London’s Underworld: Being Selections from “Those That Will Not Work”, The Fourth Volume of “London Labour and the London Poor” (book #117)

ed Peter Quennell, 1950. The fourth volume of London Labour and the London Poor was originally published 1861 by and was by Henry Mayhew, Hemyng, John Binny and Andrew Halliday.

For some reason although my local library has all the volumes of LLatLP, “Those That Will Not Work” is the only one you can borrow.

Here’s a good detailed street scene:

Let us take a picture from the New-cut, Lambeth. We observe many brokers’ shops along the street, with a heterogenous assortment of household furniture, tables, chairs, looking-glasses, plain and ornamental, cupboards, fire-screens, &c., ranged along the broad pavement; while on tables are stores of carpenters’ tools in great variety, copper-kettles, brushes, and bright tin pannikins, and other articles.

We see the dealer standing before his door, with blue apron, hailing the passer-by to make a purchase. Upon stands on the pavement at each side of his shop-door are cheeses of various kinds and of different qualities, cut up into quarters and slices, and rashers of bacon lying in piles in the open windows, or laid out on marble slabs. On deal racks are boxes of eggs, “fresh from the country,” and white as snow, and large pieces of bacon, ticketed as of “fine flavour,” and “very mild.”

Alongside is a milliner’s shop with the milliner, a smart young woman, seated knitting beneath an awning in front of her door. On iron and wooden rods, suspended on each side of the door-way, are black and white straw bonnets and crinolines, swinging in the wind; while on the tables in front are exposed boxes of gay feathers, and flowers of every tint, and fronts of shirts of various styles, with stacks of gownpieces of various patterns.

A green-grocer stands by his shop with a young girl of 17 by his side. On each side of the door are baskets of apples, with large boxes of onions and peas. Cabbages are heaped at the front of the shop, with piles of white turnips and red carrots.

Over the street is a furniture wareroom. Beneath the canvas awning before the shop are chairs of various kinds, straw-bottomed and seated with green or puce-coloured leather, fancy looking-glasses in gilt frames, parrots in cages, a brass-mounted portmanteau, and other miscellaneous articles. An active young shopman is seated by the shop-door, in a light cap and dark apron – with newspaper in hand.

Near the Victoria Theatre we notice a second-hand clothes store. On iron rods suspended over the doorway we find trowsers, vests, and coats of all patterns and sizes, and of every quality dangling in the wind; and on small wooden stands along the pavement are jackets and coats of various descriptious. Here are corduroy jackets, ticketed “15s. and 16s. made to order.” Corduroy trowsers warranted “first rate,” at 7s. 6d. Fustian trowsers to order for 8s. 6d.; while dummies are ranged on the pavement with coats buttoned upon them, inviting us to enter the shop.

In the vicinity we see stalls of workmen’s iron tools of various kinds — some old and rusty, others bright and new.

Re the “red carrots” – see the Carrot Museum and the picture of carrots of different colours on the homepage.

There’s a ballad-singer (who also begs, does odd jobs and steals handkerchiefs (“very clums[ily]y”)) who lists ballads he sings: Gentle Annie; She’s reckoned a good hand at it (can’t find this one); The Dandy Husband (number 25, about three-quarters of the way down the page); The Week’s Matrimony; The Old Woman’s Sayings (can’t find this); John Bull and the Taxes; The Dark-eyed Sailor; The Female Cabin Boy. Good stuff in these, from the Dandy Husband incompetently boiling a magpie and an owl, to the events of each day in The Week’s Matrimony, to the transvestism of The Female Cabin Boy, to John Bull’s complaints about taxes being raised to pay for the royal wedding – “They’re going to tax the women / that go out of doors at night … They’ll tax the bugs and fleas … They will in future tax all children / A week before they’re burn,” and, for good measure, “hang the Quakers”, presumably because they sometimes refuse to pay tax.


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