6
ENTERTAINMENT

The sight-showers, we thus see, were in high activity. We have seen,
in some half-quiet thoroughfare of Lambeth, or of Clerkenwell,
a dingy cloth spread upon the road, and a ring of children called
together at the sound of a horn, to behold a dancing lass in all the
finery of calico trousers and spangles, and a tumbler with his hoop:
and on one occasion sixpence was extracted from our pockets,
because the said tumbler had his hoop splendid with ribbons, which
showed him to have a reverence for the poetry and antiquity of his
calling
.

Above the thunder and rattle of traffic, the sound of music was always audible in Dickens’ London. The streets abounded in performers and musicians of both sexes, all ages and many nationalities. There were singers of ballads and popular songs who sold copies of the words and rendered ad nauseam the songs of the day; no doubt ‘Cherry Ripe’, ‘Hot Codlins’ or ‘Tipitywitchet’ got on the nerves of many people as much as their equivalents do today. In present-day London there are scores of street performers; in those days there were thousands. They were impossible to avoid, for, unlike their modern counterparts, they did not confine themselves to major thoroughfares but brought their noise and spectacle into residential areas, if only in the hope of being paid to go away.

As well as singers, there were instrumentalists creating a host of different sounds. In the city centre or the quieter streets and squares of the outskirts could be heard the blare of trumpets, the crash of cymbals, the shriek of a pennywhistle, the nasal whine of a hurdy-gurdy, the boom of a drum, the shrill of pan pipes or the shimmer of a harp. Barrel organs, almost always

-148-

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Inside Dickens' London
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 6
  • 1 - The Place 13
  • 2 - The People 36
  • 3 - Shops and Shopping 66
  • 4 - City and Clerk 95
  • 5 - Transport and Travel 120
  • 6 - Entertainment 148
  • 7 - The Poor 216
  • 8 - Crime and Punishment 261
  • 9 - The Respectable 296
  • Gazetteer 335
  • Chronology 339
  • Index 341
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