Henry Mayhew.

London labour and the London poor : a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work (Volume 1) online

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ality, finding by experience that lessons of instruction
were much less seasonable at such times, than idle talcs
productive of mirth and laughter, accommodated their
narrations to the general taste of the times, regard-
less of the mischiefs they occasioned by vitiating the
morals of their hearers. Hence it is that the author
of the ' Vision of Pierce the Ploughman ' calls them
contemptibly 'japers and juglers, and janglers of
gests.' He describes them as haunters of taverns and
common ale-houses, amusing the lower classes of the
people with ' myrth of minstrelsy and losels' tales,'
(loose vulgar tales,) and calls them tale-tellers and
' tutelers in ydell,' (tutors of idleness, )occasioning their
auditory, 'for love of tales, in tavernes to drink,'
where they learned from them to jangle and to jape,
instead of attending to their more serious duties.

"The japers, I apprehend, were the same as the
bourdours, or rybauders, an inferior class of min-
strels, and properly called jesters in the modern ac-
ceptation of the word ; whose wit, like that of the
merry-andrews of the present day (1800) consisted in
low obscenity accompanied with ludicrous gesticula-
tion. They sometimes, however, found admission into
the houses of the opulent Knighton, indeed, men-
tions one of these japers who was a favourite in the
English court, and could obtain any grant from the
king ' a burdando,' that is, by jesting. They are well
described by the poet :

'As japers and janglers, Judas' chyldren,
Fayneth them fantasies, and fooles them maketh."




I' "

'• It was a very conimon and a very favourite amuse-
men?, so late as the 16th centur)-, to hear the recital of
V. r-^>s and moral speeches, learned for that purpose
li> a set of men who obtained their livelihood thereby,
and Nvho, without ceremony, intruded themselves, not
only into taverns and other places of public resort, but
also into the houses of the nobility "

TV: rr ejnblance of the modern patterer to
above inmtioned will be seen wlien I
I >::■ the public-house actor and reciter of
the present day, as well as the standing patterer,
who does not differ so much from the running
jjatlerer in the quality of his announcements, as
iu liis requiring more time to make an impres-
sion, and being indeed a sort of lecturer needing
aji audience ; also of the present reciters '* of
verses and moral speeches." But of these curious
classes I shall proceed to treat separately.

Of the Habits, Opinions, Morals, and

Religion of Patterers generally.
N order that I might omit nothing which will
give the student of that curious phase of London
life in London streets — the condition of the
patterers — a clear understanding of the subject,
I procured the following account from an edu-
cated gentleman (who has been before alluded
to in this work), and as he had been driven to
live among the class he describes, and to sup-
port himself by street-selling, his remarks have
of course all the weight due to personal experi-
ence, as well as to close observation : —

" If there is any truth in phrenology," writes
the gentleman in question, " the patterers — to
a man — are very large in the organ of ' self-
esteem,' from which suggestion an enquiry
arises, viz., whether they possess that of which
they may justly pique themselves. To arrive at
truth about the patterers is very difficult, and
indeed the persons with whom they live are
often (juite in the dark about the history, or in
souie cases the pursuits of their lodgers.

" I think that the patterers may be divided into

three cla^se9. First, — those who were well born

-'ht up. Secondly, — those whose

ve been dissipated and gave them

. :... ^ .ttion. Thirdly, — those who — what-

ivtr their early history — will not be or do any-

thinpr but what is of an itinerant character. I

a glance at the first of these classes,

•v^ that they were cradled in the lap

•ul trained to science and virtue.

le take to the streets, they be-

and there an exception, the

111 the least rcclainiable. I was

of a lodging-house, in which

'■ - •■:- '■■■ T' • r ify-men,

: I -down

■ ■ ■ J I ii' ir gene-

ml babiiri wer« demur alin«d tu the luiit degree —

their natha more horrid, extravairant, and fnr-

its passages to extenuate fraud, to justify vio-
letioc, or oonitrttct for themaelves excuses for
iueonttnenee and tinpotiition. It will appear

strange that these educated persons, when they
turn out upon the street, generally sell articles
which have no connection with literature, and
very little with art. The two brothers, who sell
that wonder-working paste which removes grease
from the outside of your collar by driving it
further in, were both scholars of Christ's Hos-
pital. They were second Grecians, and might
have gone to college ; but several visits to sub-
urban fairs, and their accompanying scenes of
debauch, gave them a penchant for a vagabond
life, and they will probably never relinquish it.
The very tall man — there are several others —
who sells razors and paste on a red pagoda-look-
ing stall, was apprenticed to a surgeon in Col-
chester, with a premium of 300 guineas ; and
the little dark-visaged man, who sells children's
money-boxes and traps to catch vermin, is the
son of a late upholsterer in Bath, who was also
a magistrate of that city. The poor man alluded
to was a law-student, and kept tAvo terms in
Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Many similar cases
might be mentioned — cases founded on real
observation and experience. Some light may be
thrown upon this subject by pointing out the
modus operandi by which a friend of mine got
initialed into the ' art and mystery of patterism.'
' I had lived,' he said, ' more than a year among
the tradesmen and tramps, who herd promis-
cuously together in low lodging-houses. One
afternoon I was taking tea at the same table
with a brace of patterers. They eyed me with
suspicion j but, determined to know their pro-
ceedings, I launclied out the only cant word I
had then learned. They spoke of going to
Chatham. Of course, 1 knew the place, and
asked them, " Where do you stall to in the
huey ? " which, fairly translated, means, "Where
do you lodge in the town 1" Convinced that I
was " fly," one of them said, " AVe drop the main
toper (go off the main road) aiul slink into
the crib (house) in the back drum (street)."
After some altercation with the "mot" of the
" ken" (mistress of the lodging-house) about the
cleanliness of a knife or fork, my new acquaint-
ance began to arrange "ground," &c., for the
night's work. I got into their confidence by
degrees ; and I give below a vocabulary of their
talk to each other:'

Word. Meaning.

CrabshcUa Shoes.

Kite Paper.

Nests Varieties.

Sticky Wax.

Toff (Jentleman.

liurerk Lady.

Cdinister Minister.

(Uociis Doctor.

liluff \n excuse.

Jialtnif insane.

Mill Tdf! A shirt.

Snteesh A shift.

Jf(ii/-haf; A woman.

Do.ri/ \ v\ ilc.

Floin A lie.

Teviis A shilling



Bull A crown.

Flag An apron.

" The cant or slang of the patterer is not the
cant of the costennongcr, but a system of their
own. As in the case of the costers, it is so
interlarded with their general remarks, while
their ordinary language is so smothered and
subdued, that unless when they are profession-
ally engaged and talking of their wares, they
might almost pass for foreigners.

"There can be no doubt," continues my
informant, " that the second class of street-
patterlrs, to whom nature, or parents, or cir-
cumstances have been unpropitious, are the
most moral, and have a greater sense of right
and wrong, with a quicksightedness about hu-
mane and generous things, to which the ' aris-
tocratic ' patterer is a stranger. Of the dealers
in useful or harmless wares — although, of course,
they use allowable exaggeration as to the good-
ness of the article— many are devout communi-
cants at church, or members of dissenting bodies ;
while others are as careless about religion, and
are still to be found once or twice a week in the
lecture-rooms of the Mechanics' Institute nearest
to their residence. Orchard-street, "Westminster,
is a great locality for this sort of patterers.
Three well-known characters, — Bristol George,
Corporal Casey, and Jemmy the Rake, with a
very respectable and highly-informed man called
* Grocer,' from his having been apprenticed to
that business, — have maintained a character for
great integrity among the neighbours for many

" I come now to the third class of patterers, —
those who, whatever their early pursuits and
pleasures, have manifested a predilection for
vagrancy, and neither can nor will settle to any
ordinary calling. There is now on the streets a
man scarcely thirty years old, conspicuous by
the misfortune of a sabre-wound on the cheek.
He is a native of the Isle of Man. His father
was a captain in the Buff's, and himself a com-
missioned officer at seventeen. He left the
army, designing to marry and open a boarding-
school. The young lady to whom he was be-
trothed died, and that event might affect liis
mind ; at any rate, he has had 38 situations
in a dozen years, and will not keep one a
week. He has a mortal antipathy to good
clothes, and will not keep them one hour.
He sells anything — chiefly needle-cases. He
'patters' very little in a main drag (public
street) ; but in the little private streets he
preaches an outline of his life, and makes no
secret of his wandering propensity. His aged
mother, who still lives, pays his lodgings in Old
Pye- street.

" From the hasty glance I have taken at the
patterers, any well- constructed mind may de-
duce the following inference : because a great
amount of intelligence sometimes consists with
a great want of principle, that no education, or
7nJ«-education, leaves man, like a reed floating
on the stream of time, to follow every direction
which the current of affairs may give him.

*' Tliere is yet another and a larger class, who
are wanderers from choice, — who would ratlier bo
street-orators, and quacks, and performers, than
anything else in the world. In nine cases out
of ten, the street-patterers are persons of intem-
perate habits, no veracity, and destitute of any
desire to improve their condition, even where
they have the chance. One of this crew was
lately engaged at a bazaar ; he had I85. a week,
and liis only work was to walk up and down
and extol the articles exhibited. This was too
monotonous a life ; I happened to pass him by
as he was taking his wages for the week, and
heard him say, ' I shall cut this b — y work ; I
caii earn more on the streets, and be my own
master.' "

It would be a mistake to suppose that the
patterers, although a vagrant, are a disorganized
class. There is a telegraphic dispatch between
them, through the length and breadth of the
land. If two patterers (previously unac-
quainted) meet in the provinces, the following,
or something like it, will be their conversation :
— " Can you ' voker romeny ' (can you speak
cant)? What is your * monekeer ' (name) ? "
— Perhaps it turns out that one is " White-
headed Bob," and the other " Plymouth Ned."
They have a " shant of gatter " (pot of beer) at
the nearest " boozing ken " (ale-house), and
swear eternal friendship to each other. The old
saying, that " When the liquor is in, the wit is
out," is remarkably fulfilled on these occa-
sions, for they betray to the "flatties" (natives)
all their profits and proceedings.

It is to be supposed that, in country districts,
where there are no streets, the patterer is obliged
to call at the houses. As they are mostly
without the hawker's licence, and sometimes
find wet linen before it is lost, the rural districts
are not fond of their visits ; and there are gene-
rally two or three persons in a village reported
to be "gammy," that is (unfavourable). If a
patterer has been " crabbed," that is (offended)
at any of the " cribbs " (houses), he mostly
chalks a signal on or near the door. I give one
or two instances :

A " Bone," meaning good.

V " Cooper'd," spoiled by the imprudence
of some other patterer.

D " Gammy," likely to have you taken up.

" Flummut," sure of a month in quod.

In most lodging-houses there is an old man
who is the guide to every " Avalk " in the
vicinity, and who can tell every house, on every
round, that is " good for a cold 'tater." In
many cases there is over the kitchen mantle-
piece a map of the district, dotted here and
there with memorandums of failure or success.

Patterers are fond of carving their names and
avocations about the houses they visit. The
old jail at Dartford has been some years a
" padding-ken." In one of the rooms appears
the following autographs :

" Jemmy, the Rake, bound to Bristol ; bad
beds, but no bugs. Thank God for all things."

" Razor George and his moll slept here tlie



day afore Christmas; just out of 'stir' (jail),
for ' muzzling a peeler.' "

" Scotch \Iary, with ' driz ' (lace), bound to
Dover and back, please God."

Sometimes these inscriptions are coarse and
obscene ; sometimes very well written and
orderly. Nor do they wajit illustrations.

At the old factory, Lincoln, is a portrait of
the town beadle, formerly a soldier ; it is drawni
with different-coloured chalks, and ends with
the following couplet :

" You are a B for false swearinp,
In hell they'll roast you like a herring."

Concubinage is very conmion among pat-
terers, especially on their travels; they have
their regular rounds, and call the peregrination
" going on circuit." For the most part they
are early risers ; this gives them a facility for
meeting poor girls wlio have had a night's
shelter in the union workhouses. They offer
such girls some refreshment, — swear they are
single men, — and promise comforts certainly
superior to the immediate position of their
victims. Consent is generally obtained ; per-
haps a girl of li or 15, previously virtuous, is
induced to believe in a promise of constant pro-
tection, but finds herself, the next morning,
ruined and deserted ; nor is it imlikely that,
within a month or two, she will see her seducer
in the company of a dozen incidental wives. A
gray-headed miscreant called "Cutler Tom"
boasts of 500 such exploits ; and there is too
great reason to believe that the picture of his
own drawing is not greatly overcharged.

Some of the patterers are married men, but
of this class very few are faithful to the solemn
obligation. I have heard of a renowned pat-
terer of this class who was married to four
women, and had lived in criminal intercourse
with his own sister, and his own daughter by
one of the wives. This sad rule has, however,
I am happy to state, some splendid exceptions.
There is a man called "Andy" — well known as
the companion of " Hopping Ned ;" this " Andy "
has a wife of great personal attractions, a splen-
did figure, and teeth without a parallel. She is
a strictly-virtuous woman, a most devoted wife,
and tender mother ; very charitable to any one
in want of a meal, and very constant (she is a
Catholic) in her religious duties. Another man
of the same school, whose name has escaped mc,
is, with his wife, an exception to the stigma on
almost the whole class ; the couple in question
have no children. The wife, whose name is
Maria, has been in every hospital for some com-
plaint in her knees, probably white swelling :
her beauty is the theme of applause, and when-
ever she opens her mouth silence pervades the
" paddin' ken." Her common conversation is
music and mathematics combined, her reading
has been masculine and extensive, and the
whisper of calumny has never yet attacked her
own demeanour or her husband's.

Of patterers who have children, many arc
very exemplary ; sending them to Day and Sun-
day-schools, causing them to say grace before

and after meals, to attend public worship, and
always to speak the truth : these, instances, how-
ever, stand in fearful contrast with the conduct
of other parents.

" I have seen," proceeds my reverend in-
formant, " fathers and mothers place their boys
and girls in positions of incipient enormity, and
command them to use language and gestures to
each other, which would make an harlot blusli,
and almost a heathen tremble. I have hitherto
viewed the patterer as a salesman, — having
something in his hand, on whose merits, real or
pretended, he talks people out of their money.
By slow degrees prosperity rises, but rapid is
the advance of evil. The patterer sometimes
gets ' out of stock,' and is obliged, at no great
sacrifice of conscience, to ' patter * in anotlier
strain. In every large town sham official docu-
ments, with crests, seals, and signatures, can be
got for half-a-crown. Armed with these, the
patterer becomes a ' lurker,' — that is, an im-
postor ; his papers certify any and every * ill
that flesh is heir to.' Shipwreck is called a
' shake lurk ;' loss by fire is a ' glim.' Some-
times the petitioner has had a horse, which has
dropped dead with the mad staggers ; or has a
wife ill or dying, and six or seven children at
once sickening of the small-pox. Children are
borrowed to support the appearance ; the case
is certified by the minister and clnirchwardens
of a parish which exists only in imagination ;
and as many people dislike the trouble of in-
vestigation, the patterer gets enough to raise a
stock in trade, and divides the spoil between the
swag-shop and the gin-palace. Sometimes they
are detected, and get a ' drag ' (three montlis in
prison). They have many narrow escapes : one
occurs to me, of a somewhat ludicrous character.
A patterer and lurker (now dead) known by the
name of ' Captain Moody,' unable to get a ' fake-
ment ' written or printed, was standing almost
naked in the streets of a neighbouring town.
A gentleman stood still and heard his piteous
tale, but having been ' done ' more than once,
he resolved to examine the affair, and begged the
petitioner to conduct him to his wife and chil-
dren, who were in a garret on a bed of languish"
ing, with neither clothes, food, nor fire, but, it
appeared, with faith enoiigh to expect a supply
from ' Him who feedeth the ravens,' and in
whose sacred name even a cold 'tater was im-
plored. The patterer, or half-patterer and half-
beggar, took the gentleman (who pronnsed a
sovereign if every thing was square) through
innumeralde and intricate windings, till he came
to an outhouse or sort of stable. He saw the
key outside the door, and begged the gentleman
to enter and wait till he borrowed a light of a
neighbour, to show him up-stairs. The illumi-
nation never arrived, and the poor charitable
man found that the miscreant had locked him
into the stable. The patterer went to the pad-
ding-ken,— told the story with great glee, and
left that locality within an hour of the occur-

[Concerning the mendicancy and vagrancy of



patterers, I shall have more to say when I speak
of vagrancy in general, and when I describe the
general state and characteristics of the low lodg-
ing-houses in London, and tliose in the country,
which are in intimate connection with the me-
tropolitan abodes of the vagrant. My present
theme is the London patterer, who is also a

Of the Publishers and Authors of

The best known, and the most successful printer
and publisher of all who have directed their
industry to supply the "paper" in demand for
street sale, and in every department of street
literature, was the late "Jemmy Catnach," who
is said to have amassed upwards of 10,000/. in
the business. He is reported to have made the
greater part of this sum during the trial of
Queen Caroline, by the sale of whole -sheet
"papers," descriptive of the trial, and embel-
lished with " splendid illustrations." The next
to Catnach stood the late " Tommy Pitt," of the
noted toy and marble-warehouse. These two
parties were the Colburn and Bentley of the
"paper" trade. Catnach retired from business
some years ago, and resided in a country-house
at Barnet, but he did not long survive his retire-
ment " He was an out and out sort," said one
old paper- worker to me, " and if he knew you^
and he could judge according to the school you
belonged to, if he hadn't known you long — he
was friendly for a bob or two, and sometimes
for a glass. He knew the men that was stickers
though, and there was no glass for them. AVliy,
some of his customers, sir, would have stuck to
him long enough, if there' d been a chance of
another glass — supposing they'd managed to get
one — and then would have asked him for a coach
home ! When I called on him, he used to say,
in his north country way — he wasn't Scotch,
but somewhere north of England — and he was
pleasant with it, ' Well, d — you, how are you ?'
He got the cream of the pail, sir."

The present street literature printers and pub-
lishers are, Mrs. Ryle (Catnach's niece and
successor), Mr. Birt, and Mr. Paul (formerly
with Catnach), all of the Seven Dials ; Mr.
Powell (formerly of Lloyd's'), Brick-lane, Wliite-
chapel ; and Mr. Good, Aylesbury-street, Clerk-
enwell. Mr. Phairs, of Westminster ; Mr. Tay-
lor, of the Waterloo-road ; and Mr. Sharp, of
Kent- street, Borough, have discontinued street
printing. One man greatly regretted Mr. Tay-
lor's discontinuing the business ; " he was so
handy for the New-cut, when it was the New-
cut." Some classes of patterers, I may here
observe, work in " schools" or "mobs" of two,
three, or four, as I shall afterwards show.

The authors and poets wlio give its peculiar
literature, alike in prose or rhyme, to the streets,
are now six in number. They are all in some
capacity or other connected with street-patter or
song, and the way in which a narrative or a
" copy of werses" is prepared for press is usually

this : — The leading members of the " schools,"
some of whom refer regularly to tlie evening
papers, when ihey hear of any out-of-the-way
occurrence, resort to the printer and desire its
publication in a style proper for the streets.
This is usually done very speedily, the school
(or the majority of them) and the printer agree-
ing upon the author. Sometimes an author
will voluntarily prepare a piece of street litera-
ture and submit it to a publisher, who, as in
the case of other publishers, accepts or declines,
as he believes tlie production will or will not
prove remunerative. Sometimes the school
carry the manuscript witli them to the printer,
and undertake to buy a certain quantity, to
insure publication. The payment to the author
is the same in all cases — a sliilling.

Concerning the history and character of our
street and public-house literature, I shall treat
hereafter, when I can comprise the whole,
and after the descriptions of the several classes
engaged in the trade will have paved the way
for the reader's better appreciation of the
curious and important theme. I say, impor-
tant ; because the street-ballad and the street-
narrative, like all popular things, have their
influence on masses of the people. Specimens
will be found adduced, as I describe the several
classes, or in the statements of the patterers.

It must be borne in mind that tlie street
axxthor is closely restricted in the quality of Jiis
efRision. It must be such as the patterers ap-
prove, as the chaunters can cliaimt, the ballad-
singers sing, and — above all — such as street-
buyers will buy. One chaunter, who was a great
admirer of the " Song of the Shirt," told me
that if Hood himself had written the " Pitiful
Case of Georgy Sloan and his Wife," it would
not have sold so well as a ballad he handed to
me, from which I extract a verse :

" Jane 'Willbred we did starve and beat her ver>- hard
I confess we used her very cruel,
But now in a jail two long years we must bewail,
We don't fancy mustard in the gruel."

What I have said of the ncccssitij which con-
trols street authorship, may also be said of the
art which is sometimes called in to illustrate it.

The paper now published for the streets is
classed as quarter sheets, which cost (wholesale)
Is. a gross; half sheets, which cost 2*. ; and
whole or broad sheets (such as for executions),
which cost 3s. Qd. a gross the first day, and 3s.
the next day or two, and afterwards, but only if
a ream be taken, 5s. 6d. ; a ream contains forty

Online LibraryHenry MayhewLondon labour and the London poor : a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work (Volume 1) → online text (page 49 of 117)