In so arbitrary a government as that of China, it would scarcely be supposed that the press should be free; that is to say, that every one who chooses it may follow the profession of a printer or a bookseller without any previous licence, or without submitting the works he may print or expose for sale to any censor appointed by government; but then he must take his chance to suffer in his person all the consequences that may result from the impression that may be made on the minds of the civil officers as to the tendency of the work. A libel against the government, an immoral or indecent book, would subject both printer and publisher to certain punishment both in his person and purse.
There is little more to be observed of the present engraving than this: that whatever wares, goods, or merchandize are exposed to sale in the open air, which in the open plains, as well in the broad streets of cities, is very much the case, the vender and the articles themselves are, during the summer months, protected from the rays of the sun by a large umbrella, which is generally square, like that in the print. Some hundreds of similar stands and umbrellas were displayed on a plain near the spot where the embassy disembarked, within the mouth of the Pei-ho; the little booths, if they may be so termed, being generally well stored with sweet-meats and sliced water-melons laid upon ice. The poorest peasant in China carries an umbrella, either to defend him against the rays of the sun, or heavy rains.
The Chinese merchants and tradesmen are most expert and ready reckoners; but they perform all arithmetical operations mechanically, by means of a table divided into two compartments, through which pass iron wires; and on these wires are strung in one compartment five, and in the other two, moveable balls. The principle is something of the same kind as that of the abacus of the Romans, and is with some little variation still made use of in Russia. It has been observed, that in weighing several thousand chests of tea, or bales of goods, at Canton, the Chinese accountant can invariably name the sum total long before the European can cast up his account.
Almost every necessary of life, and many articles that are not of that description, are carried about the streets for sale, and the invariable mode of bearing burthens of this kind is in baskets or boxes suspended from the two extremities of a bamboo lath, swung across the back part of the shoulder. If a Chinese should only have one basket to carry, he is sure to get a log of wood, or a large stone to counterpoise it at the opposite end, thus preferring to carry a double weight rather than place it on the head, or the shoulder, or across the arm. The Chinese are in appearance far from exhibiting any signs of great muscular powers, but in lifting, or carrying a load, they are probably not excelled by the porters even of Ireland.
The very general use of tobacco throughout the whole extensive empire of China, and the still more extensive regions of Tartary, would seem to contradict the commonly received opinion, that this herb is indigenous only in America. One can hardly suppose that the Chinese, who are so remarkably averse from the introduction of any thing novel, would, in the course of three centuries, have brought the custom of smoking into universal use; yet so it is; men of all ranks and all ages; women, whatever their condition in life may be, and children even of both sexes of eight or ten years of age, are furnished with the necessary apparatus for smoking tobacco. In walking the streets, in almost all the occupations of life, the tobacco pipe is seldom out of the mouth.
The practice of smoking tobacco is not more common, at least in the southern provinces of China, than that of chewing the areca nut, mixed with chunam, or lime made of shells, and wrapped up in a leaf of the betel pepper. Indeed this compound masticatory is in universal use throughout all India, the Oriental Islands, Cochin-china, and Tonquin. In addition to the little purse which every Chinese wears suspended from his belt as an appendage to his tobacco pipe and to hold the ingredients for smoking, whether tobacco, or opium, or both, he generally carries another to contain areca nuts broken into small fragments: the other materials, the betel leaf, and chunam are to be met with in every little eating shop, and on almost every stall in the bazar, or market, and are among the most common articles carried about the streets for sale.
A view in Rosemary Lane
This lane partakes of some of the characteristics of Petticoat-lane, but without its so strongly marked peculiarities. Rosemary-lane is wider and airier, the houses on each side are loftier (in several parts), and there is an approach to a gin palace, a thing unknown in Petticoat-lane: there is no room for such a structure there.
The Crippled Street Bird Seller
Street Seller of Birds Nests
“I am a seller of birds’-nesties, snakes, slow-worms, adders, ‘effets’—lizards is their common name—hedgehogs (for killing black beetles); frogs (for the French—they eats ’em); snails (for birds); that’s all I sell in the summer-time.
The Street Dog Seller
The live animals sold in the streets include beasts, birds, fish, and reptiles, all sold in the streets of London.
The Groundsel Man
“Chick-weed and Grun-sell!”
Fourteen or fifteen years ago, although seeds, generally, were fifteen to twenty per cent. dearer than they are now, there was twice the demand for them. An average price of good mignonette seed, he said, was now 1s. the quarter of a pound, and it was then 1s. 2d. to 1s. 6d. The shilling’s worth, is made, by the street-seller, into twenty or twenty-four pennyworths. An average price of parsley, and of the cheaper seeds, is less than half that of mignonette. Other seeds, again, are not sold to the street-people by the weight, but are made up in sixpenny and shilling packages. Their extreme lightness prevents their being weighed to a customer. Of this class are, the African marigold, the senecios (groundsel), and the china-aster; but of these compound flowers, the street-traders sell very few.
The Coster-girlThe life of the coster-girls is as severe as that of the boys. Between four and five in the morning they have to leave home for the markets, and sell in the streets until about nine. Those that have more kindly parents, return then to breakfast, but many are obliged to earn the morning’s meal for themselves. After breakfast, they generally remain in the streets until about ten o’clock at night; many having nothing during all that time but one meal of bread and butter and coffee, to enable them to support the fatigue of walking from street to street with the heavy basket on their heads. In the course of a day, some girls eat as much as a pound of bread, and very seldom get any meat, unless it be on a Sunday.
The Coster Boy and Girl Tossing the pieman
The itinerant trade in pies is one of the most ancient of the street callings of London. The meat pies are made of beef or mutton; the fish pies of eels; the fruit of apples, currants, gooseberries, plums, damsons, cherries, raspberries, or rhubarb, according to the season—and occasionally of mince-meat. A few years ago the street pie-trade was very profitable, but it has been almost destroyed by the “pie-shops,” and further, the few remaining street-dealers say “the people now haven’t the pennies to spare.” Summer fairs and races are the best places for the piemen.
To “toss the pieman” is a favourite pastime with costermongers boys and all that class; some of whom aspire to the repute of being gourmands, and are critical on the quality of the comestible. If the pieman win the toss, he receives 1d. without giving a pie; if he lose, he hands it over for nothing.
The Blind Boot-Lace Seller
The Baked Potato Man
“Baked ’taturs! All ’ot, all ’ot!”
The baked potato trade, in the way it is at present carried on, has not been known more than fifteen years in the streets. Before that, potatoes were sometimes roasted as chestnuts are now, but only on a small scale. The trade is more profitable than that in fruit, but continues for but six months of the year.
The Wallflower Girl
For the flowers of commoner or easier culture, the root-seller receives from 1d. to 3d. These are primroses, polyanthuses, cowslips (but in small quantities comparatively), daisies (single and double,—and single or wild, daisies were coming to be more asked for, each 1d.), small early wallflowers, candy-tufts, southernwood (called “lad’s love” or “old man” by some), and daffodils, (but daffodils were sometimes dearer than 3d.).
The Street Stationer
These street-sellers are a numerous body, and the majority of them show a greater degree of industry and energy than is common to many classes of street-folk. They have been for the most part connected with the paper, newspaper, or publishing trade, and some of them have “known better days.”
The Street Seller of Walking sticks
The trade is a summer and a Sunday trade. The best localities are the several parks, and the approaches to them,
The Street Seller of Nutmeg Graters
Many of those who have lost an arm, or a leg, or a hand, turn showmen, or become sellers of small metal articles, as knives or nutmeg-graters; and many who have been born cripples may be seen in the streets struggling for self-support. But all who are driven to the streets have not been physically disabled for labour. Some have been reduced from their position as tradesmen or shopmen; others, again, have been gentlemen’s servants and clerks; all, dragged down by a series of misfortunes, sometimes beyond their control, and sometimes brought about by their own imprudence or sluggishness
The Street Seller of Grease Removing composition
The persons engaged in this trade carry it on with a regular patter. One man’s street announcement is in the following words: “Here you have a composition to remove stains from silks, muslins, bombazeens, cords, or tabarets of any kind or colour. It will never injure nor fade the finest silk or satin, but restore it to its original colour. For grease on silks, &c., only rub the composition on dry, let it remain five minutes, then take a clothes’ brush and brush it off, and it will be found to have removed the stains. For grease in woollen cloths spread the composition on the place with a piece of woollen cloth and cold water; when dry rub it off, and it will remove the grease or stain. For pitch or tar use hot water instead of cold, as that prevents the nap coming off the cloth. Here it is. Squares of grease-removing composition, never known to fail, only 1d. each.”
The Street Seller of Dogs Collars
Two of the most profitable pitches for the sale of these articles are in the neighbourhood of the Old Swan Pier, off Thames-street, and at a corner of the Bank. Neither of these two traders confines his stock to dog-collars, though they constitute the most valuable portion of it. The one sells, in addition to his collars, key-rings, keys and chains, dog-whistles, stamps with letters engraved upon them, printer’s type, in which any name or initials may be set up, shaving-brushes, trowser-straps, razors, and a few other light articles.
The Street Seller of Crockery Ware
The goods are carried in baskets on the head, the men having pads on the cloth caps which they wear—or sometimes a padding of hay or wool inside the cap—while the women’s pads are worn outside their bonnets or caps, the bonnet being occasionally placed on the basket. The goods, though carried in baskets on the head to the locality of the traffic, are, whilst the traffic is going on, usually borne from house to house, or street to street, on the arm, or when in large baskets carried before them by the two hands.
The Street Rhubarb and Spice Seller
The Oyster StallThe trade in oysters is unquestionably one of the oldest with which the London—or rather the English—markets are connected; for oysters from Britain were a luxury in ancient Rome.
Oysters are now sold out of the smacks at Billingsgate, and a few at Hungerford. The more expensive kind such as the real Milton, are never bought by the costermongers, but they buy oysters of a “good middling quality.” At the commencement of the season these oysters are 14s. a “bushel,” but the measure contains from a bushel and a half to two bushels, as it is more or less heaped up. The general price, however, is 9s. or 10s., but they have been 16s. and 18s.
The Lucifer Match Girl
The lucifer-match boxes, the most frequent in the street-trade, are bought by the poor persons selling them in the streets, at the manufacturers, or at oil-shops, for a number of oilmen buy largely of the manufacturers, and can “supply the trade” at the same rate as the manufacturer. The price is 2¼d. the dozen boxes, each box containing 150 matches. Some of the boxes (German made) are round, and many used to be of tin, but these are rarely seen now. The prices are proportionate. The common price of a lucifer box in the streets is ½d., but many buyers, I am told, insist upon and obtain three a penny, which they do generally of some one who supplies them regularly. The trade is chiefly itinerant.
The London CostermongerThe number of costermongers,—that it is to say, of those street-sellers attending the London “green” and “fish markets,”—appears to be, from the best data at my command, now 30,000 men, women, and children.
The London Coffee Stall
The coffee-stall keepers generally stand at the corner of a street. In the fruit and meat markets there are usually two or three coffee-stalls, and one or two in the streets leading to them; in Covent-garden there are no less than four coffee-stalls. Indeed, the stalls abound in all the great thoroughfares, and the most in those not accounted “fashionable” and great “business” routes, but such as are frequented by working people, on their way to their day’s labour.
The Irish Street-seller
The fruit-sellers, meaning thereby those who deal principally in fruit in the season, are the more intelligent costermongers. The calculation as to what a bushel of apples, for instance, will make in half or quarter pecks, puzzles the more ignorant, and they buy “second-hand,” or of a middle-man, and consequently dearer. The Irish street-sellers do not meddle much with fruit, excepting a few of the very best class of them, and they “do well in it,” I was told, “they have such tongue.”