, and
now my children are legitimate. By the law of France, a marriage makes
legitimate all the children born by the woman with whom you are united.
My children were present at my marriage, and that produced a very droll
effect. I have always been faithful to my wife, and she to me, though
we were not married.

“When my wife is well, she goes out with me, and plays on the violin.
It produces a very good effect. She plays the seconds. But she has so
much to do at home with the children, that she does not come out with
me much.

“My age is twenty-five, and I have voyaged for seventeen years. There
are three months since I came in England. I was at Calais and at
Boulogne, and it is there that I had the idea to come to England. Many
persons who counselled us, told us that in England we should gain a
great deal of money. That is why I came. It took three weeks before
I could get the permission to be married, and during that time I
worked at the different towns. I did pretty well at Dover; and after
that I went to Ramsgate, and I did very well there. Yes, I took a
great deal of money on the sands of a morning. I have been married a
month now--for I left Ramsgate to go to be married. At Ramsgate they
understood my playing. Unless I have educated people to play to, I do
not make much success with my instrument. I play before a public-house,
or before a cottage, and they say, ‘That’s all very well;’ but they
do not know that to make a hurdy-gurdy sound like a violin requires
great art and patience. Besides, I play airs from operas, and they do
not know the Italian music. Now if I was alone with my hurdy-gurdy, I
should only gain a few pence; but it is by my children that I do pretty

“We came to London when the season was over in the country, and now
we go everywhere in the town. I cannot speak English; but I have my
address in my pocket, if I lose myself. _Je m’elance dans la ville._
To day I went by a big park, where there is a château of the Queen.
If I lose my way, I show my written address, and they go on speaking
English, and show me the way to go. I don’t understand the English, but
I do the pointed finger; and when I get near home, then I recognise the

“My little girl will have six years next February, and the little boy
is only four years and a-half. She is a very clever little girl, and
she notices everything. Before I was married, she heard me speaking to
my wife about when we were to be married; and she’d say, constantly,
‘Ah, papa, when are you going to be married to mamma?’ We had a pudding
on our marriage-day, and she liked it so much that now she very often
says, ‘Oh, papa, I should like a pudding like that I had when you
married mamma.’ That is compromising, but she doesn’t know any better.

“It was my little girl Eugénie who taught her brother Paul to dance. He
liked it very much; but he is young yet, and heavy in his movements;
but she is graceful, and very clever. At Boulogne she was much beloved,
and the English ladies would give her packets of sugar-plums and cakes.
When they dance, they first of all polk together, and then they do
the Varsovienne together, and after that she does the Cachuca and the
Mazurka alone. I first of all taught my girl to do the Polka, for in my
time I liked the dance pretty well. As soon as the girl had learnt it,
she taught her brother. They like dancing above all, when I encourage
them, for I say, ‘Now, my children, dance well; and, above all, dance
gracefully, and then I will buy you some cakes.’ Then, if they take
a fancy to anything, if it is not too dear, I buy it for them, and
that encourages them. Besides, when she says ‘Papa, when shall we go
to France, and see my little brother who is out at nurse?’ then I
say, ‘When we have earned enough money; so you must dance well, and,
above all, gracefully, and when we have taken plenty of money we will
be off.’ That encourages them, for they like to see me take plenty
of money. The little girl accompanies the music on the castanets in
the Cachuca. It is astonishing how well she plays them. I have heard
grown-up artists in the cafés chantants, who don’t play them so well
as she does. It is wonderful in so young a child. You will say she has
learnt my style of playing on the hurdy-gurdy, and my movements; but it
is the same thing, for she is as clever to other music. Sometimes, when
she has danced, ladies come up and kiss her, and even carry her off
into their houses, and I have to wait hours for her. When she sees that
I gain money, she has much more courage. When the little girl has done
dancing with my Paul, then he, when she is dancing alone, takes the
plate and asks for money. He is very laughable, for he can already say,
‘If you please, misses.’ Sometimes the ladies begin to speak to him, he
says, ‘Yes! yes!’ three or four times, and then he runs up to me and
says, ‘Papa, that lady speaks English;’ and then I have to say, ‘No
speak English.’ But he is contented if he hears anybody speak French.
Then he runs up to me, and says, ‘Papa, papa, Monsieur speaks French.’

“My little girl has embroidered trowsers and petticoats. You won’t
believe it, but I worked all that. The ends of the trowsers, the
trimmings to her petticoats, her collars and sleeves, all I have
worked. I do it at night, when we get home. The evenings are long and
I do a little, and at the end of the week it becomes much. If I had to
buy that it would cost too much. It was my wife who taught me to do it.
She said the children must be well dressed, and we have no money to buy
these things. Then she taught me: at first it seemed droll to me, and
I was ashamed, but then I thought, I do it for my living and not for
my pleasure, it is for my business; and now I am accustomed to do it.
You would fancy, too, that the children are cold, going about in the
streets dressed as they are, but they have flannel round the body, and
then the jumping warms them. They would tell me directly if they were
cold. I always ask them.

“The day I was married a very singular circumstance happened. I had
bought my wife a new dress, and she, poor thing, sat up all night to
make it. All night! It cost me five shillings, the stuff did. I had a
very bad coat, and she kept saying, ‘I shall be gay, but you, my poor
friend, how will you look?’ My coat was very old. I said, ‘I shall do
as I am;’ but it made her sad that I had no coat to appear in style
at our marriage. Our landlord offered to lend me his coat, but he was
twice as stout as I am, and I looked worse than in my own coat. Just
as we were going to start for the church, a man came to the house with
a coat to sell--the same I have on now. The landlord sent him to me.
It is nearly new, and had not been on more than three or four times.
He asked 12_s._, and I offered 8_s._; at last he took 9_s._ My wife,
who is very religious, said, ‘It is the good God who sent that man, to
reward us for always trying to get married.’

“Since I have been here, my affairs have gone on pretty well. I have
taken some days 5_s._, others 6_s._, and even 8_s._; but then some days
rain has fallen, and on others it has been wet under foot, and I have
only taken 4_s._ My general sum is 5_s._ 6_d._ the day, or 6_s._ Every
night when I get home I give my wife what I have taken, and I say,
‘Here, my girl, is 3_s._ for to-morrow’s food,’ and then we put the
remainder on one side to save up. We pay 5_s._ a-week for our room, and
that is dear, for we are there very bad! very bad! for we sleep almost
on the boards. It is lonely for her to be by herself in the day, but
she is near her confinement, and she cannot go out.

“It makes me laugh, when I think of our first coming to this country.
She only wore linen caps, but I was obliged to buy her a bonnet. It
was a very good straw one, and cost 1_s._ It made her laugh to see
everybody wearing a bonnet.

“When I first got to London, I did not know where to go to get
lodgings. I speak Italian very well, for my wife taught me. I spoke to
an Italian at Ramsgate, and he told me to go to Woolwich, and there I
found an Italian lodging-house. There the landlord gave me a letter to
a friend in London, and I went and paid 2_s._ 6_d._ in advance, and
took the room, and when we went there to live I gave another 2_s._
6_d._, so as to pay the 5_s._ in advance. It seems strange to us to
have to pay rent in advance--but it is a custom.

“It costs me something to clothe my children. My girl has six different
skirts, all of silk, of different colours, grey, blue, red, and yellow.
They last the year. The artificial flowers on her head are arranged
by her mamma. The boots cost the most money. She has a pair every
month. Here they are 3_s._, but in France they are dearer. It is about
the same for the little boy; only as he does not work so much as his
sister, he is not dressed in so distinguished a style. He is clean, but
not so elegant, for we give the best to the girl.

“My children are very good at home. Their mother adores them, and lets
them do as they like. They are very good, indeed.

“On Sunday, they are dressed like other children. In the morning we go
to mass, and then we go and walk a little, and see London. I have, as
yet, made no friends in London. I know no French people. I have met
some, but they don’t speak to me. We confine ourselves to our family.

“When I am in the streets with good houses in them, and see anybody
looking at the windows, then if I see them listening, I play pieces
from the operas on my hurdy-gurdy. I do this between the dances.
Those who go to the opera and frequent the theatres, like to hear
distinguished music.”


A poor, feeble, half-witted looking man, with the appearance of far
greater age than he represented himself, (a common case with the very
poor), told me of his sufferings in the streets. He was wretchedly
clad, his clothes being old, patched, and greasy. He is well-known in
London, being frequently seen with a crowd of boys at his heels, who
amuse themselves in playing all kinds of tricks upon him.

“I play the harp in the streets,” he said, “and have done so for the
last two years, and should be very glad to give it up. My brother lives
with me; we’re both bachelors, and he’s so dreadful lame, he can do
nothing. He is a coach-body maker by business. I was born blind, and
was brought up to music; but my sight was restored by Dr. Ware, the old
gentleman in Bridge-street, Blackfriars, when I was nine years old, but
it’s a near sight now. I’m forty-nine in August. When I was young I
taught the harp and the pianoforte, but that very soon fell off, and I
have been teaching on or off these many years--I don’t know how many. I
had three guineas a-quarter for teaching the harp at one time, and two
guineas for the piano. My brother and I have 1_s._ and a loaf a-piece
from the parish, and the 2_s._ pays the rent. Mine’s not a bad trade
now, but it’s bad in the streets. I’ve been torn to pieces; I’m torn to
pieces every day I go out in the streets, and I would be glad to get
rid of the streets for 5_s._ a-week. The streets are full of ruffians.
The boys are ruffians. The men in the streets too are ruffians, and
encourage the boys. The police protect me as much as they can. I should
be killed every week but for them; they’re very good people. I’ve
known poor women of the town drive the boys away from me, or try to
drive them. It’s terrible persecution I suffer--terrible persecution.
The boys push me down and hurt me badly, and my harp too. They yell
and make noises so that I can’t be heard, nor my harp. The boys have
cut off my harp-strings, three of them, the other day, which cost me
6-1/2_d._ or 7_d._ I tell them it’s a shame, but I might as well speak
to the stones. I never go out that they miss me. I don’t make more than
3_s._ a-week in the streets, if I make that.”


“When I am come in this country I had nine or ten year old, so I know
the English language better than mine. At that time there was no organ
about but the old-fashioned one made in Bristol, with gold organ-pipe
in front. Then come the one with figure-dolls in front; and then next
come the piano one, made at Bristol too; and now the flute one, which
come from Paris, where they make them. He is an Italian man that make
them, and he is the only man dat can make them, because he paid for
them to the government (patented them), and now he is the only one.

“I belong to Parma,--to the small village in the duchy. My father keep
a farm, but I had three year old, I think, when he died. There was ten
of us altogeder; but one of us he was died, and one he drown in the
water. I was very poor, and I was go out begging there; and my uncle
said I should go to Paris to get my living. I was so poor I was afraid
to die, for I get nothing to eat. My uncle say, I will take one of them
to try to keep him. So I go along with him. Mother was crying when I
went away. She was very poor. I went with my uncle to Paris, and we
walk all the way. I had some white mice there, and he had a organ. I
did middling. The French people is more kind to the charity than the
English. There are not so many beggar there as in England. The first
time the Italian come over here we was took a good bit of money, but

“When I was in Paris my uncle had to go home again on business. He ask
me too if I would go with him. But I was afraid to be hungry again, for
you see I was feel hungry again, and I wouldn’t, for I got a piece of
bread in France.

“My uncle was along with another man, who was a master like, you know;
for he had a few instrument, but common thing. I don’t know if he have
some word wid my uncle, but they part. Den dis man say ‘Come to England
with me,’ and he said ‘you shall have five franc the month, and your
victual.’ We walk as far as Calais, and then we come in the boat. I was
very sick, and I thought that I die then. I say to him plenty times ‘I
wish I never come,’ for I never thought to get over.

“When we got to London, we go to a little court there, in Saffron-hill;
and I was live there in the little public-house. I go out, sometime
white mice, sometime monkey, sometime with organ--small one. I dare say
I make 10_s._ a-week for him; but he wor very kind to me, and give me
to eat what I like. He was take care of me, of course. I was very young
at dat time.

“After I was in London a-year, I go back to Paris with my master. There
I could have made my fortune, but I was so young I did not know what I
do. There was an old lady who ask me to come as her servant. My master
did not like very well to let me go. She say to me, ‘You shall not
have no hard work, only to go behind the carriage, or follow with the
umbrella.’ But I was so young I did not know my chance. I tell her I
have my parent in Italy; and she say she go to Italy all the years, and
I shall have two months to visit my mother. I did not go with this old
lady, and I lose the chance; but I had only thirteen years, and I was

“Then I come to England again, and stop here three years. Where my
master go, I was obliged to go too. Then I go to Italy, and I saw my
moder. The most part of my family never know me when I went home, for I
was grown much, and older. I stop there six weeks, and then I come back
to England with anoder man. He give me 12 franc a-month, and very kind
indeed he was. He had some broder in this country, so he take me along
wid him. There was only me and him. My other master have two beside me.

“The master of organs send to Italy for boys to come here. Suppose I
have a broder in Italy, I write to him to send me two boys, and he look
out for them. They send money for the boy to come. Sometimes he send
3_l._, sometimes 3_l._ 10_s._ or 4_l._ Then they walk, and live on
the pear or the grape, or what is cheap; and if they put by any, then
they keep what they put by. They generally tell them they shall have
12 francs a-month. But sometime they was cheap; but now they are dear,
and it is sometime a pound a-month. They’d sooner have one who have
been here before, because den they know the way to take care of the
instrument, you know.

“I stop in England two year and six month, when I come over with my
second master. He paid me like a bank, and I saved it up, and I take
it over to Italy with me. When I had a bit of money I was obliged to
send it home to my broder in Italy, for to keep him, you know. When I
go home again I had a bit of money with me. I give it to the gentleman
what support my mother and sister; but it was not enough, you know, not
three part, so I was obliged to give him a good bit more.

“Then I came back to England again, to the same master. It take about
a month to make the voyage. I was walk it all the way. I was cross
the Alps. You must to come over here. I dare say I walk thirty miles
a-day, sometime more dan that. I sleep at the public-house; but when
you not get to the public-house, then when it begins dark, then I go
to the farm-house and ask for a bit of straw to lodge. But I generally
goes to the public-house when I get one. They charge 3_d._ or 2_d._,
or sometimes 1_d._ I never play anything on the road, or take de white
mice. I never take nothing.

“After that time I have been to Italy and back three or four times;
but I never been with no master, not after the second one. I bought an
organ of my master. I think I give him 13_l._ No, sir, I not give the
money down, but so much the week, and he trust me. It was according
what I took, I paid him. I was trying to make up 1_l._ and bring him
down. It take me about eighteen months to pay him, because I was
obliged to keep me and one things and another. It was a middling organ.
It was one was a piano, you know. I take about 1_s._ 3_d._ or 1_s._
6_d._ a-day regularly with it.

“I have now an organ--a flute organ they call it--and it is my own. It
cost me 20_l._ A man make it come from France. He knows an organ-maker
in France, and he write for me, and make it come over for me. I suppose
he had a pound profit for to make it come for me; for I think it cost
less than 20_l._ in Paris.

“I have this organ this twelve months. It has worn out a little, but
not much. It is not so good as when it come from France. An organ will
wear twenty year, but some of them break. Then you must have it always
repaired and tuned. You see, the music of it must be tuned every five
or six months. Mine has never been tuned yet, the time I have it. It is
the trumpet part that get out of tune sooner. I know a man who goes out
with de big organ on the wheels, and he tune the organ for me. I go to
him, and I say, ‘My organ wants de repair;’ and he come, and he never
charge me anything. He make the base and tenor agree. He tune the first
one to the base, you know, and then the second one to the second base.
When the organ out of tune the pipe rattle.

“The organ fills with dust a good deal in the summer time, and then
you must take it all to pieces. In London they can tune and repair it.
They charge 10_s._ to clean and tune it. Sometime he have something to
do with the pipes, and then it come to more. In winter the smoke get
inside, and make it come all black. I am obliged to keep it all covered
up when I am playing.

“My organ play eight tunes. Two are from opera, one is a song, one a
waltz, one is hornpipe, one is a polka, and the other two is dancing
tunes. One is from ‘Il Lombardi,’ of Verdi. All the organs play that
piece. I have sold that music to gentlemens. They say to me, ‘What is
that you play?’ and I say, ‘From Il Lombardi.’ Then they ask me if I
have the music; and I say ‘Yes;’ and I sell it to them for 4_s._ I did
not do this with my little organ; but when I went out with a big organ
on two wheels. My little flute organ play the same piece. The other
opera piece is ‘Il Trovatore.’ I have heard ‘Il Lombardi’ in Italy.
It is very nice music; but never hear ‘Il Trovatore.’ It is very nice
music, too. It go very low. My gentlemens like it very much. I don’t
understand music at all. The other piece is English piece, which we
call the ‘Liverpool Hornpipe.’ There is two Liverpool Hornpipe. I
know one these twenty years. Then come ‘The Ratcatcher’s Daughter;’
he is a English song. It’s get a little old; but when it’s first come
out the poor people do like it, but the gentlemens they like more the
opera, you know. After that is what you call ‘Minnie,’ another English
song. He is middling popular. He is not one of the new tune, but they
do like it. The next one is a Scotch contre-danse. It is good tunes,
but I don’t know the name of it. The next one is, I think, a polka;
but I think he’s made from part of ‘Scotische.’ There is two or three
tunes belongs to the ‘Scotische.’ The next one is, I think, a valtz of
Vienna. I don’t know which one, but I say to the organ-man, ‘I want a
valtz of Vienna;’ and he say, ‘Which one? because there is plenty of
valtz of Vienna.’ Of course, there is nine of them. After the opera
music, the valtz and the polka is the best music in the organ.

“For doing a barrel of eight tune it come very near 14_l._, one thing
and another. You can have a fresh tune put into an old barrel. But then
he charge 10_s._ He’s more trouble than to put only one. I have my
tune changed once a-year. You see most of the people gets very tired
of one tune, and I’m obliged to change them. You can have the new tune
in three or four days, or a week’s time, if he has nothing to do; but
sometime it is three or four weeks, if he has plenty to do. It is a
man who is called John Hicks who does the new tunes. He was born in
Bristol. He has a father in Bristol. He live in Crockenwell, just at
the back of the House of Correction. You know the prison? then it is
just at the back, on the other side.

“It won’t do to have all opera music in my organ. You must have some
opera tunes for the gentlemen, and some for the poor people, and they
like the dancing tune. Dere is some for the gentlemens, and some for
the poor peoples.

“I have often been into the houses of gentlemens to play tunes for
dancing. I have been to a gentleman’s near Golden-square, where he
have a shop for to make the things for the horse--a saddler, you call
it. He have plenty customers; them what gets the things for the horse.
There was carriage outside. It was large room, where you could dance
thirty-two altogether. I think it’s the boxing-day I go there. I have
10_s._ for that night. He have a farm in the country, and I go there
too. He have the little children there--like a school, and there was
two policemen at the door, and you couldn’t get in without the paper to
show. He had Punch and Judy. He has a English band as well.

“I have some two or three place where I go regular at Christmas-time,
to play all night to the children. Sometime I go for an hour or two.
When they are tired of dancing they sit down and have a rest, and
I play the opera tune. I go to schools, too, and play to the little
children. They come and fetch me, and say, ‘You come such a time and
play to the little children,’ and I say, ‘Very well,’ and that’s all

“My organ is like the organ, but he’s got another part, and that is
like a flute. Some organ is called de trompet, and that one he’s called
the flute-organ, because he’s got de flute in it. When they first come
out they make a great deal of money. I take 2_s._ 6_d._ or 3_s._,
and sometimes 1_s._ 6_d._ You see, in our business, some has got his
regular customer, and some they go up the street and down the street,
and they don’t take nothing. I have not got any regular customers much,

“On the Monday when I goes out, I goes over the water up the
Clapham-road. I have two or three regular there, and they give me
plenty of beer and to eat. I know that family those twenty year. If I
say to that lady, ‘I am very ill,’ he give me his card and say, ‘Go to
the doctor,’ and I have nothing to pay. There was three sister, but
one he died. They is very old, and one he can only come to the window.
I dare say I have six houses in that neighbourhood where they give me
some 1_d._ and some 2_d._ every time I go there. In the summer-time,
when it is hot, I walk to Greenwich on the Monday. I have, I dare say,
fifteen houses there where I go regular. I can make up 1_s._ I pay
4_d._ sometime to ride home in the boat. My organ weight more than
fifty pounds, and that tire me. The first time when I’m not used to it,
you know, I feel it more tired than when I’m used to it.

“On the Tuesday I go to Greenwich, now that it is cold, instead of the
Monday. On Wednesday I ain’t got no way to go. I try sometime down at
Whitechapel, or some other way. On Thursday I goes out Islington way,
and I go as far as Highbury Barn, but not further. There is a bill
of the railway and a station there. I’ve got three or four regular
customers there. The most I get at once is 2_d._ I never get 6_d._ One
gentleman at Greenwich give me 6_d._, but only once. On the Friday I’ve
got no way to go; I go where I like. On Saturday I go to Regent-street.
I go to Leicester-square and the foreign hotels, where the foreign
gentlemen is. Sometime I get the chance to get a few shilling; sometime
not a halfpenny. The most I make is sometime at the fair-time. Sometime
at Greenwich-fair I make 5_s._ all in copper, and that is the most I
ever make; and the lowest is sometime 6_d._ When I see I can’t make
nothing, I go home. It is very bad in wet weather. I must sit at home,
for the rain spoil the instrument. There is nothing like summer-times,
for the regular money that I make for the year it come to between 9_s._
and 10_s._ the week. Sometimes it is 6_d._, sometimes 1_s._, or 1_s._
6_d._ or 2_s._ the day. For 12_s._ the week it must be 2_s._ the day,
and that is more than I take. I wish somebody pay me 12_s._; there is
no such chance.

“I live in a room by myself with three others, and we pay 1_s._ each,
and there is two bed. If I go to lodging-house I pay 1_s._ 6_d._ the
week. In the Italian lodging-house they give you clean shirt on the
Sunday for the 1_s._ 6_d._ It is my own shirt, but they clean it. This
is only in Italian house. In English house it is 1_s._ 6_d._ and no
shirt. I have breakfast of coffee or what I like, and we club together.
We have bread and butter, sometime herring, sometime bacon, what we
likes. In the day I buy a pen’orth of bread and a pen’orth of cheese,
and some beer, and at night I have supper. I make maccarone--what you
call it?--or rice and cabbage, or I make soup or bile some taters; with
all four together it come to about 9_d._ or 10_d._ a-day for living.

“In the house where I live they are all Italians. They are nearly all
Italians that live about Leather-lane and Saffron-hill. There is a good
bit of them live there. I should say 200: I dare say there is. The
house where I live is my own. I let empty room; they bring their own
things, you know. It is my lease, and I pay the rent.

“It is only the people say that the Italian boys are badly used: they
are not so, the masters are very kind to them. If he make 1_s._ he
bring it home; if 3_s._ or 4_s._ or 6_d._ he bring it home. He is not
commandé to bring home so much; that is what the people say. I was with
the magistrate of police in Marlborough-street four days ago, about a
little Italian boy that the policemen take for asking money. Some one
ask to buy his monkey and talk with him, and then he ask for a penny,
and the police take him. A gentleman ask me about the boys. I tell him
it is all nonsense what the people say. There is no more boys sent here
now. If a boy comes over, and he is bad boys, he goes and play in the
street instead of working; then, after paying so much for his coming to
England, it is a loss. It does not pay the boys. If I was a master I
would not have the boys, if they come here for nothing.

“Suppose I have two organs, then one is in the house doing nothing.
Then some one come and say, ‘Lend me the organ for to-day.’ Then I say,
‘Yes,’ and charge him, some 4_d._, some 6_d._; or if somebody ill and
he cannot go out, then he’s organ doing nothing, and he lend it out for
4_d._ or 6_d._ There is two or three in London who sends out men with
organs, but I don’t know who has got the most of us. Then they pay the
men 1_l._ a-month and their keep, or some 15_s._ Then, some goes half
and keep him: then, it’s more profits to the man than the master.

“Christmas-time is nothing like the summer-time. Sometimes they give
you a Christmas-box, but it’s not the time for Christmas-box now.
Sometimes it’s a glass of beer: ‘Here’s a Christmas-box for you.’
Sometimes it’s a glass of gin, or rum, or a piece of pudding: ‘Here’s
a Christmas-box for you.’ I have had 6_d._, but never 1_s._ for a
Christmas-box. Sometimes on a boxing-day it is 3_s._, or 2_s._ 6_d._
for the day.

“I have never travelled in the country with my organ, only once when
I was young, as far as Liverpool, but no further. Many has got his
regular time out in the country. When I go out with the organ I should
say it make altogether that I walk ten miles. I want two new pairs
of boots every year. I start off in the morning, sometimes eight,
sometimes nine or ten, whether I have far to go. I never stop out after
seven o’clock at night. Some do, but I don’t.

“I don’t know music at all. I am middling fond of it. There is none of
the Italians that I know that sings. The French is very fond of singing.

“When first you begins, it tries the wrist, turning the handle of the
organ; but you soon gets accustomed to it. At first, the arm was sore
with the work all day. When I am playing I turn the handle regularly.
Sometimes there are people who say, ‘Go a little quick,’ but not often.

“If the silk in front of the organ is bad, I get new and put it in
myself; the rain spoil it very much. It depend upon what sort of organ
he is, as to the sort of silk he gets: sometimes 2_s._ 6_d._ a-yard,
and he take about a yard and a half. Some like to do this once a-year;
but some when he see it get a little dirty, like fresh things, you
know, and then it is twice a-year.

“The police are very quiet to us. When anybody throw up a window and
say, ‘Go on,’ I go. Sometime they say there is sick in the house, when
there is none, but I go just the same. If I did not, then the policeman
come, and I get into trouble. I have heard of the noise in the papers
about the organs in the street, but we never talk of it in our quarter.
They pay no attention to the subject, for they know if anybody say,
‘Go,’ then we must depart. That is what we do.”


“The companion I got about with me, is with me from Naples, not the
city, but in the country. His is of my family; no, not my cousin, but
my mother was the sister of his cousin. Yes! yes! yes! my cousin. Some
one told me he was my nephew, but it’s cousin. Naples is a pretty city.
It is more pretty than Paris, but not so big. I worked on the ground at
Naples, in the country, and I guarded sheep. I never was a domestic;
but it was for my father. It was ground of his. It was not much. He
worked the earth for yellow corn. He had not much of sheep, only
fifteen. When I go out with the sheep I carry my bagpipes always with
me. I play on them when I was sixteen years of age. I play them when I
guard my sheep. In my country they call my instrument de ‘zampogna.’
All the boys in my country play on it, for there are many masters there
who teach it. I taught myself to play it. I bought my own instrument.
I gave the money myself for that affair. It cost me seven francs. The
bag is made of a skin of goat. There are four clarionets to it. There
is one for the high and one for the bass. I play them with different
hands. The other two clarionets make a noise to make the accord; one
makes high and the other the low. They drone to make harmony. The airs
I play are the airs of my country. I did not invent them. One is ‘La
Tarentule Italien,’ and another is what we call ‘La Badend,’ but I not
know what you call it in French. Another is the ‘Death of the Roi de
France.’ I know ten of these airs. The ‘Pastorelle Naopolitan’ is very
pretty, and so is the ‘Pastorelle Romaine.’

“When I go out to guard my sheep I play my zampogna, and I walk along
and the sheep follow me. Sometimes I sit down and the sheep eat about
me, and I play on my instrument. Sometimes I go into the mountains.
There are plenty of mountains in my country, and with snow on them. I
can hear the guardians of sheep playing all around me in the mountains.
Yes, many at once,--six, ten, twelve, or fifteen, on every side. No,
I did not play my instrument to keep my sheep together, only to learn
the airs. I was a good player, but there were others who played much
better than me. Every night in my village there are four or six who
play together instruments like mine, and all the people dance. They
prefer to dance to the ‘Tarentule Italien.’ It is a pretty dance in our
costume. The English do not dance like nous autres. We are not paid
for playing in the village, only at fêtes, when gentlemen say, ‘Play;’
and then they give 20 sous or 40 sous, like that. There is another
air, which is played only for singing. There is one only for singing
chansons, and another for singing ‘La Prière de la Vierge.’ Those that
play the zampogna go to the houses, and the candles are lighted on the
altar, and we play while the bourgeois sing the prière.

“I am aged 23 years next March. I was sixteen when I learnt my
instrument. The twelfth of this month I shall have left my country
nine months. I have traversed the states of Rome and of France to come
to England. I marched all the distance, playing my zampogna. I gain
ten sous French whilst I voyage in the states of France. I march from
Marseilles to Paris. To reach Marseilles by the boat it cost 15 frs. by

“The reason why we left our native land is this:--One of our comrades
had been to Paris, and he had said he gained much money by painters by
posing for his form. Then I had envy to go to Paris and gain money. In
my country they pay 20 sous for each year for each sheep. I had 200 to
guard for a monsieur, who was very rich. There were four of us left
our village at the same time. We all four played de zampogna. My father
was not content that I voyage the world. He was very sorry. We got
our passport arranged tout de suite, two passport for us four. We all
began to play our instruments together, as soon as we were out of the
village. Four of our friends accompanied us on our road, to say adieu.
We took bread of corn with us to eat for the first day. When we had
finished that we played at the next village, and they give us some more

“At Paris I posed to the artists, and they pay me 20 sous for the
hour. The most I pose is four hours for the day. We could not play
our instruments in the street, because the serjeant-de-ville catch
us, and take us directly to prison. I go to play in the courts before
the houses. I asked the concierge at the door if he would give me
permission to play in the court. I gain 15 sous or 1 franc par jour.
For all the time I rest in Paris I gain 2 francs for the day. This is
with posing to artists to paint, and for playing. I also play at the
barrière outside Paris, where the wine is cheap. They gave us more
there than in the courts; they are more generous where they drink the

“When I arrive at Paris my comrades have leave me. I was alone in
Paris. There an Italian proposed to me to go to America as his servant.
He had two organs, and he had two servants to play them, and they gave
him the half of that which they gained. He said to me, that he would
search for a piano organ for me, and I said I would give him the half
of that which I gained in the streets. He made us sign a card before a
notary. He told us it would cost 150 francs to go to America. I gave
him the money to pay from Paris to Folkestone. From there we voyaged on
foot to Londres. I only worked for him for eight days, because I said I
would not go to Amérique. He is here now, for he has no money to go in

“I met my cousin here in Londres. I was here fifteen days before I met
him. We neither of us speak Anglais, and not French either, only a
little very bad; but we understand it. We go out together now, and I
play the zampogna, and he the ‘biforc Italien,’ or what the French call
flageolet, and the English pipes. It is like a flageolet. He knows all
the airs that I play. He play well the airs--that he does. He wears
a cloak on his shoulders, and I have one, too; but I left it at home
to-day. It is a very large cloak, with three yards of étoffe in it. He
carry in his hat a feather of what you call here peacock, and a French
lady give him the bright ribbon which is round his hat. I have also
plume de peacock and flowers of stuff, like at the shops, round my hat.
In my country we always put round our hat white and red flowers.

“Sometimes we go to pose to the artists, but it is not always. There
are plenty of artists near Newman-street, but in other quarters there
are none at all. It is for our costume they paint us. The colours
they put on the pictures are those of our costume. I have been three
times to a gentleman in a large street, where they took our portraits
photographique. They give a shilling. I know the houses where I go to
be done for a portrait, but I don’t know the names of the messieurs,
or the streets where they reside. At the artists’ they pay 1_s._ par
heure, and we pose two or three heures, and the most is four heures.
When we go together we have 1_s._ each for the hour. My cousin is at
an artist’s to-day. They paint him more than me, because he carries a
sash of silk round his waist, with ornaments on it. I haven’t got one,
because I want the money to buy one.

“We gain 1_s._ each the day. Ah! pardon, monsieur, not more than that.
The artists are not for every day, perhaps one time for the week. When
we first come here, we take 5_s._ between the two, but now it makes
cold, and we cannot often play. Yesterday we play in the ville, and
we take 7_d._ each. Plenty of persons look at us, but when my comrade
touch his hat they give nothing. There is one month we take 2_s._ each
the day, but now it is 1_s._ For the three months that we have been
here, we have gained 12_s._ the week each, that is, if we count what we
took when first we were arrived. For two months we took always a crown
every day--always, always; but now it is only 1_s._, or 2_s._, or 7_d._
I had saved 72_s._, and I had it in my bourse, which I place under my
head when I sleep. We sleep three in a bed--myself, my cousin, and
another Italian. In the night this other take my bourse and run away.
Now I have only 8_s._ in my bourse. It nearly broke the heart when I
was robbed.

“We pay 2_d._ for each for our bed every night. We live in a house held
by a Mossieu Italian. There are three who sleep in one bed--me, and
my comrade, and another. We are not large. This mossieu let us lodge
cheaper than others, because we are miserable, and have not much money.
For breakfast we have a half-loaf each one. It is a loaf that you must
pay 4_d._ or 4-1/2_d._ We pay 2-1/2_d._ each for that, and 1/2_d._
each for a cup of tea or coffee. In the day we eat 2_d._ or 3_d._
between both for some bread, and we come home the night at half-past
eight, and we eat supper. It is of maccaroni, or potatoes boiled, and
we pay 2-1/2_d._ each. It costs us 9_d._ each the day to live. There
are twenty-four Italian in the house where we live, and they have
three kitchens. When one is more miserable than the others, then he is
helped; and at another time he assists in his turn. We pay 2_d._ a-week
to wash our shirt. I always share with my cousin what he makes in the
day. If he goes to work and I stop at home, it is the same thing, and
the same with me. He carries the money always, and pays for what we
have want to eat; and then, if I wish to go back to my own country,
then we share the money when we separate.

“The gentlemen give us more money than the ladies. We have never had
anything to eat given to us. They have asked us to sing, but we don’t
know how. Only one we have sung to, an Italian mossieu, who make our
portraits. We sang the ‘Prayer of the Sainte Vierge.’ They have also
asked us to dance, but we did not, because the serjeant-de-ville, if we
assemble a great mob, come and defend us to play.

“We have been once before the magistrate, to force the mossieu who
brought us o