Old books about street cries

Street cries were once a popular subject of songs and literature in Britain, continental Europe and elsewhere. Each month throughout 2018 I'll be adding transcribed and digitised books to this collection.


The eight plates and accompanying verses and notes reproduced here comprise a fragment surviving from a book of at least 21 plates. The full title is ‘The Cries of London: Drawn from Life; with Descriptive Letter-Press, in Prose and Verse’.


THIS poor unhappy man I’ve seen,
Of shapeless and distorted mien;
But yet his heart more kind may be,
Than one whose form is symmetry;
And when at him you scoff and smile,
’Tis God alone whom you revile.

This unfortunate, deformed character is well known in the metropolis: by the gifts of the humane he is supported. He considers his deformity a sure excitement to charity, and is perfectly contented with his fate. As the law of England does not sanction begging, he generally vends pens, and perhaps there is not a dealer in the city that can command the price he occasionally gets.


THE tinker is a useful man,
He’ll solder kettle, jug, or can;
And through the cauldron at his side,
With daily bread he is supplied.
Cornwall much metal does produce,
And oft is found of greatest use.

Jemmy Lovell is the name of this eccentric man; he has lived in St. Giles’s a number of years. His family is exceedingly numerous; he has above twenty children, and as his wife is as much tarnished as himself, it is not surprising that the children should be complete gipsies. Jemmy is remarkably fond of his business, and has the reputation of being very expert in mending a kettle: we wish we could say so much in his favour as regards his habits.


ONE penny give him, if you please,
And eight he promises of these;
For twopence he will you supply
With fruit enough to make a pie.
’Twas through an apple’s direful spell
That Eve transgress’d and Adam fell.

The principal part of the apples sold to the deals to supply London are at Covent-Garden and the Borough markets. On market-days, at five in the morning in summer, and between six and seven in the winter, an interesting, and no doubt a novel scene to many, may be found at Covent-Garden, caused by the confusion between buyers, sellers, porters, and basket-women. The latter are chiefly Irish, and attend for the purpose of carrying the purchases of green-grocers to their habitations.


LIVE fowls and ducks he has to sell,
Come, buy of him, he’ll use you well;
And a great comfort ’tis, I say,
A new-laid egg to have each day.
The hen’s attention to her young
By poets has been often sung.

The chief object of this class of dealers is to undersell the shopkeepers; and as quality with many people is not so much the consideration as quantity, they have their share of purchases. Men of this calling, like most of the street-dealers, are remarkably apt to pledge their word and honour to the truth of their remarks on the quality of their goods. A few weeks in London would convince any person of the necessity of buying from his own experience, and not the recommendation of the hawker.