« EdellinenJatka »
I saw him one rainy night-a small competent fellow with a furry tall hat, worn over his eyes, and a black bag containing six and eightpence.
He would have to be careful of his bag, for he must have seen a lot of queer company. Jonathan Wild kept a night-house near Short's Garden ; and Jack Sheppard left a hundred associations here. Here he met Edgworth Bess and Poll Maggot, and in the Shears Tavern near Clare Market he treated his poor mother to three quarterns of brandy, and drank himself silly, and so was recaptured and taken to Newgate for the last time. In the Bull's Head Tavern, where a Board School raises its innocent head, Sir Richard Steele drank deep, so did Hogarth and his brethren of “The Artists' Club.” Nell Gwynn was born, according to Oldys, in the Coal Yard, Drury Lane, and Pepys' much-quoted peep at her“ standing at her lodger's door in her smock sleeves and bodice, a mighty pretty creature," occurred at the top of Maypole Alley. Lying ill in Bow Street, Wycherleysurely the laureate of the region-got married as soon as his life was despaired of. In Charles II's time near Lincoln's Inn Fields three dukes killed a beadle, “praying for his life upon his knees with many wounds," and Charles II graciously pardoned them. Incidents such as these blossom in this wild and curious place. Bagnios and night-houses abounded ; Covent Garden poured forth from its clubs tipsy gentlemen each night, and St. Giles sent its prize-fighters, cut-purses and bullies; the young men from the Inns of Court and their jackals came forth to frolic and prowl; the players from the theatres, the market porters and butchers, the lampooners and hacks from Fleet Street were there, nor were the Bow Street runners amissing.
“The bloods and drabs of Drury Lane," the butchers of Clare Market, their zany preacher, Orator Henley, the beautiful Bracegirdle, and the great-hearted exiled Queen of Bohemia and her lover, the brave Lord Craven, Joe Miller, Rich, the Comedian, Unparalleled Penderell, who lived in Turnstyle Lane, Jonathan Wild, Jack Sheppard, Hogarth and Savage, and “Shock Tim," who won at dice a man's fortune and the hair of his head, have all gone to dust, and so have the houses in which they made themselves famous. Half of the buildings displaced were late Jacobean or Queen Anne behind their stained plaster fronts.
When the nest of ancient little streets round Clare Market was attacked they presented one of the strongest effects in these pemolitions. Coming down through this silent region at night one saw nothing but aged houses boarded and shuttered with big chalk marks on the doors. Sometimes a cart would rumble along, and in the distance you saw the glare of torches where men were digging. It was like walking into London of the Great Plague. Undoubtedly, some of these houses had borne the real Plague signs on their doors. Another strange thing was the rabble of homeless folk who found shelter in the cellars of the demolished houses, made nests of newspapers, lit little fires, and lived a free life until the policemen came on an encampment of some thirty of them through an unfortunate falling out of friends over some trifling matter.
This is a self-conscious time and our authors have analysed London from its smoke to its soul, but it still remains for someone to stand aside and consider how much of what is peculiar and characteristic in the Londoner's turn of mind owed its existence to regions such as this, where one had only to turn a street corner and there were the houses, the people and the acts of the freeliving, grimy, rowdy old Georgian age. Something of his appalling tolerance, his tendency to swarm and riot whenever he gets
“half a chance," his habitual interest in and familiarity with the nicknames and ways of the aristocracy (see Hanover Square when there is a big wedding there!), his undying interest in crime that makes the London newsbills one of the sights of the country -all these qualities seemed to have their headquarters here. In Tudor days, Holywell Street and Butchers' Row and Drury Lane and their purlieus were a sort of rabble gathered at the gates of the city, where they stood without the rules, and lawless folk preferred them for their free ways and nearness to the sanctuary of the Abbey and the Court of the King. Something of this hung about the district until, it would seem, almost yesterday. In a little shaving of a street off Lincoln's Inn Fields, a crazy old red-tiled cottage, in which a waste-paper merchant traded, leads a threatened existence in the lee of some peculiar tenements. For forty years a controversy has meandered on through the weekly press about its right to be considered the original of Dickens' “Old Curiosity Shop.” The evidence for such a view was that it was an old curiosity shop, and, so far as is proved, the only one with which Dickens was familiar. In 1825 Dickens was a clerk to Ellis & Blackmore near by. It was on the direct way (if one may talk of a direct way in this crooked neighbourhood) from the Strand to the house of John Foster in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and so he must have constantly passed it. There is a print of 1837 showing that it was not only an old curiosity shop, but a well-known one. In 1840 Dickens issued the first. number of “Master Humphrey's Clock," which was the origin of “The Old Curiosity Shop.” The Portsmouth Street shop was kept for forty years by a character called Tessyman, who knew many authors. He is said to have called Dickens “ Lightning,” Thackeray “Sugar," Cruikshank
Sugar,” Cruikshank “Whiskers,” and Jerrold “Mustard ”-nicknames quite good enough to prove his