Remarks upon the Salt-Peter-House near Islington. On Head-Dressers Shops. A Description of the Widdow’s Coffee-House, with its Furniture and Guests. Of a couple of Jilts. Of Flogging Cullies. Of a Child found in a Basket, and a Constables Learned Speech on that Occasion. Of the City Waits. Of the City Black-Guards. A Description of a Constables going the Rounds. On the Dark-House at Billingsgate; with the Diverting Conversation of the Fish-Women, Seamen, and others. Of an Exchange-Commodity-Broker; and what Fortunes he had at his Disposal.
ACording to the Wisdom of our Fore-fathers, we have carefully taken the Old Gentleman by the Fore-Lock; for tho’ we thought it Ten a Clock when we left the Blessings of dear Hymen’s Palace, yet, by the Night, it prov’d but the Misers Bed-time. The Modest Hour of Nine being just Proclaim’d by Times Oracle from every Steeple; and the Joyful Alarm of Bow-Bell call’d the weary Apprentices from their Work to their Paring-shovels, to Unhich their Folded Shutters, and Button up their Lying Sanctuaries, their Shops, till the next Morning; wherein there are more Untruths asserted in one Day, than False Oaths taken in Westminster-Hall in a whole Term. Their Masters having more Canting Reservations to indemnify their Consciences from the Danger of Desceitful Protestations, than an Old Strumpet, or a Plot Evidence; being more afraid of Breaking, than they are of Damning; for indeed that Trader thinks he has made but an Ill-Market, that cannot save himself.
The Streets were all adorn’d with dazling Lights whose bright reflect so glitter’d in my Eyes, that I could see nothing but themselves. Thus walk’d amaz’d, like a wandering Soul in its Pilgrimage to Heaven, when it passes thro’ the Spangled Regions.
My Ears were so Serenaded on every side, with the Grave Musick of sundry Passing Bells, the ratling of Coaches, and the Melancholy Ditties of Hot Bak’d Wardens and Pippins, that had I had as many Eyes as Argos, and as many Ears as Fame, they would have been all confounded, for nothing could I see but Light, and nothing hear but Noise.
We had not walk’d the usual distance between a Church and an Ale-house, but some Odoriferous Civit Box perfum’d the Air, and saluted our Nostrils with so refreshing a Nosegay, that I thought the whole City (Edenborough like) had been overflow’d with an Inundation of Surreverence. By and by came thundering by us a rumbling Engine in the Dark, which I took for a Dead-mongers Waggon, laden with a Stinking Corps, by reason of long keeping, driving Post-haste to the next Church-Yard, in order for Interrment: But was soon undeceiv’d by my Friend, who told me ’twas a Gold-finders Caravan, carrying Treasure to their Land-Bank by the Salt-Peter Houses. The Projectors of which Notable design (says my Friend) have at no small expence, discover’d the Fallacy of an old Proverb, and can (by your leave Sir) by sound Reason and true Experience deny Shitten Luck to be good Luck. For after two or three Thousand Pounds disbursment, to turn a T—d into Gunpowder, they found their Project would would not signifie a Fart. Which if their designing Noddles could have brought to perfection, our Foes then, like Themselves now, would have doubtless been in a very Stinking Condition.
As we stumbled along, my Friend bid me take Notice of a Shop, wherein sat three or four very provoking Damsels, with as much Velvet on their Backs, as would have made a Burying-Pall for a Country Parish, or a Holiday Coat for a Physician; being Glorified at bottom with Gold Fringes, that I thought at first they might be Parsons Daughters, who had Borrow’d their Fathers Pulpit Cloths, to use as Scarffs, to go a Visiting in; each with as many Patches in her Market-Place, as are Spots in a Leopards Skin, or Freckles in the Face of a Scotchman.
I ask’d my Friend what he took them for? Who answer’d, They were a kind of first rate Punks by their Rigging, of about a Guinea purchase. I further queried, what reason he had to believe them to be Leachery-Layers? He reply’d, because they were sitting in a Head-Dressers-Shop; which, says he, is as seldom to be found without a Whore, as a Book-sellers Shop in Pauls Church Yard without a Parson.
Come, says my Friend, we’ll call here hard by, at the Widows Coffee-House, and Drink a Dish or two, I have some Female Patients that use the House, who are a little in my Debt, and if the Lewdness of the Town has lately thrown a Cully in their way, they may chance to be able to make me satisfaction.
Accordingly we blunder’d thro’ the long dark Entry of an Ancient Fabrick, groping our way like Subteranean Labourers in the Caverns of a Colepit, till we found the Stairs, which were rais’d as Perpendicular as a Tilers Ladder, that had I not the use of a Rope, which was Nailed alongst the Wall, as a Clue to Guide me, I could have climb’d a Country May-Pole, or have crawl’d up the Buttock-Shrowds of one of Her Majesties First-Rates, with less Danger and Difficulty. At last an old Weather-beaten Cerberus came to the Stair-head with a Candle, which to me was as Welcome as a Light in a dark Night to a stumbling Drunkard, or Moonshine (when near Land) to a doubtful Mariner, saluting us with Lord, Gentlemen, why did you not call to be Lighted up? I protest, I thought there had been a Candle upon the Stairs, but my careless Baggage is so Lazy, she minds nothing as she should do; she’s but lately come out of the Country, and runs staring about like a Bumpkin in Paul’s Church, or a Libertine in a Conventicle.
With this sort of Talk she usher’d us into the Coffee-Room; where, at the Corner of a long Table next her Elbow-Chair, lay a large old Bible open, with her Spectacles upon it; next to it a Quartern Pot, two or three Stone Bottles, a Rowl of Plaister, and a Pipe of Tobacco, a Handful of Fire in a Rusty Grate, with a Pint Coffee-Pot before it, and a Green Earthen Chamber-Pot in the Chimney Corner. Over the Mantle Tree, two Bastard Dishes, a Patch Box, and a Syrrenge. On a little Shelf, amongst Viols and Galley Pots, half a dozen long Bottles of Rosa Solis, with an Advertisement of a rare White-wash for the Face nail’d on one side, and a brief account of the Excellencies of Doctor John C—se’s Pills for the speedy cure of a violent Gonorhea, without loss of time or hindrance of Business, on the other; a Soldiers Scimiter, Musket, and Cattoock Box; behind the Door, a Head-Dressers Block, and a Quart Pot (as terrible as a Deaths-Head, and an Hour-glass) stood frightfully in the Window. Also an old fashion’d Clock in Case, but as silent as a Corps in a Coffin. Next which hung the Reverend Print of the Seven Golden Candlesticks; and against that a Commode, adorn’d with a Scarlet Top-knot; under it an Abstract of the Acts of Parliament against Drinking, Swearing, and all manner of Prophaness. A broken Floor, like an old Stable, Windows mended with Brown-Paper; and bare Walls full of Dust and Cobwebs.
After I had walk’d about, and taken a compleat view of this Antiquated Sodom, I set my self down; but of a sudden felt such a trembling in the Fabrick, that the Windows Jarr’d, the Fire Irons Jingled, in short all things in the Room seem’d to be in Motion, and kept time, with a tinkling noise, like a Tumbrel in a Morris Dance; that had I not been furnish’d with some reasons to suspect the contrary, I should have been under the frightful Apprehensions of an Earthquake. But in a little time the violent Pulsation, that had given an Ague to the whole House, was over, and all things were again reconcil’d to their former rest. Presently after came down Stairs, from a loftier Apartment, reserv’d for Private Uses, a couple of Airy Youths, who, by their Crop’d Hair, Stone Buckles in their Shoes, broad Gold Hatbands, and no Swords, I took to be Merchants Sons, or the Apprentices of topping Traders. They stay’d not above a Minute in the Coffee-Room, but, Magpie like, ask’d what’s a Clock? Then made their Honours after the newest Fashion, and so departed.
My Friend by this time (knowing the Entertainment of the House) had call’d for a Bottle of Cock-Ale, of which I tasted a Glass, but could not conceive it to be any thing but a mixture of Small Beer and Treacle. If this be Cock-Ale, said I, e’en let Cocks-Combs Drink it. Prithee give me a Glass of Brandy, or something that will Dart Lightening into my Spirits, and not fill my Guts with Thunder. With that the Reverend Doctress of Debauchery (after she had approv’d my Choice with a chearful Smile) signified her Sympathising Appetite, in these words, Sir, you are of my mind, I think there’s nothing like a Dram of true Nantz, or some such-like comfortable Cordial; of the former indeed I have none, by reason of its Scarcity, but I have an excellent Distillation of my own preparing, which some call Aqua Veneris: It will restore an old Man of Threescore to the Juvenality of Thirty, or make a Girl at Fourteen, with Drinking but one Glass, as ripe as an old Maid of Twenty Four. ’Twill make a Parson Dance Sallingers-round, a PuritanDescribing a person, group, or ideal, that believed in the need to continue reform of the Church of England and rid it of remaining traces of Catholicism. lust after the Flesh, and a Married Man Oblige his Wife oftener in one Night, than without it he shall be able to do in Seven. I sell it to most Citizens Wives in Town, who are seldom without it in their Closet, to oblige their Husbands or Gallants. For, tho’ I say it, that should not, it’s the best Cordial to strengthen a weak Appetite, drank a little before Bed-time, in the World. Here Priscilla, bring the Gentleman a Quartan. Just as a Cup of Corroboration was moving round, who should bolt down Stairs from Fools Paradise above, but a couple of Mortal Angels as nimble as Squirrels, with Looks as Sharp, and Eyes as Piercing as a Tigers, who, I suppose, after rumpling their Feathers in a hot Engagement, had staid to rectifie their disorder’d Plumes, and make ready for a fresh Encounter: They presently saluted my Friend, as the Devil did Doctor Edwards, with your Servant Doctor. He return’d their Compliment, and desir’d their Company; which they as readily Granted, as a Fortuneless Jilt her consent to Matrimony, or a poor Scholar his Company to a Treat.
By the help of Paint, Powder, and Patches, they were of a Wax-work Complection: And thus drest, their under-Petticoats were White Dimity Flourished, like a Turky work Chair, or a Fools Doublet, with Red, Green, Blew, and Yellow. Their Pin-up Coats of Scotch Plads, adorn’d with Bugle Lace; and Gowns of Printed Calico; but their Heads drest up to the best Advantage, as a Vintners Bar-Keeper, or a Parsons Wife upon an Easter Sunday. These, I suppose Devil like, would play at small Game rather than stand out, and sooner condescend to the Acceptance of a ShillingOld British currency, before it went decimal. There were 20 shillings in a pound (£), and 12 pennies (d) in a shilling., than want Imployment.
By that time we had sip’d off our Nipperkin of my Granums Aqua Mirabilis, our Airy Ladies grew so very Mercurial, they could no longer contain their feign’d Modesty, but launch’d out into their accustomary Wantonness; and show’d us as many whimsicalGiven to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behaviour, or given to whimsy and fanciful notions. Fagaries, and diverting Pranks, as a young Monkey with a Mouse at his Tail, or an Owl upon a Duck’s Back in the Water.
This Familiarity encourag’d my Friend to a further freedom, who took the boldness upon him to ask her if Trading had been so good of late, that she could pay the arrears due upon her last Misfortune. To which she reply’d, The Lord confound your Devices, for a Twat-Scouring Pimp, I owe you none till the breaking out of the next Fire. Did not I agree with you, when first we dealt together, to pay you one Cure under another; and therefore the last is not due till I next want your assistance. Pray Mr. Emplaistrum, don’t you come that upon me neither for I am sure I have paid you hitherto as generously as any Patient of my Quality that ever you give Pill or Bolus to; and have done you, and your Profession, as much Service as any of my Function that Trades between Aldgate and Temple-Barr. You know when I was in keeping, I let you have Money to redeem your Plaister-Box, when I ow’d you not a Groat; and I have had nothing in return of my Kindness, as I know on, but a little Roman Vitriol for a Shanker, or a piece of Orrice-Root for my Issue; therefore you need not be so sharp with me neither.
This Impudence so silenc’d my Friend, that he look’d as Tame as a City Cuckold chid by his Wife; and as Dumb as a Statue: Being glad to appease her fury by calling for ’tother Quartan, which before we had Drank, who should grovel up Stairs, but, seemingly, a Sober Citizen, in Cloke and Band, about the Age of Sixty. Upon which the old Mother of the Maids, call’d hastily to Priss, and whispering ask’d her if there were any Rods in the House? I sitting just by, overheard the Question: The Wench answer’d, Yes, yes, you know I fetch’d six Penny worth but Yesterday. Upon the Entrance of this grave Fornicator, our Ladies withdrew themselves from our Company, and retir’d like Modest Virgins to their Secret Work-room of Iniquity; and left the old Sinner in the Winter of his Leachery, to warm his Grey-hairs with a dram of Invigorating Cordial, whilst we pay’d our Reckoning, were lighted down Stairs, and left the Lustful Satyr (to the Shame of his Age) a Prey to the two Strumpets; who, I believe, found himself in a much worse Condition then a Breech between two Stools, or Lot in Sodom, between the Merry Cracks his Buxom Daughters.
Time now, like a skilful Gamster, had just nick’d Seven; and each Parochial Jack of Lanthorn, was croaking about Streets the hour of Eleven. The Brawny Topers of the City began now to forsake the Tavern, and Stagger haulking, after a Poop Lanthorn, to their own Houses. Augusta appear’d in her Mourningweeds; and the glittering Lamps which a few Hours before sparkled like Diamonds, fix’d as Ornaments to her Sable Dress, were now dwindled to a glimmering Snuff, and burnt as dim as Torches at a Princes Funeral. Strumpets in the Streets were grown a scarce Commodity; for the danger of the Counter had drove them home to their own poor sinful Habitations; where nothing dwells but Shame, Poverty and Misery, the Devil and Themselves.
We now were at a stand which way to move; at last my Companion propos’d the Dark-Houses at Billingsgate: Where, he told me, we need not question, amongst the various Humours of the MaritimeConnected with the sea, especially in relation to seaborne trade or naval matters. Mobility, but to find abundance of Diversion. Besides, when our Faculties should grow tired with our Pastime, and Nature (for the Refreshment of our drowsie Microcosms) should require rest, we could there have the conveniency of a Bed to repose our weary Members.
Accordingly we thither steer’d our Course; and by the way, I ask’d him what was the meaning, when the Old Leacher came into the Coffee-Room, that Mother Beelzebub ask’d the Wench whether they had any Rods in the House? He smil’d at my Question; and told me, he believ’d he should discover a new Vice to me which I scarce had heard of.
That Sober seeming Saint, says he, is one of that Classis in the Black School of Sodomy, who are call’d by Learned Students in the Science of Debauchery, Flogging Cullies. This unnatural Beast gives Money to those Strumpets which you see, and they down with his Breeches and Scourge his Privities till they have laid his Leachery. He all the time begs their Mercy, like an Offender at a Whipping-Post, and beseeches their forbearance; but the more importunate he seems for their favourable usage, the severer Vapulation they are to exercise upon him, till they find by his Beastly Extasie, when to with-hold their Weapons.
We had not proceeded far towards our intended Harbour, but at the door of an Eminent Shop-Keeper in Grace-Church-street, we heard, as we thought, the unsavory Squallings of some Nocturnal Revellers, call’d Cats, Summoning with their untunable Bagpipes, the Neighbouring Mouse-hunters to their merry meeting. But by the help of a Watchmans Lanthorn, who met us in the Passage, we discover’d a Hand-Basket; from whence we conceiv’d proceeded this ingrateful Discord. Hey day, says the Watchman, What, in the name of the Stars, have we got Here? The unhappy Fruits of some-Bodies Labours I’ll warrant you, who had rather get ten Bastards than Provide for one. He opens the Wicker Hammock, and finds a little lump of Mortality crying out to the whole Parish to lend him their assistance: With this Inscription, Written in a fair Hand pin’d upon his Breast.
I was got by an Honest Poor Man,
Who Sails in Her Majesties Service,
My Mother is call’d Whore Nan,
The Name of my Father is Jarvice.
My Fathers first Letter is I,
My Mothers with N does begin,
They put them together to try,
What it Spelt, and ’twas Luckily IN.
Thus was I Conceiv’d in Sin,
There’s no Body got without,
And tho’ I went Sinfully in,
The Iniquities now come out.
Have Mercy upon me, I Pray,
And carry me out of the Weather,
For all that my Mother can say,
The Parish must be my Father.
The unusualness of such a Posie, upon so unwelcome a Present, made us as Merry as a young Comedian over a Lame Jest, or a Constable at a Bell-mans Verse. The Watchman Cough’d up a Pthisical Hem, as a Signal to his Associates of some Mischance, which was soon convey’d from one to t’other, till it alarm’d the Leader of the Hour-Grunters, who soon came up, attended with his Twinkling Guard of Superanuated Sauce-Boxes; and presently Saddled his Nose with a pair of Glass’d Horns, to Read the Superscription, and see to whom the Squaling Packet was directed. But when he found the poor Infant lay driveling upon a whole Slabbering-Bib of Verses, Alack, alack, says Father Midnight, I’ll warrant ’tis some poor Poets Bastard, Prithee take it up, and let’s carry it to the Watch-House Fire. Who knows but by the Grace of ProvidenceGod or another spiritual entity's protective care and direction., the Babe may come to be a second Ben Johnson? Prithee Jeffery put the Lappit of thy Coat over it, I’ll warrant ’tis so cold, it can scarce feel whether it be a Boy or Girl. Away troop’d his Dark Majesty, with his Feeble Band of Crippl’d Parish Pensioners, to their Nocturnal Rendezvouz, all-tickl’d with the Jest, and as Merry over their hopeful Foundling, as the Egyptian Queen over her young Prophet in the Rushes.
We blunder’d on in pursuit of our Nights Felicity, but scarce had walk’d the length of a Horses Tedder, e’re we heard a Noise so dreadful and surprizing, that we thought the Devil was Riding on Hunting thro’ the City, with a Pack of deep-mouth’d Hell-hounds, to catch a Brace of Tally-men for Breakfast. At last bolted out from the corner of a Street, with an Ignis Fatuus Dancing before them, a parcel of strange Hobgoblins cover’d with long Frize Rugs and Blankets, hoop’d round with Leather Girdles from their Cruppers to their Shoulders; and their Noddles button’d up into Caps of MartialRelating to fighting or war. figure, like a Knight Errant at Tilt and Turnament, with his Wooden-head lock’d in an Iron Helmet; one Arm’d, as I thought, with a lusty Faggot Bat, and the rest with strange Wooden Weapons in their hands in the shape of Clyster Pipes, but as long, almost, as Speaking Strumpets. Of a sudden they Clap’d them to their Mouths, and made such a frightful Yelling, that I thought the World had been Dissolving, and the Terrible Sound of the last Trumpet to be within an Inch of my Ears.
Under these amazing Apprehensions, I ask’d my Friend what was the meaning of this Infernal out-cry? Prithee, says he, what’s the matter with thee? Thou look’st as if thou wert Gally’d, why these are the City Waites, who play every Winters Night thro’ the Streets, to rouse each lazy Drone to Family Duty. Lord Bless me, said I, I am very glad its no worse; I was never so scar’d since I pop’d out of the Parsley bed. Prithee let us make haste out of the hearing of them, or I shall be forc’d to make a Close stool-pan of my Breeches. At which my Friend laugh’d at me: Why, what, says he, don’t you love Musick? These are the topping Tooters of the Town; and have Gowns, Silver-Chains, and Sallaries, for playing Lilla Burlera to my Lord Mayors Horse thro’ the City. Marry, said I, if his Horse lik’d their Musick no better than I do, he would soon fling his Rider for hiring such Bug-bears to affront his Ambleship. For my part, when you told me they were Waites, I thought they had been the Polanders; and was never so afraid, but that their Bears had been Dancing behind them.
The next Scene the Night presented to our imperfect view, were a very Young Crew of diminutive Vagabonds, who march’d along in Rank and File, like a little Army of Prester John’s Countrymen, as if advancing in order to attack a Birdsnest. This little Gang of Tatterdemalions, my Friend was almost as great a Stranger, to as my self; and for our Satisfaction to be better inform’d, we saluted them after this manner, Pray what are you for a Congregation of Ragged Sprights? And whether are you Marching? We, Master, reply’d one of the Pert Frontiers, we are the City Black-Guard, Marching to our Winter Quarters, the Glass-House in the the Minories. Lord Bless you Masters, give us a Penny or a Half-penny amongst us, and you shall hear any of us (if you please) say the Lords-Prayer Backwards; Swear the Compass round; give a new Curse to every step in the Monument; call a Whore as many proper Names as a Peer has Titles. I find, said I, you are a parcel of hopeful Sprouts: However we gave the poor Wretches a Penny, and away they troop’d,with a Thousand God Bless ye’s, as Ragged as Old Stockin Mops; and I’ll warrant you as Hungry as so many Cattamountains: Yet seem’d as Merry as they’re Poor; and as Contented as they’re Miserable.
What a shame is it, said I, that such an infamous brood of Vagabonds should be train’d up in Villany, Ignorance, Laziness, Prophanness, and Infidelity, from their Cradles, in such a well Govern’d Christian City as this, where are so many grave Magistrates and Parish Officers, whose Care it ought to be to prevent such growing Evils; and yet to suffer such a Nest of Heathens to be Nurs’d up in BlasphemyThe action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or a sacred thing., and contempt of Religion, under the very Walls of their Churches, to me ’tis very strange.
They are poor Wretches, says my Friend, that are drop’d here by Gypsies and Country Beggars, when they are so little, they can give no Account of Parents or Place of Nativity; and the Parishes caring not to bring a charge upon themselves, suffer them to beg about in the Day-time, and at Night Sleep at Doors, and in Holes and Corners about the Streets, till they are so harden’d in this sort of Misery, that they seek no other Life till their Riper Years (for want of being bred to Labour) puts them upon all sorts of Villany: Thus thro’ the neglect of Church-Wardens and Constables, from Beggary they proceed to Theft, and from Theft to the Gallows.
As we were thus reflecting upon the Miserable Condition of these unhappy Wretches, another Midnight King of Clubs was going his Progress round his scanty Dominions, attended with his whole Court of Ravenous Mobility; and popping on us unawares, his well-fed Majesty bid his Guard De Core hault; and with a Hem, clapping his painted Scepter to the Ground as hard as a Pavier does his Rammer, bid us stand and come before the Constable. We like prudent Ramblers, obey’d the Voice of Authority: And with uncover’d Heads, pay’d Reverence to his awful Presence.
He Demanded of us, in an austere Voice, who and what we were; and had as many impertinent Questions at his Tongues end, as an Apothecary has hard Words, or a Midwife bawdy Stories. My Friend, in order to satisfie his Worships curiosity, and make him something the wiser, answer’d his Foolish Examination, with as much Submission, and Respect as a Proud Peevish Dunce in Authority could expect, or a Prudent Man, when at the Mercy of such a Cock’s-comb, give.
He ask’d my Friend what was his Profession? He answer’d him a Surgeon. A Surgeon! Says our Learned Potentate, in great derision; and why not a Chirurgeon, I pray Sir? I could find in my heart to send you to the Counter, for presuming to corrupt the Kings English before me his Representative.
’Twas a mistake, Mr. Constable, said I, pray Excuse it, and be not so severe with us, we are very sober civil Persons, who have been about Business, and are going quietly to our own Habitations.
Civil and Sober Persons, said he, how do I know that, Mr. Prattle-box? You may be Drunk for ought I know, and only feign your selves Sober before my presence to escape the Penalty of the Act.
My Friend put his Hand in his Pocket, plucks out a Shilling, Indeed Mr. Constable, says he, we tell you nothing but the Naked Truth. There is something for your Watch to Drink: We know it is a late Hour, but hope you will detain us no longer.
With that, Mr. Surlycuff, directs himself to his right hand Janizary, Hem, hah, Aminidab, I believe they are Civil Gentlemen: Ay, ay, said he, Master, you need not Question it; they don’t look as if they had Fire-Balls about ’em. Well, Gentlemen, you may pass; but Pray go Civily home. Here Colly light the Gentlemen down the Hill, they may chance to stumble in the Dark, and break their Shins against the Monument.
Thank you Sir kindly, said we, for your Civility, but we know the way very well, and shall need no Watchman: Your Servant Sir, Good Night to you.
I am very glad, says my Friend, we are got out of the Clutches of this Inquisitive Coniwable. This Grey headed lump of grave Ignorance, takes as much Pride in being the most Officious Fool in his Parish, as a Victualler, does to be one of the Jury, or a Vintner to be made an Ensign of the Train-Bands. This is the most ill-natur’d Pragmatical Blockhead, that ever was centr’d in a Circle of Lanthorns; and if he had said our Heads had been made of Hackney-Turnips, one Word in contradiction would have cost us a Nights Lodging in the Counter; for he makes no more of committing a Man, than a Tavern-Drawer does of Kissing the Cook. And his Thirsty RetinueA group of advisers, assistants, or others accompanying an important person. that attend him, are rare hard-mouth’d Fellows at an Oath; and can Swear as heartily as a Lancashire Evidence, you were Drunk, tho’ you drank nothing but Coffee in three days before; and that you abused the Constable, tho’ you gave him not an ill word; and Swore abundance of Oaths, tho’ your Communication (Quaker like) was nothing but Yea, yea, and Nay, nay.
The great good these Fellows do in the Streets, is to Disturb People every Hour with their Bawling, under pretence of taking care they may sleep quietly in their Beds; and call every old Fool by his Name seven times a Night, for fear he should rise and forget it next Morning; and often, instead of preventing Mischief, make it; by carrying honest Persons to the Counter, who would fain walk Peaceably home to their own Habitations: And provoke Gentlemen, by their Sauciness, to commit those Follies, ’tis properly their Business to prevent. In short, it is reasonable enough to believe, they play more Rogues Tricks than ever they detect, and occasion more Disturbances in the Streets than ever they hinder.
By this time we were come to Billingsgate; and in a narrow Lane, as dark as a Burying Vault, which Stunk of stale Sprats, Piss, and Sirreverence, we groped about, like a couple of Thieves in a Cole-hole, to find the Entrance of that Nocturnal Theatre, in whose delightful Scenes we propos’d to terminate the Nights felicity. At last we stumbled upon the Threshold of a Gloomy Cavern; where, at a distance, we saw, Lights burning like Candles in a Haunted Cave, where Ghosts and Gobblins keep their Midnight Revels.
We no sooner enter’d, but heard such a number of Female Tongues, so Promiscuously engag’d in a Mess of Tittle-Tattle, That had a Water-man knock’d down his Wife with his Stretcher, and been trying for the Fact by a Parliament of Fish-Women, they could not have exercis’d their nimble Instruments with more impatience.
We e’en turn’d our selves into the Smoaky Boozing Ken amongst them; where round the Fire sat a tatter’d Assembly of Fat Motherly Flat-caps, with their Fish-Baskets hanging upon their Heads instead of Riding-hoods, with every one her Nipperkin of warm Ale and Brandy; and as many Rings upon their Thumbs as belongs to a suit of Bed-Curtains. Everyone as Slender in the Waste as a Dutch Skipper in the Buttocks; and look’d together, like a Litter of Squab Elephants. Their Noses were as sharp as the Gnomon of a Dial, and look’d as Blew as if they had been Frost-nip’d. Their Cheeks were as plump as an Infants Buttocks, but adorn’d with as many Crimson Carnossities as the Face of a Noblemans Butler, who has liv’d Forty Years in a Family; and plainly proved by the depth of their colour, That Brandy is a Nobler Die than Claret. Their Tongues were as loud as the Temple-Horn, that calls the Cuckold-makers to their Commons: And every word they spoke was at least in the Pitch of double Gammut. Their chief clamour was against High-heads and Patches; and said it would have been a very good Law, if Q. Mary had effected her design, & brought the proud Minks’s of the Town to have worn High-Crown’d Hats instead of Top-knots.
Then one looking over her Shoulder, and spying me behind her, accosts me after this manner; God save you, honest Master, will you Pledge me? Ay, Dame, said I, with all my Heart. Why then, says she, here’s a Health to mine A—s, and a Fart for those that owe no Money.
Lord help my poor Masters, says another, they look as if they had disoblige’d their Wives or their Landladies, and they would not rise, and let them in to Night.
Come, come away, says my Friend, let’s seek another Apartment: These saucy Tongu’d old Whores will tease us to Death. Which unhappy words one of them over-heard; and starting up like a Fury, thus gave her Lungs a Breathing.
You White-liver’d Son of a Fleet-street Bumsitter, begot upon a Chair at Noonday, between Ludgate and Temple-Bar. You Puppily off-Spring of a Mangy Nightwalker, who was forc’d to Play the Whore an Hour before she cry’d out, to pay the Bawd her Midwife, for bringing you, you Bastard, into the World. Who is it that you call Whore?
Away slunk my Friend and I into another Room, and left them to spend their malignant Spirits by themselves, and were as thankful to Providence we escap’d so imminent a Danger, as if deliver’d from the Rage of so many Wild-Cats. And indeed if their Tallons were as sharp as their Tongues, they need not fear a Combat with all the Beasts of America.
We were now tumbled into Company compos’d of as many sorts of Rakes as you may see Whores at a Buttock-Ball. One in a long Wig and Muff, looking as fretful as a broken Gamester, biting his Nailes as if he was ready to Curse aloud Confound the Dice. Another as dull as if the Grey Mare was the better Horse; and deny’d him Enterance for keeping late Hours. The next as brisk and lively as if just come of Age, and had got his Means in his own Hands, bought his Time of his Master, and fear’d no colours: But thinking the day too short for his Fortune, resolves the Night shall make amends, by lengthening out his Pleasures.
Up in a Corner sat a couple of brawny Watermen, one Eating Broil’d Red Herrings, and the other Bread and Cheese and Onions, that had a Welch-man Spew’d up his Cous-bobby and Leek-Porridge into a Dutchman’s Close Stool Pan, it could not have produc’d a finer Nose-gay to have Poison’d the Devil.
Then in blunders a Drunken Tar, as great in his Thoughts as an Admiral; and calls to the Boy in the Bar after this manner. You Horse-turdly Spawn of a Fresh-water Lubber, why don’t you hand me a Candle, and induct me to my Cabbin, that I may Belay my self? As the Boy lights him up Stairs, he stumbles; and Curses, The Devil D—n the Ratlings of these Wooden Shrowds, for I have broke my Shins against ’em, I had rather run up to the Cross Trees of the Main-top-mast in a Storm, than six Rounds of these confounded Land Ladders after the Drinking a Kan of Phlip or a Bowl of Punch.
Next this came in a spruce Blade with a pretended Wife, ask’d what time the Boats went off to Gravesend, they told him about four in the Morning. Alas, says he, that will be too long to sit up: Can’t my Wife and I have a Bed here? Yes, yes, Sir, if you please, reply’d the pious Beldam, God forbid else, we have several couple above in Bed, that wait for the Tide as well as you Sir. So up they were lighted Post-haste to the Old Trade of Basket-making.
After these Bolted in two Seamen, with a little crooked Fiddler before them, short Pipes in their Mouths, Oaken Truncheons in their Hands, Thrum-Caps upon their Heads, and Canvas Trunks upon their Arses. We had the Good Luck for these to stagger in our Company, whose unpolish’d Behaviour, Apish Guestures, and Maritime Nonsense, added no small Pleasure to the Night, but gave us hopes of as much Mirth as a London Apprentice finds at a Bartholomew Fair Poppet Show, or a Country ’Squire among a gang of Stroling Comedians.
The two lousie Subjects of the pickled God Neptune, having wash’d off their Brine with a Plentiful Dose of Fresh-water Ale, began to be as brisk as a Town Rake that has shak’d off his Poverty, or a Court Libertine an old Mistress. In their Frolicks they happened to espy a Hook drove into the Mantle-Tree, which they immediately converted to a very Comical use, laying violent Hands on my little Lord Crowdero, and by the hind slit of his Breeches, hung him upon the Tenter, who being sorely affrighted at this unexpected Elevation, shot that into his Trousers, which made the Crooked Vermin out-stink a Pole-Cat. In this condition, pendant like a Play House Machine, or a Brazen Cherub over a Church Branch; Begging with humble Submission to be set safe upon Terra Firma. All the time dripping his Guts upon the Earth like a Roasted Wood-Cock; till at last, by rigling, broke the String of his Breeches, and down came our Broil’d Scraper into his own Sauce, upon his feeble Instrument; and was a Sweet Bit ready to be serv’d up to a weak Appetite.
This put the whole Company into such an extravagant fit of Laughter, That had we seen a Bailiff bogg’d, or a Fellow break his Neck at Foot-ball, it could not have been a greater Jest to the Spectators. But as soon as the Angry Homunculus had gathered himself up from his own Dunghill, he gave the two Tritons such an untuneable Lesson upon his ill tunA large beer or wine cask, also formerly used to describe the capacity of ships.’d Organ, that the whining of a Dog-drawn Bitch, or the winding of a Cat-call, could not have disoblig’d our Ears with less grateful Harmony. When he had thus given vent to his ungovernable Indignation, he cockt the Arm of his Hump’d Shoulder upon his Hip, and away rowl’d the Runlet of Gall, turning his unsavoury Bung-hole upon the Company.
The Tarpaulins now began to talk to each other of their Travels; and of the sundry remarkable Accidents which had happened in their Voyages. One swore They once found it so excessive Hot going to Guinea, that they us’d no Fire to Boil their Kettle, but drest all their Beef above Deck in the Sun-shine: And could Bake, Boil, Fry, or Stew, as well as in an Ambrals Cook-room.
Says the other, I never was in so Hot a Climate, as that, but I have been so many degrees to the Northward, where it has been so Cold, it has frozen our Words in our Mouths, that we could not hear one another speak, till we came into a warmer Latitude to thaw ’em; and then all our Discourse broke out together like a Clap of Thunder, that there was never such a Confusion of Tongues ever heard at Babel.
Says his Companion, That’s very strange, but I have known stranger things to be true. I once was sitting upon my Chest between Decks, Lousing an old Canvas Jacket, and we had found by our Observation that day, we were within a few Minutes of being under the Tropick of Cancer; and on a sudden it began to Lower; and the Larboard Watch handed in our Sails, for fear of a Tornado or a Squale: At last a Beam of Lightening darted thro’ an open Port, melted one of the Guns, and went through a pair of Buck-skin Breeches I had on, and Burnt the Lappets of a blew Shirt to Tinder, hiss’d as it came like a Rattle-Snake, but did my Body no manner of Damage.
As our Salt-water Wits were thus Romancing, who should stagger into our Company, but an old Acquaintance of my Friends, who (as I understood by his Talk) was an Exchange Commodity-Broker: A kind of Mungril Match-maker, between Cock-Bawd, and Pimp; or rather a Composition of both. He made more a roaring than half a dozen Drunken Porters, and was as full of Freaks as a Madman at the Full of the Moon. He Guzzl’d, and Rattl’d, Smoak’d, and Star’d like a Fury: And every time he spoke ’twas with so much Earnestness, that I thought his Eyes would have flown out of his Head in pursuit of his Words. All he talk’d was lowd Nonsense; and the heat of his Brain setting Fire to his Tongue, made every thing he said so wonderfully hot, it made the Ears of all People glow that heard ’em. At last he pluck’d out a Catalogue of what Fortunes he had at his Disposal, viz.
A Mercers Daughter in Cornhil, about Seventeen, who was unluckily Kiss’d by her Fathers Prentice, which being spread among the Neighbourhood, he is willing to give her two hundred Pounds advance above an Equality, to salve up the flaw, to any Honest Young Shop-keeper, that will wink at a fault to better his Condition.
An old Maid that had Liv’d 30 Years in an Aldermans Family, who with her Wages, Lady’s old Cloaths, and Money got for private Service, is worth about three hundred pounds; and thinks her self Qualified for keeping a Victualers Bar, is willing to bestow her self upon any honest Free-man, if clear in the World, tho’ not worth a Groat.
A young Buxom Widdow, on the Back-side of the Change, who was Married five Years, but never had a Child; is still in her Mourning, wonderfully Pretty, and tollerably Honest: She is willing to dispose of her self to a brisk, likely Man, within or without the Year: Is in a good Shop well custom’d, and needs no Money.
About half a Hundred Exchange Girles, some Tall, some Short, some Black, some Fair, some Handsome, some Housewifely, some Homely, some Vertuous, but all with White-Chappel Portions, and will make very good Wives for those who have more Money than Wit, and more Faith than Jealousie.
A Vintners Daughter bred at the Dancing School, becomes a Bar well, steps a Minuet finely, Plays John come Kiss me now, now, now, sweetly upon the Virginals, makes a very graceful Figure, and is as Proud, as she’s Handsome: Will have a great many Quart-Pots, old Pewter, Linnen, and other Houshold-stuff to her Portion; but whoever Marries her, must Ride her with a Curb, or she may prove unlucky to the Bane of her Rider.
When he had thus diverted us with his Catalogue of Job’s Comforters, which he pretended were upon Sale, and at his disposal, my Friend began to put me in mind of the considerable Business we had upon Change, at Gresham Colledge, Bedlam, and other places, on the morrow, which occasion’d us to think of Bed, though with as much indifferency as a worn-out Stallion does of a pretty Punk, or a new Married Woman of her Prayers. For the pleasures of the Night were so engaging, and every various Humour such a wakeful piece of Drollery, that a Mountebank and his Jack Pudding, or a set of Morrice-Dancers, could not give more content to a crowd of Country Spectators, than the lively Action of what is here repeated did afford us. But to qualifie our selves the better for our Task, we thought it necessary to take some Rest: So, accordingly, were conducted to a Room which stunk as bad of Pitch, Tar, Sweat, and Tallow, as a Ship between Decks, when the: Tars are in their Hamocks: But the unseasonableness of the hour, forc’d us to be content. And so good Night to ye.