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Characters III

George Cruickshank (1792-1878)

Sunday in London : George Cruickshank : 1833

Up and out. A knock over the liver. Shy for another; -  lost. Damn the luck! Go to the barber's. Wife to market. Barber's shop full. Wait for turn - an hour and a half. Another knock. Shy for another;- win;- strike me lucky! Growling wife. Give her a whack. Take a snooze. Squalling kids;- 'more dinner, daddy!' Dinner be damned; and the swipes too. Toddle out of it in quick time. Another knock at the ginnegan. Ditto repeated. Copenhagen Fields. Capital cat hunt. Slap-up dog fight. Bit of a mill. Toss for a tater and kidney. Tom and Jerry shop. Two pots of heavy above board. Four qvort'ns of max on the sly. Sportin' paper - my eyes! - Lots of pipes. A reglar wrangle. Mizzle home. Wife sings out. Give her a settler. And so turn in; rather muzzy. To-morrow St Monday!

swipes - small beer : qvort'n - a gill, or quarter of a pint : max - gin : settler - a stunning blow

Notes : Copenhagen Fields, about a mile north of Kings Cross, was established as a recreational area for Londoners from the Restoration (1660), first as a tea garden and subsequently for dog fighting, bull baiting and other semi rural pursuits. It was developed as a 74 acre cattle market in 1855. 

From Sunday in London, Illustrated with Fourteen Cuts, by George Cruickshank, and a few words by a friend of his. Effingham Wilson, 88 Royal Exchange, London. 1833.

George Cruickshank (1792-1878), Sunday in London. 1833

Doubtless there are multitudes of the Middle Orders, who, having devoted six days to their temporal interests, endeavour, as Robbie Burns says, to 'keep up a correspondence wi' Heaven,' by attending on the seventh day their parish church, or some other place in which people still mutually and publicly profess to worship God. Very well, Sir;- the bells chime for morning service, and these good folks troop forth from their homes, parents and children, two and two, in seemly guise, wending their way to church; but the nearer they approach thereto, they find their olfactory nerves offended by the fish offal and refuse of the Sunday market; their feet slipping on pavements covered with the frequent vomit, and flooded with that which shall be nameless; their ears assail'd with oaths, imprecations, and obscenity; and at the church-gates they have to elbow their way through whole squads of drunken fighting men and women.

'Wherever God erects a house of prayer, The devil always builds a chapel there,' saith the poet of old; and in like manner, wherever we, of this age of intellect, have 'a Christian church' there you are sure to find the most conspicuous temples of the Great Spirit of the Age - that is, of Gin. 

Sunday in London : George Cruickshank : 1833

George Cruickshank (1792-1878), Sunday in London. 1833

What has changed since 1750? The squalid debauchery has become slightly picturesque, and is framed by superb neo-classical buildings: and though the text moralises, the artist is here more concerned with exuberance, humour and the grotesque celebration of human foibles than with morality. The law may have changed but the tendency for human beings to self destruct remains the same.

'On Primrose Hill, and in the open fields about Mary-le-bone and St Pancras, great meetings are held on Sundays of people who adjourn there for the purpose of deciding, by pitch'd battles or general fighting, the quarrels which have taken place among them in the course of the week; and the noise and clamour, and shouting, which takes place on these occasions, may be heard for at least a mile off.' - Evidence before the Parliamentary Committee.

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