STREETOLOGY OF LONDON; OR, THE METROPOLITAN PAPERS OF THE ITINERANT CLUB
These were sketches intended to be performed as monologues, imitating local accents and dialects. Such sketches contain quite a bit of poetic licence and exaggeration, as well as puns and rehashed tall tales in street cant (dialect).
Let Hercules himself do as he may,
The cat will mew, the dog will have his day."
Vy need the ladies' cats to mew
Ven I'm in dog-cart seated,
Tbey know as vell as me, as how
With dogs'-meat they'll be treated."
It is very true saying, that "one half of the world does not know how the other half lives;" for who would believe that in this wonderful metropolis dead horse-flesh produced bread and cheese for at least two thousand persons. And this same bread and cheese, with all its etceteras, is obtained by sundry itinerant vendors, classically denominated "Dogs' and Cats'-meat Men," albeit the softer sex may occasionally be seen purveying upon skewer the nauseous morsel. In former times the business was confined to few elderly mothers of the basket, who might be found early in the morning bone-grubbing in the streets, and during the middle of the day supplying Puss and Pincher with their hap'orth of scran. Time, regular old tell-tale, soon let them into the secret that dogs and cats were not so contemptible as at first imagined and the old women, finding their pockets improve by the demand, and their baskets getting too little, deemed it necessary to supply better mode of conveying the cats'-meat they therefore furnished themselves with strong blue painted barrows, with lockers for weights and scales, as well as lids, to lock up the precious flesh from the greedy dogs, who, having to provide for themselves, might be seen regularly scenting the barrow of carrion, and watching an opportunity to seize a joint of some unfortunate high-mettled racer or knocked-up roadster, while she was either in-doors supplying the allowance to Tibby or Tommy, or swallowing her own dram at the barrel of Bacchus.
The trade increased rapidly hundreds of these barrows were to be seen in the morning, and the cry of cats'-meat" was to be heard regularly in the streets, both of the town and suburbs. The feline and canine members of the family circles made their appearance upon the walls, outside the windows, or on the steps of the doors, waiting for the well-known sound, the harbinger of the substantial feed.
"Drown cats and blind puppies," says Shakespeare, but these categorical and dogmatical meat-merchants have interdicted the harsh decree, and to them only do many thousands of the grimalkin race owe their existence. They say cats have nine lives true, king of the cats! but they cannot be sustained without the cats'-meat man.
Bull's-horn Billy, notorious cat skinner, one evening, among the itinerants at the Beggar's Opera, Back Church Lane, St. George's in the East, told the following marvellous cracker about certain cats among whom some old beldame of his acquaintance had found place. However, before commence, will not vouch for the statement, although there is tradition confirmatory of the subject connected with Haggerstone Fields the story of which give verbatim, as it stands in the Streetological," says Bull's-horn Billy, in company with my pals, Hogger Tom,ove Finchley, a Gemman vat vas up to everything, and down to trap von as could take cat by the tail, give her three swings and jerk, and turn her out ove her skin as clean as vistle he vas nothing but good 'un ven vonce he cotched em and Slinking Sammy, ove Paddington, slaughterman's lad he vas regler gill too, with queer eye, rummy nose, hare lip, and rabbit's grinders such cove to patter flash vith his mawleys the only tongue he had vas his ten fingers and his two thumbs, vith vitch he used to rattle out the A, B, C, X, Y, and Z, like steam-hingine his tater trap vas as quiet as mile-stone. So he never said nothing to nobody, vithout he vas put up, and then oh, my precious limbs, vouldn't he make you hear his bunch o' fives. Veil, all three on us, along o' Dumpy Davy, the knife grinder, cut away to Black Horse Fields, Haggerston, vare all the knackers and bone-burners carries on their concarns.
Thrice the brindled cat hath mew'd."
"It vas in the month o' Nowember, 1815, just about half arter eleven at night, we took a drop o' summut, and a steamer to keep the fog out o' the tripes, and into the fields we goes; vel, we lays down on the bags wat we purwided to carry the cat skins in, vaiting for the mousers to come to the Velerian root vot Hogger Tom, ove Finchley, had spread about for to 'lice the tortershells from the tiles. There we lay blowing our baccar! Shoreditch bells went a dozen on 'em! the old Charley-man bellows'd out past twelve o'clock, ven all in a minute, right bang in the middle o' the field, there was a greenish blue flame what looked for all the world as if the old Gemman vas a burning his brimstone, and no gammon. Ve vas all struck comical. I know as how I sweat like a over drive bullock, and my ivories chattered in sich a vay, as I couldn't hold my clay no how. Slinking Sammy's fingers vent the rig like von o'clock—but none on us could patter no more nor he. The smoke cleared avay, and the blue flame vas as bright as a sun-beam, ven ve saw about a thousand cats sitting at a round table kivered vith a lilly vite cloth. The sight vas a reglar startler! I never was afeard ove a cat afore in all my life, but if I vasn't then, blow me! Shoreditch clock chimed the half arter twelve, wen on to the table jumped sich a span kin tabby— oh! blow me if she wasn't as big as a young lamb. 'Ladies and Gemmen,' says she. That floored me and my pals as dead and my pals as dead as a biled crab: a spcakin cat bad dumb foundered the lot on us. Ve vere no more use than the fifth leg of a donkey. I tried to call out, but it vasn't no go — the rest on 'em had a shy, but it vouldn't do. The cat kept on—'You know,' says she, "The king of the cats has left this vorld of rats and mice for a place where there ain't no sich varmint, and as he was the last of the line of the Caesars, and ve ain't got no kittens legitmately born to succeed him, I vants to know vhether it is your pleasure that, during my lifetime, I shall hold the reins of gover'ment, or you will perfer a Republican of cats!'
She hadn't finished afore a hundred and more on 'em jumped up, each one giving three reglar mollrows, and then calling out as loudly as any costermonger, 'I'm king of the cats.' Another lot followed them till there vas a general row; ven all ove a sudden, up comes another lot, some on 'em carryin farden rush lights in their fore paws blazing avay, and about five hundred following them, some on 'em carrying a coffin just like a reglar Undertaker's concarn. They scratched up a grave in no time — popp'd him into it — clawed the grass over agin, and set up sich a jolly fillarup as might have been heard all over Lunnun; then cut away at one another right and left, each on 'em crying out,' I'm king of the cats.' The clock struck vone: the moon peeped out form behind a dark cloud: the blue flame wanished? Hogger Tom jumped up, crying out 'damn them cats! won't I tan some o' their jackets!' and into 'em he pitched, followed by all on us. Ve cut away at them, and they cut away at us. Some on 'em eat one another, and them as varn't cat, and didn't make their lucky, ve skinned. Ve never had such a dollop o' cat skins afore nor arter. Ve didn't get out o' Black Horse Fields afore 6 o'clock in the morning, and my share o' the skins set me up in the cat's meat line vith a reglar clog cart, so that 1 does the thing in a genteel vay, vithout no trouble vatsomdever. Ven I got home and turned out my lot o'skins—I vish 1 may be sober a veek, if I didn't diskiver a 'oman's hand among 'em, cut close off at the wrist; strike me plump if I didn't come all over as cold as a snow ball.' Well, I shoved it down—no I didn't! I buried it in the yard under the vater tub, and the next day, in the arternoon, I goes to Mother Ford's, the fortin tellers, in Back Lane. She vas a tawney 'oman, and every body said as she was a vilch. I knocks, and as nobody come, 1 lifted the latch and in I valks: ven there, I sees the old gal laying in the bed: she looks at me and says, ' Bull's-horn Billy,' says she, I know what you're come arter, but keep off or I'll be the death on you!' 'Vat for,'says I,'I only vants my fortin tould,' 'curse your fortin,' says she, 'You've fortin'd me with a vengeance!' 'I never did you no harm old gal,' said 1,' since I vas born, so if you ain't veil, I'll just help you up.' 1 vent to lift her up, ven she screamed, and putting out both her arms to keep me off, 1 diskivered as how she'd only got one flipper. You might have blow'd me over wi' a whif from'a baccar pipe. 'Damn the cats,' says Mother Ford, 'I vas among 'em last night, and your knife cut off my paw— but I'll have your life!' out o' bed she jumped, and down stairs I cuts like a lamplighter, and never saw her or Black Horse Fields no more."
Our illustration of the cat's meat man is Tom Paunch, well known at Monk's the knacker's, near the London Hospital. Neither is he a stranger at the horse boilers of Haggerston, or Gray's Inn Lane, places notorious for the supply of cat's meat. Such is the immense demand for it, that men are employed to look about the streets of London, to buy up any poor animal that, from accident, or otherwise, may drop down dead; and such ,the competition, that they outbid each other for a good conditioned horse, in the proportion of £3 to £1, as was recently experienced at the Mansion House. However filthy the employment it is nevertheless profitable; a middling horse producing from £6 to £7. It may appear singular, but it is nevertheless true, that we never see the tongues of horses exposed for sale in the cat's meat barrows, nor could I find a cat's meat man who had ever bought one at the boiler's [renderer's]. It is said, that in Field Lane, Peter Street, Cow Cross Street, and other places, where they manufacture sausages, that they have tongues in them, which, if blessed with speech, would speak in most hoarse language.
Tom Paunch is a smart fellow, with his velveteen jacket, fustian trowsers, blue apron, and high-low shoes, blue bird's eye, and check shirt; a natty cart, well filled every morning with a bit of the best, drawn along by his faithful "Tray," whose cocked up tail, fox head, and sleek black skin, denotes that his inside is well supplied with the substantial. Tom is a great favourite with the kitchen maids, and frequently, while cutting out a nice bit of horse for pussy, cookey is carving a bit of beef, veal, lamb, or mutton, for Master Tommy. He may be found every morning in the week, about 10 or 11 o'clock, going up Holborn Hill, resting upon the tail of his cart, as our artist describes him, leaning forward with a splendid penn'orth, cut upon a skewer, ready for delivery. At certain periods of the year, horse flesh is scarce, and the dogs' and cats' meat men have to travel occasionally to all the knackers, before they can get a supply: their anxiety and that of their customers, for the expected cry of " cat's meat," seems to speak as plainly as the hero of Bosworth Field, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse:" but it must be a dead horse, for upon these emergencies they are obliged to search the butcher markets for the condemned meat, to satisfy the canine and feline cravings of their customers. I shall finish the sketch of the fancy cat's meat man with a chaunt, that used to be sung by one of the knights of the skewer at the Beggar's Opera
Vy need the ladies' cats to mew
Ven I'm in dog cart seated,
They know, as vell as me, as how
With dog's meat they'll he treated.
I'm reg'ler as the postman round,
To feed their mouse-traps daily
Fills my cart in Mile End Road,
I empts out in the Old Bailey.
There aint another chap like me,
I cuts such slashin slices,
And all the hanimals feeds,
Salutes me wi' their vices.
There's Jinny Grey, the grocer's cat,
A reg'ler out and outer,
She'll have her weight, full half pound,
For nothin less vill suit her.
Then there's an old maid's tabby Tom,
She says, he's sich a rover,
He never takes the slice I cuts
Vithout blessin over.
There's some vont take the last cuts,
Because they're wery dainty.
And some vot turns there noses up,
Ven it's little tainty.
They aint no easy job to please,
Their appetites so wary
But then the best of meat I buys
No rubbish don't I carry.
I never buys a bit o' slink,
Nor any thing vot's stinkin,
But out and out prime pony meat,
Vat can sell like vinkin.
Cats' meat! dogs' meat cats' meat! I cry
Rose barks, and brings me custom
I drops the flesh, they drops the browns,
Cats' meat never trusts 'em.
[Browns = coins. Slink - probably cat carcases from the cat-skinner]